Basis for a draft on Social Democracy for the BJP Election Manifesto presented to the National Executive of the BJP on October 10, 1984


M.L. Sondhi

The malaise of the Congress (I) is symbolised by the eruption of turmoil at the Nagpur meeting of the youth wing of the Ruling Party and the tribulations faced by the people through the scandalous behaviour of the NSUI delegates.  The social tensions within the Congress Party and the inhumane behaviour of its activists exhibited in their extra-legal activities are a social breakdown of major proportions.  The rampage that preceded and followed the Nagpur jamboree of Congress Youth is an obvious manifestation of the callousness of the Congress leadership which has brought Indian society to the verge of disaster.

The Congress (I)’s response to Terrorism has been totally inadequate.  It is no exaggeration to say that the Ruling Party’s actions are linked with the growth of social violence and its nexus with criminal elements has made its response to Terrorist activities highly ambiguous.  The erosion of law and order in many parts of the country has created a dangerously unstable situation in which the destructiveness and terror have been increasingly intensified to the detriment of the human community.  The enormous human and material losses suffered by the common people has undermined their self-confidence and has sharpened threat perceptions among different sections of the society which come in the way of a common endeavour to oppose serious threats to social peace.

The communal criteria adopted by the Congress(I) in its decision-making is accelerating the process of social fragmentation of which the increase in Hindu-Muslim riots under Congress rule is a visible evidence.  The internal problem of political power is the Congress Party poses a serious threat to India’s national integrity.  The Ruling Party has used its well entrenched political establishment to promote horizontal conflicts between different communities and vertical conflicts between different levels of the same community.

The unifying vision of Antodaya has been replaced by the institutionalisation of corruption and social violence and the destruction of common human values through centralisation of power, destruction of the ecological balance, and victimisation of women, the scheduled castes and tribes and other weaker sections of society.

In the perception of the BJP a new and creative integral humanism has a unique and constructive role to play in developing mutuality and cooperation through which the opportunity and challenge of social reconstruction can be met.  By resorting to authoritarianism the Congress (I) has singularly failed to provide social meaning and coherence to the profiles of policy advocated by it.  The BJP perceives the following basic issues of principle and practice as social policy:

1.             The BJP questions the current foundations of Congress (I) policy to maintain its power structure by eroding the consensus of Indian society.  Instead of humanising the process of economic development, the Congress (I) has adopted a stance of manipulating the social cleavages which have been accentuated in the course of recent decades.  The BJP takes a diametrically opposite view and conceives its primary task is to strengthen the fabric of the community and to reconcile the Indian People by constructive planning for social peace, by reducing tensions through conflict-resolution and by reducing the potential for social violence through strategies for social change with the help of techniques of non-violent action.  Democracy cannot bear manipulation of social cleavages.  The present mood of national malaise is the direct consequence of a spirit of callousness and indifference to human values engendered by the “divide-and-rule” options exercised by the Congress (I) governments at central and state levels.  The BJP is committed to a redirection of social policy by which the vitality of new social forces can be expressed by non-violence as a way for social change.

2.             The BJP will foster the creative potential of different groups and communities of Indian society through strengthening their self-reliance in relation to the structural changes in the social, economic and political system.  Popular mobilisation will be achieved by strengthening the infrastructure of democracy down to the village level.  The scope for self-reliance among under-privileged groups can only be widened if a higher level of national unity and cooperation is achieved and conflict-oriented rivalries are controlled by common interests and goals. 

3.             A central task is to develop cooperation and harmony between different ethnic groups.  The BJP regards it as vital to broaden the area of understanding through intra-regional and inter-regional cooperation and strengthening the heritage of cultural understanding and interaction. It is abundantly clear that ethnic conflicts can spill over into international relations and heighten risks of war.  The BJP will work to develop new forms of relationship between ethnic groups within India and outside which can revitalise our common culture and integrate the development of social and economic structures.

4.             The BJP perceives the future of National Education in a system in which all sections of the population have a valid claim to participate.  It is not possible to maintain an elitist educational policy without destabilising and distorting national development.  Reactionary social forces have profited from the Congress (I)’s conception of education in narrowly elitist terms.  An educational policy consistent with our democratic society would require a complete eradication of illiteracy.

Social Policy: Any attempt to eradicate poverty or reduce inequalities in society requires public co-operation and social harmony.  However, the basic challenge today has become the rising level of conflict and violence in society.  This has been partly due to the policies followed by the ruling Congress Party in aggravating communal, caste and regional tensions so as to manipulate the hapless public into supporting them out of fear.  This is a short-sighted and cynical game, whose immediate cost is in lives and insecurity, but whose long term effects will be expressed in economic stagnation a national disintegration and vulnerability to interference from external forces.

A second contributory factor to the increase in violence is due to the assault on family and social values through the negative interpretation of secularism.  Instead of positively encourage in all religions and ethical outlooks to school the young in cooperatively and disciplined social cooperation, secularism has resulted in a failure to propagate values amongst the generation that has grown up after 1947, and the moral and social confusion.  The vacuum of moral values has been filled by materialist values, and the failure to tackle the economic problem leading to increasing immiseration, has accentuated fear, cruelty and violence in society, leading to greater attacks on the weaker segments – women, children, tribals, harijans, the very poor etc.

Since the Congress with its shrinking popularity base is reduced to creating more and more cleavages in society, the BJP regards its most important task to be one of stressing ways and means to restore the traditional dialogue in Indian society, between the different groups, to work against divisiveness and fragmentation by stressing common objectives, common values and common perceptions.  The BJP would like to restore the traditional consensual approach at the political, social and intellectual levels.

Environment: Ecological factors affect both the quality of life and the economic future of the country.  Deforestation is a major problem, resulting in floods, soil erosion.  Further water pollution and industrial effluents and waste discharge have made a viable land and water policy an urgent necessity.  If towns require ‘lungs’ and greenery for re-oxygenating the air, the countryside requires a flourishing environment for its economic, social and cultural life which is intimately connected with the land and natural water and plant life: despoliation in this areas impoverishes life in all aspects for the village-dweller.  For the BJP a comprehensive environmental policy is a must for the development of the country, and particularly for the future of the majority of our fellow-Indians who live in the villages, and whose lives are immediately affected by changes in habitat.

Casteism:  In spite of its slogans, the operational code of the ruling Congress has always been to divide the community along caste and communal lines through the electoral process.  The legislation in favour of the Harijans is implemented only in exceptional cases, and no attempt has been made to provide them with protection against the disposed landlords and revengeful upper castes.  The BJP will work for the establishment of the dignity, economic and social security of the Harijans, and particularly for providing special educational training so that they may take their place as equal partners in the community, with equal rights and responsibilities.  Executive, judicial and educational remedies are required to transform the paper rights of the Harijans into a living reality.  The BJP believes that it is important to continue the practice of reservations for Scheduled Castes and Tribes, both in education and employment, while at the same time vigorously pursuing a policy of special educational training so as to ultimately render the special reservations policy redundant.  But the time for that has not yet come yet, and the immediate task is to strengthen the economic and social standing of the weaker sections of our society.

Backward Castes and Tribes:  The massive failure of the Government’s economic policies has expressed itself in the demand for several ‘middle’ or ‘lower middle’ castes to demand special reservations for them along the SC/ST model.  The problems of these people in terms of economic insecurities is quite real, but the government has landed itself in the paradox of reducing more than 50% of its people to below the poverty line, so that the demand for special rights becomes almost inevitable.  However, the country will only stagnate if half its population is to be given special privileges.  The most urgent task is to provide employment opportunities in the countryside through labour banks, antodaya scheme and general economic policies designed to reach out to the poorest, so that the citizens of India have an opportunity to lead a meaningful life through their own efforts, which is ultimately the only guarantee of dignity and self-respect.

Tribals:  There are some special problems relating to tribals arising out of their distinctive cultures and way of life.  Modernisation and industrialisation for the upper crust has resulted in direct and indirect attacks on their culture, means of livelihood and health, due to deforestation, encroachment on their lands, exploitative interaction with urban officials and entrepreneurs, and a neglect of their health and educational needs.  They are also vulnerable to aggressive religious proselytisation.  The BJP demands a special study of, and vigorous protection of the tribal communities, so that they may develop and prosper in freedom according to their own choice and inclination. 

Communalism:  It is common knowledge that the traditional communal vote banks of the Congress have been dwindling and it is now in search of new communal groupings.  But whichever be the community whose votes it seeks to woo, the methods of the Congress are always the same – to first engender communal riots so that fear is created in the minds of those whose votes are desired, and then adopt the mask of saviour of the threatened community.  Thus have the Muslims been frightened and fooled all along, and in spite of their support of the Congress, their economic and social condition has remained backward and stagnant – except for the opportunities provided by employment in the Middle East after the oil boom, which happened in spite of the Congress Party.  Now that the oil market is shrinking, the Muslims will again face the same economic problems in India.  Instead of encouraging the better leadership in this community, the Congress has been known to associate with people of questionable repute.  Now that the ruling Congress has turned its attention to the majority community in India, it is adopting the same tactics of both frightening and saving – as has occurred very vividly in the Punjab, for instance.  The Sikhs, like the Muslims, long the pampered children of the Ruling Party, have been subjected to harsh treatment or neglect, and the ‘weak and insecure’ ones have now become the Hindus.  Knowing the fickleness of the Congress, there is no guarantee that this favoured treatment will continue.  The BJP condemns this opportunistic and cynical manipulation of the fears and aspirations of different communities, where in most cases they have lived for ages in communal harmony and cooperation with one another, and intends to build a strong society on the basis of dialogue and positive interaction.

Women:  Although India has a distinctive culture which has traditionally reverenced women, and worshipped the divine as goddess, she also has the dubious distinction of being perhaps the only country in the world where the male population outnumbers the female.  Traditionally prejudices against the economic and religiously low status of women (they cannot perform shraddha for their parents) have been aggravated by the current fierce economic competition in modern India, which has invented the barbarous form of bride-burning for the sake of Godrej almirahs, two-in-ones, VCRs etc.  The practice of dowry, of selling of women, is inconsistent with the new ideals of equality proclaimed by the new democratic Indian constitution.  However, the practice of burning brides is not a direct result of dowry, which has been practised in India for centuries, but of increasing dehumanisation, due to attacks on traditional familial and social values, reducing the status of women even further, in spite of the fact that many, even of those who are burnt, are working women.  From being at least objects of special protection, due to their supposed weakness, women have become totally devoid of value:  they have not been accorded the status of men and have lost their own status.  They now count as only objects of sexual and material gratification, and since marriage is no longer sacred, as dispensable objects. 

The BJP stands for an integrated approach to the problems of women: apart from the traditional problems of inadequate health care and education, especially in the rural areas, it would advocate educational and legislative reforms, which would guarantee along with employment facilities, the proper dissemination of humanistic values in relation to the sexes and social living, and safeguard the rights of the threatened ones.  Genuine marriage bureaus are a must as long as arranged marriages are the practice amongst the majority, so as to reduce the occurrence of deception which often is an excuse for post-marital discord amongst the concerned families.

Children:  Maltreatment of children is again the result of the failure of government economic policies.  Even though there is legislation against child labour, and compulsory primary education, none of these measures can be enforced so long as the economic conditions of the family force a choice between starvation for the child or employment.  Interim measure therefore, should be taken to guarantee healthy working conditions, minimum wages, adequate food, to those children forced to work, while making school more attractive for the poor by providing free milk and nourishing food, and appropriate vocational training.  To refuse to recognise the fact of child labour is to add to maltreatment and exploitation of the child.

Youth:  Young people can be an asset to society when they are idealistic and creatively occupied.  The ruling elite has neglected the youth on both these counts:  their own behaviour can hardly be described as arousing idealism in the young: indeed the patent injustices and malfunctioning of our system breed cynicism and hopelessness in the young.  Furthermore there are no adequate arrangements in the form of youth or sports clubs, for them to develop themselves and engage in healthy pursuits and competition.  The recent youth convention at Nagpur shows how far things have gone wrong.  The BJP would like to tackle the special problems of youth in a three-pronged fashion: educational–through linking education with employment opportunities; social, through providing recreational and sports activities of a healthy and wholesome nature, and three, through engendering in them a sense of social responsibility by encouraging them to take interest in projects of social and national reconstruction.

Animals:  Although the government has banned cow-slaughter in most of the country, it has done nothing positive relating to the welfare of not only cows, but all animals, who are not only sentient beings, capable of feeling pain and pleasure, but form part of the economic wealth of this country.  Again increasing poverty and breakdown of traditional values has led to neglect of and cruelty to animals, which results both in the dehumanisation of humans and to economic loss.  BJP would like an integrated approach to the care of cattle and their use, to the prevention of cruelty to animals, through appropriate legislative and executive action, and through the educational and information channels, a dissemination of ideas of compassion and respect for the sentient world of the non-human living. 

Law and Order:  The dynamics and turbulence of a developing cum disintegrating society requires a better and more educated police force.  Unfortunately the law and order machinery has not altered in concept and practice from the colonial days when it was used to implement the executive fiats of an occupying power, and not to uphold the laws of a free and self-legislating society.  These habits till continue.  The police face great problems, in terms of inadequate numbers to cope with increasing urbanisation and populations, inadequate equipment, inadequate working and living conditions, and finally excessive interference from political authorities.  The BJP stands for a total review of the law and order machinery, and the implementation of reforms relating to recruitment, training specially from service conditions etc. of the law and order agencies, and to their protection from political interference in the discharge of their duties.  At the same time, they must remain responsible to the public whose protection is in their charge, but to achieve this long term reforms, like new standards of recruitment and training, education in their responsibilities etc., are likely to be more fruitful, than merely punishing those already trapped in the current vicious circle – though justice demands that as well.

Health:  Particularly in the rural areas, health is woefully inadequate, what with the increasing social distances between town and country, and the reluctance of doctors to take up jobs in the countryside.  A comprehensive rural health policy should lay stress on preventive care including hygiene, which can be undertaken by recognised ayurvedic and herbal medicine specialists, who can disseminate cheap and easily obtainable medicines, tonics and food practices for the prevention of disease and maintenance of health.  Social workers can also contribute, particularly in the field of personal and social hygiene.  However, curative networks, both ayurvedic and allopathic, either mobile medical services radiating from intermediate towns, linking up with bigger centres for complex hospital or chemical treatment, should be devised, and implemented with sufficient inducements in the form of facilities for the medical staff.  Schemes can also be designed whereby doctors spend part of the year in the villages.  The very many existing schemes in cold storage could be pulled out, re-examined, and implemented. 

Education:  There can be no two opinions that our educational policy and its implementation is the most haphazard, sloppy, chaotic bundle of theories and practices, which adds up to an unmitigated disaster.  After more than 35 years of independence, the percentage of literacy in India has not increased much beyond 30%, of those who are literate, there are hardly any who are educated, and of those who are intensively trained at the country’s prestigious technical institutes, there are hardly any who wish to continue living in India.  Since nearly all the problems that his country faces, economic, social, political etc., are all linked up with the educational process, it is the severest indictment of the ruling Congress that by neglecting this crucial aspect of nation-building, it has allowed the nation to drift and weaken into a pitiable condition.

Adult Literacy:  This is essential in a society where increasing bureaucratisation in every sphere of life, and the expansion of the political process, makes reading and understanding of government laws, forms, newspapers, electioneering propaganda essential.  Audio-visual dissemination of news and views, through radio and television is the monopoly of government:  hence the ability to read is also a necessity for political development.  The BJP would like to launch a massive drive to eradicate adult illiteracy, by securing the cooperation of both government and voluntary agencies, as well as mobilising youth for this constructive and essential programme.

Rural Education:  Many rural schools are, and should not be, merely a fiction on paper.  There must be educational facilities in every village, but the programme should be modified so as to relate suitably to the needs of village life – to agriculture, trade and local culture.  A matriculate from a rural school should be able to contribute positively to improving work and living in the family home.  At the same time, the more promising students who can develop their talents better in more advanced areas should be provided the special training which is their need, enabling them to proceed further up the educational ladder.

Science and Technology:  With the emphasis on industrialisation, most value has hitherto been placed on technological training, to the detriment of scientific.  However, if we merely train technicians, we will always be satellites of Western countries.  Stress on scientific training, research and development, is essential, and to start with, one or two areas could be demarcated for intensive study.  It is not enough to have only a few elitist top-level institutions like BARC for physics, for example.  The BJP would make a policy to develop all facilities of science at the major Indian universities, so that the training and attachment area of budding youth scientists and their re-employment opportunities would widen.  There must also be a policy for the technical institutes whereby those undertaking training at government expense should be obliged to serve for some years in India, so that they cease to be merely recruiting grounds for the factories of the Western world.  

Humanities:  If scientific understanding stresses the relationship between man and the physical world, and is important to manipulate that world in order to increase his standard of living, no less important are man’s relationships with his fellows and with his society, which form the subject matter of study of the humanities or social sciences.  BJP stands for equal importance being given to this crucial area, as it is these departments of knowledge which govern our social and political decision-making.  Certain areas of employment should be clearly demarcated for arts graduates, so that the rush for the sciences, often merely for securing more marks for subsequent competitive examinations, should decrease, and those trained in the thinking on social and cultural issues should occupy the jobs where their special approach is beneficial.

Sport:  The Congress government has made a mockery of sports activity in the country.  It has spent crores in building stadia for hosting the Asian Games, and hardly a pittance on the training and coaching of sportsmen.  The result has been India’s miserable performance at the recent Olympics.  Yet there is reason to believe that the government wishes to host the 1995 Olympics – i.e. allow more contractors and middlemen to make profits, funnel large sums of money which could be sued for developmental work into useless buildings, and add to the feelings of shame and disgrace of the Indian public.  The BJP stands for a vigorous sports policy, based on building for sports at the school-level onwards, both in town and country, with ground and coaching facilities.  Money available for the Olympic buildings could more usefully be spent in coaching the more talented, giving them adequate nourishment, competition experience, and generally increasing sports participation throughout the country.  BJP also emphatically deplores any political interference in the selection of competitors for the various events, which is a contributory factor to our poor performance.  The Stadia that have already been built should be made available to our own athletes for practice and use.  At the next Olympics the aim should be to secure a few medals, and not to build buildings as monuments to our national disgrace.
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