Should There be Compulsory Retirement Age for Politicians?
By Anthony Herbert Crasta
Mar 29: The recent news item in the Daijiworld announcing the sudden death of Dr V S Acharya, Senior Education Minister, Government of Karnataka, at the age of 71 years, got me wondering whether is there an official age at present in place for compulsory retirement for all Ministers and Members of Parliament, both at State and Central levels, and if there is not, should there be one, say, they should mandatorily retire from their posts and all their political activities at the age of 65!
Whereas the present official retirement age for all employees in the Private and Public Sectors, and also all other Government Departments is 60 years, it is strange that there is no age limit for the so called Parliamentarians and Ministers as they seem to be carrying on with their political activities forever. If one looks at the current Indian political scene, I believe we have the oldest Cabinet in the world, as the average age of the Ministers in the current Parliament is around 65 years! In fact there are quite a large number of septuagenarians (ages between 70 and 79) and a few of octogenarians (age group 80 – 89) as well, currently serving as Parliamentarians in the Government and opposition sides.
In this context, it is worth making a reference to an article published 8 years ago in the Times of India ( dated 29th February 2004), written by Sachin Pilot, the then Young Congressman, titled “Should Politicians have a retirement age?”, wherein he advocated a case for legislation that all Politicians should retire at the age of 65. Sachin Pilot said that Political Leadership of a country decides as to which direction it should take. In order to harness the tremendous potential of young Indians in the political arena, we have to make way for them, he felt.
Sachin Pilot went on to say that with no disrespect to those who have contributed largely to the policy of this country, it is time political parties allowed a younger lot to face the electoral battle. That will enable them to understand the needs and aspirations of their electorate. He further stated that asking the older Politicians to retire does not mean they have no role to play. In fact, they can play a constructive role by drawing upon their vast experience and knowledge base to guide and give advice on various matters, he said. Page 1
Let us be honest and have no qualms about it. As we grow older, our brain cells diminish and/or fade away, and consequently, our thinking power and process tends to slow down. Our judgement is not sharp and dynamic as it used to be during our younger years. The alertness and reactive power also gradually gets reduced as we grow older. We are not energetic anymore and we tend to lack interest. Also when old, one becomes a bit lethargic (adopt a chaltha-hai attitude) and not willing to take many risks and make bold decisions, which are very much needed in the day-to-day political scene.
Let us also acknowledge the fact that good and effective Politicians need a lot of energy, drive, enthusiasm and capacity to put in long and hard hours of working, almost 365 days of the year, either be for election campaigning or to attend public meetings, social functions and programmes, and also in meeting their electoral obligations. In addition, they are required to perform their parliamentary duties, where often, they have to put in long hours. Therefore, no doubt, it becomes very difficult for elderly persons to cope up with all these hectic schedules and duties on a continuous basis, thus in the process, rendering them inefficient or less productive.
Moreover, older Politicians even though they are wise men/women who have vast conservative wisdom and life experience, they are not so down-to-earth and modernistic in their outlook and approach, and quite often they fail to bring about the changes required in the running of the Government system to suit the ever changing conditions. They cannot simply adapt to the modern way of thinking, and often fail to live up to the expectations of the younger generation of voters. They are also slow to understand and acclimatize the modern technological developments and change their policy settings to keep up with the ever changing modern world.
Also, one tends to get so busy and pre-occupied with their hectic work schedules, Politicians very often neglect their own precious health, either they do not have the time for regular health check up or simply forget to do so, and in many cases they land up paying a heavy price for their negligence.
One would, therefore, often wonder what makes the Politicians to carry on for eternity in spite of their strenuous and stressful job and responsibilities. Is it that they are financially not doing all that good, which one would doubt very much though, as, over a period of time, they would have accumulated a certain amount of wealth sufficient to take care of their future, or surely there must be some pension or superannuation scheme that has been put in place by the Government to take care of their financial needs when they retire. Or is it that they think that they are indispensable, as if there are no one else available capable of shouldering their duties and responsibilities; if t is so, they are sadly mistaken, as one would think surely there are a number of men and women out there who are more than capable of filling up their positions. Or, is it that they are hungry for power, the limelight, the authority, etc, to which they have been used to, over the years, and they do not want to give up at any cost?
Running the Government of a country can be compared to running a factory or a manufacturing unit. In a factory, there are a number of machines and equipments producing goods and materials. Similarly, there are a number of Politicians who are responsible to run the Government. In a factory, where the old machinery and equipment gets used up and worn out, and needs to be replaced from time to time in order to achieve maximum production, same is the case in Government system, - in order to achieve perfect governance and administration, the old blood needs to be replaced with the new one. In other words, with due respect, the old Politicians should make way for the younger ones, time to time. After all, life is not all about work and official duties, as there is so much can be done outside politics. For example, they can still indirectly contribute to their respective political party, as being advisors and mentors, and pass on to their party members, especially the youth, their valuable political knowledge, experience and wisdom which they have gained over the years.
We regularly propagate and proclaim the famous quote “Youth are the future pole bearers and leaders of our nation”, but sadly, we seem to be only procrastinating without doing anything worthwhile into encouraging and nurturing our youth to take up the political career.
Luckily, India has massive human resources at its disposal with millions of its young educated men and women (quite a large number of them graduates and post-graduates even), and under such conditions, it should not be much of a problem to find the budding and aspiring political candidates to suitably replace the old Politicians. After all, India is a young nation – almost 75% of its 1.2 billion people are below 40 years, and more than 50% of them have not even crossed the age of 25 years. Yet, it is ironic and sad indeed, most of our top Politicians are in their 70's and some even in their 80's!.
It is fervently hoped as well that this article will help to spread and ignite more awareness and interest amongst the youth to take up political career, where they can directly contribute in a positive way to the development and well being of their country.
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