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Citizen collective recommends reforms to 'reclaim' Indian republic

New Delhi, Feb 5 (IANS) Suggesting all-round reforms, including in policies, laws and institutions along with the mechanism to implement them, a citizen collective on Tuesday sought the cognisance of political parties and voters at large in their bid to ensure that pertinent issues are raised during the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.The reforms document titled "Reclaiming the Republic" has been drafted by experts from various fields, including lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, politician-psephologist Yogendra Yadav and economist Prabhat Patnaik, under the chairmanship of former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A.P. Shah. Releasing the document here on Tuesday, they said the Indian republic was facing multiple challenges from the Narendra Modi-led dispensation and the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections were an opportunity to "retrieve and reclaim" the republic from manipulation and subversion."Today our republic is under great threat and we are here to defend it. Defend it not just by opposing one party or the other, but by coming out with a document which is a rough guide to democracy," said Yadav while talking to the media about the reforms. Besides putting up the details of the reforms, including the mechanism to implement them, on a website "reclaimingtherepublic.in", the collective has invited all political parties to share suggestions and get them incorporated in their manifestos. "The Lok Sabha elections are on the horizon and the only political discourse that we have is the blame game. We have invited all the political parties on February 8 and will share with them the reforms we have suggested so that they are incorporated in their manifestos. Pertinent issues like agrarian crisis, slumping economy and rising unemployment are not just raised during the elections but the ways to tackle them are also ensured," said Yadav.The citizen collective will also campaign across the nation ahead of the general elections with the reforms that include guaranteeing universal basic services and social security, assured income for farmers, doing away with draconian laws and electoral reforms to reduce the influence of money in elections. Speaking on the occasion, Shah expressed concerns over the way dissent was being crushed and democratic institutions subverted under the Modi regime. "We are at a time when fundamental notions of a modern India appear to be under great threat. From the freedom to think and express being trampled upon to people's choice of food being dictated, there are numerous threats that the republic is facing today. "Today our loyalty to the country is being tested on new grounds like chanting of 'Bharat Mata Ki Jay' or unfurling the tri-colour," said Shah.Shah and Bhushan harped on the judicial and electoral reforms that include scrapping of draconian laws like sedition, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and criminal defamation and blasphemy laws. The document also has elaborate details about the ways to implement the reforms, including the budget and the sources to fund them. "The reforms that we have suggested will roughly need funds to the tune of 5 per cent of the GDP which can be achieved through increasing the level of direct taxes which is currently very low. "We have suggested a combination of inheritance tax, wealth tax and income tax so as to raise the direct tax level," said Patnaik.
--IANS and/arm/nir

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