If the Aam Aadmi Party thinks it has great followers, it should better read a copy of Radical Humanist (January 14) in which an article appears on why the AAP model is unsafe for India. Credit is given to an educationist, KS Chalam.
Speaking of manifestos, The Times of India (March 14) has dared to put together a manifesto that demands attention. It has been cleverly published under the title ‘MANIFESTOI’ under the sub-title: Wanted: A Fiscally Responsible, Socially Progressve Government.
Very wisely it confesses that “we do not claim to be the ultimate repository of wisdom” and that “we will have achieved our objective if our manifesto serves as a starting point for a deep conersation that places the interest of the nation – and not narrow partisan considerations – front and centre.”
The Times Manifesto covers subjects like Economy, Business & Enterpreneurship, Legal Reform, Judicial Reform (how are the two different from each other?) Education, Health, Administrative Reform, Agriculture, National Security, Foreign Policy, Environment, Power, Urban Development, Women, Disabled and Sports. What about youth? Communication? Travel and Tourism? And Care for the Aged? No matter, the point is to make a start somewhere and the very publication of the MANIFESTOI is a good beginning. Every subject mentioned is given an adequate treatment.
In the matter of foreign policy, the manifesto says “We should strive to integrate Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Myanmar into the Indian economic matrix (and) open up Indian markets to them and build trans-border to them and build trans-border economic projects that give them a stake in India’s growth.”
In the matter of environment, the manifesto says “India must stick to its principled stance of equity in international talks”, “crack down on the nexus between the timber mafia and forest officials” and “build many more sewage treatment plants.”
In the field of education, the manifesto says India must meet the globally accepted norm of Central and State governments, rather than the roughly 4 per that states and Centre spend currently”.
The manifesto wants efforts to be made to bring back black money, noting that India has lost nearly 213 billion dollars (about Rs 14 lakh crore) in an illicit capital flight since Independence (till 2008). As for the health budget, the manifesto sharply points out that India’s public health spending barely accounts for 1 per cent of GDP, among the lowest in the world. The manifesto gives this section high prominence and for good reason. There is an acute shortage of health personnel in rural areas from nurses and technicians to doctors and specialists. Of the over 19,000 specialists needed, less than 6,000 are in place.
A point that the manifesto specially makes is in making English education accessible to the young on the obvious ground that those who speak English fluently earn up to 34 per cent more than the rest. The trouble is that only 20 per cent of Indians can speak English i.e roughly some 25 million which is a substantial number.
The manifesto wants promotion of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), privatisation of industries as far as possible, but what, in the end is significant is that a newspaper has taken so much of trouble to draw up a realistic manifesto that could be a model for parties to follow. It is concerned about the young. It notes, for example, that about 50 per cent of India’s 1.21 billion is less than 25 years old and the Government will need to ensure that the employment expectations of the skilled and educated youth are met – a need that cannot be fulfilled via Government sector employment or funded schemes alone. One wishes that every newspaper brings out it own manifesto for political parties to think over.
( The writer is a senior journalist and former editor of Illustrated Weekly).