To solve the problems of Delhi there is need to place political power in the hands of the people – statement of LRS.
Dear Residents of Delhi,
Since Delhi became a State in 1993, it has been ruled for 5 years by BJP and for 15 years by Congress Party. The problems of the vast majority of people have multiplied over these 20 years. The most parasitic interests, including big business houses, land and real estate mafia, financial speculators, corrupt politicians and ministers, have enriched themselves at the people’s expense.
The Government of Delhi deliberately misleads the people about the actual conditions of life in this capital city. Official reports try to present a rosy picture for the global audience. The truth is buried under confusing statistics and misleading statements.
The Human Development Report (HDR) 2013, states that out of 33.4 lakh households in Delhi1, 31.8 lakh have houses to live in; and that 68% own the houses they live in. One has to probe further to discover that 11 lakh households live in single-room units and another 10 lakhs in two-room units. Close to 4 lakh households, which is likely to be an underestimate, are reported to live in jhuggies or slums, in cramped and insanitary temporary shelters which cannot be called a house by any standard. There are more than 50,000 homeless children living on the streets. At the same time, there are 3.5 lakhs houses which are lying vacant. They are kept locked by owners who are waiting for housing prices to rise even further.
Distribution of electricity was privatized by the Delhi Government in the name of providing the people with reliable supply at reasonable prices. Power supply has become only a little less unreliable while prices have skyrocketed. What privatization has provided is huge profits in the hands of companies owned by the Tatas and Reliance. People are paying more, both through individual bill payments and through annual subsidies handed out by the Delhi Government, all to enrich the biggest business houses.
The government is now moving ahead with privatizing water supply, unmindful of the mass opposition expressed since 2005, and unmindful of the seriousness of the water shortage affecting the people. The Delhi HDR claims that 81% of houses in Delhi have piped water supply. This only means that 81% of houses in the authorized colonies have pipes. This does not include the "unauthorized" colonies and Jhuggi Jhopri clusters, where the bulk of the population lives and where there is no water supply except through tankers. According to Delhi Jal Board, 40% of total available water is lost due to “leakages”. The groundwater level has fallen to 30 metres below the ground in South and South-West Delhi, as a result of unregulated drilling by private individuals and enterprises.
BJP pretends to be very concerned about the high price of electricity and lack of adequate drinking water. However, people cannot ignore the fact that it was the BJP-led Central Government, headed by Vajpayee, which created a separate Ministry of Disinvestment to step up the privatization program. Saying what the people like to hear, while doing strictly what a super-rich minority wants, is the hallmark of such parties that dominate the existing political process.
People must not be fooled by those who support privatization and liberalization, and at the same time pretend to be concerned about the rising burdens on the people. The rapid rise in consumer prices is an inevitable result of these policy reforms, which are aimed at converting public goods and services into sources of maximum private profit. Those who say electricity and water can be made available to all at affordable rates without halting and reversing privatization are making false promises. Those who claim that inflation can be contained without reversing the liberalisation of foreign trade and currency policies are also covering up the truth. The rising share of imports among goods of mass consumption, along with the fall in the exchange rate from 45 to 65 Rupees per Dollar, is a major factor fueling the soaring consumer prices. Scaling down of the Public Distribution System and rising share of private trade is another factor, which has increased hoarding and speculation.
Wage and salaried workers make up the majority of the population of Delhi. They have been hit hard by the soaring prices of dal and vegetables, fruits, milk, eggs, meat and other sources of nourishment for their families. The official Human Development Report 2013 admits that over half of all workers do not have any written contract and 80% have no social protection. Very few have assured regular cost-of-living adjustments. The HDR reports that minimum wages have been raised many times, but does not report that even the inadequate legal minimum wage is violated by many employers.
Rights of workers are violated in numerous ways and there is nobody in the Vidhan Sabha to defend them. Workers who demand and fight for their rights are treated like criminals. False charges are foisted on them. The case of striking workers of Air India and the Maruti factory at Manesar are two recent examples in the national capital region.
The second most numerous class in Delhi consists of the self-employed including small shopkeepers, owners of small-scale workshops and other individual enterprises including vegetable and fruit vendors. While the numbers of such individual enterprises have multiplied enormously over time, the majority of them lack adequate space and facilities to operate legally. They are subject to constant harassment and extortion by numerous arms of the corrupt authority.
Those who work with their hands and brains, including wage and salaried workers and the self-employed, make up the vast majority but have no representation in the legislative assembly. Only the rich and powerful, the owners of capital worth hundreds of crores, are represented in the Vidhan Sabha. Laws and policies are made in the interests of this exploiting and parasitic minority, which finances the main parties and their electoral campaigns.
The police and paramilitary forces defend those in positions of power, however criminal and corrupt they may be. On the other hand, thousands of innocent persons are in jail under suspicion of being terrorists. Hundreds of workers of Maruti are still in jail or in hiding, for the “crime” of wanting to form their own union committed to defend their rights.
The Human Development Report says that the recorded “crime rate” in Delhi has declined between 2004 and 2012. It does not mention the fact that the majority of crimes in this city still go unreported. This is primarily because of people’s aversion to having to deal with the police. People also want to avoid the possibility of threats and harassment by politicians who are invariably connected with every criminal gang.
The insecurity facing women in Delhi is notorious. It has become a matter of much debate since the gang-rape in December 2012. Women are under constant threat of rape and harassment, on the streets, in the buses and everywhere they go. Women are terrorized to stay within the four walls of their home. Only 11% of women participate in work outside their homes, which is 40% less than the average rate among urban women in the country.2
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, including mass murder, as was organised in November 1984.
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.
Central and state government spend on “security forces” in Delhi only for the protection of the ruling elite. The vast majority of people feel highly insecure. When they protest against injustice, they are confronted with repression by the security forces, as was seen during the protests immediately following the gang rape in December 2012.
Recent years have witnessed more and more people coming out on the streets of Delhi in mass protests and demonstrations. It shows that the people of Delhi have had enough of the adharma of being ruled by criminal, corrupt and self-seeking parties of vested interests. People are fed up with the private loot of public wealth that is going on, with the connivance of the senior-most politicians and bureaucrats, who are hand in glove with the big business leaders of India Incorporated.
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, 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 working people 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. 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.
People’s samitis in the “unauthorized” and most deprived localities, as well as residents’ welfare associations in the less deprived and more developed localities, have spearheaded numerous struggles in recent times. These include struggles for the regularization of homes, against demolition and forced evictions, for reliable and affordable electricity, drinking water and sanitation, for ration cards and for adequate availability of food grains of acceptable quality, functioning schools, public health centres, safety of women and children, effective regulation of motor traffic and other basic needs.
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 working people of Delhi.
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 Delhi Assembly elections. Before the nomination process has even begun, some political parties have spent at least fifty crores or more 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 hundreds of crores of Rupees to spend on its campaign can hope to win a majority of seats in the Vidhan Sabha. 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 the self-employed 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 toil keeps this city alive and running. 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 Delhi Electorate
Lok Raj Sangathan calls on the people of Delhi 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.
We introduce below the first set of 5 candidates that Lok Raj Sangathan has decided to support, in the constituencies of Tughlaqabad, Sangam Vihar, Kalkaji, Badarpur and Okhla and the common program they have put forth for these elections.
Delhi 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!