Millennium Post

Economics of opinion polls

What a shame it was to read in the morning newspaper about ‘opinion poll agencies fudging data for money (Millennium Post, 26 February)’. A sting operation by a prominent television news channel over eight different opinion poll agencies, some known and some unknown, has revealed that these entities were manipulating their data and results to suit the convenience of political parties in exchange for money with impunity. This state of affairs may perhaps be going on for a long time with huge amount of money changing hands. But the shocking fact is the claim by the people at the helms of affairs in these agencies that they were even getting these survey results published or broadcast over TV channels and in newspapers through influence. The upshot of this nefarious act is really damaging in as much as they prompt people to take decisions of choosing a political party or a candidate in an election and ultimately, undermining democracy.

This damning episode has given a handle to the government to take action in banning opinion polls, exit polls and the like before elections. The present government has been gunning for these kind of surveys, questioning their credibility as most of these surveys were not favourable for the ruling Congress Party. Concerned over the reliability of these polls, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has also reportedly asked political parties to offer their views on these polls. If this is not corruption then what else  is it? This leads me to the much talked about issue of corruption which has eaten into the very fabric of our polity, economy and society. Today, everyone including every political party is talking about this disease but very little has been done to check the menace. It appears as if corruption has become so deep-rooted in our system that it cannot be eradicated. Over the last few decades, some sporadic legal and other measures have been taken to check corruption but not to much effect.

Simply enacting laws will not help. There has to be moral change in the people. Therefore, society has to play a vital role in this regard. Social pressure has to be such that both the bribe giver and the bribe taker are unequivocally condemned. Ethics has to be ingrained into the heads of people. Schools and colleges should have educational programs on ethics and morality.

Right from the childhood, the young and the impressionable ones should be told the value of hard labour, sincerity, earnestness and duty to society and the country. Besides their rights, duties have to be clearly defined and told to them in no uncertain terms. These are fundamental. This can be done only with a strong determination. As long as one realises that money is a product of labour and anything which is gotten without investing physical or mental labour is immoral and illegal, the person would think twice before resorting to corruption. Another important step in the direction is to recognise merit and put the worthy person in the right kind of job. The third thing is to somehow check our population which is creating unnecessary demands on the system and resulting in corrupt practices. Governmental policy measures like incentives and disincentives can go a long way in dissuading people to have less number of children.

If these long term measures are whole-heartedly taken in combination with legal enactments like the whistle blowers ‘Bill, Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, Redress of Grievance Bill, one can expect that corruption will be eradicated from the country and India will prosper in all spheres of human activity. It can also become the next superpower that it has been  aspiring to become since a long time.

The author is a former senior information service officer
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