If elections are a true test of political strength, then a party manifesto is the biggest weapon to overcome that trial.
As Rajasthan readies to go to polls after Diwali, social activists in the state are disappointed that child rights issues don’t find any mention in the poll manifestos of various political outfits.
Child rights activists are miffed that none of the political parties have cared to include anything for the welfare of the children in their manifestos in the past -- perhaps because children, they say, are not vote banks.
Vijay Goyal, coordinator of Rajasthan Bal Adhikar Sanrakshan Sanjha Abhiyan, says: “There is a need to protect children from 0-18 years of age. We had given a lot of suggestions for children welfare and their inclusion in the manifestos, but none of the parties ever paid any heed to our advice.”
Speaking on school education, Goyal says there is an acute shortage of teachers across schools and the buildings are also not in proper condition. “The Right to Education (RTE) Act has not been implemented properly. Even the anganwadis are in a state of ill health.”
Voicing the same concerns, Lata Singh, Rajasthan branch coordinator of FXB Suraksha, says several schemes have been announced by the successive governments for the welfare of women and children, but they have come to a naught because of lack of implementation. She demanded that political parties must include special schemes for the welfare of children and women.
Singh, however, expressed satisfaction over a few steps initiated by the government for women’s education. “But political parties need to announce vocational training for women and education for children in their manifesto.
Self-employment schemes for women should also be launched by the government through NGOs with strict monitoring by a committee that should include government officials, civil society members and others. Besides, shelter should be provided to the urban homeless,” says Singh.
Nisar Ahmad, coordinator of Budget Analysis Rajasthan Centre, suggests that girls’ education till Class 12 should be made free and an announcement in this regard should be included in manifestos this time.
No one to address corruption
In the game of one-upmanship, political leaders are always busy proving their opponents as corrupt. Radhakant Saxena, human rights activist and former inspector-general of police (prison), strongly believes that manifestos are nothing but a “vote-catching tool”.
“Why are political parties not bothered to address the burning issue of corruption in their manifestos? They are all busy casting aspersions on each other and proving that the other leader is more corrupt,” says Saxena, who also works for the criminal justice system.
He says people’s faith in criminal justice is waning and it is high time that the political parties decide not to field corrupt candidates in elections. Saxena says a provision for statutory bodies to fill vacant posts in all departments should also be included in the manifestos. Every manifesto should include the provision for stricter implementation of the anti-corruption law.
No safety for whistleblowers
The Right to Information (RTI) Act has come as a boon to honest citizens in seeking information and unearthing scams in the government sector. But people using the RTI route to expose corruption often come under attack.
“Insecurity has made inroads into the psyche of the RTI activists across the country. None of the political parties have tried to address issues concerning the security of the whistleblowers,” says Pathak, He adds that he, too, feels very insecure after receiving a number of threats.
“The government should ensure security and protection of whistleblowers. The issue should be addressed in the manifestos of the political parties.”
Echoing Pathak, another RTI activist Sanjay Sharma says: “Even the government officials do not treat RTI activists properly. They often rebuke them and threaten to withdraw the RTI applications.”
Manifesto promises not fulfilled
Most political parties fail to fulfil promises made in their manifesto. While former IGP Radhakant Saxena feels the SC could intervene here, Nisar Ahmad, coordinator of Budget Analysis Rajasthan Centre, says the Election Commission should question the political parties about unfulfilled promises.
He feels the EC should be approached to seek provisions in this direction. Ahmad goes a step further and says: “The consumer protection law could be invoked here. In a way, the political parties treat voters as consumers and make lucrative promises.” RTI activist Sanjay Sharma also suggests that political parties should be held responsible for not fulfilling their promises in the manifestos.
“Information about implementation of promises in manifestos could be sought through the RTI Act. But there has to be a system for fixing liability for those not fulfilling announcements.” He says parties should include a provision in the manifesto to fulfill announcements.