Tuesday, January 8, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Voters should draft their own manifestos 

With the announcement of elections in Punjab, another round of political circus has begun. It is a pathetic circus. Here the public plays the clown, the animal, the trapeze artiste and the dancer. And the spectator is also the public. Only ringmasters and masters of the circus are a different set of persons, being a handful of politicians and power-brokers.

The party think-tanks are busy cooking, garnishing and flavouring the manifestos, which soon will be served to the media. The common voter, however, will hardly get to even see these. If he tries to get a party’s manifesto from its local office, he is likely to be told that copies are available in Chandigarh or that all copies have been consumed.

I am not itching to relish the “originality” of the political visions spelled out in various manifestos. In fact, even a cursory comparison of these will show that there is hardly any significant and concrete difference between them. If at all there is any difference, it is the kind advertised on TV for a certain brand of sauce: “It’s different,” the advertisement says, but you are not told how.

I am, instead, baffled by the seriousness with which many persons, especially the unions and other pressure groups, treat these public declarations of political intent. They strive hard to get their demands included in them. Obviously, they persuade themselves, just once more, that a manifesto is a sacred document and that the inclusion of any demand in it would signify the party’s commitment to its fulfillment.


Anyone who has seen the functioning of political parties in recent years will promptly recognise the sheer naivety of these expectations. Manifestos are no longer the party statements of political intent; they no longer set the agenda. They are merely among the ceremonial motions through which parties in the largest democracy of the world dutifully but faithlessly go. They are, at best, like chewing gum handed to the bright and talkative children to keep their mouths shut.

Is it not, therefore, high time that the voters should stop waiting for parties to come out with their manifestos? Shouldn’t they, instead, draft their own manifestos and put them before the parties? Individually and in groups, we can work out the expectations we have from our political system. We can write them on posters and banners, display them outside our houses, workplaces and elsewhere in the localities, and let everyone read them. This will also give the needed message to the parties that the voters too can become activists in enlightened common interest.

I am sure that some of the common demands would be: guaranteed and appropriate work, or adequate unemployment allowance for everyone; the right to information as a fundamental right; free medical aid for all; subsidised education for all; life-term for the corrupt; and constitutional amendment to make party manifestos judicially enforceable.

The Press for its part can invite the readers to write in their short five-point or 10-point manifestos and publish them. I hope this is not asking too much from our free Press committed to democracy.

RAJESH K. SHARMA, Hoshiarpur

Water therapy

This refers to the letter Water therapy to avert war by S.P. Malhotra (Dec 29). Pakistan is not only indulging in cross border terrorism but also has a hidden long term agenda of bleeding India through a proxy war, upsetting certain parts demographically and disintegrating it in the years to come. The attack on Parliament has at last woken us up. We are searching options short of war to rein in Pakistan. Steps so far taken are double edged and are unlikely to force Pakistan to abandon its long-term intention of enmity.

Mr Malhotra, a retired Chief Engineer, Irrigation, Haryana, has suggested the construction of a tunnel in Himachal Pradesh to divert the Chenab waters into the Ravi. He is no novice to suggest something which is not practicable. It is time we think of measures having long-term effect on Pakistan so that it is compelled to abandon its policy of hostility.

BRIG R. N. SHARMA (retd), Palampur

‘Year of No Child’

Regarding the article “Population explosion: numbers that numb” by P.P.S. Gill, may I suggest that India should introduce “the Year of No Child” every third year. It would need strong family planning measures, propaganda and incentives for two years to postpone child birth. The third year would be the voluntary “Year of No Child” during which no (or few) children would be born. It would reduce population increase by several million every third year.

B. S. AHLOOWALIA, Vienna, Austria

The link road

My village is located on a link road which is bifurcated from the Kiratpur Sahib-Bilaspur national highway. The 16-km link road from Kiratpur Sahib is under construction and should be completed at the earliest to save people from inconvenience.




Road safety week

A road safety week is observed every year in January. It should be observed throughout the nation not only once in a year but at least four times a year till road safety becomes part of priorities in our daily life.

It should not be restricted to cities only but extended to highways as well. In this part of the year the most dangerous vehicles I found during my recent journey to Chandigarh are overloaded tractor-trailers with sugarcane, trucks carrying dry fodder and milkmen carrying milk cans on motorcycles.

One thing common to all these is extension of the loaded material up to several feet beyond the actual margins to both sides of the vehicle, which in turn poses accident threat to others. These occupy major part of the motorable road thus leaving very little space for oncoming vehicles and the traffic behind them.

The road safety week should include education of such drivers and loading of material should not be permitted beyond the regular horizontal margins of the vehicle and vertical loading too should be restricted to certain permitted height for each vehicle.

Another accident hazard is the improper use of right turning indicator lamp. It is also used by most of the drivers as “you can overtake’ indication, which sometimes could be deceiving if the person in front actually means “I’m turning right” but the vehicle following takes it as a “you can overtake” indication.

Vehicle manufacturers should provide “Wait” and “Pass” indicators to all vehicles as I saw at the back of some buses, but these are seldom used by drivers.

Let’s hope that the sense of “safety first” prevails in the minds of all road users and then we’ll have meaningful traffic safety weeks.



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