Adopted at the 20th Congress of the CPI(M), Kozhikode, April 4-9, 2012
In Defence of the Rights of the Urban Poor against Anti-People
The 20th Party Congress of the CPI (M) notes that while urbanization in many states has picked up in the recent period in our country, the Central Government is imposing a regime of urban reform reflecting the policies of the World Bank. The basic thrust of these policies is to meet the requirements of the neo-rich, the corporate and foreign investors. Considering that the process of urbanization in a country like India also reflects distress migration to the cities of the rural population, these policies have a very negative impact on the vast mass of the urban poor.
Reform projects like the JNNURM; make allocation of funds conditional to the acceptance of anti-people conditions such as the lifting of the urban land ceiling and imposition of a range of user charges on essential civic services. Urban bodies are deprived of funds and the burden of these policies is borne by the common people and particularly the urban poor. Although many State Governments, who are committed to such policies themselves, raise no objections, in fact, the very project is an assault and encroachment on the rights of the States. It is only the Left Front Governments in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura which had fought against these conditions.
This Party Congress strongly protests against the imposition of high user charges and the constant hike in charges on various municipal services such as water, sanitation, betterment charges ranging from 100 to 1000 per cent. Municipal services which were directly handled by municipalities which were accountable to the people are now being privatized. Various concessions extended to the people are being withdrawn.
This Party Congress notes with deep concern that on the basic right of housing for the urban poor instead of utilizing the available land to meet the housing needs of people, the policy being adopted by the Central Government is resulting in handing over of lands to private real estate operators. Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), a recently-introduced scheme, provides an opportunity for the private real estate operators to grab large extent of urban lands which are hitherto with the poor urban slum-dwellers. The RAY, in its preamble, envisages totally slum-free cities. It listed out various categories of land belonging to government or quasi-government institutions, where slums are not permitted. Wherever an exception is to be made, the scheme insists that it should be a PPP model housing only. Taking advantage of this scheme and its related policies, private real estate mafia is resorting to unscrupulous means to drive away the poor from their dwellings to take over the lands. At the same time the Indian Railways and other Central Government institutions which own a substantial amount of land in urban areas are evicting thousands of families who have been living on that land for decades. The police firing and repression in Jharkhand on those resisting evictions resulting in the deaths of six persons and recently the brutal evictions in Kolkata show the anti-poor nature of these reforms.
During the Left Front regime in Bengal, an alternative method of housing for the poor was developed with in situ development of slums in Kolkata and distribution of urban land pattas for the cost of just one rupee. This model should be used all over the country.
This Party Congress calls upon its units in urban areas to take up the wide range of civic issues concerning the urban poor and organize them in their residential areas. This must include the rights of the working poor such as street vendors and migrants. It gives a clarion call for a determined struggle against the harmful urban reforms.