Opinion: Move over poll rhetoric, can politicians talk to tough on governance?

Written by Vidya Bhushan Rawat | Published on: March 26, 2019

We need not just Congress Party but all other parties who claim to strengthen social justice, civil liberties and democracy in our country to speak clearly on issues related to governance and walk the talk.

Political Parties
Rahul Gandhi's minimum income announcement has jolted the government. It could merely be a political announcement for the poll season and its repercussions and implementations are yet to be figured out. The political announcements can be critiqued by the politicians or discussed by the economists but what is surprising is the government bringing NEETI AYOG vice chairperson Rajiv Kumar into the picture, someone who has no business commenting on a political announcement. Arun Jaitley has already done it and after his surgery, he is working extra hard to prove his relevance in the party. He will stay as long as he manages work and media but now there are other managers in the fray too.
I am not fond of MNREGA, which Rahul Gandhi speak so proudly about. His party failed it. The fact of the matter is that BJP ruled government used it best for their purposes. The Minimum Income Scheme too has to be seen under this light. While it is good that at the moment, when the entire debate was revolving around Hindustan-Pakistan, Hindu-Musalman, desh bhakt and desh drohis, at least Rahul Gandhi's announcement changed the argument. We hope it will continue to highlight governance issues, but such announcements won’t resolve India's crisis. Congress's brand managers are known for shutting down, clubbing and introducing new schemes all the time.
We need not just Congress Party but all other parties who claim to strengthen social justice, civil liberties and democracy in our country to speak clearly on the following :
1. Strengthen Forest Rights Act and get it implemented. Place it in schedule IX so that it can’t be challenged in the courts.
2. Indian Forest Act 1927 must be done away with. Modi government is trying to nullify the FRA by bringing some stringent changes in the Indian Forest Act which must be resisted and opposed.
3. Will the Central government or Congress Party speak of Land Reforms and fair implementation of Land Ceiling Laws. We need land to redistributed fairly and it is not possible if those holding huge land in their charitable trusts, gaushalas, temples, mutts, and other religious institutions are allowed to take shelter circumventing the law. Bring all of them under the Land Ceiling Law. Tax religious charities and use the funds for improving the lives of the poor.
4. Distribute the Bhudan Land to the poorest of the poor.
5. National Education Policy which must clarify a clear agenda that the government will strengthen the infrastructure and curriculum and other framework be developed by an autonomous body of academics. Education must strengthen scientific temperament, compassion, the spirit of togetherness and freethinking.
6. National Health Services. The biggest casualty post-1990 has been the health services. Strengthen Primary Health Centres and Community Health Centre. Learn from National Health Services in UK and not from the corporate model of the United States based on insurance claims, it will not work in India. All the states must have credible health services without too much paper work and people should have easy access to them.
7. Social Inclusion: India's problems are not merely economical. They are prejudices based on caste and religion. How will political parties ensure our institutions have enough representation of people from diverse sections of society, particularly those from the marginalised sections as well as religious minorities.
8. National Judicial Services: If our judiciary remains the domain of a few twice born families then don’t expect too much from it in terms of justice for the marginalised or understanding of their issues.
9. It is time to make stringent guidelines for media. In the name of free media, the corporates control your 'freedom' and produce filth and garbage in the name of 'freedom'. Spreading hatred, division and intimidating dissenters on their prime time shows must stop. Media must be made accountable and government advertisements and support should only be given to those whose newsrooms have shown the diversity of caste, religion and regions. Media must reflect India and the idea of India and cannot be a whip of the dominant caste groups to hijack political agendas and deny justice to the marginalised. Investigate the reason of growth behind religious channels and who allowed them to report on political issues. They got their licence in the name of being a spiritual channel but are now being used to spread hatred and create division. It must be stopped.
10. The civil society has faced not merely discrimination, intimidation but also defamation. Will the political parties respect the need of powerful civil society and other autonomous organisations, institutions which can critique of government policies in the greater public interest? How will you ensure their freedom and autonomy if you have powerful laws to squeeze them of their resources? How long will you put a gun of FCRA on civil society organisations when you have done away with every law for the corporate. Let the Income Tax laws and other laws deal with them.
11. Fight against corruption is important but how do you fight it is the big question. We need specific laws to reduce the political corruption and for that, we must make a law that nobody can be a minister, prime minister or chief minister beyond two terms. It is important to ensure that all the facilities provided to corporates at the cost of state must be withdrawn and efforts should be made to get back the Bank money being held by the corporates in the name of NPAs.
12. Political parties should start practicing things in their own domain areas. Let the parties follow the principle of proportionality in all their positions to ensure gender, caste, religious and ethnic diversity in their power structure at every level before enacting a bill. Without preparing for a thing, we cannot force-feed things and it will be just an eyewash.
13. Bring a Hate Crime Law and ensure corrupt officials and political leaders are taken to task if their role is found in any communal disturbances or caste violence.
14. Strengthen Public Sector Units including BSNL, Railways Air India, ONGC, BHEL, HAL, BEL, Doordarshan, Akashwani and others as these have been systematically destroyed to pave the way for cronies to have their monopoly. Will the parties promise to strengthen them?
I am sure there are many more issues which people have been raising but our main concern is to bring in the idea of India which has been hurt during all these years because the parties swearing social justice, secularism and socialism have not been committed to these principles in reality. If our laws and polity remain the domain of powerful hegemonic elites then we can’t expect democracy to flourish here in a true spirit and will remain enslaved to cronies of the corporate masquerading as 'politicians' and 'parties'.