The recent CAG reports on scams in the power, aviation and coal sectors have revealed that the Indian people have lost as much as Rs 3.8 lakh crores as a result of the loot of natural resources by private monopolies aided by the central and state governments.
The CAG report on the coal scam notes that 25 firms, including Essar Power, Hindalco, Tata Steel, Tata Power and Jindal Steel have potentially cheated the public of 1.86 lakh crores from the coal blocks allocated to them on a nomination basis.
Following closely on the 2G scam revelations, the recent CAG reports have exposed the massive loot of natural resources that have been going on in these sectors. However, the recommendation of the CAG that the government should have gone for competitive bidding in these sectors instead of the first-come-first served basis has to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Given the proclivity of big business houses and multinational corporations to settle for nothing short of maximum profit, the selling away of natural resources to them is at the expense of people’s collective interest, whether it is done on first-come-first served basis or by competitive bidding in an auction. It is not very difficult for the powerful monopolies to collude, and to pass on additional cost of competitive bidding to consumers through increased tariffs, as the 2G case reveals. A small number of monopolies control the lion’s share of the market in these sectors.
In a situation where people have no control over the natural resources even though they are their rightful owners, the central and state governments have been giving them away for “public purpose” pretending to be the “trustees” of the people and acting in “good faith”.
Existing legislation on natural resources are premised on the colonial concept of the power of Eminent Domain which give the state unrestrained power to use the natural resources of the people as it deems fit. The people remain mere helpless spectators.
Unless this alienation of the people from their natural resources is set right, it does not really matter which method is used to sell the natural resources to profit-seeking monopolies – the nomination method or the auction method.
To put an end to this alienation, it is necessary to address the basic flaw in the Constitution of India, which proclaims India to be a Union of States. That flaw is that there is no recognition of who the nations or peoples are, who constitute the Union. The Union of States is defined purely in territorial terms, with no recognition of any of the historically formed peoples and the traditional rights that have come to belong to them. The vesting of supreme power in the hands of central institutions at the Union level, including the power to even redefine State boundaries, apart from the power to award licences to extract major minerals and other natural resources such as telecommunication spectrum in this 21st century, is part of the fundamental flaw. It is a fundamental flaw because it violates the rights that distinct peoples have enjoyed, who inhabit this ancient land called India.
It is important for the people of India to recognise the need to address this flaw, so that every Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Kannadiga, Tamilian, Keralite, Oriya, Manipuri, Naga, Kashmiri and all other peoples are recognised for what they are, and then as Indians. To recognise each constituent of the Union means to recognise their rights, including ownership and control over the natural resources available in their territory. In the case of shared rights over river water that flows across different territories, it will be necessary to recognise and respect accepted international principles defining upper-riparian and lower-riparian rights in sharing river waters.
Every nationality or community of people whose identity and rights are recognised and respected would gladly join hands with the others to have a powerful Union, provided the Constitution of the Union recognizes the right of each constituent to self-determination.
To effect such a fundamental change in the federal framework, and to ensure that people are supreme both at state and federal level, we have to build a political alternative in the form of a united mass movement and organisation committed to the goal of restoring to people their rights which have been usurped. Only this can ensure that natural resources of the country are used to raise the standard of living of the people as a whole. We are building Lok Raj Sangathan with this vision in mind.
We are channelling all our energy at this time into building local, village, district, city, national and all-India level organs of people’s struggle – the samitis and Councils. This is the immediate practical task facing all political forces which stand for the empowerment of the people. Such people’s formations have to participate in all forms of struggle and activity that will assist to bring their agenda onto the centre-stage of political life.
We must agitate for the principle that there can be no election without the people having a decisive say in the selection of candidates. Lok Raj Sangathan has tested in practice the method of selecting candidates at open mass meetings in the constituency, where every nomination is examined, approved or rejected. Our experience teaches us that it is possible to establish an alternative system and political process in which this method of selection is made mandatory. That will put an end to the practice of imposing candidates from above.
We should prepare the ground for the election of people’s committees in as many localities as possible, wherever people work or live, and in every electoral constituency. The new system we envisage would mandate Constituency Committees with the responsibility to organise the selection of candidates for election, to recall elected representatives when they don’t perform, and to enable people to initiate proposals for new laws and annulment or revision of existing ones.
This is the only way to restore the rights of peoples over their natural resources and prevent their unbridled looting by profiteers.