Statement of Lok Raj Sangathan, 7 October 2020
Throughout the country, workers and peasants have staged several demonstrations against the laws related to agriculture and labour passed in the recently concluded session of Parliament. On 23rd September there were massive protests by workers unions and farmers associations against the three labour codes and three agricultural bills hurriedly pushed by the government. Again on 25th, over 250 farmers’ associations organised a Bharat Bandh.
The Labour Codes enable owners of establishments to violate the rights of workers with impunity, including the right to security of employment, safety at the workplace, social security, right to form unions and the right to strike. These are rights won by the workers of India after waging uncompromising struggles over many decades.
The Farm Bills pave the way for Indian and foreign monopolies to increase their domination over agricultural markets and trade. They make it easier for the central government to cut back on public procurement of agricultural produce at a price that gives the farmer a reasonable return on his labour and investments. The Bills also weaken the role of state regulated mandis and encourage private trade. These Bills put the lives and livelihood of millions of farmers at the mercy of profit-hungry monopolies.
Workers and peasants constitute well over 90 percent of the population. Yet these bills have been passed without their concurrence. There was not even an attempt to have a full discussion in Parliament, let alone among the masses of the people. Even when thousands of workers and peasants have come out on the streets in protest, the government has ignored them. This shows that the parliamentary system of democracy in India that is touted as the world’s largest democracy, actually works only for a handful of Indian and foreign monopolies. This also shows how people are totally marginalised in important decisions considerably affecting large masses of them.
It is being repeated ad nauseum by the Indian ruling circles that people express their will through elections and that the elected representatives are people’s representatives. Nothing is farther from the truth. Elections are held periodically to fool the people that they can elect the government of their choice or topple the government which has not performed. However, it is not the will of the people that is reflected in electoral outcomes. It is the big corporations and monopolies who make sure through money and muscle power and control over media that the government which comes to power serves their interests and not that of people at large The representatives who sit in Parliament claiming to be the voice of the people are accountable not to the people but to the Party high command which gave them the ticket to contest. It is the Executive, formed by the ruling party, which is all powerful and determines the political and economic course of the country. The legislature is not accountable to the people but only to the Executive and at times does not even attempt to properly discuss matters affecting over a billion people! The only role that people have is casting their vote in periodic elections – after which they lose all control and say in the political process.
Therefore, whichever government has come to power at the centre has brazenly taken anti-people measures and passed laws to take away the rights of people. The spate of legislation that have been passed in the just concluded session of the Parliament point to the unaccountability of the government to its people and the marginalisation of the vast majority of people from political power. Using the situation brought about by the pandemic, in which millions of people have been rendered jobless and homeless and completely at the mercy of the government, the ruling classes have steamrolled the protests of the people and strengthened the claims of the monopolies to ease of doing business and super profits.
The vast majority of farmers in the country are poor peasants toiling on small plots of land with little money to invest in agricultural production. It is the duty of the government to make farming viable and assist the farmers in pooling their land and resources, providing financial assistance and guaranteeing procurement at a price that provides them reasonable returns. But the government has abrogated this duty and left the farmers to fend for themselves.
Most workers in the country are not even recognised as workers. They are not guaranteed jobs, regular salary, medical insurance, pension, provident fund, and safety at the workplace. The so-called social security schemes are just a few crumbs thrown at them to pacify them. The government just does not want workers to unionise and assert their rights.
The farm and labour bills take away even the meagre rights that these producers of wealth possessed so far. This cannot be set right by a mere change of government because when in power the political parties of the status quo such as Congress and BJP adopt the same policies. When out of power they pretend to defend the rights of people.
The only solution to end the marginalisation of people is to demand the thoroughgoing transformation of the political process over which parties of the status quo exercise a stranglehold.
A people-centred political process is a crying need in our country. For this, we must fight to establish constitutional guarantees for the right to livelihood of all sections of people, the right to form associations and the right to agitate for their demands. We need a political process that guarantees that all democratic and human rights are protected and not violated under any pretext.
We need to envision and fight for a political process in which people do not hand over all decision-making power to their elected representatives. People must have the right to select candidates for election. They must have the right to recall their elected representative at any time. They must also have the right to initiate legislation and the right to approve or reject major public decisions through referendums. An empowered people can and will reorient the economic system, which is presently geared to fulfil monopoly greed, to provide prosperity for all. This is the only option before us.