• Shweta Bhagwat

For Political Aabas' - Mandate from future Indian citizens for Election 2019

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

* Aaba is a fond way to address grandpa in Marathi

Political Aaba(s) and the super connected and all knowing voting citizens of today do hear me out!!!

Its that time again.. Election 2019 is at the door .. Speech writers and their creativity with words and imagining future projects and programs that will capture the fantasy of the masses, is at its peak. Surprisingly and unfortunately words and tall promises still do play a major role in the election campaigns and to an extent have a bearing on the outcome as well. The scripts are usually created to address and appeal to audience of different tastes. Topics such as caste, religion or regionalism, or basic issues of water, energy, connectivity and secure livelihoods, or topical issues like corruption or non-issues like being nationalist or not are brought to fore-front. However, one particular segment that is always consistently missed by political Aabas, are the future citizens of the Nation. I am sure ,many of you too, would not think that an election mandate should spell out something for the times that your babies or toddlers would grow up. Mind you, this omission has consequences. After all, most of the smart country initiatives are being developed by literally borrowing from our kids.

Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old girl from Sweden is a climate activist. She heard of climate change when she was 8 and took efforts to understand the gravity of the situation. However, what stumped her was the inaction and apathy of the current generation to address the looming threat to well-being and existence of their and future generations. She protested in front of the Swedish Parliament every Friday seeking leaders for immediate climate action and to stop global warming. In a short time, this protest that Greta started, has garnered support worldwide and now climate strikes or "Friday for Future" has become a worldwide movement with more than 1.5 million students participating. In India too, kids joined in the movement, demanding concrete action. They seek equal priority to climate change and environmental degradation from the government as other issues like employment, housing and others. In the light of world being increasingly connected, such movements are going to gather further momentum. The kids today are much more aware of the consequences of our action or inaction on the welfare of their generations. Also, they are much more vocal about their rights. They are rightly worried. Look at the mix that we have to offer them - One of the most populous nation in the world, one the most water stressed region in the world, one of the leading carbon emitter, with one third of soils degraded already and to top it all a country with high corruption.

Why the insistence on Election mandate?

Its time for the election mandates to start a pocket money section for the kids.

As of now the programs mentioned in an election mandate, however poorly economically conceived they may be, still have a high probability of seeing light of the day and thus huge resources being pumped into them. That’s why, I sincerely wish that election mandates have a section dedicated to the future citizens of the country. What this means is, the mandates spell out some substantial investments across critical sectors in making them ready for future needs. We have to start aggressively investing in creating green infrastructure projects like other countries have been doing for ages now. For example, up until 2015 (that’s 68 years since independence) only about 30% of the sewage released from cities and urban centres in India reached a treatment plant. Rest all was dumped in the water bodies. Also of the functional plants that we have most of them have outdated technology. This is where an immediate shift to cleaner and greener infrastructure is needed. Take the example of our very own Eastern Kolkata Wetlands providing highly subsidized organic sewage management services to the city. The Ganga Action plan has reportedly adopted this model for four other towns. However, this kind of a system design that uses ecological process to provide sewage treatment service and caters to flood protection needs of a city as well, needs to be scaled up much more than a few models. Such designs need to be central theme for the infrastructure development of the country. This is just one example.

Kids today are much more aware and in the next election when environmental crisis that we face today further intensifies, the younger generation is going to seek answers. I think, we could face a inter-generational stand off on this. So parents of the kids today, when you go to vote, have a broader objective in front. Demand and seek a pie for your kids future !!!

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