Monday, 18 March 2013

The Toiling Masses are Marching towards Delhi for a New India!

The Sangharsh Sandesh Jathas led by the CPI(M), after covering the entire length and breadth of the Country, are converging towards Delhi, where a clarion call for struggles for an alternative policy framework will be given on 19th March in a massive rally in the Ramlila Maidan. The bourgeois media has chosen to ignore something that is phenomenal to say the least in the post-Independence Period, when for the first time, a campaign for alternative policies that place development for the masses on the agenda and not profits for the corporates, is being carried out on such a wide scale. Covering more than 10000 km and reaching out to lakhs of people with the message of Sangharsh (struggle) through public meetings, nukkar sabhas and cultural programmes, the 'suffering India' asserted its resolve to snatch away from the 'shining India' everything that has been systematically denied to it.

Wherever the Jatha went with the message of Sangharsh, it received massive support. People not only affirmed their faith in the red flag, but also resolved to break the shackles of neoliberal “growth” which is making their lives miserable. As the Jathas traversed the length and breadth of the country, they have passed through the areas  where the peasants and Adivasis are struggling to protect their land from forcible acquisition, where farmers are fighting for their livelihood and a fair price for their produce, where workers in the organised and unorganized sectors are struggling for a fair wage and against the contractualisation of labour, where students are opposing commercialization of education and demanding better educational facilities, where women are fighting against sexual violence and for equality and freedom, where Dalits are struggling for social justice, and where youth are waging movements against unemployment. The millions or ordinary and nameless they met included the struggling workers of Gurgaon, facing inhuman work conditions in the heart of India's corporate growth story. The struggling masses they met were the mining workers of Tosham in Haryana who have lost their jobs as the mines have been sold away to the private corporates. Among them were the Dalits of Maharashtra who are still trying to figure out the reality of equality which is enshrined in our Constitution, even after 65 years of Independence. They were the migrants from Bihar who together remit more than Rs 7,500 crore per year, which is 5 percent of the GDP of Bihar, and are still living in poverty, misery and poor health. They were the peasants of Gharsana, Rajasthan, who fought for canal water for months together, who saw relatives dying in police firing, hundred of others being imprisoned and many more injured in the process. They were the Guar farmers of Northern Rajasthan whose produce fetched exporters Rs 33,000 a quintal last year, while the peasants were given only Rs 2,000. They were the vada pav sellers of Andheri who have to face the exploitation of the police and the authorities every single day. They were many others who for the first time saw a sense of hope, a belief that the present can be made better and they have decided that Sangharsh is the only way ahead.

Land to the landless!

Today more than 2.1 crore hectare of land in the country is under illegal possession, while only 27 lakh hectare has been declared ceiling-surplus and out of that only 19 lakh hectares have been distributed (most of which is in West Bengal alone). The number of landless peasant households in India has grown tremendously in the last 20 years, from 22% in 1992 to 41% in 2011. Instead of giving land to the landless, government in its attempts of appeasing private and foreign capital is facilitating massive land acquisitions for the corporates.  Constitutional rights that were given to the Adivasis under the 5th schedule are being systematically curtailed. Today the struggle is not only to resist the corporate driven land acquisition, but also to demand the land for the landless.

Right to Food, Right to Work, Right to Health and Affordable Medicines!

In a country which is home to the largest malnourished population in the world, Right to Food isn't mere welfarism, rather it should be a fundamental right. But instead of a universal scheme the government is dividing the poor into BPL and APL, snatching from them the right to food, even as the government's poverty line estimates make a mockery of the poor. With exponential inflation and a cap on subsidised gas cylinders, even subsistence is becoming difficult for the majority of the country. The food security bill which has been prepared by the government is completely inadequate, and targeting & cash transfer are proving to be self defeating. The fraud in the name of food security has to be exposed, future trade in necessary items should be banned and universal food security has to be won.

 The much-trumpeted economic growth has hardly translated into any meaningful employment generation. While in 1998, 2.82 crore people were working in the organised sector; this came down to 2.75 crore in 2008. The employment growth rate for 2000-05 was 2.7%, which came down to 0.8% in 2005-10. The situation is particularly gloomy for the young men and more so ever for the young women. Whatever employment is being generated is on contract basis with no social security provisions. MGNREGA has seen drastic budgetary cuts, with even the allocated money not being spent.

Private hospitals and clinics have become money minting shops without any effective control in the past 20 years. Studies reveal that among the reasons behind the indebtedness of families, health is the second biggest factor. National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) is way short of the actual need in rural areas. Instead of the promised spending of 5% of GDP on Health, only 1% is being spent. Out of the 33 crore households in the country, 57% have no access to pure drinking water, 39% have no kitchen and 53% have no toilet facilities. The monopoly of MNCs over the medicine market has kept most of the medicines out of the reach of the majority. There is an urgent need of strict control over the private health sector and the medicines market.

For Social Justice!

Our country can't advance any inch without the advance of the Dalits, Adivasis, minorities and women. These sections form the overwhelming majority of the working population. Apart from the economic exploitation that is affecting all the toiling masses, these sections also have to face severe forms of oppression and discrimination. Women in general and women of the working poor in particular are the targets of the most brutal sexual violence. The fight for women’s equality and freedom needs to be carried forward and intensified. The efforts of communal forces led by the RSS-BJP combine to impose their narrow communal agendas, spreading hatred against the minority community and inciting violence must be strongly resisted and minority rights protected in all spheres.

Education is a Right, Not a Commodity!

The unwillingness of successive Central governments to allot more resources in the field of education has been one of the main reasons behind the present status of our country, which ranks 136th in the Human Development Index (HDI). In spite of the recommendations of various expert committees since Independence and continuous demands from democratic sections, spending of 6% of GDP and 10 % of the budget on education remains a distant dream. Small increases due to the Left’s pressure during the tenure of UPA-I have now been reversed, and during UPA-II even this small spending has seen continuous cuts. The 27% OBC reservation has not been implemented properly in most of the educational institutions, with cut-offs and eligibility criterion been used to manipulate the rules. The much-touted Right to Education Act has failed universalize school education, mainly because of the lack of adequate public funding. Whether in the case of school education or in the case of higher education, the thrust has been on commercialisation and privatisation.

So, What is to be Done?

The country is faced with a critical situation. At no time since independence has the gulf between the rich and the poor been so wide. More and more, the policies of the State are designed to help the powerful to loot the resources of the country; taxes on their profits and wealth are lowered and the laws help them avoid paying even these taxes. Whether it is the UPA government at the Centre or the BJP-run state governments, there is no difference in their outlook on privatization, in handing over scarce resources to big business and fulfilling the interests of foreign finance capital.

The Sangharsh Sandesh Jatha has promoted the message of struggle for alternative policies and seeks to address the issues and concerns of the millions of working people of the country. It has projected the unity of the working people against all kinds of communal and divisive politics. The future course of action is set for us. An alternative policy platform of struggle and bigger movements which can rally all the left and democratic forces of the country is the only way forward. It is in the fire of struggles that a New India will take its shape and we resolve to be witness to its making.

Join the Sangharsh Sandesh Rally at Ramlila Maidan on March 19, 11.30 am
The culmination of the four all India Sangharsh Sandesh Jathas
from Kanyakumari, Kolkata, Amritsar and Mumbai to Delhi.