A lot of space and words have been spent upon the manifestos of political parties hoping to continue with their game of fooling the people all the time with these empty exercises in verbiage. Lately, political parties have engaged the services of professional advertising and marketing people to produce these documents, packaging them like travel and tourism brochures, promising beautiful times for the electorate that no other travel agency can offer. The people, on their part, are fully aware that once the elections are over, these manifestos will be sold to the raddiwala and will most probably be used by peanut and other vendors for paper cones in which to hawk their wares. The political manifesto has become a meaningless prop in our Dance of Democracy, but it keeps the media and the self-righteous political commentators in business, giving them a subject that they can debate passionately and vigorously in their staged studios and Op-Ed pages.
The song and dance made by political pundits about the BJP for not having brought out its manifesto when the election campaigning was already in full swing puts almost scriptural significance on this piece of paper. These self-appointed guardians of Democracy kept repeating that the party should proclaim its manifesto before it asks for the people’s vote. In the 15 Lok Sabha elections held prior to the one that began on 7th April 2014, political parties have all proclaimed their manifestos and promptly forgotten them once the results were announced. Maybe, once upon a time, the people did attribute some significance to these documents, but having been betrayed time and again, they have learnt to ignore whatever these pious proclamations profess to propound. They would rather read the lips of the political leaders and pay much more attention to what they say than to what is written by someone else for them. The BJP may have published its manifesto on the day the elections started in the North-East, but the people knew exactly what they were going to get and they did not need a written document to confirm it. Modi, in his campaigns across the length and breadth of the country, has left no one in doubt about his intentions and has made it clear that he is going to follow the development strategy as against the handout strategy so dear to the Congress and the Left.
As matters stand, it would be hazardous for a political party today to make any promises about the economy which will be impossible to fulfill knowing the kind of bottomless pit into which P. Chidambaram and the Manmohan Singh government have dumped the country. The exact nature of the horrors will only be known when the new Finance Minister takes charge, and to make any predictions without this information is nothing short of committing suicide. The Congress can shamelessly come out with its colorfully designed brochure, promising all and everything that it has promised fifteen times before, but has had no intentions ever to fulfill. It is a clear measure of its disdain for the people of India and the arrogance of its leaders. Now that the BJP manifesto is finally out of the way, the decks have been cleared for the political predators to go at the throats of one another.
Having glanced through the published manifestos of all the parties, and found a few things missing, here is what I would like to see in a manifesto for this nation called India. It is a well-known fact that what occupies the minds of the common people are the following:
A) Roti, Kapda aur Makan.
B) Bijli, Sadak aur Pani.
C) Shikhsha aur Swasthya.
D) Surakhsha, Nyaya, aur Shanti.
The first is a derivative of employment, the second of infrastructure, the third of public policy and the last one of governance. The Congress, in its 60 years of direct and proxy rule, has miserably failed on all four fronts and that is why its manifesto keeps repeating these basic necessities that are still unavailable to a majority of the people of this country. Any government that occupies South Block in New Delhi this May, will be judged by how it performs in the delivery of the above four derivatives and not on how well its manifestos were drafted and packaged.
To stimulate employment, all infrastructure projects that have been languishing in cold storage due to UPA’s mismanagement must be reviewed and either scrapped or given the green signal with proper guidelines within the first 60 days of the new government. This will also entail investigation into financial irregularities as some projects would have been stalled on account of disagreement on kickbacks and bribes. Investigations into the various scams must be speeded up and all cases decided with judgments passed within one year. The huge financial losses incurred must be recovered from the politicians, bureaucrats, and the businessmen who have profited from these irregularities. Their properties must be confiscated and they must be treated as common criminals.
Illegal accounts held in tax havens abroad should be made public and the amounts brought back into the country. Holders of these accounts should face criminal charges and be heavily penalized.
Education is one area that has suffered severely since independence. The country has miserably failed in providing basic primary and secondary school education to the children of India. The expenditure on this sector has been beggarly. The Congress has tried to fool the people with its Right to Education Bill, but as with the Right to Food Bill, this right too remains un-achievable because there are neither enough schools nor enough teachers to impart education to the young. Professional training institutes have been monopolized by politicians who have discovered a golden goose in them. There are hardly any new professional colleges being set up by the government. Politicians are routing their black money into substandard professional institutions, charging abnormal capitation fees, and spewing out substandard professionals, most of whom soon find that they are unemployable in the real world. Medical education is the worst sufferer, where admission fees under the table run into crores. Doctors produced by this system begin their careers already compromised and the Hippocratic Oath becomes a casualty as the first priority of these doctors is to recoup and recover the expenditure incurred in obtaining the medical qualification. Perhaps the answer lies in making admissions to medical colleges totally merit-based, and the education completely free. The private colleges that do not measure up to international standards in terms of faculty and facilities must be shut down and the better ones taken over by the state. The emphasis must be on excellence and those colleges that have the right infrastructure must be given state funds to operate. In the absence of quality teachers at school level, we must use the e-learning platforms and arrange virtual classes for schools that are without teachers. The substandard text books produced by the state should be discarded and replaced by books written by renowned scholars from all over the world. This was the case when we went to school and my generation does not feel that we received any inferior school and college education.
The armed forces of the country are a totally demoralized lot under the leadership of the UPA. The last ten years have reduced one of the finest armies in the world to the level of a mediocre regional power that even a Maldives could bully. Pakistan and China have repeatedly provoked us with hostile intent and our response has invariably been meek and compromising. We, however, try to clothe our timidity in lofty, meaningless phrases that no one takes seriously. The PM, the MOD, and the MEA put together do not have even one vertebra in their spines. They have sold the country to arms dealers and brokers, buying substandard equipment without any care for the lives of the soldiers who have to face the enemy. The nation is being sold down the drain for the personal enrichment of a few who are close to the only power within the UPA. The new government has to free the armed forces from the interference of the politicians and the mandarins of the MOD, and a mechanism must be put in place to ensure that the interest of the men becomes paramount, and that complete transparency is exercised in the purchase of military hardware. All past contracts must be reviewed and responsibility fixed for corrupt practices.
Internal security of India is being threatened by the ever-widening Red corridor, the never-ending insurgency in Kashmir, and the insidious communal polarization encouraged by the demagogues masquerading as democratic leaders. The people of the North-East have suffered the most, especially the Nagas, the Manipuris and the Mizos. Nehru started the alienation of this part of the country and the successive governments have continued with this policy of treating the original inhabitants of these areas as rebels and not as citizens who have a different way of life from the mainland. The imposition of the ill-thought and draconian AF(SP)A has resulted in the complete erosion of their faith in India. To integrate this part with the mainland the new government must immediately withdraw this draconian act and reduce the presence of the armed forces from civilian areas. The North-East is an ancient land with a unique history and culture that must be respected and given a prominent place in its governance. Similarly, the act must also be withdrawn from J&K and the armed forces must be made to return to the barracks. The army is there for our protection against external enemies, not for killing our own citizens. The next elections in J&K must be seen to be free and fair letting the people choose their own leaders.
It is no coincidence that the Maoists are most active in the adivasi lands, as the rights of the Tribals have been completely trampled underfoot by an avaricious political-industrial combine. The Tribals come from the earliest inhabitants of this subcontinent and they have perhaps the first right on its resources; not just the Muslims as our PM would have us believe. Their culture and history have to be respected and given their due place in the development of their lands. It is important that a dialogue with them is initiated, treating them as equals, and not as supplicants. Justice and peace will automatically follow.
There is one more item that I would like to propose, and that would be to shift the capital from New Delhi to a place within the heart of the country. There are many reasons for this and it will need a whole new essay to list them and enlarge upon this proposal. I would like our readers and leaders to mull it over and give their thoughts on the subject.
By Vijaya Dar