The Thane committee of the Lok Raj Sangathan (LRS) took the initiative along with the Sarva Shramik Sangh (SSS) in organizing a meeting in Thane on the 27th of June ’04.
The invitation proclaimed that the topic of discussion in the meeting would be "Program of the People of India". Thus, this meeting was very important, held as it was against the backdrop of a concerted campaign in the media that claimed that the Common Minimum Program of the Central Government is for the benefit of the Indian people. More than 60 people, including activists and workers of many factories and youth, participated in the meeting. The union committee members of Mukund Iron and Steel Company, Bharat Bijlee, Pragati Electricals, Herdillia Chemicals, as well as the activists of the Communist Ghadar Party of India, and the SSS took an active part in the proceedings.
The tone of the meeting was set by the opening remarks of the LRS speaker, Mr. S. Joshi. He said that although the recent Lok Sabha election mandate was overwhelmingly against both the BJP as well as the Congress, the Congress once again cobbled together a government under its leadership. This, he pointed out, proves that in the present electoral system, people can, at the most, vote out the Party in power. They have no say in deciding what takes its place. Similarly, people overwhelmingly rejected the privatization-liberalization program, of both these parties, which has wreaked havoc with people’s livelihood. Despite this, the new Government at the centre is pledging to continue the same program. He called upon the people not to be under any illusions that the Common Minimum Program (CMP) has anything good in it for them, but that they should instead, put forward and fight for a program of their own for the complete renewal of India.
After the opening remarks, speaker after speaker gave concrete examples from their life experiences and denounced the CMP as an anti-people, program of the rich.
The leader of Mukund Iron and Steel explained how the courts have given judgements attacking the rights of workers. He cited the example of the Supreme Court ruling against the Mukund karmacharis that said that the Industrial Disputes Act is not applicable to them since "karmacharis" are not "workmen". Another speaker, Mr. Patil of the Anti-Corruption Platform pointed out how the then ruling BJP-NDA and the opposition Congress Party colluded and ensured that no debate could be raised in the Parliament on the issue of the ban on strikes decreed by the Supreme Court. He also pointed out how right from 1991, both the congress and the BJP, as the ruling and the opposition parties have ensured that the liberalization-privatization program is implemented by the governments at the center as well as at the states. He did not see any difference between that and the CMP. Another Mukund worker questioned why all the budgets are formulated by the government in consultation with the big industrialists.
Another workers questioned why the communist members of parliament are backing the program of the capitalists like the CMP.
An activist of the Communist Ghadar Party of India said that the rich of the country are not capable of devising a program that will get rid of hunger, unemployment and poverty. It is only the working people of India that are capable of charting out such a program and building political unity of the people around it. Working people need to challenge the capitalists in the political arena with such a program. He also emphasized the need of all the communists as well as the progressive people to unitedly oppose the CMP and to develop a People’s Program for the Renewal of India, a program whose objective would be to ensure peace and prosperity for all the working people of India.
An activist of the LRS elaborated on the attacks on the teaching community and called upon all the people to become active in the political arena and to build unity around a program of the working people.
Mr. P. R. Patil of Herdillia Chemicals also called upon all the workers not to get diverted into non-issues, but instead to demand a clear stand by various parties on all issues facing the common people.
One worker from Pragati Electricals stressed the need to work for "One factory – one union". A suggestion that in the forthcoming elections to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, working people should put up their own candidates in as many places as possible was greeted with tremendous applause.
Mr. Bangera of the SSS concluded the meeting. His speech reflected the spirit of all those who had gathered there – "India belongs to the working people". He clarified how a handful of industrialists have fattened themselves at the expense of the working people of our country and amassed wealth worth thousands of crores. Their claim that they set up factories with their own capital is a lie. They get land from the government at throwaway prices, thousands of crores as loans from the banks (which they do not return and get written off as "non-performing assets"). He called upon those present to volunteer for a committee that would work to develop and propagate the program of the working people. Such a committee was formed among those present with two representatives each from different factories and a few on a individual basis.
Such meetings are indispensable to develop the alternative, independent program of the working people for the renewal of India.
Meeting at Thane, Maharashtra, 27 June, 2004