On January 26, 1950, when India gave itself the world's longest Constitution, the framers had a vision for the country's future. Surprisingly, nowhere did they mention the words "political parties?. Nor did they ever refer to the word "budget?. Sixty-three years after the blueprint of Indian democracy was crafted, these are words that engage the nation.
India is caught in the first flush of election fever. While there is plenty of politics and policy, there is no new proposal, no talk of what parties and candidates aim to do, or hope to accomplish, if elected.
Yet, can we really say there is no grandiose dream or direction? In truth, civil society agendas are flying high. From Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement to protests over the Delhi gang rape, the nation has discovered its courage to stand up, be counted and speak out-for open government, for transparency in public life and for accountability of public men and women.
Here are 13 proposals for 2013 that people need to demand and the political class ought to deliver. Time to say 'no' to yet another election about nothing.
1. Root for clean elections and clean candidates
# Demand full disclosure of all sources of income and donor identities.
# Amend law that says donations below Rs 20,000 to a political party need not be disclosed.
# Debar all candidates, convicted or accused in any crime, from elections.
2. Simplify the budget
# Full of fiscal jargon, the Union Budget goes over the heads of aam aadmi. We propose:
# Add a Citizen's Budget that will clarify at-a-glance how every rupee is spent
# Make language jargon-free, publish in vernacular languages, add explanatory notes to technical parts.
3. Fix India's BOP deficits
# India's economic crisis shows a huge deficit in balance of payment (BOP) between imports and exports, thanks to rising gold and oil prices. To correct BOP:
# Promote import substitutes: Biofuels from vegetable oils, as in Brazil, or solar photovoltaic technology, as in China.
# Push for self-sufficiency in oilseed production. India is world's biggest importer of palm oil.
4. Stop capital flight out of India
# To stop India Inc from putting money overseas, allow National Investment Board Bill to hasten infra projects.
# Don't propose new taxes that confuse people and have to be shelved, like gaar.
# Pass the Goods and Services Tax to boost the domestic economy.
(Source: Election Commission report, Observer Research Foundation,CABG, PRS Legislative Research, Ernst & Young, All 2012)
5. Scrap all obsolete laws
For the last 10 years, the Law Commission of India has flagged obsolete laws for the Government to repeal. No action ever taken.
# Create a list of all laws that exist in India, at states and Centre.
# 199 laws are over 100 years old. Review, amend, scrap.
# Put up Law Commission proposals on obsolete laws since 1993 for public discussion.
# 30,000 laws exist in India, of which 1,382 are obsolete
6. Rescue cities for citizens
# Say 'no' to regularisation of unauthorised colonies by politicians.
# Demand more police for street patrolling and less for VIPs.
# Protest with the Supreme Court against religious structures or statues encroaching onto roads, pavements and sideways.
# 33% of India lives in urban hubs and generates over 67% of the GDP.
7. Reclaim streets through community policing
# Mobilise students to become 'police cadets', as part of their community service projects.
# Link up students with beat police to share information, watch and ward, check on school drop outs or ruffians.
# Have annual audit of every police station by local residents.
8. Don't play politics with health
# Political interference in the running of hospitals and medical colleges is India's biggest healthcare bane.
# Demand more money in healthcare. 2.5% of GDP is not enough.
# Remove political meddling in medical colleges, public health decisions, appointments, promotions and funding.
# Push for large-scale expansion in teaching capacity and quality; allow private colleges to offer MD.
9. Give schools the freedom to think
# Give schools freedom to recruit teachers, not by bureaucratic criteria, but on merit.
# Create good educators to teach faculty how to teach.
# Don't make the curriculum prescriptive and tests standardised.
# 3 million teachers needed by 2020 to meet demand in urban India.
10. Make agriculture profitable
# Invest in irrigation so that farming is no longer dependent on monsoons.
# Allow cultivation of genetically-modified crops.
# Set up a separate farmers' income commission according to family size, land, variety of soil, water availability.
11. Don't chain the Internet
Amend the Information Technology (Amendment) Act of 2008, especially Section 66A. The law is open-ended and variously interpreted, giving arbitrary power to the police.
12. Embrace social audit for change
Social audit is the way to go. Not just for villagers vis-a-vis welfare schemes, but also for ministries, municipalities, schools, NGOs and corporates, to analyse health, safety and wellbeing initiatives.
13. More power to states
# Centre should pump in more revenue to states and allow states to collect revenue in health, education and other public services.
# Should facilitate sharing of innovations and reforms from states.
# Should consult states more to create greater political consensus.
Reproduced From India Today. © 2013. LMIL. All rights reserved.