Establishing and strengthening local Committees to fight for their interests is the only way forward for our people!
Statement of the Lok Raj Sangathan (Maharashtra chapter) 11 August 2005
Dear Fellow Citizens,
The havoc wreaked by the recent floods in Mumbai, Thane and the rest of Maharashtra has been unprecedented. The material and human loss has been phenomenal.
A large amount of well-documented material has come out in the last few days, highlighting the likely causes of the recent disaster. If two things stand out in bold relief, they are:
- The shocking apathy, indifference or even criminality of various powers that be, during and after the crisis, which even led to the crisis in the first place.
- The glorious role played by lakhs of ordinary people, their organizations and associations, without whom the death toll as well as losses would have been unimaginably higher.
While the most pressing and urgent task is to help our fellow citizens stand up again, the Lok Raj Sangathan strongly feels that we also have to proactively take steps to ensure that history does not repeat itself. The time to start action in that direction is now.
We all need to think – why was there practically NO RELIABLE COMMUNICATION for almost a whole week after 26th July, regarding the flood situation in various parts of Maharashtra and Mumbai? Why did thousands have to suffer the agony of uncertainty due to rumours and why did thousands suffer since they were not informed well in time regarding the opening of various dam gates? Can it be justified in this age of Science when the rulers of our country proudly proclaim that we are capable of launching satellites in space?
We also need to think – why was the capability of the Army, Navy and Air Force not used effectively to save life and property? Is it not true that Mumbai, Pune, etc. are major bases of the Armed Forces?
The above questions have nothing to do with whether this was a natural calamity or not.
The only answer to all the above questions is a simple oft repeated experience of all of us – the Powers-that-be do not care about the common people.
During the first week after 26th July, except for a negligible number of exceptions, NO people’s representatives –Corporators, MLA’s, MP’s or Ministers – vigourously participated in saving people from the disaster. People are saying openly and angrily that “Now these vultures are coming when aid is being distributed so that they can claim credit and wherever possible siphon it away!” Even now when the death toll due to water borne diseases is mounting, hardly any of them is ensuring that people get the necessary treatment. Instead they are just busy playing the blame game!
We need to demand explanation and call all of them to account –all the elected representatives and the big bureaucrats – on all the above questions. But unfortunately there is no mechanism in the present system of governance, by means of which we can hold them accountable and punish those guilty.
Then what is the way out? The only way out is establishing such mechanisms ourselves! And what can be a better form than establishing local committees fighting for the interests of the people? During this entire unfortunate episode it is only the voluntary local committees of people from all walks of life and cutting across caste and religious barriers, which saved a huge number of lives and material. Moreover it is only where such committees are active that the government is reaching with whatever meager aid it has promised. It is up to all of us to ensure that these committees continue and become a permanent feature around which we can build the new mechanism.
A large amount of material has come out in the last few days, clearly proving that while drawing up development plans for cities and or districts, common people’s interests vis-à-vis basic infrastructure, basic needs like water, sanitation and shelter have been neglected by those wielding power – be it the Congress coalition or the SS-BJP coalition. It has also come to light that various experts including many appointed by the Government itself had already predicted such disasters. But all their recommendations, cautions and objections were not only completely ignored by the powers-that-be, but in fact were kept hidden from the people. This is true whether it is the issue of the Mithi River, the Bandra-Kurla Complex, the Koyna dam, the Almatti dam or other such examples exposed in the last two weeks. From this experience and many such experiences in the past it is very clear that if we leave the decision-making regarding development plans in the hands of the powers-that-be, then the same results adversely affecting the common people will occur. No! We cannot leave decisions regarding development in the hands of such few people. Our local fighting committees must take active interest in investigating, understanding, and formulating all the development plans. We must also select experts from amongst us, who shall be answerable to us, and who shall advise us on technical matters.
We all must raise a demand that “No developmental activity in a region shall be carried out without the consent of the local fighting committees and without giving full and fair compensation as agreed by the committee in case some people are likely to get affected”.
We need to definitely raise immediate demands like
- No to any non-residential construction in the erstwhile Textile Mill lands under any pretext.
- No to any residential construction in the above mentioned land except for constructing houses for the working people of Mumbai.
- No to “development” as defined by the Capitalist class and their lackeys, according to whom the needs of the common people are the last to be satisfied and are looked upon as a burden! In view of this we must demand complete rethink of Development Control rules for Mumbai, Thane, and all other cities, towns and villages of India!
- Immediate solution and immediate funds allocation to satisfy all the basic needs of our people like Sanitation, Water, Heath and Shelter. We must demand that funds for these should not be raised from people by additional taxes or by sacrificing other people-oriented projects .We must demand that these funds should be raised from the corporate companies, most of whom are responsible for most of the problems created due to the lopsided development. After all, big corporations are the ones who have filled up the Bandra-Kurla complex. It is big corporations that are responsible for large-scale environmental degradation and pollution not just in Mumbai but all over the country
- Immediate investigation by experts appointed by the People’s committees into the plight of people living in areas upstream and downstream of all the major dams!
Today there is no mechanism to inform the people, to involve them in drawing up plans and to implement the plans that people approve. There is no enabling mechanism to ensure that we citizens could have the decisive role in governance. It is quite clear that it is not in the interests of the powers-that-be to create such mechanisms. Hence we must establish our fighting committees irrespective of political affiliation or absence thereof. But that is not enough. We must, as a long term but a very important measure, demand that necessary changes must be done in our Constitution so that such People’s committees get the decisive power to take all the decisions, to demand accountability from elected representatives and to remove such representatives which do not come up to the expectations of the local committees. This is the only way that in the real sense we the people of India will be empowered. And this is the only guarantee which shall not only prevent such calamities but instead lead us to prosperity.
We are eager to discuss this issue further and to work together to establish such committees wherever possible.
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