GUWAHATI, May 3 � There is an urgent need to frame a new agenda for India, said renowned social scientist and politician, Professor Yogendra Yadav while delivering the second Professor Sarat Mahanta Memorial Lecture in the auditorium of the Royal Group of Institutions here on Friday evening.
Yadav�s lecture, titled �A New Agenda for India�, was not so much of an offering of an agenda, but a plea and an invitation to frame such an agenda that, he said, was long overdue for the country.
The lecture was organised jointly by the Sarat Mahanta Foundation and the Royal Group of Institutions.
The genesis of the idea of a �New Agenda For India� lies in an exercise undertaken in 1980 by a group of prominent intellectuals like Romesh Thapar, Rajani Kothari, Kuldip Nayyar, Prof Bashiruddin Ahmed and Prof Krishna Raj, among others, who framed �An Agenda For India� that appeared in the Seminar magazine. But that agenda, he said, was for the eighth decade of the last century and a fresh one is urgently required.
His invitation was to intellectuals, activists, experts and laymen and artists and scientists to participate in an exercise of deliberative democracy.
�Having an agenda is not a guarantee that we will proceed along a laid-down path, but not having one will surely lead us nowhere,� he said. Yadav said that many would argue that India does have an agenda � that laid down by Gandhiji and others. �But what they offered was partial and of very limited use in today�s context,� he said.
The agenda that he advocates, Yadav said, need not mean a complete blueprint for the nation for the next 50 years. �It could be a policy perspective that outlines an approach and an action plan for the key three areas of political reforms, social justice and economic policies that need to be addressed.
�The real problem with our country is not so much with the vision, but with policy design. As a nation, we think that good intentions can substitute for intelligent policy designs. We are also astonishingly evidence-proof and our capacity to create dogmas around empirical disputes is astonishing,� said Yadav. He pointed out that a perverse division of intellectual labour also exists in India. �Someone looks after revenue generation and another after expenditure, someone looks after national security and another looks after intelligence gathering. This is a perverse and unsustainable division of intellectual labour,� he said.
On the issue of social justice, said Yadav, India needs to decide how to handle contentious issues like reservations. �There is adequate evidence to show that there is multiple cross-cutting and graded inequalities in society. But our policy is fixated on caste and only one solution � reservations. We need to design things like an index that maps disadvantages,� he explained.
On political reforms, Yadav said the country needs to decide how to deal with women�s reservation, money in elections and the first-past-the-post system.
The left versus right thinking is debilitating, he said. �The phenomenon of the state versus the market, the concept that if one is pro-market then he is anti-egalitarian, does not need to be so and one can be totally egalitarian and pro-market as well,� he said.
The framing of a new agenda� would be a nationwide and widely participatory exercise that will be facilitated by Swaraj Abhiyan, the forum Yadav and some others launched recently after their departure from the Aam Aadmi Party. This forum will embark on a nationwide yatra to get people from all sections and pursuits on board to frame the agenda.
Earlier, journalist Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, who is also the chairperson of the Professor Sarat Mahanta Foundation, delivered the introductory speech, where he recalled his long association with Prof Mahanta and the latter�s sterling qualities of head and heart.
Assam Human Rights Commission Chairperson Justice (retired) Aftab Hussain Saikia lit the ceremonial lamp. Chanting of hymns by singer Zublee Baruah marked the commencement of the function. The programme was anchored by actor Zerifa Waheed.