Dr Udupi Rajagopalacharya Ananthamurthy is a leading contemporary writer of Kannada literature and a tireless public intellectual. The 76-year-old author has been the recipient of the prestigious Jnanpith Award as well the Padma Bhushan.
Dr Ananthamurthy, whose range of work spans novels to short stories to poems, started his literary journey nearly 40 years back with his debut novel Samskara.
Dr Ananthamurthy's tryst with politics began with an unsuccessful attempt to contest a Lok Sabha seat. His aim was to fight the Bharatiya Janata Party. When H D Deve Gowda offered him a Janata Dal-Secular ticket, he accepted but later backed out when the party tied up with the BJP to form a coalition government.
For the forthcoming assembly elections, Ananthamurthy has come up with an 11-point People's Manifesto, and has invited readers to offer their suggestions about it. Dr Ananthamurthy feels that it is imperative that the netas in Karnataka follow these 11 points.
The Peoples' Manifesto:
Ban on mining
Children should have access to high-quality common schools at least till Standard 10.
Future development of our cities should be undertaken keeping in mind the requirements of elders, children and the disabled.
Poor minorities should be given access to education to help them obtain jobs in the public sector. There should be reservation for them.
There should be restrictions on the media as well as on candidates who seek to exploit the voters by creating enmity on the basis of caste, community, religion and language.
Acquisition of agricultural land for the setting up of Special Economic Zones should be stopped.
Farmers should get the right price for their produce.
Instead of setting up giant malls, small local shops should be patronised.
Instead of the American style of development, which endangers the environment, we should opt for sustainable development which benefits the greater common good.
Dr Murthy spoke to rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa about his 11-point manifesto and the political scenario in Karnataka.
What response have you received for the People's Manifesto?
The response has not been much. Some were cynical, some sceptical and some were sympathetic. These times are such. But I don't lose hope, because ideas do not die, they survive.
Do you think we need to introduce a law wherein political parties, which do not live up to the promises that they make in their manifestos, can be sued in the court of law?
Remember, this is not a legal matter that can be taken up in a court of law. This should be decided in the peoples' court. We need to wait patiently for the people to respond. However, in India, the tolerance level is rather high.
The People's Manifesto seeks a ban on mining activities in Karnataka. What is the reason behind this?
Yes, the manifesto seeks a ban on mining and it should be done immediately. It is a crime to exploit our resources for pure personal gains. We have to remember that our grandchildren should be able to make use of these non-renewable resources.
The manifesto also states that acquisition of land for setting up Special Economic Zones should be stopped. Wouldn't this have an impact on the development of the state?
There is a difference between the American defined 'Development' and 'Progress' or Sarvodaya defined by Mahatma Gandhi. Agricultural land should not be used for non-agricultural purposes. A peasant who owns a piece of land and works on it to earn his living is an independent citizen. We should not make him an urban coolie.
What are your views on the real estate lobby playing a major role in the forthcoming assembly elections?
What can I say about it? It is really shocking and devalues the democratic institution.
Do you think the future government in Karnataka should focus on providing reservation for Kannadigas in the IT sector?
Reservation is not the solution here. There should be other kinds of industries in all villages in Karnataka like Sri Prasanna's Desi and Charaka in Karnataka's Sagar taluk.
Do you think that rights activists like the Kannada Rakshana Vedike are holding Karnataka under siege?
First and foremost, programmes and policies which make the people of Karnataka feel alienated, should be avoided. Once this is done, organisations like the Rakshana Vedike become unnecessary.
The decency and tolerance of Kanndigas has been a matter of pride for them. Do you think Karnataka and its people are slowly losing that tag?
I believe that Karnataka and its people are still decent and tolerant. I fervently desire that those people who decide to live in Karnataka should voluntarily learn Kannada and send their children to Kannada schools.