All Talk and No Action Thursday, January 8, 2009

It's Election year ! Needless to say, I am glad...

I remember, when I turned 18, I was the happiest not because I could drive or do "things" majors do, but that I could Vote.

This is an important duty that every citizen should perform. I call it a duty and not a "Right" because it is now, more than ever, that Indians should participate in this electoral Juggernaut. It is high time we arose and made ourselves heard.

It is no more your right which you can forego under the guise of "cynicism"… "Kuch nahi badlegakya hogayeh sab neta aise hi hain…"

It is the need of the hour that we take our responsibility towards India and ourselves seriously. We owe this to the nation.

Talking about elections, I have come up with a list of my expectations from the Next Government…

Here is my wish list –

  • Education

According to official sources, India spends about 4.2% of its GDP on Education. In a young nation, this is appalling.

We have to start looking at education with fresh ideas. Old ideas and complete dependence on public schooling system shall work no more. The passing of the Right to Education Bill is definitely in the right direction and shall bring respite to millions of youth. Now, no longer will kids be denied education on the basis of their castes or economic status.

Yet, the government needs to be more transparent regarding it's efforts to increase and improve literacy rates. For starters, I would want to know what's being done with the 2% cess that I pay – it's uses, the number of schools built, support for teaching staff, etc. A small place like Tuticorin collected 3 crores by way of cess in the fiscal 2004-05. Any guess at the amount utilized? A mere 1 lakh ! I can't imagine the numbers in the highest tax paying city of the nation !

Also, it would be nice if the government tied up with NGOs and provided monetary assistance. Yes, I know – the word NGO means there should be no government involvement. Yet, if big NGOs like Pratham and Akanksha, which are professionally run get financial backing from the Central Govt., it wouldn't take long to ensure 100% literacy in the country. Look at what "Teach India" has done. It's a people's movement – one that shall have far reaching effects in the years to come. Now couple that with billions in aid – it would have a colossal impact.

Also, free food vouchers should be given to families in rural areas to encourage them to send their kids to schools.

From my limited experience at Pankhudi – I have seen the sort of loopholes that plague our system. We teach KG level English to 8/9 grade students ! India has a lonnng way to go in terms of education and only if it can ensure this basic right to one and all, will this Asian Elephant start to dance.

  • Infrastructure

In 5 years of governance, the government has failed to complete even ONE of the 47 Highways on their agenda in 2004. If this is the status of the pet project, I can't start talking about other issues !

I would want more number of planned cities in the country. Look at New Mumbai and Chandigarh. Well planned and bustling with activity. It's a tad too late to wish this for Mumbai. Yet, if small problems like traffic congestion were resolved in bits & pieces it would change the face of the city.

In a city like Mumbai which is assaulted by evergrowing population - why has water transportation been given a chance? Water transportation is cheap and can solve the Mahin and New Mumbai traffic torture.

The government needn't go far to look for help. A lot of research is done in the form of projects at esteemed institutions like the IITs. A friend was working on a Traffic Control project and how to solve the situation at a crowded place like Saki Naka. Now, this might just be a thesis. Yet, studies like these form a warehouse of ideas and can be easily implemented IF the government is wiling.

  • IT Benefits and Budget
The new FM definitely needs to be a risk taker and a Pro Middle Class Guy !! I am tired of the stupid tax slabs !! Most of the past budgets have been pro looting the aam junta. Now, I would want some relaxation in the tax norms. I don't think it's fair to charge me more if I earn more ! Why not have a flat tax rate? Something akin to what HK, Singapore have? Even a chaotic country like Korea has lower tax rates than ours !

  • International Relations
Indians have always been found to dilly dally where Intl. Relations are concerned. Look at our policy with the African countries. The NAM was suppossed to bring these nations together and work in allignment for their respective progress. Yet, where do we stand with most of these African nations today? Having a Pro Africa policy and cementing bi-lateral relations with these countries would be in our favour. These countries are resource rich - diamonds, oil, gold, etc. The government, alongwith the private sector could hatch up deals with various African nations. We could play important role in bringing them prosperity and in the meanwhile, ensuring huge markets for our companies ! There is a LOT to be shared culturally as well due to our common struggles against the British Raj.

Look at our failure with Myanmar.

In both the instances above, China has been pro-active. It has been actively playing the role of a mentor nation where Africa is involved and has been show-casing to the world that it is ready to take on the mantle of Leader of the Future ! Yes, it's actions in Africa can't be called selfless, yet, they seem to be a win-win for all parties involved.

I wonder, what's has been so difficult for our polity to figure out here.


India Unbound said...

A very good post with some very good suggestions. It could well be part of a political party's manifesto.

I would be eagerly awaiting for the next part.

All Talk and No Action said...

@India Unbound - Thank you...

The next part is a WIP... :)

Varun said...

Well, this is a very critical evaluation so pardon me. I agree and second your emphasis on voting. To encourage voting and make it like an an annual affair or so, I suggest that make voting a birth right.

So by the time kids pass out from colleges they have good experience and knowledge in voting.

All Talk and No Action said...

@Varun - Thanks for your comment.

Yet, I feel having elections an annual affair shall put a huge load on the tax payer.

Moreover, voting is already a right.

I feel now we should look at it as a duty and a responsibility towards the nation.

Also, since it's such a huge responsibility, we definitely can't start voting at a young age, without clear understanding of the electoral system :)