The new year is a favourite time for resolutions, though most of them don’t survive very long. They’re made with enthusiasm only to be ditched surreptitiously and laughed away. So you may wonder why I’m about to suggest a few we, as a nation, should adopt. The answer is simple: a resolution is an acknowledgment of what needs to be done even if the commitment to do it lacks resolve. So today, let’s at least take that first step.
First, something our politicians need to act upon. Can they resolve to behave themselves in Parliament? It costs you and me Rs. 26,000 a minute. We cheerfully accept this expense because we believe question and debate is essential to establish the truth, scrutinise the government’s performance and expose inefficiency or corruption. But why should we pay for MPs who storm the well of the House, shout down speakers or simply fail to attend? During the 14th Lok Sabha 415 hours and 6 minutes (or 20 per cent of its time) were lost in interruption and adjournments. The cost: Rs. 64.7 crore.
As our representatives, funded by our money, our MPs owe us fair value and service. All we are asking for is the effective and meaningful functioning of Parliament. This year let them promise to deliver.
Next, the press — and I mean television news channels in particular. The audience pays to watch, which gives them the right to expect news that matters. No doubt there are several criteria for determining this but there are three that, together, finally count: importance, relevance and balance.
So please, shed your obsession with film stars and cricketers, end your race to break news and, instead, focus on accuracy and analysis. Above all, please don’t go on and on. A story has a natural length. Don’t stretch it just to fill air time. Remember we’re adults. Don’t treat us like children.
Finally, something that all of us need to pledge to do — drive rationally and sensibly. When traffic is snarling-up don’t cross to the other side simply to beat the jam. If the light has switched to amber and heading towards red don’t shoot across the junction confident of your own luck. Finally, when you park your car, check if you’re blocking someone’s gate or obstructing the road. At all times there’s a simple rule of thumb that should guide how you drive: there are others using the road and they have as much of a right to do so as you do.
Not so long ago my New Year resolution used to be a promise to start smoking. As the clock struck midnight I’d light up and spend the rest of the evening spluttering and coughing. It was my personal way of ensuring I did not end up an addicted non-smoker! Of course, by the end of January, when fear of a different addiction took precedence, I’d cheerfully give up. But by then the point had been made.
This year I’m taking on a bigger challenge. I’ve decided to give up interrupting my guests. Instead, I shall let them waffle and drone on, regardless of what they’re saying and how off target they may be, till you, the audience, scream in protest. Only when I get the first letter pleading for a return to the old rottweiler style will I resume business as usual.
But what happens if that letter never arrives? One way or the other, you’ll know very soon.
The views expressed by the author are personal