Credit goes to NDA for introducing Indians to the concept of governance based on a minimum agenda agreed between political parties of extreme diversity. There are many vested interests in keeping India as a land of diversity and evolving a stable system of government based on certain minimum agreements becomes a bare necessity then. The methodology of minimum agenda was always an option and the able leadership of NDA could succeed in making it practical and workable during their tenure. The experiment was definitely a pioneering one and, as could be expected, contained its own shortfalls & highlights. Perhaps India would never had had a chance to become a recognised nuclear power but for the historic opportunity utilised by NDA. It is almost certain that no other combination or conglomeration of political parties could have mustered enough guts to overcome external pressure to detonate a nuclear test bomb. Even opponents of our nuclear policy would concede in private that India became a modern nation to be noticed on world stage only after the test blast. It is one thing to be accepted as the oldest surviving civilisation in the world but to be counted as a modern nation is what is urgently required to succeed in the future.
After NDA, the second experiment in minimum agenda is ongoing and by all indications will complete the term thanks to the power glue that holds together any coalition and an opposition in shambles. But it is time for us to think about modifications required in the coming experiments. Putting together a minimum agenda based on discussions among similar parties is no doubt democratic, but making it mandatory in a definite time frame will be the best we can think of. Any minimum agenda put together by the next coalition that comes to power must be mandated for implementation in the next five years. The next Opposition should offer no objection to a pre-declared and mandated agenda that had won the legal and legitimate recognition of majority. Opposition may oppose only the wrongness, if any, in the method of implementation. Independence for India from British Raj opened up the future of many other nations in the world. In a similar way, India can present an ideal democratic model only if we are successful with such a coalition government implementing a mandated minimum agenda within its term.
Indian republic is now 50 years old and following five are the bare minimum that should find a place in the minimum agenda for the mandate to be implemented in five years :-
Drinking Water & Minimum Food for Sustenance
It is a shame for any nation in the twenty-first century not to have provided drinking water facilities for all its citizens at least within 100 metres of each and everyone’s residence. No reason is acceptable even if they are genuine. Potable water, even if it is rationed, must be made available to each and every citizen of India within five years of coming to power with a mandated minimum agenda. There should be a built-in insurance scheme whereby government agencies are liable to pay compensation if they are unable to provide potable water to any. Same must be the case with minimum food for sustenance for all those who have registered their inability to provide food for themselves. With the elaborate hierarchy available under the Panchayat Raj system it is not impossible to ascertain the genuineness of any such application for food. But all cases must be constantly reviewed and reappraised every six months.
Minimum Land and Shelter
Land reforms form the core of legislation in any progressive society and it is long overdue as an all-India policy. Every citizen of the country is eligible for a minimum piece of land and it should be non-transferable. The next government with a mandated minimum agenda must take steps to identify all citizens of India without any piece of land or building in his or her name, whether he/she is an Adivasi living in forest land or a villager in some remote village or an urban in Nariman point. All such people should be assigned at least 5 cents of non-transferable land in the nearest available location at no cost. Ownership of any such assigned but unused land must lapse with the death of the individual. But if he/she has made any construction it can pass on to his/her legal heir. This identification process must be a standing arrangement and must ensure that each and every citizen of the country has at least 5 cents of non-transferable land in his or her name somewhere in the motherland. The allocation process can be automated and randomised within specified parameters so that scope for manipulation is eliminated.
Primary education is another minimum requirement for anyone to survive in the new era. Right to information could have waited but right to education cannot wait any further. Just like potable water, primary schooling facilities must be freely available for all citizens within one or two kilometres. Whether it is in the government or private sector, primary education must be free and compulsory for one and all. The schools must not only teach but should also provide all students with uniform clothes, books and other education materials, free of cost. There must be no excuse, other than medical, for anyone for not going to school till the age of 15. And the type of compulsory education must be truly secular and no substitute religious schooling must be acceptable. This is the one and only way to ensure the secular nature of Indian nation is sustained.
Spending on Agriculture
India has an agrarian background and shall ever remain so. This land having the oldest surviving civilisation in the world can exist only on an agrarian background. It will not be an error in any sense to state that agriculture is our culture. The mandated minimum agenda must contain a minimum ceiling on the percentage of national GDP to be spent on agriculture and related matters. This can include the welfare measures for true agriculturists, research & development in agriculture and price support mechanisms to ensure minimum guaranteed returns for those engaged in agriculture. At any point of time and by any estimates, at least 50% of our population is involved in agriculture and a minimum ceiling of 25% of our GDP to be spent on agriculture is not at all unreasonable.
Last but not the least, any minimum agenda must include measures to sustain our nationhood. And it is time that all Indians realised the simple fact it is not religious or economic or military or geographic factors that has sustained the oldest surviving civilisation. It is only our cultural affinity that has held us together at all times. But for that, British Raj or any other conquerors could have easily split our nation into another Europe or Africa. The most visible and important surviving symbol of our culture is the Sanskrit language. If we do not take care and rekindle Sanskrit language into its past glory, Indians will lapse into history as the biggest fools who were searching vainly for a gram of iron and copper when tons of gold were idling in their own backyard. The amount of knowledge and wisdom embedded in Sanskrit literature is so huge that we are doing great disservice to our own future generations if we are not giving them exposure to the language. Sanskrit language must be a compulsory part of primary education of all Indians.