Eminent Citizen’s Panel Proposes People’s Policy for Elections
A group of eminent citizens have released a document under the Chairmanship of Justice AP Shah on Tuesday, 5 February, titled, ‘Reclaiming the Republic.’
A group of eminent citizens have released a document under the Chairmanship of Justice AP Shah on Tuesday, 5 February, titled, ‘Reclaiming the Republic.’(Photo: PTI)

Eminent Citizen’s Panel Proposes People’s Policy for Elections

The battle lines are getting drawn with the general elections just around the corner. However, the threat to India’s democratic polity still looms large amidst violation of the rule of law, apprehensions about judicial independence and attacks on the autonomy of institutions.

In order to safeguard the democratic institutions and reclaim the republic from manipulation and subversion, a group of eminent citizens drawn from different fields have released a document under the Chairmanship of Justice AP Shah on Tuesday, 5 February, titled, Reclaiming the Republic.

Justice AP Shah along with Prashant Bhushan, Harsh Mander, Prabhat Patnaik, Anjali Bhardwaj, Syeda Hameed and Yogendra Yadav released the document.

The document prepared puts forth policy and legislative asks to protect and strengthen the Constitutional safeguards for India’s democratic polity.

The range of reforms proposed cover a range of issues like public accountability and participation, judicial reforms, electoral reforms, media reforms, among others.

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Summing up the manifesto of the document, National President of Swaraj India Yogendra Yadav who is part of the panel said, “This document is simply an attempt to say what is it that the country needs this election and after the elections. This document is an effort to put together at least an agenda of all such asks that an Indian must have of political parties.”

The real themes, proposals that ought to be discussed during elections are not discussed. Concrete plans that ought to be ready before a government comes to power, are never ready. Those are the things that we are working on. For us the important thing is that movements and those who are struggling on those issues, they must come together and have one positive concrete document that articulates all that they want to be articulated.
Yogendra Yadav, National President, Swaraj India 

The panel placed specific reforms for recovery and presented actionable programmes, so that these could shape the agenda for the forthcoming elections.

Doing away with draconian laws used to curtail personal liberties, reforms to repair the damage done to the anti-corruption institutions, putting in place a functional law and institutions to deal with public grievances, electoral reforms aimed curbing money power in elections, media reforms to make it freer, are some some of the noteworthy agenda proposed by the panel.

Reforms Necessary to Save the Idea of Democratic India: Harsh Mander

Human Rights Activist and a member of the panel Harsh Mander said, even though they have proposed a wide range of reforms, it is feasible and necessary to save the idea of a democratic India.

“Life of the minority communities is getting harder. There isn’t any new imagination of the social construct in this country. I think the crisis will only deepen. The anti-democratic law, defamation law, sedition, these need to go.”
Harsh Mander, Human Rights Activist

Pointing at India’s tax to GDP ratio of 10-15 percent, which is one of the lowest, Harsh said, it is important to raise more taxes and have a resolve that the poor has to be assisted.

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Social Activist Anjali Bhardwaj said, all the reforms there were necessary and were never brought about in the last 70 years, and the rollback of entitlements in recent times, has been brought together in the form of a document.

“We have focused on the need concurrent measures to look into anti-corruption grievance redress and participation. The asks have been very clearly laid out in document.”
Anjali Bhardwaj, Social Activist

Talking about the Lokpal law and the government’s failure in appointing a Lokpal in a transparent manner, she said, the spirit of the law has been violated.

A very important ask in the document is the need to enact grievance redress legislation which empowers people to hold the government accountable when there is a violation of their rights and entitlements, she added.

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