Mass organisations come together to count Modi's failure
Ever since Narendra Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party to a thumping victory in the 2014 General Elections, several political parties have tried taking on the saffron party's might with varying degrees of success. Now it seems the momentum is shifting towards non-party structures.
A conglomeration of progressive groups including trade unions, student bodies, farmers' associations, women's groups and Dalit organisations besides other civil society formations and non-governmental organizations have formed a collective called Jan Ekta Jan Adhikar Andolan Manch (Jejaam). Its affiliates plan mass-mobilization from May 17-22 at hyper-local levels across the country to culminate in demonstrations and rallies up to sub-divisional levels on May 23.
The thrust will be to highlight unfulfilled promises made by the Modi and his party in the run-up to the previous Lok Sabha elections. The initiative in fact has adopted a slogan 'Modi ke char saal, pol khol halla bol' (Four years of Modi, get the truth out and sound the cry).
The initiative follows the celebration of May Day this year as Resistance Day by Dalit organisations across the country to express resentment against the dilution of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Jejaam activists said they have realised the need for collective action – a la trade unions – to take on the government that has behaved in a “dictatorial method denying the marginalised societies their rights achieved after sustained struggle”.
According to them, various segments of the society need to be told that their goals are interlinked and they need to come together for a common cause: Trade unions must take up issues of students; students need to support farmers; farmers should speak for workers and so on. They underlined that students, women, farmers, labourers and others come out from common families and their issues cannot be looked at separately in the light of the fact that the government has been standing with the perpetrators of violence and those who have been exploiting the common masses.
“The country is witnessing an attack on the common man from all sides. If we talk about farmers, there is a policy attack on them from all sides. Every political party has been promising about implementing the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission on agriculture but no one has come forward to do it,” said Communist Party of India's ND Ranaut at a Jejaam meeting in Solan, Himachal Pradesh.
“The country has now seen some powerful movements by the farmers in states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab. They have been fired upon, but the governments had to accept their demands. The most recent example is the historic march from Nasik to Mumbai that began with 25,000 participants and gradually swelled to double that number. The government was on its knees before they even held their rally,” he added.
Citing Himachal, he said: “This small district exports tomatoes worth at least Rs 70 crore; yet there is no food processing unit here, no minimum support price mechanism and no proper insurance.
NC Shandil, a senior functionary of Himachal Pradesh Transport Workers Union, pointed out that though the number of buses with the state government has doubled, the number of employees remain the same. “Those who enrolled for skill development programmes and trained in driving are being paid a paltry stipend and are being used to run the show. They work for a minimal amount in the hope of that elusive regular employment.”
Attacking the National Pension Scheme he questioned why was the Modi government not getting lawmakers to first enrol for it instead before hardselling it to common workers.
Jagdish Chandra Bharadwaj from All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) said steps were underway to demolish trade unions. “Once they bring about the 'fixed-term employment' trade unions would obviously become redundant. In the garb of fixed-term employment where labour is laid off after a fixed term and then others are hired the government plans to spruce up its employment figures.
“There is a move to do away with Industrial Disputes Act and Contract Labour Regulation and Abolition Act. People need to be told that such laws that give them some security were promulgated after long struggles,” he added.
People also must know how the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological fountainhead of the BJP, and its affiliates were intruding into institutions at the smallest level. “I was a part of the initiative to set up an Employees State Insurance Specialty Hospital in the Nalagarh-Barotiwala-Baddi industrial area. Today the people at the helm of affairs include one from RSS, one from BJP and one from Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS),” he said.
Representatives of youth organisations pointed out how a whole new narrative was being given by various right-wing groups to the debate on reservation in jobs and how Dalits were being vilified. They also highlighted the right-wing campaigns on recent rapes in Kathua and Unnao.
“People need to be told how Dalits are being painted as villains for joblessness to cover up for the failure of the government to generate jobs. Similarly on the issue of rapes they have been saying why so much noise was made only on Kathua and Unnao rapes while rapes are being reported elsewhere also. We will tell the people that Kathua and Unnao became major movements because people from various right wing groups were defending the rapists instead of the victims,” said Ajay Bhatti, a youth leader who had also contested the last Himachal Assembly polls on youth-centric issues.
Many feel that the initiatives like Jejaam are movements at the micro level that might go under reported but have a potential to counter the micro management in which Sangh Parivar has been taking a lot of pride. The activists point out that the movements at local level, particularly in semi-rural and rural areas do rattle those in power. There is also a view that these can contribute a lot in bringing together progressive political forces together in the long run, an issue that has been gaining importance over the years.