CHURUMURI POLL: Do we need referendums?

As a nation, we are increasingly riven by massive issues on which we seem to achieve no closure. Reservation for the Other Backward Classes; allotment of farm land for the creation of Special Economic Zones; setting up of large dams displacing millions of people; selling away the government stake in profit-making public sector units; turning over State-owned schools to private corporations; opening a circuit bench of a High Court in another part of the State…

These are mammoth issues which affect our lives and futures in a manner in which we can barely fathom, caught up as we are in the here and now. Yet all of these momentous decisions are left in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats who can barely look beyond the nearest ballot box and the next posting. And “We, the People”, in whose names these are made, are left watching the action from the sidelines; wondering about the motives and motivations.

Questions: Do we need to introduce referendums as a means of achieving greater public participation in the decision making process? At least so that there is a stamp of legitimacy on the actions taken? Should they be held only at the national level or at the State level, too? What kind of issues should referendums be held on? How many during the course of a legislature session? Or, is it just too expensive, too time-consuming, too intrusive, and therefore all too pointless?