March 24, 2012
Jan Sansaads March to Sansad Marg challenging Corporate Driven Growth
March 23rd, New Delhi: Marking the Martyrs day of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, a five thousand strong rally of farmers, workers, adivasis, dalits men, women and children marched from Shaheed Bhagat Singh Park to Sansad Marg on the concluding day of the first Rashtriya Jan Sansad (National People’s Parliament). Medha Patkar, led the march along with social movement leaders from North East to Gujarat and from Punjab to Tamilnadu in which nearly 150 organisations from 20 states participated. Bhagat Singh had challenged the unjust and imperialist colonial British Parliament for which he was hanged. Medha pointed out that, “We are here today on the Sansad Marg to challenge the corporate driven, unjust and exploitative growth, being pushed by every government since early 90s, not with bombs but with our moral force, truth and non-violent struggles of the antim aadmi and aurat”. We stand vindicated today as we have exposed, by our struggles and deliberations in the Jan Sansad over last three days, the falsehood of Indian prosperity and growth story. India is not shining, it is dying. Reduction of criteria of below poverty line by Planning Commission will not reduce the number of poor in this country. The country has lost faith in Planning Commission and its centralised planning which has completely neglected the gram sabha and ward sabha plans. Montek Singh Ahluwalia must resign, time has come to resign and retire. Ms.Patkar further added that we are to defend the constitution. “Those protesting in Koodankulam are being labelled as anti national. They are not traitors. They are real heroes of the country.” Jan Sansad endorsed and gave a call for a fast on 27th of March across the country which will be observed in 20 states by those who came to the people’s parliament.
The three day Jan Sansad deliberated the critical issues facing the nation today has led to mass suicides, displacement, impoverishment and all round destruction of natural on the critical issues of development such as food security, equitable budget, corporate plunder of resources, community rights over resources, electoral reforms, issues of unorganised work force. The Trickle Down theory, pushed forward by interests advocating for liberal reforms, has failed to fulfil its promise. Jan Sansad demands that the unorganised and unprotected sector of workers, who are 93% of our population, be given their due now. NREGA workers from states of Sitapur, Nanao, and Nandoi in Uttar Pradesh and Araria in Bihar demanded for NREGA wages be equal to minimum wages prescribed by the States and for a 365 day Right to Work program.
In its report to the Parliament, the Jan Sansad demanded comprehensive electoral reforms which will reflect the reality of the entire nation including that of labourers, adivasis, workers, women, muslims and other minority communities. The Jan sansad rally was joined by Justice Rajendra Sachchar, Swami Agnivesh, Devasahayam MG, Arvind Kejrival, Sanjay Parikh, Suhas Borkar and other senior activists from movements across the country. The Jan Sansad ended with the decision to take forward this process to other States and districts.
Lok Shakti Abhiyan, National Alliance of Peoples’ Movement
* Budget was UPA’s declaration of War on Aam Aadmi and Aurat
* Jan Sansad Demands End of Company Raj & Corporate Plunder of Jal Jangal & Jameen
* Thousands to March from Shaheed park to Sansad Marg and handover Resolutions to Political Parties Representatives & Civil Society Members
22 March 2012, New Delhi: The National Jan Sansad concluded its three days with a strong demand for a people’s oriented progressive ‘Budget’ that will serve as an instrument of Social Change and promote sustainable, just and equitable growth. The Jan Sansad condemned strongly the budget, of about 15 lakh crores, proposed by the Indian Parliament which will only further the interest of corporations and the wealthy urban class. The Jan Sansad organised by the National Alliance of People’s Movements in Rajendra Bhawan in New Delhi has brought together over 350 representatives from 20 different states of India to debate key issues of people’s concerns that rarely find mention in the Indian Parliament.
Several crucial issues such as decentralized planning and increased role for Gram Sabhas in policy planning that would contribute to a comprehensive budget were raised by the Sansad. Atleast 40% of the budget should be allocated to the Gram Sabhas for spending at the local level. Making the connection between corruption and weak economy, Prafulla Samantra of NAPM, Orissa, remarked that the dialogue on corruption is incomplete unless the plunder of natural resources such as land, water, air and minerals is taken into account. Communities demanded that natural resources not be allocated for profit-making businesses without consent of Gram Sabhas. The budget should ensure equitable access to both economic and natural resources.
The previous budgets reveal that while subsidies provided to the corporations amount to over 5 lakh crores, those allocated to the poorer agricultural classes are around one lakh crore. The Saansads argued that restructuring of the Indian tax structure, for instance by imposing estate, wealth tax, gift tax, inheritance tax, will generate adequate revenue which can increase spending on rural social infrastructure. “It is not sufficient that the budget is brought to public forums in the month of January every year. And even this is only an eyewash if none of the issues raised by organisations, trade unions are reflected in the final budget”, claimed Prof Arun Kumar, Economist, JNU.
For equitable growth, the budget needs to have adequate and specific allocations for women, dalits, muslims and other minority communities. Speaking against the privatization of the health and education sectors, the Sansad also advocated for a 6% budgetary allocation. Dr. Meera Shiva spoke on the dangers of privatization of the health sector where multinational companies are into all sectors of health including services, insurance, diagnosis, and education. Their control over the patents, further facilitated by free trade agreements and WTO is denying access to millions of people across the world. The Union Budget has to stop promoting these agreements and must immediately withdraw from undemocratic processes like WTO and other bilateral trade agreements.
The days’s panelists included Medha Patkar, K.B.Saxena, Dr Satyajit Singh, Amitabh Behar, Prof Arun Kumar, Meera Shiva, Kamal Nayan Kabra, Madhu Baduri, Sumit Chakravarthy, and Praful Bidwai
While the Jan Sansad sessions continued, on the occasion of World Water Day, movement groups fighting water privatisation, dams, thermal and nuclear power plants staged demonstrations in front of Tamilnadu Bhawan and Kerala Bhawan, Jantar Mantar. In solidarity with people fighting against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant, Tamilnadu movement groups joined the Jawaharlal Nehru University student’s Union demonstration in front of the Tamilnadu Bhavan condemning the States repression of the non-violent struggle by fisherfolk and local communities in Idinthakarai. Later in the day, thousands of nature based communities struggling against water acquisition and privatisation, demanded ‘Save Water, Save Life, Save People’ at Jantar Mantar. The groups included Plachimada anti-coke struggle, Nadi Ghati Morcha, Arunachal anti-mega dam struggle groups, Matu Jan Sanghatan, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Narmada Bachao Andolan and others and was led by Medha Patkar, Sanddep Pandey, Vilayodi Venugopal and others.
Thousands of adivasis and marginal farmers from Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh who came for Jan sansad have been demonstrating against Adani thermal power plant since yesterday at jantar mantar. They were joined today by nearly 500 people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Kisan Sangharsh Samiti leading the struggle against destructive thermal power plants in the area have been demanding that the illegal clearance granted to Adani Thermal and Pench water diversion project be revoked. Jan sansad passed a resolution in their support and demanded that Ministry of Environment and Forest must take action against Adani & the police atrocities in the region.
Jan Sansad passed resolutions on the issues of communities’ control of natural resources, corporate corruption and many other issues.
Tomorrow, March 23rd, on occasion of martyrs day, thousands of people joining the concluding session of Jantar Mantar will march from Shaheed Park, near ITO to the Sansad Marg and hand over the resolutions to the representatives of the different political parties. Bhaktha Charan Das, Mohan Singh, Sharad Yadav, Tarun Mandal and many others are expected to attend. The resolutions will also be handed over to the members of civil society, trade unions, University and others. The rally will be attended by Arvind kejariwal, Swami Agnivesh, K B Saxena, B D Sharma, Justice Rajinder Sachar, Ashok Chowdhary, Medha Patkar, sandeep pandey and others. Anna Hazare is also likely to attend the demonstration tomorrow at the Sansad Marg.
Scrap Land Acquisition Act and SEZ Act: ‘Jan Sansad’ demands ‘Sansad’
21 March 2012, New Delhi: It was the second day at the National People’s Parliament that has been taking place in Rajendra Bhawan, New Delhi’s. Attended by more than 350 people from across 20 states, the Jan Sansad debated two key issues during the day: 1) Agrarian Crisis & Food Security, 2) Assertion of People’s Politics, Democratic Governance and Electoral reforms.
In the context of ever-increasing numbers of farmer’s suicides and diversion of agricultural land for corporate interests, the Jan Saansads demanded that, laws and policies such as the Special Economic Zone and Land Acquisition Act, which aid the acquisition of fertile agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, be scrapped with immediate effect. Various factors including reduced subsidies, increased use of pesticides and fertilisers, replacing indigenous varieties with genetically modified seeds and BT Cotton, and reduced access to resources such as water and power are making it financially unviable for farmers to continue cultivation. “The NSSO’s survey shows that in 2005-2006 40% of the farmers were willing to stop cultivation if provided with any other source of livelihood. What does it tell about a government that hires an American consulting firm to prepare the vision document for agriculture in India by 2020?” asked Lingaraj Pradhan from Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Odisha.
This model of development, where agriculture is at the bottom of the pyramid and the service sector is at the top, needs to be challenged and reversed. Dr. Sunilam from Kisan Sangharsh Morcha, Madhya Pradesh who strongly advocated against diversion of agricultural land, said the following, “The European model of viewing agriculture as a profit making business does not work in our country. Neither is it feasible to feed our population on imported grains.” It is inexcusable that even while taking land away from local farmers, the government is proposing that our farmers cultivate on land in Ethiopia. “The Indian Government is leasing lakhs of acres of land for as low as Rs.40 per acre per year in Ethiopia” said Chennaiah from the Agricultural Workers Union (APVVU), Andhra Pradesh.
The session on People’s Politics and Electoral Reforms discussed issues in electoral processes and alternatives. Public intellectual and analyst Yogendra Yadav reiterated that there has to be sufficient debate in the Parliament and outside before any bill is passed. Acts such as the AFSPA and UAPA have no room in a democracy. Representing the Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India (CERI), MC Raj pointed out the flaws in the electoral democratic process in India and asked for comprehensive reforms – and not just temporary improvements by the Election Commission. The political representation process has gotten so weak that only the rich and elite could even contest elections to the parliament and assemblies. The Jan Sansad also demanded a process where Gram Sabhas consent, through referendum, would be sought before passing of legislations.
The Jan Sansad observed silence for the sudden demise of Matanhy Saldana, Chairperson of National Fishworkers Forum (NFF), who passed away early in the day. Mr. Saldana had recently won the Assembly elections in and was appointed the Minister of Environment & Forests and Tourism, Goa.
Protect land; fight for community rights – People’s flag over political flags
20 March 2012, New Delhi: The three-day Rashtriya Jan Sansad (National People’s Parliament) has been set in motion in New Delhi with 350 People’s Parliamentarians from 20 states across the country. The peoples’ parliament commenced with a reading of the Preamble of the Indian Constitution and an appeal to the citizens of India to come together to restore the true spirit of the constitution and the parliament.
The thematic issues that were covered during the day included 1) Community Rights over Land, Water, Forest, Minerals and Right to Development Planning & 2) Growing Inequity: unprotected/unorganised sector workers and labour issues along with price issues. The Saansads belong to diverse communities and geographical locations, thereby bringing to the Jan Sansad issues faced by different underprivileged, minority and discriminated communities. The issue of rampant acquisition of land and other natural resources emerged as one of the most crucial problems faced by natural resources based communities.
Hansraj Rana from Bhumi Bachao – Kissan Mazdoor Talmal Committee, Haryana said that the development agenda is focussed exclusively around industrial production, despite it catering mostly to real estate business. But this government does not understand that if they promote agriculture and primary industries, they would not only reduce the cost of development but also reduce environmental destruction. He stated that battle lines were clearly drawn between people who wanted to defend their land and a government who wanted to give land to the big companies. Protecting the land is a responsibility of the peasants, not just a right, he said.
Shantabai Kale from Mumbai spoke for the Rights of Slum dwellers. The slum dwellers occupy marshy lands and over the years they make the land liveable and then the same people are removed. In 2004, their slums were demolished rendering them homeless, till today they live on pavements. Kishori Das from Patna also talked about slums and the fraud around rehabilitation. He talked about governemnt wasting huge sums of money to prepare Detailed Project Report (DPRs) but at the end the slums dwellers are not getting any benefit.
Jan Saansads coming from various states spoke on the community rights over natural resources, land, water, forests and also regarding the ‘growth’ agenda of the present Indian Parliament. It was pointed out that despite 65 years of independence, India had only a colonial law to displace citizens and nothing to provide rehabilitation or justice to affected people. S.C.Behar, former bureaucrat, from Chhattisgarh said that we need to have a Law on “Natural resources utilisation as per consensus of peoples Act”. Adv. Sanjay Parikh said that we should use the Directive Principles of State policies. Public intellectual and writer C.R.Neelakandan, referring to the struggles of Koodankulam and many others in the South, pointed at the systemic flaws involved in the development policy decision making process – as to who decides, what technology and who pays the price for the so called development model’. Justice (Rtd) Tewatia, said that things are not happening in the interest of the people. Everything is happening in collusion of politicians, bureaucracy, and corporates.
The second presidium had Nandlal Master, (Lok Samiti Varanasi), Kiran Shaheen, Swami Agnivesh, Gabriele Dietrich Pennurumai Iyyakam, Tamil Nadu) and Kamla Yadav (Narmada Bachao Andolan). The Panel consisted of Ranjeet, (Jan Jagran Abhiyan, Bihar), Santhosh Thorat, Tiwari, Leelavati, Jaishankar, Sandeep Pandey and Prof Madhu Prasad. The day also witnessed songs by Salsabel students (Kerala) and Asmita, a Delhi theatre group.