A correspondent of Mazdoor Ekta Lehar participated in a public meeting in Sirsa, Haryana on 28th Aug 2011. The meeting deliberated over some of the most pressing concerns of the people– Inflation and Corruption, Universal Public Distribution System, Land Acquisition, State Terrorism, and last but certainly not the least, How Can People Come to Power? The quality of the participation and interventions showed the heightened consciousness of the people about the urgent necessity for people’s empowerment as the condition for the solution of all the diverse problems faced by the people. Participants came from several towns and villages of Haryana, and neighboring areas of Rajasthan and Punjab. They consisted of farmers, teachers, workers and youth. The meeting was organized by the Lok Raj Sangathan.
Comrade Hanuman Prasad presided over the meeting, while Comrade Ashok conducted the meeting interspersing speeches with many progressive songs and couplets.
Comrade Hanuman Prasad contrasted two types of development processes – one from the angle of high rate of growth by exploiting the land and labour to the maximum and the other from the angle of raising the standard of living of the people.
People had come together in 1857 to throw their oppressors out. The insurgents had declared that they wanted the rule of the people. After the brutal suppression of this revolt, the British worked overtime to break the unity of the people and their spirit to fight oppression. In August of 1947, the oppressive and exploitative rule of the British colonialists was replaced by the oppressive and exploitative rule of the Indian ruling class.
The present system was destroying the livelihood of farmers and other toilers and filling the vaults of big industrial families. "boya pehd babool ka, toh aam kahan se khaye!" (You cannot reap mangoes if you plant babool trees!). The farmers organizations attending the meeting must resolutely oppose the land acquisition law being proposed by the government.
The five topics of the discussion were inter-related. State terrorism was integrally linked to suppression of the toilers. The killing of tribals and other people, when they fight for their rights, is state terrorism. Those crushed by the state for fighting for their right to conscience are victims of state terrorism. Price rise was nothing but an attack on the standard of living of the toiling people. It increases the exploitation of toilers. All these are symptoms of the disease of people being deprived of political power.
He said that we need to think coolly on the issue of how people can come to power. He emphasized the need to hold such discussions all across the country. Let there be a manthan of ideas and let the best ideas get established in people's consciousness, he concluded.
Comrade Birju Nayak talked about LRS's participation in the movement against corruption. He summed up lessons from the experience of the current agitation led by Shri Anna Hazare. All the major parties in the parliament were united on one issue, that people have no say in the decision making process in the country. According to them, the parliament had the monopoly of decision making. By coming on to the streets in a united and resolute manner, ordinary people had clearly challenged this view.
Comrade Nayak emphasised that a thorough renewal of the political system and process was needed to enable people to become the decision makers. This is the demand of the people. The Government had to bow down to the people and has agreed to debate the key points of the Peoples Lok Pal draft. We have achieved a partial victory. How far forward we will be able to go towards people’s empowerment depends on all of us.
Those who took part in the manthan in Sirsa included Prof Bharat Seth, an former activist of the IIT faculty association, Duni Chand, leader of the Lok Raj Sangathan, Haryana, Ramphal Kandela, peasant leader from Jind, Om Sahu, one of main leaders of Sarpanch union of Rajasthan, Hansraj of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Gorakhpur, Ram Swaroop of Kisan Union Federation, Haryana, Shri Pal Singh of Jan Sangharsh Samiti of Jind District and Lal Chand Gujara of the Varishtha Nagarik Sangathan.
Speakers pointed out that the state, and the political system and process do not correspond with the aspirations of the people. The people are demanding that they have control over all institutions of state.
However, most of the laws date back to the British rule. The state is a colonial legacy and it acts as an oppressor and treats the people as enemies. The party system of rule, and the electoral laws, ensures that people have no say in making decisions that affect their lives.
The elected representatives are not answerable to the people. They are answerable only to their parties. This enables the high command of the ruling party to impose the will of the money bags.
People cannot hand their entire power to their representatives; they need to have power to exercise control over their representatives. The party system of rule has to be eliminated. The role of political parties needs to be redefined to ensure that they become instruments of the people to become the rulers. People’s organisations and not political parties must select and reject candidates. They should have the right to recall those representatives who act against the mandate given to them by the people of their constituency. People must have the right to initiate legislation or propose amendments to legislations, as well as the right to vote on important issues through a referendum.
Speakers condemned the proposed new land acquisition and rehabilitation bill. They pointed out that the Union Ministry of Rural Development had become the tool to destroy the livelihood of the rural masses. The Haryana government had passed a law recently that removed ceiling on land ownership for big corporations. Speakers also denounced the government's plans to build a nuclear power plant in Gorakhpur, despite mass opposition of the people of the area.
The meeting concluded that the solution to any of the problems confronting the people lies in establishing Lok Raj. It gave a call to step up the struggle towards this goal.