PM Narendra Modi waves to the media at the party headquarters in New Delhi. Photograph:( Reuters )
It is natural for people of India to expect a lot from the government that has returned to power with a bigger mandate than in 2014
Prime Minister Modi had said in his election campaign that for making India a superpower, the country needs a sturdy government. Now that a strong government is elected by the people at the Centre, the country will be expecting various reforms. PM Modi has already started the work and it is reported that the plans for the first 100 days are already being made.
In a diverse and growing country like us, we have multiple issues to take care of simultaneously. The emphasis on economy, power, health, defence and infrastructure are the key to development. However, there are some other areas, which are really urgent but are mostly neglected. We suggest that these areas are given much higher priority than what they are receiving now.
The first and foremost issue to address should be the burgeoning population of the nation. The much talked about demographic dividend would be a disaster-in-waiting, if not addressed timely. The rapidly growing population puts an enormous strain on the nation’s resources, whilst making governance a big challenge. It also has dangerous implications for the sustainability of forests and our rich biodiversity. The population of India is projected to reach 1.68 billion by 2050. Should the government limit the reproductive rights of people is a controversial question that needs to be asked with urgency. China’s experience of “one-child policy” has been mixed. However, it is said that a lack of such a policy would have added 1 billion additional people to China by 2050.
The policy had positive approval from 76 per cent of the Chinese nationals. We may not be able to take such a drastic step on population control but we may be able to adopt an approach where governmental benefits would not be available for the second child, making it costly for people to think of having another child. At the same time, information and communication initiatives should highlight the benefits of one child. The obstacles to such a policy are many. The government might need to bring in the Uniform Civil Code to even pursue a nationwide population policy. Needless to say, it would require a lot of stakeholder management but it is the need of the hour.
A second urgent issue is of waste-management. We are very poor in terms of recycling waste or getting rid of garbage dumps, that greet visitors at the outskirts of every Indian city. Many countries in Europe have laws against dumping waste. Countries like Sweden have revolutionised waste processing, so much so that they are importing garbage to produce electricity. In India, Indore is a recent example of such an experiment. Policies need to be developed that addresses both the stock and the flow problem associated with waste management. Stock relates to the garbage that has accumulated over years of neglect. The flow deals with the incremental garbage creation that happens on a day-to-day basis. Intermittent stock clearing programs (Safai-Abhiyans) are not helpful in the long term unless it is accompanied by a strong policy that addresses generation of waste. Education, intelligent policies and strict implementation is the key to Swachh Bharat 2.0.
The third important issue is of managing the chaotic traffic on the roads. Our traffic laws and their implementation are probably one of the poorest in the world. It results in lots of accidents on the road (1.47 lakh people in 2017 died due to road accidents) and reduces traffic speed. Unruly drivers on the roads are a threat and, therefore, the government needs to revalidate the driving licenses and strictly monitor traffic rules implementation on the road. Making multiple mistakes should result in forfeiting of the driving licence. For that to happen, a lot of autonomous systems are to be put in place and infrastructure has to be created to detect ownership of vehicles instantly after a violation and automatically invoking penalties. There is a need to hire more traffic police force throughout the country. Ideally, one police personnel must be appointed for every 1000 vehicles. Only Kolkata meets this requirement with one police officer for every 421 vehicles. Comparable figures for Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai are 2134, 1773 and 1524 respectively. Traffic reforms are a need of the hour.
A related issue is of creating rapid transit or mass transport in the country. If we want to decongest the roads, we must create rapid transit-mass transport connectivity at a large scale. In the last 5 years, considerable effort has been made in launching mass transit systems across tier-1 and tier-2 cities. However, rapid transit connectivity plans to airports and railway stations are either ineffective (eg: Delhi) or non-existent (eg: Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai). These need to be expedited to enable true seamless multi-modal transport across the country. And such connectivity options need to be built-in into new metro plans of any city.
Another area of concern is our depleting forest resources. Economic development creates pressure on our forest resources. In the recent past, Industries are given permission to operate from key forest areas, and some of those decisions were highly controversial. The long term impact of allowing an industry in a forest area has probably not been calculated, even though in the short term they are known to help in economic development. It is important to strictly monitor emissions for industries currently operating in forest areas. As a developing country, we will be pushed to invest more in economic development, but as a country, we need to decide to only use non-productive lands for the industry. Also, it is important that additional areas are brought into reserved forest zones from protected zones, where currently all activities such as hunting and grazing are allowed.
It is natural for people of India to expect a lot from the government that has returned to power with a bigger mandate than in 2014. Focussing on these issues is likely to bring in a lot of benefits for the citizens over the next five years. To achieve results in an urgent and time-bound manner, there will be a need to reorganise the ministries. We believe these are the five key areas and the citizens should hold the next government responsible for not taking action on these issues.
(Co-authored by Harish Rao. He is an assistant professor of International Management Institute, Delhi.)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)