Guns, Jail for People and Roses for Corporates;
Policies like SEZ Can Only Be Implemented By Resorting to State Repression
A collective of people's movements and organisations from all across the country, under the banner of Sangharsh 2007 has been sitting in protest at Jantar Mantar since the 19th of March. Planned as an indefinite struggle in Delhi, till UPA government listens to the concerns of the majority of India¡¦s population, Action 2007 has conducted a Jan Sansad on a number of key issues that the Parliament of India does not deem fit to engage in serious discussion about. Wide range of issues, largely placed under 11 categories were discussed in the Jan Sansad. However, unfortunately any of the ministers of or many of the bureaucrats did not feel necessary to attend the People¡¦s Parliament or to take account of the concerns raised ¡V after repeated invitations. The Jan Sansad organized detailed discussions on many issues as every major and minor policy and projects cause large scale displacement, dispossession, dis-employment and de-humanisation in India and the political establishment and ruling classes refuse to even recognize these as problems.
State Repression & Shrinking Democratic Space
As many of those invited from ministries and other constitutional authorities did not dare to be present with people to discuss issues, women from Action 2007 had approached the planning commission on 22nd March 2007 (World Water Day) to demand a meeting with the planning authority of the country. However, the brutal state repressions that was carried out through the Rapid Action Force and Delhi Police only proved the apprehensions about state intent to implement anti-people policies with police protection. Including Medha Patkar, Gautam Bandopadhyay, Simpreet Singh, Sanjeev and Sr. Celia, as many as 62 people were given 15 days of judicial remand in Tihar Jail for demonstrating outside a government office.
Due to an intervention from higher judiciary, all those accused have been granted bail by the 26th March 2007. However, the government has shown no willingness to withdraw the false cases charged on peaceful demonstrators.
It is now crystal clear that people across the country, both affected and those concerned about public policy, are rising in revolt be it the SEZ Policy & Act, the JNURM, the issue of slum demolitions, or of hawkers¡¦ dis-employment. The Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalised sections are on the verge of boycotting the state, which has only been an oppressor. In face of such strong opposition the Government can only push these policies only by recourse to violent repression as witnessed in Delhi on 22nd March with ACTION 2007 activists, and with the Kuki students on 23rd March ¡¦07. Given the State & Police attitude to people¡¦s resistance Nandigram is only a logical culmination, no matter how much blood flows. When the State and its other arms resort to violence the issue is not only the overt repression but also the constant effort to prevent people from expressing themselves, and shrinking democratic space. It will have to be concern of every conscientious citizen and particularly peoples¡¦ movements to challenge and prevent that.
SEZ & Issues
Representatives from people¡¦s organizations and communities across the country marched from Jantar Mantar yesterday, 26th March to protest against the Special Economic Zones being set up in the country.
„X The large scale forced acquisition of land (for the ¡§public purpose¡¨ of promoting private profit), the loss of agricultural land for real estate speculation which is an assault on the nation¡¦s farmers as well as food security has been the most critical concern
„X The SEZ Act compromises severely on sovereignty of the country by making thousands of hectares of land ¡§foreign territory¡¨.
„X Fishworkers movements from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh have raised issues of destruction of the coastline by SEZ projects.
„X Unprecedent Environmental destruction and usurpation of natural resources by SEZ projects. For instance, 33 projects are coming up in Konkan region alone leading to a complete destruction of the Western Ghats forests.
„X Scarcity of water and power, especially due to SEZs coming up close to Urban Centres has been raised as an issue.
„X The problem of unregulated labour exploitation has been seen in existing SEZs and will worsen further with the dilution of labour legislations.
„X The Ministry of Finance itself has raised the issue of huge revenue losses to the state exchequer.
A veritable double faced policy
On the one hand people are told that the market and the invisible hand will determine this and on the other, the State acquires land for corporates. Since the past one year communities have issued memorandums and appeals consistently raising these concerns about the establishment of SEZs. But instead of having a dialogue the state machinery has resorted to violently suppressing people's protests, as the entire world witnessed through the media coverage of the merciless killings of the peasants in places like Nandigram. This will remain a shameful scar imprinted on the memory of the public.
We are aware that the Empowered Group of Ministers under the chairmanship of Shri Pranab Mukherjee is reviewing the SEZ policy and legislation. However, we do not see any of the issues being raised by the people's groups addressed in the government's review process. In this dismal scenario, the consensus emerging is for a country-wide intensification of the struggle against SEZs and scrapping of the SEZ Act 2005.
Action ¡V Next Phase
As part of our efforts to hold the state accountable for its policies and to make transparency in governance, different delegations from the movements represented in Sangharsh will meet with different ministries, concerned citizens and political parties in the coming days. The political dialogues will focus on issues relating to land acquisitions, SEZ, unorganised sector legislation and issues, Dalit, Adivasi and women¡¦s rights issues, issues of urban poor, hawkers, etc.
Co-ordination Committee ACTION 2007
For further details please visit-www.action2007.net
Delhi Office: Action 2007, 1-A, Goela Lane, Under Hill Road Civil Lines, Delhi ¡V 54 Tel.: 011-23933307
Rajendra Ravi (0-9868200316 ), Vijayan MJ (0-9868165471 ) E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mumbai Office: Action 2007, C/0 Chemical Mazdoor Sabha, 28-29, First Floor 'A wing' Haji Habib Building,
Naigaon Cross Road, Dadar (East), Mumbai-400014