12 REASONS TO BACK UPA
by Sanjay Jha
Nothing succeeds like failure. Large sections of the social media, intelligentsia, public and especially the urban middle-class seems to be constantly complaining about the UPA government. There is a sense of disenchantment and despondency. Of course, some of the issues could have been handled differently, with greater finesse in appropriate time It is acknowledged that things could be better , but that is a truism that applies to every organized activity in life, be it business, politics, organizations, universally. While grave issues such as corruption, price rise, security, Maoism et al are all relevant that need to be addressed on a high priority, let us not become so jaundiced and blinded by our own exaggerated cynicism that we miss the woods for the trees. We have a predilection for giving pessimism a red carpet welcome.
Without getting into the political mechanics of it, a simple summary of affirmative developments under the Congress-UPA regime that is taking India gingerly ahead in a spectacular global race follows. Some may not be known to the swish Twitterati world ( such as MNREGA / Right to Food Security ) because that does not directly impact them, but believe me, they are changing lives. In more ways than one.
So here goes:
1) RTI : This needs no explanation. It is landmark act in transparency that as a free democracy India should be proud of. In fact, its implementation has become a deterrent to those who would have otherwise attempted to browbeat and circumvent our systems.
2) MNREGA : A well-enunciated policy to create livelihood, and ensure economic support to the deprived sections. Despite execution hiccups and sporadic leakages, it is a consummate initiative that is actually impacting lives in rural areas.
3) Right To Education : A large part of our problems has to deal with illiteracy, poor quality of teachers and learning aids, and inaccessibility to elementary levels of academic exposure. RTE is a genuine attempt to get education to reach those children who cannot afford them by making it compulsory and free.
4) Right of Food Security : Given our huge population living below the poverty line, the Right to Food Security is a step in the right direction, belated perhaps, but one of paramount importance. In a country where many die starvation deaths, this bill restores faith in our concern for the poor. Providing subsidized food to a bulk of India’s poor is a great step for a country that is growing at over 8% GDP for years and where income inequalities have created the India-Bharat divide. The gap needs to be bridged rather quickly.
5) Jan Lokpal Bill: Enough said! Much debated, thrashed and tossed around by the civil society, but it is under UPA that the concept was created and developed till civil society hijacked it in a public relations outburst that has put the UPA on the backfoot . In whatever shape and form it finally gets passed, it will be an epochal moment for our democracy. The current agitation only delays its much-needed launch.
6) Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Bill : Perhaps the singular reason for large-scale corruption in India, besides election-funding, this Bill marks a salutary beginning to create a viable framework on a sensitive subject that affects both rural landowners and urban dwellers. It could lead to the kind of clarity needed where currently confusion reigns.
7) Indian Youth Congress elections: The transparent elections being held under the auspices of retired CEC’s has meant that today ordinary young people with no family history in politics can now make an entry on pure merit and take up a political career. It is a model that all political parties should adopt. Given India’s demographics, for the aspiring youth an ideal platform to take a giant leap.
8) Arrests of Suresh Kalmadi / dropping of Ashok Chavan: While obviously it is expected that people will complain that too little was done too late, the hopelessness apart, the Congress-UPA did sent out a message that it will take action against those who have failed the ethics test. It is a beginning, albeit there is a long way to go.
9) Coalition partner A Raja in jail: Despite being a critical coalition support for UPA, the former telecom minister of the DMK was arrested and is currently refuting grave allegations from Tihar Jail , as is the DMK President’s high-profile daughter. Unprecedented and a signal that the GOI responds not just to public and media pressure, but to also what is right and ought to be done. The cookie did crumble finally.
10) Corporate bigwigs in the cooler : Heavy-weight corporate honchos from powerful family businesses find themselves in the jail. It manifests the UPA’s resolve to address the unholy nexus between big business houses and politics; an admission that it is indeed reprehensible and a massive problem which needs to be resolved, means we are headed in the right direction.
11) UID :Adhaar: The Unique Identification card for all citizens of India will lead to seamless electronic cash transfers to the targeted needy , which when it is fully operational will cut out middlemen and corruption. It is the need of the hour. Its benefits could be transformational as the earlier gargantuan financial fraud will be automatically negated .
12) NAC : The National Advisory Council, heavily castigated by many, was a sincere effort on the part of the UPA to listen to civil society, take feedback from those who work regularly at the ground-level on various social programs and incorporate worthwhile suggestions when formulating public policies. While it may have backfired politically judging from recent events , the intent was noble and welcome. And maybe in a modified form ought to continue.
1991 and financial bankruptcy seems like bad nightmare best forgotten. Right now we are in a position to create bail-out financial packages to defaulting western world countries in dollar-denominated currencies. At even 7.5% GDP growth rates, we do possess increasingly large share of world income growth in both money terms and purchasing power parity. India has an erudite qualified Prime Minister most apposite for pragmatic economic prescriptions during turbulent times. Kashmir is seemingly serene.
Often blamed for being too conservative, lethargic and media shy, the UPA has actually taken some ground-breaking initiatives. For a country that is such a vibrant young democracy compared to many of its well-entrenched affluent western counterparts, there is much that we should be proud of. Amidst all our mammoth challenges and difficulties, there is reason to feel sanguine. And hope for. India is not yet shining, but if we do not let despair , discouragement and dejection overtake us, shine we will.