April 10 was a wonderful day in more ways than one – the weather was good, the excitement and enthusiasm was in plenty in the packed hall. Most exhilarating was the large number of young boys and girls in the audience. The occasion – consultation on ensuring peoples control over the political system, process and institutions.
The President of Lok Raj Sangathan (organisers of the consultation) welcomed all the participants and urged everyone present to participate by listening and respecting one another’s views and also giving their views. With recent live examples from the field in Tamil Nadu, Mr. Raghavan, put forward that all efforts to cleanse democracy through this or that reform has actually further marginalised the people. What all this is pointing out is that the time has come to bring under the scanner the present political system and institutions such as the Parliament, judiciary, executive, the investigative, vigilance and audit institutions such as the CVC, EC, CBI, PAC, etc and the political party.
He closed his brief but to the point address by posing three important questions for all to focus on.
Can the present political system, process and institutions be reformed or do they need to be fundamentally overhauled?
Do we need to “tighten” existing institutions or create new institutions of people’s power?
Do we want to tinker with the present system of representative democracy or create a new system of direct democracy where people will play a central role in running the affairs of the country?
This was followed by an absolutely clear delivery by Prakash Rao, who after drawing the sharp contrast between what the large majority of toiling sections face and the handful of rich enjoy on the basis of exploitation, made the central point that the root cause of the contradictions and contrasts lie in the nature of the economic system and state power that exists. He explained without beating about the bush, the clear ways in which this system operates in the interest of capital and profit at the expense of the people. And how corruption is one of the methods one set of capitalists gets an upper hand over another. And that corruption exists in all the capitalist countries, whereas in some places it is legal like in US, where it is called lobbying, while in others it is not legal. It is part of the system. Corruption is the grease or oil through which the system functions, and to think of capitalism without corruption is to dream of something impossible.
In the same vein, Prakash Rao explained how this political system, process and institutions set up by the state operates not above or separate from society; and that it is not a question of some problems is with individuals and that it can be solved by having "good people" in charge. As long as the system is not targeted for total change, for total overhauling, our efforts would be in vain.
And then the floor was opened up for interventions. Participant after participant most eloquently expressed their thoughts and views providing a lot of food for thought. They used indisputable facts, personal experiences, and historical facts, to bring home the point that people’s power where those who toil and produce should define and control their destiny. Telling questions and issues such as: How in Delhi (for that matter across the country), people living in slums and colonies are “illegal” and can therefore not enjoy basic necessities; but it these same “illegal votes” that are sought after to make the “legal government”! How come Irom Sharmila’s over a decade of hunger strike is not concerned critical and earthshaking by the media and the powers to be? that there is a need to replace representative democracy with direct democracy – all this with convincing reasoning. Reforms and tinkering with the system has been going on for too long, the time has come to totally change this system and so on. There was unanimous agreement that such discussions should be carried further and widely among the working people.
This consultation was worth its weight in gold because it was based on speaking the truth derived from scientific analysis!