What should people do in the face of the dangerous course of the economy?
Lok Raj Sangathan's meeting on 28th September on the subject, “The dangerous course of the Indian economy: what should people do?” drew a large number of workers, students, women and activists. More than 200 people, including a large number of youth, participated in the meeting. Mazdoor Ekta Lehar's correspondent who attended the meeting, reports that the meeting was marked by keen participation of those present. While everyone agreed that the current economic course portends grave consequences for the Indian people, there was also a militant spirit that we, the people, should take up the challenge of organising to change this course.
Ms. Sucharita welcomed the participants to the meeting, which began with a stirring song calling on all Indians to rise up against their oppression and exploitation. This was followed by a power-point presentation that captured the essence of the outcome of the economic course followed by successive governments. The PPT left no doubt in the audience's minds that the present course of the economy is indeed dangerous for the people. It pointed out how India is on one of the lowest rungs of the Human Development Index, with the people suffering from hunger, malnutrition, poor education and low literacy levels, and deprived of the most basic services. The exploitation of workers, the poor condition of peasants and the growing divide between the minority rich and vast majority of poor were also highlighted in the presentation.
LRS' President - Shri. S.Raghavan, Vice-president Shri. Hanuman Prasad Guruji, Convenor of Nirman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangam - Shri. Subash Bhatnagar, Women's movement activist – comrade Renu, Communist Ghadar Party spokesperson- comrade Prakash Rao, Rajesh from Sangam Vihar, Shri. Ilyas from Welfare Party of India, Shri Lokesh, Ms. Poonam, Shri Prashant from SFI, Shri. Prem Chand Chauhan, Ms. Afsana, Shri Dharmendra Kumar, Shri Krishna Gupta, Shri Umesh Mishra from Burari, Shri Santosh Kumar and Ms. Chhaya were among those who addressed the meeting. Several people who could not attend the meeting sent their messages. Among these were Shri J P Sharma of AIBEA and Shri N D Pancholi and Shri Devendra Bharati of CFD.
Addressing different aspects of the economy, the speakers showed how the present course of the economy is a continuation and further intensification of the course adopted by one government after another, over the last more than 20 years. They elaborated on the danger of opening up our economy to FDI across all sectors and the thrust given to export orientation. The speakers showed how the recently announced labour “reforms” further intensified the anti-worker orientation of the economy; how successive governments have handed out tax concessions and subsidies to and forgiven huge loans of the big capitalists. At the same time, peasants were driven to commit suicide because of debt. The speakers called to question the priority given to satisfying the greed of a minority of rich capitalists, and huge allocations were made to defence expenditures and interest on debts owed by the State to banks. It was pointed out that moneys allocated to education, health and other basic needs of the people like water and housing was dismally low and this reflects the totally anti-people orientation of the economy.
Many of the young students and workers in the meeting addressed the specific issues of education and unemployment affecting millions of youth in our country. This course of the economy has kept large numbers of youth unemployed, denied the vast majority access to education and wasted the potential of this section. Time and again, youth are deceived with promise of opportunities for education and employment. Education is being increasingly handed over to various big corporations under this or that model, like public-private partnership (PPP), opening up the sector for them to make huge profits. The government has completely abdicated its responsibility to ensure that this essential service is universally available to all youth.
It was pointed out that we are made to believe that the growth of the biggest business houses like the Tatas, Birlas and Ambani is equivalent to the well-being of the people. We are told that if the gross domestic product of the economy is high or if we have bullet trains, then the economy is doing well. The economic well-being of the people is totally left out in assessing the health of the economy.
“What should people do?” in this context, was addressed by many of the speakers. It was clarified that only two courses are available – either the course of the economy enables the rich to make more profits or it ensures that people are provided with all the basic necessities; their material and spiritual needs are fulfilled. If the orientation of the economy has to change, people have to take control; they have to set the course of the economy. For this, people should get organised in their workplaces, in their residential colonies, and in their schools and universities. The aim of the economy will then be to provide for the people. Such an economy will not be based on the exploitation of labour, will not give priority to fulfilling the claims of the capitalists, nor will it follow the course of militarisation.
Speakers called on all those concerned with this dangerous course to take up the task of going among the people, exposing the real facts about the economy, establishing samitis of the people and organising to challenge the present anti-people course of the economy.
In conclusion, the meeting unanimously passed a declaration resolving that we, the people, will not stand by and watch this dangerous course being thrust upon us. Instead, we will come together and step up the struggle on the following issues:
- Strict implementation of labour laws in the interest of labour and to make them applicable to all working people
- Availability of agricultural inputs at affordable prices and procurement of all agricultural produce at remunerative prices
- Necessity to halt futures trading on all commodities that are essential for life
- Acquisition of any agricultural land must be banned, pending the enactment of a new Land Law, that must guarantee secure possession of arable land in the hands of those who are tilling it
- Universal Public Distribution system under the control of people that makes all necessities of life available in good quality, in sufficient quantity and at affordable prices
- Halting and reversal of privatization of education, healthcare and other social sectors, and for bringing them under social control
- Uniform good quality primary and secondary education for all children, and affordable access to higher education for all
- Reversal of privatisation in the banking, insurance and defense sectors
- Withdrawal of all types of concessions in taxes on/ private capital
- No to militarisation of the economy and for cutback in defence expenditure
- Opposition to the interference of imperialist powers in this area and for encouraging peaaceful relations with all our neighbouring countries
- Constitutional guarantees of all fundamental rights