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What India Needs – A Citizens’ Manifesto

This manifesto goes beyond the usual promises made by political parties and chalks down focus areas for reforms in areas that range from health, education, civil liberties, transparency etc.

As important as the upcoming Lok Sabha elections are, they make little difference if the citizens of India do not have a concrete goal in front of them — a list of demands and expectations from the government we elect.

India is young but needs to heal from the lacklustre four-and-a-half years that have frayed its spirit, taxed its reserves and strained its nerves. India has much to do to fix itself, to recharge, and reinvent the republic.

A New deal, a New project and fresh ideas for what the next government’s priorities must be, is what we have been discussing. NewsCentral24x7 presents to you a citizen’s manifesto — What India Needs, or WIN 2019.

This manifesto goes beyond the usual promises made by political parties and chalks down focus areas for reforms in areas that range from health, education, civil liberties, transparency etc. This manifesto aims to be a guide for holding future regimes accountable for some of the fundamental rights ensured to us by our Constitution.

Health

Better healthcare is crucial to the development of our nation. Almost 122 Indians per 100,000 die due to the poor quality of care each year according to The Lancet Global report on Health Commission on High-Quality Health Systems. It is essential thus that critical healthcare is made universal and affordable. For that to happen, an important step should be to incorporate healthcare as a fundamental right. It should be the goal of every government to provide last mile connectivity of healthcare to every single Indian.

Reinvigorating the National Nutrition Mission is also crucial. Children and women, after all, find themselves suffering the most at the hands of expensive or substandard healthcare. For children, especially, government schools should make sure that midday meals are up to the mark.

Education

For any socio-economic progress, education is critical. While the national literacy rate, according to the 2011 census, was 74.04 per cent — growing steadily — the goal that India now needs to focus on is higher education. India falls behind a lot of its neighbours concerning adult and youth literacy. Being just literate and numerate, however, have to be replaced with loftier goals now. Higher education should be a fundamental right, and for that, an allocation of 10 per cent of the GDP towards public schooling should be made.

Science

For any progress, Indians need to incorporate a scientific bent of mind wholeheartedly. Rational and scientific thinking has to be made the cornerstone of all education. And for that, the regime has to allocate at least 3 per cent of the GDP for science and research.

Employment

The Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014 with myriad promises of employment. Those promises remain unfulfilled at best. Future regimes need to be held more accountable to specific demands that go beyond petty promises of job creation. A minimum of 100 days of work should be a fundamental right across rural and urban areas. Minimum wages have to be brought up to mark. Universal Basic Income should be in place and to achieve the proper implementation of all of this, the Planning Commission must be restored.

Agriculture

The agrarian distress gripping India is no secret. India cannot claim development in the name of infrastructure, IT and technology alone. The country’s farmers need relief, and the two most basic steps that need to be implemented in haste are complete farm loan waivers on a national level and the guarantee of adequate minimum support prices.

Business

India has seen enough crony capitalism and more than enough prominent businessmen getting away with embezzling the country’s wealth. Stringent laws need to be passed that make sure all bad loans from big business to be realised within two years. Besides that, to ensure the steady growth of Small and Medium-sized business, big business monopolies need to be broken.

Judiciary

The idea of India needs the proper functioning of all three of its pillars. In that vein, it is essential for the Judiciary to remain independent. There should be in place a constitutional and fair Judicial Commission for appointments.

Cinema

India, in recent years, has witnessed the tyranny of the Central Board of Film Certification. The arts cannot be curtailed and censored. The only purpose the CBFC should have is to provide certifications.

Internet and Technology

Since its conception in 2006 and launch in 2009 — the creation of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) — Aadhaar has secured the enrolment of almost 1.1 billion people in this country. But what started as a voluntary measure, built on the premise of improving welfare service delivery and providing yet another form of identification for people, soon turned into a tyrannical scheme hell-bent on making the lives of those who did not possess this unique identity card, difficult. It also became a cause of concern concerning surveillance and privacy with the definition of biometric data — a requisite for Aadhaar — being left intentionally vague in the Aadhaar act, and the security apparatus that safeguarded the data of more than one billion people falling short at every turn. Aadhaar thus needs to be abolished. What more, India needs a fair and rigorous data protection law.

Equality

The social divide in India is enormous. From the economically weak to the socially oppressed and marginalised — religious and caste minorities — affirmative action is in place. An even keel has not been achieved yet, however. Thus, the first step should be to set up an Equal Opportunities Commission. Land reforms need to be in place. And while there are caste and religious minorities, gender and sexual minorities should also be taken care of.

End to discrimination

With the existence of a vast chasm of a social divide, comes discrimination. To end this, a horizontal Anti-Discrimination Law needs to be in place that used the National Deprivation Index to fight discrimination.

Civil Liberties

Born on December 30, 1967, to the Congress government of Indira Gandhi, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 is a little more than 50 years old. And, in the five decades of its existence, the UAPA’s path has been littered with injustices and exploitation. Such a low cannot and should not be accorded a place in a democracy. In a similar vein, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, an act that has led to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri lives in the last decade, should have no place either. A thriving democracy cannot also function when laws such as sedition — that is regularly misused — and criminal defamation (only useful to those who wield power and social capital) exist. They need to be scrapped.

Electoral Reforms

A free and fair democracy cannot be so if there is no accountability of the electoral process. Political parties, especially the ones on the national forefront, need to be held accountable as well. The ones who vote need to know where their allegiances lie. For that, there has to be a ban on corporate funding. The abolition of Electoral Bonds should be next step in the fight for political transparency.

Transparency

But transparency should not be limited to just political parties, but the government and the judiciary as well. While there are laws in place that enable citizens to avail information, sensitive data puts them at risk (sometimes fatally so). Those who strive to bring out truths about corruption and malpractices too need to be protected.

End to Sexual Violence

The malaise of sexual violence needs to come to an end. Despite repeated efforts to make marital rape a criminal and punishable offence, the false ideas of the sanctity of family units have made sure it fails. But India hasn’t just failed married women so far. There need to be stronger sexual harassment laws thus.

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