Reclaiming the Republic: Civil society group sets agenda for poll

-The Hindu

Invites political parties for discussion; Congress, RJD and NCP agree to participate so far

As political parties prepare their election manifestos and promises, a group of civil society leaders and concerned citizens on Tuesday released a document, Reclaiming the Republic, which they hope will shape the political agenda in the run up to the Lok Sabha poll.

The comprehensive list includes judicial and electoral reforms, repeal of laws which threaten personal liberties, enactment of a Media Freedom Bill, higher crop prices and loan waivers for farmers, universal pensions, expansion of the rural jobs scheme, and the rehaul of the public education and health systems among others. The group does not support universal basic income or cash transfer schemes.

Urgent reforms

The group has invited political parties to discuss the document on Friday. The Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, and Nationalist Congress Party have so far agreed to participate.

“We see the forthcoming Lok Sabha election as an opportunity to retrieve and, indeed, reclaim from manipulation and subversion, our legacy of the Republic. The situation today calls for urgent reforms in law, policies and institutions,” said the group, which is chaired by former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court A.P. Shah.

Other members include Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav, economists Prabhat Patnaik and Jayati Ghosh, activist and former bureaucrat Harsh Mander, Public Health Foundation of India president K. Srinath Reddy and former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi.

Charging the ruling NDA government with undermining the Constitution – “a liberal manifesto unlike any other” – and stifling dissent, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court A.P. Shah said that the group’s suggestions were aimed at protecting constitutional safeguards, and starting the conversation on the practical policies needed to fulfil the promise of India’s foundational document.

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The Hindu, 6 February, 2019,

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