The Haryana branch of the Lok Raj Sangathan organized a public meeting in Sirsa on Sunday, 28th Aug 2011. The meting was held at the Jat Dharamshala Hall. The meeting was to discuss the various problems faced by people of the region as well as at the all India level. The five themes selected for discussion in this meeting were – Inflation and Corruption, Universal Public Distribution System, Land Acquisition Law, State Terrorism, and "How can people come to power?". Participants came from several towns and villages of Haryana, and neighouring areas of Rajasthan. They consisted of farmers, teachers, workers and youth.
Shri Hanuman Prasad Sharma, the all India vice President of the Lok Raj Sangathan, and a well known leader of school teachers of Rajasthan, presided over the meeting. The Presedium included Shri Dhuni Chand who is the Convenor of the Haryana Committee of Lok Raj Sangathan. Shri Ashok, a well known activist of the Lok Raj Sangathan who is a school teacher from Rajasthan conducted the meeting interspersing speeches with many progressive songs and couplets.
Apart from the members of the Presidium, other people who addressed the gathering were Shri Birju Nayak, Convenor, Delhi Committee of LRS, Prof Bharat Seth, an activist of the IIT faculty association as well as a world renowned mechanical engineer, , Shri Ramphal Kandela, well known peasant leader from Jind, Shri Om Sahu, one of main leaders of Sarpanch union of Rajasthan, Shri Hansraj of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Gorakhpur, Shri Ram Swaroop of Kisan Union Federation, Haryana, Shri Gulab Singh, Shri Shiv Rajl, Convenor of Punjab Committee of LRS, Navashahr, Shri Pal Singh of Jan Sangharsh Samiti of Jind District and Shri Lal Chand Gujara of the Varishtha Nagarik Sangathan.
Prof Bharat Seth, in his address, talked about the lessons that had to be drawn from the experience of the current agitation led by Anna Hazare’s team. He said that all the major parties in the parliament were united on one issue, that people have no say in the decision making process in the country. According to them, the parliament had the monopoly. By coming on to the streets in a united and resolute manner, ordinary people had clearly challenged this view.
He said the essence of the problem was that the political process and system was anachronistic to the needs of the society. Most of the laws date back to the British rule and even the Indian Constitution has borrowed heavily from the (British) Government of India Act, 1935. He said that the administrative machinery was a legacy of the colonizers and had been developed it to defend their narrow interest of plundering the land and labour of Indian people. The transfer of power by another Act of the British Parliament in 1947, ensured that the basic structure of governance did not change.
Given these facts, Prof Seth said that the need of the hour was renewal of the Indian political and electoral system so that people have a decisive control over all institutions of state. Currently, those who are elected by the people are not answerable to the people. They are answerable only to their parties. Parties have the whip to ensure all members vote according to the decision of the party high command and not according to the wishes of the people of the constituency that elected the member. This structure allowed a handful of people in the high command of the ruling party to impose the will of the money bags. By and large it was also not possible for anyone without the backing of money bags to get elected in the elections. These are serious flaws, without removing which it is impossible to return sovereignty in the hands of the people. People cannot hand their entire power to the elected representatives; they need to keep enough with them to exercise control over their representatives.
This means that the dominance of the political parties in governance has to be eliminated. A party or a coalition of parties could not be allowed to form government but must limit their role to presenting their vision for the society and enable the people to govern. Prof Seth concluded the talk by saying that the following three demands were necessary for people to exercise political power: 1) Peoples organisations and not political parties must select and reject candidates, 2) They should have the right to recall those representatives who act against the mandate given to them by the people of their constituency, and 3) People must not only have a right to initiate legislation or propose amendments to legislations, but must also have the right to vote on important issues through a suitable referendum process.
Shri Birju Nayak said that the people are feeling that the state power was not answerable them, the farmers, the workers, the women and the youth. Everything that we are entitled to cannot be obtained without paying bribes. He did not agree with the view that everyone was corrupt in India. He explained that such a view is promoted by those in positions of power who are the most corrupt in order to escape the spotlight. Ordinary people are forced to pay bribes, otherwise they made to run from pillar to post to get even what they are entitled to receive.
Shir Birju Nayak talked about LRS’s participation in the movement spearheaded by Shri Anna Hazare. He said, that as we hold the meeting here, a victory rally is being held in the Ramlila maidan in Delhi. The Government had to bow down to the pressure from the people and had to agree to debate the version of Lok Pal Bill that has been prepared from people’s inputs. He said that the victory is only partial and how far the movement will be able to go depended on all of us.
Chiding the stand taken by all the major Parliamentary parties that the "honour" of the Parliament came before the desires of the people, Shri Birju Nayak said that it showed that a thorough renewal of our political system and process was needed to enable people to become the decision makers as already talked about by the earlier speaker.
Shri Dhuni Chand read out the letter written by President of LRS to the Shri Jairam Ramesh, Minister, Rural Development, which rejects the fraudulent claims of the Land Acquisition Bill tabled in the Parliament. This letter chides the Minister, Rural Development for becoming the tool to destroy the livelihood of the rural masses and presents a set of demands and guidelines which must be satisfied by a law on land acquisition and rehabilitation.
Shri Duni Chand and Shri Ramphal Kandela focused on the issue of land acquisition. They pointed out that the Haryana government had passed a law recently that removed ceiling on land ownership for big corporations. Further, the banks were promoting the use of Kisan credit cards and offering easy loans to encourage farmers to get heavily indebted. With the income squeeze that the farmers are facing, the inevitable consequence of this policy will be that farmers will not be able to pay loans and will be forced to sell their land.
Other speakers talked of various struggles of the people, including the opposition to the nuclear power plant in Gorakhpur.
In the concluding speech, Guruji Hanuman Prasad contrasted two types of development processes – one from the angle of high rate of growth by exploiting the land and labour to the maximum and the other from the angle of raising the standard of living of the people. He explained how the present system was destroying the livelihood of farmers and other toilers and filling the vaults of big industrial families. He said that "boya pehd babool ka, toh aam kahan se khaye!" (You cannot reap mangoes if you plant babool trees!). He said that farmers must resolutely come forward to oppose fertile agricultural land being acquired.
He said that people had come together in 1857 to throw their oppressors out. The insurgents had declared that they wanted the rule of the people. After the brutal suppression of this revolt, the British worked overtime to break the unity of the people and their spirit to fight oppression. He said that oppressor don’t have a nationality. British oppressive rule was replaced by the rule of Indian oppressors.
He said that the five topics of the discussion were inter-related. State terrorism was integrally linked to suppression of the toilers. Tribals and other people, shot dead by the state, when they fight for their rights, is state terrorism. Those crushed by the state for fighting for their right to conscience are victims of state terrorism. Similarly price rise was nothing but an attack on the standard of living of the toiling people. It increases the exploitation of toilers and is another form of corruption. All these are symptoms of decease of people being deprived of political power.
He said that we need to think coolly on the issue of how people can come to power. He cautioned the participants of not letting their struggle for lok raj be diverted by individuals like JP who get used by political forces that want to deprive people of power. In the end, he emphasized the need to hold such discussions all across the country. Let there be a manthan of ideas and let the best ideas get established in people’s consciousness, he concluded.
News Media Reports of the Meeting are attached below.