Restore Karnataka to former glory: Civil society collective tells Siddaramaiah govt

Bahutva Karnataka is a coalition of progressive organizations and individuals standing for a diverse, plural, and harmonious state; it has been concerned over rising communal violence and hate crimes

Bahutva Karnataka has listed all the urgent dos for the Siddaramaiah administration, covering almost all aspects of governance | Pic: Twitter/Siddaramaiah

A civil society collective has urged the new government in Karnataka to act fast to restore the culture of pluralism and harmony in the state by undoing all that the previous government did to polarise the society.

Days after Congress leader Siddaramaiah took over the reins of the government, Bahutva Karnataka has listed all the urgent dos for the administration, covering almost all aspects of governance.

Established in November 2021, Bahutva Karnataka is a coalition of progressive organizations and individuals which stands for a diverse, plural, and harmonious state. It has been concerned over escalating communal violence and hate crimes, which it blames on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies.

At the end of the tenure of the previous government, Bahutva Karnataka had evaluated its performance and impact and released a set of report cards specific to several sectors — education, health care, and nutrition, rights of women, minorities, workers, slum residents, economy, agriculture, environment, rural development, federalism, democracy, and governance.

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What is to be done?

To start with, it wants the government to withdraw school textbooks introduced in 2022 and address the harm caused to students who were disallowed from attending exams for wearing hijab.

It wants Siddaramaiah to make public the 2015 socio-economic educational survey (caste census) to initiate a debate on how education can be made accessible.

It wants restored the 4 per cent reservation for Muslims abolished by the BJP government, which was trounced in this month’s assembly elections.

“We strongly believe that the new government has the opportunity to review and redefine concepts like development, democracy, justice and sustainability, not just for the people of Karnataka but for the people of India,” the letter said.

The civil society has urged the government to urgently review and re-formulate all dress code guidelines in educational institutions to restore the right to education for all.

Also read: Karnataka minister hints at overturning hijab, cow slaughter ban

More demands

The other demands are:

* Immediately repeal anti-farmer laws such as the Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) (Amendment) Act 2020, the Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Act 2020 and the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act 2020.

* Uphold the civil society’s right to dissent and revoke the Licensing and Regulation of Protests, Demonstrations and Protest Marches (Bengaluru City) Order 2021, which restricts protests to Freedom Park. Revoke FIRs filed against peaceful protesters.

* Revoke the anti-conversion act (the Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religion Act 2021), which goes against India’s constitutional right to freedom of religion and belief

* Condemn targeted and discriminatory behaviour and practices of bureaucrats and other functionaries of the state.

* Restore the mid-day meal scheme without any compromise on established nutritional guidelines. Ensure that eggs are provided every day to all children on all days of the week.

* Place on hold and urgently review the implementation of all directives flowing from the National Education Policy 2020. Formulate a State Education Policy (SEP) based on consultations with educationists and other stakeholders that are in keeping with the constitutional obligation of the government to provide all the finances and resources required for education for all with equality of outcomes.

* Address institutional discrimination in higher educational bodies like the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Ensure that the training of police officers, members of the judiciary, bureaucrats and teachers is based on constitutional, scientific and ethical frameworks rather than on patriarchy, caste, religion and ideology.

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Better Karnataka, please

* Review and abolish anti-labour laws that have legalized 12-hour work days.

* Abolish the contract system in solid waste management, regularize and make permanent Pourakarmikas (as promised), and immediately address the long-pending grievances of women-led work-forces like ASHA and Anganwadi workers, garment workers, domestic workers, National Health Mission workers, and mid-day meal workers.

* Ensure that all residents of slums are provided with sale deeds as they have demanded and bring in a law that gives them land rights.

* Strengthen and empower the State Commission for Women and the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights with the necessary funding allocations so that they function effectively.

The Bahutva Karnataka has demanded increased funding to preserve the forest and marine ecosystems of the state and stop all developmental projects around ecologically sensitive areas.

It wants the Mahadayi and Mekedatu projects reviewed in the context of ecological and sustainability concerns.

The letter said: “As people whose lives have been affected by the poor governance and repressive measures of the previous government, we look forward to more positive and proactive actions on your part that will fulfil your promises and stated intent to make Karnataka a secular, more just, equitable and harmonious state. Prioritise and initiate measures to help heal the state.”

(With agency inputs)