A computer science teacher by profession, Mr. Lokesh Kumar has numerous other identities. He takes part in philanthropic works alongside promoting a cleaner political structure. Together with some other people he runs a programme called 'Mission Education to Employment' for the last 10+ years. They try to guide teenagers to not fall into bad company or lose track, but instead focus on their studies. There is also a book bank for these youngsters. Students who are in need are provided with books which they are told to return once they are promoted to the next grade, so that others can also use the books. The interviewee is very well known in the R K Puram area of Delhi, India as 'Lokesh Masterji Book Bank wale'.
Mr. Lokesh's philanthropic works have been covered by national media. As a political activist, his mission is to clean politics. He main aim is to bring a change in the election procedure. Before political corruption comes electoral corruption and that's where he aims to start the cleanse from.
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Recently, he was interviewed by the Newsgram team, where he highlighted the need for reforms in the way elections are conducted and the symbols which are used by the parties. The following are excerpts from the interview which had taken place in Hindi. It has been translated into English for the readers.
After pleasantries were exchanged between the speaker and the attendees, the interview began.
Swati Mishra: Why do you think that the election symbols need to be done away with?
Mr. Kumar: The quality of politics and politicians are getting worse day by day. We have to think and understand why this deterioration is taking place. The newly elected people start behaving like their previous counterparts, there is no improvement. The system is polluted and needs a cleansing. The election system also needs to be revamped. The Constitution gives a person the right to contest in elections, but somehow the political party that they belong to gain more importance. The candidate should be of more importance than the party. Voters and even the media give prominence to the parties more than the candidate. No one speaks about the candidate and their capabilities.
In 1955, when the percentage of illiterate people was high, election symbols were started to be used so that people could easily understand who they are voting for. Since 1968, election symbols started to be reserved for political parties and not candidates. These symbols became a property of these political parties and they gained priority over candidates. Everybody recognizes the symbols but the candidates do not have any separate identity. People know the main leader or the top political leaders of the parties, but no one tries to find out whether the person that they are electing as their local leader is capable of handling such a position.
He promotes a cleaner political structure. Facebook
Nowadays when people vote, they either vote the symbol (the 'lotus', the 'palm' or the 'broom') or they vote the main leaders of the political party. The candidates have lost their significance and because of it, they refuse to do any work. These people know that that will be elected anyway as the party is a very popular one so they ignore their responsibilities. If kids knew that just by being enrolled in a particular school, they would receive good grades even if they did not study, why would they even bother to study.
Mugdha Dubey: A huge number of common people are themselves so corrupt that they do even the simple tasks unethically and that has become the norm. Don't you think political corruption stem from societal (personal/individual) corruption since it's the people who are part of the system really?
Mr. Kumar: It needs to be seen that how these people became corrupt, did they succumb to it under pressure from the system or was it their personal choice? Another thing that needs to be seen is who should be responsible for correcting these people and bringing them to the right path. Like parents and elders of a family are responsible for keeping a check on the younger ones, the leaders of a nation should be leading the citizens into following the right path.
Mr. Lokesh Kumar planting trees with school children. Facebook
The political parties should not be abolished, they should exist. But the system of reservation of political symbols should be done away with. The voter should be aware of a few things before they elect a political representative at any level. The people should ask for the information that whether the candidate has contributed to the society in the last 10 years? Also, what has been the source of income of the candidate in the last 10 years? The candidate should also be able to cite their reason for contesting the elections.
Saksham Nagar: Does the vote of a citizen have enough power to bring about a change in the political system and remove corruption, because at times we citizens ourselves are involved in corruption?
Mr. Kumar: People have to try to bring the change, only then it can be possible. A citizen's vote is very powerful. During a lot of election rallies, it is seen that these very rich candidates go from door-to-door and shake hands with people just so that they receive the vote.
Mr. Lokesh Kumar expressed his eagerness to have another such interview/conversation with NewsGram in future.
(Keywords : politics, election, India, symbols, politicians, candidates, voters, activist, philanthropist, improvement, identity.)