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I had contributed a series of suggestions about party agenda to the Aam Aadmi Party, and several people asked me about them. Instead of forwarding a whole series of emails to everyone who asks, I'm compiling them here. There is some editing for coherence, but all the points are identical and any other party wanting to adopt them is welcome to do so too.

Note: These suggestions are not comprehensive, and generally omit ideas likely to have occurred to a lot of people.

Mosquito control

Mosquito borne illnesses kill hundreds of thousands of people in India and force even more to spend money they sometimes don't have on healthcare and preventative measures like coils and creams as well as increase the country's burden on health. This is not counting the many who suffer from anxiety for health and discomfort. This will result in savings of hundreds of rupees per home for those who spend on their safer health.

Additionally, mosquitoes covering vast distances easily, individuals have no means to protect themselves long term other than continuous deterrent.

 

Aggressive mosquito control can change many lives for the better. AAP could have supporting research on environmentally friendly extermination of mosquitoes as well as immediate and aggressive measures to curb mosquito breeding all over the country on their agenda.

Also consider punishing people (Minor punishment or the real evil - red tape hoops to jump through) who are repeatedly found allowing mosquitoes to breed on their private property.

Aggressive stand on child marriage including action against adults involved

Protection to whistle blowers who alert the state about child marriages and state adoption of vulnerable children if they are deemed to be at risk in their homes. This will improve health of mothers and children as well as have an impact on child mortality, as underage mothers are a large factor in underweight and at risk infants. It will reduce the birth rate (a third of Indian women marry underage and a significant number bear kids too early too - not sure of exact numbers off the top of my head - can be found out). It will also safeguard women from potential domestic abuse from a very young girl being thrown among strangers with authority over her while she can't even legally operate her bank account independently or take many actions in her own interest. Needless to say, politicians and governments who witness child marriages and allow them to happen should face legal action.

Gay+transgender rights

Endorsing the rights of gays and transgenders and possibly rooting for a quota in govt jobs (or alternative strategies or motivations), since social stigmatization and discrimination is a problem with getting employment. Will also be good if you can have a couple of gay/transgender candidates.

Environment and support for environment friendly practices

Crackdown on polluting industries, reviving water bodies, making roads safe for cyclists, possibly removing taxes or offering special subsidies for poor people buying cycles. Bicycles are important. They offer instant mobility that can be maintained for very little cost, promote health and have the potential to empower women in particular. Support for organic farming, encouraging people to recycle their organic waste at home as vermiculture. Steps to reduce plastic waste as well as clean up of plastic trash accumulating in rivers, roads, gutters and so on. Free legal representation/advice/other govt support/resources for environmental activists on issues related with protection of environment.

Laws about plastic should also be revised and made less discriminatory against the small businesses and local shops. For example, when plastic is banned, as it often is (till ban forgotten, it resumes out of necessity) a small grocer has a problem selling loose sugar (for example) because clients don't want to risk taking it home in paper bags that will puncture easily. Branded sugar continues to sell in plastic packing. A fifty paise toffee comes with its own plastic, as do five rupee snacks packets. But a forty rupee investment in sugar has to be risked to fragile paper or purchase branded (more expensive)?

There is also a need to investigate abundant reports of reverse osmosis water selling businesses dumping the brine from the process into the water aquifier (in the name of "recharging the groundwater", which degrades the quality of water for all (and in turn make the purchase of drinking water necessary). This should be investigated and banned.

Endorsement of control of people to their own land

They should have a veto on "development" being imposed on them without needing to risk their safety at hands of brutal crackdowns aiming to crush them.

Local resources sold should be by consent and sharing revenue received towards the development of people impacted.

Fuel independence

Solar lighting is very hep (and promotes imported products), but:

  • Solar cooking and water heating can save a hell of a lot of fuel and can be done with scrap materials.
  • Solar water purifying can be a boon in India (rather than the environmentally damaging, but highly profitable reverse osmosis mafia).
  • Biogas fuels can transform India with such a large rural population with cattle and agriculture.
  • There needs to be a decentralization of power production and movement toward renewable energy, which works out cheaper in long run and sustainable. Also important because our losses in Transmission and Distribution are far more than our deficit. Reducing the distance electricity has to be transported will help save losses and automatically improve availability.

Rural Community Interdependence

Encouragement for poorer sections of society to contribute to and self-govern communal kitchens for cheaper food and saving labour for income generation. Community kitchens can use more heavy duty designs of solar cookers as well as bio-gas from animal/plant waste.

Possible exploration of bio gas to run vehicles and/or other machinery like pumps for water and such. In villages with lots of cow dung, even if some of the transport or agricultural machinery or pumps can be made independent, it will be self-sustainable.

Neo-Swadeshi

Another idea is encouragement for swadeshi and imports/FDI that will contribute to development. While complete swadeshi is near impossible as a lot of "essentials" are simply not made in India, there should be maximum stress on self-reliance and building capacity. For example FDI in computer manufacturing can prevent massive numbers of computer imports rather than crap like FDI in retail. Encourage people to know the source of what they buy and prefer the closest source as far as they can afford. Keeps money in local economy + is friendlier for environment as less fuel is spent on transport and preservation and storage.

Building a future

  • No clearance for new construction without solar panels to take of building lights and rainwater harvesting.
  • Every village in India to have its own rainwater harvesting tank strictly for drinking water for all its residents. Harvested rainwater needs no further treatment to be drinkable. The water from such tanks can NEVER be used for any commercial activity by law - including selling drinking water, factories or agriculture.
  • Water from lakes and ponds cannot be sold without consent of those dependent on it and sharing profits from its sale. Which means a village with a lot of water can allocate a portion of it to coca cola if they want and their share of the money can be used for the local school or whatever - this should be done my local voting/show of hands in Panchayat meeting or whatever.

Supporting the disabled

  • There used to be news for the deaf and dumb in sign language on DD. That should be started again. Daily. At least one weekly news slot for deaf-dumb should also be made mandatory for private news channels.
  • Government buildings should all be disabled accessible.
  • 50p, Rs1, Rs2, Rs5 coins should all *feel* different from each other and have properly raised inscriptions so that people with poor eye sight or blind don't have to examine barely visible numbers. Different shapes will be even better.
  • Govt supported care for special needs children with profound disabilities - or payment to hire help. Particularly for single parents living on their own. Single mothers with children with severe disabilities live near impossible lives with expenses as well as inability to take a job because of child.

On a long term, larger picture view, I think AAP should become India's Pirate Party as well by adopting their key agenda points like patent and copyright reform, free speech, direct democracy and so on.

The patent and copyright reform in particular is important for India because if knowledge is accessible to only a few who can afford it, then you will never be able to end inequality, because those who can't access that knowledge will simply never be able to compete. Also, reduced access to knowledge reduces speed of growth of knowledge available to mankind too, as the fewer people have access to it, the fewer people expanding it. Alternative means of funding and earning can help reduce restrictions on access as means of income.

An added benefit of becoming India's Pirate Party will become access and collaboration with Pirate Parties worldwide, access to policy ideas and research, and a common interest in channeling people's voices very transparently. There is no obligation, only access and sharing of resources and work done among people with similar goals. Pirate Parties are autonomous - Pirate Parties of other countries will have no power over you.

AAP has a lot in common with Pirate Parties. It will not be a big shift. New ideas will be added. Nothing already happening is incompatible, Pirate party agenda will only add some very useful ideas.

I guess I am the first individual to try to recruit a party :p.

PS: Feel free to let loose in the comments with your own ideas on how specific changes can get big results/improvements.

Transcript of Globalizing Inequality - a lecture by P. Sainath, sponsored by the Center for Social and Environmental Justice of Washington State University, Vancouver. Video by pdxjustice Media Productions.

Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjIcO_mqFKc

We did it weeping in our hearts for we too live in slums and we know our turn will come. The police constables giving protection to the demolition also live in slums and they did not take any pleasure in the actions they were forced to undertake by the government of Maharashtra. The people doing the demolitions were from the slums.

Incidentally. a United Nations habitat report of around late 2003 makes the assessment that by 2030, 25 years from now, fully one-third of humanity will live in urban slums. One third. The largest number of those are going to be in india and Africa.

None of this got covered. Even in covering the Tsunami, even in covering... this is the mindset of inequality. What happened? The poor have no rights. Even in the coverage of the Tsunami.

Whatever was done for the Tsunami victims was a result not of their rights, but of our generosity. You are going to get a new house. Not because you are a citizen of a decent society, not because you are entitled to one, which you are, under the directive principles of the Indian Constitution.

You're not going to get a house because of that. You're going to get a house because I am sorry that half your family was washed away in the Tsunami. It's not about your rights. It's about my generosity.

We've reduced people to that. We've reduced the poor to the objects of our generosity and our sympathy.

You build your own home, we'll demolish it. But we'll give you a new one. If we choose to. That is, if we feel sorry for you.

How agonized we are over how people die. How untroubled we are by how they live.

If you look at the Indian stock market. Coming back to that central indicator of how economies are doing, the Confedration of Indian Industry, which has the most optimistic take on such figures says that the total number of people having any kind of investment in the stock exchange constitute less than 1.15% - I repeat - one point one point percent of India's hundred and eighty million plus households.

1.15% of households. That's the most optimistic figure of those participating in any kind of investment in stock markets.

Yet, as I told... when the stock market collapsed, in May 2004, it collapsed for all of two days. The country's largest newspaper had a front page mimicing 9/11. "Ground Zero!" said the headline. 2,340 billion rupees lost. Notional money. Which came back two days later. Notionally. And it had an aircraft flying into the stock exchange building and the tail of the aircraft had the communist hammer and sickle.

Well, when the stock exchange collapsed for all of 48 hours, this was following what every political analyst across the spectrum says is India's second most historic election since independence - 1977 after the emergency and 2004.

The finance minister of the country abandoned the first day of parliament, did not attend the first day of the new historic parliament. He came rushing to Bombay to the stock market to dry the tears and hold the hands of destroyed millionaires of dalal street.

Two days later it was okay, but he stayed there three days to make sure that the market behaved, then he went home.

It was... ah... meanwhile, an election that was largely fought on the key two states on the issue of farmers suicides, it took another 149 suicides of farmers in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh before the Prime Minister condescended to visit the place.

But a twitch in the SENSEX had the finance minister jetting out to Mumbai. That is the difference of attention that you get if you are poor or if you are rich.

So it is all about our generosity and our feelings and whom we are feeling sorry for today, or who we feel sorry for most of the time. If you start applying these measures to the various forms of generosity that you see, you get a very different picture from what you get from the Tsunami coverage.

One of my favorite forms of generosity is the drive to wipe out malaria in the third world. Some of you may have read about this - the distribution of - the planned distribution of millions of bed nets to protect people against malaria. Have you ever read about this?

It's a plan involving the WHO, the World Bank and anyone else out to make a dollar.

Teh fun part of this malaria nets thing is, by 1980, India had more or less successfully contained malaria. It was almost wiped out by the early 1980s. In the 1990s we entered the brave new world of structural adjustment. Huge cuts in public services. Privatization of medical services in a large way. Soaring costs of medical attention. 21% of the Indian rural public no longer seeked medical attention for their ailments - that's the latest figure we have - because they simply cannot afford it.

Now after all these cuts, malaria resurfaces with a vengeance in India and in neighbouring countries. Having caused it to resurface in the first place, now generosity demands that we distribute bed nets - millions of bed nets to people who don't have beds.

Now, if you're living in a hut, you don't fix your bed net to a wall, because you don't sleep close to the wall, because that's where the crepy crawlies reside. The scorpions and other stuff. You try sleeping a little away from the wall.

I'm a rural reporter. I spend 270 days of every year for the last 12 years in the villages and self-preservation causes you to figure out these sort of things about where you sleep and where you don't sleep.

So first, we're getting these bed nets to people who don't have beds, at the cost of God knows how many million dollars. It's planned. Every time it's been attacked, they have withdrawn quietly, only to try and bring it back through the next government.

Now, if anyone with even half a brain knows that even if these nets... oh, by the way, you'll forgive the gendered language... it doesn't mind, it's theirs. It says that these bed nets will protect you against malaria because the nets are impregnated with anti-mosquito repellent. Whatever that means.

Now, anyone with half a brain knows that the malaria ... we'll exempt the experts, right? - we're talking about people. Anyone knows that the malaria mosquito is not most active when you sleep. It is most active at dawn and dusk when people are in the fields.

Of course, you could make a bold new fashion statement by walking around in your net, but it might cramp your style.

The whole thing is one unmitigated racket. This is the generosity of the generosity, you know... the charity that begins at home and stays there. It has nothing to do with the eradication of malaria in these countries.

Speaking of malaria, one of the astonishing things you can look at in the spectrum of inequality across the globe both in the terms of what's happening and how the media cover it, is what I call the globalization of communicable diseases.

Anyone in the audience remember this word - SARS? Rings a bell? Yeah, it does, doesn't it?

You remember how SARS was perceived as moving about like the black death, mowing down millions in its deadly wake? You know how many people actually died of SARS in India? Zero.

SARS sero.

You can look at the World Health Organization's website on the subject. Total number of cases identified in India? Three. But from the coverage you got from the media, you think that SARS... you know the subcontinent was in danger of its survival, right? The way it was covered.

3 cases from SARS. 0 deaths from sars. Why did SARS get so much attention? And by the way I'm not saying that SARS is not dangerous. You're going to get a hell of a lot of SARS by other names in the not too distant future, because we have globalized communicable diseases through these strategies of the last 10-15 years. Through the policies of the last 10-15 years.

However, it's important to look at why SARS or plague... you know in '94 we had a plague in India. Every aircraft going out of India was sprayed while going out, sprayed while being received at in the airports in the West. The plague killed 53 people. SARS worldwide - in its 100 days according to the World Health Organization's website, in the hundred days of its existence in the first round, across the planet, SARS killed 879 human beings.

That's about half the number of people who die of tuberculosis every day in India.

But TB never gets the same kind of coverage. Because it kills the wrong people. SARS germs, plague germs kill the beautiful people. So they get that kind of attention. In the media, in the medical systems, in the government's policies.

Plague germs, SARS germs, they are notorious for their non-observance of class distinctions. They board aircraft and fly club class to New York and that scares the pants off the world.

So they affect the wrong kinds of people. And I'm not just talking about poor countries. How many people are aware, that in August 2003... in OCTOBER 2003, the government of France, one of the best off countries in the world... The government of France acknowledged that in August 2003, 15,000 senior French citizens had died in a heat wave.

Now France has had heat waves before. Why did 15,000 people die in that heat wave and why is it that all those 15,000 citizens were elderly pensioners and retirees?

You know, the thing is, 879 people from SARS in 100 days. 15,000 people in rich France in the space of a month. And it didn't make the world headlines, because they were largely poor, elderly pensioners whose health benefits had been subjected to severe cuts in the preceeding two or three years. That's why they died.

If it had been 800 people of the flying classes, you got that kind of coverage. When 15,000 - and again, we're not talking about Bangladesh and India - we're talking about France. 15,000 senior citizens died, they didn't even make news. You can get on to the net and look at the figures and the discussion. They had a special parliamentary commission to go into it, I don't know what came out of it.

It may also be interesting to look at why China was the worst affected country by SARS. And that has a lot to do with what we're discussing today. In the 90s... in the 80s and 90s we entered this world of structural adjustment, cut some subsidies, cut some basic services, withdrawal of entitlements of poor people, and privatization of just about everything including soul and intellect.

The Chinese government closed tens of thousands of factories. Now if you are a citizen of China, you have access to health through your workplace, through your school, your factory or the local network that you were aligned with.

When tens of thousands of factories were closed down across China, millions of workers lost access to health. The chain of command, the alarm system, the signal system by which a new disease got reported and got checked at the labs and the tertiary level, that system completely collapsed.

Therefore when SARS hit, there was no plot on the Chinese government's part to conceal it. For most of the time, they really didn't know, because they had destroyed the system by which they could have known. They destroyed it to save a few million dollars, and lost a few billion dollars, because the deprivations you visit on the poor, tend to come back to you.

That was the year when the Chinese GDP took its worst hit in a decade and a half. Also leaving severe scars on the GDP of Singapore, Thailand, and a number of other countries, also hit by SARS.

The great software festival of China was cancelled. China lost billions of dollars though it saved million, in throwing workers out of work. Throwing workers out of their factories. That happened with China.

Did I mention France? In this country, I have no idea. I don't think there is a clear estimate, how many elderly American's cross the border into Mexico and Canada to buy drugs. I do know that your Federal government has responded to it by conducting police raids on pharmacies in Michigan.

Not by trying to provide cheaper drugs to poor people, but by conducting police raids on pharmacies in Michigan and the Mexican border. To prevent people from getting cheaper drugs.

In Africa, thanks to the new institutional arrangements and the trips and the WTO... under the trade related intellectual property rights and the WTO, India... an Indian company which produced so far the cheapest - the company's name is Cipla - which produced the cheapest anti-AIDS drug. Millions of Africans were denied the right to get this drug at dirt cheap prices, by the intervention of multinational corporations of the pharmaceutical sector.

After a huge outcry - after considerable outrage across the world, a compromise was reached, but the owner of the company will still tell you that he can provide it for much cheaper if it were not for the pressures working on him nationally and internationally.