The CPI(M) Sangharsh Sandesh Jatha extends its warm greetings to all our sisters and brothers, across the country.
The jatha is to promote the message of struggle for alternative policies to address the issues and concerns of the mass of people of this country, of kisans, of workers, the large majority of whom are in the unorganized sector, of dalits who are oppressed and discriminated by the hateful caste system, of adivasis who face extreme exploitation and neglect, of minorities who are victims of communal politics and discrimination, and of women who are treated as second class citizens and targets of brutal sexual violence. The jatha is for an alternative policy agenda which puts people, not profits at the centre of development strategies. This jatha is to protect and strengthen the unity of the working people against communal politics.
The CPI(M) is firmly opposed to the neo-liberal economic policies being followed by both the Congress and the BJP which subsidise the rich including foreign companies and victimize the poor, resulting in intensifying social and economic inequalities. These policies have led to unprecedented corruption of lakhs and crores of rupees.
The CPI(M) opposes the Government policies of opening up and handing over the critical sectors of the economy including banks, insurance, power, defence and shamefully even health and education to the private sector, selling off precious assets of the public sector to corporates, foreign and Indian which is disastrous for our country and its sovereignty. The country’s natural resources like coal, iron ore, etc are also being opened to the loot and plunder of big mining companies while the rights of adivasi communities in these areas are being bulldozed. Even the retail sector is being opened up for big companies like Walmart which will destroy the livelihood of around 5 crore Indians involved in retail trade.
The direct impact of these policies is the increasing gap between the rich and the poor.
The number of billionaires (individuals with wealth over Rs. 5000 crores) in India has increased from 13 in 2003 to 55 in March 2011 to 61 in October 2012. In just one year from 2011 to 2012, the combined wealth of the 100 richest Indians increased from 241 billion dollars to 250 billion dollars.
On the other hand 86.3 crore people can spend only less than 20 rupees a day.
Because of acute distress caused by debt, more than 2.90 lakh farmers committed suicide since 1995.
This jatha is to strengthen the struggles on the demand for equity in the use of the country’s national resources. These must be used to eliminate social inequalities by prioritizing the needs of the mass of our people.
This Sangharsh Sandesh Jatha raises issues crucial to the well being of our people, namely
The right to food
The right to education and employment
The right to health facilities and cheap medicines
The right to house-sites and for land reform
The right to a life free from discrimination on the basis of caste, community and gender
Right to Land and Housesites
It is estimated that there is over 21 million hectares of surplus land in India, land held illegally over the land ceiling. But just 2.7 million hectares has been declared surplus and only 1.9 million distributed. It is significant that the Left Front Government in West Bengal had distributed the largest share. The number of landless peasant households in India has registered a shocking increase from 22 per cent in 1992 to 41 per cent in 2011.
Instead of distributing land to the landless and ensuring that each family has at least a house-site, the Central Government is encouraging forcible land acquisition to help corporates and big mining companies. The CPI(M) supports the struggles against forcible takeover of land. It strongly opposes the displacement of adivasis and the violation of the constitutional guarantees to protect them such as the Fifth Schedule and Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act. (PESAA).
The CPI(M) demands distribution of land and house-sites to the landless. It calls for struggles to break the land monopoly. It is committed to protect the interests of farmers and adivasis against forcible land acquisition. It will fight for full compensation and rehabilitation, not only for all farmers who consent to give their land, but also for all sharecroppers, agricultural workers and others dependent for their livelihood on the land. It calls for distribution of housesites to every landless household in India.
Right to Food
In a country which has the largest malnourished population in the whole world the right to food is a critical and basic right for our people. Shamefully India ranks 65 out of 78 countries in the World Hunger Index lower than Nepal and Pakistan. But the Central Government insists on maintaining the grossly unfair targeted system of dividing the poor into APL and BPL and denying them the right to food. According to the Government anyone earning more than 26 rupees in rural India and 32 rupees in urban India in a day, is non-poor and cannot get foodgrains at cheap prices. Yet there are over 6.67 crore tonnes of foodgrains rotting in Government godowns as on January 1, 2013, but in spite of the Supreme Court suggestion to distribute these foodgrains, the Government has refused to do so.
This Government has utterly failed to control price rise of essential commodities which have increased every year because of faulty Government policies such as permitting speculation through future trade in agricultural commodities; cutting down subsidies on petrol, diesel and kerosene and frequently raising the price. Now even the number of subsidized gas cylinders has been cut and price hiked three times. The prices of rice, wheat, sugar, edible oil, pulses have increased by 20 to 30 per cent. Even the price of vegetables has increased.
Under public pressure the Government has prepared a Food Security Bill but the fatal flaw is that it retains the targeted system and proposes to reduce 35 kgs, which all BPL cardholders are entitled to, to 25 kgs. The Bill also promotes cash payment instead of foodgrains. This is a ploy to cut Government expenditure. The cash given will not cover the market price of the foodgrains and therefore the entitlement of 35 kgs of foodgrains will be drastically cut.
The CPI(M) demands control of price rise through a ban on future trade in foodgrains and essential commodities; a reduction in prices of petrol and diesel and reversal of the deregulated system.
It demands a universal food security system, scrapping of the APL/BPL system which is based on fraudulent estimates of poverty; and 35 kgs of foodgrains at maximum price of rupees two a kg.; it demands immediate distribution of the huge food stocks that the Government has.
Right to Education
Young people below the age of 25 make up over 50 per cent of the population. Thus the country’s future depends critically on what the Government can do to provide opportunities for the development and care of our young people. But the record is shameful both in terms of the right to education as well as in terms of employment opportunities.
The Government passed the Right to Education Act in 2009. By now every child should be in school. But to implement the Act more schools have to be built and at least 14 lakh teachers have to be recruited. But the Central Government has refused to provide the necessary funds, leaving it to the States who are themselves in a financial crisis. Today only 16 per cent of children who enrolled in Class 1 can manage to reach Class 12, the majority have to leave school for economic reasons. The situation for SC and ST students is even worse, with no increase in scholarship amount and the dismal plight of the SC and ST hostels, students from these sections are forced to drop out. In the field of higher education the record of India is quite shameful with 90 out of 100 students who have completed Class 12, not able to go to college. Instead of increasing access to higher education, the Government wants to make it even more elitist by encouraging the private sector to play a dominant role using education as an avenue for profit.
Six Bills are pending in Parliament to allow the entry of FDI and corporates in higher education and to give more powers to the central Government to push its privatisation agenda.
The CPI(M) demands that the allocations for education be increased to at least 6 per cent of GDP from the present 3 per cent. It demands full implementation of the RTE Act. It opposes the entry of FDI and corporates into the higher educational sector.
Right to Employment
The Government boasts of economic growth but this is a growth which does not produce jobs.
It is jobless and in some cases jobloss growth. For example in 1998 the organized sector employed 28.2 million people. But this figure came down to 27.5 million in 2008 indicating a loss of 7 lakh jobs.
The annual rate of employment had come down from 2.7 per cent in 2000-2005 to only 0.8 per cent in 2005-2010. The unemployment rate for young men and particularly young women is high.
Yet there are 10 lakh vacancies in central departments. In the railways it is as high as 2.2 lakh vacancies. Half of these vacancies belong to the SCs/STs and OBCs. This is due to the virtual ban on recruitments by the Central Government.
At the same time, the jobs being provided are mainly for contract and casual work, with no guaranteed security of service, wages or other benefits. In private sector units contract workers comprise more than 80 per cent and even in public sector units as much as 50 per cent are forced into contract work. The total number will be around 5 crore workers forced to work in the most terrible conditions with no right.
In employment, the muslim minority community is particularly discriminated against with negligible numbers having got jobs in the public or government sector whether in the central Government or State Governments.
In the rural areas, the Government is weakening the National Rural Employment Scheme by drastically cutting down on funds. In the last budget it was revealed that a large part of the NREGA allocation had not been spent. The average days of work are less than half of the 100 days guaranteed by law.
The CPI(M) demands lifting of the ban on recruitment and initiation of fresh recruitment and filling up of the backlog for SC, ST and OBC vacancies. It demands an urban Employment Guarantee Scheme at minimum wages with one third reserved for women. It demands implementation of the Ranganath Mishra Commission recommendations for reservations for Muslims. It demands expansion of the scope of NREGA and lifting of the cap on 100 days with guaranteed minimum wages.
Right to Health and Cheap Medicines
India’s health services are increasingly dependent on the private sector, whether it is doctors, hospitals, clinics or the drug industry. But there are no regulations to control the rampant profiteering from peoples’ ill health. Thus the health related industry has become one of the most profitable industries for the private sector during the last twenty years of neo-liberal policies. On the other hand it is estimated that health expenses is the second largest reason for families to be driven into debt, driving millions of families into poverty.
The National Rural Health Mission which was to provide health services for all is far from achieving its aim, being sabotaged by the Government itself. Instead of increasing public health services which can be accessed by all citizens, strengthening primary health care centres, the Central Government has refused to provide the necessary funds. Public expenditure on health services is just around 1 per cent of the GDP instead of the promised at least 5 per cent. Instead the Government is pushing for the insurance model which is very limited in its scope as most of these schemes depend on private hospitals and doctors. Thus public money is given to private companies through limited insurance policies which do not cover the health expenses of the poor as it is usually limited only to hospitalization.
Today in India basic services are lacking leading to huge numbers of deaths which could have been avoided. For example,
Because of lack of rural health services, every ten minutes a woman dies in child birth
In every hour 218 babies and children under five die of disease or malnutrition.
The scourge of malaria still leads to thousands of deaths and very poor health particularly in tribal areas and also in the north-east. Water born diseases have grown because of the lack of safe drinking water as also the lack of sanitation facilities.
But today out of 33 crore census households:
57 per cent do not have tapped drinking water;
39 per cent do not have a kitchen
53 per cent do not have a latrine facility
Thus the right to health is also linked to the right to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities.
The prices of essential medicines has increased hugely. This is mainly because the entire drugs industry is now being controlled by big multinational and corporates, three of the biggest five drug companies are MNCs, who make huge profits. The Central Government has decided on a pro-company policy, instead of controlling the prices of essential drugs.
The CPI(M) demands increase in budgetary allocations to strengthen health services; it demands strict regulation of the private health sector; it demands control of prices of essential medicines. The key to good health lies in improving the conditions of living of our people.
For Social Justice
The CPI(M) through this Sangharsh Sandesh Jatha gives a call to all citizens to come out in support of the platform of social justice for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, minority communities and for women. No country can go forward without the development of these sections who comprise the backbone of the basic classes of workers and kisans but who apart from economic exploitation suffered by all working people suffer the added burdens of social discrimination.
Women in general and women of the working poor in particular are the targets of the most brutal sexual attacks. This Sangharsh Jatha expresses its solidarity with the fight for women’s equality and freedom from discrimination and violence.
The efforts of communal forces led by the RSS-BJP combine to impose their narrow communal agendas, spreading hatred against the minority community and inciting violence must be strongly resisted and minority rights protected in all spheres.
The Government policies have helped to develop a toxic nexus of corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and corporates. Corruption has resulted in the loot of lakhs of crores of rupees. The 2G telecom and coal scam alone have cost the exchequer around 3.56 lakh crore. This is apart from the losses in the commonwealth game scam, the land and mining scams etc. Many of these mining scams have taken place under BJP rule as in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand.
It has been estimated that in the last decade 5.7 lakh crores of rupees have illegally been smuggled out of India. Money which belongs to the Indian people is stashed away in Swiss and other foreign banks by tax thieves and black money holders but Government has not brought the money back nor has it taken any action against the criminals.
Huge amounts have been identified as tax arrears from the rich.
Corruption is rampant in the country. But the Government has refused to enact a strong Lokpal Bill. The sarkari bill will ensure that the Government retains control. This is against the interests of the people of India. This jatha demands an end to corruption and the enactment of a strong Lokpal law.
At the same time corruption has corroded the functioning of democracy in our country. Huge amounts of black money are spent during elections making a farce of the democratic process. Electoral reform to curb money power is the most urgent requirement to protect the democratic process.
The Way Forward
The Government has refused the demands of the people saying it has no money. This is an outright lie. The Government prefers to subsidise the rich and cut the subsidies for the poor. 20 lakh crore rupees have been given in tax concessions since 2009 which have mainly benefited the rich.
There is no dearth of resources in India.
It is the use of these resources to favour the rich which deprives the people of their basic rights.
We demand that the tax concessions to the rich be stopped; we demand that the corrupt be punished and the losses be recovered from them; we demand that the money be brought back from the foreign banks.
This money must be used to ensure the basic right to life of people of this country.
There are four Sangharsh Sandesh Jathas traveling from the four corners of the country traversing through almost all the States joined by smaller jathas from the villages and towns of India. These jathas will converge in Delhi where a huge rally will be held on March 19.
These jathas are a symbol of the people’s unity for their basic rights, against communalism, for secularism and to demand a reversal of the disastrous economic policies being followed by both the Congress and the BJP.
The immediate demands:
Right to Land and House-sites: Implement land reform policies by distributing surplus land to the landless. Guarantee house-sites to each landless household.
Right to Food: Universal right to 35 kgs of foodgrains at a maximum price of rupees two a kg. Scrap APL/BPL based fraudulent poverty calculations.
Right to Education and Health: Stop privatisation of educational and health services. Increase allocations for education and health. Guarantee implementation of the Right to education Act. Strengthen public services in health and ensure strict regulation of the private sector.
Right to Employment: Step up public investment to ensure creation of jobs; lift the ban on recruitment and ensure time-bound recruitment for all vacancies, particularly for SC/ST/OBC backlog; increase days of work under NREGA with price index linked minimum wages and expand it to include guarantee of work days in urban India.
End Corruption: Enact Lokpal legislation with autonomous powers of investigation; bring back black money stashed in foreign banks; recover losses from the corporates responsible; send the corrupt to jail.
We appeal to all of you
- Join the struggle for Alternative Policies
- Join the struggle for our Basic Rights
- Join the struggle for Social Justice