Suggestions for political parties' election Manifesto
The Society for Democratic and Constitutional Values has released some suggestions for incorporation in political parties’ MANIFESTO, at a meeting presided by Prof. M Aslam, former Vice-Chancellor, IGNOU, in New Delhi a few days ago.
These suggestions reproduced here come from civil society intellectuals, representing different walks of life are in the context of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Members of Manifesto Drafting Committee were Prof. M Aslam (Former VC, IGNOU), Prof. M P Singh (Former VC, Kolkata Law University), Dr M D Thomas (Founder Director, Institute of Harmony and Peace studies), Shri Radhey Shiam (Former Director, ITID), Qurban Ali (Journalist), Neeraj Jain (Editor, Janata Weekly), N D Pancholi (Advocate), Vipin Gupta (Editor, National Express), Krishna Menon (Add. Director(Interpretation), Rajya Sabha), P P Wangchuk (Journalist), Manjoo Mohan (Social Activist), Pritpal Singh (Ex-President, Gurudwara, Dwarka), Ajay Jain (Spiritual Counsellor), Rajendra Pandey (Writer), Premchand (Social Activist), P C Gupta (Social Activist).
The Society for Democratic and Constitutional Values is a citizens-led, non-political organization working to promote democratic & constitutional values.
1. Maintenance of Religious Peace, Security & Harmony:
- Need for a mechanism/ministry/ commission to strengthen Religious Harmony in the country to restrict activities of religious leaders and other persons who incite, instigate or encourage any religious leader or any religious group or institution to commit any of the following acts: causing feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between different religious groups etc.
a.Promulgate National policy on Education.
Need of a National Education Policy to meet the changing dynamics of the population’s requirement with regards to quality education, innovation and research, aiming to make India a knowledge superpower by equipping its citizenry with the necessary skills and knowledge.
b.Incorporate Scientific temper.
Scientific Temper refers to a mentality or an outlook rather than a specialized body of knowledge. It addresses itself to universalist concerns of “values of life” rather than to narrow and specialized questions of scientific research and application. To promote Scientific Temper is one of the fundamental duties of a citizen of the country and is enshrined in the Fundamental Duties Article 51-A(h) of the Constitution of India.
c. Promote heavy Investment in Education.
Education is a fundamental right for everyone and key to the future of any country. It is a public responsibility to provide access to high quality education for everyone. Therefore, public investments need to ensure a good educational infrastructure for lifelong learning.
d.Encourage due emphasis on quality education.
It is need of the time to urgently transform our education system to meet the aspirational needs of the new generation. Three measures that can enable the right ecosystem needed for imparting quality education : Maintained infrastructure, Quality of teaching & teacher and Extra-curricular activities with emphasis on education for building good citizen.
e.Integrate skilled-based component. Integration of skill development and education is essential for skilling to take wings. Skill development will remain a dream if carried out in isolation through centres alone. It has to be imparted in schools alongside academics.
f. Impose check & regulate on private educational institutions.
Education is listed as a subject in the Concurrent List of the Constitution of India, meaning that schools, including private schools, are governed by both Central and State laws. However, some aspects of private school operations continue to be governed almost exclusively by State laws, such as fee fixation and inspection of schools that need proper regulation.
3. Right to Work:
a.Emphasis on dignity of work
We need to have our education system evolved in a manner that each one of us develops the feeling of dignity of labour. In developed countries, people love to do any kind of work provided that fetches them the means for survival and a good life.
Minimum wages should be revised from time to time so that quality of wages attracts unemployed youths.
c. Equal opportunity commission
Enact a comprehensive anti-discrimination law and constitute an Equal Opportunity Commission to oversee implementation of such a law, which covers all vulnerable groups, prevent rising hate crimes against religious minorities and disadvantaged castes by creating criminal culpability of public officials, statutory backing for Tribal Sub-Plan and Special Component Plan and legal changes for reversing tribal land alienation.
It must be ensured that development programmes are taken up that have requisite impact and that attention is not taken up in naming of the programme.
4. Right to Health:
a.Need to be declared as Fundamental Right.
The current status of healthcare in India reflects that further measures are required to be taken by the State to assure health to all citizens of the State. The Government expenditure on health is only 1.4 percent of Gross Domestic
Product (GDP) and the public health infrastructure is inadequate and unequally distributed. The Draft National Health Policy, 2015 takes note of the fact that over 63 million persons are faced with poverty every year due to healthcare costs alone as there is no financial protection for the vast majority of healthcare needs. Therefore, it is essential to amend the constitution with a view to make right to health a fundamental right of the citizens and to have a complement of laws on the subject matter of health.
A Bill on Patient Rights enumerating the rights and responsibilities of patients, duties and code of practice and ethics for medical professionals. Guidance may be incorporated from the draft of Charter of Patient Rights prepared by NHRC and WHO.
c. Special focus on the vulnerable sections(Senior Citizens, Orphans, widows & disabled) of the society about their health.
d.Impose check & regulate private sector.
To set up a regulatory commission, to oversee private healthcare facilities, deciding for them what they can charge and deal with complaints from people receiving treatment and conduct surprise & routine checks on internal functioning of hospitals.
e.Need to strengthen public-private collaboration in health sector.
- To meet the targets of 2022 healthcare vision, effective private-public collaboration is the key.
- Efficient and affordable healthcare can be provided through the PPP model.
a.Transparency & accountability
- Need an accessible, efficient & accountable judiciary which delivers justice to all.
- Ensuring proper accountability of judges by setting up independent judicial complaint’s commissions empowered to receive and investigate complaints against judges and recommend action against them.
- Administration of justice should be made more transparent by putting out all information of the courts on a website and video graphing court
proceedings and allowing the public to access them.
- India has 28 million pending cases in the lower courts, 3.2 million in the high courts, and 54,000 in the Supreme Court. The UN norm is 50 judges per million population, but India is nowhere that, barely 10 judges per million population. The need of the hour is to expand judges and speed up processes.
6. Strengthen accountability & transparency of independent institutions like CBI, CVC, CAG etc.
Strengthen independence of institutions of oversight- CBI, CVC, CAG etc. by appropriately amending the relevant laws to ensure a balanced and independent selection committee; transparency in the short-listing and selection process; and mandatory cooling off period post-retirement, including in some cases debarment from holding any government office.
7. Farmers’ Issues:
a.National Agriculture & Rural development Plan.
Need a national policy on Agriculture and Rural development that seeks to actualize the vast untapped growth potential of Indian agriculture, strengthen rural infrastructure to support faster agricultural development, promote value addition, accelerate the growth of agro-business, create employment in rural areas, secure a fair standard of living for the farmers and agricultural workers and their families, discourage migration to urban areas and face the challenges arising out of economic liberalization and globalization.
b.Reinvestment of proceeds in assured investment schemes & gainful employment for persons whose lands are acquired.
8. Women’s Issues:
a.Women reservation bill to be passed.
- The Women’s Reservation Bill should be passed as soon as possible. This Bill seeks to reserve, as nearly as possible, one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies.
b.1/3rd of the seats must be reserved by political parties for women candidates.
Political parties cannot remain indifferent towards women who constitute nearly 48.46 per cent of the electorate (2011 Census). Although almost all parties have attempted to build women organisations to secure their support and make their organisations broader based, but in practice they have fielded much less proportion of women candidates in the elections giving them proportionately much less representation in the legislative bodies than their actual population strength.
Former Chief Election Commissioner M.S. Gill’s had also given a proposal to make it mandatory for all political parties to nominate at least a-third of women candidates for the seats deserves to be commended.
9. Electoral Reforms:
a.Ensure authenticity of EVMs.
In a democracy, there is perhaps nothing more important than the credibility of the electoral process. There is an urgent need to ensure authenticity of EVMs in the backdrop of recent controversies. By shoring up its image and bringing in some more transparent reforms, the EC can restore faith in elections.
b.Thwart the entry of unscrupulous candidates in elections especially against whom criminal charges are levied (filed).
Criminalisation of politics and corruption, especially at the entry level of elections, has become a national and economic burden. Rapid criminalisation of politics cannot be arrested by merely disqualifying tainted legislators but should begin by “cleansing” political parties. There is urgent need to frame a law that makes it obligatory for political parties to remove leaders charged with “heinous and grievous” crimes, such as rape, murder and kidnapping, to name only a few, and refuse ticket to offenders in both Parliamentary and Assembly polls.
10. New Parliamentary Bills:
Introduce some new legislations as follows:
a. Manifesto must be accountable and legally binding.
Manifestos of political parties: Political parties issue their manifestos at the time of general election making a number of false promises to the electorates to win over the election. After winning the election many of these promises would not be accomplished. So, Manifesto must be accountable and legally binding to make it relevant.
b. Anti-Superstition legislation at national level.
India is a Multicultural country where religion is a sensitive issue. However, perpetuating superstitions holds the country back from becoming a superpower that it deserves. For removing these superstitions, India needs some legislation on superstition, and there is need to have a similar debate as in Maharashtra State Legislature that passed the Anti- Superstition Bill in 2013.
c. Fundamental Duties must be justifiable with legal sanction.
Citizens are morally obligated by the Constitution to perform Fundamental duties. However, it must be made justifiable with legal sanction in case of their violation or non-compliance.
d. Amend the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
A Bill to amend the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 with an aim towards imposition of strict liability-civil and criminal in all cases of environmental harm. The citizens have right to live in a pollution free environment and those who disturb the sustainable development principle must face strict criminal proceeding. Through special amendment in Environment Protection Act 1986 we propose strict compliance of Polluter-Pays principle with Deep Pocket principle in all kind of environmental degradation cases.
e. Compulsory Education on Disaster Management and Entrepreneurship development in Educational institutions.
f. Legislation emphasizing two-child norm.
Recently, some countries have accused India of being the largest consumer of world's food grains and oil seeds which has resulted in worldwide shortage of these commodities and thereby giving a push to inflationary trends in the world. It is, therefore, imperative that certain effective steps are taken to check this problem because our resources are limited. Despite the existence of various birth control measures and various family planning programmes in force for many years to motivate the people to accept these birth control methods, the problem of population explosion still remains. This, recommendation therefore, seeks to provide for two child norm in a family and promote small family norms in future generation.
g. Right to public services.
The Right to Public Service (RTPS) confers right on every individual citizen to have time bound delivery of services and redressal of grievances. The right to public service legislations have been introduced in various States following the legislations of the Madhya Pradesh Government in the year
2010. It has been observed that the RTPS Acts have helped the States in tackling corruption, inefficiency and lack of transparency in the conduct of Government Affairs. It , therefore, seeks to provide for the delivery of notified public services of the Government of India within the stipulated time limit.
h. Housing facility for destitute Senior citizens, widows and orphan children.
During the last one decade the old age population in India has risen by 39.3 per cent. This segment of population is expected to rise by 45-50 percent in the coming decades. In similar ways, there are a large number of widows in the country who face discrimination not only on family front but on social front also. In addition to this, there is a large section of population of orphan kids who do not have any shelter and are living a destitute life. Most of these kids are engaged as child labour or have fallen prey to drug addiction, some are addicted to drugs, some are involved in flesh trade or illegal trafficking. There is thus, a need to create a total and conducive environment whereby they could spend rest of their life in a productive and happy manner.
11. Indiscriminate Privatisation and Disinvestment:
The policy of indiscriminate privatisation and handing over national resources, public sector corporations and even essential services to the private sector for their profiteering in the name of efficiency must be stopped forthwith and reversed. Therefore, we urge that:
i) The policy of disinvestment in public sector undertakings, including privatisation of railways, defence, docks and mines needs to be stopped and reversed.
ii) The banks and insurance sector need to remain in government hands. The steps taken to hand over control of pension funds, provident funds and other savings of working people to private sector corporations must be reversed.
iii) Essential services, including education, health, drinking water, electricity, public distribution system, sanitation and transport. These must be subsidised by the government to the maximum possible.