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Adequate and regular supply of water is a serious problem, whether you live in cities, towns, or villages of India. Just think of the rural woman who has to walk several kilometres each day to fetch water and the housewife in a Delhi colony who has to wake up at 3:30 am to turn on the municipal tap. Water reforms are now on the top of the governance agenda. The search is apace for innovative and sustainable solutions.

A budget is an exercise in revenue collection and expenditure. On the former, the best news from Budget was uniform national value added tax (Vat) for goods and services (GST) by April 1, 2010. Therein lies the most efficient way to collect revenues.

From libertarian first principles, Budget 2006 shows hardly any improvement. The Outcome Budget and Performance Budget are still just ideas on the coffee table, they do not inform allocation of funds or assessment of schemes. A government should be judged not by how much it spends but by what it achieves. The finance minister, however, still feels more proud in announcing increases in expenditures and exemptions in tariffs and taxes.

The famous biologist Garrett Hardin coined the third law of ecology that captures succinctly the Green approach to environmental resource management. It links men's impact on the environment (I) with population (P), affluence (A) and technology (T).

I=P*A*T

The freedom of association is as pivotal to a civilised society as is the freedom of the press or the freedom to stand for a public office. Any temptations to restrict these freedoms must be very seriously evaluated. The alleged short-term gains must be weighed against the long-term harm to the social and moral fabric of the society. The recent Supreme Court judgement in the case of PA Inamdar vs State of Maharashtra has rightly re-established the presumption in favour of the freedom of association in educational institutions.

India needs to think afresh on how to balance economic growth with rapid consumption of ecological resources. The recent tiger crisis, the Scheduled Tribes Bill that gives them parts of the reserved land, the debate on the responsibility of India in the Kyoto Protocol, all have highlighted the urgency of rethinking the orthodox paradigm of environmental management.

All our efforts have not yet guaranteed easy access and good quality elementary education for all children of India. It is time to think outside the box and the Education Voucher is the most innovative approach for universal guarantee of high-quality education.

The Education Voucher is a coupon offered by the government and covers the cost of education at the school of the student's choice. The schools collect vouchers from students and present them to the government for the amount of money specified on the voucher.

Tigers vs Tribals: This is how the debate on the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill 2005 has been framed. If you are for tigers, you shouldn’t recognize forest rights of tribals. And if you are for tribals, then it ipso facto means that tigers are not important to you. This is a completely false dichotomy.

The draft National Environment Policy (nep) released by the Union ministry of environment and forest emphasises ‘polluter pays’, ‘cost-minimisation’ and market-based incentives for pollution control. A logical follow up should be to vest stewardship of natural resources with communities that are directly dependent on them. nep, however, falls short here. This lacuna is glaring because most common resources in India degenerate into open resources — over which local communities have very little control.

Two of the brightest public economists of India occupy the two of the most powerful positions in the current government of India.  This is the first in the history of India. How has been this uniquely gifted government’s performance in the first year?  It is only fair to assess their performance, not against their own goals, the Common Minimum Program, but against their potential.  The right question is: How far has the government run by two great economists fulfilled its potential?

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