On 8th August a meeting was held in a hall near the Rice Mill of Padgha village (Thane district, Maharashtra) to constitute the local Lok Raj Samiti. More than 150 people attended the meeting. A 20-member Executive Council was elected, which includes women and men, young and old. Members of Lok Raj Sangathan had come from Padgha as well as from many neighbouring villages. Some had come from as far away as Thane and Ulhasnagar.
80 year old grandmothers, young mothers with babies, young men and women – they all participated actively with great hope and joy. You would recollect that from April, the activists of Lok Raj Sangathan had carried out a campaign for the right to proper ration in Padgha and its environs. People have joined Lok Raj Sangathan in hundreds. Through morchas and other activities, they have shaken up the officers who are responsible for the rationing system.
Due to this campaign, thousands of people have benefited from the improved ration distribution. In the meeting many people expressed their happiness that due to the untiring efforts of the activists of Lok Raj Sangathan, people have benefited. In the words of an old communist comrade from this area, “People don’t even attend meetings of big political parties in such large numbers!”
At the outset there was a presentation on the ration system from Lok Raj Sangathan. The presenter pointed out that when we learn by attending such a school organized by our LRS, our understanding increases and therefore our strength does as well. With a lot of data he explained that there is no dearth of food with the government. It is actually rotting in its godowns. The Central Government is the largest hoarder and its aim is to safeguard the profits of the biggest corporations. From the presentation it also became clear that distribution of food and other items via the PDS (Public Distribution System) is not some goodwill gesture, but is in fact the government’s duty and the people’s right. Safeguarding the interests of the peasants and safeguarding the interests of the people as consumers are related to each other. Everyone present raised the following demands regarding the ration system:
- The present targeted PDS should be ended and a universal PDS should be established.
- For every 5-member family, at least 35 kg of rice or wheat should be supplied every month at the rate of Rs.3 per kg.
- People should be provided with sugar, edible oil, kerosene, dals and all other essential items at affordable prices through the ration shops.
- Private profiteers should be banned from wholesale trade in essential commodities and that should be taken over by the government.
- The government should guarantee fair prices to the farmers.
In the second presentation, the difference between Lok Raj Sangathan and other big political parties was explained. Everyone present agreed that concentrating all rights in the hands of a single leader was a part of anti-people, dirty politics. All of us together should build an alternate politics in the interests of the people. Building Lok Raj Samitis, in which decisions would be taken collectively by everyone, and not by a single individual, in which individuals would be assigned responsibilities and the samiti would hold them accountable, would be an important step in that direction.
After that an old activist of LRS who has worked actively in Padgha, presented a short account of the campaign being carried out since April. A few local activists then came and reiterated the successes that have been achieved.
A list of about 15 members was read out for the proposed Executive Committee. Not only was this list unanimously accepted, but many members were so enthused by the work and the meeting that they volunteered their own names. This was greeted with a big applause. The local members present talked about other problems they faced, such as those related to drinking water, public hospitals, mosquitoes, and so on. The executive that was elected has been charged with the task of drawing up a plan of action to solve these problems as well.
After the conclusion of this very successful meeting, many members could be seen discussing eagerly with the LRS activists for a very long time.
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