Policy vacuum on critical fronts

Public policy is a set of deliverables which emanate from a political vision of a ruling party in a democracy. Most political parties sell the public a manifesto which lists what they will do in areas of health, education, infrastructure creation etc., all of which enhance human growth and development. In India, people hardly read manifestoes; much less analyse it. That huge chunks of voters are illiterate or uninformed makes its easier for the elected to run governments without policies. The Congress Party which ruled India for over six decades and knew exactly in what abysmal state of poverty millions of Indians exist, never articulated a poverty alleviation policy that was robust enough to pull them out of the economic dungeon. It was only after organizations like the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), headquartered in Rome but with offices in Delhi, began to target some of the poorest districts of India with their poverty alleviation programmes that the poor in some districts of Meghalaya for instance were able to redeem the land they had mortgaged to rich land-owners.

Similarly, India was without any policy on how to manage migrant workers in case of an emergency. Post the Covid19-induced lockdown on March 25 this year over 43 crore migrant workers, walked or cycled several hundred kilometers with some dying on the way. This clearly is a massive policy failure on the part of the central and state governments. But that’s provided there was a policy in the first place. It was because of the absence of a policy on migrant workers that the blip failed to show up on the Government’s radar. India does not have a policy on how to deal with hunger should a Bengal type of famine recur and that’s a likelihood with swarms of locusts attacking crops in the north Indian states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi etc. Noted environmentalist Sunita Narain attributes the rise of the locust population to climate change. Locusts are known to destroy hundreds of acres of standing crops. Now with Covid 19 staring at us the problem is exacerbated. It is important for the country to enunciate a policy on dealing with hunger and starvation. Climate change is a great game changer but all for the worse. Governments are elected to govern; not just to occupy seats of power indefinitely. It’s time for the voting public in India and in our own state of Meghalaya to start informing themselves of the importance of public policies because without a road-map no government will be able to deliver. The voters should demand incisive and coherent policies and budget allocations for these policies that are practical and have definite deliverables that are also measurable.

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