To solve the problems of Rajasthan, political power must vest in the hands of the people! Statement of Lok Raj Sangathan, 6 November, 2013.
The people of Rajasthan will go to the polls on December 1, 2013. Rajasthan, with a population of 70 million, is the biggest state of our country in area. The people of Rajasthan have been forced to choose between Congress and BJP rule for over thirty years.
Nearly 60% of the state, the portion lying west of the Aravallis, is desert. Industrial development has lagged behind compared to other states, as a result of the policy of the Central Government since 1947 of not investing in large scale industry in this state on account of it being a border state. Only the oil and gas exploration being carried out in recent years mark a departure from this policy. As a result, industries have been confined to Kota and Jaipur, and in recent years to the new developing industrial townships on the Delhi- Jaipur Highway.
Agriculture remains the main occupation of the majority of the people. The farmers produce wheat, barley, pulses, sugarcane, oilseeds, cotton and tobacco. A major portion of edible oils is produced in this state, which is also the second largest producer of oils seeds. Rajasthan is the biggest producer of wool and opium in the country.
Rajasthan is the second largest producer of polyester fibre and cement in India. Kota is home to chemical and engineering companies. The state is also known for marble quarries, copper and zinc mines.
The people of the state face many problems, which neither of the two parties which have alternated in power have bothered to address. Unemployment and underemployment amongst the educated youth is a major problem. Traditionally, government was the main source of employment for the youth. However, in the past two decades, successive governments have cut back on recruitment to jobs in the different departments of the government, whether it be in education, healthcare, agricultural extension services, road transport, or any other department. Instead, the government has resorted to hiring people on contract, at extremely low wages, in all the departments. There is great resentment amongst the educated youth, who are forced to migrate to other states for jobs.
Electricity supply is erratic, both in the cities and countryside. Water for irrigation, for drinking as well as for industry is a major concern for the people. The Indira Gandhi Canal provides water for irrigation to a large area of North West Rajasthan. However, water supply into this canal is erratic, as it depends on the water released by Punjab and Haryana. Furthermore, the successive governments have deliberately increased the length of this canal, while the water that will come into Rajasthan remains limited. Every year, the farmers along the Indira Gandhi canal have to wage mass protests for the release of water. At the same time, the government has tried to set the people on the later phases of the canal and those in the earlier phases against each other, making them fight each other over the sparse water resource. Meanwhile, in dozens of cities, it has been reported that drinking water supply is there only once in four days, in the summer months. People are forced to pay exorbitant prices for water for personal use to private water suppliers.
Even official statistics are unable to hide the extreme poverty and miserable living conditions of the people. The 2011 comparative Human Development Index (the measure of well-being of the people with respect to income earned, status of education and health services provided to the people and other social indicators) covered 19 of the 29 states in the country, (the ten states excluded are seven North Eastern States, Jammu &Kashmir, Goa and Delhi). Rajasthan ranked 13 out of the 19 states. The same report points out that 62.8% of the population of the state could be characterized as suffering from multidimensional poverty, as compared with the All India figure of 53.7%.
The Congress and BJP have perfected the art of setting the different religious, caste and tribal communities of the state against each other, in order to cultivate vote banks, divide and disorient the people, and smash their united struggle for a better future. The promise of reservation for this or that community has been a weapon used by these two parties to achieve their nefarious aims. During the past 5 years, these parties have organized numerous clashes between different communities, inflaming passions on all sides.
The workers and peasants have waged militant struggles for their rights. Lakhs of workers working in different deparments of the government, including education, healthcare, rural services and transport, have participated in numerous tehsil, district and state level protest actions against contractualisation of work, and for implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations. Doctors and other hospital workers of government hospitals have struck work protesting their terrible working conditions. In Kota thousands of workers protesting against closure of their factories and consequent retrenchment, have declared before the media that they will exercise the NOTA option in these elections, to show their disaffection with the BJP and the Congress as well as the other political parties in the electoral arena. Farmers, workers and traders in Hanumangarh, Ganganagar and Bikaner districts have waged prolonged struggles under the banner of Mazdoor Kisan Vyapari Sangharsh samitis for water for irrigation, against the supply of spurious seeds and fertilizers.
The Sarpanches of Rajasthan have formed a union of sarpanches which has been fighting against the drive of the government to deprive them of power and make them subservient to the beuaracracy.
Workers, peasants and tribal people make up the vast majority of the people of Rajasthan, but their interests are not represented in the legislative assembly. Only the rich and powerful are represented in the Vidhan Sabha. Laws and policies are made in the interests of the big capitalists and big traders who finance the Congress and BJP and their electoral campaigns.
The vast majority of people have no guarantee for any basic right. At the other end, a privileged few get anything they want because they have money power or some special “approach”. Parties that rule in the name of the people get away with any crime. Like in other states, the Congress and BJP have organized numerous communal and caste clashes, resulting in the death of innocent people and destruction of property, but the guilty organizers have never been punished.
The past 20 years have witnessed a rapid rise in the degree of criminalization of politics, of state terrorism and communal violence. Arrests of youth in the name of fighting “cross border terrorism”, fake encounter killings and other attacks on human and democratic rights have become rampant in Rajasthan as in the rest of the country.
The vast majority of people feel highly insecure. When they protest against injustice, they are confronted with repression by the security forces.
The times are calling for a thoroughgoing reform of the party dominated political system and process called representative democracy. Not only in India but also in Britain, Canada, United States and many other countries, workers are expressing outrage that they are not represented at all in this democracy, which works only for a privileged few.
Movement for People’s Empowerment
More and more people have begun to organise at their places of work and residence, in urban as well as rural areas, to defend their rights, put forward their claims and seek solutions for their common problems through their united action and collective strength. This promising trend of workers and peasants taking initiative and organising to change their conditions is slowly but surely advancing, in spite of the constant effort by various parties to divide them and cultivate their respective vote banks.
Lok Raj Sangathan considers this striving of the people to become the masters of their destiny, this inexorable movement for people’s empowerment, as the hope and key to open the door to a bright future, for our country and the world.
Lok Raj Sangathan has inspired, mobilised and enabled working people to establish and strengthen elected non-partisan samitis in their places of work and residence, both in urban and rural areas. Such local people’s committees are fighting for their common interests, the rights that belong to them and for their legitimate claims on the social product, rising above party rivalries. Such samitis led by LRS activists are participating in all forms of struggle and collective action to bring the people’s demands and agenda onto the centre-stage of political life.
These samitis have fought for the right of people to proper education and healthcare, for functioning schools and hospitals. They have mobilized people against murders and other crimes committed by the rich and powerful in league with the ruling politicians and police.
Lok Raj Sangathan firmly believes that such organs of political unity of the people at the base of society can and will become the foundation of the new political system that is crying out to be born – a system in which people wield power.
Lok Raj Sangathan is itself not a political party. It is a non-party political organisation, in which members of different political parties are encouraged to participate and work together to advance the movement for people’s empowerment.
Through its constant work of building and strengthening non-partisan samitis among the people, Lok Raj Sangathan has contributed to the emergence of a new generation of broad-minded and able political leadership from among the workers, peasants, women, youth and intelligentsia of Rajasthan.
Experience with elections
In order to enable the unity of people and their popular leadership to be further strengthened, Lok Raj Sangathan has participated in numerous elections, at central, state and local levels.
As part of the struggle against the domination of politics by criminal and corrupt parties, LRS has enabled people of various localities to select candidates at mass meetings open to all in the neighbourhood. In such public forums, people have selected leaders known to them, who have risen from their ranks through their persistent and dedicated work. The existing system treats them as “independent” candidates, even though they are supported by numerous non-party organisations of the people in the constituency.
Our first-hand experience confirms our basic belief that the existing system and electoral process is anti-people and anti-democratic. Far from encouraging and enabling people to select and elect those known to them and trusted by them, every election puts pressure on people to align along the lines of caste, religion or narrow party rivalry. People are made to choose between candidates who they neither know nor really trust.
People’s Agenda for Political Reforms
With the goal of vesting sovereignty in the hands of the people, Lok Raj Sangathan has joined hands with numerous organisations around the following immediate measures, aimed at advancing the cause of replacing the existing Looteron ka Raj with Lok Raj:
- Any political party or non-party organisation must have the right to nominate candidates for election and its candidates must have a common election symbol!The existing system discriminates between candidates nominated by registered political parties and all other candidates, by calling the latter as “independent” candidates and denying them an organizational identity or symbol. Furthermore, within the candidates of registered parties, it discriminates between a few “recognized” parties and all others. All such discrimination can and must be immediately ended, without which the universal and equal right to elect and be elected is a farce.
- No election without people’s selection of candidates!
Parties backed by economically powerful interests presently enjoy the right to field as many candidates as they please, imposing their choice on the people. The right to select candidates must be taken out of their hands and placed in the hands of the people. The electorate must have the final say in selecting, from those nominated, the final shortlist of candidates from whom one will be elected. An elected Committee must be established in each constituency, mandated with powers to enable the people to exercise their political rights, including their right to select candidates before any election is held. Such constituency committees must become the foundation of a reconstituted Election Commission in each State and at the Union level.
- State must fund the electoral process but must not fund any political party!
All those candidates who have gone through the process of selection and approval by the people must be given equal opportunity to put their proposals and manifestos before the electorate. No individual candidate or party must be permitted to spend monies on election campaigns. The entire cost of the selection and election process must be borne by the government. However, not a single paisa of public funds or subsidies in-kind should be given to any political party. All political parties must finance their activities from the voluntary contributions of their respective members and supporters. A political party is, after all, an organisation formed by a group of people who share a common ideology and political aim, who are free to persuade others to join them. There is no reason why any party should receive official “recognition” or public financial support, thereby giving it a privileged status over others.
- People must have the right to initiate legislation, to approve major public decisions through referendums, and the right to recall at any time the one they elected!
The Constituency Committees must be empowered to enable the people to exercise these rights. Those elected must be required to regularly render accounts to those who elected them.
- Election of a Constituent Assembly to formulate a draft Constitution fit for India in the 21st century!
The Constitution of the Indian Republic, adopted in 1950, does not reflect the reality of multi-national and multi-cultural India. It does not guarantee human rights or democratic rights, or protect national rights. It permits the continuation and escalation of all-sided plunder of our land and labour.
Any rising new leader of people in a particular electoral constituency, who refuses to beg for a ticket from one of the established parties, faces huge discrimination. He or she faces an extremely uneven battlefield, in which candidates selected by “recognized parties” are given permanent symbols and numerous other benefits including TV coverage.
Money power remains a major factor that influences electoral outcomes. Take the case of the upcoming Assembly elections. Before the nomination process has even begun, the Congress and BJP have spent massive amounts of money each on their respective propaganda campaigns. The Election Commission talks a lot about monitoring the expenditure of individual candidates, while the big monies spent by Congress Party, BJP and other parties backed by crorepatis are not even counted.
The existing system ensures that only a party that has thousands of crores of Rupees to spend on its campaign can hope to win a majority of seats in the Vidhan Sabha and form the government. Money on such a scale can only come from the rich and powerful. Once a party collects funds from such sources, it will have to return the so-called “favours” when it is in power.
The issue is not whether money power operates transparently or secretly, whether it is paid by cheque or cash. The system in the US, for instance, is supposed to be the most transparent and clean. Yet money power is so massive that nobody except the candidates of two main parties contest in elections most of the time, at state or federal level.
We need to prevent money power – dirty or clean, black or white – from influencing electoral outcomes. This can be done by eliminating private and party funding of electoral campaigns and public funding of any political party (see Box on Political Reforms).
The solution lies in changing this system from its roots to its head. We need to fight for a system of rule and a political process in which workers and peasants and other working people can select and elect their most capable representatives. They must be able to ensure that the authority serves their needs, ensuring prosperity to those whose labour is what keeps the economy of the state going.. People must be able to replace, at any time, representatives who betray their trust.
Those who are members of one or another political party make up only a minority of the population. Most people do not belong to any party. Why then should the people as a whole be compelled to hand over all power to one or another political party, to act as it pleases for the next 5 years? We need to radically change the system so that people do not surrender all power to those elected, but retain a crucial part in their hands. We need to establish a system in which people will not vote for parties to come to power, but every party will be duty bound to enable the people to exercise power.
LRS has consistently propagated the truth that only by vesting power in the people’s hands is it possible to cure our society of the disease of corruption, injustice, exploitation, etc. We participated actively in the front ranks of the mass agitation against corruption in recent years, building unity around the slogan: Brashtachar ka ek Ilaaj – Lok Raj, Lok Raj!
LRS participated actively in the mass protests following the gang rape in December 2012, defending the rights of women and demanding that the authority carries out its duty. We held the authorities guilty for failing to protect women. We called for and lent our support to collective local action by people in each neighbourhood, to protect themselves, their sisters and daughters.
Ever since its founding, LRS has consistently and persistently demanded the repeal of draconian laws which violate human rights, such as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in force in Kashmir and the Northeast. We have demanded that those guilty of organising genocide against Sikhs in 1984 be immediately convicted and severely punished. We joined hands with Delhi Sikh Forum and other organisations to spearhead a powerful campaign in October-November 2012, to secure justice for the victims of that horrible crime against humanity committed in November 1984.
We have joined hands with many other organisations in the struggle to punish those guilty of the destruction of Babri Masjid and accompanying communal violence, of the Gujarat genocide and of the mysterious Batla House “encounter” in Delhi. We have popularized the demand that those in command must be held responsible and punished for failing to protect people’s lives.
Every human being has the right to his or her beliefs, and the State is duty bound to protect this sacred right. It follows that a State that does not guarantee this right, but permits its violation on a massive scale, is badly in need of being reconstituted.
The Constitution of the Indian Republic, adopted in 1950, does not reflect the reality of multi-national and multi-cultural India. It does not serve the needs of the vast majority of our people, or the cause of social progress. It does not guarantee human rights or democratic rights, or protect national rights. Above all, it blocks the realisation of the historically evolved aspiration of our people to become the master of India.
The heroes of the Ghadar of 1857 declared, “Hindustan belongs to us! We are her master!” Even though colonial rule came to an end 66 years ago, an exploiting minority continues to be the master. The existing capital-centred system of democracy needs to be replaced by a toiler-centred system of democracy. This is the call of the times.
This epoch belongs to those who toil, not to those who live off the toil of others. Let us demand and fight for the election of a Constituent Assembly to formulate a new Constitution that vests sovereignty in the hands of the people!
Call to the Rajasthan Electorate
Lok Raj Sangathan calls on the people of Rajasthan to reject all those candidates who are being imposed on them by parties backed by big money power. Voting for them means to perpetuate the existing adharma. Vote only for candidates who have a proven track record of fighting for the interests of the people. Where no such candidate exists, it is better to press the last button: None of the Above (NOTA).
Lok Raj Sangathan will extend full support to all those candidates who have emerged from among the people, with a proven track record of defending their rights and fighting for their legitimate claims, and who are committed to the program of political reforms so as to empower the people.
Rajasthan ki samasyaon ka ek Ilaaj! Lok Raj, Lok Raj!
It is the epoch of the toilers!
Let us march towards Lok Raj!
The Ghadar continues!