Saturday, 28 July 2018

2019 Elections Wishlist

As 2019 elections approach, I have consolidated a list of what I would like to see different parties and leaders talk about and commit to in their election campaigns. I believe this is an important exercise for "We the people" to carry out : consolidate clearly in our minds what we want from those who govern us, vote for those who convince us that they will deliver on those counts (or convince us that there are better options than what we have in our minds), and then hold them to their commitments when they execute their five year term.

1 (Healthcare)

Here's what I want first and foremost. Clearly explain and commit to well chalked out plans for the following:

High Quality and Comprehensive Public Health Care:

Structure proposed: (i) One excellent primary healthcare and medical emergency response centre for every five villages, (ii) one excellent civil hospital in every single district that is capable of providing excellent primary, emergency as well as secondary health care, and (iii) an AIIMS in every state that provides excellent health care all the way up to multi speciality tertiary health care.

At all the medical centres in the structure proposed above the poor need to be (a) provided completely free treatments at all levels of care : primary, emergency, secondary and multispeciality tertiary (including services and medicines) and (b) firmly given priority of service since they cannot afford to go to private healthcare centres. For everyone else: Medical care at rates that do not include infrastructure costs, and services and medicines etc. provided at rates commensurate with each patient's paying capacity.

(Yes, we need to make sure people declare their incomes truthfully and pay their taxes for this as well as other wishes I express below to materialize. I'm all for tight measures on that count. Perhaps the availability of such services will also act as an additional incentive for people to pay taxes and the government to enforce tax collections stringently.)

Note that this will (a) generate tremendous employment and (b) since all the doctors, nurses and other staff at these hospitals will be salaried employees, they will actually wish for and try to establish a healthy society overall. Such a mindset would be very different from wanting more patients so that hospital business thrives. (Please think about what I have just said in point (b) of this paragraph very very carefully.)

2 (Education)

Clearly explain and commit to well chalked out plans for the following:

a) Government schools that provide quality education upto 12th grade absolutely free of cost to anyone who cannot afford to pay the fees (higher education discussed below) with (i) an extensive outreach: One such school for every cluster of five villages and of course a sufficient number of such schools in every district / town / city and (ii) priority given firmly to children from poor families since they cannot afford to go to private schools so that no poor person has to think twice about educating one's children.

b) For education up to graduation, let there be a choice between (i) Free education with a commitment to work for the government for a period of five years (can be deferred if one pursues higher degrees) OR (ii) Pay fees in full and no such commitment.

c) With point (b) in mind, ensure that there are enough number of government colleges that provide quality education in a wide range of subjects: Science, Technology, Arts, Commerce, Music, Medicine, Yoga, ... so that poor people have the option to educate their children without worry.

Note that investing in education significantly will also lead to job creation: teaching as well as non teaching staff.

3 (Agriculture)

Clearly explain and commit to well chalked out plans for the following:

Solving the long-standing farmers' problems. Don't just keep talking about their problems and keep handing out loan waivers. *Solve* their problems:

If their fields are not fertile, either extend the knowledge and help required to make them fertile again OR give them alternate fields that are fertile and use the unfertile fields for some other purpose.

If they face water shortage, resolve this issue. Maybe by delivering water via canals OR by digging lakes OR by constructing dams OR by restricting water supply to soft drinks and liquor industries OR ...

If they face excess rainfall / flood situations, resolve this issue by diverting water to other regions that are facing water scarcity.

Note that all the above three are likely to generate employment as well.

Finally: Unless and until it is established beyond every possibility of doubt that a particular genetic modification or the use of so and so pesticide is completely safe, I would like to see them banned.

Take Sikkim's example. I believe it is now an entirely organic state. If one state can do it, every state can.

So it's not as if farming and life will end if we hold back on genetic modifications and/or pesticides that have not been thoroughly tested for safety first.

The food we eat and its effect on our bodies and minds is fundamental to our lives.

4 (Justice System)

Clearly explain and commit to well chalked out plans for the following:

Expanding and streamlining our justice system so that our courts handle cases efficiently and correctly.

This likely involves expanding our civil / high / supreme courts infrastructure, hiring more personnel at the level of judges, government lawyers and administrative staff, and having a group of experts in the field look at and suggest refinements in policies as well as processes.

Note that, just as in every wish I'm listing, the above is likely to increase employment as well.

Justice delayed is justice denied. Our elected representatives *must* do the above.

5 (Law and Order System)

Clearly explain and commit to well chalked out plans for the following:

1. World class traffic policing with sufficient number of well trained and fit personnel visibly present on city roads as well as patrolling highways. They must be committed to implement the law and take action whenever needed. Illegal parking: Tow and impose fines, Speed limit violation: Pull over and impose fines, Wrong overtaking: Pull over and impose fines, ... We *must* bring discipline on our roads.

2. Expansion of the police force in each state in proportion to the population along with upgradation in terms of equipment and training to firmly clamp down on crime.

The above along with the expansion and upgradation of our justice system proposed in Wish 4 above should go a long way in making cities, towns and villages across the country safer for everyone.

Note that, just as in every wish I'm listing, the above is likely to increase employment as well.

6 (Public Transport)

Clearly explain and commit to well chalked out plans for the following:

Increasing the presence of, systemizing and maintaining a timely and disciplined public transport system. And when I say public transport, I mean state owned public transport that is committed to the safety of its passengers as well as everyone else on the road. If you ask and look, I think you'll find that there are private players providing mass transportation in a few different cities who adopt very hazardous practices such as speeding and unsafe overtakes to gather more passengers than their competitors.

Anyone in their right mind knows that masses of people on roads in their private vehicles is unsustainable. But in order to reduce this trend, there need to be available comfortable, readily accessible, safe and disciplined public transport options at a decent frequency.

A full range of options need to be available: Regular, Semi luxury and Luxury so that people can choose as per their paying capacities. A system of monthly / three monthly / six monthly etc passes can be implemented to both provide better rates to commuters and have them commit to using public transport.

Furthermore, enough number of buses / trains / metros need to ply so that people can travel comfortably.

Alongside, every single "incentive" that exists out there from the government's side to encourage purchase of private vehicles needs to be scrapped. I say this not just with the situation on roads in mind but also for the following reason: From the point of view of investment, purchasing a vehicle is probably one of the worst investments anyone can make as the value of a vehicle drops fast.

Note that the above will lead to increased employment in various ways: manufacturing plants for the required vehicles to administrative staff to drivers and conductors to ticketing to maintenance to cleaning.

7 (Culture + Heritage + Trade)

From the northern most point of the country to the southern most and the east most to the west most, create a list of *everything ethnic and indigenous to our country*: each and every art form, each and every style of music and dance, each and every form of handicraft and sculpture, each and every form of fabric, garment and clothing style, each and every form of footwear, each and every form of jewellery style, each and every form of literature and poetry, each and every school of philosophical thought, each and every traditional technology, each and every proven medical benefit (eg. Ayurvedic massages?), each and every food recipe, each and every school and Asan of Yoga ... Every single bit of knowledge and talent that is indigenous to our country.


Conduct a talent hunt and identify at least 100 excellent proponents of *each* of the above, put them on government payroll for the next ten years, take them to the world stage through government-to-government liasons that organize tours, concerts, exhibitions, sales, establishment of teaching centres, ...

Firmly project our cultural and philosophical heritage around the world while bringing in revenue through this exercise.

This would have many benefits in addition to expressing our identity on the world stage. First and foremost, many many experts in indigenous knowledge, skill and art systems will earn a livelihood. Secondly, many of the above activities will generate additional momentum even within the country. Thirdly, once people outside our country start appreciating some of the above stuff, maybe more people within the country will start noticing and appreciating the same too. It's a sad thing to say : but I think its true that many of us don't respect what we have till others respect it first.

If we can sustain the above effort for ten years, maybe private groups will start seeing business prospects in such consolidated efforts and umbrellas will get created for different arts and skills to express themselves without each individual practitioner having to worry about the business side of affairs.

Based on the evaluation of success of such an effort, a transition can be made from a ten year term to permanent government service for excellent proponents of all the above arts and skills.

Once again, I submit that such an initiative will lead to increased employment in a variety of sectors.

8 (Energy)

Complete self sufficiency in energy.

The present government seems to have made significant progress in this direction. I compliment them as well as previous governments whose efforts over the last several decades have taken us in the direction of becoming completely self reliant in our energy requirements.

Let the coming governments commit to completing and sustaining this objective : from conceptualization to research and development to manufacturing to distribution.

Let all possible measures be taken: reduction of transmission losses, renewable energy generation, sensible energy distribution and strict measures to curtail energy theft.

These efforts will naturally result in an increased employment.

9 (Defence)

Complete self reliance in defence on ground, on water, in air as well as in the cyberworld.

From Research & Development all the way to Manufacturing: The target needs to be to achieve complete self reliance, at a level of quality that is second to none in the world, within the next twenty years for all our defence requirements : tanks, ammunition, war ships, fighter aircraft, missiles, cyber security and warfare systems and the associated know how.

Again, if we work firmly and aggressively towards this objective, the increase in employment will be tremendous.

10 (Replacement of caste / religion / gender based reservations with the following)

Note that all the three points below have to be thought of together as one single plan. Each considered in isolation might seem to leave some questions / concerns unaddressed.

1. Let everyone below a certain economic cut off (regardless of their caste, religion, gender, etc.) : (a) get an additional ten percentage points in their twelfth class marks for admission into undergraduate programs (women in this low income families set can be given a further extra five percentage points) and (b) receive absolutely free education till the end of their undergraduate program in return for a commitment that they will work for the government for a period of five years if required. Beyond undergraduate level education: Scholarships can be provided for meritorious students from low income families - but no additional grace percentage points to anyone and performance the only criterion for either securing a job or admission into post graduate programs

Plus let there be a law that ensures that no school / college / university can disallow admission to anyone based on caste / religion / gender considerations.

(Note that part (a) in the point above is very different from "reservations". For example, if the cut off for admission somewhere is 90% then the candidate still has to get 80% (for women : 75%) : the ten (or fifteen for women) extra percentage points will take him or her to 90%. Secondly, the criteria being used is economic. No seats "reserved" for anyone.)

2. For anyone who needs extra assistance in learning (and there's really no shame in this; I for example have needed to plod on for hours for some topics that perhaps came easy to many of my friends): Provide evening classes. Again, this should be provided to anyone who needs it regardless of their caste, religion, gender, etc. Hire extra teachers for this provision if needed so that it is accessible for students in their own villages or localities in towns.

3. For people below a certain economic cut-off (i.e. the very very poor people): Give zero interest loans (say about Rs. 50,000/- for a family which can be recovered in instalments starting after a period of about 2-3 years) to start a small business such as fruit / vegetable vendor, juice shop, tea and snacks shop, clothes shop, toy shop, etc. along with some advice / help in running and growing their business sensibly and saving money systematically through fixed deposits, etc. Do we have the money it would require to launch such an initiative? I believe so. I think we lose a lot of money to corruption that could be used for such an initiative. Also see as an example of how we might be losing money that could be used for social upliftment. And last but not the least, we need to make every effort to recover black money as well as minimize generation of the same from here on.

In my view there are actually only two kinds of backwardness at the end of the day: 1) economic backwardness and 2) knowledge/skill backwardness. And the point is to remove these.

The above algorithm will require us to invest substantially but I think it will be a worthwhile investment that will give tangible results within a generation or two as the level of knowledge, skill and competence starts increasing across the board.

This is my wishlist for the 2019 elections. These are the points I will be focusing on when I listen to election campaigns and speeches. It is these considerations that will make me decide who to vote for. And then I will be keeping a watch on the elected government to see if they are fulfilling their commitments or not.

If you resonate with the above, please feel free to share this post.

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