By Rubanya Nanda
After much contemplation, I chose to write a letter to the next PM of India. As all eyes are on the ongoing general election of the largest democracy in the world, I have a humble request to make. I am speaking as a youth who is trying to figure out the political hubbub that is currently happening in the sub-continent.
Starting from the issue of pollution to the population, demonetization to digitalization, corruption to copious capital consumption, there is no calm to this chaos. But, in spite of all the visible odds, the country has obtained a place in being a fast-growing economy. Setting aside all the propaganda, politics and the noise of election, what choice does this election present to a person in her mid-twenties? By the virtue of this article, I try to figure out the issues that need to be solved by the Prime Minister to be.
As a woman who grew up in India, I have often been asked questions by my friends from abroad. One of the questions is: Do you feel safe while travelling or working in India? Honestly, I do not have a straightforward answer to this question. There is ignorance to the fact that there exists a certain amount of skepticism when we are talking about the safety of women. Even in supposedly safe cities of India, women still take abundant caution in venturing out in the night. I acknowledge the fact that some steps have been taken by the governments (Both Union and State) to ensure women’s safety, but a lot more aggressive steps need to be taken. This issue needs to be addressed urgently. Issues pertaining to women´s safety cannot be overlooked.
Being one of the fastest growing economies, India holds a lot of promises and potential. But the reality displays a grim picture. Rampant unemployment amongst the population (India’s rate of unemployment increased to 3.53 % in 2018) still exists. This indicates that the job market became more stringent in contemporary times. India, being the second most populous country (with 1.3 billion population in 2018) needs to adopt and alter certain policies. The country, having a considerably large English-speaking population, has the potential to harness a skilled workforce. There needs to be an attractive job generating environment that fosters a reduction in the rate of unemployment. Furthermore, there is an increase in migration of Indians to other countries. In the year 2017, around 17 million citizens migrated to other countries. Most of these people leave in search of better jobs, environment and safety. The issue of brain drain has been lingering into the mainstream politics of India since long but very few steps have been taken to combat it. This is also due to the fact that India fails to attract young researchers back home. There is a major divide between research universities abroad and the ones in India. Though the government launched some initiatives to make the Indian diaspora attractive for the smartest minds, it is still at a nascent level. The exposure to young researchers given at the University level falls far behind the international standards. Apart from that, there is a lacuna in the funding of government-based universities. Thus, the academic rigor also gets muddled as the researchers eventually lose interest in conducting cutting-edge research. The majority of the skilled population does not return after getting a higher education abroad. This is another important challenge that needs to be addressed by the next leader. The choice of staying abroad or going back is no longer a matter of personal determination. It is also influenced by the socio-political diaspora of the native country.
The Make in India-initiative by the current Prime Minister of India aimed prima facie to attract investments. It aimed to attract and inspire both multinational companies as well as domestic investors to manufacture in India. The initiative started off as an attractive venture but its ambitious goals still need to be achieved. India is currently being sued for breach of treaties by foreign investors. Adding to this fact, it should be noted that a growing population does not imply a skilled population per se. Thus, the jobs which are generated might need a highly skilled workforce and the job seekers are not adequately trained. This again aims to the defects in the lack of access to proper training.
The aspect of environmental pollution has been seldom on the agenda of the contesting parties. There is no ignoring the fact that India houses a majority of the world’s most polluted cities. So essentially, if one stays in the capital New Delhi, there is a high risk of suffering from many pollution-borne diseases. The scenario is alarming. The new government has to face this major challenge and chalk out an efficient solution. In the context of climate change, sustainable development needs to be given equal importance as poverty alleviation goals.
The electoral politics of India is as wide and complex as its diversity. There is an abundance of caste-based politics. The politicians use caste politics to gain the attention of both the privileged and the deprived population of the country. Thus, the deeper issues of cast, inequalities and power politics tend to creep into the psyche of the voter. There needs to be a change in the way of campaigning because caste politics undermines the ethos of a fair electoral process. It creates an environment which is influenced by propaganda and it might result into unwarranted results.
The choice of NOTA – This is a very interesting feature of the election process. NOTA essentially means ‘None of the Above’. It gives the option to a voter to not select any of the candidates. It enables him or her to exercise their franchise. I find this initiative very welcoming as it gives the indication to the political parties to nominate worthy candidates. After all, it should be a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” I believe that, exercising the NOTA is also a responsible act by the voter.
Being a democratic country is not an indication of a utopia. Even a democratic society has its inherent flaws and drawbacks. India is not an exception to it. But the country has tremendous potential to prosper and emerge as a superpower. I believe that the youth of this nation holds a major chunk of responsibility. In recent times, there have been instances of resistance against oppressive regimes, resilience in the times of adversities and unity in situations of crisis. This is a very strong indicator of a proactive society. In the end, I would like to state the cliché: “With great power comes great responsibility.” This responsibility not only lies in the hands of the political leaders, but it also lies in the hands of voters.
Rubanya Nanda is currently pursuing her Master of Laws in Investment Treaty Arbitration at Uppsala University, Sweden. She has been born and brought up in India. She has published several articles concerning maternity benefits, international arbitration and gender justice in journals of national repute. She is a staunch supporter of the intersectional feminist movement, and aims to contribute towards this movement through the power of pen. Apart from academics, she enjoys reading fiction, trying out new cuisines and travelling.
Illustration: Paulina Cederskär