An open letter to the leaders of all political parties from an ordinary citizen of the state.
I am an ordinary citizen of the state, one amongst the millions of ‘common men’ living in Karnataka since my birth. I have taken my citizenship very seriously and have been faithfully exercising my electoral franchise ever since I became eligible for the same. I am an eternal optimist and strongly believe the only solution for ‘bad democracy’ is ‘more democracy’. I also believe that only a responsive and stable government delivering on the promise of Good Governance can ensure the development and welfare of the common man. The last decade has indeed been a very disappointing one for people like me. It is out of concern, anguish and hope that I write this letter to all of you. I am hoping that many of you will read this and understand that the sentiments expressed here are not just mine but also that of the toiling millions living in the state.
Over the last decade, the people of Karnataka have experienced extreme political turmoil and uncertainty, exposure of massive instances of corruption, abuse and misuse of political power and as a result have been shortchanged as far as development is concerned. Yet I believe that this is also the time for the same people to be hopeful and look forward to a better future that needs be supported by an elected Government. The Assembly elections of Karnataka to be held within the next few months mark a crucial juncture of the political future of Karnataka. I take this opportunity to write to you and place before you certain measures that can lead to significant changes in the Governance of the state and towards improving the quality of life of the people of Karnataka.
These principles and measures are not new entities, ideas or programs, but those that are already envisioned and provided for by the Constitution of India. However, due to various reasons, there exist serious gaps in the way certain provisions are interpreted, internalized and implemented. Enlisted below are points that help plug these gaps and make way for good and responsible governance of the state. Thus, with belief that the points below will be seriously and sincerely considered by you and your party, I request that your party’s manifesto for the forthcoming Assembly elections commit:
1. That your party will take all measures to ensure that the provisions made by 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution of India are understood and implemented in letter and spirit, especially
- Ensuring that Gram Sabhas function regularly and fairly, and towards this there would be adequate facilitation, training and capacity building of communities
- Ensuring that Gram Sabhas be the primary forum in which beneficiaries for various Govt schemes and incentives are identified and that these are not tinkered with as a result of political, social, religious, financial or any other pressures
- Ensuring that ‘community contracting’ is the foremost and primary method of implementation of development works, especially at the village level
- Ensuring that all community based committees (such as School Development and Monitoring Committee, Village Health, Sanitation and Nutrition Committee, Bal Vikas Samiti, Village Forest Committee and many others) function as sub-committees of Gram Panchayath in the real sense
- Ensuring that Ward Sabhas are appointed in urban areas and their roles as well as political spaces are duly recognized and provided for
2. That your party will ensure transparency, accountability, quality and genuine community engagement in all development works undertaken, especially in rural areas by
- Regularly videotaping and documenting development works (esp. works in progress)
- Providing for fair, accessible and unbiased redressal mechanisms for grievances and conflicts when community contracts are undertaken
- Encouraging, supporting and fully cooperating with social audits of programs such as MGNREGA
3. That your party will engage in preparing and implementing citizen’s budgets, that includes
- Budgets that are easily readable and understandable by the citizens for whom the budget provisions are intended
- Making budget information easily accessible to the public
- Taking steps for people’s participation in the budget development process
4. That your party will lay special emphasis on the forest-based tribal populace of Karnataka by ensuring
- That Forest Rights Act is implemented consistently and in letter and spirit
- That claiming of community rights are stressed upon and encouraged
- Effective training and capacity building of all stakeholders w.r.t. Forest Rights Act
5. That your party will employ validated scientific methods for poverty assessment and identification of BPL and APL families and also publicly disclose the list of APL/BPL families in the respective communities.
6. That your party will ensure eradication of hunger by Universalization of Public Distribution System in Karnataka.
7. That your party will ensure the implementation of the Right to Education Act in letter and spirit so as to reach the ‘deserving poor’.
8. That your party will commit itself to ensuring Universal Health Access to all people living in both rural and urban areas.
9. That your party will strengthen public accountability systems and processes such as Right to Information Act by empowering the RTI Commission and expanding the eligibility for the position of Information Commissioners to rights-based activists.
10. That your party will make sure that the forthcoming elections are free and fair by
- Not influencing voters by way of cash, kind, gifts, favours or threats
- Ensuring that all promises made to the citizens during the course of the elections and as mentioned in the manifesto are legal and constitutionally valid
- Not allowing any candidate with criminal background to represent it in the forthcoming elections under any circumstances
These measures require a deep sense of commitment towards strengthening processes of ‘decentralized governance’ and ‘community participation’ from your party. Citizen participation is also mandated by and envisioned in our Constitution. Hence the implementation of the aforementioned points is not just a citizen’s request, but they constitute the duty of an elected Government and therefore no new structures need to be created to start their implementation.
I reiterate that the people of Karnataka, despite their trials and tribulations would muster ‘hope’ at the time of elections and it is a potential opportunity for any party to ensure good governance which is a right of the people and the duty of the Government elected by it. I know what I am asking is not too much, but then it all depends on the seriousness and commitment of yourself and your party in ensuring that the basic right to a dignified existence and participatory development of the common man is respected and protected. I hope that my voice will be heard and responded to.
With the dreams of a great future as a citizen of Karnataka, I remain…
Dr R Balasubramaniam