Reforms are needed to get elections in sync: NK Singh

Written by Sharad Raghavan | New Delhi | Updated: Apr 2 2011, 08:39am hrs
The government needs to deliberate more on issues like education, food, health and shelter before converting them into legal rights. So said NK Singh, Rajya Sabha member, at the final session of the Columbia-NCAER conference on trade, poverty, inequality and democracy. There is separate legislation on the right to education, food, health and soon, shelter. These entitlements are being turned into legal rights without adequate consideration, he said.

Singh further underlined the importance of electoral and legislative reform. Parliament holds no sensible discussions on the working of ministries, planning of elections, etc. We have one set of elections after the other. Reforms are needed to get Parliament and assembly elections in sync, so that the elections don't follow one after the other, he said.

The final session, titled 'Panel on Economic Reforms: The Unfinished Agenda', also had Rakesh Mohan of Yale University and TN Ninan of the Business Standard speaking on the topic. Mohan said that while literacy has gone up, the key need is to improve quality of education at the primary level. The graduates of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, he said, would face a problem when they graduated to the secondary level, which needs a lot of work. On agriculture, he said, In the next 20-30 years, share of agriculture to GDP will go down, below 10%. Future growth in agriculture has to become more complex in non-grain activities like hatcheries, fisheries and meat products. Agricultural R&D has to be public sector led.

Regarding the environment, Singh said that India needed to look at China's 12th 5 year plan, which seeks to bring growth down to 7% in an effort to reduce energy and fossil fuel consumption. Like it or not, this will be a challenge in the future, with increasing international pressure, he said.