Y4D

We will bring home a better system

Vision Document

Our culture and heritage

Bharat, now known also as India (a derivative of Sindhu/Indus coined by visitors), is one of the two civilizations of the world that can boast of a continuous and uninterrupted history of centuries. The other is China. There have been other civilisations that shaped up during phases of prehistory, but none survived till this day unlike Bharat and China. In course of this long journey, Bharat has undergone numerous changes. But the ideals and principles that are the lifeline of this nation continue to tell an uninterrupted story. Historians and educators are seen marvelling at our unity in diversity. This unity, notably, is a fabric woven by a uniformity of ethos irrespective of minor differences in local cultures. The uniqueness of our belief system rests in our treatment of all elements of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, biosphere, and exosphere as gods, which exhorts us for their conservation. Sri Aurobindo found this set of beliefs to be in perfect consonance with the idea of nationalism.

Nature has been particularly benevolent towards our beloved country, observed by the gamut of our weather patterns, flora and fauna which is unparalleled in the globe. The geographers of the colonial rulers of Bharat of the early part of the 20th century described all the features of our ecology as the best in the world. Much of those specialities of this country have survived to see this day, fortunately, even as post-Industrial Revolution human activities threatened the delicate balance of nature mercilessly, with the situation turned worse by lack of adequate mass education about the gift of gods that Bharat is. Seeking pride in the unique features of our natural environment such as 3/5 of our landmass being arable, 2/5 of that being located along the Gangetic plain that spans 3000 km in length, up to 400 km in breadth and about 1.4 km in alluvial and humus depth, we must strive to protect such resources. This is besides the rare therapeutic qualities of the Ganga waters. The rest of Bharat is equally blessed by great rivers that serve as those regions’ lifeline. And then there have been histories of glorious civilisations that sustained themselves along the banks of rivers from the north to the south, from the west to the east. Much of the territorial expanse of Bharat is also uniquely sunbathed, with annual rainfall recorded at an average of an impressive 105 cm. Industrious countrymen have for centuries made the best use of such bounties of nature not only by producing crops but also in creation of innumerable facets of the indigenous economy. Till the 19th century, Bharat was the global leader in agriculture, irrigation, metallurgy, textiles and medicine. It is for this reason that the nation earned the name of the cradle of world civilisation.

Our cultural ethos finds its roots in our ancient civilisation. We manifested this by giving to the world the mantra of vasudhaiva kutumbakam — the world is one family — upholding our belief in universal peace and brotherhood. We pray for happiness of the entire humanity with the maxim sarve bhavantu sukhinah (Let all be happy). Ours is a unique philosophy that advocates peace for entities both animate and inanimate, wishing for their perfect mutual harmony. And we see all faiths that germinated in Bharat subscribing to the same credo. We appreciate the fact that religions that immigrated to this land also coloured themselves in the same hue.

Having broken free of the shackles of imperialism, we now need to scale even greater heights, taking inspiration from the values imbibed from our glorious legacy. It’s time we took greater pride in the nation called Bharat while tapping the immense potential of our physical and human resources so that we regain the position of a leading light of the world.

Need for revival of nationalism

It’s unfortunate that, six decades into our independence, we are still looking for our national identity. Ignoring our legacy, we judge ourselves based on benchmarks set by the West, unmindful of the fact that the Orient had already crossed several milestones of development — like the revenue system, civic laws, and multi-dimensional governance — at a time when the Occident was still struggling to learn the art of excellence. It was this intellectual brilliance of Bharat that attracted to itself good and bad elements of the world alike. Yet, with those heady days suffering public oblivion, we constantly make efforts to pull ourselves up from the status of a Third World- to a Second World country — preternatural classifications of the modern world.

What makes the tag of a developed country elude us six decades into our political independence? While we took long strides in pushing some development indices upward, the absence of cultural mores and lofty morals in our present-day activities renders our position rather weak. We have for long suffered from a low national self-esteem. On the one hand, we seek pride in being the world’s largest democracy; on the other, we do nothing to turn our institutions robust when the chinks in our democratic armour manifest in all walks of life. Rampant corruption has made the claim of democracy ring hollow. Our weak policies now depend on weaker governments for implementation. As a consequence, as a nation we resume the journey to the top, bogged down by several handicaps. The situation turns worse when political parties shirk responsibility and betray the tendency of passing the buck. The results of the elections held once every five years are not a reflection of who is considered the most competent, but who has been the most successful in hoodwinking the people into believing falsehood as truth.

It is baffling that we, once the leader of the world, are now counted among the least developed nations, and it seems it would take ages for us to catch up with the league of developed economies. Despite being plush with resources, we have a huge section of the population that finds it difficult to secure even the basic amenities of life. In terms of human development indices, we are counted in the league of sub-Saharan African countries like Uganda, Congo and Chad. The Arjun Sengupta Committee report said that about ¾ of the country’s population sustained itself on an income of less than Rs 20 a day. Government statistics say that out of more than a billion of our total population, 23.3 crore are victims of malnutrition, out of which most are children aged less than 3 years. Besides socio-economic problems, a shocking degree of poverty fails every political initiative in this country. Yet our political parties obsess with the rat race for power, unmindful of such disturbing statistics.

‘The state is created for those who cannot protect themselves.’ This is the universal mantra of governance across all civilised societies. This is reflected by our Constitution, too. However, our polity does little to uphold this value. All the pillars of democracy — legislature, executive (to a great extent) and judiciary (mercifully to a lesser extent) — are being forced to run according to the dynamics of party politics. They are all being geared up to function in a manner so as to facilitate the World Bank’s agenda. Monopolist lobbies of the United States and EU countries are exploiting the WTO platform to ensure this. And successive Governments of India, rather than calling their bluff, have worked overtime to expedite the decline of our sovereignty. This is evident from the policy of allotting thousands of acres of land to erect SEZs and FTZs that stand for wanton exploitation of the masses. To attract FDI, our governments have abandoned all land reform programmes and policies meant to promote agriculture. In an economy based largely on agriculture, the UPA Government seeks pride in announcing that the service sector contributes more to the GDP. The NDA Government preceding it had similarly whitewashed the facts with its ‘India Shining’ electoral campaign, which was a poor joke on 175,000 indebted and starving farmers forced to take recourse to ending their lives. These are ample proofs of disconnect of the largest political coalitions from the realities staring at the nation.

In the context of the WTO, it is important to note that we criticise the First and Second World’s chicanery in tutoring us the benefits of globalisation at the time when it suits them and forgetting the very lessons when it is Bharat’s turn to earn profits from foreign soil; the tutors of globalisation then turn the theory of free market on its head and become protectionists! We appreciate the strong arguments some of our government representatives put up during the last few WTO rounds (emboldened by delegates from Brazil, Russia, China and some African countries) that made all those global conferences end inconclusively. However, we deplore the politicians who genuflect before the interests of foreign countries and companies outside those meets, without demanding an equal, or at least equitable, share of the pie by letting us do business in their territories.

If globalisation were to be a two-way traffic, we would be all for it. But it’s not. We are against globalisation that is a one-way traffic that only helps soar up profits of foreign companies and governments. The freedom of the free market that the West teaches us is bunkum.

The school of economics that the country’s large political groups are students of is nothing but an institution of cronies. The socialists who shed copious tears for the poor in broad daylight wine and dine with a motley group of industrialists in the dark of the night and hand over lucrative contracts to them while discharging their duties as part of the government. And the so-called reformists do the same thing more brazenly, their band of favourite businessmen being a bit larger than those who swear by socialism. This means that, between these purportedly distinct political groups, the citizens do not have a real choice.

Years ago when we were struggling for independence from British rule, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore had seen this coming. “We have for over a century been dragged by the prosperous West behind its chariot, choked by the dust, deafened by the noise, humbled by our own helplessness, and overwhelmed by the speed. We agreed to acknowledge that this chariot-drive was progress, and that progress was civilization. If we ever ventured to ask, ‘Progress towards what, and progress for whom,’ it was considered to be peculiarly and ridiculously oriental to entertain such doubts about the absoluteness of progress. Of late, a voice has come to us bidding us to take count not only of the scientific perfection of the chariot but of the depth of the ditches lying across its path,” he wrote. We are yet to fill those ditches, let alone look for an altogether new chariot that is essentially Indian.

The political formations less overbearing than the UPA and the NDA have done little more than being feudal lords of this convoluted democracy. The so-called representative of the destitute, the CPI(M)-led Left Front militated against its own policies in Singur and Nandigram where Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels were replaced by Tatas and the notorious Salem Group as the faux communists’ ideological heads. Similarly in Uttar Pradesh, a party established to safeguard the interest of Dalits now abuses its mandate, conning the downtrodden into believing that memorial parks made of thousands of crores of rupees of taxpayers’ money, showcasing in its pantheon of icons its own megalomaniac leader, serves its voter base!

Oblivious of democratic values and the fundamental necessities of administration, the misuse and abuse of nationalism rules the roost. Sycophancy reigns supreme in this corrupted atmosphere even as dynasties thrive under the protective umbrella of the biggest national party as well as its regional clones. To appropriate power, they wouldn’t flinch even to be ruled by persons of foreign origin.

Politics once meant volunteering to serve the country. This philosophy gave birth to luminaries of our freedom struggle who are respected worldwide. That thinking has now degenerated to the belief that the ability to mobilise money and musclemen are essential qualifications of a politician. In the 2009 general elections, for example, no prominent political party could be said to be not guilty of fielding antisocial elements as its candidates. As a result, the current Lok Sabha has 17.2% more members of criminal antecedents than its predecessor. Voters are now left with no alternative that has served the nation the best in the last tenure of five years; they have to choose who they think is the least corrupt of all corrupt parties; sometimes, as recent by-poll trends in the States show, they tend to think that the party already in power serves their interest the best!

Now it is established that no political party is ready to cleanse the system and re-establish nationalism as the driving force of the country. They bask in the unfounded glory of being elected by the people who had no qualitative choice in the first place. The nation can be revived and rejuvenated only by an altogether new political force that is rooted in the country’s hard realities, one that reaches out to its teeming billion plus of ordinary citizens. We shall endeavour to create such a force that works towards switching the paradigm of policy making from its present pro-American and pro-elite tilt to a pro-Bharat and pro-poor doctrine. We need an ideology that prioritises the needs of commoners. We shall try to bring together all like-minded groups that believe in the politics of idealism. Groups that are reluctant to play an active role in mainstream politics must appreciate the fact that they are operating very much in the political domain, irrespective of their aversion for it. Therefore, they must throw their weight behind us. Unity of patriots to take on the might of forces challenging the state’s sovereignty is the need of the hour. This consolidated force will present its agenda most humbly to fellow countrymen and work towards the attainment of the stated goals democratically while never resorting to violence or allowing other forces to take recourse to it. We believe violence is counterproductive and disastrous, which strengthens the very forces we are uniting to fight. “Communication — Consensus — Cooperation” is the sequence we shall follow to go about it.

A disclaimer will be in order here. The brand of nationalism that we advocate should be internationally understood as patriotism. It is not the supremacist philosophy that led much of Europe to the two World Wars. Indian nationalism is a result of restrictions imposed on our internationalism. While we consider the world a family, the most influential section of the international community does not appreciate this oneness. It treats the world as a family only as one big market where only we are asked to open up for the sake of freedom while they continue being protectionist. It's a preachy section of the world that practices globalisation as a one-way traffic, wherein the gains can be realised by the West's investor as well as the East's consumer but the losses are to be incurred only by the latter and its business class; wherein our investors and exporters are not offered the same degree of openness in their markets. On the social front, Indians migrating to the West continue to be victims of racial discrimination. The protection of our part of the globe, therefore, becomes paramount. This, along with the motto of peaceful co-existence, defines our nationalism and demarcates its boundaries. We do not stand for the nationalism that entails looking down upon others as inferior societies over whom we have a divine right to rule.

Pro-India agenda

Every nation in this world is distinct in terms of heritage, culture, geography, nature and environment. What is good for one country may not necessarily be good for another. Nations undertake their distinct journeys based on the strengths of their respective fundamental characteristics. If we restrict ourselves to imitating others, we will never realize the potential of our own virtues and specialities. Following in the footsteps of others, we may end up in a place which was never our intended or desired destination. It’s our consciousness based on this land’s eternal faith that helped us break free of the shackles of colonialism and dependency. Stalwart nationalists like Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose, Sri Aurobindo et al drew inspiration of their greatness from this faith. For superimposed as well as artificial influences, we are now straying from that path. It is the foundation of this faith on which we shall build the edifice of our Indian ideology. As Gandhiji had said, “By political independence I do not mean an imitation to the British House of commons, or the soviet rule of Russia or the Fascist rule of Italy or the Nazi rule of Germany. They have systems suited to their genius. We must have ours suited to ours.”

Our nationalism will be marked by traditional wisdom pertaining to politics. Based on the environmental realities of Bharat, we shall introduce a new nationalistic paradigm. We believe that getting globalised at the expense of local ethos is detrimental to the nation. To take on the challenge of the present, we must additionally propagate the idea abroad so that they can distinguish it clearly from the supremacist attitude that brought Europe to the brink of a disaster in the first part of the last century. We are inspired as much by the idea of the world as one family and hence believe in peaceful co-existence.

We would constantly view our position in the world on the basis of what we call cultural GDP rather than the conventional and superficial economic GDP, which is being questioned increasingly by economists across the world. This is not an isolated thought. It must be viewed and understood from the perspective of a countrywide movement to rebuild the nation. To achieve all-round development through this effort, the social and economic factors must work in tandem with the cultural ones. When money alone become’s a society’s the driving force, the social fabric begins to rupture. Bharat has survived so long because, throughout its history, it has maintained a perfect harmony between its human, animal, water, forest and land resources. Our ‘nation first’ ideology incorporates the pledge to re-establish the delicate balance between them all. We shall measure our advancement on the yardstick of increasing fertility of the soil, level of underground and overground water, forest cover and maintaining a healthy man-to-animal ratio. We cannot ignore the fact that an imbalance between these factors has, sooner or later, an adverse effect on our society and politics, which in turn gives a fillip to unhealthy propensities in politics.

The developed economies of the world have so far thrived on materialism that is measured in terms of physical belongings of individual citizens. There, an individual’s greed is fanned by the specious logic that the cumulative greed of the people would boost the economy. This leads to class conflicts and civil unrests. These mistakes will not be repeated in our pro-Bharat model. We would consider an individual a unit working in consonance with the rest towards the making of the whole society rather than considering society an aggregate of mutually disparate individuals. Individual freedom will be granted but will come with the restriction of responsibility towards the overall social order.

Our preliminary work shall involve revitalising the education sector while not only reclaiming the lost glory of ancient Bharat but also integrating in it the best of international pedagogical methods that have long replaced rote learning and assembly-line production of workers from elementary and professional schools in the countries that have realised the folly of the methodology imposed on this country by British colonialists.

We shall give all religions the legitimate space they need to practice their respective faiths. However, none of them will be allowed to dictate the state policy. We shall strive to bring pristine, dictionary sense of secularism to this country as against its distorted version practised by the polity today that leads to a continuation of the British Divide & Rule legacy, which involves privileging and under-privileging the ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ in turns and pitting them against one another, creating bad blood between Indians.

Such is the dynamism of this order that its success cannot be measured in terms of the economic GDP which fails to project how miserable a section of the population is or how wretched governance has become. We shall rather develop a prosperity or happiness quotient for the purpose that would take into account the intricacies of sociology, considering aspects of citizens beyond their monetary condition. By doing so, we shall effectively calculate the impact of state policies and programmes as well as understand the extent of responsible behaviour by members of society.

Further, to make sure that the agriculture sector is adequately safeguarded, we will make all out efforts to constantly increase the production and not allow arable and irrigated land to be usurped by the state under public-private partnership schemes and handed over to unscrupulous private players on a platter after which the monopolist wantonly double taxes citizens on the property built on the virtually gifted plot, besides depriving the country from the fertility of that landmass forever.

Importantly, we will not allow international monetary agencies to ride roughshod over us. But then, there is always a history of bad policies that push us to agencies like the World Bank and IMF with a begging bowl. These agencies, it is known, will give us the necessary oxygen only under the condition that we inhale and exhale according to their diktats. Our country has suffered due to the imported idea of monopolist capitalism and frenzy to duplicate everything happening in the United States. The socialistic system much celebrated by self-styled intellectuals, where no fund for welfare schemes is diligently worked out and the only way known for handling the crisis is stiff state control and over-taxation — which revels in human rights violations, refuses to recognise individual brilliance and creates a culture of tax evasion — is equally responsible for the mess. Mercifully, nationalists still remember the past of Bharat until 200 years ago, where no grants and loans from the West were needed for our sustenance and excellence, where the system was neither capitalistic nor communistic. We can once again be a benefactor rather than a beneficiary in this world desperately looking for solutions to the problems created by the West’s myopic economic models that couldn’t see beyond half-baked numerical calculations and poor assumptions about how human beings would react to the restrictions and freedoms offered by the state and the market.

In order to realise this dream that is essentially Indian, we must ensure that no person of foreign origin assumes offices of the likes of president, prime minister and chief of armed forces.

As of now, addressing the concerns of the indebted farmers who have turned suicidal is foremost on the list of our priorities.

The world once conspired to show us the virtue of a free market. Our governments bought the false promise and appointed a section of the intelligentsia to sell the idea to the rest of the nation. Many were converted to this belief in the era succeeding the watershed year of 1991 marked by liberalisation and globalisation. But as we learnt the rules of that game fast, and began beating them in their own game, they tried to turn the tables by forcing us to open our markets for their investments even more, even as their own territories was sought to be protected more than before by subsidies, import fees and licences aimed at killing the competition. We are now calling their bluff, telling them that freedom cannot be a one-way traffic.

When our time comes, we will tell the foreign investors that we will not be gullible enough to throw our unprepared industries to competition, enamoured with the virtue of freedom they are trying to sell us. It’s time to raise our own standards high and initiate good manufacturing practices, better the 6 σ (in which 99.99966% of the products manufactured are statistically expected to be free of defects) and have our own 5 Ss (sorting, straightening, systematic cleaning, standardizing, and sustaining). It’s time we made Bharat the leader of the world once again.

In accordance with the pro-Bharat ideology, we have to build a decentralised network of industrial hubs. For all-round development, every sector of the economy should be given adequate attention, especially the medium-scale, small-scale and cottage industries. We shall forever endeavour to keep the fundamentals of the domestic economy strong and thus surpass the standards set by the international industrial community. At present, the small-scale and cottage industries are particularly made objects of state neglect. Nothing is being done to compensate for their inadequacy of supply chain management. We will give utmost attention to this stratum of the economy that is vital to the health of the nation.

Of late, the domestic markets have been flooded with cheap and low-quality goods from abroad. Imposing duties on them has proved ineffective in curbing their reach in the local markets. The countries exporting these goods have thrown their weights behind the industries manufacturing these products and the Government of India does nothing to safeguard our industries from such unfair trade practices the foreign governments indulge in. As a result, Indian goods are being replaced by their foreign counterparts at a fast pace. The sector affected the most by this inundation of foreign goods is the small-scale and cottage industries.

The government has recently signed an agreement first with the US Administration, then the IAEA followed by several NSG states for generation of nuclear energy for civil purposes in the name of the country’s energy security. The provisions of these agreements severely undermine our sovereignty and leave our economy at the mercy and whims of foreign states. This measure was totally unwarranted as we have enough sources to produce renewable energy. We are duty-bound to pressure the government to tap the potential of our domestic energy sources.

We will pay particular attention to the conservation of our water sources that are a lifeline of many parts of the country. When the country got its independence, it was hoped that our natural resources will be protected in national interest, but the imperialist way of exploiting them without replenishment continues till this day. It was expected of the Constitution to provide for measures of conservation along the lines of the traditional practices of our countrymen, but no such provision was found in the final text that was prepared, nor were they added through amendments are included in the Directive Principles of State Policy thereafter.

Talking of amendments, there have been so many of them that it now seems we need an altogether new Constitution. The Constitution imposed on us is actually based on a 1935 British law; expectedly, it has fallen far short of the typical requirements of our unique country. Till the time the last man benefits from any measure of the state, egalitarianism will remain a pipedream, and the Constitution does nothing to realise this talisman of Mahatma Gandhi. Some of the steps that need to be taken to achieve our goals are:

  • The agriculture sector should be managed according to the local environment, nature and necessities. It is counterproductive to incentivise farmers by subsidies to produce crops that damage the soil in the long run.
  • Land reforms are the need of the hour. Agriculture should be considered a lifestyle rather than a means of livelihood alone.
  • There should be a consolidated framework of education and the right to knowledge must be coupled with the right to employment, wherein what is taught has a direct bearing on the job a student is expected to do after leaving the schools.
  • Farmers work in the farms of each other every year in a bid to save capital. This cements relations between them. Such exchange of labour under a barter-like arrangement, for example, and other factors that may not have a commercial value but are important in nation building should be taken into account while measuring the GDP.
  • A comprehensive framework to maintain a balance between ecology and people’s need for livelihood must be worked out. Our outlook of the relationship between water resources and irrigation needs, forest resources and arable lands, traditional knowledge and animal husbandry, etc, for example, must be clear.
  • There should be direct involvement of the citizens in government. Minor amendments in a decadent system do not work. We need swaraj in the real sense, and only that will make the administration effective and efficient. the situation calls for an overhaul of the administrative apparatus.

Nationalistic tendencies will eventually have a bearing on programme implementation and activities of the intelligentsia. This is the need of the hour.

Finally, our nationalist agenda will be incomplete without speaking of the nation’s territorial integrity. The way our nation was divided by imperialists and their indigenous handmaidens in 1947 was out-and-out artificial and arbitrary. The lands that seceded from the mainland bear significant relics of our glorious heritage. We still lament its loss. However, we are aware of the fact that the western part of our country is now a troublesome spot in the world. There is a large section of the Indian population that now considers the Partition a blessing in disguise. Talking of reunification of Bharatavarsha along the lines of a similar event in Germany would be a defiance of knowledge of the different demographics of the Asian and European examples. There is a history to the two sections of erstwhile Bharat that are now Pakistan and Bangladesh, the first in particular turning virtually into a rogue state. Ingenious methods have to be worked out to change the mindset of the people and polity of our western neighbour that will finally lead to their discarding of the two-nation theory. Once that happens, we can unite again. Given the history of a common culture we have shared for more than 5,000 years, the turning of the length and breadth of the Indian cultural nation into Republic of India is inevitable.

Pro-poor agenda

Before this agenda is explained, it will be in the fitness of things to differentiate it from the vote-oriented manifesto of the so-called socialist political parties. In contrast to the traditional parties in Bharat, we do not wish to refer to economically backward Indians forever as “poor” as if it were a caste one were born into, a tag that refuses to be shed, so that the conditions of this class never ameliorate beyond subsistence levels and their emotions are exploited perpetually for electoral gains. We are talking about special measures for this underprivileged section that would uplift the lot to a good standard of living for all times to come thereafter. So much so that after this goal is accomplished, we no longer have to refer to today’s poor as the poor of that future era as well.

We go back to Mahatma Gandhi’s talisman of thinking about the last person in the queue in every act of ours. In today’s convoluted practice of capitalism, technically classified better as cronyism, a motley group that constitutes the socio-politico-economic cream of our population waxes eloquent about the so-called ‘trickle down’ effect, claiming that their affluence benefits the poor in the long run as well. Lie! In this rainfall for them, which is less than a drizzle for the poor, they are the gods of rain who decide what, when, how and how much will pour. This systemic flow cannot be allowed to persist. As things stand now, prioritised affirmative action for the economically backward classes is a must in terms of food, clothing, shelter, education, health etc.

However, under the current political regime, this much-needed step can never be taken beyond piecemeal government plans because the electoral process is skewed pathetically in favour of the very perpetrators of the money-based feudal sin. The ruling class has turned so brazen that even the mandatory rule to declare assets does not deter them; many elected legislators are these days shamelessly declaring wealth worth billions as also quantum leaps in their income since they entered the field of politics. That monopolies and cartels cannot stand the idea of competition is obvious. So how and why will they let a share of their pie go to others, leave alone permit the entry of the lowest strata of population in their exclusive billionaire club? No wonder, the cliché of the rich turning richer and the poor poorer continues to be true.

Like a numbing sensation in the affected part of the body following a serious injury, the people appear to have come to terms with this malaise of greed of a handful of filthy rich barons, as they are politically being co-opted into the system. A spate of electoral victories of the parties in power during mid-term polls is a case in point. The voters, while pouring into the streets in support of anti-corruption movements, are still voting for the respective parties in power, perhaps with the hope that they might succeed in extracting small pounds of flesh from the corrupt lords or out of the fear that they would be identified as antagonistic to the ruling clique. This, even as the lords are laughing their way to the tax havens abroad, the deposits from which come back temporarily to the country during election seasons to influence the results. This vicious cycle must be broken through a plethora of reforms — electoral, legislative and judicial to begin with.

Switching to a new tax regime: It was once argued that taxes greater than 90% of one’s income was forcing some people to criminally hide their wealth. We, however, haven’t noticed a dip in the rate of this criminality even when the taxes kept plummeting budget after budget, especially since the beginning of the era of liberalisation. Many indigenous scholars believe that tax evasion is being facilitated by the unfeasible as well as unfair system of taxing incomes. It’s not feasible as hiding one’s income is easy; camouflaging the expenses is difficult. It is unfair because a given amount is taxed repeatedly in a multitude of steps: A business house earns some profit and pays a tax on it; from the remaining amount, it pays a part as salary to its employees from which the latter give away a further amount as income tax deductible at source; from the leftover, the employees must pay an additional amount as value-added tax while purchasing goods from the market. What’s the rationale behind this series of deductions from a given amount? Isn’t this irrationality forcing even otherwise honest people to hide their incomes? Isn’t this unfair regime responsible for employers paying a chunk of the salaries in cash to be shown by the employees as non-taxable expenses? Isn’t that, in turn, making employees fake expenses to justify the reimbursements?

Now, will there be much incentive left for the greedy to amass wealth if a new regime taxes expenditure (alone) instead of incomes? One may reason that a complete switch to expenditure taxes would lead to amassers of wealth spending the money abroad. That will be difficult. For one, few countries are tax havens, and the ones that are tax-free zones cannot offer our tax evaders enough goods to spend their money in. We are, therefore, going to explore this idea of switching from income- to expenditure taxes.

Recovering black money: The switch to a new, effective tax regime must be accompanied by an earnest effort to retrieve all the tax-evaded money now stashed in tax havens overseas. This money can not only fund large projects that go a long way in employment generation and poverty alleviation but also give planners a clearer idea of the real size of our economy.

Unfortunately, those in power are not honest in this regard. Even the government deceives the people by furthering lame alibis like some confidentiality clause in the Double Taxation Avoidance Regime — a claim no DTAA document available in the public domain substantiates — that prevents it from making the names of tax cheats public. It’s to be noted that the crime of the amassers of wealth is not restricted merely to tax evasion. The black money may be used for drug-peddling and terrorist activities as well. Money circulation in the world market is so extensive that a chunk of it does get into the stream of funds that are used by countries inimical to Indian interests to destabilise this nation. Tax evaders hence deserve punishment that is sterner than just monetary penalty.

Switch to electronic money: We must gradually develop an electronic infrastructure to enable a switch from paper to plastic and online money. Until that infrastructure is in place, all currency notes of higher denominations must be withdrawn from circulation. The poor do not normally need Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bills for their daily needs. And those who need them also have access to plastic and online money. Since money transacted through these instruments are wholly accountable and can easily be traced, we can effectively bring an end to all dodgy and sinister transactions of the black market by switching fully to electronic money in due course.

Kleptocracy in governance: ‘Kleptocracy’ is how we term the prevalent system of rule by thieves. Government has ceased to make it a welfare state because almost no administrative measure works without greasing some palms. Emancipation from poverty must be made a fundamental right. We demand a legal regime wherein a poor citizen could drag the authority to court if a certain poverty alleviation programme meant to address his/her woes is found wanting due to the failure, incompetence or corruption of the officials concerned.

As of now, the state is so indifferent that it cannot even come up with an authoritative statistic of the number of poor people in Bharat. Every economic projection is based on data from facile markers like the GDP (that gives no idea of distribution of the nation’s wealth), Consumers’ Wholesale Price Index (that does not tell at what price consumers are actually getting the goods), reports from the stock market (that much of the Indian citizenry does not deal in), etc. If one goes by the figure of per capita income, then the difference between the highest and lowest earners is stark: to the tune of a multiple of crores!

Government is, however, shameless enough to exhibit Indian poverty in international forums and seek grants — the World Bank approved $4.3 billion financial aid to Bharat in March 2012 — while successively increasing budgetary allocation for poverty alleviation programmes to create for itself an impression of a welfare state. Consider some facts in this regard. Such programmes were allocated Rs 75,000 crore in the fiscal year 1993-94 that went on to become Rs 120,000 crore in 2008-09. While the money apparently vanished in thin air, on the one hand we see in large swathes of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh jungle dwellers, 99.8% of whom cannot secure for themselves two square meals a day, and on the other about 25,000 filthy rich gentry spends on in the range of Rs 70 lakh to Rs 1 crore annually in buying luxury cars. And there are about 10 lakh such people whose cupboards are stashed with clothings, jewellery and cosmetics worth more than Rs 25 lakh each!

On a macro level, just about 20% of Indians generate employment for all Indians, thereby pocketing 96.4% of the national income, which means 80% of Indians live on a measly 3.6% of the nation’s total earnings.

Chanakya, Gandhi and Ambedkar, the stepping stones: This depiction of extreme unevenness in income distribution is not to lead to a proposal of the old, failed socialistic, Robinhood-style method of snatching wealth from the rich and distributing it among the poor. Any regime that has tried to do so has only ended up making the rich hide their incomes and invest money abroad while keeping the poor as poor as ever. We demand a fair, level playing field for all, especially those in the lower and lowest strata of the national economy. When they are empowered, living as healthy, well educated citizens, it is not the state that will be required to snatch money from anyone; it is the competition they pose to the rich that would ensure a more even distribution of the nation’s resources.

For this we cannot, however, afford a free market as of now, as this ‘freedom’ would mean fattened purses attracting all the moolah from thinned pockets, driving the poor to destitution. We need Gandhism to begin with. It is to be noted that Mahatma Gandhi never claimed his philosophy to be socialism; branding it as “Indian socialism” was an afterthought of socialists of the 1960s and ‘70s.

Millennia ago, in Kautilya’s Arthashastra a decentralised economy was both described and praised for its efficacy. Centralised governance has failed the nation. It’s difficult for New Delhi and different State capitals to understand the crying needs of every nook and corner of the country. Villages and cities ought to take decisions of local import themselves, as Gandhi dreamed of: be it in the case of flood/drought relief, public distribution system or neighbourhood street lighting. Of course, it is feared in the Indian context that delegating responsibilities to local units could mean allowing dominant castes to ride roughshod over the traditionally underprivileged sections. But this apprehension does not take into account the fact that the so-called upper and lower castes live separately in the hinterland. While this is abominable as a social phenomenon, in governance it would ensure that a Dalit gram sabha, for example, will work genuinely for its own lot whereas these days the grant to panchayats are often subjected to casteist discrimination of the upper caste sarpanch in disbursement of the allotted goods. The empowerment of gram and mohalla sabhas for decision-making is in tune with Babasaheb BR Ambedkar’s demand of political rights of ex-untouchable groups through political representation, though it is not divisive unlike the demand in his era of separate electorates for separate castes.

Recovering from the imperial hangover

The Government of India Act, 1935, serves as the backbone of the Indian Constitution. The Act stood for some positive developments, of course. The grant of autonomy to the provinces to end the system of diarchy; provision for the establishment of a “Federation of India”, to be made up of both British India and some or all of the princely states; the introduction of direct elections, thus increasing the franchise in accordance with the latest population of the country; a partial reorganization of the provinces; alteration of membership of the provincial assemblies to include more elected Indian representatives, who were now able to form majorities and be appointed to form governments, and the establishment of a Federal Court were welcome. However, the degree of autonomy introduced at the provincial level was subject to important limitations: the provincial Governors retained important reserve powers, and the British authorities also retained a right to suspend responsible government. A hangover of the system peaked in its manifestation during Indira Gandhi’s reign in free India when State Governments used to be dismissed wantonly by the Centre. The way the 1935 Act was not only extremely detailed, but also riddled with ‘safeguards’ designed to enable the British Government to intervene whenever it saw the need in order to maintain British responsibilities and interests, the Indian Constitution vests with the Union a hell lot of power to interfere in local governance.

The biggest cause of concern was the intent of the imperial rulers to defer granting complete independence to the local people by deceiving them through the grant of the concessions above. Unfortunately, however, this very Act laid the foundation of the 1948 Constituent Assembly. And the Constitution adopted in 1950 had an essential — culturally Indian — element missing: eco-centric development. While the Westminster model was almost thoughtlessly plagiarised and from Britain and adopted, its bureaucracy, meant to do nothing but serve the ruling class, was mindlessly incorporated into our system, too. This behemoth comprising callous clerks, irrespective of their designations, has come to epitomise inaction in implementation of all people-oriented programmes of the government. To aggravate the problem, a carelessly copied judiciary has failed to live up to the Indian reality.

Bharat needed a constitution that would uphold love for, and pride in, the Indian nationality; that would provide opportunities to the underprivileged to grow in an equitable atmosphere of decentralised and localised governance; and that would promote its cultural ethos. Indeed, we observe across the world that all advanced countries have people in whom the values of patriotism, cultural affinity and freedom to pursue one’s goals while caring for society are deeply ingrained, thanks to the enabling education they receive from their schools and neighbourhoods right from the nascent stage of their lives. Alas, not so in India!

If so much of disparity prevails more than six decades after gaining the so-called independence, the Constitution must share its part of the blame. This basic framework of governance must be revised and the following values incorporated in it:

  • Replace the anthropocentric development model with an eco-centric one;
  • Attune governance to the Indian culture and ethos and typical requirements;
  • Incorporate such rudiments that discriminating people on the basis of religion, caste, creed and sex becomes impossible;
  • Turn the Directive Principles of State Policy justiciable like the Fundamental Rights;
  • Annul the organisation of States on the basis of language and religion; make economics the basis of a new effort of reorganising the States;
  • Instead of shying away from the necessity of treating all Indians by the same set of laws, which is non-negotiable, enable the Executive to form a national committee comprising representatives of all communities to frame a Uniform Civil Code;
    • Muslims need not fear a ‘Hinduisation’ of all laws; rather, the best of all personal and other laws can be brought under the code and then applied equally to all Indians; this means a Hindu can benefit from what was hitherto only a good Islamic law and a Muslim can benefit from what was hitherto only a good Hindu law as well;
  • Reorganise bureaucracy in a way that it works in coordination with local social groups;
    • Make the district headquarters of any government office the given department’s highest office;
  • Not only create enough courts and appoint an adequate number of judges but also revise or annul all such laws that makes the legal recourse cumbersome;
    • Launch village courts;
    • Let the Supreme Court deal only with constitutional issues and disputes between States while appellate jurisdiction culminates at the level of High Courts;
  • 30% of the Members of the Rajya Sabha ought to come from Panchayats and Municipal Corporations;
  • Give the Election Commission of India and Election Commissions of States executive powers to book defaulters of the Model Code of Conduct;
    • Discontinue and disallow such election processes that are not audit-worthy;
    • Replace the first-past-the-post methodology of determining winners of elections with preferential voting (as in the election to elect the President);
    • Either allow all contestants in elections to have permanent election symbols or make all election symbols temporary;
    • Implement the recommendation of the 1999 Law Commission Report of debarring criminal elements from contesting elections; disallow the accused who have been served charge sheets from contesting elections, pending trial;
    • Include a button for the option ‘None of the Above’ in the electronic voting machines;
    • In cases of hung Parliament and Assemblies, conduct yet another round of elections with only the winner (single largest party) and the runner-up (second largest party) of the first round in the fray (as in French elections);
  • Introduce Right to Recall that will enable people to recall all elected representatives from the level of Panchayats to Lok Sabha; as of now, elected representatives feel they are answerable only to their respective party leaderships;
  • Revise the Representation of People Act to enable the above.

Decentralised governance

The 73rd Amendment of the Constitution had raised the hope of Bharat returning to its roots of bottom-up democracy. The hopes were, however, belied in a few years. The Amendment mandated that responsibility, resources and decision-making authority be placed in the hands of elected Panchayats. The shortfall of the pre-1993 centralised approach include a lack of flexibility in terms of understanding changing local needs and the problem of accountability — in ensuring that those in the chair are motivated not by their own gain but by public interest. Of course, decentralisation has its fair share of glitches, too. For example, often the people who make and implement plans lack expertise; the Panchayat meetings tend to be male-dominated; affluent persons stay away from such meetings since they do not perceive any direct benefits from poverty alleviation programmes discussed in such meetings; political minorities tend to stay away since they feel they wouldn’t be ‘heard’; Scheduled Castes and Tribes may not feel encouraged to participate since political leaders are often from the higher castes. That does not mean the baby must be thrown out with the bath water.

A gram sabha-based local governance, according to our vision, can show better results given that, though unfortunately otherwise, the so-called higher and lower caste people and religious majority and minorities have traditionally lived separately in villages. Therefore, while a unified sabha might have offered the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, Other Backward Classes and religious minorities a raw deal, separate sabhas will uphold the interests of all of them, as explained in the section dealing with Chanakya, Gandhi and Ambedkar’s philosophy. Since our agenda is pro-poor, poor participation of the rich shouldn’t matter till the time the ideas mooted in the sabhas are smoothly executed. Women’s reservation in the panchayats need to be ensured more strictly while we also envisage a policy wherein the kin of established village honchos will not be allowed to contest in order to prevent nepotism in the garb of feminism.

Indeed, as the Karnataka example has demonstrated, decentralisation has led to political capture by middle peasants and rural elites. That’s a partial success. As per the State Finance Commissions’ (SFCs) recommendations, many of the State Governments have agreed to give PRIs a specific percentage of share in some of the State taxes like land revenue and cess on it, additional stamp duty, entertainment tax, royalties on minerals and mines, forest revenue and market fees; these taxes are less buoyant in nature and have no relation to the powers and functions to be devolved upon Panchayats. However, since our policy prescribes a move towards a consolidated expenditure tax regime, these details are redundant in the system we have conceived. Importantly, we demand direct transfer of a fraction of the Union’s budgetary allocation to villages so that local contingencies can be dealt with on an emergency basis at a time when the Centre has proved to be a rank failure in living up to the expectations and requirements of every corner, accessible and remote, of the country.

Unlike the SFCs, our expenditure assignment precedes any tax or revenue assignment. A government formed by us will clearly demarcate the areas of the Panchayats’ expenditure to avoid wastage and corruption. What it will not do, unlike the present Central dispensation, is specify the nut-bolts of the expenses. For instance, the Panchayats may be mandated to spend only for larger public good, but they will not be forced to spend a certain fixed amount on relief and another for, say, construction.

Some years after launching the system of direct transfer of funds from the Centre to the Panchayats, we shall provide the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) with revenue raising powers of their own in order to reduce their excessive dependence on the State and Union Governments. This will essentially include earnings from generation of local employment in the sectors of farming, construction, local cottage and small-scale industries, traditional handicrafts of the area etc.

The law in most States prescribe at least two meetings of the Gram Sabha in a year. Unfortunately, the minimum has been interpreted as a maximum. The provision of doing away with the need for quorum for adjourned meetings of the Gram Sabha has reinforced the tendency to view Gram Sabha meetings as a mere formality. State laws set out highly ritualistic functions for the Gram Sabhas. Gram Sabhas are to recommend and suggest, consider annual accounts, administrative reports, audit notes, etc. These suggestions and recommendations of the Gram Sabhas are ignored by the Gram Panchayat; we will not allow such wanton annulment of Gram Sabha recommendations.

It must be acknowledged that some State Acts do provide for powers to the Gram Sabhas to identify beneficiaries who are to be covered under different development schemes, For instance the Panchayati Raj Acts of Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Bihar did vest powers in the Gram Sabhas to select beneficiaries, but in some cases strange qualifications were added. The Rajasthan law provided that in case the Gram Sabha was unable to select the beneficiaries in a reasonable time, the Gram Panchayat would identify them. This provision expressed faith in the Gram Sabha while at the same time it also permitted its undermining. In contrast, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala have made legal provisions to make the advice of Gram Sabha binding on the Gram Panchayat. Finally, the membership of a Gram Sabha varies widely from State to State-from 250 to 8,000. It may be confined to a single village or may span 2-3 villages. Where the Gram Sabhas cover more than one village, their meetings qualitatively are seen to be very poor. The 73rd Amendment did not anticipate that the very size of a Panchayat may work to disempower a Gram Sabha.

Interestingly, the very Centre that is reluctant to divest its powers has a department that sings paeans to the achievements of a few Sarpanches. For example, the Planning Commission showers encomia on Hardevsingh Jadeja, the Sarpanch who “transformed the village Rajasamadhiala into a model village, totally crime-free and characterised by self-reliance, inter-caste amity and active community participation.” “Nobody in (the) village,” the commission claims, “ever locks his house; the shopkeeper does not lock the shop for his afternoon siesta. People can buy/help themselves unattended by the shopkeeper and leave the money in a matchbox, which is also unattended/unguarded.”

“Hardevsingh Jadeja has succeeded in convincing the village people that demanding or begging from the Government is not the solution to their problems but joining hands is. About Rs. 100 million has been earned in 15 villages due to better irrigation through the small dams built by the village people themselves with very little Government help,” reads chapter 10 of the Planning Commission document, “Decentralization & Panchayati Raj Institutions.”

To make decentralised governance at the level of villages effective, we recommend the establishment of District Planning Commissions (DPCs) with no more than 1/3rd representation from the State Government. All the other members of the commission must be appointed by the Panchayats of the district. These members have to be members of Gram Panchayats as well, which will be their basic eligibility criterion.

All policies and programmes being implemented in a district with the help of grants have to be intimated to the DPC by the district officers of the State Government.

On its part, the DPC will be responsible to build and maintain elementary schools, and centres for health, small-scale industry, agriculture assistance, handicrafts and art in proportion of the population of the district.

The Panchayats must submit their annual balance sheets of income and expenditure to the PRIs that, in turn, will make it available for audit by government departments and, if demanded, non-government organisations.

During the Rajya Sabha elections, Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) of the State belonging to the district will be accompanied by members of the panchayats of the district, enhancing the size of the electorate and thus making the process of electing representatives to the highest house of democracy reach the grassroots.

Economy

When we say we uphold Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s idea of economic nationalism, mentioning a fundamental difference between European-style and Indian nationalism will be in order. Bharat does not suffer from a superiority complex, looking down upon the other civilisations with which it would like to compete in selling goods and which it would like to rule as a colonial lord. However, much as we believe in vasudhaiva kutumbakam — the world is one family — the international community does not reciprocate with an equally warm reception to Indians. But since it enjoys our hospitality, including that in welcoming foreign businesses, we are forced to guard our turf, lest our generosity should be abused.

Second, it is believed widely that this country ushered in an era of capitalism in the 1990s before which the state used to be socialist. We challenge both the notions. The powers that be were never sincere to the academic principles of either ideology. In the so-called socialist India, growth was abysmal while a motley group of cronies made hay. In the so-called capitalist India, all that has changed is an increase in the number of cronies. Of course, a sizeable middle class has emerged, but that is also the reason why the poor complain they have been rendered poorer. The complainants are right in terms of relativity as also in terms of inflation, the ever-decreasing value of the rupee and the central bank’s ham-fisted monetary policy that eat up the benefits of rising incomes.

Life in the hinterlands has turned from bad to worse in the last two decades because of sheer neglect of the rural landscape as well as imposition of incompatible projects on villages that only serve the nouveau riche in the cities. It must be stated here that the ‘trickle down’ theory is not only baseless but also a rather condescending manner of deciding what the lower strata of the economy deserve. It’s a way of saying that the poor only deserve little crumbs that the rich, after savouring a sumptuous meal, throw at them out of sheer ‘mercy’!

Impetus on indigenous economy

We will deal with the issue and provide the parameters of solution in three parts: production, supply and consumption.

Initiation and production: A basic difference between ancient Indian education and that which began during the British Raj is the seamless interweaving of subjects in the first and compartmentalised approach in the second. While the latter works for specialisation, it also results in disconnect between disciplines that are incomplete without each other. An apparent shortcoming of the first approach is the absence of certain subjects that are today indispensable. Yet it worked! After all, an academic subject is meant to work in the field more than in a classroom environment.

A case in point is economics. Why are there no ancient Indian texts on the subject? Even Arthashastra of Kautilya, unlike what the title suggests, is more a book of statecraft. That’s because there was autonomy of businesses to the extent unthinkable in this post-colonial era. So much so, the academics and policy makers associated with the king did not need to deliberate much on the subject. All that the monarchs were concerned about were whether the businessmen and traders were paying taxes in time, and whether they were dealing in illegal products. All other aspects of trade management were left to the people whose calling it was.

In contrast, today, investors and entrepreneurs, both indigenous and foreign, complain that this country is one of the most difficult destinations to launch and sustain a business. The licence regime was only relaxed in the 1990s but not done away with. First generation businessmen without adequate family and caste support are further harassed regularly by the civic authorities’ Inspector Raj, while the government hardly finds anything wrong in the acts of big corporate houses. The situation cannot be allowed to continue in this manner when the government sector has shrunk and, therefore, does not have enough jobs on offer. Employment on a wide scale can be generated only if new businesses riding on new ideas come up. And the established rich can be given a run for their money only when new entrepreneurs challenge them in their turf. The act of facilitating new-age entrepreneurs can also address the issue of social justice to members of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, women and the disabled; this will be dealt with in details under the relevant section. Special focus areas for developing and initially supporting businesses will be the small, medium, cottage and traditional industries.

Even in the current state of despair, 2/3rd of the country’s GDP comes from family and cooperative businesses. Such units in Tirupur, Coimbatore, Surat, Rajkot, Ludhiana, Panipat, Agra, Moradabad, Batala, etc thrive without little or no government assistance, based on their traditional knowledge and skills. They also give the society around them a vibrant economy. However, these businesses can scale greater heights with some facilities from the government. We press for a state push to these indigenous industries.

Supply: Back to the issue of “economic nationalism” as propounded by Tilak, it is argued by ‘free market’ advocates in the West that Bharat must open up its territories for free trade regardless of other countries opening up to us because, purportedly, the governments disallowing Indian businesses are depriving their own consumers of the choice of Indian goods, while Indian Government opening its market to foreigners means Indian consumers getting to choose between local and foreign goods! That’s a too-clever-by-half argument. If this traffic stays one-way, while Indian consumers may benefit, Indian money will be at loss. Because

  1. the foreigners will earn from two sources (local and foreign) while their Indian competition will earn only from one (local alone);
  2. more natural resources will be extracted and exploited from Bharat, and
  3. Indian businesses will have to shut shop, causing massive losses in indigenous employment.

While those employed in ancillary units — for example, brokers, agents and other middlemen — can promptly diversify, those in the core of a business cannot. At the same time, the presence of middlemen also makes it difficult for the producer to get higher rates for his produce and the consumer to buy the produce cheaper. It is advisable that big businesses run by Indians come to the rescue in such situations, wherein they create the necessary infrastructure and absorb as much of the present workforce in a new apparatus.

In case they refuse to oblige, since the government coffers are not full enough for the purpose, selective technology and companies using them overseas can be brought in while considering three aspects:

  1. Will the foreign company conserve Indian ecology?
  2. Will the technology cut jobs or only reduce time and effort of labour?
  3. Is that country, from where the investment is proposed to arrive, opening up equally to our businessmen?

The answer to the first and third questions has to be in the affirmative. And only such technology will be imported that saves every individual labourers time and effort rather than reducing the manpower employed. In this regard it must be noted that the apprehensions about information technology in the 1980s were misplaced. Computers, instead of cutting jobs, enabled doing tasks faster, thus providing every worker with more time to do more work. This is where we differ from this country’s communists who oppose the advent of any technology tooth and nail.

The advocates of Foreign Direct Investment argue that big retailers from foreign lands will spruce up the market in Bharat by reducing or eliminating the middlemen and providing superior storage and transportation facilities. The dubious record of Wal-Mart, especially in Mexico where it bribed government functionaries for business, makes us wary. If it is indeed difficult to stay isolated in the globalised world, we can still live without a Wal-Mart. At the same time, since MSP for farmers cannot be raised so much that the burden is levied on end users, middlemen have to let go and diversify to brokering some other products. This also means a change in the back-breaking Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act that forces farmers to sell their produce to brokers in designated mandis. Thereafter, the length of the chain between the farmers and the consumers has to be reduced. If indigenous retail businessmen cannot do this much for the country, only such foreign retailers can be let in who have a clean track record and whose countries allow our retailers to function on their soil in an equitable atmosphere as well. And to safeguard our small retailers, a condition must be imposed on the foreign chains that they cannot set up any shop in less than 5,000 sq feet area, so that their franchisees do not start competing with our grocers on the small scale of the latter. Finally, 70% rather than 30% of the goods must be procured from this country, and the account of this procurement should be submitted to the government annually and not once in five years as is the practice now allowed.

Economic nationalism is not a burden that must be carried by the political leadership alone. It is disconcerting that even before FDI in multi-brand retail has set in, the indigenous market is flooded with substandard and cheap goods from China. We give a call to the masses to boycott all Chinese goods for national interest. The boycott makes perfect economic sense too, as these imported products do not live up to generally accepted standards of quality, nor do they offer trustworthy after-sales service.

Consumption: We do not look at our fellow countrymen as mere consumers. The recent culture of rampant, mindless consumerism will drive us to the same philosophical void that much of the mechanical West faces today, where even occasions of fun are marred by so much of discrete and lengthy planning, enticed by companies selling holiday packages, the experience turns out to be anything but fun. When consumption is conspicuous, it is always a case of human beings trying to fill a void in their lives, which can, in fact, never be filled by material possessions. A spiritual realisation of the vacuity of materialism has to be driven into the minds of the people who are increasingly falling prey to marketing and advertising gimmicks.

To the extent where materialism is unavoidable, we advocate a strict consumer protection regime. We also hold dear a consumer’s right to discern and choose.

We stand for the following principles with regard to industry:

  • Low entry barriers for start-ups;
  • Creation of an adequate number of businesses to cater for the countrywide job market;
  • Industrialisation, production, energy, price determination, supply, revenue, consumption and taxation to be designed keeping foremost the interests of the country in mind;
  • The above as well as decentralised governance to the extent that the people of every region become self-sustaining;
  • Special privileges to the traditional Indian industries;
  • Low entry barriers for first generation entrepreneurs;
  • No entry for such foreign players that turn our lands barren, establish monopolies and manipulate customers;
  • Making the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other international trade agencies agree to the following conditions for doing trade with us —
    • That they will adhere to our environmental protection laws,
    • That they will inform our government beforehand about the magnitude of trade they will do and the size of labour they will hire,
    • That they will allow fair competition opportunities to Indian businessmen in the international market,
    • That they require a certain percentage of disinvestment that they will not force us to exceed,
    • That they will not impose their intellectual property regime on commodities essential for human life and healthy existence.
  • Accountability of all monetary and human resource contributions of government to private companies and state undertakings;
  • Setting up industrial hubs in every nook and corner of the country in a manner that the economy of every district becomes self-sufficient;
  • No assistance to foreign companies from our financial institutions;
  • Rejuvenating traditional industrial hubs;
  • Special focus on small industries in all industrial hubs;
  • Streamlining the process from procurement of raw materials to packaging of finished goods;
  • Setting up of training centres across the country to train people to establish and run units that need less investment and low maintenance costs;
  • Marking farm products and fast moving consumer durables alike with cost and sales prices so that no person in the chain from production to retail extracts an undue share from the process;
  • Making laws that disallow any foreigner from patenting what is a traditional product of this land.

What enterprise under whom? Finally, the issue of the appropriate fields for competition deserves a special mention. The Indian state is a strange authority that nationalises domains where competition is possible and privatises those where it isn’t! Tata Airlines, Oriental Life Insurance Company and other insurance companies, 14 and then 6 privately owned banks, etc were once forced to surrender to the government. Air India, LIC, sprung up in their place and banks were now state-owned while mostly continuing with their old names. Whereas State electricity boards and water distribution are being gifted on platters to private industries, much as, if the customer is dissatisfied with the services, he can in no way switch from one seller to another.

We stand for nationalisation of three sections of the economy: that dealing in natural resources, that dealing in basic amenities and domains where competition is not possible. We acknowledge the fact that there are ‘transmission losses’ due to corrupt acts by public servants, but such leakages amount to losses far less than what a private player can unleash on the public if offered a monopoly in managing the sectors of natural resources (for example, mines and minerals), basic amenities (for example, electricity and water supply) and domains where competition is not possible (railways, for instance).

In all other sectors, there should be intense competition for the benefit of the consumers at large. That competition not only reduces prices of the competing products but also raises their quality is an undeniable fact. We are, as a matter of principle, against the idea of monopoly and cartelisation, and so we deplore the gradual privatisation of sectors such as mobile telecommunication, for example, where only two players were permitted to operate in each of the 16 circles in which the national territory was divided for over a decade during which every two player per circle cartelised and fleeced their hapless customers. Such sectors when thrown open to private participation, must be thrown open to as many players as are interested. A few initial bidders may complain that they need some assurance of recovery of their input costs, but that is not the state’s concern; any player who comes in must come in with the full knowledge and acceptance of its occupational hazards.

Agriculture

Dharampal, eminent Gandhian thinker, historian and political philosopher, wrote, “Since we have lost practically all contact with our tradition, and all comprehension of our chitta and kala, there are no standards and norms on the basis of which to answer questions that arise in ordinary social living. Ordinary Indians perhaps still retain an innate understanding of right action and right thought, but our elite society seems to have lost all touch with any stable norms of behaviour and thinking. The present attempt at imitating the world and following every passing fad can hardly lead us anywhere. We shall have no options until we evolve a conceptual framework of our own, based on chitta and kala, to discriminate between right and wrong, what is useful for us and what is futile.”

The so-called green revolution of the 1960s may have turned long stretches of land green towards the middle of the last century, but it cannot escape two essential questions: its necessity and efficacy. What turned the lands infertile in the first place? What about the fact that excessive and indiscriminate use of inorganic fertilisers and pesticides — as well as some high yield crop varieties — are turning the lands barren all over again?

The world leader of agriculture since 9000 BCE, pioneer in the production of several crops, growers of medicinal plants and developers of innovative irrigation techniques, Bharat’s progress in the field came to a standstill during the colonial era.

Before that, “the dissolution of Mughal hegemony affected manufacturing through several channels. The first was a reduction in overall agricultural productivity. Reduced agricultural productivity would be reflected in an increase of the price of grain, the key non-tradable, and therefore in the relative price of non-tradeables to tradables (such as textiles)” [David Clingingsmith and Jeffrey G Williamson of Department of Economics, Harvard University].

Farmers were not complaining till the tax levied on them was 40%. The feudal lords who succeeded the Mughals were the first extortionists, who raised taxes on agri-products to 50% and beyond. Yet, Prasannan Parthasarathi of Department of History, Boston College, in “Rethinking Wages and Competitiveness in the Eighteenth Century: Britain and South India,” Past and Present, 1998, has argued that while low nominal wages in pre-colonial and early colonial India gave it the edge in world textile markets, living standards for labor in the south of India were just as high as that in the south of England. Indian productivity was higher in foodgrain production, and thus foodgrain prices were lower.

But British revenue officials saw ‘slack’ in the existing system more often than not, and increased the revenue burden. And the innumerable wars that the British waged on India’s smaller states made the latter pull resources — money, animals and people — primarily from agriculture, thus drastically reducing capital in that sector. Around the beginning of the 19th century, the fundamental economic dynamic underlying deindustrialization in India changed from agricultural productivity decline taking place at home to globalization shocks induced by events abroad [Clingingsmith and Williamson].

 9500 BCE  Earliest evidence for domesticated wheat
 8000 BCE  Evidence for cattle herding
 7000 BCE  Cultivation of barley; animals are domesticated
 6000 BCE  Indus Valley grows from wheat to cotton and sugar
 3000 BCE Turmeric is harvested at Indus Valley
 2737 BCE  Tea is discovered
 1000 BCE
 Sugar processing in India

 “Between 1762 and 1766 there were villages which produced up to 12 tons of paddy a hectare. This level of productivity can be obtained only in the best of the Green Revolution areas of the country, with the most advanced, expensive and often environmentally ruinous technologies. The annual availability of all food averaged five tons per household; the national average in India today is three-quarters ton. Whatever the ways of pre-British Indian society, they were definitely neither ineffective nor inefficient.” [SK Bajaj, Centre for Policy Studies]

Romesh Chunder Dutt explains in The economic history of India under early British rule, 1908, how the Bengal famine (1769 and 1773) occurred due to the British East India Company’s policies in the province. As a trading body, the first remit of the company was to maximise its profits and with taxation rights, the profits to be obtained from Bengal came from land tax as well as trade tariffs. As lands came under company control, the land tax was typically raised fivefold what it had been — from 10% to up to 50% of the value of the agricultural produce. In the first years of the rule of the British East India Company, the total land tax income was doubled and most of this revenue flowed out of the country. As the famine approached its height in April 1770, the Company announced that the land tax for the following year was to be increased by a further 10%.

That followed the Indigo Revolt. With expansion of British power in the Nawabate of Bengal, indigo planting became more and more commercially profitable due to the demand for Blue Dye in Europe. It was introduced in large parts of Burdwan, Bankura, Birbhum, Murshidabad, etc. The indigo planters left no stones unturned to make money. They mercilessly pursued the peasants to plant indigo instead of food crops. They provided loans, called dadon at a very high interest. Once a farmer took such loans he remained in debt for whole of his life before passing it to his successors. The price paid by the planters was meagre, only 2.5% of the market price. So the farmers could make no profit by growing indigo. The farmers were totally unprotected from the brutal indigo planters, who resorted to mortgage or destruction of their property if they were unwilling to obey them. Government rules favoured the planters. By an act in 1833, the planters were granted a free hand in oppression. Even the zamindars, money lenders and other influential persons sided with the planters. Out of the severe oppression unleashed on them the farmers resorted to revolt.

“Agricultural performance in the interwar period (1918–1939) was dismal. From 1891 to 1946, the annual growth rate of all crop output was 0.4%, and food-grain output was practically stagnant. There were significant regional and intercrop differences, however, nonfood crops doing better than food crops. Among food crops, by far the most important source of stagnation was rice. Bengal had below-average growth rates in both food and nonfood crop output, whereas Punjab and Madras were the least stagnant regions. In the interwar period, population growth accelerated while food output decelerated, leading to declining availability of food per head. The crisis was most acute in Bengal, where food output declined at an annual rate of about 0.7% from 1921 to 1946, when population grew at an annual rate of about 1%,” describes Tirthankar Roy of London School of Economics in “Agricultural Prices and Production, 1757–1947,” Encyclopaedia of India (vol 1), 2006. The British regime did supply the irrigation works but rarely on the scale required, says the researcher.

Then lack of freedom in grain trade, a catastrophic cyclone and callousness of the then government caused another famine: in 1943. In 1942, with the permission of the central government, trade barriers were introduced by the provincial governments. The politicians and civil servants of surplus provinces like the Punjab introduced regulations to prevent grain leaving their provinces for the famine areas of Bengal, Madras and Cochin.

And now, contribution of agriculture to the GDP has fallen from about 30% in 1990-91 to less than 15% in 2011-12, according to Union Government figures. Yet, a callous government pays no attention to land culturing, improvement in quantity and quality of water supply to the fields, promoting traditional agricultural practices. There is no effort to reset the balance in the interdependence cycle developed by the sages: people-animal-water-forest-land.

As of 1991-92, of all the land available to villagers, only 3% was fit for agricultural purposes. Of all villagers, 11% were landless. Landlessness percentage goes up to 54% in certain parts of the country.

We observe with concern that large swathes of arable land are now being used not to grow traditional crops like rice, wheat and maize but for cash crops like cotton, jute, soybean, sugarcane and oilseeds. The latter, while yielding more money on the short term, constantly reduces the fertility of the soil. Panicked, the farmers then have to use more chemical fertilisers as also pesticides to maintain the plantation. This further depletes the soil of its fertility.

Worse, the establishment favours large-scale farmers at the expense of smaller ones who are forced into a hand-to-mouth existence, and who have to sell off their lands, commit suicide or migrate to cities to live in slums in all the more horrible conditions. The pro-big farmer bias exists despite the fact that higher biological productivity translates into higher incomes for small farmers. In Rajasthan, monocultures of Pearl Millet gave Rs. 2480 of net profit per acre, whereas a bio-diverse farm of Pearl Millet Moth Bean Sesame gave Rs. 12045, a difference of nearly Rs. 10,000 per acre. In Uttaranchal, a monoculture of paddy gave Rs. 6720 per acre, whereas a bio-diverse farm gave Rs 24,600 per acre, a difference of Rs. 16,000. In Sikkim, a monoculture farm of maize gave Rs. 4950 per acre while a mixed farm of maize, radish, Lahi saag and peas gave Rs. 11,700. Navdanya’s rice and wheat farmers have doubled the production of rice and wheat by using indigenous seeds and organic methods. Jhumba rice in Uttaranchal has 176 quintal per ha of biomass production compared to 96 quintal per ha of Kasturi, a high yielding rice variety. The paddy yields are 104 and 56 quintal per ha respectively. Farmers in West Uttar Pradesh have got 62.5 quintal per ha using a native wheat variety 308 for organic production compared to 50 quintal per ha for chemically produced wheat. (Source: Vandana Shiva, 2007)

The worst case scenario has emerged due to government’s complicity is deceptive marketing campaigns of some multinational crop and food companies that hoodwink the farmers into believing that their interests are better served through contract farming with the companies.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), there were at least 16,196 farmers’ suicides in India in 2008, bringing the total since 1997 to 199,132. According to another study by the Bureau, while the number of farm suicides increased since 2001, the number of farmers has fallen, as thousands abandoning agriculture in distress. According to government data, over 5,000 farmers committed suicide in 2005-2009 in Maharashtra, while 1,313 cases reported by Andhra Pradesh between 2005 and 2007. In Karnataka the number stood at 1,003, since 2005-06 till August 2009. According to NCRB database number of suicides during 2005-2009 in Gujarat 387, Kerala 905, Punjab 75 and Tamil Nadu 26. In April 2009, the state of Chhattisgarh reported 1,500 farmers committed suicide due to debt and crop failure. At least 17,368 Indian farmers killed themselves in 2009, the worst figure.

Research by various investigators like activist Raj Patel, K Nagaraj of Madras Institute of Development Studies, Meeta and M Rajivlochan (Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration), identified a variety of causes for farmers’ distress. India was transforming rapidly into a primarily urban, industrial society with industry as its main source of income; the government and society had begun to be unconcerned about the condition of the countryside; moreover, a downturn in the urban economy was pushing a large number of distressed non-farmers to try their hand at cultivation; the farmer was also caught in a Scissors Crisis — widening of the gap between industrial and agricultural prices — in the absence of any responsible counselling either from the government or society there were many farmers who did not know how to survive in the changing economy. Vidarbha has been infamous for a spate of farmer suicides in recent years because of the falling Minimum Support Price (MSP) for cotton. The root causes include lopsided policies of the World Trade Organisation and developed nations’ subsidies to their cotton farmers which make Vidarbha’s cotton uncompetitive in world markets. Consequently, Vidarbha is plagued by high rates of school dropouts, penniless widows left in the wake of suicides, loan sharks and exploitation of the vulnerable groups. Research in Andhra Pradesh showed the very rapid change in seed and pesticide products to have caused ‘deskilling’ in the cotton sector. Other stress factors include debt, the difficulty of farming semi-arid regions, poor agricultural income, absence of alternative income opportunities, the downturn in the urban economy forcing non-farmers into farming, and the absence of suitable counselling services. Such stresses pushed many to suicides.

Our recommendations include higher MSP, better marketing facilities, setting up of irrigation systems, improved transportation and storage facilities and, most importantly, agricultural research for better productive and financial education of the farmers.

Last but not the least is the issue of land acquisition. We believe, for one, that government has no business being a broker between farmers and real estate developers. It is also unnerving to notice both forest cover and agricultural land shrinking at a brisk pace, with the country’s landscape turning from green to grey, thanks to the greed of some industries who want to mint money from every speck of dust, which government sanctions and passes off as “development”. What comes up in place of a plush field is a shopping mall where most businesses fail to take off or a recreation centre that are already too many for society’s need to unwind. They hardly turn into offices employing thousands of people who toil hard the whole day for their bread and butter.

This so-called PPP (Public-Private Partnership) scheme is a big scam. On the one hand, it is proving disastrous for both ecology and food production; on the other, every essential service — for example, roads, water, electricity — that government is supposed to provide to the people is being outsourced to companies that fleece the people who have to pay the concessionaire toll charges (not always termed so) over and above the taxes for the services they have already paid to the government!

So we stand for an immediate and permanent halt to any further reduction in the nation’s percentage of agriculture land. As for forest cover, if a contractor needs a stretch for urban construction, he must be forced to compensate for the loss by planting double the trees he has destroyed in addition to the price he pays to acquire the stretch of land.

However, as far as reduction in the number of people employed in farming is concerned, our stand depends on the cause of every individual case of occupational diversification. If it’s because of a situation like what forces farmers to commit suicide, immediate steps are to be taken to sustain the farmers’ family and then create ways of making farming profitable. But if it’s because a farmer feels some of his children need not continue in his profession and they have a right to have as many employment options as a city-bred middle class youngster has, there is no point lamenting the reduction of manpower in farming.

The long and short of it, the conservation of land meant for agriculture is non-negotiable; the total manpower in farming may but reduce if the reasons are not of forced deprivation. The technology in farming should be such that a small percentage of farmers can feed the whole country, perhaps the whole world.

What technology, which technologist to import? Our opposition is not to any technology applied to crops if the science does not turn the lands barren after making it yield crops excessively for a few seasons, and if the food produced from these crops are not unhealthy for consumption. But if the tech and the technologist manipulate farmers, consumers and land, we will not allow them operate on our soil. The state must also not permit such companies like Monsanto to impose their distorted idea of capitalism in the form of intellectual property rights, which, rather than circulating capital in the whole society, confines it to monopolies and cartels.

There is more to the story than a broad scientific consensus that food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk than conventional food. There are differences in the risk assessment of GM food and therefore, in the regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), between countries. Crops not intended for food use are generally not reviewed by authorities responsible for food safety. Food derived from GMOs is not tested in humans before it is marketed as it is not a single chemical, nor is it intended to be ingested in specific doses and times, which makes it difficult to design meaningful clinical studies. A green signal to this technology can be given once these anomalies disappear and the testing regime is standardised to satisfy all scientists.

Regulators in Bharat must examine the genetic modification, its protein products, and any intended changes that those proteins make to the food. They must also check whether the food derived from a GMO is substantially equivalent to its non-GM-derived counterpart, which provides a way to detect any negative non-intended consequences of the genetic engineering. If the newly incorporated protein is not similar to that of other proteins found in food or if anomalies arise in the substantial equivalence comparison, further toxicological testing must be ordered by the state.

It’s a four-cornered debate with governments, environmentalists, GM companies and consumers not always converging on issues. On the one hand, for example, the American Medical Association, the National Academies of Sciences and the Royal Society of Medicine have stated that no adverse health effects on the human population related to GM food have been reported and/or substantiated in peer-reviewed literature to date. The European Commission Directorate-General for Research and Innovation 2010 report on GMOs noted, “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.” On the other, advocacy groups such as Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Organic Consumers Association, and Centre for Food Safety have concerns that potential risks to health and the environment relating to GM have not yet been adequately investigated. In Japan, the Consumers Union of Japan says that independent research in these areas is systematically blocked by the GM corporations which own the GM seeds and reference materials, which is why Bharat should be wary of such dodgy players. A final call can be taken only after ascertaining which party is manipulating the truth to what degree. In doing so, we must rely on independent scientists and consumers for the sake of objectivity.

Another matter of concern is the government’s obsession with the outdated idea of big dams. Thousands of villagers, including tribal populations, have lost the land they historically inhabited due to this sheer madness.

It’s such a complicated way of managing water resources, as can be seen in some international examples we will cite below. One has to take care that there is adequate spillway capacity, no piping through the embankment, foundation or abutments, spillway design error (as in the example of South Fork Dam), geological instability caused by changes to water levels during filling or poor surveying (as in Vajont Dam, Malpasset, Testalinden Creek Dam), poor maintenance, especially of outlet pipes (as in Lawn Lake Dam, Val di Stava Dam collapse), extreme rainfall (as in Shakidor Dam), earthquakes and human, computer or design error (as in Buffalo Creek Flood, Dale Dike Reservoir, Taum Sauk pumped storage plant). Then, the building of the Hoover Dam in the US triggered a number of earthquakes and has depressed the earth’s surface at its location. Here again we see a blind following of all Western initiatives, unmindful of the West’s own rejection of its antiquated ideas.

The above cases of disaster are, devil’s advocates might argue, exceptional. But how does one justify the high construction cost, compulsion to run it for decades to recover the cost, loss to the ecology of the region, alteration of the natural water table level (the Aswan Dam in Egypt), damage of buildings and monuments as salts and destructive minerals are deposited in the stone work from ‘rising damp’ caused by the changing water table level; deterioration in the quality of water due to creation of low dissolved oxygen levels, which impacts fish and the surrounding ecosystems; impact on fish populations when they cannot migrate upstream past impoundment dams to spawning grounds or if they cannot migrate downstream to the ocean, and harm to riparian (riverbank) habitats?

By 2020, it is projected worldwide that the percentage of power obtained from hydro power dams will decrease to around four percent because no new plants are in the works, and because more money is being invested in other alternative energy sources such as solar power and wind power. But we are not sure in this regard India will keep pace with the international development.

Overall: these are our policy thrusts for the agricultural sector:

Farming

  • Restoring the delicate balance between human beings, animals, water, forest and land;
  • Increasing bio-diversity;
  • Increasing budgetary allocation for traditional and controversy-free scientific farming;
  • Ensuring involvement of farmers in all projects of rural development;
  • Establishment of farmer cooperatives;
  • Establishment of state-run low-interest, micro-credit facilities in villages;
  • No interference by state governments in agricultural practices;
  • Revision of ordinances dealing with retail, essential commodities, patents and trademarks, and agricultural produce marketing; if any of these is found unfeasible, it must be scrapped forthwith;
  • Thrust on organic farming;
  • Setting levels of subsidy in keeping with international competition;
  • Withdrawal of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to any country until Bharat becomes self-sufficient in foodgrains, as it was once in history, all over again;
  • Examining the track record of any private or international company that wishes to do business in this country; keeping out those with dubious pasts in other countries;
  • Setting up of an international standard, independent board and laboratory of scientists to study all claims of agricultural innovation; the board to have an ethical committee for agricultural practices; making recommendations of the board mandatory for the legislature and executive to follow;
  • Setting up adequate storage and transportation facilities;
  • Bringing the markets closer to the farmers;
  • Moving middlemen to newly established agriculture-related professions of stock keeping, sorting, marketing, storage and transportation;
  • Imposing 70% in-sourcing rule on all big, branded retailers — to be enforced annually, not once in five years;
  • Imposing a ‘minimum 5,000 sq feet area of operation per shop’ rule on all big, branded retailers;
  • 66% reservation for rural people in any national scale business based on agriculture;
  • Stopping relocation of populations traditionally living in forest areas;
  • Creating alternative vocations for the inhabitants of regions that are poor in natural resources;
  • Non-acceptance of international patents on traditionally grown products;
  • Developing local genetic pools for all agricultural produce;
  • Setting up special economic zones (SEZs) for agriculture that will be managed by government only for a maximum period of the first three years after which they are to be handed over to local communities;
  • Raising MSPs to levels greater than production costs;
  • Setting up micro-credit institutions across villages of the country;

Land

  • Instituting a committee to test the ethics and feasibility of individual ownership of land; if land cannot be produced by a human being, does s/he have the right to occupy a part of the earth forever?
  • Re-establishing community ownership of land;
  • Fixing a ceiling of maximum land ownership by an individual;
  • Making a new law on land acquisition that does not make government play the role of a broker between a farmer/traditional community dwelling on the land and a concessionaire or real estate developer that wishes to buy the plot;
  • Moving industrialisation to barren lands alone;
  • If a piece of barren land is not economically viable for industrialisation, then using it to rehabilitate the homeless and evicted people;
  • Nationalisation of plots of land purchased as benami property and distributing it among the homeless and evicted lot;
  • Instituting rehabilitation committees in villages and towns to manage all land deals.

Water

  • Ensuring natural, free flow of 70% of the waters of all rivers; the insurance of free flow of this percentage of river waters will make sure that it is not being diverted for ecologically detrimental purposes;
  • Segregating the entire territorial stretch of the country as different “aquatic zones”; handing over these zones to the respective communities that have traditionally been dwelling there, whose responsibility it will be to conduct all water-related tests in the region, approve or disapprove water-related projects proposed in the area, and manage the projects once approved, using the most advanced technology available for the purpose; the additional responsibilities of an aquatic zone committee will be
    • conservation of river waters, ponds, lakes, streams and other water bodies,
    • prevention of erosion,
    • cleaning of silt,
    • prevention of floods;
    • Ensuring adequate water supply for drinking purposes, domestic use and irrigation;
    • Implementing biological (bacterial) — rather than chemical — processes to the maximum extent possible for treatment of sewage;
    • Recycling treated water;
    • Proscribing the act of polluting the water bodies through disposal of wastes into them;
  • Instituting a board to test the feasibility of — and approve — major projects like dam constructions in all proposed areas;
  • Revitalising traditional and implementing internationally tested best methods of water harvesting;
  • Declaration of rivers as a national resource;
  • Relieving State governments from exercising control over rivers and making rivers a subject of the Union; this will ensure quick settlement of river-related disputes between States; at the same time, management of these rivers will fall under the jurisdiction of the respective aquatic zones;
  • If stopping the concretisation of a part of a river is what it takes to conserve the river, stopping it forthwith and moving it to an ecologically feasible area.
Social justice

We believe that a healthy and properly educated citizen can take on all the unjust structures of society and governance. S/he would not need to walk constantly on crutches of government like subsidies, reservations, etc. But we are a long way away from ensuring that standard of health and education for our citizens.

For both health and education, the inadequacy of funds owes to misplaced priorities: the government indulges in a lot many sectors of the economy that are not welfare sectors: for example, running airlines, aircraft manufacturing, hotels and other tourist services, sundry engineering services, contract and construction services, transportation equipment manufacturing, financial services, telecommunication services, textiles, consumer goods, trading and marketing, etc. There are two issues with this approach: Since most of these companies are loss-making, they waste crores of tax-payers’ money on a handful of workers; even when they are not loss-making, they drain the human resource pool of the country; through private and cooperative ownership, non-welfare companies can be managed better.

As the ‘public’ schools’ managements are now rich enough to take care of themselves, government’s focus must move to the uplift of municipal schools, Kendriya Vidyalayas and other state-run elementary schools. We propose that all government functionaries — politicians and bureaucrats alike — be forced by regulation to send their wards to government schools because it’s an edifice they have created and hence it’s a system they should be the first to repose their faith in. Lecturing the general masses about the virtues of no-frill schools on the one hand and sending one’s own children to luxurious private and international schools on the other smacks of hypocrisy. When their children come back home, complaining of the pathetic condition of the schools, it is then that they would endeavour to improve the state of affairs of government-run and -aided schools.

A devil’s advocate might argue that the ruling class gets itself treated for ailments in the state-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences, for example, yet the conditions of the institute remains miserable for the general population while ministers are treated in specially spruced-up wards. That’s not possible in a school. Unlike special VIP wards in the hospital, there will be no special classrooms for the children of government employees. The same set of teachers will teach a batch of, say, 30 students, with children from government quarters and slums alike will share benches and receive the same lessons. Soon, when the quality of these state-run schools improve, people of a capitalist mindset will see the futility of spending thousands of rupees every month in private schools and send their wards to these virtually cost-free schools as well.

Getting back to the health sector apparatus in the same breath, we propose an end to VIP reservation in state-run hospitals as well. From health centres to schools to trains, there will either be no general wards or no VIP wards. Either all the wards will be general, or all of them special.

Where will the money for such a grandiose welfare scheme come from? At a glance, some immediate steps can be taken for money transfer. Stop the wastage of taxpayers’ money in running luxuries like airlines and hotels. Second, explain how extravaganzas like international sports events that do not get the kind of advertisement revenue like cricket are managed: the 2010 Commonwealth Games where Rs 70,000 crore was allegedly misappropriated, for instance. Athletics, unlike cricket, is not a very popular sport discipline in India, meaning that the chances of recovering the investment were slim. That event was, thus, a pointer to the fact that whenever Bharat wanted an investment, it could easily arrange for it, not bothering about the recovery of the amount. Other measures are dealt with in the subsequent chapters.

We recommend that government withdraws from the above segments so that it is left with more money to invest in health and education.

Education

Education is the best leveller. Sadly, this important sector has never received the kind of attention from the state it deserves. At the lower secondary level (grades IX and X), enrolment rate is 52%, while at the senior secondary level (grades XI and XII), it is 28%. While the enrolment rate in pre-school is merely 18%, there is a 48% drop-out rate in elementary education. (Source : Fortress Team Research)

Government seems to have an interest in securing the business of public schools (a misnomer, they must be called private schools). This is why state-run schools are neglected on purpose. This is comparable to the various State governments neglecting public transport until the car market gets saturated, only after which they invest in Metro rail, Monorail and Bus Rapid Transit system.

It also appears strange that politicians, government ministers, bureaucrats and school teachers themselves send their children to public schools. Does this not underscore the point that these people do not have faith in the very edifice that they have created, and that they claim works? If they had indeed created it well, they would have sent their children to those very schools rather than spend lakhs of rupees on schools owned by big, fat businessmen. Indeed, if the municipal schools and Kendriya Vidyalayas had worked properly, no citizen would be out of his/her mind enough to needlessly splurge on his/her children’s education.

That does not mean we recommend a despotic, abrupt closure of all privately run schools. Rather, we will raise the standard of publicly run schools so high that, following market principles, parents will start moving their children to them.

We will use the authority only on government functionaries. Based on the logic explained above, we consider their act of sending their own children to expensive private schools an act of cheating the people. If the hygiene conditions of municipal schools are poor, they will not feel the urge to correct the ills until their children complain of the horrors of such schools.

But this state diktat can still be circumvented by the clever people subjected to this order. A crooked government might create special wards inside government-run schools for the children of government functionaries along the lines of the special wards inside the All India Institute of Medical Sciences maintained for the VIPs, which the ordinary citizens have no access to. Hence, we strictly advocate non-creation of special wards in government schools.

In the private and/or cooperative sector, an additional economic model can be worked out: Provision for students across economic strata to attend the same school. The rich may, by paying higher fees, attend classes with less teacher-student ratio; those paying less have to attend classes with higher teacher-student ratio; this model will take care of the school’s economy.

There are problems in the private segment of schools, too. Why is the population of teachers in such schools overwhelmed by a high percentage of wives of affluent men? Even if a teacher’s job is made to depend on her students’ performance, how much will she lose if sacked in a scenario where her household does not depend on the salary she brings home? In the patriarchal society that we live in, it may be convenient for families to see the womenfolk back from office in the afternoon so that they can take care of the kids who return home around the same time. But it is that family’s problem. Why should it be the school’s problem?

Even from the perspective of these women, they do little justice to their higher education when all of them get into the rush of a school job after a mandatory B.Ed. degree. Some of the brightest girls are now teachers at some schools even as the subject they majored in and then acquired postgraduate degrees in are not part of their (or any) schools’ curricula. Why then did they go as high up, climbing the education ladder? While nurturing children is no mean business, if that was their dream or professional ambition, shouldn’t they have opted for some relevant training session when in university? Doesn’t such under-utilisation of one’s degree constitute a loss to the nation? It’s also a loss to those aspirants of higher education who were left out because the seats were filled by these girls who did not have the aim of utilising the higher education in professional fields in their mind.

The next issue with private sector education is fleecing of parents and guardians. Every now and then, these schools send circulars to the parents demanding fee for some co-curricular activity which must be provided as supplementary services. This is to circumvent the laws that restrict them from charging fees beyond some recommended levels. Law must take a serious regard of this clever ploy of private schools to make money unscrupulously.

As for the teachers in government-run schools, their professional evaluation, promotions and disincentives must be related to the way their students perform. Most of them show utter disregard for high professional standards both in terms of attendance and teaching techniques. One study found out that 25% of public sector teachers and 40% of public sector medical workers were absent during the survey. Among teachers who were paid to teach, absence rates ranged from 15% in Maharashtra to 30% in Bihar. Only 1 in nearly 3000 public school head teachers had ever dismissed a teacher for repeated absence. A study on teachers by Kremer etc. found that ‘only about half were teaching, during unannounced visits to a nationally representative sample of government primary schools in India.’

A study of 188 government-run primary schools found that 59% of the schools had no drinking water and 89% had no toilets. 2003–04 data by National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration revealed that only 3.5% of primary schools in Bihar and Chhattisgarh had toilets for girls. In Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, rates were 12–16%. In fact, the number of secondary schools is almost half the number of upper primary schools available in the country.

Having delineated this much, we lament the fact that most reformists merely talk of inanimate school buildings and statistics such as teachers’ attendance and teacher-to-student ratio while pressing for changes in the education sector. Modern education in India is rightly criticised for being based on rote learning rather than problem solving. Business Week criticises the Indian curriculum, saying it revolves around rote learning and The Indian Express suggests that students are focused on cramming.

The colonial educational policy was deliberately one of reducing indigenous culture and religion, an approach which became known as Macaulayism. This dramatically changed the whole educational system. Educated people failed to get jobs because the language in which they received their education had become redundant. The system soon became solidified in India as a number of primary, secondary, and tertiary centres for education cropped up during the colonial era. Between 1867 and 1941 the British increased the percentage of the population in primary and secondary education from around 0.6% of the population in 1867 to over 3.5% of the population in 1941. However, this was much lower than the equivalent figures for Europe, wherein 1911 between 8 and 18% of the population was in primary and secondary education. Additionally, they made efforts to improve literacy. In 1901, the literacy rate in India was about 5%; by India’s independence it was nearly 20%.

The education of women in India plays a significant role in improving livings standards in the country. A higher women literacy rate improves the quality of life both at home and outside of home, by encouraging and promoting education of children, especially female children, and in reducing the infant mortality rate. Several studies have shown that a lower level of women literacy rates results in higher levels of fertility and infant mortality, poorer nutrition, lower earning potential and the lack of an ability to make decisions within a household. Women’s lower educational levels is also shown to adversely affect the health and living conditions of children. A survey that was conducted in India showed results which support the fact that infant mortality rate was inversely related to female literacy rate and educational level. The survey also suggests a correlation between education and economic growth. In India, it was found that there is a large disparity between female literacy rates in different states. For example, while Kerala actually has a female literacy rate of about 86%, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have female literacy rates around 55-60%. These values are further correlated with health levels of the Indians, where it was found that Kerala was the state with the lowest infant mortality rate while Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are the states with the lowest life expectancies in India. Furthermore, the disparity of female literacy rates across rural and urban areas is also significant in India. Out of the 24 states in India, 6 of them have female literacy rates of below 60%. The rural state Rajasthan has a female literacy rate of less than 12%.

We wish to go beyond talking of physical structures that distinguish privately run schools from government ones, and talk essentially of the most important aspect of all: content, the things that we teach our children. To make India the world leader in education and innovation alike, we propose the following measures:

  • Revival of the best methods of teaching mathematics and medicine that were prevalent in ancient Bharat that made it a world leader in these subjects;
  • Practising the best of international pedagogical methods learnt from the Internet and overseas tours of our teachers;
  • Setting up of a research team to study exhaustively the relationship between medium of instruction and curiosity and ease of acquisition of knowledge;
  • Setting up of a research team to study the conditions that create an atmosphere for learning, irrespective of material benefit;
  • Using etymological methods of learning words in the primary classes. This would help develop a conceptual method of knowing rather than memorising;
  • Testing students on broad learning parameters such as Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) does;
  • Increasing the education budget by a factor of 1.5 -2 and pegging it to inflation and GDP growth rate;
  • Ensuring that teachers are drawn from the top-third of the graduating class;
  • Incentivising and penalising teachers for performance and negligence in duty respectively;
  • Education up to the undergraduate level to be free;
  • Immediate setting up of as many schools as the whole country needs (money is not a problem, shows all the extravagant shows like the Commonwealth Games that our government indulges in); recruiting adequate number of teachers from the talent pool of lakhs of unemployed youth;
  • Establishing schools of vocational training in villages that would focus on rural employment;
  • Beginning with the ninth grade up to post graduation, introduction of a special subject for integration of sciences that ancient Bharat was known for but what got compartmentalised — making students specialists without a holistic view — during the British Raj; this will provide a thrust to studies in human physiology, history (explained later), medicine, radioactivity, astronomy, economics, commerce, etc;
  • Living quarters for all teachers for life and ban on all sources of their extra income;
  • Seminar-like classes/classrooms with multiple teachers attending every session (it’s impossible for a given teacher to know all the aspects of any subject);
  • Only subject outlines in textbooks; details can be obtained through study of journals and theses/dissertations that can be traced using Web search engines (this will kindle the urge for quest in students and end the trend of spoonfeeding);
  • More weightage on practical than theory classes in science (experiments done in the lab are remembered forever);
  • Establishing a better university grading system based on the number of research papers published by the varsities; students to be primarily judged in terms of their innovative ideas, too;
  • The respective performances of artists, artistes and sportspersons to get grades/marks on par with academic subjects (these should cease to be treated contemptuously as co-curricular subjects);
  • No compartmentalisation of subjects: students can take up any combination of subjects in undergraduate courses (till the time they can see a link between them, or find all of them equally interesting);
  • Overhaul of science undergraduate and postgraduate courses to make them as professionally viable as engineering (today they are worth no money);
  • BSc and MSc — in addition to BA and MA — in history, with the first two years of the undergrad programme including subjects like anthropology, archaeology, geology etc (without which history will remain an unreliable, politically loaded subject forever);
  • Offer of citizenship to outstanding foreign scientists;
  • Creating the infrastructure necessary for world class research;
  • Special privileges for international patent holders in IITs, IISc and medical institutions like AIIMS;
  • Special privileges for innovative product/concept builders, who could seize markets from the control of foreign-based MNCs, at the IIMs.

Health

Forty-two per cent of India’s children below the age of three are malnourished, which is greater than the statistics of sub-Saharan African region of 28%. Although India’s economy grew 50% from 2001–2006, its child-malnutrition rate only dropped 1%, lagging behind countries of similar growth rate. Malnutrition impedes the social and cognitive development of a child, reducing his educational attainment and income as an adult. These irreversible damages result in lower productivity.

Approximately 1.72 million children die each year before turning one. The under five mortality and infant mortality rates have been declining, from 202 and 190 deaths per thousand live births respectively in 1970 to 64 and 50 deaths per thousand live births in 2009. However, this rate of decline is slowing. Reduced funding for immunization leaves only 43.5% of the young fully immunised. A study conducted by the Future Health Systems Consortium in Murshidabad, West Bengal indicates that barriers to immunization coverage are adverse geographic location, absent or inadequately trained health workers and low perceived need for immunization. Infrastructure like hospitals, roads, water and sanitation are lacking in rural areas. Shortages of healthcare providers, poor intra-partum and newborn care, diarrheal diseases and acute respiratory infections also contribute to the high infant mortality rate.

Diseases such as dengue, hepatitis, tuberculosis, malaria and pneumonia continue to plague India due to increased resistance to drugs. And in 2011, India developed a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis. India is ranked 3rd among the countries with the most HIV-infected. Diarrheal diseases are the primary causes of early childhood mortality. These diseases can be attributed to poor sanitation and inadequate safe drinking water in India.

Indians are also at particularly high risk for atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. This may be attributed to a genetic predisposition to metabolic syndrome and changes in coronary artery vasodilation.

As more than 122 million households have no toilets, and 33% lack access to latrines; over 50% of the population (638 million) defecates in the open. This is relatively higher than Bangladesh and Brazil (7%) and China (4%). Although 211 million people gained access to improved sanitation from 1990–2008, only 31% uses them. 11% of the Indian rural families dispose of stools safely whereas 80% of the population leave their stools in the open or throw them in the garbage. Open air defecation leads to the spread of diseases and malnutrition through parasitic and bacterial infections.

Access to protected sources of drinking water has improved from 68% of the population in 1990 to 88% in 2008. However, only 26% of the slum population has access to safe drinking water, and 25% of the total population has drinking water on their premises. This problem is exacerbated by falling levels of groundwater caused mainly by increasing extraction for irrigation. Insufficient maintenance of the environment around water sources, groundwater pollution, excessive arsenic and fluoride in drinking water pose a major threat to India’s health.

Rural India contains over 68% of India’s total population with half of it living below poverty line, struggling for better and easy access to health care and services. Health issues confronted by rural people are diverse and many – from severe malaria to uncontrolled diabetes, from a badly infected wound to cancer. Postpartum maternal morbidity is a serious problem in resource-poor settings and contributes to maternal mortality, particularly in rural India. A study conducted in 2009, found that 43.9% of mothers reported to have experienced postpartum morbidities six weeks after delivery. Rural medical practitioners are highly sought after by people living in rural India as they more financially affordable and geographically accessible than practitioners working in the formal public health care sector.

Female Health Issues:

  1. Malnutrition: According to tradition in India, women requires to eat last, even during pregnancy and lactating period, which is the main cause of female malnutrition;
  2. Breast Cancer : One of the most growing problem among women causing an increased number of mortality rate in India;
  3. Stroke;
  4. Polycystic ovarian disease: PCOD is another issue causing increase in infertility rate in females; it is a condition in which there are many small cysts in the ovaries, which can affect a woman’s ability to conceive;
  5. Maternal Mortality : Indian maternal mortality rates in rural areas are highest amongst the world.

Along the lines of our recommendations for the education sector, we urge to bring health under the state’s jurisdiction even as private hospitals and nursing homes may continue to function.

Our specific recommendations for the health sector are:

  • Setting up of health centres at block and panchayat levels;
  • Ensuring one health centre for every 5,000 sample of population, a primary health centre for every 15,000 people, a super-speciality hospital in every district;
  • Training villagers in first-aid and paramedical services;
  • Maternity centres in every block and a pool of midwives in every village; adequate supply of information and material resources for pre- and post-natal care to every panchayat;
  • Establishing links of supplementation between district-level and higher hospitals; 25% of beds in city hospitals must be reserved for patients referred by district hospitals;
  • Using information technology for centralised data management between hospitals;
  • Special impetus on R&D and application of Ayurveda, homoeopathy and other alternative disciplines of medicine;
  • Special health care centres for women, children and senior citizens;
  • Making it mandatory for graduates from medical schools to serve in rural areas for the first two years of their career;
  • Doubling the budgetary allocation for health and increasing it in accordance with the increase in GDP.

Affirmative action

While the caste system is an undeniable fact in Bharat, and the original, Vedic varna vyawastha (segregation of the people in accordance with their propensities, competencies and occupations) has always been observed more in breach than in practice — rarely allowing an underprivileged individual upward mobility defying his/her birth — the way the social evil has been handled since Independence is harebrained and opportunistic, which widened the gulf between castes rather than bridging the divides. In the present scenario, however, since large sections of society still remain traditionally underprivileged, and the so-called upper castes continue to betray prejudice and condescension for the so-called lower castes, we rule out an abrupt end to reservations in education and employment opportunities.

Nevertheless, it is not in the interest of Dalits, minorities, women and disabled persons that a few families of their respective sections of society grab this opportunity while a vast section remains deprived, many of whom are even ignorant of the fact that government does provide for a means for their quick ascension on the social ladder. As per authoritative reports from government sources, 60% of women, 36% of Scheduled Castes and 43% of Scheduled Tribes continue to languish in abject poverty. These are conservative estimates. The real scenario is much graver, and the data above appears a bid on the part of the government to show that its quota policy has been somewhat successful in ensuring social justice. In the case of Muslims, for instance, the Rajinder Sachar Committee revealed the fact that the community has performed worse under regimes of such political parties that shed copious tears for them to score political brownie points.

The biggest issue with the prevailing quota system is that it is a tool of deception. For one, the public sector has shrunk so much that there aren’t adequate number of jobs left for the taking of any section of society, even if they have been traditionally privileged, let alone those who have been at the receiving end of the caste system. Crores and crores of Dalits and tribal people are being fooled by the dangling carrot of a few thousand jobs that are reserved for them. And even those few seats cannot be filled totally because the enabling social escalators to make them reach the top to apply for those vacancies are altogether absent. Smarting from the inhuman treatment the so-called lower castes receive in villages — like being forced to live separately in the worst hamlets of villages; their children being abused in elementary schools and adults being tortured sometimes to death, and women being stripped and raped for as little as drawing water from wells marked for the so-called upper castes’ use — most of them can never reach the stage where they would be eligible for jobs awaiting them in the district centres and cities.

Educational attainment (in percentage) for youths aged 24–29, 1983-2000

 

1983

1987–1988

1993–1994

1999–2000

MALES

Upper caste Hindu and other   

Never enrolled      

26.88

27.46

21.19

17.08

Below primary      

8.30

9.05

9.84

8.18

Primary completed      

18.08

17.39

13.95

11.61

Middle school completed      

19.93

17.50

18.28

20.47

Secondary completed      

17.91

19.12

24.28

28.25

College graduate      

8.91

9.48

12.46

14.41

Total      

100.00

100.00

100.00

100.00

Dalit   

Never enrolled      

53.30

53.36

46.15

36.75

Below primary      

10.57

9.39

10.89

11.21

Primary completed      

15.06

15.69

13.49

13.87

Middle school completed      

12.11

11.76

13.08

16.76

Secondary completed      

6.80

6.86

12.87

16.58

College graduate      

2.18

2.93

3.51

4.83

Total      

100.00

100.00

100.00

100.00

Adivasi   

Never enrolled      

62.72

62.47

52.81

43.94

Below primary      

9.62

9.58

12.21

11.52

Primary completed      

13.16

10.94

12.81

11.17

Middle school completed      

7.95

8.24

11.03

14.22

Secondary completed      

5.35

7.03

8.55

14.21

College graduate      

1.20

1.75

2.59

4.94

Total      

100.00

100.00

100.00

100.00

Muslim   

Never enrolled      

45.18

46.41

39.41

32.27

Below primary      

10.71

10.90

12.83

12.22

Primary completed      

14.98

17.34

14.16

13.73

Middle school completed      

14.41

12.51

14.39

18.16

Secondary completed      

10.76

9.51

13.27

17.07

College graduate      

3.96

3.33

5.94

6.55

Total      

100.00

100.00

100.00

100.00

FEMALES

Upper caste Hindu and other   

Never enrolled      

56.54

54.07

48.23

40.85

Below primary      

6.73

8.04

8.43

8.29

Primary completed      

13.90

13.61

12.07

10.97

Middle school completed      

10.09

9.93

12.16

14.42

Secondary completed      

8.53

9.58

12.57

16.38

College graduate      

4.21

4.78

6.54

9.09

Total      

100.00

100.00

100.00

100.00

Dalit   

Never enrolled      

84.28

84.77

77.45

67.39

Below primary      

3.81

4.05

6.65

7.40

Primary completed      

6.19

5.71

6.72

8.39

Middle school completed      

3.68

3.27

5.54

8.81

Secondary completed      

1.58

1.71

3.08

6.34

College graduate      

0.46

0.48

0.56

1.67

Total      

100.00

100.00

100.00

100.00

Adivasi   

Never enrolled      

87.85

85.25

81.42

71.20

Below primary      

3.61

4.27

5.61

8.82

Primary completed      

4.43

4.43

5.15

5.81

Middle school completed      

2.71

2.87

4.52

7.33

Secondary completed      

1.01

2.21

2.17

5.70

College graduate      

0.40

0.96

1.13

1.14

Total      

100.00

100.00

100.00

100.00

Muslim   

Never enrolled      

73.49

71.70

63.23

54.78

Below primary      

6.89

8.29

9.00

11.24

Primary completed      

10.13

9.61

11.75

10.73

Middle school completed      

5.19

5.88

9.24

12.18

Secondary completed      

3.28

3.33

5.08

8.90

College graduate      

1.01

1.19

1.69

2.17

Total      

100.00

100.00

100.00

100.00

Source: “Changing Educational Inequalities in India in the Context of Affirmative Action” by Sonalde Desai and Veena Kulkarni, PubMed Central

 

Affirmative action is, therefore, required at the bottom more than at the top. This must be coupled with opportunities in fields other than government sector jobs, the latter not being adequate to serve all.

  • Launching a massive, nationwide social education programme to stop discriminations on the basis of caste, religion and gender;
  • Bringing cosmopolitanism to as many societies as possible as caste discrimination is the least — virtually absent — in cosmopolitan set-ups;
  • Promotion of inter-caste marriages;
  • Providing protection to inter-caste couples threatened by their communities;
  • Bringing an end to the inhuman treatment meted out to children of Dalits in villages, therefore, we propose exclusive schools for Dalits where children would pursue education under the supervision of educated members of their own communities; the common schools that have existed so far will continue with strict implementation of anti-caste laws (under the Fundamental Right to Equality — prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth; equality of opportunity in matters of public employment; abolition of untouchability and abolition of titles);
  • Special quotas for such candidates of the General Category whose families have stayed below a certain level of income since the year of Independence;
  • Letting a given nuclear family benefit from reservation for only one generation; if a beneficiary argues that the injustice meted out to the community for 5,000 years cannot be compensated by the affirmative action applied to only one generation, the counter-argument is that his is not the only family that faced such discrimination; let other victims of discrimination also get a chance to move economically upward; as such, becoming economically stable once is enough to take care of the economic necessities of the wards’ upbringing that brings them on an equal footing as their peers’;
  • Launching a nationwide Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Classes’ Business Initiative Programme;
  • Launching a nationwide Women’s Business Initiative Programme;
  • Launching a nationwide Disabled Persons’ Business Initiative Programme;
  • Engaging private companies that apply for and accept government contracts and putting on them the condition of affirmative action.

The Business Initiatives will serve another purpose. Besides generating a lot of employment, it will create a new breed of entrepreneurs that will be healthy for competition in the market.

Secularism

With due respect to the makers of the Indian Constitution and the members of the first Lok Sabha, they did a hash job in bringing to India a foreign concept without preparing the indigenous society for the upgrade. Bharat has, through its history, been inclusive and tolerant, but never secular. That is, the state — or local community leaders — never really distanced governing bodies from the dominant faiths of the regions where they operated. Having observed the fallacies of indulgence for the past 65 years of Independence, this distance, however, appears imperative. We must begin a new chapter of treating religions of the land, which will be like not ‘treating’ any of them at all and rather keeping away from all of them.

The concept of inclusion practised by the state — rather than by members of society — has, in effect, meant turning favourable to one community at a time, in continuation with the British Divide & Rule policy. This makes every community wait for its turn to extract a pound of flesh from governance and yet it leaves all of them sulking, complaining that some other community has got a bigger share of favours. The symptom heightened by virtue of the acts of the Rajiv Gandhi Government that once appeased the clerics among Muslims by overturning the Supreme Court’s Shah Bano verdict through legislation and then attempted to appease the fundamentalist section of Hindus by sanctioning shilanyas at the disputed Babri structure in Ayodhya.

While the allegation of pseudo-secularism practised by certain political parties holds water, we believe counter-communalism by their rivals in politics muddies the waters even further. A befitting response to fake secularism can only be genuine secularism.

But serious questions are raised to thwart any such attempt. The detractors allege: (a) secularism is irreligious, meaning immoral; (b) secularism is anti-religion, meaning it makes the state come down heavily on believers and ritual practices, and (c) secularism is impossible in Bharat. We have convincing answers to all of them.

Secularism is non-religious, which is not the same as being irreligious. That is, under a truly secular regime, believers are allowed to practise their faith; only the state does not become a participant in that ritual. This means that all ordinary citizens can, for example, participate in prayers either at home or in places designated for mass-scale worships, but government functionaries can participate in them only in their private capacity, not as representatives of the state.

Clampdown on believers and their objects of faith is Stalinism, not secularism. We do not approve of the recent developments in Europe where turbans and hijab/burqa have been banned for Sikhs and Muslims respectively, and mosques have been debarred from constructing minarets. Proscribing a religious act is as much a case of indulgence as is participating in it. The state, we hold, must simply stay away from such religious affairs.

The alibi that secularism is impossible in this country has only served in making lives of the common people, especially the majority in any neighbourhood that is not a participant in the ritual, difficult. Ordinary citizens find it difficult to go to work due to traffic congestions and detours cause by places of worship encroaching on municipal properties; they, especially infants, students and the ailing, who badly need some rest and/or a calm atmosphere, are disturbed by noise pollution caused by overt pronouncements of faith through loudspeakers, bursting of crackers, wedding processions, etc. The alibi, more seriously, gives politicians the chance to meddle in all religious affairs and thus cause mistrust and confusion among the entire citizenry on the issue of what exactly the government of the day stands for. It also gives sundry citizens and religious groups an excuse to send frivolous petitions to the authority that seek to undermine office atmospheres and individual safety and security.

Our recommended restrictions will apply only to such acts that are not prescribed or promoted by the scriptures of any religion. Even the fundamentalist section of any community should, therefore, not object to the following measures:

  • Ban on accompaniment of media/camera crews by government functionaries and politicians while the latter participate in religious activities;
  • No reporting of participation of persons holding public office in such parties;
  • The act of congratulating the believers on festive occasions — be it through a mass medium like radio/TV or banner/poster/hoarding/sign campaigns in cities — be considered veiled attempts at self-aggrandisement and a bid to woo the section of voters who are being addressed through these messages; to be stopped forthwith;
  • Channelising all requests of new construction of places of worship through municipal authorities and panchayats; the construction of a place of worship to be funded by none other than the state: this will prevent the mushrooming of such structures all over the place, especially in manners that disrupt normal traffic movements and manners to grab land;
  • Proscription of use of loudspeakers to make religious pronouncements and play songs;
  • Confinement of wedding processions to designated places with well defined and raised boundaries like hired banquet halls; no procession on roads;
  • Ban on use of any thoroughfare — including lanes or by-lanes — for temporary construction of pandals, tents, etc for purpose of weddings, festivities and neighbourhood acts of worship;
  • Stopping overt display of religious imagery and idolatry in government offices in a manner as if it were the given office’s official religious belief;
  • Strict implementation of noise pollution norms and regulations;
  • Ban on the use of firecrackers;
  • Uniform application of vehicular traffic rules on all citizens irrespective of faith and sex.
Women

Works by ancient Indian grammarians such as Patanjali and Katyayana suggest that women were educated in the early Vedic period. Rigvedic verses suggest that the women married at a mature age and were probably free to select their husband. Scriptures such as Rig Veda and Upanishads mention several women sages and seers, notably Gargi and Maitreyi. However, unlike hardcore traditionalists like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, we wish to revisit the past and make note of certain regressive thought processes as well. The Stri Dharma Paddhati of Tryambakayajvan, an official at Thanjavur around 1730, for example, compiles strictures on womenly behaviour dating back to the Apastamba sutra (c 4th c BCE). The opening verse goes: mukhyo dharmaH smrtiShu vihito bhartr^shushruShANam hi (women are enjoined to be of service to their husbands). We do not subscribe to this view of a woman’s servitude.

Some kingdoms in the ancient India had traditions such as nagarvadhu (bride of the city). Women competed to win the coveted title of the nagarvadhu. Amrapali is the most famous example of a nagarvadhu. This was not a healthy practice either.

According to studies, women enjoyed equal status and rights during the early Vedic period. However, later (approximately 500 BC), the status of women began to decline with the Smritis (esp Manusmriti) and with the Islamic invasion of Babur and the Mughal empire and later Christianity curtailing women’s freedom and rights. Although reformatory movements such as Jainism allowed women to be admitted to the religious order, by and large, the women in India faced confinement and restrictions. The practice of child marriages is believed to have started from around sixth century.

Women now participate in all activities such as education, sports, politics, media, art and culture, service sectors, science and technology, etc in cities and plantations in villages. Yet the percentage of their participation is not proportional to their population. Of course, contrary to the common perception, a large percent of women in India work. The National data collection agencies accept the fact that there is a serious under-estimation of women’s contribution as workers. However, there are far fewer women in the paid workforce than there are men. In urban India Women have impressive number in the workforce. As an example at software industry 30% of the workforce is female. They are at par with their male counterparts in terms of wages, position at the work place. In rural India, agriculture and allied industrial sectors employ as much as 89.5% of the total female labour. In overall farm production, women’s average contribution is estimated at 55% to 66% of the total labour. According to a 1991 World Bank report, women accounted for 94% of total employment in dairy production in India. Women constitute 51% of the total employed in forest-based small-scale enterprises.

Though it is gradually rising, the female literacy rate in India is lower than the male literacy rate. Compared to boys, far fewer girls are enrolled in the schools, and many of them drop out. According to the National Sample Survey Data of 1997, only the states of Kerala and Mizoram have approached universal female literacy rates. According to majority of the scholars, the major factor behind the improved social and economic status of women in Kerala is literacy. Under Non-Formal Education programme (NFE), about 40% of the centres in states and 10% of the centres in UTs are exclusively reserved for females. As of 2000, about 0.3 million NFE centres were catering to about 7.42 million children, out of which about 0.12 million were exclusively for girls. In urban India, girls are nearly at par with the boys in terms of education. However, in rural India girls continue to be less educated than the boys. According to a 1998 report by the US Department of Commerce, the chief barrier to female education in India are inadequate school facilities (such as sanitary facilities), shortage of female teachers and gender bias in curriculum (majority of the female characters being depicted as weak and helpless).

In most Indian families, women do not own any property in their own names, and do not get a share of parental property. Due to weak enforcement of laws protecting them, women continue to have little access to land and property. In fact, some of the laws discriminate against women, when it comes to land and property rights. The Hindu personal laws of mid-1956s (applied to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains) gave women rights to inheritance. However, the sons had an independent share in the ancestral property, while the daughters’ shares were based on the share received by their father. Hence, a father could effectively disinherit a daughter by renouncing his share of the ancestral property, but the son will continue to have a share in his own right. Additionally, married daughters, even those facing marital harassment, had no residential rights in the ancestral home. After amendment of Hindu laws in 2005, now women in have been provided the same status as that of men. In 1986, the Supreme Court of India ruled that Shah Bano, an old divorced Muslim woman was eligible for maintenance money. However, the decision was vociferously opposed by fundamentalist Muslim leaders, who alleged that the court was interfering in their personal law. The Union Government subsequently passed the Muslim Women’s (Protection of Rights Upon Divorce) Act. Similarly, the Christian women have struggled over years for equal rights of divorce and succession. In 1994, all the churches, jointly with women’s organisations, drew up a draft law called the Christian Marriage and Matrimonial Causes Bill. However, the government has still not amended the relevant laws.

Police records show high incidence of crimes against women in India. The National Crime Records Bureau reported in 1998 that the growth rate of crimes against women would be higher than the population growth rate by 2010. Earlier, many cases were not registered with the police due to the social stigma attached to rape and molestation cases. Official statistics show that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of reported crimes against women.

The Thomas Reuters Foundation survey says that India is the fourth most dangerous place in the world for women to live in as women belonging to any class, caste or creed and religion can be victims of this cruel form of violence and disfigurement, a premeditated crime intended to kill or maim her permanently and act as a lesson to put her in her place. In India, acid attacks on women who dared to refuse a man’s proposal of marriage or asked for a divorce are a form of revenge. Acid is cheap and easily available and is the quickest way to destroy a woman’s life. The number of acid attacks have been rising.

Half of the total number of crimes against women reported in 1990 related to molestation and harassment at the workplace. Eve teasing is a euphemism used for sexual harassment or molestation of women by men. Many activists blame the rising incidents of sexual harassment against women on the influence of ‘Western culture’. In 1987, The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act was passed to prohibit indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner.

A 1997 report claimed that at least 5,000 women die each year because of dowry deaths, and at least a dozen die each day in ‘kitchen fires’ thought to be intentional. The term for this is “bride burning” and is criticized within India itself. Amongst the urban educated, such dowry abuse has reduced considerably.

Child marriage has been traditionally prevalent in India and continues to this day. Historically, young girls would live with their parents until they reached puberty. In the past, the child widows were condemned to a life of great agony, shaving heads, living in isolation, and shunned by the society. Although child marriage was outlawed in 1860, it is still a common practice.

According to UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children-2009” report, 47% of India’s women aged 20–24 were married before the legal age of 18, with 56% in rural areas. The report also showed that 40% of the world’s child marriages occur in India.

India has a highly masculine sex ratio, the chief reason being that many women die before reaching adulthood. Tribal societies in India have a less masculine sex ratio than all other caste groups. This, in spite of the fact that tribal communities have far lower levels of income, literacy and health facilities. It is therefore suggested by many experts, that the highly masculine sex ratio in India can be attributed to female infanticides and sex-selective abortions.

Ultrasound scans have been a major leap forward in the care of mother and baby, and with them becoming portable, these advantages have spread to rural populations. However, ultrasound scans can often reveal the sex of the baby, allowing pregnant women to decide to abort female foetuses and try again for a male child. This practice is usually considered to be the main reason for the change in the ratio of male to female children being born. In 1994 the Indian government passed a law forbidding women or their families from asking about the sex of the baby after an ultrasound scan (or any other test which would yield that information) and also expressly forbade doctors or any other staff from giving that information. However, in practice this law (like the one forbidding dowries) is widely ignored, and levels of the abortion on female foetuses remain high and the sex ratio at birth keeps getting worse.

Female infanticide (killing of girl infants) is still prevalent in some rural areas. Sometimes this is infanticide by neglect, for example families may not spend money on critical medicines or even just by withholding care from a sick girl.

The abuse of the dowry tradition has been one of the main reasons for sex-selective abortions and female infanticides in India. India has a highly skewed sex ratio this is attributed to the practice of sex selective abortions which kills approximately one million baby girls per year. The government stated that India is missing three million girls in 2011 and there are now 48 fewer girls per 1,000 boys than there were in 1981.

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act was passed in 1956. However many cases of trafficking of young girls and women have been reported. These women are either forced into prostitution, domestic work or child labour.

The average female life expectancy today in India is low compared to many countries, but it has shown gradual improvement over the years. In many families, especially rural ones, the girls and women face nutritional discrimination within the family, and are anaemic and malnourished.

The maternal mortality in India is the second highest in the world. Only 42% of births in the country are supervised by health professionals. Most women deliver with help from women in the family who often lack the skills and resources to save the mother’s life if it is in danger. According to UNDP Human Development Report (1997), 88% of pregnant women (age 15-49) were found to be suffering from anaemia.

The average woman in rural areas of India has little or no control over her reproductivity. Women, particularly women in rural areas, do not have access to safe and self-controlled methods of contraception. The public health system emphasises permanent methods like sterilisation, or long-term methods like IUDs that do not need follow-up. Sterilization accounts for more than 75% of total contraception, with female sterilisation accounting for almost 95% of all sterilisations.

In 2011 a “Right to Pee” (as called by the media) campaign began in Mumbai, India’s largest city. Women, but not men, have to pay to urinate in Mumbai, despite regulations against this practice. Women have also been sexually assaulted while urinating in fields. Thus, we supporting the demands that the local government stop charging women to urinate, build more toilets, keep them clean, provide sanitary napkins and a trash can, and hire female attendants. In response, city officials have agreed to build hundreds of public toilets for women in Mumbai, and some local legislators are now promising to build toilets for women in every one of their districts.

We demand the following measures for uplift of women of the country:

  • Establishment of more girls schools in villages and a time-bound switch to co-education schools after the menfolk and boys evolve to appreciate the sight of members of the opposite sex receiving education alongside them;
  • 33% reservation for women in legislatures (from panchayats to the Lok Sabha), but not on a rotational basis, which makes representatives unaccountable because they realise that they do not have to return to the same set of voters after 5 years to get a taste of their feedback; we do not support representation of a constituency by one male and one female legislator either because that would create confusion in administration; 33% of the seats must be fought by women as naturally as men have been contesting for them; we believe that a better idea would be to make it mandatory for all political parties to field 50% of women in the form of nominations; in panchayat elections, where formally the political parties do not compete, it should be compulsory for any given panchayat to fill 50% of the seats with women;
  • Ban on nepotism: sitting legislators cannot put their wives or daughters in their place before vacating their respective seats when they are made available to women on rotational basis;
  • Removing all such Personal Laws that differentiate between the rights of men and women;
  • Ensuring equal rights of inheritance for women;
  • Making government-sponsored facilities, especially those meant for women, accessible to women;
  • Reserving 33% seats for women in agricultural cooperatives;
  • Women’s Business Initiative has already been mentioned in the chapter on social jutice;
  • Making micro-credit options available to women;
  • Establishing and designating fast track courts for all cases of crime perpetrated on women;
  • Implementing the recommendations of the Justice Verma committee report submitted to the Union Government in January 2013;
  • Banning advertisements and other marketing techniques that commodify and demean women;
  • Adding legal teeth to the National Commission for Women;
Energy

The energy policy of the country is largely defined by the country’s burgeoning energy deficit and increased focus on developing alternative sources of energy, particularly nuclear, solar and wind energy. India’s fragile energy security is under severe pressure from its rising dependence on imported oil, regulatory uncertainty and opaque natural gas pricing policies, small pool of skilled manpower and poorly developed upstream infrastructure and dependence on fossil fuels as the dominant source of energy in the near future.

About 70% of India’s energy generation capacity is from fossil fuels, with coal accounting for 40% of India’s total energy consumption followed by crude oil and natural gas at 24% and 6% respectively. India is largely dependent on fossil fuel imports to meet its energy demands — by 2030, India’s dependence on energy imports is expected to exceed 53% of the country’s total energy consumption. In 2009-10, the country imported 159.26 million tonnes of crude oil which amounts to 80% of its domestic crude oil consumption and 31% of the country’s total imports are oil imports. The growth of electricity generation in India has been hindered by domestic coal shortages and as a consequence, India’s coal imports for electricity generation increased by 18% in 2010.

Due to rapid economic expansion, India has one of the world’s fastest growing energy markets and is expected to be the second-largest contributor to the increase in global energy demand by 2035, accounting for 18% of the rise in global energy consumption. Given India’s growing energy demands and limited domestic fossil fuel reserves, the country has ambitious plans to expand its renewable and nuclear power industries. India has the world’s fifth largest wind power market and plans to add about 20GW of solar power capacity by 2022. India also envisages increasing the contribution of nuclear power to overall electricity generation capacity from 4.2% to 9% within 25 years. The country has five nuclear reactors under construction (third highest in the world) and plans to construct 18 additional nuclear reactors (second highest in the world) by 2025. We consider this dangerous. The logic behind our apprehension is that nuclear energy is precarious when cheap and, when made safe, the safety measures are too expensive. Some of the safeguards imposed on the country by the International Atomic Energy Agency expose our nuclear installations to some interests inimical to the country.

A more conducive policy environment coupled with an effective regulatory regime is, without doubt, the basis for accelerated growth of domestic energy resources. Energy security needs integrated action by all stakeholders.

Coal, oil and natural gas are the most important sources of primary energy in India. Inadequate domestic supplies of these hydrocarbons are forcing the country to increase its import bill. The supply of natural gas as well, which was expected to alleviate our energy security from the new domestic fields, remains well below projections. Of late, driven by accelerated capacity addition in power generation and decline in domestic coal production, India’s imports of coal have risen.

In the energy sector, we stand for:

  • Re-nationalisation of all sources of energy;
  • Marking a decade for energy sufficiency, by the end of which the country should be fully electrified, supplying 24-hour electricity to all citizens and industries;
  • Turning the National Power Grid fully operational and effective;
  • Managing inter-State electricity transfers technologically and automatically so that administrative lapses on the part of suppliers do not immerse any State into darkness due to overdrawing of power;
  • Making States accountable to the Union for energy exchanges;
  • Decreasing dependency on fossil fuels;
  • Developing sea, wind, solar and biomass energy generation plants to fill energy security deficit to the extent possible;
Security

As India enters the global arena as a power of the future, its external and internal environment is in a state of flux. While it presents a plethora of challenges it also offers opportunities that can be exploited to its advantage. This would, however, entail exercising difficult policy options, its execution with unmitigated resolve and political leadership that can restore the fast eroding national will. While this holds good for the entire spectrum of our national life, where high degree of cynicism has crept in, it has critical import for the national security.

For India, the external security environment is undergoing a paradigm shift. The accrual of Chinese potentially destabilizing military and economic power, proliferation of cyber, space, missile and nuclear threats in India’s neighbourhood, the US drawdown from Afghanistan in 2014, maritime rivalries in Indian Ocean, global economic meltdown and its security implications are few such realities. The uncertain future of Pakistan as a consequence of its political, economic, ethnic and sectarian conflicts, increasing radicalization of society, amassing nuclear weapons and missiles at the ‘fastest rate in the world’ are of serious concern to India. Simultaneously, the widening contours of International Terrorism, threats posed by Left Wing Extremism, insurgency in the North-East, social conflicts on communal and caste lines catalyzed by vote bank politics, and a volatile polity compound and vitiate the Indian internal security landscape.

Governance deficit has also resulted in alienating large sections of civil society, raising questions about not merely the capacities but the intentions of the government. Starting from the top, corruption has become all pervasive with the sharp erosion of governmental institutions. On most vital security issues affecting India there is a lack of concrete policy formulation, high level policy direction and clarity on strategic issues.

The civilisational substance of Indian nationhood, that provides raison d’être to its identity, is under an incessant onslaught by those very forces that ought to strengthen its roots and broadened its scope. The aim of this paper is to outline some pressing issues deserving focused attention on national security, without delving too deep into every aspect of security.

Internal security is viewed as the most vulnerable aspect of India’s national security and there is total unanimity among scholars on this count. Its import is borne out by the country’s long historical experience and if the current window of opportunity of emerging as an important power centre is missed, much of the blame will be a result of internal mismanagement and sloppy governance.

On this very subject, the Kargil Committee Report (2000) and Report of the Group of Ministers on National Security (2001) had both underlined the criticality of internal security issues and recommended a sharp increase in national capacities on this aspect. In the conventional sense, threats whose causes, instrumentalities, resources and consequences are of domestic origin, are categorized as internal security threats. This no longer holds true in the changed security setting.

Today, wars are increasingly becoming cost ineffective means of achieving political and strategic objectives, giving rise to a new genre of externally primed internal security threats. Threats which emanate from strategic calculations, detailed planning, motivation, finances and, quite often, human resources, conform to external origins. It is the consequence of these externally motivated acts that are translated into the domestic front into gruesome violence wrecking devastation. When target states appear vulnerable and incapable of retaliation to the enemy, even asymmetrically weak powers find opportunities and space to breach the security on domestic fault lines for strikes. This renders the task of providing preventive and protective security extremely difficult. The victim state has scarce opportunity to ensnare the real perpetrators, capability to degrade their capacities or even make them accountable to domestic laws. There is thus a clear operational disconnect between the available knowledge and information about hostile external forces, and the response options that can be exercised.

India finds itself thick in this cauldron with the government unable and unwilling to act, and in denial mode in admittance of the existence of such a problem. It has neither been able to deter Pakistan by increasing the costs of such misadventures nor create sufficient diplomatic and political pressure to dissuade them. Meanwhile, Pakistan which harbors a compulsive hostility towards India and lacks capabilities to achieve its politico-strategic objectives through military or political means continues to engage in covert actions as an instrument of state policy to bleed India. The weak Indian response over the years has only emboldened and increased their hostility. The Pakistani strategy in covert actions is manifested in sabotage, subversion, espionage and the so-called jihadi terrorism. This multipronged strategy of intelligence encirclement through the Middle East, Nepal and other regions, using collaborative networks of crime syndicates, drug traffickers, currency counterfeiters, smugglers and targeting Indian Muslims in creating disaffection, has gone un-responded by India.

The dangers that spring from the rise in Wahabism and India being its prime target, is a serious security and ideological threat given the ground realities that

  1. the Af-Pak region is the global epicentre of Jihadi terrorism;
  2. Pakistan consider terrorist groups to be ‘Strategic assets’ in their security calculus;
  3. India has over 3,000 km long porous land border with Pakistan, and
  4. Indian Muslims have become the targets of ISI for subversive activities. Pakistani state-sponsored terrorism has cost India not just the loss of 1 lakh precious lives, but diversion of substantive resources in the last three decades. Strengthening of radical forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh have implications for India, particularly in the wake of concerted efforts by ISI to export Jihad culture to India. There is no effort to offset the superimposition of this exported variant of Islam at the ideological, political and physical levels, despite appeals by senior and responsible Indian Muslim religious leaders to stem the impeding danger.

It is creditable that Indian Muslims have so far desisted from this ideological onslaught. However, the overpowering Pakistani intelligence offensive, the domestic internal political environment, an irresponsible section of the media and the power of money are forces incessantly at play to undermine India’s security. Proliferation of the Wahabi/Salafi variant of Islam deriving financial and ideological support from Arab states has compounded the problem. With no laws in place it remains outside the purview of the law of the land and ideologically unchallenged as most Muslim Tanzims are afraid of taking them head on. The mushrooming of Salafi Madrasas and institutions, propagating hate, violence and exclusiveness, is significant in terms of long term security implications and its sinister nature.

It is noteworthy that in the last decade, besides Jammu & Kashmir, over 2,500 youth from different parts of India have been trained and re-infiltrated by the ISI for subversive activities. Hundreds of Pakistani ISI modules operating in India’s hinterland have been unearthed, while many more continue to function with impunity. Additionally, large numbers of Pakistani youth trained by the ISI and disguised as Indian citizens, have been located in strategic positions and constitute sleeper cells, forming part of the ISI’s intricate network of covert apparatus. The ISI has also established anti-India espionage, subversive and saboteur networks in areas like Nepal, Bangladesh, and Middle East. This Intelligence encirclement of India facilitates the Pakistani strategy of a multi-pronged covert offensive. Collaborative networks with the underworld, gun runners, drug syndicates, currency counterfeiters, hawala operators, border smugglers etc. are being co-opted to enhance the ISI’s covert reach.

The conventional Indian response is increasingly proving to be inadequate in the face of global reach, money power, political linkages and access to modern technology, and ability to take advantage of India’s soft governance by the terrorist groups.

The demographic invasion from Bangladesh is a matter that has been deliberately neglected on political considerations. Over the years, it has assumed a serious security dimension. In many of the bordering districts it has brought about a total demographic transformation, forcing the original inhabitants to abandon their homes. Instead of abating, the past few years have witnessed an unprecedented increase in the inflow — with the new migrants becoming more emboldened and aggressive; considering their illegal immigration to be a matter of right. At the ground level, there are cases where vigil at the border has been scaled down several notches under pressure from Bangladesh government. The illegal immigrants, who now exceed 20 million, are no longer confined to the bordering states of Assam, West Bengal, and Meghalaya but now inhabit the rest of India as well; registering a sizeable presence in 16 states. They have been able to acquire identity documents, including electoral cards, with local political patronage, who consider these immigrants as captive vote banks. The earlier emigrés and local Muslims often facilitate their settlement and help them in procuring ration cards, identity documents, jobs and political support.

In accordance with the new rules formed under the Foreigners Act, immediately after the IMDT Act was repealed by the Supreme Court in 2005 (with serious strictures against the Government of India), illegal migration has increased substantially. This measure has left the law enforcement agencies on the backfoot and there is scarce police action against the illegal migrants. This large diaspora not merely affects the demographic patterns but also puts strain on economic opportunities and civic amenities available to local people. The illegal habitations offer safe havens and shelter to the terrorists and fundamentalists entering India through Bangladesh.

In the North-East, the Islamic militant groups linked to extremist organizations within Bangladesh like Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islami, Harkat-ul-Ansar, Islami Oikya Jote, Jammat-e-Islami Bangladesh, have formed over a dozen militant outfits with a separatist Islamic agenda. Startling revelations made by the terrorist, Kari Salim and his associates, on their arrest were tabled before the State Assembly by the Assam Chief Minister. The alleged subversion of the youth, receiving training in Pakistan and stocking of weapons, among others, poses considerable security risks to India. The mentors of these groups in Pakistan and Bangladesh on tactical grounds have been advising the local groups not to strike until fully prepared and equipped, and the political environment was ripe for action. Meanwhile, the process of political consolidation on communal lines is ensuing, and the callous indifference of the state apparatus to this impending threat presents a grievous danger. These trends afflicting India’s internal security may not have immediate impact but have serious long term implications. Unfortunately, this threat does not constitute part of any serious security discourse, either at the State or the Central levels. The immediate and formidable problems of Left-wing extremism, insurgency in the North-East, social and economic conflicts will undermine Indian democratic polity and negate its growth story.

It must be stated in the same breath that for about half-a-decade, the ruling party and the government have coined the term “Hindu/saffron terror” and, to lend credence to the idea, have arrested several persons bearing Hindu names, accusing them of masterminding and executing the bombings of Samjhauta Express, a neighbourhood in Malegaon and Mecca Masjid of Hyderabad. While we take strong exception to associating terrorism with religion and await court verdicts on the accused, the possibility that a section of the Hindu population is worked up over the kid-gloves treatment given to jihadi terrorism and may, hence, indulge in violence off and on cannot be ruled out.

We are also keen to ensure that Indian Muslims are not targeted by the police for the mere reason of their religious identity. Alienation of the Muslim youth for the reason of finding themselves always as usual suspects is a cause of grave concern, too. Lamenting the situation, poet Munawwar Rana says, “bas itni si baat par usne hume balwaai likha hai/ ke hamaare ghar ke ek bartan par ISI likhaa hai.” [The authority took me for an anti-social element for the sheer finding that a utensil in my house bore an ISI mark!]

We make a fine but clear distinction here. Our heart reaches out to the indigenous population of Muslims, but we have no love lost for the infiltrators of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Afghan, Arab and other foreign origins. To ensure that only the foreigners are targeted (for entering India with nefarious designs),

  • It is important that local Muslims become a part of the nation’s internal security apparatus; for, they will be the best judges to distinguish between the origins of newcomers in any area;
  • Along with them, Bengalis need to be put in positions of the intelligence administration because they can easily make out an Indian Bengali from his/her Bangladeshi counterpart;
  • To tackle Maoist terrorism, our activists have to mingle with the population where the so-called Maoism (with the tribal population hardly knowing what Mao Tse Tung stood for) thrives; in due course, the local population will begin trusting our activists who have to explain to them how their 'war' will never earn them the economy they are demanding through the barrel of the gun. With eco-centric development of the region and adequate rehabilitation of the militants, this problem can be solved.

Although on the radar of the central and state governments, national security agencies, media and the public for long, the nation has not been able to formulate a sustainable long-term and coordinated policy in handling these threats. It certainly necessitates planned and focused attention by the government with an emphasis on capacity building rather than on perception management. These forms of conventional threats can be addressed through the strengthening of state police forces and its intelligence units. The Centre should strive to bolster the capacities of the states through intelligence support, strategic guidelines, coordination mechanism, training, equipment and financial help. The States on their part need to streamline police administration, fill the existing vacant posts, implement police reforms as mandated by the Supreme Court, and ensure political interference in law enforcement abates.

Another issue deserving higher priority is the maintenance of vigil over the long and treacherous border stretching to nearly 15,000 km, more than 80% of which is with those countries with whom India has security related problems. Increasing vulnerabilities of the maritime coastline, both in relation to internal and external threats compels the augmenting of vigil and intelligence penetration along our 7,000 km. long coastline. The long overdue maritime commission and Coast Guard reforms must figure high in the impending security reforms to be undertaken. The common and routine bureaucratic responses to internal security threats, like accretion of force levels, upgrade in weapons and equipments, strengthening the protective cover for targeted entities may be important, but rather inadequate. It helps reduce the threat levels to some extent and leads to target hardening, but cannot either alter the intentions or degrade the capabilities of hostile forces. It would require an integrated and imaginative long-term internal security policy with an assessment of India’s futuristic security requirements.

Besides external mechanisations, the policy will have to factor in geographic size and population, long stretches of borders and coastlines, social fault lines, pressures of the youth craving for better opportunities, and alienation caused by economic deprivation and disparity. There is also a need to be alive to the activities of globally networked crime syndicates, drug traffickers, currency counterfeiters, money launders and groups who create social alienation and conflicts by indulging in acts of religious conversion in tribal and poor areas through inducement, threat and propaganda.

The externally-primed terrorist and other violent groups have to be dealt with an imaginative matrix including diplomacy, strengthening of internal security forces, effective domestic laws and improved intelligence. There is also a need to enhance covert intelligence capabilities to degrade the capacities of the adversaries and force them to change their intentions. Intelligence-led smart operations are like heat seeking missiles; chasing targets till the threat is destroyed. Precise and real-time intelligence is a high-potency, low cost force-multiplier and a mere handful of skilled professionals can achieve what entire brigades and battalions cannot. Therefore, it is imperative in the face of such challenges to bolster intelligence capabilities both internal and external, to effectively influence the course of events impinging on national security.

The end of the Cold War catapulted the US to a position of the sole superpower but this unipolar world order seems to be heading for a short shelf life. The excessive engagement of the US with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, global economic meltdown, dwindling control of the US on Europe is denting the American influence. The concurrent rise of China, emerging as a major economic power with large investible surpluses to enhance its strategic power, has further undermined US position which it did little to prevent in last two decades. The emergence of China as a major power touted to overtake economically the US by 2020, or even before, is a major game changer. It assumes greater import in the face of Chinese acquisition of military and technological capabilities disproportionate to its legitimate security interests. China’s rise has major security implications for India as it has a long disputed border with China, fought a war that it lost leading to loss of territory and its special military relationship with Pakistan.

Since India is primarily a regional power its security concerns mainly centre on its immediate and extended neighbourhood flanked by nuclear China and Pakistan. India will need to induct a calibrated policy of engagement, containment and hedging in dealing with the threats emanating from these two counties. In attempting to avoid conflict, it is also necessary for India to possess a credible deterrent which essentially entails modernization of its defence forces, autarky in defence production, a technological edge over the adversaries and a favourable political and diplomatic environment. It is sustaining a growth rate around 8% at least for next ten years, would be crucial to achieve these objectives. India maintains an edge over China in terms of a younger population, a stable democratic polity and greater international acceptability to its ascent in global polity as unthreatening. All this can be leveraged to optimum advantage only if India is able to maintain the rule of law, ensure sustainable and equitable economic growth and provide corruption-free governance; one that is responsive, delivers in real time and not mired in the bureaucratic labyrinth.

The rise of China poses significant and far reaching challenges to India, notwithstanding the rhetoric of peace and good neighbourly relations. These can be discerned from three factors namely,

  1. Sustained militarisation of the bordering Tibet region and military assertions in the border areas by China;
  2. Strategic nexus with Pakistan, particularly in the area of nuclear and missile programmes, and
  3. Increasing footprints in the Indian Ocean region, especially collaborations with the littoral states bordering India.

On the issue of Chinese development of infrastructure on the Indo-Tibet border the high altitude railway line in Tibet has been operational for about five years. This railway line is supplemented by new air bases, and helps enhance the mobilization of capabilities by concentrating large bodies of troops in areas bordering India in short spans of time. A 2012 Pentagon report revealed that China has moved its new advanced longer range CSS-5 missiles close to the border with India in addition to developing contingency plans to shift airborne forces at short notice to the region. The US Department of Defense annual report also corroborates this point and notes, ‘to improve regional differences, the PLA has replaced older liquid fuelled, nuclear capable CSS-3 intermediate range missiles with more advanced and survivable fuelled CSS-5 MRBMs’.

The Military Balance published in 2012 by a UK based think-tank observed that China’s increased military expenditure, by 11% this year and 12.7% last year, is matched by its growing assertiveness in pressing territorial claims. On the other hand, India struggles even to fully utilize allocated funds because of corruption, bureaucratic delays and inefficiencies in procurement. The former Chief of Army Staff of India, Gen VK Singh held a similar view when he cautioned that the war-waging capability of the army has been hamstrung by long delays in decision making. Apart from expressing his own concern at the recent summit, the Defence Minister of India has expressed concern over China’s high and opaque defence spending which touched $106 billion this year.

A suitable framework of response India has to clearly conceptualize what would constitutes a satisfactory military preparedness policy for India. In precise terms it should include:

  • Capability for a full scale 90 days full spectrum war;
  • Capacity for a two-front engagement to achieve the military objective of defeating Pakistan and holding China;
  • Modernisation in weapons and equipments with a mix ratio of 30% state-of-the-art, 40% prevailing and 30% dated technologies;
  • Restore India’s conventional superiority over Pakistan;
  • Minimise dependence on foreign critical defence equipment including spare parts? Currently, India’s dependence on combat related equipment is as high as 70%.
  • Optimum defence infrastructure along the Chinese border that would help ensure higher intra-theatre mobility, capacity to move to heavy weapons, troops and supplies to forward areas, facilities for troops to recuperate and acclimatize etc;
  • Building capacities to counter China’s cyber offensive.

India had inherited a rudimentary defence production infrastructure from the British at the time of independence. The indigenous industrial activity was confined to the lowest spectrum of defence production comprising mainly of repair and overhaul facilities of imported weapon systems.

In the post 1962 phase, India’s doctrine of self sufficiency in defence items, other than indigenous production, which practically meant having reliable foreign sources for acquisition of weapons systems, access to technologies and un-interrupted supply of spares and components. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was a major supplier of defence equipment to India and its share remains 70% till today. The USSR had agreed to supply weapons systems, including MIG-21 aircrafts as well as a licensed production arrangement which helped India usher into an era of licensed production. This arrangement, had although served India well for two decades but, after breakup of the USSR and changing profile of India’s defence requirements, no longer addressed Indian requirements adequately.

A significant major policy shift was brought about in May 2001 when the Government allowed participation of private sector in defence production. Under the guidelines issued a 100% investment by private sector would be permissible in designated areas, and 26% would be through foreign direct investment. Earlier in 2010, the government’s Defence Production Policy emphasized achieving self reliance in designing, development and production of weapon systems/platforms and equipment.

With the objective of achieving greater synergy in production of high-end products it encouraged the formation of consortia, joint ventures and a public-private partnership. Greater integration between technical and scientific research and production was also envisaged. However, while the policy objectives laid down were commendable, at the level of implementation not much has changed and most of the ideas remain unexecuted. The overall scale of indecisiveness, absence of high direction, gaps in planning of resources and weak executive skills of the UPA-II government have cost India in terms of defence preparedness.

In this regard, one aspect of the US defence set-up must be appreciated and adopted. Given the laggardness of the DRDO, the requirements for Bharat’s defence preparedness can be met only by opening the equipment sector to interested parties among the private sector. Tata and Larsen & Toubro are two companies that have for long requested that they be permitted to manufacture some vital war machinery to the Indian defence forces. It is only by allowing competent and trustworthy indigenous companies such as these that the equipment deficit can be promptly filled. We need our own Boeings and Lockheed Martins to compete with the government-run DRDO. Let the Armed Forces choose the best out of all that the public and private sector defence production houses have on offer. Further, subject to government sanction, let them all be allowed to export their products, too, to bring to India valuable foreign exchange.

For obvious reasons, this sector cannot ever be opened to foreign participation.

In a current transformed global environment, India is at an advantages with the availability of investible capital, accessibility to earlier denied dual technologies, willingness for cooperation and collaboration by defence production giants in its repertoire. India boasts of a world class defence-scientific community, at least in some advanced fields and a pool of skilled manpower with long years of experience and knowledge relating to defence industries.

Politically, there is a bi-partisan consensus that India should reduce its dependability on imported weapon systems as far as possible. The changing global and regional strategic landscape, China’s aggressive posturing with heavy investments in defence, estimated to be over $132 billion a year, and fast expansion of its defence production and R&D, leave India with no option but to bring about both a qualitative and quantitative transformation in its defence production. However, infirmities ranging from political indecisions, vested interests of the corrupt, external pressures and illiteracy of the bureaucracy on security issues nullify the advantages to a considerable extent.

A powerful lobby exists within India, supported by an even more powerful and cash-rich network of arms manufacturers and their frontmen, interested in stymieing indigenous defence production. Spurious arguments and distorted facts are advanced in a sustained and systematic manner to create doubts and suspicious that, at times, influences even the leadership of the armed forces. Denigrating the capabilities of Indian scientists, DRDO and DPSUs form part of this campaign. With India’s estimated expenditure of $100 billion on defence acquisitions over the next decade, they see a great commercial opportunity in the offing; provided India does not build its indigenous capacities, of course!

It is apparent and urgent for India to strengthen and streamline the complex regimen of defence production and research comprising of its 39 Ordnance Factories, 8 Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), 50 laboratories under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), host of research units working in ordnance factories/DPSUs and widely dispersed private sector players. Some of the bigger private sector outfits like Larsen and Toubro, Mahindra Defence Systems, Pipavav Shipyard and Tata Advanced Systems Limited have professed an enthusiasm to work with the government, and contribute thereby in augmenting India’s defence preparedness. They are also willing to upgrade their manufacturing facilities and undertake research and development work, provided they are assured of sustained orders, sharing of R&D costs and international marketing opportunities. There is also a new enthusiasm in India’s public sector enterprises to change, modernize and become quality competitive. By cutting across the barriers of public and private sectors, the Indian Defence Ministry can perhaps take a leaf from the experience of ISRO that has successfully outsourced components, hardware and sub-systems for its launch vehicles and satellites from Indian industrial units, both from the private and public sectors. Undoubtedly, a clear vision, policy convergence, expedient decision making, de-bureaucratization of defence production and technology development can raise India’s defence preparedness manifold. India can ill afford to ignore this vital area of national security any longer.

Gaps in Indian defence Preparedness

Army

Artillery, as was proven during the Kargil conflict, is a key battle winning factor. Over a decade ago, the Indian Army had drawn up a plan to modernise 80 % of the Artillery Regiments of the Indian Army. If it had been implemented, it would have reduced the large number of diverse calibres in use with the Artillery (75/24, 105 mm, 122 mm, 130 mm, 155 mm) and brought about standardization at 155 mm calibre. However, this has yet to be executed and consequently, modernisation is irrevocably delayed. Though tenders were floated, the pace of procurement due to bureaucratic delays and systemic deficiencies has been slow and may take another 5 years for induction. The last major acquisition of guns in India were 400 items of Bofors (39 calibre 155 mm FH-77 B) from Sweden in 1984.

Armour: The Armoured Corps still holds in its inventory some regiments of vintage tanks like T-55. There is an urgent need to induct 347xT-90s contracted for in Dec 2007.There is an even more urgent need to remove Night Blindness of the tank fleet. Only 310 of T-90 tanks have proper night vision/fire control equipment. Presently, 70% of the tank fleet is Night Blind. In this context, it is worth mentioning that during Gulf War I, the Russian T-72 tanks were well matched with the American Abram tanks in day-time combat. However, the image intensification equipment with the US tanks made the critical difference at night. It was able to read the Russian tanks of the Iraqis at ranges of over 1000 meters, whereas the Russian tanks with their infrared devices could only see up to 300 meters, which proved to be disastrous. It is significant to note that Pakistan has upgraded the night vision capabilities of its entire tank fleet. Since most future combats will occur at night, there is an indelible urgency to step up the up-gradation of the T-72 MI, Ajeya Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), by fitting new generation night sights and fire control equipment. In addition, the tank fleet is short of critical ammunition. In fact, the Army Chief in his letter to the Prime Minister dated March 12, 2012 had observed that the Army’s entire tank fleet is “devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks”. He further added that there were “large scale voids in critical surveillance and night fighting capabilities. This is particularly critical in the mechanised forces.”

Air Defence (AD) Artillery: This aspect in India’s defence preparedness faces serious problems of obsolescence with an urgency to replace the L-70 (40 millimeter AD Gun System) and Schilka (ZSU-23-4 Schilka SP), as well as Surface to Air Missiles like SAM-6 and OSA AK. Referring to the inadequacies in Air Defence, the Army Chief in his letter to the PM had stated that “97% is obsolete and it does not give the deemed confidence to protect.”

Infantry: For conventional engagements, the role of infantry still remains crucial. The Indian Army immediately requires new Sten Machine Carbines, better grenades, more Hand Held Thermal Imagers and Battle Field Surveillance Radars (BFSRS). The Army Chief in his letter of March 12, 2012 had stressed that the infantry was crippled with “deficiencies of crew served weapon” and lacks “night fighting” capabilities. Special Forces are going to play a very vital role in all future military engagements. Despite its accepted high importance, very little has been done to upgrade their capabilities.

Army Aviation: Replacement of observation Helicopter fleet of Cheetas and Chetaks of outdated technologies with more modern and better equipped Helicopters is necessary especially since Pakistan has substantially improved its fleet of helicopters. Equipment of Corps of Engineers and Corps of Signals needs urgent upgradation.

Navy

India’s unique geostrategic location lends its extensive maritime security interests a certain amount of vulnerability. To secure its sea lanes and oceanic routes, protect its 7000 kms long coastline, and 2.3 Mn. Sq Kms. of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), it requires a very powerful Navy. The need for naval superiority has become all the more pressing due to China’s ambitious naval expansion and modernization programme apart from known plans to exert its dominance in the Indian Ocean Region. The pearl of strings in India’s maritime neighbourhood starting from Sri Lanka (Hambantota), Pakistan (Gwadar), Myanmar (Swite), Bangladesh (Chittagong) and creation of a base in Seychelles, are a clear indication of its long term intentions. The following are gaps in India’s naval capabilities that require shortfalls in our Naval capabilities requiring urgent attention.

  • Indian Navy, requires 3 aircraft carriers with supporting fleets submarines and air assets. Presently, it has only one ageing carrier. Induction of aircraft carrier Vikramaditya (Gorshkov) has been delayed by 4 years and may not be available before 2013.
  • The submarine arm strength is eroding due to slow pace of acquisition. The country needs minimum of 30 submarines while presently we have only 8 operational submarines.
  • An ageing combat fleet of naval aviation requires urgent modernization. The country needs minimum of 45 integral fighter aircraft, 17 long range maritime reconnaissance planes and 20 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) heavy helicopters.
  • Conventional sources of procuring naval systems and assets, over a period of time have ceased to be technologically potent, operationally effective and involve prohibitive cost of maintenance. New sources of procurement need to be identified and the diversification process should be expedited.

Air Force

The Chinese Air Force is fast reaching qualitative parity and enjoys a major numerical advantage vis-à-vis India. By 2020, it is projected to possess 2,300 combat aircrafts as against India’s 750 combat aircrafts. The induction of Tejas — an indigenously built Low Combat Aircraft (LCA) with huge cost and time over runs (initiated in 1983) — has been inordinately delayed. In fact, the multi-role combat aircrafts (MRCAs) will take another 5 years for induction while the MIG -21, MIG 23 and MIG-27 fleets have long become obsolete. The squadron strength is getting eroded.

India’s geostrategic position accentuates its strategic vulnerability even as it provides openings for playing a more dominant and proactive role in the region. To optimise its advantages, it requires:

  • A continuing reinforcement of several elements of its state power viz. economic, military, technological and diplomatic leverage;
  • Modernisation of police force — both in terms of human efficiency and equipment preparedness — to nip any attempt of insurgency in the bud;
  • Elevating the class of our internal and external intelligence apparatus to the best in the world;
  • Making China, now a thoroughly business-minded country, see more sense in being friends with Bharat than with Pakistan;
  • Being militarily prepared to such an extent that China never dares repeat the 1962 episode;
  • A pro-active and pre-emptive policy with respect to military engagements with Pakistan;
  • Posturing in a manner that the outrage of killing and handing over the bodies of our jawans like dead cattle is never repeated by Bangladesh;
  • Not repeating American-style follies like sending a ‘peace-keeping’ force to Sri Lanka or any other country;
  • Indian military can be used outside the national territory only as a part of a larger United Nations’ contingent;
  • A credible military deterrent and capabilities to inflict unaffordable losses on adversaries will be critical; the fact that India has the world’s fourth largest fighting force does not automatically translate into its having capabilities to adequately deter, defeat and degrade external enemies or tackle externally primed violent groups that threaten internal security;
  • An end to dependence on foreign sources for meeting its defence requirements and as the analyst Brahma Chellaney avers, Bharat “invests bulk of its defence modernisation resources not on strengthening its own armament base or deterrent capabilities but on subsidizing the military industry complex of others.”
  • Keeping the Army away from fighting insurgencies;
  • Harnessing our own strength and being wary of the interplay of internal and external threats to it.

— With extensive inputs from an article by Ajit Doval, Director, Vivekananda International Foundation and Former Director Intelligence Bureau

Foreign policy

Bharat has formal diplomatic relations with most nations; it is the world’s second most populous country, the world’s most-populous democracy and one of the fastest growing major economies. With the world’s seventh largest military expenditure, ninth largest economy by nominal rates and third largest by purchasing power parity, Bharat is a regional power, a nascent great power and a potential superpower. Our growing international influence gives it a prominent voice in global affairs.

Bharat has a long history of collaboration with several countries and is considered a leader of the developing world. We were one of the founding members of several international organisations, most notably the United Nations, the Asian Development Bank, G20 industrial nations and the founder of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). India has also played an important and influential role in other international organisations like East Asia Summit, World Trade Organisation, International Monetary Fund (IMF), G8+5 and IBSA Dialogue Forum. Regionally, India is a part of SAARC and BIMSTEC. India has taken part in several UN peacekeeping missions and in 2007, it was the second-largest troop contributor to the United Nations. We are currently seeking a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, along with the G4 nations.

Our foreign policy has always regarded the concept of neighbourhood as one of widening concentric circles, around a central axis of historical and cultural commonalities.

As many as 21 million people of Indian origin live and work abroad and constitute an important link with the mother country. An important role of Bharat’s foreign policy has been to ensure their welfare and well being within the framework of the laws of the country where they live.

But inadequacies remain, often to the detriment of national interest. The country’s foreign office reacts very reluctantly to changing scenarios in the world. We kept being friends with the Soviet Union-backed Najibullah regime in Afghanistan even at a time when it was apparent to the international community that the regime would soon give way to local rebel groups. As a result of this lag, Pakistan now enjoys more leverage in the affairs of Afghanistan despite the current regime being wary of its export of terrorism and nexus with the local regressive, violent insurgent force known as the Taliban that happened to, for about a decade, rule over the hilly, rocky country until the US forces aided by allies of America dethroned it and rescued it somewhat from the Stone Ages. The Afghanistan-Pakistan proximity in diplomatic relations is also despite the fact that the Hamid Karzai regime is highly appreciative of the civic construction works that Bharat has been undertaking to revive that war-ravaged country. All this is because the baggage of recent history, reminding the Afghans of our siding with a wrongful ruler is difficult for them to forget.

Another case of inertia is our continued engagement with an international alliance that has outlived its utility. The nostalgia of being a founder member of the NAM serves little practical purpose. Yugoslavia, the other founder member, has now disintegrated into several smaller countries. And Bharat is now the most prominent and powerful country among all members of NAM, implying that only we can help the rest; the rest can hardly be of any help to us. Most pertinent is the question: non-aligned with respect to what? The Cold War is long over. Our engagement with the US is now on par with the military cooperation with Russia, a residue — albeit the most powerful one among the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) — of the Soviet Union.

Also, to a certain extent our faux equidistance from the US and the USSR, which meant tilting towards the latter, must have pushed the former closer to Pakistan. And the country we considered a trusted ally, the Soviet Union, did not use its good offices with China to make it desist from its 1962 act of invasion, notwithstanding our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru Government’s ill-conceived Forward Policy.

Not only that, large caches of sub-standard products along with some good military hardware were dumped on this country by the Soviet exporters; the rouble-rupee arrangement in trade always favoured the USSR, and the ‘friend’ never tried earnestly to lessen the trade imbalance between us.

In the matter of cooperation that we extend to other countries, we seldom seize the opportunity to set up infrastructure in less developed countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. China leads us in this regard by a huge margin. While receiving services, we missed the bus after the Soviet Union disintegrated to hire some of the best engineers from what were in the early 1990s new CIS countries.

Our policy vis-à-vis Burma/Myanmar lacks clarity. So much so, crusader for democracy Aung San Suu Kyi did not forget to mention during her recent trip to Bharat that the Burmese people sorely missed our support during their age of darkness when a military junta rode roughshod over their human rights.

Pipelines from Central Asia and Iran are plagued by technical and political difficulties and the lethargy of the Indian government has not allowed for the development of a well thought out and effectively implemented energy policy—unlike the Chinese who continue to lock down global energy sources.  In fact there is a real danger that India will be caught in a medium term situation of relatively high growth rates combined with serious energy deficits.

As the countries of the west age, India, with its demographic advantage, will provide the technocrats and professionals to allow the industrialized nations to retain and grow their scientific-industrial bases and, perhaps, even look after their elderly populations.  Indian companies are seeking to create their brand presence in the west rather than in the nonwestern world where they run into a multitude of problems.  The techno-economic linkage between Bharat and the West does not mean that New Delhi is closing its options.  The population and spatial limitations that make it difficult for the countries of Eastern Europe to pursue independent policies do not apply to India.  It remains too large, too complex and too reticent to become a pawn in a greater international power strategy.  What is more likely is that India’s younger population, which is both increasingly globalised and very ambitious, moves it into greater interdependencies with the developed world.  This may, arguably, be the way to pull the non-globalised portion of the Indian population into a more prosperous setting.

It is important to note here that our foreign missions must be exhorted to push the interests of Indian businesses abroad, which they rarely and reluctantly do.

Our foreign policy is also determined by energy concerns. We cannot accept international carbon ceiling regulations imposed on us on a non-reciprocal basis. While we will strive to keep our Bharat green, the precondition of compliance for transfer of technology to us by more polluting countries is unacceptable.

We stand for a review of the treaty with IAEA, the US and Nuclear Suppliers’ Group countries. As said earlier, this form of expensive — dangerous when cheap — energy is not required by us. This imposed on us an added burden of bifurcating our nuclear facilities to earmark a few for civilian use.

We need nuclear power only for the military as a credible deterrent against the possibility of being nuked. Of course, we are committed to the ‘no first use’ policy as regards nuclear weapons. We shall also adhere to the moratorium on further testing of nuclear devices unless a new security situation emerges either in the neighbourhood or on the international horizon to the extent of affecting us.

The other miscellaneous positions we hold with regard to Bharat’s foreign policy are:

  • Making reciprocity the key to establishing and maintaining bilateral trade relations with all countries;
  • Making our foreign missions suffice as extension counters of Indian industries;
  • Promoting the spirit of democracy around the globe;
  • Not bowing to international regimes that favour the developed nations;
  • Regular review of relations with any country with whom our relations tend to fluctuate;
  • Retrieving the land lost to China during the 1962 war and to Pakistan during its 1947-48 invasion of Jammu & Kashmir;
  • Getting back Aksai Chin that was donated by the invader Pakistan later to China;
  • Fast settlement of water-related disputes with all neighbouring countries.

Personal lives

In The Indica, Arrian writes: "This also is remarkable in India, that all Indians are free, and no Indian at all is a slave." Those were the times of Greek conqueror Alexander.

A modern Bharat, again, while striving to uphold what is popularly perceived as its culture, cannot have a government that pries into the private lives of the citizens. We have a whole lot of laws enacted by a British government driven by Victorian puritanism that, contrary to the popular perception now, are not upheld by our ancient values. All such laws should go and no effort should be made to replace them with newer legislations that are prone to abuse by the police or that promote the idea of moral policing.

The state has no business intruding into the relationship between consensual adults, for one. Hence, laws on 'unnatural' sex must go. While there are no laws on celebration of occasions, if some people are irked by imported, consumerist annual celebrations like Valentine's Day, they have no business resorting to vandalism or violence to harass or injure those who do not share their views. The state must protect the citizens who are celebrating an occasion in their own way without disrupting public life.

Laws on homosexuality are anachronistic and unscientific, too. Whether a certain sexual orientation is natural or unnatural may be a religion's concern; it cannot be the concern of a state. In fact, the very question is unscientific. The scientifically termed question is whether it is genetic or an outcome of other biological processes occurring in one's body, which is best determined by scientists and not politicians. As of now, as peer-reviewed journals tell us, it is an unfinished research and the scientists concerned have not given their final word on the topic. Even when they do, if there are medical risks involved in homosexuality, it should be up to therapists to deal with the issue. The government should have a role to play only in cases of crimes committed by this minority community, but there, too, those crimes must be treated on par with the same heinous acts committed by heterosexual people: sexual assault, for example.

Having distanced ourselves from citizens' private lives, however, it must be stated that we do not wish to promote any particular 'Day', any particular sexual orientation, or what the law presently dubs as unnatural sex. We only want the state to stay indifferent to these issues.

On the social front, at the same time, we urge social organisations to promote what they think is in accordance with the local ethos. Vasant Panchami, for instance, may be promoted so much that the occasion of Valentine's Day promoted by gift-and-greeting-card companies pales in comparison and the crowds are drawn closer to their indigenous roots by virtue of natural attraction rather than coercion.

Alcohol is another bone of contention. It is true that alcoholism is a menace, but whenever the state has tried to deal with it using prohibition, the measure has only led to bootlegging, pushing addicts to spurious drinks and sundry crimes associated with smuggled liquor. Fortunately, women are seen in rural as well as urban landscapes to be by and large untouched by this vice. Unfortunately, they are also the most prominent — but mute — victims of the menfolk's alcoholism. It will, therefore, be judicious to leave the sanction to liquor manufacturing as well as sales to women of any locality. A facility of either has to to be approved by local women bodies across the country. Since no part of society is bereft of women, they can effectively sustain the vigil, provided their associations are adequately empowered by the state. At the same time, if a section of the urban elite cannot do without alcohol as a vehicle of communication — in certain corporate circles, for example — women of that section wouldn't object to the product's limited use either. From the state's point of view, the only important aspect is to ensure that the merriment of one citizen does not turn out to be a disaster for another.

A study group must be instituted to address the anomaly that a citizen obtains the most crucial right to vote — that is, decide on who should be the rulers of the country — at the age of 18; at the same age, s/he is considered safe enough to be handed a driving licence, whose misuse risks the lives of other users of public roads, but s/he is not considered mature enough to consume hard drinks before s/he is 25! The state must make up its mind on the exact age when it thinks its citizens are ripe.

When it comes to violence, since it subjects persons other than its practitioner to hazards, it cannot be a personal issue. The acts concerning domestic violence must hence be continued with. If found inadequate or ineffective, they must be strengthened. Where it is found prone to abuse, safeguards must be put in place. While a safeguard against abuse is already in place in the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, making the law gender-neutral will go a further distance in ensuring the safety of innocent husbands. Even if more women than men are victims of domestic violence, which is a fact, making the law gender-neutral does not affect their cause.

Where personal laws do not permit polygamy, the complainant need not be the first wife of the accused alone. Often it is difficult for an aggrieved woman to lodge an FIR against her husband who has brought home another woman who is otherwise illegally wedded to him. The state should empower itself to take suo motu cognisance of such affairs. We generally consider polygamy a case of mental torture perpetrated on all the women wedded to a man, beginning with his first wife.

An aspect of policing also comes into the picture of individual liberties granted to Indian citizens. Our imperial but largely inefficient police is ill-famed for apprehending a suspect, keeping him/her in custody without subjecting him/her to a court trial for days and months on end while trying to lay their hands on further evidence to build a strong case against the accused. And there is no compensation for the accused if s/he is eventually found innocent! This regime must be replaced by one where enough evidence is first collected, which makes the suspect look guilty prima facie, and only then the arrest is made.

In cases of art, literature and cinema, if a certain creation causes an outrage in a section of society, the best way to deal with the situation is boycott of the production by that section rather than a ban imposed by the state. However, the freedom thus granted to artists, littérateurs, filmmakers and commercial vendors cannot include wanton insult to religious beliefs. What the law must regard as an offence in such cases must be explained by the respective scriptures and not the clergy. It is often argued by liberals that Bharat has been an ancient civilisation promoting nudity, homosexuality and open sex, with even gods indulging in such acts. This claim is bogus, a result of partial reading of Indian history. First, the mere depiction of an act in ancient art does not certify its popularity or degree of acceptance in the society of that era. Second, it is important to study what parts of the ancient society had access to that exhibition of art. Third, which is the most important, there is no work of ancient art in the country that defies a mythological story. Many modern artists, unfortunately, are either not well versed with that tradition, or they wish to deliberately cause an offence for fame and money. To cite a hypothetical example, if a deity is described in the scriptures as normally nude, her nudity in a piece of modern art may not raise anybody's hackles, but if she is depicted in the company of another mythological or imaginary character in a way not described by mythology or traditional lore, then it is certainly an act of mischief. Next, a mythological character whom the holy texts do not describe as nude cannot be painted or sculpted naked. It should not be hard to imagine that the depiction of a deity in shirts will not cause any offence, but if painted on undergarments or accessories inside a toilet, it most certainly will. In Islam, Allah is formless and Prophet Mohammed cannot be put on a canvas. This must be respected by all creators of art and films. Sikhs do not like an actor to play the role of any of their ten Gurus in a play or a film. This must be respected as well. And in all cases where the scriptures are ambiguous, the decision of whether or not a certain depiction should be allowed publicly must be left to an authorised body meant to sanction the show: in case of films, for example, the Central Board of Film Certification. Such a board, in turn, must comprise people who are thoroughly educated in heritage as well as contemporary art. Once such a state institution gives a green signal to a production, no objection to its release from any individual citizen or a social group should be entertained. Thereafter, the law must protect the exhibitor and not the protesters' concerns.

We are proposing guidelines for governing bodies. We are, in principle, against bans.

 

Drafted under guidance of KN Govindacharya, this document is supposed to be an initial tool of communication between like-minded political forces expected to come together to revive and revitalise Bharat. For clarifications and suggestions of improvement, please call National Convenor of SDF, Ramakant Pandey at 09931632632 or spokesman Surajit Dasgupta at 09650444033