With virtual world becoming as real as it can get, a new trend had begun a few years ago of online change-makers and online petitions. But what happens to these petitions after you sign it?
Out of the many online platforms to start online petitions, change.org has been very famous with people who want to get their voices heard. You must have often seen your friends starting or signing an online petition for a cause that they believe in.
These online petitions can be started by anyone and everyone over any issue that they feel needs social attention. You set a certain number of required signatures and choose an authority that you want to send them to.
But have you ever wondered what happens to these petitions after you sign them?
Unlike the We The People petitions of the United States which do get the attention of the President if a large number of people support it and which are verified through emails to prevent double signing, the petitions on other websites often lack credibility.
It is not true that all the signatures on these online petitions are frivolous but some of them can be and unless it attracts very very huge number of people, only then can this petition get the attention of the government authorities.
Many people dismiss these online petitions as ‘slacktivism’ likening it to the very-much-in-trend hashtag activism.
While there are official platforms for e-petitioning in most countries, India certainly lacks one. While India has been doing e-everything, it will eventually get there. Whenever it does, a very strong mechanism will have to be put in place to prevent fraud and at the same time ensure that the time taken to sign a signature by a citizen does not go waste.
But online petitions are not completely useless. There are a few organisations that use this system to understand what the society is thinking. Sharing on social media is given. Soon after a high-profile rape case, number of online petitions will crop up and then once they reach the required signature threshold – its done with. Some coverage in the media and the petition will vanish. The only thing that these petitions surely do is create pressure.
We have grown up with hearing one thing – that the voice of one is weaker than the voice of many. That is the principle the online petition function on.
On the other hand, some people sign these petitions simply because it is easy to do so. These same people won’t go out of their way to make sure that cause reaches a logical end even if they can do so. Why? To ease the guilt. Many people live with the guilt of not giving back to the society – guilt of not doing anything. These petitions are a way for those people to ease that feeling.
But again, when it comes to awareness these petitions do wonders. You would not know about a suffering of an acid-attack survivor unless you come across an online petition that describe her plight and the help she needs. There are chances that out of the 10,000 people who sign these petitions, 2 will help her in fact.
For instance, a petition on change.org did succeed in bringing in restrictions on the sale of acid a few years ago or a petition to Uber to do a background check of all its drivers did receive its attention. It might work, it might now but it will surely raise awareness.
From the legal point of view, the petitions hold no value and have no binding effect on the authorities.
To sum it up, in a democracy that functions on the principle of ‘By The People, For The People, Of the People’, hearing the people out is something a government cannot function without. Online petitions are an easy, affordable and speedy way of knowing what the people think. However, there is an urgent need for an official e-petition platform in India like the one in the United States.