A General Election coming up in 2014; a society falling apart as 2013 begins. It does seem like a good time for an action plan to help us behave better and make more informed decisions.
For, Indians may fast be losing the option of making poor decisions and behaving badly.
Here's a plan that might help, although we usually like to learn on the run. Speed, integrity and labour are all we need.
1. Have a people's police force
This will need constitutional mandate to give it legitimacy. Each state will need one. A practical way to go about it would be to have a monitoring panel of eminence. Say, with Kiran Bedi, Narayana Murthy, Ratan Tata, Julio Ribeiro, RB Sreekumar and, maybe, Arundhati Roy. They must be empowered to hire, draw up the rules and hierarchy, oversee the infrastructure and keep the members sensitive. They could start with Delhi and move along, choosing the sequence of states as they go.
We need a People's Police because the state police tend to operate like government hit squads. Often, they don't even seem to be under state control.
Delhi, for instance, allows plenty of room for police misdeeds because of the strange architecture it operates in. State police can be used for VIP duties as they anyway are and the People 's Police would do the real job. Costs will be met by the exchequer.
An intermediate court between the high courts and the Supreme Court could make life a lot easier. Indian courts are jammed with pending work and this makes us look like a nation without justice. Although we have stellar skills at the Supreme Court level, and in many high courts, the time may have come for another court.
This may be called the Superior Court, with six benches across India. Say, Nagpur, Chennai, Patna, Bhopal, Gurgaon and Vadodara to start with.
All appeals would go to the Superior Court leaving the Supreme Court to deal only with constitutional issues – as it was originally mandated to.
Each bench of the Superior Court could have 30 judges, five women and five to represent the diversity of religions and communities. Infrastructure costs could be borne by the exchequer and operational costs by litigants.
3. Certify parenting skills
The Delhi gang rape case has told us something basic: the erosion of family skills in India is far worse a problem than corruption. Most people don 't seem to have the emotional and behaviour skills that decent parenting must imbibe.
Families go through the ritual of marriage and have children without knowing what to do with them. A set of Parent Schools or Family Schools could do the trick. We could start with the metros and proceed inward. These schools need to come under the ministries of health.
They will look at the mental, physical, social, economic health of couples and certify if they are capable of being parents. All couples must attend these schools no matter how rich or poor they may be. They need to be directed here soon after registration of marriage.
Unless certified as fit to be parents, couples must not be allowed to have children. Rape, for instance, is entirely preventable with proper upbringing and honest policing. Parent Schools should be able to help improve matters. Costs could be met by public-private partnerships.
4. Allow homes to generate power
The energy crisis could bring us to a grinding halt. It is pathetic to see power cuts in this age when everyone is going digital and improving skills. This becomes even more important because India will get increasingly urban. Cities cannot run without power. Nature can, which is why rustic India can still manage but not the towns.
A simple way to liberate ourselves would be to allow homes and institutions to generate electricity. Each building to itself, so to say. They will come up with smart, modern solutions. There are already NGOs in India with the skills to help.
Homes and offices may also be allowed to sell surplus power to a national grid. The state could pay for this in barter form – reduce tax on income correspondingly, for instance. Costs for power generation to be borne by homes and offices.
5. Have joint Peace Corps
This could be a game-changer in areas like Dantewada and other Naxal bases. By its very nature, these Peace Corps must come from political parties. For instance, the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Left Front and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) could contribute members according to party size. These corps will operate with geographic limits. Dantewada Peace Corps in Dantewada, Jangal Mahal Peace Corps in Jangal Mahal and so on.
We could have 50,000 members in each area to start with; men and women to be equal in number with proportional representation for religions and communities. Members could wear a peaceful uniform, be between 25 and 50 years of age, be paid INR 30,000 tax-free a month plus expenses paid additionally for food, phone and housing rentals. They could have three-year contracts with hefty insurance if death happens on duty.
Their job: to liaise between the villagers and the government and take away the reasons that enable Naxalism. Costs to be borne by the political parties.
6. Announce daily climate alerts
If all else fails to awaken us, climate will. India has rudimentary skills when dealing with upheavals of nature. Almost always, our disaster management is embarrassing. India has skilled NGOs and government bodies monitoring weather and climate. They have superb insights if only we were interested.
A simple way to get people involved with climate could be to broadcast daily climate alerts over radio, television, Internet, mobile phones and newspapers. These alerts could be announced by celebs. Say, Aamir Khan one day, Sachin Tendulkar the next day, and so on. We could also involve schoolchildren and college students. Their faces are usually full of integrity and attract attention. Is a no-cost exercise if the media and celebs cooperate.
7. Have woman and youth Deputy PMs
It may be too much for a prime minister to do everything. For instance, Manmohan Singh received the body of the Delhi gang rape victim at 3.30am in biting cold with no security. It is probably the only known instance of a prime minister receiving a rape victim anywhere in the world. But Singh could have been greatly helped if he had skilled and trustworthy deputies.
The time may have come for two permanent posts of deputy prime ministers – one a woman and one a youth (maximum age 35 at the time of appointment).
Their job: Oversee the reform and execution of policy and law involving women and youth. The buck stops with them on these matters.
Also their job: To make sure India has more women and young world-beaters whether in sport or cinema. Make sure they are seen in every global platform. Costs for these deputy PMs to be borne by the exchequer.
8. Make two-year community service mandatory
Either at college-level or before taking up a career. Should be the first thing a person does before his or her life settles in a chosen profession.
Duties could involve anything from prison reform to caring for elephants. In short, this will be a gigantic corps of volunteers fixing India. No significant costs involved; daily food costs and monthly honorarium may be borne by people and institutions the volunteers work with.
9. Upgrade broadband definition to 4MB
Our definition of broadband, 256KB, is a scandal. Unless this is formally amended to 4MB by the ministry of IT, nothing can improve. Once this is legally done, services will improve. Without faster Internet, Indian cannot function. Period. No costs involved.
10. Smarten the streets
The state of India 's consciousness can be seen on its streets. They are a nightmare everywhere. There 's no space to walk; even if you could, you might risk injury because of the uneven sidewalks. There 's too much dirt, too much noise, no lighting and far too much crime. No costs involved; all we have to do is kick the civic bodies into action. No results, no pay. Simple.
11. Amend rules of parliament behaviour
Our lawmakers have no understanding of job description and conduct. They seem to have diminished ability to learn. Just two fixes for 2013 should do: make mental and physical health checkup mandatory before they are sworn-in, and amend conduct rules to disallow shouting and boycott of work. Costs for checkups to come from MPs salaries.
12. Synergise farms and rivers
Our farms are dying and rivers drying. Even worse, Chhattisgarh has set a worrying precedent by leasing out rivers to private parties. Corrections here need to be top priority. A panel of skill and eminence could be formed to monitor the linking of rivers and farms. A 10-year deadline should be fine for all rivers across India.
This is not about cleaning the rivers; that is a wholly different exercise. This is about ensuring that rivers flow well and at least some of their water is channeled into lands that have wasted away. Costs to be borne by state and union governments together.
All this is only a plan for the year 2013. Therefore, the 12 action points – one for each month.
Also by the author:
Delhi gang-rape case offers us insights into attitude of our youth
Don't believe the cops: The way forward in the Delhi rape case
Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi. His most recent journalism assignment was as executive editor with The Financial World, New Delhi, and tehelka.com.
He was a guest on Season 1 of the popular Indian TV show Satyamev Jayate, hosted by Aamir Khan.
Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.