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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

 

The new Indian Cabinet

More than 5 dozen members of the Indian cabinet were sworn in on May 22nd, 2004. The cabinet composition not only provides some insight into what type of policies can be expected but also how these policies will be implemented.

It is hard to provide detailed information about all the different ministers but we have chosen the top-spots for analysis. You can view this information on our Indian Cabinet page. Most of these spots have gone to the Congress Party members, the largest contingent in the United Progressive Alliance government.

The cabinet formation process wasn't a particularly smooth one. With each partner of the coalition demanding the most important portfolios they could get. Mrs.Gandhi's political engineering came into play here and the issues with the DMK (ally from Tamil Nadu) and RJD (from Bihar) were resolved. I do not foresee any other activity on this front for a while. All parties seem to be satisfied.

The cabinet could have and should have had some younger faces. That is what I think is the only mistake the Congress has made so far. It would have given them a real boost with the urban youth. I hope that they will keep this in mind when the cabinet composition is up for change next. It is critical for the fastest growing section of the Indian population to have serious representation.

The new government has to be vigilant of divisive forces. It must develop policies and enforce laws to completely marginalize the use of religion in the political process. Most recently these divisions have been deepened by creating social tension leading to riots. These forces have achieved under the garb of a "political struggle" or sometimes under the "auspices" of democratically elected politicians. These riots have driven fear into the hearts of innocent citizens. This MUST stop. Be it Kashmir or Gujarat. I am not comparing the two situations as equal but there is no denying that in both places innocent lives have been targeted by hate-mongerers. These individuals and groups MUST be brought to justice. There can be no two ways about it. The responsibility to make this happen will fall on the shoulders of India's Home Minister, Mr.Shivraj Patil.

Education must be a top priority for the new government. Its decision to increase education spending to 6% of GDP from 3% is very heartening. Of course, with the hope that the government will be keenly aware of the fiscal burden thereby incurred. The Human Resource Development ministry under Mr.Arjun Singh MUST now focus its attention on the curriculum. Let us not forget that 70% of India's school-going children drop out after 8th grade! You can read more of our education proposals.

Mahatma Gandhi when asked to detail the India of his dreams once said that he dreamt of an India where every Indian felt that his/her efforts were going towards building his/her own nation. That sense of participation and belonging still eludes us and it is the moral imperative of this new government to make such participation a reality. Anything less will be unacceptable.

Peace.

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