Parliamentary Elections: Citizen Charter of Indian Catholic Forum

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(Abridged version)

Chhotey Bhai Noronha

The Indian Catholic Forum has prepared a Citizens’ Charter- 2019 on pertinent issues to serve as a guideline to the political parties and their leaders on the important national issues. The Charter is in consonance with the preamble of the  Constitution of India –  Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic, its core values of Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, and the Directive Principles laid down in Articles 36 -51 of  Constitution.

AYODHYA Issue:

The charter suggests that the three member committee of Mediators directed by the Supreme Court should study the ways adopted to resolve amicably the disputed religious sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem where three major religions were in conflict for centuries.

KASHMIR Issue:

It is imperative that confidence building measures, including local self government be restored.

PAKISTAN Issue:

Confidence building measures through trade, cultural and sporting exchanges can ease the tension between the two countries.

DEFENCE PROCUREMENTS:

A Joint Parliamentary Committee including members from the opposition parties be constituted beforehand, for defence procurements;. This would help to ensure greater transparency in mega purchases.

DEFENCE PREPAREDNESS:

A major switch over to tactical, technological and strategic warfare was the need of hour.

DEFENCE PRODUCTION:

The country has several defence units. For example Kanpur alone has defence production and related units which included Ordnance Equipment Factory, Small Arms Factory, Ordnance Parachute Factory, Ordnance Factory Cawnpore, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Defence Materials Stores Research Development Establishment and Central Ordnance Depot. This large human and infrastructure resource must be re-oriented and galvanised to respond to latest technology and production methods, thereby also reducing our heavy dependence on foreign purchases.

RURAL DISTRESS:

There is need of a second white and green revolution, not just in production, but in storage, transportation and processing of food; especially for highly perishable fruits and vegetables, 40% of which are either wasted or destroyed.

URBAN CHAOS:

There is need of an effective urban planning and control Pollution, chaotic traffic and burgeoning slums. There is just no urban planning. The 74th Amendment to the Constitution passed by parliament in 1992 aimed at strengthening local self-government, the swa-raj (self-rule) that Gandhiji had envisaged. This power was to devolve on urban municipal bodies, just as the 73rd Amendment gave Panchayatiraj to the villages. It is covered under Articles 243P-243ZG and Schedule 12 of the Constitution. Despite the passage of 27 years most States have not implemented the 74th Amendment, because they want to retain control and funds of the urban bodies. This Amendment is crucial to the planned development of urban areas.

SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT:

The scientific establishment should be pushed into developing biodegradable packing materials and an effective check should be imposed upon non degradable disposable materials.

POPULATION CONTROL:

The Government must find innovative incentives and disincentives to control the population by taking community leaders in confidence..

UNIFORM CIVIL CODE

 An exhaustive survey conducted by the Law Commission, headed by Former Justice B.S. Chauhan concluded that the concept of Uniform Civil Code was neither feasible, nor desirable amidst the diversities of the country.

SPECIAL PROVISIONS:

Since the framers of the Constitution had made special provisions for some States in Articles 370, 371-371(I) and special provisions for protection of the Scheduled Tribes and their lands in Articles 244, 244A and the Fifth Schedule. Better, to leave these special provisions untouched.

RESERVATIONS:

A creamy layer system should be introduced. The dependents of those who have already benefited by reservations those whose family income exceeds Rupees Five Lakhs per annum should be excluded from the purview of reservation. On the other hand, Dalit Christians and Muslims who have been deprived of these benefits because of the Presidential Order of 1950, should be included.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM:

Justice delayed, justice denied. As such quick decisions should be made by the law courts. Several systemic changes are called for. The increasingly huge backlog of cases must be addressed on a war footing. A major cause of social unrest is the denial or delay of justice. Starting from the top, the Supreme Court should have Benches in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, to hear criminal and economic appeals. Only constitutional matters should be reserved for Delhi. Similarly more High Court Benches should be established in large States like U.P. Long vacations and a 5 day week dating back to colonial times should be abolished. The retirement age of Supreme Court and High Court judges should be increased by 5 years, so that the country is not deprived of their legal acumen. At the lower level Honorary Magistrates from the public, with a fixed tenure of 3 to 7 years may be appointed to try petty cases and thereby reduce the burden on the existing system.

BUREAUCRACY:

Principles of more governance and less government should be adopted. It is high time to think out of the box, and transfer major decision making and delivery systems to the people themselves. There is also need of lateral entry of specialists into the system.

PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS:

Autonomy of the public institutions, like the Defence, the CBI, RBI, ED and even the Central Statistics Organization must be maintained. The autonomy of such institutions should not be compromised in any way.

UNEMPLOYMENT:

It is now commonly accepted that unemployment levels are the highest in several years. This in itself is indicative of an economic slowdown. Priority should be given to job creation through a strong economic stimulus.

A HUMBLE APPEAL:

Since these are some burning issues that affect the lives of people the political prties and their leaders should keep them on priority in their respective agenda.

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