March 28, 2014
Movements and Trade Unions to Corner Modi in Benares;
Shaheed Diwas gathering declare demands for endorsement by candidates
in Lok Sabha elections across the country
General Elections 2014 poses a plethora of possibilities as well as challenges. While it holds the fortunes of the people of the country with regard to who could become the next Prime Minister and under what rule you might have to spend the next five years of your life, it equally holds forth the threat of a ‘Modi regime’, which could unsettle and dismantle a lot of achievements of progressive politics and movements in the country – and push the country back by several decades, in our battles against global capitalism/ imperialism, feudalism, communalism, caste discrimination, patriarchy, jingoistic nationalism and Brahmanism. This is indeed the most challenging elections for these very reasons for all those progressive forces, which have mobilised people in the country under the Red, Blue and Green flags!
Keeping in mind the artificial ‘Modi factor’ and attempted ‘Rahul factor’, the movements and independent trade unions decided to denounce the pro-corporate parties, whose similar economic policies have led to widespread starvation in rural India, unemployment and increasing impoverishment of the masses. Looking at the increasing caste and communal violence and the attacks on working class across the country by capitalist, feudal and communal forces, it was decided to forge a united front to continue and strengthen the diverse people’s struggles. SANGHARSH 2014 was decided as the common umbrella platform for this political process.
The meeting decided on a three-pronged political strategy programme aimed at the General Elections 2014:
1. People’s Charter-based campaign
2. Support to candidates fighting from people’s movements
3. Benares counter-strategy
Mass movements and Trade Unions, bringing together the diversity of political history, come together under one banner which includes dalits, adivasis, forest working people, agricultural workers, fishworkers, handloom weavers, domestic workers, street vendors and hawkers, women’s groups and organisations that have been working in the country for social and political change.
A meeting of social movements and trade unions was held in Delhi on the 23rd and 24th March, on the occasion of commemorating the martyrdom of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. The rally on Shaheed Diwas, attended by close to 3000 people from 12 different states, was followed by a day of political meeting in which 250 people participated from the states Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Kerala, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Gujarat, Ghorkhaland and Delhi.
Through consecutive political strategy meetings in the last few months social movements and trade unions have decided to make key political interventions that will begin now, at the time of the crucial General Elections 2014.
1) A set of concrete justiciable parliamentary demands have been decided on from the community based struggles that have been declared and will be effectively used for direct collective negotiations with political parties and electoral candidates. These demands include:
- Implementation of socio-economic rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India;
- Protection of traditional rights of natural-resource based communities;
- Abolition of contractual labour and effective implementation of labour laws;
- Revise minimum wages to bring it at par with the 7th Pay Commission;
- Equal opportunities and equal access for all to education and healthcare;
- Universal Social Security and allocation of 5% of GDP for creating Social Security Fund;
- Traditional community rights of fishworkers to be legislated by the Parliament;
- Separate Fisheries Ministry and strict implementation of CRZ Notification;
- Effective implementation of community rights as enshrined in the Forest Rights Act ;
- Replacement of Forest Department with a community-based forest governance;
- Moratorium on conversion of irrigated agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes;
- Implementation of ‘Land to the tiller’ and abolition of absentee landlords;
- Moratorium on displacement of communities;
- Inclusion of Caste Discrimination in the SC / ST Prevention of Atrocities Act;
- 50% reservation for women in all elected and non elected bodies;
- Moratorium on new greenfield mining;
- Nationalisation of electricity generation, distribution and transmission ;
- Revival of PDS system and abandon all cash programmes;
- Banking to be made a fundamental right of all citizens;
- Review of loans to private corporations by Public Sector Financial Institutions and initiate strict measures to recover the unpaid loans from corporations;
- Stop privatisation of public sector undertakings & strengthen public sector institutions;
- Withdraw Public Private Partnership model from all economic activities;
- Abandon civil and military nuclear programmes
[Please find the complete Charter of Demands attached]
Social movements and trade unions will present the demands to political parties and to the candidates in the respective constituencies. Candidates in different constituencies will be asked to be endorse and sign on to the people’s charter of demands. To ensure that this process does not remain symbolic candidates will be required to substantiate their commitment and also provide reasons for disagreement (if any)’. Over the next five years, this endorsement will be used as a base for concrete, structured and consistent monitoring of all steps being taken with regard to these demands.These demands will also be put forth during every parliament session post the General Elections 2014.
2) We declare complete support for those candidates standing in the upcoming elections whose candidature is assigned and endorsed by the various people’s movements that they have been associated with. We believe that these people will be able to take forward the kind of politics that this country truly needs and that the movements have stood for. The candidates we will support in the different Lok Sabha constituencies include:
Kailash Awasiya in Khargaon (Narmada Bachao Andolan), Soni Sori in Bastar, Mayappa in Tirunelveli (Peoples Movement Against Nuclear Energy-PMANE), Pushparayan in Tuticorin (PMANE), S. P. Udaykumar in Kanyakumari (PMANE), Medha Patkar in North-East Mumbai (Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan & National Alliance of Peoples Movements-NAPM), Alok Agrawal in Khandwa (Narmada Bachao Andolan), Lingaraj Pradhan in Bargarh (Gandhamardan Andolan), Dayamani Barla in Khunti (Adivasi Moolniwaasi Raksha Manch), Babu Mathew in North Bangalore (National Centre for Labour), Santhosh Kumar in Pathanamthitta (Kalanjoor Janakeeya Prathirodha Samiti), Ruth Manorama in South Bangalore (Bangalore Domestic Workers Union, National Federation of Dalit Women), Rachna Dhingra in Bhopal (Bhopal tragedy victims’ organisations), Pankaj Singh in Sidhi Rewa (Mahan Sangharsh Samiti).
Those standing for the Vidhan Sabha Elections in Odisha inclide Lingaraj Azad and Rajkumar from the Gandhamardan People’s Movement.
3) It has been decided that Benares, Uttar Pradesh will be the focus point for a campaign against communal and divisive forces in order to strengthen the secular and democratic foundations that the people of this country need to stand up for.This campaign is primarily being led by the Social Movements and independent Trade Unions with their large base in the ten constituencies surrounding Varanasi- Chandauli, Machlisheher, Jaunpur, Mirzapur, Palamu, Sasaram, Varanasi, Robertsganj, Azamgarh, Lalganj.
We aim at strengthening the roots of new political formations, which will be able to take forward the struggles of the historically oppressed majority.
The speakers at the 24 March 2014 meeting in New Delhi include Com. D. Thankappan & Gautam Mody [New Trade Union Initiative – NTUI], Ashok Choudhury, Munnilal, Roma, Matadayal, Nabada, Shri Rampal, Behena, Phoolwasi [All India Union of Forest Working People – AIUFWP], T. Peter [National Fishworkers’ Forum – NFF], Anil Sadgopal [All India Forum for Right to Education, Bhopal], Ambarish Rai [Right to Education Forum], Biranchi Bariha [Shramik Adhikar Manch & Zameen Jangal Adhikar Sangharsh Vahini, Bargarh] Prof. Chaman Lal [Political Science Professor], Sanjay Garg [Former Minister, Uttar Pradesh Government], Sadre Alam [Delhi Young Artists Forum – DYAF], Jairam [Adivasi Van Jan Shramjeevi Union] & Ahmed Khaka [Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan MASS].
For more details contact 9958797409 | 8527830687
All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP); New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI); National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF); National Hawkers’ Federation (NHF); National Handloom Weavers’ Federation; Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), Assam;Adivasi Van Jan Shramjeevi Union, Gujarat; All India Tribal Youth Movement, Gujarat; Voices of Youth, Gujarat; Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG); Delhi Young Artists Forum; All India Forum for Right to Education, Bhopal; Right to Education Forum; Dalit Shakti Sangathan, Bihar; Shramik Adhikar Manch, Odisha; Zameen Jangal Adhikar Sangharsh Vahini, Odisha; All India Kabaadi Mazdoor Mahasangh.
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