Wednesday, January 15, 2014

# wishlist 2014

I had, on an impulse, begun to tweet a wish-list in the new year. Most of these were civic or political wishes. Am compiling them here in one place and will keep adding to them as I keep wishing and wanting.
- Can somebody not pass a law against people stealing others' hisse ki dhoop? Isn't sunshine basic human right like food, water, oxygen

- Pass a law to prevent housing society discriminating against tenants and home buyers on the basis of religion/ race/ caste/ sex/ marital status.

- Do away with 'obscenity' as a legal concept for arts and public spaces. Define sex/ nudity limits for the public in clear terms. Everyone should be subject to same rules, regardless of religion/gender. If Naga Sadhus can be nude at a public mela, so can performers in a park.

- Introduce farming, childcare, sewing as optional subjects at the Senior Secondary school level instead of Chemistry, Physics, or Geography. Home Science must be a compulsory exam (theory + practicals) for both boys and girls at the higher secondary level. Cooking, cleaning etc should be treated as new subjects and be available as new combinations. (For instance, Biology + Farming + Childcare is an excellent combination and it should be allowed at an entrance levels for pre-medical exams. Any additional knowledge of other subjects, say Chemistry, can be acquired after the entrance is cleared, through a secondary exam for students who opted out in school.)

- Insist that all public offices be open to citizen engagement via email, along with a guarantee that they will get a response within 3-5 days. Officials in all departments MUST resolve email complaints in 7-15 days. Failing which, citizens should be able to approach a higher official to escalate the issue, also via email or phone.

- Citizens must have the right to approach a lower court directly in case public officials fail to respond to email complaints within 15 days.

- Insist on TOTAL transparency, especially for wages and labour. Firms, even private ones that employ less than 20 people must also be open for public scrutiny.

- I want cars to be taxed MUCH higher. The state should also incentivize experiments in transport: 4-wheel cycle carts? Solar cars? Also incentivize WALKING.

- Free up transport choices. I want cycle rickshaws in Mumbai and other cities. Cyclists need to be given priority because they are the most efficient commuters in every way possible.

- Set up a website and an office to help less educated/ illiterate workers get registered for work, and potential employers can access them through phone calls.

- If people are going to jail for non-violent crimes only because they cannot pay the fines, allow them to opt for community service instead.

- For sexual crime offenders, along with jail terms, they must take a course of education on gender, consent, sexual rights. They must read certain books, watch certain films etc.

- Make gender studies compulsory in secondary schools, as a sub-set of social sciences. Make it optional in colleges, in lieu of compulsory English/Hindi.

- Let sewage treatment happen at local levels (within residential colonies and each territory demarcated along political zones). Make corporator/ MLA directly responsible, and encourage citizens to take care of their own sh*t.

- Instead of 'free' water and electricity, let people harvest their own water in cities and use solar energy. The capital cities must lead by example. They must also own up to the fact that there's nothing free in life. Citizens in villages pay with their lives for 'free' water and electricity (@ArvindKejriwal listen up!). If we must have free water (in taps, inside homes) and 24-hour electricity, let the villages have it first, before the cities do.
- Enforce commercial land grant rules based on intent of use. If a factory/ mill shuts down, the land reverts to the city or the public commons. It can only be put to commercial use, if someone wants to set up another labour-intensive project.

- If private schools, hospitals are not admitting the poor, then let them buy land at commercial rates. If subsidized land rates are being offered in cities, then the schools and hospitals must be open to the public. Preferably just build a whole lot of public hospitals.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Plural losses

This piece was written for The Small Picture on December 6, in memory of my grandfather, who left so much work unfinished, so much unsaid:

Tweets by @anniezaidi