How often have we lamented the lack of transparency in the electoral process? Or the dearth of genuine information, free from media biases, available to the general public about the politicians serving our nation or asking for our votes? Well, here is a website that attempts to solve these problems, and empower the voters in the country to be better informed about the choices they are faced with.
RTI or the Right to Information is a fundamental right of every citizen of India according to the Constitution. A group of IIT Bombay students and alumni including Ashish Rathi, Hitesh Lalwani, Pramjeet Kumar, Rahul Shrivastava, Rituraj Shukla, Siddharth Bidwan and Sidharth Mishra have set out to give a new dimension to this right in the form of Netapedia. Though almost all of us have a handful of complaints ready when it comes to Indian politics and politicians, very few of us possess any actual knowledge about the same. We know very little about our politicians’ backgrounds and past activities that could enable us to understand them better. The astonishing fact is that though an average Indian would do adequate research before spending some money on toothpaste, he/she does not do any prior study before choosing the leaders of his country. How can one be expected to cast a suitable vote during the elections if the decision is not an informed one? How can Indian administration be truly democratic if the people do not cast genuine and legitimate votes?
In order to address this situation, Netapedia has come into existence to provide us with the missing information. It is a platform that provides us with authentic profiles of Indian politicians based on the affidavits filed by them before the elections along with the MPLADS (Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme) – summary for each of the MPs. Aside from this information on individual politicians, the website also offers the latest news on Indian politics and a variety of analyses on the ongoing activities. The chief goal is to provide accurate information on important past as well as present national events and elections to the common man, and learning citizens’ feedback on the same. Netapedia plans to develop interactive content to engage citizens in fun activities while educating them and making them aware about the Indian Bureaucracy and the country’s political evolution over the years.
All the data piled up on their website, including information about politicians’ education, moveable and immoveable assets, legal history, votes cast in their favour, work record in their constituencies, etc. can work wonders in filling up the communication and knowledge gap between the people and the politicians. The data is procured by the website from authentic sources like the Constitution of India, the Parliament, the Indian Penal Code, and the Budget. Some of the popularly sought out politicians on Netapedia include Sonia Gandhi, Kapil Sibal, Sushma Swaraj, L. K. Advani, Asaduddin Owaisi and Kamal Nath. It also displays some very interesting facts like ‘Elections in 1950s were carried out using different ballot boxes for each candidate, rather than voting on ballot paper! Different coloured boxes represented different parties.’
The venture is a registered entity now, as a non-profiting, non-governmental organisation (NGO). The idea, first conceived by the developers in November 2010 was launched as a portal in October 2011 and has steadily grown in popularity and viewership in the last year. The response of the audience has been quite encouraging, who find the information well presented, structured and user-friendly. Netapedia is certainly on its way to becoming a comprehensive and insightful information provider on Indian politicians and politics.
More volunteers are being attracted and more features are being added in order to make the initiative more professional. The action plan includes an interactive blog containing views from the users and experts, a section to compare the different politicians, a section exclusively on analysis, a newsletter, a section with user-generated content, etc. They also have their own Facebook and Twitter pages in order to reach the audience via the popular social media forums. The main challenges that they expect are the procurement of data at the state level and the constant updating of the site as per user needs.
In a society where media plays quite an influential role, it can be appreciated that the portal can play a very effective role in providing an objective database on the politicians. No purposeful focus on the dirt to provide the audience with the requisite masala or deliberate focus on the good side as a result of corruption. The large number of politicians around and the very confusing and complex stories that are played on the media about them does not allow a layman to form a legitimate opinion. Netapedia can certainly be the answer to your prayers in such a situation.
On a concluding note, it must be again highlighted how essential and critical it is for Indians to have a good understanding of their politicians and representatives. We must all take a healthy interest in the activities around us, determine the good as well as the bad in the administration and thus, make an informed decision during elections. Awareness among the people is something that will definitely bring about accountability in the system.