‘Civil Society Forum’ is a coalition of several civil society organisations and movements as well as individuals. It wishes to strengthen the electoral and democratic process in our city and state to make it more participatory and reflective of the real wishes of the people.
The member organisations and individuals work in different sectors of urban and rural constituencies, engaging with diverse and marginalised communities in Karnataka and other states too. The Forum was actively involved in interacting with political parties, submitting manifestos during the Karnataka Assembly Elections in 2013 and 2018, the Lok Sabha Elections in 2014 and 2019 and the BBMP elections in 2015 too.
• All basic rights and entitlements, such as food, water, child care, education, health, employment and social security should be universalised.
• These should be delivered by the state machinery ensuring universal access, availability and affordability and not privatised. The budgets required for universalising these should be estimated realistically, earmarked and implemented through a law within time-frames, and not merely through schemes or sub-plans.
• Real issues: Parties should focus on the real issues of the people – economic issues, unemployment and social justice – leading to an egalitarian society. An Equal Opportunities Commission should be constituted.
• They should ensure public interest – in education, health, welfare, etc. – over crony capitalism.
• Mass-based employment opportunities should be created to boost local economies rather than high-end infrastructure such as expressways. All vacant sanctioned posts in government should be filled.
• Contractualisation of all regular posts in government needs to be stopped.
• Essential services – water supply, education, health, etc., should not to be privatised.
• Budgets need to be allocated for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals as per the State Action Plan on SDGs.
• Data-base for planning: Census data, disaggregated as per gender and classifications about all families should be collected at grassroots level.
• Evidence-based participatory planning on the model of Mission Antyodaya should be implemented in GPs/wards.
5-year ward vision plan: The GPs/Ward Committees should prepare a 5-year ward vision plan for “Economic development and social justice” based on the survey data and the gaps and deficits identified in human development, physical and social infrastructure and sustainability.
• SAKALA scheme should be effectively enforced. Officials bypassing SAKALA for delivery of services should be penalised.
• A Bill to provide “Responsible Governance”, including citizens’ Rights to Information, Right to Pre-legislative Consultation, Right to Time-bound Grievance Redressal, Right to Hearing and Right to Social Audit should be passed at the earliest.
• Community monitoring groups need to be set up for each of these entitlements; or where these already exist (such as vigilance committees for ration shops, Mahila Arogya Samitis and Arogya Raksha Samiti’s for hospitals, SDMCs in schools, Bala Vikas Samiti’s for anganawadis), they need to be activated and strengthened.
• The Lokayukta should be strengthened by giving it the powers that it has been demanding to initiate suo motu action against officials and elected representatives without having to seek permission from government.
Human rights institutions
• State Commissions for human rights, women, children, SC/STs, minorities, etc., should be headed by persons with judicial background, made independent of departments for their resources and their recommendations should be binding on the government.
• The State Security Commission and Police Complaints Authority should be made to function effectively as per the SC order.
• An expert committee should be set up with civil society representation to suggest amendments to the conformity legislation of the State under the 74th CA, on the lines of the one that was set up for the Panchayat Raj Act; and also to bring Equality before Law between the BBMP Act 2020, KMC (Amdt.) Act of 2011 and KM (Amdt.) Act of 2020 in the matter of citizens’ participation.
• Undertake complete devolution of 3Fs – funds, functions and functionaries – of all departments to urban local bodies in true spirit of the 74th Constitutional Amendment.
• An Urban Employment Guarantee Act should be passed on the lines of the MGNREGA.
• The Community Participation Law (Amendment brought to KMC Act in Jan 2011) needs to be amended to bring in genuine people’s participation through elected Area Sabha Representatives, who sit on ward committees.
• Ward committees have to be set up in all the municipal corporations of Karnataka and Area Sabhas notified in all municipal corporations, including Bengaluru. Not doing so is a gross violation of the provisions of the 74th CA and the KMC Amdt. Act 3 of 2011.
•All levels of government to show commitment to the principle of bottom-up planning and give time-bound effect to the vision document prepared by the Gram Sabhas/Area Sabhas.
• Take steps towards people’s participation in the budget preparation process as per the Karnataka Local Fund Authorities’ Fiscal Responsibility Act and strengthen people’s monitoring mechanisms.
Housing and slums
• ‘Right to the City’ of those who work to build and develop the city but themselves remain in squalid conditions should be recognised.
• A Right to Housing Act should be passed.
• Repeal of Section 17 of the Slum Development Act which provides land rights/title deeds to slum- dwellers on their land needs to be stopped immediately.
• The A.T. Ramaswamy Committee and V. Balasubramanian Task Force reports on land encroachments and the Lokayukta reports should be accepted and the guilty officials including senior officials and those who connived with them punished.
• Slums should be surveyed and notified within a time-frame and all slums rehabilitated/re- developed in situ, unless located on untenable land, such as storm-water drains, raja kaluves, lake-beds, etc.
• Create land bank and fulfil promise to upgrade/rehabilitate all slums in cities and provide registered land tenurial document to all slum-dwellers.
• Time limits should be prescribed for notification of slums, for their development and resettlement and rehabilitation where necessary.
• Retract circulars or GOs that are in contradiction to and violation of the Grama Swaraj and Panchayat Raj Act.
• Make available the finance and functionaries to Grama panchayats which came into existence in 2015.
• Devolve 20% untied funds directly to Grama Panchayats without any conditionalities for the development of the Grama Panchayat as mandated.
• All levels of government should be committed to the principle of bottom-up planning and ensure adherence to the timelines.
• There is a need to follow up on the conduct of Jamabhandi, its process and the timeline as mentioned in the Act. Failure to do so should result in strict action being taken against those who are responsible
• The Amendment to the Land Reforms Act removing restrictions on purchase of farm land by non- agriculturalists and raising the level of annual income for purchasing farm lands should be revoked.
•Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all crops should be based on the Swaminathan formula of 1.5 times the input cost, including for millets, pulses, fruits and vegetables, taking into consideration inputs of family labour and investment cost of land.
• A law should be passed fixing MSP, which should be declared the minimum selling price for all crops produced, including millets, pulses, oil seeds, fruits and vegetables, even by small and marginal farmers when they sell to intermediaries.
• Growing more millets, pulses and oil seeds should be incentivised.
• Small and marginal farmers should be helped to form cooperatives (Farmer-Producer Organisations) or companies to access credit from banks and freed from dependence on private money-lenders.
• The FPOs should be run by the small and marginal farmers themselves and not through agents.
• The FPOs/cooperatives/companies should invest jointly in machinery, collection centres, store- houses, transportation, and food processing centres, etc., to achieve efficiency and economies of scale.
• As far as possible, agricultural and pastoral lands should not be given to industries and infrastructure projects such as airports; or should be given only with consent of the owners/concerned grama sabhas/area sabhas.
Right to food
•The state government should universalise the PDS to reduce exclusion errors. Those who wish to avail themselves of the PDS should get self-selected as in the NREGA.
•As an interim measure, the numbers of people eligible for Priority Household cards should be enhanced as per the estimated figures of the population, as ordered by the Supreme Court
•Poverty criteria need to be based on multi-dimensional concepts of poverty, incorporating locational, social and occupational vulnerabilities.
•Everyone living in a slum, notified or non-notified, single women-headed households, households with a person with disabilities, unskilled labourers should be brought under the Priority Household category.
•The PDS should ensure nutritional security of all, as mandated by the National Nutrition Policy, and not merely cereal security. It has been announced that pulses and oil will also be given through the PDS. But the amounts are inadequate and irregular. 10 kg foodgrain, including millets, per person per month, 800 grams of oil per person month or 2.8 kgs per family; 1.5kg pulses per head per month or 5.25 kgs per month per family should be given.
•Millets, pulses and oil seeds should be procured by the government at Minimum Support Prices and distributed through the PDS.
•Technology should not become a hindrance to access one’s entitlement. A suitable alternative should be found to obviate denial of entitlements, through alternative means, such as smart cards.
Right to early childhood care & education
•ECCD to be universalised. Establish as many anganwadis as required to meet population norms of children under six years.
• Convert anganwadis into full-time day-care centres for children 0-6 years who are most vulnerable to malnourishment, to help all working women with young children.
• In order to improve the quality of Anganwadi and school children’s cooked mid-day meal scheme and to improve the nutritional level, the system of providing breakfast, eggs and fruits to fulfill the objectives of this scheme should be implemented.
• The onus for finding land and/of funds for anganwadis/day-care centres should not be on the communities but Governments.
• The services of anganwadi workers to be regularised as government employees. A second worker to be hired to cater only to zero to six-year-olds.
Right to health
•Implement the Vision Committee recommendation of enactment of Right to health implemented through a Universal Health System (Chapter 22).
• In providing Universal Health Care, the State should be the primary provider and regulator of all health care services, thereby fulfilling its Constitutional mandate of ensuring and protecting the health care rights and entitlements of all citizens.
• Care has to be taken to ensure that Karnataka’s spending on health goes above 2.5% of its GDP to upgrade existing infrastructure and human resources in government health care institutions if Universal Health Care is to be effectively provided.
Right to education
•Keeping in mind the pre-primary, primary, secondary and vocational education, life skills education etc., issue a comprehensive State Education Policy and allocate adequate percentage of the state budget for their implementation. Allocate 15% of the budget in the State budget to provide infrastructure, staff and facilities and use the sources appropriately.
• A fully state-funded neighbourhood common school by upgrading all government schools at GP level in case of rural area and ward level in case of semi-urban and urban area on par with Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) in order to ensure equitable quality education to all children in the state.
• Raise age of free and compulsory education to 16 (Class X) and gradually to 18 (Class XII). Correspondingly, the minimum age for work even in non-hazardous employment should be raised to 16 and gradually to 18.
• Secondary education from the age of 15 to 18 years should be compulsory in either of two streams, academic or vocational, depending upon the aptitude of the youngster.
• The protocols developed under Rule 6 of RTE Rules to ensure retention of all children, especially SC/STs, girls and minorities facing economic, social and cultural barriers, need to be followed and officials not following these should be held accountable for every never-enrolled / drop-out child and penalised.
•Policy for education of migrant children already developed with civil society participation to be approved and implemented.
• Enhanced conditional monthly scholarships, assistance to parents and lump-sum amounts (for instance, Rs. one lakh) at the end of compulsory education should be given to all vulnerable children, boys and girls, at the time of enrolment itself.
Children’s protection rights
•Licencing by designated authorities before conducting marriages should be made compulsory
to prevent child marriages. Licences should be issued only on production of genuine age
certificates of both boy and girl.
•Much of child labour in farms, hotels, bick-kilns, etc, is through pledging of children against loans, which is child bonded labour. Such children too need to be released and rehabilitated and their debts extinguished as per provisions of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act of 1976.
Adolescents & youth
•Adequate facilities for vocational training that combine formal education with skill and entrepreneurship training need to be established for adolescents between 15 to 18 years. For this, education should be made compulsory till the age of 18 years.
•Rural youth should be trained to set up ‘Rural Social Business Units’ (RSBU) to overcome the lack of employment opportunities in rural areas.
•There is a need to provide counselling and treatment to prevent adolescents from falling into drug addiction and to get rid of it if they accidentally fall into such addiction.
•Unpaid work done by women in the household, care of elderly, children, etc., should as far as possible be converted to paid work by providing senior citizens’ and children’s day-care centres, etc.
•Self-help groups of women should be given the tasks of running these centres and for providing cooked meals at Indira canteens, schools, anganwadis, hospitals, etc.
•The honorary work done by women as anganwadi workers, ASHAs, etc., should be regularised and converted to government jobs.
•Maternity benefit entitlements of Rs. 6,000 mandated under the National Food Security Act are not being given to all women, despite more than four years since the passage of the Act. This should be immediately rectified. It should not be limited to the first child.
•First priority to be given to prevent malnourishment and reduce maternal mortality among women.
• Mass-based employment programmes that strengthen local economies should be prioritised over high-end infrastructure such as expressways, bullet trains and airports.
• Right to employment and decent work should be universalised.
• An Urban Employment Guarantee Act on the lines of the MGNREGA to be enacted.
• Minimum wages need to be fixed as per the VII Pay Commission calculation as per 15th Indian Labour Conference to cover all basic needs of a worker and his family which works out to about Rs. 21,000 monthly.
• Only four categories of minimum wages should be prescribed for all employments rather than fixing separate wages for more than 70 scheduled employments: unskilled, semi-skilled, skilled and highly-skilled.
• A fresh State Act for Unorganised Workers’ Social Security should be passed and a Board set up to deal with all unorganised workers.
• There is a need for an integrated social protection system that defines a minimum social protection floor for all the unorganised.
• Tax-based social assistance especially for the elderly, widows, sexual minorities, people living with HIV&AIDS and physically and mentally challenged, needs to be universalised.
• A GO issued by the Labour Secretary, (GO No. E-off/LD5.7LET2019) dated 21.01.20 has mandated the Building & Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board (BOCWW Board) to provide extensive facilities including registration, employment diary, social rental housing, social security to construction workers.
• The GO allows grants to be made by the BOCWW Board to the municipality to construct construction workers’ pucca temporary housing with creche, health care and transport facilities in every ward/group of wards.
• The State should ensure that the “Policy on Education of Migrant Children” prepared in consultation with CSOs and accepted by the High Court is implemented to ensure the education of migrant school-age children either at the source of migration or destination.
• There is need for an Intra-State Migrant Workers’ Act to provide them the same facilities as envisaged for Inter-State migrants. Bonded Labour.
• A recent NHRC Advisory No. 2 to all state governments points out that the focus of the functionaries, as regards the prevalence of bonded labour, should be focused where bonded labour system has manifested itself in newer forms like in construction industry, shopping malls, call centres, massage parlour, etc. These newer forms of bonded labour are mostly in urban areas and need to be identified for providing relief to the bonded labourers as per the existing Act and scheme.
•Since there is no inspection system under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act and the Vigilance Committees are located only at the SDM level, a mechanism needs to be devised for identifying bonded labourers in huge urban areas such as BBMP.
• The accountability maybe in the form of monthly reports from each of the District Magistrates (DMs) including number of complaints of bonded labour, findings of the vigilance committees (VCs), number of victims rescued, issued official releases and initial rehabilitation assistance, number of complaints filed with the local police, etc.
Hawkers & vendors
• Municipal laws that make hawking and vending per se illegal need to be rescinded and fresh laws that conform to the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, need to be incorporated into the BBMP Act.
• Town vending committees, as per the National Hawkers and Vendors Act need to demarcate ‘hawking zones’ in all areas and near ‘natural markets’.
• Rehabilitation of manual scavengers has to be taken up in mission mode and decent alternative jobs provided to them along with compensation.
• Adequate number of jetting machines should be procured to replace manual scavengers for clearing clogged sewers.
Rights of SC/STs
• SC/STs without land, house, water, anganwadi, health, education and jobs need to be identified and schemes should reach those who are currently deprived of these.
• 5 acres of land should be given free to every landless SC/ST family.
• 40% of the SCSP and TSP funds should be reserved for the education of SC/STs 40% for their economic empowerment and only 20% for civil works.
• Strict action should be taken against those diverting the money for other purposes or allowing it to lapse.
Rights of the differently-abled
• A separate full-fledged Ministry for the differently-abled should be established with an exclusive Principal Secretary appointed.
• As per the Rights of Persons with Disability Act of 2016, constitute and strengthen the special district court, committees for implementation at state and district levels, committees for monitoring and evaluation, grievance redressal and coordination, committee for identifying posts and processing of registration.
• The Urban Development and RD&PR Departments to reserve not less than 5% of their budget as per the Rights of Persons with Disability Act of 2016 and as per the guidelines prepare an Action Plan on the health, education, livelihood and social needs of all categories of the differently-abled children/persons of all ages. The Action Plan to be effectively implemented within that year with special priority given to women and children.
• Strictly enforcing compliance to pollution control laws and regulations on industries and infrastructure projects.
•Facilitating genuine public consultations in the case of all large investments, especially industries and infrastructure projects.
Water and sanitation
• The poor need to be provided free metered and individual water connections. A ‘lifeline supply’ of free water for basic purposes such as drinking, cooking and bathing should be universal. Consumption beyond ‘lifeline supply’ should be charged on graded slab basis at rates fixed and collected by the state government.
• A moratorium on digging of bore wells should be announced. Use roads as collection paths and parks as storage and recharging units.
• Rainwater harvesting, water collection bunds and minor tank management is necessary in rural areas.
Solid waste management
• Efficient and eco-friendly solid waste management, including segregation at source, segregated collection, containerized storage, local processing of biodegradable waste, recycling of dry wastes and scientific disposal of rejects as spelt out in the Ministry of Forest & Environment Rules need to be implemented as a top priority.
• Municipal workers’ (Pourakarmikas) rights need to be guaranteed by effectively putting an end to the contract system and ensuring payment of minimum wages, observing occupational safety standards and providing social security.
• An accessible, affordable, frequent, reliable, and prioritised bus transport system is the need of the hour in cities and rural areas.
• Effective feeder systems to the bus transport system through non-motorised and para-transit vehicles needs to be ensured to provide last-mile connectivity.
• Private vehicles need to be dis-incentivised by imposing a congestion tax, higher taxes for second and third vehicles, graded parking fees, etc.
• Cheaper, existing surface rail options for intra-city transport should be explored rather than capital-intensive metro options.
Conclusion: Commitment towards strengthening democracy
Religious Freedoms: There is an atmosphere of fear and apprehension in the minds of the common man because of hate politics. The parties standing for election and coming to power should not indulge in hate politics, divisive sectarian and casteist agenda and polarisation.
They should ensure peace, communal harmony and justice to all sections of society. There is a need for governments to denounce and take immediate action to halt, curb and control the growth and power of vigilante groups. History should not be distorted to serve divisive agendas. Everyone’s right to religious freedom, to propagate and practice their faith, their right to eat food and wear clothes of their choice, their right to do business and carry on their livelihood should be equally available to all.
The government of the day should have no religious affiliation. Parties need to revive and strengthen the secular position of the state, halt all support to and engagement with religious entities. Minorities should not be treated as second class citizens. Attacks on minorities should be curbed by putting a proper law into place. Anti-conversion law which infringes on an individual’s right to religious freedom, should be unequivocally scrapped; rather, an anti-lynching law should be enacted. Taking the example of the Jharkand Government, which has protected right to faith through a specific law under which one can seek protection to practice and preach as guaranteed in the Constitution, the party that comes to power must do the same.
Constitutional values in administration: Parties need to uphold Constitutional ideals of inclusiveness, pluralism, federalism, rule of law when in power. The Constitution and its values should be binding and supreme for all organs of the state legislature, executive, police, the investigative agencies, not only in their words but also actions. Autonomy of all independent institutions should be ensured without any interference from politicians. Law should be universal and common for all people of India irrespective of their party affiliation, caste and community. Dalits, backward classes and minorities should be given their due as laid down in the Constitution and, more than that, they should be protected from attacks on their lives, livelihoods, liberty and dignity.
Inner party democracy: If the country’s image of a genuine democracy has to be retained, we first of all demand commitment from all political parties to strengthen inner party democracy by adhering to the following practices voluntarily:
• Give at least 33% representation to women and representation as per their population for people from marginalised sections and minorities in the list of contesting candidates.
• Not engage in any kind of influencing of voters by way of kind, cash, favours or threats.
• Not give tickets to persons with serious criminal charges against them.
• Ensure that tickets are given only to persons with a clean record of service.
• Support a provision for the Election Commission to forward the assets and liabilities information declared by the candidates to IT department and Enforcement Directorate for time-bound action against illegal possession of assets.
• Voluntarily disclose all sources and amounts of funds received, including from electoral bonds.
•Take immediate action under party rules to denounce, discipline and remove from party positions or candidature those calling for genocide and violence, those indulging in hate speech and communally divisive speech, taking law into their own hands or violating the Model Code of Conduct.
• Preferably conduct hall meetings, televised interactions, social media campaigns to interact with voters and respond to their concerns rather than street rallies, posters, buntings, etc. which convey nothing about the candidate’s worth.
• Not use religious places for campaigns or take support of religious leaders to gain support; or give calls to vote on communal lines.
• Ensure that all promises made to the citizens during the course of the elections and as mentioned in the manifesto are legal and constitutionally valid.
• Provide data on how every promise made in the Party Manifesto will be financed in the budget.
• Explain the annual growth in their wealth to a committee established for the purpose so that elected representatives do not accumulate wealth by using their office and status.
• Above all, abide by Constitutional values and rule of law. We, as members of civil society organisations, wish to be the catalysts for change and are proposing the above recommendations and proposals because we think it is time for us to speak and partner the rulers and educate voters. We cannot allow society to move ahead in the path of corruption, injustice, communalism and discrimination. We need to cherish, follow and uphold the ideals in the Constitution and swear by its tenets. We hereby request all political parties longing to come to power to consider the above-mentioned recommendations and add them in their manifestos.
[Content courtesy Civil Society Forum with minimal edits]