After 60 years of being a Republic, two problems in our country irk me very much – lack of education and health facilities. Figures reveal that 70% of the children taking primary education drop out by the time they reach third or fourth standard. What is shocking in a country with a population of 120 crore is that the total number of professional graduates (MBAs etc) is only 14 lakh and graduates, only 4.5 crore!
As against 76% male literacy, 46% of our country’s women are completely illiterate. Hence, Saksharta Mission (Literacy Mission) has now been changed to Mahila Saksharta Mission (Women Literacy Mission). Under it, in the next five years, women’s literacy will be brought at par with men. In this five-year plan, which will be known as Education Plan, $67 billion will be spent only on education.
Despite our educated youth working with NASA, Microsoft and IT giants, we lag behind in education. I have not been able to understand that despite so many schools and colleges existing under public and private sector, why do students not get admissions? Why leave everything on the government? Education has been privatised to a great extent. Why, then, can’t the private sector create an infrastructure to increase the number of seats? Pressure pushes the children towards depression and suicide. How can a conscientious nation tolerate that?
Health is another issue very close to my heart. Every Sunday, since the last three months, we have been organising eye camps in my constituency. We call 1000 people, get their free eye check-up done, organise for surgery where it is needed and provide free spectacles. Since mid January, Wockhardt Hospital has joined hands with me under its scheme – Right to Vision. I will also organise three health melas (the first in March this year) in a year in which every disease in the world will be checked and treated – free of cost.
I think that no person should die of diseases or lose eyesight because they did not have money for treatment. I am also beginning a project on de-worming. All the children in our slums are suffering from worms. I will distribute free medicines for de-worming to them. These projects are very close to my heart.
To make medical treatment easy for people, I will soon introduce an insurance scheme for one lakh people. Each family will be covered to the tune of Rs one lakh against diseases and accidents throughout the year – free of cost. I have already interacted with many corporate houses and NGOs. They are willing to help me. Right now, I am working on the price. Where there is a genuine cause, donors will follow.
Sanitation and water are two other major areas of concern that upset me. We have released 125 boring wells in various buildings. The BMC is allowing boring in Mumbai. Only, you cannot put power pumps in it which pulls water. The supply of water has been reduced by 30 to 35% now-a-days. Nobody can increase it overnight. Apart from boring, I have begun work on the government’s project of lakes revival in my constituency. I won’t take money from the government. We have identified six lakes in my constituency out of the 125 in Mumbai and have already given a letter to BMC Commissioner for permission. Bisleri company has agreed to fund one lake to the tune of Rs three crore. I have also started work on the revival of wells in my area. Our natural resources of water supply have been destroyed by this city’s builders and encroachers. They have made buildings on canals and filled water bodies with debris which saddens me.
BMC says, “Save Water”. I think few will listen to that and act on it. I want to say: “Increase Water”. I am encouraging buildings to go in for rain water harvesting which can be done for as little as Rs2.5 lakhs and also increase the level of water. London has only 40% of rain water that Mumbai gets but London has never faced water crisis till today. That is because they manage their water well. We are not able to manage our water. We waste it.
I have also had 25 toilets built in the last seven months. It must be so embarrassing for those poor women to sit on highways and roads for relieving themselves. We need to think about them.