What they want on May 25

As the city gears up to crowd polling stations on the big day, its residents, divided by faith, and position on the social ladder, come together for a singular purpose: choose one who shall will their expectations, whether in terms of better opportunities in their lives or simply, the most basic necessities.
Image used for representational purpose.
Image used for representational purpose.

One of the largest democratic exercises globally, the Indian parliamentary polls are much more than the show of strength that it is often made out to be. Beyond the glitz and glamour of roadshows, fiery proclamations in election rallies, and a flurry of political events cascading before citizens, elections are deeply ingrained in the social fabric of the nation. The population, its rich tapestry of cultures, languages, and ideologies, is reflected in its expectations surrounding the polls, multifaceted and dynamic.

The Lok Sabha, the House of the People, represents the collective aspirations, hopes, and demands of over a billion citizens, making election to the House a crucial juncture in the nation’s democratic journey. From socioeconomic development to transparent governance, from security to environmental sustainability, the expectations of the electorate are diverse and hold a mirror to temperament of the country and the pressing issues facing it.

In this installment of the Cityscape, we voice the demands of the people from their lawmakers; the policies they want framed, and the opportunities they envisage. 

Medicos’ maladies

Among the medical community, doctors expect a law to address incidents of violence against doctors and medical establishments be enacted by the upcoming government.  

 “A Central Act against violence on doctors and medical establishments must be enacted. Also, hospitals and healthcare institutions should be declared safe zones. Medical profession should be exempted from ambit of Consumer Protection Act (CPA) like the legal profession. Recently on May 14, 2024, a Supreme Court bench of Justice Bela Trivedi and Justice Pankaj Mithal adjudicated that lawyers are outside the ambit of CPA. We urge that the issue of medical professionals is referred to the CJI (Chief Justice of India) to revisit the VP Shanta vs IMA by which doctors came under the CPA, 1986 section 2(o),” said Girish Tyagi, President of Delhi Medical Association (DMA).

 “GDP on health should be hiked to provide better healthcare in terms of manpower, material and machines. The issue of foreign medical graduates should be sympathetically tackled so that they are not unnecessarily harassed in terms of internship, stipend, registration, and job opportunities. Indian Medical Services cadre should be revamped on lines of other civil services like the IAS, IPS, or IRS. Hospitals and clinics with less than 50 beds should be exempted from the Clinical Establishment Act 2010 and medical professionals should be protected from criminal prosecution,” the DMA chief listed.

 Meanwhile, nurses associations recounted a host of issues they would want the new government to address.

The All India Government Nurses Federation (AIGNF) said restoration of the Florence Nightingale Award, revision of stipend given to nursing interns, filling of senior posts in the cadre, and cutting outsourcing of the professionals are among their top demands.

“51 awards were conferred for outstanding performance by nursing personnel employed in various services of Centre and State. Nurses are the only professional body where all the professionals work at ground level in face of grave health crises, epidemic, pandemic, or natural calamities; the list goes on. Although hailed as the backbone of the health system, its only hollow praise as the voices of India’s nearly 17 lakh nurses go unheard,” said Anita Panwar, President, AIGNF.

 “It is sad that various sanctioned senior posts, Chief Nursing Officer, Nursing Superintendent, senior nursing staff, are lying vacant in Central government hospitals for many, many years. We tried to highlight the issue; it went to waste,” AIGNF members said.

 “The same situation persists in all nursing institutes. Maximum senior posts are vacant. The educators are occupying interims posts. If promoted, then only their designation will change; the financial implication is nil, or very low,” Panwar said.

The nursing profession comes under essential services and such service cannot be outsourced; the government cannot play with the lives of serious patients and the public in the name budget cuts, the nurses’ body asserted.

Recruitment of nurses through outsourcing is “disastrous for quality of nursing care” as it is a highly technical profession, protecting health, and often lives of patients; it is very difficult to certify the “authenticity” of the outsourcing agency, nurses pointed out.

Environment calls

From the former secretary of the ministry of water resources, distinguished academics and environmental activists, to citizens’ bodies like Warrior Moms, Natural Heritage First, Friends of River Yamuna (Yamuna Nadi Mitra Mandli), Social Action for Forest & Environment and the New Delhi Nature Society, on behalf of River Yamuna have made an appeal to political parties to address the threats impacting the River’s health.

“Creation of decentralized STPs (sewage treatment plants), and involving Urban Local Bodies and citizens in their operations and monitoring can improve the functioning of STPs and waste water management. STPs should be made accountable, transparent and participatory with clearly defined norms. There is an urgent need for efficient treatment of waste water and policy to encourage use of treated water in irrigation, non-potable, industrial and construction activities. All the STPs in the Yamuna basin must be given to private companies to operate and their payment should be on the basis of meeting standard output. Thereafter, treated water should be used for agriculture purposes so that more fresh water is released into the River,” read the appeal before the political parties.

Bhim Singh Rawat, Associate Coordinator, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) said, “Free flowing Yamuna, clean air and efficient public transport system, cycling tracks and planned, sustainable development are some major environmental issues that I will vote for in this election.”

What Educationists say

Ameeta Wattal, chairperson and executive director of DLF Foundation schools said, “Quality education has to be at the centre of national interest; despite the NEP, it’s yet to be realised; Secondly, there should be emphasis on teacher training, which is completely lacking, and lastly government should come down heavily on the culture of coaching centres, which bars children from holistic learning. These are the three major concerns I would vote on as an educationist.”

Meanwhile Dhananjay, President of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) said, “As a student, my primary concern is inclusive education, which under the National Education Policy (NEP) is being targeted. Education, as we see, is being sold to private players and its quality is deteriorating. Higher education institutions are suffering from rampant fund cuts, seat cuts and several other infrastructural issues.”

He further added, “The revocation of institutional safeguards in higher education such as MANF, increase in the number of students’ suicide, declining gender ratio are all part of this attack on education under the current regime. Ensuring social justice, gender justice, implementation of Rohith Act and our slogan ‘siksha pe jo kharcha ho, budget ka daswa hissa ho (one-tenth of the budget should be spent on education)’ needs to be realised. These are some of the decisive factors for me in this election.”

First time voter, BA first year student at Jamia Millia Islamia University, Shifat says, “The first thing I wish to vote for is regularised colonies in Delhi’s reserved assemblies. I am a resident of Trilokpuri where residents live under fear of having to vacate their small dwellings anytime. Such areas are treated badly; we don’t have the same quality of water, electricity, cleanliness, sanitation, etc. which the rest of Delhi gets. Besides, I want to vote for a government who can provide employments to individuals as soon as they finish their graduation.”

Professionals’ pick

“Three issues which I will consider while voting would be increasing unemployment in the country, rising inflation and cost of living, and increasing concerns over the law and order in the country,” said, Saad Farees, Regional Account Director at Airtel when asked what he will be voting on.

Responding to the same question, another Delhi-based professional Zia-ur-Rahman, working as a management consultant, said, “Hyper-inflation, be it in fuel, groceries or healthcare; the taxation policy and rise of crony capitalism; decline of democratic institutions, in particular the media and the judiciary. Even the judiciary is playing politics with their judgments; there’s rarely a judgment in favour of the people (like electoral bonds).”

He further says, “Women safety is another major concern. Many BJP politicians like Brij Bhushan enjoy the safety net of the government. Manipur women; a wife of Kargil War veteran was paraded naked, and not a word of concern from the PM.”

Colonies’ contention

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One of the major battlegrounds in the Lok Sabha elections is the city’s unauthorised colonies, urban villages and slums. As many as 30% of the national capital’s population resides in approximately 1,800 unauthorised colonies, including 20 lakh residents in 675 slums, making them a sizable voting block. In addition to this, Delhi also has a total of 357 villages. As a result, political parties have left no stone unturned in order to woo this segment of the population. 

 Most residents in these areas are forced to live in sub-standard living conditions with overly congested houses, pothole-ridden roads lined with garbage, open and leaking sewers and scarce water availability. Perhaps this is a reason why a majority of voters in these localities give more importance to welfare schemes and governance issues than to matters of national importance.

 In Ambedkar Nagar’s Harijan Basti, part of the South Delhi Lok Sabha constituency which has the largest number of slums, residents complain of decades of neglect under various governments. Established several decades ago as a dwelling for Dalit migrants to the city, the locality is severely congested, with narrow lanes that can barely fit a person through it. Most people in the locality work as labourers to make ends meet. 

40-year-old Ajit Kumar was born and brought up in the locality after his parents migrated to the area from Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh. Painting a grim reality of their situation he says, “No work ever gets done here. The drains are never cleaned and are always clogged up. Ever since I was a child, we have had to wade through waist-deep water during the monsoon. Despite multiple promises over the decades, the situation is still the same. We will vote for whichever party that improves these basic necessities.” 

However, voters in these parts are not completely immune to national-level rhetoric. In Khanpur village, not very far from Ambedkar Nagar, residents say that the youth in the village have moved past traditional caste-based politics. “Earlier, we used to vote along caste lines and family loyalties, but today’s youth have started becoming influenced by issues such as Ram Mandir and Article 370. They often vote on the basis of communal issues,” said Sanjeev Singh, a native of Khanpur.

Residents’ recourse

Residents’ Welfare Associations (RWAs) too have their issues and expectations from the candidates. They seek a lasting resolution for civic issues faced by them, improved parking facilities, encroachment-free roads, eradication of pot holes, zero dark spots, CCTVs and adequate light arrangement, on roads, and a solution to stray dog and cattle menace. Adequate deployment of police forces, besides, construction of roads, more health and education centres in their areas are also among their priorities. The RWAs want active participation of their area representatives on issue related to their locale besides a fool-proof plan to improve the existing state of affairs. 

 Mahesh Gupta, an RWA office bearer from Greater Kailash S-Block, says apart from national issues, local issues like water woes, power cut, mosquito and monkey menace, drain cleaning, maintenance of parks, etc. are few issues which they wanted addressed by their elected government. “We want our councillors, MLAs and MPs to be aware about problems faced by the residents so they can address them,” he asserts.

 BS Vohra, President of RWA Bhagidari Network, says that apart from civic issues, increasing pollution levels, garbage heaps, etc. are the issues requiring immediate attention. Delhi is the most polluted city in the world due to which life expectancy has been reduced upto 11-12 years; piles of garbage at landfill sites are a serious issue; polluting land, air and water, he said, adding, water logging, Yamuna-cleaning are also major issues in the national capital.

“There is no ground-level planning to resolve these issues. These can be solved by only when our parliamentarians play a major role in this. We cannot imagine a clean and green Delhi without taking these issues seriously. Till date, no concrete action has been taken and I think MPs should take up these issues for larger public good,” the local body president pointed out.

 Vinod Pant, an RWA office bearer in Vasant Kunj says the role of councillors, MLAs and MPs are well-defined. Parliamentarians, while raising national issues, must also play a significant role in improving the infrastructure of their area. A councillor or an MLA alone cannot resolve issues like lack of parking facility, traffic congestion, and encroachment of public and forest lands as it requires planning at higher levels, Pant asserted, saying, “The area is facing parking menace, traffic congestion, lack of arterial routes, etc. Encroachment of the Central Ridge, pollution and water logging is there. Our MPs do not take part in meetings of district committees; nor do their representatives. Without participation, how can they raise our voice in the Parliament.”

(Inputs from Ashish Srivastava, Anup Verma, Prabhat Shukla and Ifrah Mufti)

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