Kolkata – Appeal to participate in Sramajibi Adhikar Jatra, April 9

April 6, 2011

by Nagarik Mancha

In the din surrounding the ensuing West Bengal Assembly Elections, 2011, the voices from the margins seem wholly inconsequential.

Attention is hogged totally by the rival supporters of `Paribartan’ or `Pratyabartan‘.

Everything, except who gets democratically elected to the Writers’ Building, seems secondary at present.

Whoever wins the elections, the working communities apprehend, they will continue to suffer.

Will the election results significantly influence that which goes by the name of `development’ these days?

Except some face-saving lip service, do the power-centric protagonists really care about or do they have the political will to tackle problems like benefits for workers of closed factories; rights of hawkers/street vendors; implementation of employment guarantee scheme; rights of forest dwellers and the implementation of the forest rights act; protection of livelihood of the coastal fish workers; protection of environment in coastal areas; establishment of the rights of tribals to their land, water and forests; implementation of labour laws; pollution generated by the sponge iron factories, stone quarries and stone crushing units; proper rehabilitation of evicted people; recognition of the rights of sex workers and several other issues of this kind?

Mainstream political parties, on either side of power, increasingly influenced by profit-centric interests have rarely found these above-mentioned issues to be worthy of incorporation in their agenda.

For over two decades now, a variety of non-party peoples’ initiatives have continued to oppose the dehumanizing juggernaut of government-sponsored `development’ which has adversely affected the life and livelihood of the poor, marginal working communities. The emerging mainstream civil society has seldom recognized concerns of such initiatives as concerns of any significance. Even these movement-based independent and autonomous initiatives have functioned on a stand-alone basis, without significant networking and mutual-aid based support systems.

However, over fifty such initiatives have recently resolved to organize a peoples’ programme – a programme aimed at collectively voicing the concerns of the toilers forced further towards the margins of our society.

We demand that any government or political party enjoying political power has to give serious attention to the rights of the poor and working classes, and make this the basis to undertake sustained development of the country. In order to highlight our demands we are organizing the Sramajibi Adhikar Jatra, an assembly of working communities for their rights. Participants from various parts of West Bengal will join.

In a decentralized fashion they have started organizing small rallies in and around their areas of influence starting 5 April 2011.

On Saturday, April 9, 2011 at 12 noon, rallies from all over will converge at Subodh Mullick Square (Wellington Square), Kolkata.

Thousands of people including forest people from North Bengal, tribal people from Paschimanchal, agricultural labourers, zori artisans and stone engravers from South Bengal, sex workers, khalpar or canal-bank dwellers, evicted people, hawkers, fishermen, closed industry workers, people’s theatre activists, unorganized workers to mention some will assemble when rallies from various parts of the city, including railway stations at Howrah and Sealdah will converge at Subodh Mullick Square. It is expected that democratic-minded citizens will come in solidarity too.

Nagarik Mancha is actively participating in the Sramajibi Adhikar Jatra. We appeal to you to be present with us on Saturday, 9 April 2011, 12 noon at Subodh Mullick Square, Kolkata.

We hope that you will not allow the voices of reason, the voices from the margins, to be drowned in the cacophony which characterizes the build up to the forthcoming Assembly Elections.

Naba Dutta (General Secretary)