People's Manifesto Campaign

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In the lead-up to India’s General Election in May 2014, PACS partnered with Wada Na Todo Abhiyan - an organisation of over 4000 civil society organisations - on their People’s Manifesto Campaign. The objective of the campaign was to capture the aspirations of people from across the country, particularly those from socially excluded groups, and use this "People's Manifesto" to influence the manifestos of the main political parties.

What was the People’s Manifesto Campaign?

Manifestos of political parties are promises they make to people before an election. If elected to power, a party is expected to fulfil the promises made in their manifestos.

The People’s Manifesto Campaign was undertaken by PACS partner Wada Na Todo Abhiyan before India's General Election in 2014. Its aim was to ensure that the voices of people from across the country were heard, drawing up a "People's Manifesto" of their demands that could be used to influence the manifestos of the political parties running for election.

The Campaign was an inclusive process involving 4000 consultations with over 400,000 people across 24 States, allowing the general public to voice their demands and desires for the future agenda of their country. 

The consultative process with citizens was a bottom-up approach, starting at the local level. Consultations with communities were held in villages, Panchayats and town halls across 210 parliamentary constituencies. Representatives from political parties were invited to all meetings so they could hear the opinions from their constituent members first-hand.

Constituencies were selected for their political importance. For example, Varanasi was chosen because it was the constituency of Narendra Modi (the Prime Ministerial candidate for the BJP, now Prime Minister). Some constituencies were also chosen for their poor development indicators, such as the districts of Kalahandi and Koraput in Odisha, or for their high proportions of dalit or tribal people.

The outcomes of these local meetings were then fed into State Manifestos - documents that were handed over to political representatives at State-level events. The State Manifestos then fed into the final People's Manifesto - an 18-point Charter of Demands, outlining the people’s priorities for development, rights, services, governance and accountability.

The manifestos were shared with representatives from all political parties at both State and national levels, providing them with direct input from citizens to shape their political manifestos and commitments.

How was PACS involved in the People's Manifesto Campaign?

PACS provided key funding support to Wada Na Todo Abhiyan. In addition, PACS helped to facilitate the 2200 local-level consultations that were carried out in the 102 constituencies across the seven PACS states.

PACS partners and staff sat on the State Campaign Coordination Committees in each of the PACS states and provided key support in ensuring that  Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Community Based Organisations (CBOs), dalit groups, tribal groups and women’s groups were all involved in the consultation process.

At a national level, PACS staff members sat on the campaign’s decision-making body, helping to steer the consultation process and providing guidance and support, helping to ensure that the voices of socially excluded communities were heard and reflected.

What was the resulting People's Manifesto?

The People’s Manifesto focused on 11 key themes:

  • Health – demands included increasing spending on health to 5% of GDP, enacting the National Health Bill (2009) and ensuring that every village and urban settlement has household-level toilets, effective drainage, sanitation and waste disposal systems.
  • Education – demands included increasing funding for education to at least 6% of GDP, running a recruitment drive to fill the gap of 1.18 million teachers (ensuring 50% are women) and enforcing measures related to the quality of teaching such as teachers per subject, teaching equipment and qualification of teachers.
  • Jobs and Employment – demands included providing 200 days of employment to rural people (and ensuring that wages are paid on time), increasing state-level employment opportunities to reduce migration and enhancing the scope and budget of the National Rural Livelihood Mission.
  • Food Security – demands included universalising the coverage of the National Food Security Act, improving the delivery and nutritional quality of the Mid-Day Meals scheme, and encouraging decentralised procurement of food from small and marginal farmers.
  • Land and Forest Rights – demands included safeguarding the land rights of adivasis by ensuring strong implementation of the Forest Rights Act, preventing exploitative use of forest resources and implementing land reforms to ensure that household and agricultural land is provided to landless people.
  • Agriculture and Farming as Livelihood – demands included ensuring farmers receive fair prices for their produce, securing and improving financial assistance for farmers so they do not slip into chronic debt, and including farm labour under the permissible list of MGNREGA works.
  • Women – demands included passing the Women’s Reservation Bill, creating women’s cells in all police stations and protecting women and girls from all forms of violence by rigorously implementing legal safeguards such as the Domestic Violence Act and the Dowry Prohibition Act.
  • Child Rights and Youth – demands included increasing investment for child protection, education, health and nutrition, ensuring children’s voices are heard through children’s parliaments, and ensuring legislation to prohibit pre-natal gender selection is rigorously implemented.
  • Rights of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and People with Disabilities – demands included implementing recommendations made by the Sachar Committee to develop and empower Muslims, enacting equal opportunity laws that prohibit discrimination in employment and passing the Disability Bill (2009).
  • Accountable Governance – demands included ensuring that the financial and operational details of all government programmes are readily available in the public domain, enforcing Gram Panchayats to hold regular Gram Sabha meetings, and mobilising greater public spending through progressive taxation policies.
  • Human Rights – demands included undertaking police and judicial reforms to increase responsiveness to marginalised groups, recognising housing as a human right, and abolishing all anti-people, anti-democratic laws.

The people’s demands clearly reflected an urgency to address inequalities and a greater commitment to delivering basic services, particularly health, education, water and sanitation, and food security.

In addition, there was a clear emphasis from citizens for the need to better regulate the private sector, specifically in terms of health, education, land rights and natural resources (including forests). Other key demands included a strong justice delivery system and the protection of the rights and entitlements of marginalised and vulnerable groups (including women, children, dalits, Muslims, adivasis, people with disability and the LGBT community).

What is happening now?

Since the election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister on 26 May 2014, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan has continued to advocate for the demands of the people, as outlined in the People’s Manifesto.

After 100 days in government, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan published a report to examine the BJP’s initial performance in intent, strategic direction and political will, against the demands outlined in their manifesto.

Whilst they found that the functioning of parliament had improved and commitments to food security, ending financial exclusion and schemes to include women and girls were positive, the decrease in the allocation of funds to the social sector, failure to pass various legislation (such as the Women’s Reservation Bill) and the approach of the government to preserving forests and natural resources were causes for concern.

Wada Na Todo Abhiyan will continue to hold the current government to account on their manifesto promises over their 5-year term in office.

About Wada Na Todo Abhiyan

Wada Na Todo Abhiyan is a national organisation of over 4000 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). They work to hold the Indian Government accountable to its promise to end poverty, social exclusion and discrimination. The name “Wada Na Todo Abhiyan” means “Do Not Break Promises Campaign”.

 


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