Corporate loot of natural resources, communalism are undermining India’s democracy

landacquisitionBhoomi Adhikar Andolan, the apex body of several people’s organizations*, will be holding in Ahmedabad (July 16-18) a national convention in defence of democracy, and to protect land, water, forest and livelihood. A concept note, prepared by Mujahid Nafees, national coordinator of the national convention:

The survival of farmers and sustenance of agriculture is in deep trouble in the whole of India today. Everyone is worried if the land for farming or even the profession of farmers will survive or not in this country. Almost every day, farmers are coming from various corners of the country to New Delhi to protest and demand cancellation of this ordinance. In the entire country, various programs are being organized opposing the ordinance. While farmer-worker organizations from across the country have come together and plunged into the campaign.

The Central Government in power is leaving out no opportunity to give away not just land but also our water, electricity, mineral resources and people’s labour at cheaper rates. All this facilitates companies to produce at lesser costs and ensure maximum profits. Our current Government calls this mode of production as development and our Prime Minister has named this mode of loot as “Make In India”. This model has no laws in the interest of the workers. It makes the workers highly dependent on the companies and the companies in total control. It is not an exaggeration to say that today the country is not run by the Constitution, but by the companies.

The Government is not even ashamed to say that the interest of companies is equivalent to interest of the nation! The corporate-controlled minister Arun Jaitley states in the Parliament that taking consent from the farmers on the Land Acquisition could pose a threat to nation’s interest. It is incomprehensible as to what kind of nationalism are we talking about when they state that taking the consent of the affected farmers-workers poses threat to the nation’s interest!

Who else would know the truth of the Company Raj better than the people of India who have very closely seen the cruel world of Company Raj? Around 300 years back, in a similar manner, a company known by the name of “East India Company” had come to India for doing its business and established its rule by 1757. For the sake of its profits, this Company destroyed the Panchayats that were prevalent then and replaced it with Zamindari system.

Collaborating with the landlords, the company did various kinds of injustices to the people of this country. The Company-led-Government looted the farmers, destroyed traditional farming and traditional enterprises, snatched away traditional rights of the Adivasis from the forests and destroyed the forests through deforestation. In this Company Raj, farmers had to pay the taxes in the case of destruction of crops even if it was due to drought and floods.

They had to literally sell themselves or their families to pay the debt. Clothes and other goods produced abroad from the raw materials of India were being sold in India. This led to the disappearance of weavers other similar professions. When people raised a voice against all these injustices and atrocities, the Company caused the burning of several villages, sparing not even women and children. The people of this country know that the current Company Raj too will reap similar injustices and atrocities as the East India Company. The government will provide these companies all resources for the production cheaply; the companies will make stacks of profits; and the farmers of this country will be ousted from their land and will be forced to become bonded labourers of these companies.

Various farmer organizations, trade unions, urban poor, fish workers, Tribals, women organizations, youth organizations, pro-people intellectuals, and various political parties outside and inside the Parliament are protesting against the Land Ordinance to stop Company Raj from ruling this country again. All these people are protesting in their own ways and are also coming together at various platforms to campaign against the Ordinance. On February 24th, various farmer organizations and organizations working on the local issues across the country got together under “Land Acquisition Ordinance Protest Platform”. Only one amendment was made in the original Ordinance: it stated that around the corridors, for roads and railway tracks only 1 km space would be taken instead of 3 km on both sides.

The Government also knows that land provides livelihood to the farmers over generations and compensation can never be an alternative to their livelihood. Everyone also knows that when cultivable land and farmers would not be left in the country then the country’s food sovereignty will come to an end which will lead the nation to be dependent on countries like Australia and America for food grains. In a similar manner, landless farmers and agricultural workers associated with the land, village artisans, small traders, etc. will be wiped out from the country’s map.

In spite of all this, the nation’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is calling himself the biggest well-wisher of the farmers and workers! He projects the ordinance by assuring four times compensation of the land taken, when in reality, the BJP ruled state governments are giving only two to two and a half times compensation for even excessively fertile lands.

Across the country, waves of protests have intensified against the loot of land, unconstitutional procedures and erosion of farmer-labourers. In a strategy meeting held on 2nd April 2015, more than 300 farmer organizations, trade unions, urban poor, fish workers, Tribals, women organizations, pro-people intellectuals from across the country decided the future course of action and have given the name of this campaign as “Bhumi Adhikar Andolan”.  It was decided to intensify this campaign and carry forward the struggle at local, regional and national levels. In this context, across the country at various places protest programs are being organized.

The new government at the Centre has made it amply clear that it is going to pursue the pro-corporate and anti-people policies of the previous dispensation with much more vigor, coercion, and rapid pace. The reality of ‘achchhe din’ stands exposed and the people’s aspiration for better life has been channelized to nefarious communal polarization.

The new government has shown its true intentions: allowing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) not only in multi-brand retail but also in the defense sector; amending the existing labor laws to suit the industry; diluting environmental laws to turn clearances into mere formalities; and even to amend the much flawed Land Acquisition Act brought by the previous regime in order to do away with the minimum relief it provided to the people.

The PM and his government’s silence on the communal riots and the attempts made its political affiliates to vitiate the communal environment in the run up to the recent by-polls has surpassed the famous silence of Manmohan Singh government on corruption. Communal groups, including elected party officials are making inflammatory statements and stoking communal tensions. The communal Hindutva agenda, together with all that underlies it, is rapidly permeating the very air we breathe.

Both these threats of corporate loot of natural resources as well as communalism are greatly undermining our democracy. Resistances by people and movements against the economic offensive will be met by an aggressive repressive regime as well as by extra-constitutional violent outfits supporting the regime. Even the judiciary will be weakened through various means and the corporate-controlled media will turn a blind eye.

Such an ordeal before the people’s movement has very few precedents in recent history. It is in this context, that the people’s movements and democratic groups have decided to call for a national convention during 23-25 April 2016 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat to discuss the challenges and the way ahead.

*National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM), All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP), All India Kisan Sabha (Ajay Bhawan), All India Kisan Sabha (Canning Lane), Akhil Bhartiya Krishak Khet Mazdoor Sangathan, Lok Sangharsh Morcha, Yuva Kranti, Jan Sangharsh Samanvaya Samiti, Chhatisgarh Bachao Aandolan, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Sanyukt Kisan Sangharsh Samilti, INSAF, Delhi Solidarity Group, Kisan Manch, Bhartiya Kisan Union, Mines Minerals and People (MMP), Gujarat Lok Samiti, Hazira Machimar Samiti, Machuara Adhikar Sangharsh Sangthan(MAAS), Nargol Machimar Samiti, Saurashtra Machimaar Mahila Samiti, Gujarat Kisan Sangthan, Awas Adhikar Jumbesh, Aadiwasi Ekta Vikas Andolan, INSAF, Lok Kala Manch, Swabhiman Andolan

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