A consultative meeting was held on 8th of July 2006 in Chennai on building a Consciousness Movement towards people’s rule. The meeting that was organized by Lok Raj Sangathan (Makklatchi Iyakkam) has gained significant importance in the context of ensuing elections for the Local bodies in October. The event was chaired by T.S.Sankaran, honorary president of Makkalatchi Iyakkam. The meeting was attended by activists and leaders of many trade unions and other people’s movements from various parts of Tamil Nadu.
There was lively participation by most of the activists who were present in the meeting. It was pointed out that originally there was not much of a role defined for the local bodies in our constitution. However, the 73rd and 74th amendments to the constitution envisioned the local bodies as the third tier of political power, the first and second tier being Parliament and state assemblies. However, due to the inadequacy and hurdles put on its way, these local bodies were not allowed to function as thought of. With the result and due to a host of other reasons, the people of our villages and towns remain disempowered. Even elections for these local bodies are as corrupt and criminalized as the other Assembly and Parliamentary elections. Electoral reforms such as selection of candidates by the people of the constituency, state financing the electoral process, recall rights for the people of the constituency, etc. equally apply to the local body elections as they do for others.
Over and above this, there are also specific issues affecting the local bodies. One of the important issues being that of control of these bodies over natural and financial resources. As it stands today, they are not provided with adequate financial resources nor means of implementation. Hence, most of the developmental and welfare measures in the local areas are carried out by first and second tier governance rather than by the local bodies. Even more, these programs are not initiated and controlled by the local bodies, less likely they would satisfy the grass root actual needs. Hence, there is a question of how to deal with the relationship and division of responsibilities between the local bodies and the next level of governance. Many also felt that in all local bodies, no one should be allowed to contest elections on party basis and no party based symbols should be allocated. They felt that this would facilitate people to select persons on the basis of their individual suitability rather than on the basis of their party, their support and propaganda.
It was also expressed that placing candidates for the elections, winning or losing may not make a great difference to the life of the workers and peasants and other toiling people of our country, unless the political system of not only the elections but also the economical and governance are radically changed in terms of providing control to the people. While we should take up the task of educating the people of the issues involved in the elections and empowerment, we should also take up the task of agitating and carrying forward the struggle for the livelihood and other basic rights of the people which are blatantly being violated by globalisaton through privitization and liberalisation policies of the successive governments.
The need was also expressed by some activists to build unity of many more organizations under one banner or party to put forward a concrete program and contest the elections on that basis. Individual organizations may select suitable form of intervention in the current process to effectively educate the people and make them conscious of the nature of the prevailing system and the necessity for vast changes.
In the end it was concluded by the participants to bring out a note elucidating the issues involved and our set of demands for changing it into a rule of the people. This will then be circulated to various organizations for their views and feedback. The final version of the document will be circulated to all the organizations who can then take up mass work on that basis.
activists of Makkalatchi Iyakkam, Unorganized workers Federation, NAPM, Tamil Nadu Rural Labourers Movement’s Central General Trade Union, Niman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangh, Karur District All Workers Sangam, Swathi Women’s movement, Pennurimai Iyakkam, Initiatives : Women in Development, Anti Corruption Movement, Democratic Fishermen and Fishing related Workers Union, Tamil Nadu Manual Workers Union, National Domestic Workers Movement – Tamil Nadu, Stark voluntary Organization, Kasa Organization, Senthamizh Social Thoughts Organiztion, Agricultural Workers Organization, Tamil Self Rule Iyakkam and others participated in these serious discussions. They have shown a clear resolve to bring about a transformation in the system on the basis of their work.