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Society-“Make India great again” !!!

Note – Notwithstanding the cliched nature of the title of this post, this article does not have the objective to be lost in our “glorious past” but  gives more than 50 ways to make India a better country. You may ask why this title then, well, there is a simple answer – some would say it wins “Elections” ( Does “Make America great again sound familiar?). Anyway, lets get into the matter at hand. Not to brag, but we did have a great past , take the water management systems in Indus valley civilization for example. When all of Europe was living in caves , our ancestors were writing philosophy and counting stars, but then …


1 Power to the people

One in every two families still lives by the light of a candle.

THE PROBLEM
When the sun goes down, more than 84 million homes begin their long day’s journey into night. India produces only 1,20,000 MW of power which is 1,00,000 MW short of demand. What is more, it was estimated that by 2010 the demand for power will more than treble. And we are already beyond 2010.

THE WAY OUT
It is time to switch. About 70 per cent of all electricity produced is coal-based and less than 5 per cent comes from renewable sources.With India’s abundant sunlight and wind power, new private sector projects in these areas should be given incentives. Villagers should be given grants to set up solar pumps and windmill farms to cut down the load on the conventional power grid and step out of the Edison era. State electricity boards will also have to reduce pilferage and transmission losses that stand at a staggering 45 per cent.


2 Save every drop

Over 60 per cent of Indian homes do not have tap water.

THE PROBLEM
It is called blue gold and in the very near future, wars will be fought over it. By 2020 the world is expected to fall 17 per cent short of water. In India, as of now, only one in three households has piped water. The future looks drier.

THE WAY OUT
There is enough for everyone’s need, but not greed. In Karnataka, for instance, most towns get 67 litres of water per head, though citizens in Bangalore use an average of 135 litres a day. If water is priced higher it will be used sparingly. Encourage cities to invest in water recycling plants. At the micro level, promote innovative solutions like that of Bangalore-based architect couple Chitra and Viswanath who incorporated rooftop rainwater harvesting in their home in 1995. The process now yields 80,000 litres of water every year.


3 Family matters

Population control is an emergency.

THE PROBLEM
Even if every couple decided to stop at two children, our population would overtake China’s in 10 years. It has 7 per cent of the world’s land, India has 2.4 per cent.

THE WAY OUT
Enforce family planning. Give incentives in government and the corporate sector to those with small families. Fine those with more than two children. Promote contraceptive use. Discourage early marriage.


4 Treat the past with respect

Heritage is not about inanimate buildings. It is about a way of life.

THE PROBLEM
India has 45,000 historically significant buildings and sites that do not figure on any list. Only 5,000 are protected by the ASI, another 3,000 by state governments. In England, 5,00,000 such buildings are listed.

THE WAY OUT
The National Culture Fund which encourages corporates to adopt monuments should be popularised. The price of entry tickets should be raised to pay for maintenance. Citizens should be made aware of their heritage.


5 Destination India

Last paradise or lost paradise?

THE PROBLEM
So much to see and so few to see it. Five million Indians travel abroad every year. Only 2.3 million foreigners return the favour, a million less than in diminutive Sri Lanka.

THE WAY OUT
Make India a magical, mystery tour. Have more budget hotels, better airports and an effective rail network. Promote niche, especially cultural, tourism. Public-private participation should make dining at monuments and cycling at historical sites a reality.


6 Metro magic

Build at least more than 100 model cities  across the nation.

THE PROBLEM
Urban India is a landscape of putrefied planning. Two-thirds of Mumbai are slums, Delhi is crisscrossed with jhuggis, Chennai has little water and almost no power.

THE WAY OUT
Create at least more than 100 new cities to serve as examples of urbanisation-these should provide benchmarks in civic amenities and eco-friendliness. It can be kicked off in Madhya Pradesh.


7 States of expansion

Raise the number above 50.

THE PROBLEM
The United States of America, with a population of 300 million, has 50 states. But India’s population of one billion is squeezed administratively into 30 states and five Union Territories.

THE WAY OUT
A second States Reorganisation Commission. Divide Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka into smaller, more manageable units. If the progress of Uttaranchal is anything to go by, it should work.


8 Home truths

One in every five Indians has no pucca roof.

THE PROBLEM
We are short of 50 million houses, which means the country needs to spend Rs 1,75,000 crore more to give every citizen a home. India’s slum population is estimated at 62 million and it is rising at 2 per cent every year.

THE WAY OUT
Archaic real estate laws need to be changed to free land for low cost high-rises. Partnerships between the state and private sector have to be encouraged to make building affordable. Kapil Mohan, former DC of Hubli-Dharwad, Karnataka, showed the way with the Ashraya project where 1,240 houses were built with state help.


9 Old comfort

Over 70 million senior citizens need to age gracefully.

THE PROBLEM
For most people, old age comes at a bad time. In India, more so. Only 10 per cent of the 70 million people over 60 get a pension. By 2020, the number of senior citizens with no pensions will rise to about 120 million.

THE WAY OUT
Give easy and safe options to workers in the unorganised sector to build savings. Start government-funded pension plans for the poorest. Have a special old age insurance scheme that supports medical care.


10 Holy discord

For the love of God, remove unauthorised religious buildings.

THE PROBLEM
Eternal India. Shrines in the middle of the road. Naked Naga sadhus in the waters of Prayag. A surfeit of gods. A multiplicity of beliefs. In the name of religion, anything goes. And therein lies the problem. Why should traffic suffer just because faith requires a public display?

THE WAY OUT
It is tough taking on the Almighty. But it can be done. Take Bhagwanji Raiyani. He filed a petition against illegal shrines in Mumbai on the basis of which the high court directed the BMC to demolish all shrines encroaching on pavements. About 1,100 illegal shrines were demolished. The case is still in court.


11 Peace march

Display fervour, not fratricidal intentions.

THE PROBLEM
Processions have often been the match for petrol-soaked fires. Whether it was Ahmedabad, 1969, or Bhiwandi, 1970, communal tension often comes to a head during such marches.

THE WAY OUT
Ban provocative religious processions that inflame passions. Allow only traditionally harmonious ones like the Pandharpur yatra or the prabhat pheris. Better still, preach religious harmony.


12 The right answer to their calling

Defenders of the faith, be responsible and wise.

THE PROBLEM

Religion has become big business. The Tirupati temple’s annual income from offerings is Rs 300 crore. The Ramakrishna Mission makes Rs 150 crore. But not everyone remembers their social obligations.

THE WAY OUT
Divert funds to rescue victims of floods, quakes and riots. Religious leaders can mobilise the faithful to work for the community. They could learn from Bharat Sevashram Sangha which worked flat out during the Gujarat quake.


13 Health for all

Treatment is not just for those who can afford it.

THE PROBLEM
India is no place to be sick, or poor, or both. More than 26 crore people cannot afford healthcare. Government hospitals attend to just a quarter of all medical complaints.

THE WAY OUT
If every poor family pays a premium of Rs 248 every year, a health insurance scheme will cost the state Rs 1,200 crore. India has 48 doctors for 1,00,000 people. That too needs to change.


14 Digital bridges

Connect all of India to a common keyboard.

THE PROBLEM
A far country. This describes 76,000 of the 6.38 lakh villages cut off from the national grid. They have no information on the weather and are open to exploitation by middlemen. As a result, producers of perishables get only 20 per cent of what consumers pay.

THE WAY OUT
Democratise IT. Follow the M.S. Swaminathan Foundation initiative in Pondicherry where every day, fishermen log on to the Internet for wave patterns and location of fish. It has reduced the accident rate and boosted the catch.


15 Elementary solutions

Three out of every five children drop out of school.

THE PROBLEM
By law now, education is the fundamental right of every child between the ages of six and 14. Still, only 31 per cent of children complete their education up to Class X. One out of every four children does not go to school.

THE WAY OUT
Do not micro-manage education from Shastri Bhavan through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the funds of which are underutilised. Give grants-in-aid for quality innovations. Begin small like Digantar in Jaipur, which runs three schools that advocate self-learning.


16 Witness to injustice

Prosecution later, protection first.

THE PROBLEM
Nitish Katara, Shivani Bhatnagar, Naina Sahni. Case after case, murder after murder-there are no convictions. Even though witnesses turn hostile out of fear, they are offered no protection under the IPC. Witnesses are also asked to record their statements with the police.

THE WAY OUT
Witnesses’ statements must be recorded only before magistrates so that they hold at the time of trial. A US-type witness-protection programme will ensure the safety of those who dare to stand up for others and prevent intimidation.


17 Laws of acceleration

Give justice to all, in their lifetimes.

THE PROBLEM

Ten years ago a high court judge tackled about 3,500 cases a year. The number has increased to 5,358 cases. About 2.7 crore cases are awaiting verdicts.

THE WAY OUT
Have a time limit for cases, create a separate jury system for small cases and encourage out-of-court settlements. Remember, there are just 10.5 judges for every million people.


18 Cut the cover

Citizens need protection from VIP security.

THE PROBLEM
Screaming sirens. Traffic snarls. Over 8,000 policemen in Delhi on the VIP beat. Rs 100 crore spent each year to shadow the prime minister and former prime ministers. VIP security is less an occupational hazard, and more a status symbol.

THE WAY OUT
Ideally, politicians should voluntarily refuse security. Realistically, intelligence agencies could review the “threat perception” of VIPs. If they want security, make them pay for it. Specialists, as in anti-terrorist force NSG, can be deployed better.


19 The tainted house

Those who make laws are most often the ones who break them.

THE PROBLEM
Democracy in India is well on its way to becoming a mob rule. Over 100 members of the new Lok Sabha are involved in criminal cases, one-third of them in heinous crimes.

THE WAY OUT
The Government should pass a law barring those charged with serious crimes, like murder and rape, from contesting polls. Those opposing the bill will be exposed in the process.


20 Make rioters pay for the damage

Don’t let the communally violent get away with murder.

THE PROBLEM
Bhiwandi, 1970. Mumbai, 1992. Gujarat, 2002. Bloody datelines from a history of hell. Verses from a hymn of hate.

THE WAY OUT
Swift, punitive action. Make the rioters pay. Let it be a test case in one state before applying it nationwide.


21 Shoppers don’t stop

Retail therapy, anytime, anywhere.

THE PROBLEM
You don’t have to be Carrie Bradshaw to love shopping. 200 new malls are expected over the next year. Restricted trading hours are an anomaly in liberalised India. More hours mean convenience and a healthier bottom line.

THE WAY OUT
Keep shopping districts and commercial hubs open all night. Economic activity will get a thumbs up. Crime will come down. Real estate will get a boost. The retail sector will grow exponentially.


22 Smile please

Start a National Conviviality Movement.

THE PROBLEM

Why is a smile inversely proportionate to age, asked President Kalam. Quite. Indians are chronic moaners. No wonder Madan Kataria’s Laughter Club of India raised more than a few eyebrows initially.

THE WAY OUT
Smile. As the legend goes, it is less work. It takes just 17 muscles to smile and 43 to frown. Boman Irani, screen and stand-up comedian who knows a thing or two about amusement, says smiling in India is a bit like applause. “We just forget to do it,” he says.


23 Far from the madding crowd

Create quiet, green, thinking zones in cities for the weary urbanite.

THE PROBLEM
It is so easy to be senseless in the city. Residential localities are cramped with parking lots and claustrophobic market blocks, making them noisy zones that bring tempers to a breaking point.

THE WAY OUT
Peter Sellers said it so memorably in Being There, “I like to watch.” So do we. Create think zones in the cities. A small patch of green, motor-free area. Sit, stare, think.


24 Sum of all the goods

Make the MPs’ development fund public for the public.

THE PROBLEM
An MP gets Rs 2 crore a year for developing his constituency. Till 2002, Rs 9,780 crore was released under the MP Local Area Development Scheme. Only 64 per cent was used.

THE WAY OUT
Force MPs to declare how much money is spent. In Maharashtra alone, total funds from MPs, MLAs and MLCs amount to Rs 90 crore. As MP Milind Deora says, “Publish how it is spent and it will prevent overlapping.”


25 Hang the guilty

Nothing less than death penalty for rapists.

THE PROBLEM
In India a woman is raped every hour. Even if a rape is proved, the sentence ranges from one to 10 years. Most convicts get away with only three to four years of imprisonment.

THE WAY OUT
Death penalty. The National Commission for Women says it will bring down the instances of rape. Public support for the execution of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, convicted of raping and murdering a 14-yearold, shows there are many votaries.


26 Give immediate attention

Speed up emergency care for patients, especially road accident victims.

THE PROBLEM
In India, road accidents are the No. 1 killer of those under 40. One person dies on the road every 12 minutes. And most deaths occur within the first 60 minutes.

THE WAY OUT
Easy-to-remember helpline numbers, trauma booths and phones on highways. In Coimbatore, Ganga Hospital and Rotary Club have set up 38 trauma booths.


27 Have a care

Get involved in the community, pick up a cause.

THE PROBLEM
Whether it is roadside accidents, police atrocities, misuse of public services and funds or human rights violations, public apathy is the Keynesian hole in which development is buried.

THE WAY OUT
Create voluntary care societies by mobilising the public. It could be the Delhi Government’s Bhagidari experiment or Meena Saraswathi Seshu’s NGO in Sangli, Maharashtra, which has transformed prostitutes into health educators.


28 The poison on your plate

Do not stomach adulterated food, get it out of your system.

THE PROBLEM
Brick dust mixed with chilli powder, coloured chalk powder in turmeric, injectable dyes in watermelon, papaya seeds in black pepper … Your next meal could have all this and more.

THE WAY OUT
Adulterators should be given rigorous imprisonment of up to seven years. Extend standards for food quality beyond branded items which are only 1 per cent of the food in the market. Create an integrated food safety mechanism.


29 Trespassers will be prosecuted

Remove illegal buildings that encroach on roads, public spaces and parks.

THE PROBLEM
Too many people. Too little space. Everywhere one turns, public land in cities-roads, public spaces and parks-has been encroached upon by hawkers and slumdwellers.

THE WAY OUT
Citizens should educate themselves and tenaciously ask for deliverance. They should follow the example of the Pestom Sagar Citizens’ Forum in Chembur. It converted encroached land into one of Mumbai’s finest gardens.


 30 Just for the record

Go public with government archives.

THE PROBLEM
The Indian government’s refusal to make records public, especially those relating to events like the 1962 India-China war, makes it difficult for administrators as well as historians to get a correct picture of recent history and contemporary events.

THE WAY OUT
The government is obliged to declassify documents after 30 years. It should do so. Instead of having a junior officer weed out sensitive documents, the government should ask historians and senior officials to review records. History, and not reticence, should be served.


31 Volume control

Noise pollution is a not-so-silent killer.

THE PROBLEM
India’s urban areas have noise levels of 90 decibels, double the WHO norm for safe noise.We have separate rules for noise of firecrackers, loud speakers and vehicles. There is even an apex court order that no community can use microphones for prayer.

THE WAY OUT
Laws exist. What is needed is public pressure. Last year, environmental activist Sumaira Abdulali got a court order enforcing silent zones in Mumbai. “If people are aware of their rights, the police will act on complaints,” says Abdulali.


32 Air freshener

Clear the air, breathe free.

THE PROBLEM
Of the three million premature deaths that occur each year worldwide due to air pollution, most are in India. Indeed if it were not for our lungs, there would be no place to confine pollution to.

THE WAY OUT
In India 70 per cent of air pollution is due to vehicular emissions. Exempt environment friendly cars from excise duty. Continue search for alternative fuel systems. Subsidise development of electric vehicles.


33 Litterbugs, beware

Let die-hard habits die.

THE PROBLEM
People turning roads into spittoons, using walls as public lavatories and leaving garbage out on the street. J.K. Galbraith called it private affluence and public squalor. As V.S. Naipaul noted, open defecation is a way of life in India, but only because 120 million homes have no sanitation facilities.

THE WAY OUT
The solution exists in pockets. It needs to be expanded. In Goa, under a 1999 Act, one can be fined Rs 5,000 for spitting. In Tamil Nadu, those who smoke or spit in public have to cough up Rs 500.


 34 Nothing fair about it

Women need equality, in both word and deed.

THE PROBLEM
Infanticide. Domestic abuse. Rampant sex selection, leading to an alarming fall in the number of girls in the 0-6 age group. Laws to protect women exist, but on paper.

THE WAY OUT
Redefine laws to make their misinterpretation in court impossible, mobilise anti-abuse squads on the streets, create special courts to deal with gender crimes. Bring up girls to regard equality as non-negotiable.


35 For a new bar code

Peg alcohol use at a reasonable limit.

THE PROBLEM
You can vote, drive and marry, but can’t drink till you are 25. Archaic liquor laws lead to an inverse swing among youth who buy alcohol illegally and hide their partying habits.

THE WAY OUT
There are 62.5 million alcohol users in India. Make the laws realistic. Stem hypocrisy. Educate people, especially youth, about the evils of alcoholism. Advise moderation in imbibing.


36 Fund a vision

Nurture the fanciful thing called youth by letting aspirations take wing.

THE PROBLEM
In millennium India, funds and incentives are in short supply for any of its 82 lakh graduates who may be dreaming of the next fuel cell car or a new waste-recycling system.

THE WAY OUT
Where would Steve Jobs be without venture capital? A Technology Development Fund was set up in 1987 but to no avail. It is better that Indian corporates create vision funds.


37 The hole in the development pocket

Buck the system in which money reaches the politician, but not the poor.

THE PROBLEM
Of every Re 1 meant for development, only 12 paise reach the intended recipient in India. Eighty-eight paise are lost in transmission. Corrupt politicians and bureaucrats pocket that amount, almost 20 years after Rajiv Gandhi first propounded the theory of percolation.

THE WAY OUT
Go beyond the right to information. Let people know about government spending. Aruna Roy’s movement for the Right to Information Act in Rajasthan shows every question has an answer.


38 Branding rural India

It only takes a corporate to nurture a village.

THE PROBLEM
The government commits Rs 20,000 crore to rural development every year, but clearly it is not enough. Especially when it comes to expertise required to monitor projects like the Sadak Rozgar Yojana.

THE WAY OUT
Corporates can help by adopting villages. ITC has started an e-chaupal in 21,000 villages. Hindustan Lever is working with the Madhya Pradesh Government to help build the khadi brand by advising artisans on packaging.


39 End the paper chase

Multiplicity of forms and permissions acts as speed breakers.

THE PROBLEM
From birth to death, from ration cards to passports and driving licences, life is a labyrinth for the average Indian.

THE WAY OUT
The term red tape may have originated in the US Civil War from the ribbon binding the records but no nation has made it its own like India has. A study has found that a government file moves across 48 tables. Uniform laws for things ranging from registration of vehicles to purchase of property would help. So would automation.


40 Police the police

The khaki stains need to be scrubbed.

THE PROBLEM
Self-serving busybodies or men and women who protect us, often from themselves? Difficult to say but when senior officers in Mumbai were jailed for aiding stamp-paper forger Telgi, it showed how ingrained the rot is.

THE WAY OUT
Implement reforms like the Dharmavira panel’s recommendation to set up a commission in every state to appoint senior officers. Improve facilities in police stations, offer better housing and healthcare.


41 Bail out jails

Make prisons fit for humans.

THE PROBLEM
Over-crowding, custodial deaths, denial of rights and lack of rehabilitation. The capacity of jails in India is 2,29,713. The number of prisoners is 3,13,635. Need we say more?

THE WAY OUT
Release undertrials who have been granted bail but are unable to provide sureties. Improve prisons, build new barracks, give better water connections and allot more staff.


42 Hit the highway

No more dusty roads leading to villages that have fallen off the map.

THE PROBLEM
Over 2.5 lakh of the country’s 6.38 lakh villages have no connectors even though India has 3 million km of roads, second only to the US. The National Highways Authority has spent Rs 54,000 crore on building 13,000 km of concrete.

THE WAY OUT
Force MPs and MLAs to finance roads from their constituency funds. New technology will help. In Bangalore, the city corporation used mechanical engineer Ahmed Khan’s technology to mix plastic waste with bitumen to lay the roads.


43 Flaws in the laws

Change outdated Acts that govern daily life.

THE PROBLEM
Laws that have been repealed even in the land of their origin continue here. Indian courts still rely on the Hicklin test of 1886 to decide on what is obscene material. It has been repealed in the US and removed in England.

THE WAY OUT
Repeal archaic laws-there are 32,000 of them. Review the three 19th century procedure codes. Initiate legal reforms to remove repetitive legislation that exists because of the Concurrent List.


44 Get the track right

Blow the whistle on Indian Railways’ cleanliness standards.

THE PROBLEM
An estimated 1.4 crore passengers travel on nearly 14,000 trains each day and use around 7,000 stations. It shows in the condition of the stations. There are about 1.5 lakh cleaners but the filth is not side-tracked.

THE WAY OUT
Cleaning must be mechanised and given to private players.Western Railways’ project Clean Train Station, the train equivalent of a car wash, is in operation in Ratlam and should be replicated on a wide scale.


45 Terminal problem

Let domestic and international travel take off with 10 super airports.

THE PROBLEM
Land at any airport in India and suffer a terminal crisis. Touts more than trolleys, confusion, not information, and sourness, not a smile.

THE WAY OUT
Let arrival no longer be an enigma. The government should call for the construction of 10 private airports of international quality. Situate them in tourism-magnets Agra, Jaipur, Indore, Amritsar, Madurai and Goa.


46 The rivers run deep

Channel the water by linking India’s carriers.

THE PROBLEM
Every summer, 91 of the country’s 598 districts are hit by drought while 40 million hectares of land in 83 other districts are flooded. Even metros like Chennai are starved of water.

THE WAY OUT
Connect rivers. The River Interlinking Project which aims to bind 37 rivers and transfer water from surplus basins like the Ganga and Brahmaputra is an idea worth the wait and sweat.


47 Go with the flow

Don’t pollute the water, clean it.

THE PROBLEM
Holy they may be, but rivers are also harbingers of death. In Delhi alone, 630 million litres of untreated sewage flows into the Yamuna every day.

THE WAY OUT
Implement existing environmental laws. Use cutting edge technology to clean up rivers within a specific time. Even 15 years on, Ganga is only 39 per cent clean.


48 Historical preserves

Revive the best of British architectural legacy, brick by brick.

THE PROBLEM
Old circuit houses, dak bungalows and forest lodges. Ghostly narratives and spectral family stories. Films by . The era of “Koi hai …?” and punkahwallahs.With the disintegration of each colonial relic, we are losing parts of our past.

THE WAY OUT
Restore them, rewrite their histories. State tourism corporations should centralise bookings and maintenance should be left to private owners. A directory of such places with reservation details should be published.


49 Reality check

Make NGOs accountable.

THE PROBLEM
Fat cats or genuine jholawallas? With over 2,000 NGOs in India, it is hard to say. From the one-room Sahmat to the slick Action Aid, they run the gamut.

THE WAY OUT
NGOs should get together and host a website that details funding, expenditure, work and research methodology. Self regulation is the best regulation.


50 At alms’ length

Begging is a crime, but so is not rehabilitating beggars.

THE PROBLEM
They are the invisible people, the marginalised, the forgotten. As Nietzsche said, “It is annoying to give to them and annoying not to give to them.” Delhi alone has one lakh beggars.

THE WAY OUT
Simple but cruel. Stop giving alms and never make an exception. Create rehabilitation schemes so that migratory populations can find employment as labourers or even as domestic help.


51 Baby boon

Adopt a child, save a life.

THE PROBLEM
Ten million children work and sleep on the streets every day. Yet only Hindus are allowed to adopt. Others have to go by the Guardianship and Wards Act, 1890.

THE WAY OUT
Introduce a simple uniform adoption code. Children adopted by non-Hindus should be given the same rights as biological children.


52 Wild thoughts

Save our diversity, save ourselves.

THE PROBLEM
Over 200 species of plants have vanished in south India in 30 years. At least four species of birds have become extinct since 1870. Twenty-three species of animals have followed suit.

THE WAY OUT
Illegal trafficking in animals is the biggest problem. Stringent laws are not enough. Get the local population to become stakeholders in the process of conservation.


53 The root cause

Regreen India, tree by tree.

THE PROBLEM
As thousands of trees are cut, 1 per cent of India turns to desert every year. About 100 million families use firewood for cooking. Moisture levels in the soil are falling and water table is receding.

THE WAY OUT
Plant a sapling, everyone. Create biodiversity regions in urban jungles. Take a leaf from Suresh Heblikar’s book. The Bangalore-based ecologist identifies unused land and plants trees.


 

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2017-07-23T07:37:01+00:00