Dear friends, I warmly welcome all of you to this important consultation.
Every day there is some news or other about scams, black money, illegal mining, violation of human rights, and other such things. All these are confirming again and again that people do not have any control over their lives and their future. It is the big corporate houses that control every aspect of the economy and polity through their political parties and their representatives in the legislatures, parliament, cabinet and other institutions.
They say that India is a wonderful democracy. The ruling circles throughout the world have been saying that India is a role model for democracy. They praise that Indians have adapted the representative system of democracy to suit Indian conditions in a very innovative way.
It is true that the Indian ruling circles have adapted the political system and institutions that the British colonialists left behind and have innovated them. But are they working for the majority of the people? Events are confirming that the present political system, process and institutions, work only for a small minority of big corporate houses and their cronies.
Every election has revealed that our people have no say in the day-to-day running of the country, in selecting and electing their representatives, in making legislation that protects their rights or in creating and controlling mechanisms and institutions that enable them to rule themselves.
Let us look at what is happening in TN elections. Two fronts of the ruling circles are contesting the elections. Both the fronts – one led by DMK and the other by AIADMK – have been exposed as corrupt, anti-people and bankrupt. The people of Tamil Nadu hate both these fronts. They know that these two fronts are offering free saris, dhotis, TVs and laptops from their own tax money. But they have not reached the stage where they can put forward an alternative to these two fronts. They have not reached a stage where they can stake their claim for political power. They are wondering what is the way forward.
Realising that their political system is losing credibility in the eyes of people, the ruling class comes up with reforms and innovations now and then. (give examples of TN electoral reforms). So, what was put forward as a reform to cleanse democracy 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.
We have gathered here to find a way forward. 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?
I request all of you to participate actively in this consultative conference and put forward their views while at the same time giving a patient hearing to and respecting other views.