Friday, March 13, 2009

For the people by the people, finally!

By Anjali Singh
Lucknow:The democratic process may finally find expression politically if the newly constituted forum of social activists taking up people’s causes has its way.
Called the People’s Politics Front (Lok Rajniti Manch), it held its first national convention at Lucknow at the Ganga Prasad Memorial Hall in Aminabad. The convention saw a huge turn out of supporters from UP and its surrounding states including Kushinagar, Agra, Hardoi, Sitapur, Sultanpur, Faizabad, and even Samaspur Bihar and New Delhi.
Mooted by well known columnist Kuldip Nayar, People’s Politics Front has been formed to build a political alternative in the country so that people’s issues can be brought to center-stage.
Says Nayar, “The aim is to bring organizations working for people’s causes at grass root levels under one forum. The vision I have for PPF is to see it take the shape the Green Party did in Europe. There is so much that is not right with the political scene in the country today so the effort of PPF will be to expose the dominant model of mainstream political parties which rely on muscle power, money power and unscrupulous ways for winning elections so that this practice can be rejected. We don’t have a symbol or a flag but our presence will be felt and soon.”
Lamenting on the filmy touch that political leaders have given the elections today Nayar further added, “Everything today has become so filmy be it politicians, the electoral process or even the newspapers and news channels that cover them. But now Bollywood has joined us too to play its positive role to help bring in that change. Mahesh Bhatt too is a part of PPF now and will do his part in the entertainment arena as a representative of Lok Rajniti Manch. “
But while the PPF will participate in the electoral process their involvement will be just that of a supporting hand to contestants wanting to fight the elections. This will be done by fielding candidates from the masses itself.
Explains Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee and a well known social activist, “We will provide a platform to local leadership who have earned the love and trust of the people by taking up their causes. If they wish to contest the elections PPF will support them in every way. Therefore instead of having a party president we will have a presidium which will reflect the people’s views and choices.”
Agrees Sunil, a member of Samajwadi Jan Parishad from Maharashtra who is apart of the forum, “Post independence promises were made that every child would be provided education within a year. So many decades have passed since then but these promises remain unfulfilled. But why only education promises made for health, employment, equality all have been broken. Today those who call themselves ‘daliton ka neta’ have crores to spend on their b’day celebrations but don’t bother about several thousands who are starving. This system will have to change and PPF can provide that forum for change.”
A fact which most candidates who will be contesting from the platform being provided endorse.
Like 28 year old Neel Kamal, a electoral candidate from Misrik Sitapur who is up against BSP’s Ashok Rawat and BJP’s Ram Prakash Rawat. But he is confident that he will be victorious as the issues he will pick up are people’s problems.
“Mera koi muddaa nahin hai sirf logo ki awaaz ko uthana hai. I will voice their concerns, their pains and their problems and if they feel I am right they will support me. “
And this direct and in your face attitude of these young contestants is already creating ripples as inform members of Project Vijay, a youth organization formed by students of Lucknow, Allahabad and Bundelkhand University as well as IITians , who have taken up cudgels against corruption and the corrupt.
Say Himanshu Swarkar and Mahendra Pratap Singh who are also part of PPF now, “We have filed Right to Information (RTI) applications against 13 well known political leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav, Raj Babbar, Salim Sherwani, Kamla Prakash Rawat, Bhanu Pratap Verma, Raja Bhaiya, Sanjay Dutt to name a few. The information received is shocking as no one is clean as they project themselves to be. All this has to be exposed and we will do it.”
But as upbeat as that sounds, will the problems of the masses find a voice in the parliament?
“Why not?” says Nayar, “The candidates who win will be representing PPF in the Rajya and Lok Sabha. They will have the support of activists like Medha Patkar, Aruna Rai, Rajendra Sacchar, Yogendra Yadav and many more who are members of PPF.”
But how far that would help only time will tell.
Anjali Singh
(The author is a senior journalist based in Lucknow, India. Email:, website: )

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A report of PPF meet By Asha Ji

People’s Political Front: meetings in South
It has been a very inspiring experience being part of the meetings of the newly constituted People’s Political Front (Lok Rajniti Manch, LRM in Hindi) in Bangalore and Mandya, 19-21 December. On 19th we had a press conference as well as an internal audit meet, about the experiences of PPF in various states and constituencies, since its last meet in Jaipur.
Kuldeep Nayyar, Ajit Jha, Ravivarma Kumar, Sunil, Rajiv, Yogendra Yadav, Jacob joshi, MR Khan, amongst others were present at the press meet.
KN introduced PPF, saying that PPF did not want to affiliate itself to any of the existing major political parties. He said “we are not satisfied with any of them”. The Bangalore press asked him whether such an initiative, which was not even registered as a political party, had any chances of creating change.
KN mentioned the case of the Greens in Germany, of how they started as a small group and evolved into federal politics. Asha kachru thereupon gave her experience as a Green City Councillor in Bonn in mid Eighties, about how the Greens, who started as a street initiative movement, finally became a well recognized party and have created change in Bonn for example on environmental and financial issues. She referred to the pedestrian paths constructed for the cyclists and for (pregnant) mothers using prams, in Bonn, after Greens came into power in the city council and also about how they put through the demand that the mayor of Bonn now uses a bicycle instead of a Mercedes for transport in the city. She used the opportunity also to point at the missing women in the round and the need to raise issues from the perspective of the Indian women’s movement in PPF.
Advocate Ravivarma Kumar spoke of the Sarvodaya Karnataka movement, about how it started as a part of the JP movement, abolishing the transport of night soil to toilets, to start with. Kishen Patnaik under the guise of the changed name Kishan Prasad had helped in this process. A young woman advocate Akhila from Bangalore joined us later and so did her mother Anusuya, vice-president of the Sarvodaya Karnataka.
Ajit Jha spoke about the last meeting of PPF in Jaipur, where they had recognized the missing South Indian partners and hence thought of having the next PPF meetings in Chennai, Bangalore and Kerala. The meetings in Bangalore and Chennai were a great success (see below), but in Kerala it is not so yet. From Andhra Pradesh farmers union APVVU, Mr. Chennaiah could unfortunately not arrive and report as they were busy with their annual meet.
Yogendra Yadav reported from the first meet of PPF in Chennai. With the large number of workers from the unorganized sector and agricultural workers, whom Geetha Ramakrishnan is guiding since many years, it has been an enriching and heartening experience, he said. In Karnataka too, in Bangalore with the organized Sarvodaya Karnataka farmers and the Dalits organized in the Dalit Sangharsh Samiti, DSS, it has been a successful experince for the PPF. YOGENDRA YADAV reported from Rajasthan too. In Harda the PPF candidate has had a positive impact. They got support from the Dalits, Adivasis and unorganized workers, not from the urban middle class.
The Electoral Commission with a Dalit member has performed very well. The MSKSS forum (Aruna Roy) with its agenda of Right to Employment and Right to Information and the Election Watch performed well too. All parties, except BJP took part in the discussions. One bad experience of a candidate, who shifted to a dominant political party in the last moment, warns us to be careful with adopting candidates, who have already filed their nominations, he said.
My question to him, whether we would be prepared to work with individuals in the other parties, who are amicable to us and who support our manifesto, he said at the moment it was not possible to do so. My question, arising out of my experience with the Greens in Germany, was directed at PPF reflecting about an alternative political organizational form, which would allow individuals, who could also be members of some political parties, but having their own - differing from their party - views on certain issues and would be in solidarity with our views on those particular issues.
Suneel reported from MP/Bhopal. A huge rally took place, however the organizations are not ready to participate in elections. Kuldeep Nayyarji seemed very happy about the Bhopal happenings. Barghi dam and NAPM members took part. Madhuri of Jan Sangarsh Morcha, Tribal Constituency and Bharat Jan Andolan also took part.
One sad experience Sunil shared with us, was the fact that all over votes do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the people, it is instead the money and the muscle power, which plays a big role. He mentioned that PPF has a lot of problem with the non-existing resources, workers get mislead by bribes. They do not see the connections between fighting for their rights and the voting process. He said we have to find an alternative method of fighting for an alternative politics.
Anurag of Betul is going to contest for LS elections. Norms for putting up nominations are required.
Rajiv of Yuva Parishad reported from UP/Varanasi. Azadi Bachao Andolan, Sangharsh Vahini etc. took part. An anti-Mayawati-Ganga scheme is to take place. Jan Sangharsh Morcha wants to work with PPF. Once again the demand for procedures for selection of candidates was felt.
MR Khan from the Socialist Front in Maharashtra said PPF is not an umbrella organization in MH, there are various organizations like Socialist Front, Samajwadi Janata Party, Janata Dal (S) etc. working together. They have already decided to put up 10 LS candidates, 100 Assembly candidates and 6 candidates in municipality elections in Pimpri/ Chinchwad etc.. One of them has already won. He suggested registering PPF as a political party with an information center for right to information, which will help people, know about PPF and thus improve the chances of PPF candidates winning.
Advocate Jacob Joshi from Kottayam in Kerala informed us about the grim situation in Kerala. Though there are a no. of initiatives and individual attempts at progressive politics, there is no united movement. They, Jacob Joshi and Vinod of NAPM-Kerala and Suresh of Kerala Samajwadi party asked for support from the North. The meeting on 27-28th Dec. in Trichur will be a small affair, they said. Some members from North have agreed to attend this meet to give PPF a boost in Kerala.
The Tamilnadu reporter was a first comer. He spoke of the Farmers and agricultural workers union he represents, which would like to be part of PPF efforts. He said they are working against introduction of GM and BT-cotton seeds and are going to have a rally in Chennai under the slogan “Toddy is not liquor”, because of the Govt’s anti-farmer policies.
Abhishek, a young man from Vellore spoke about the need to motivate youth, who are looking out for alternatives.
Someone gave us the background information on how the Dalits and Farmers organizations are working together in Karnataka. It was an effort of Kishen Patnaikji to bring them together. The Sarvodaya Paksha used the strategy of collecting Rotis and some cash from the members to win the elections, as an alternative strategy to the dominant use of money and muscle power in elections. They collected 17000 rotis and some 96.000,- rupees too. On the whole it seems the Karnataka Sarvodaya party under the president ship of Prof. Devanoor Mahadeva and the Socialist Front in Maharashtra are the strong most such movements in India today, which PPF could avail of.
The next 2 days, 20th and 21st December were devoted to the inauguration of the Samavesha Inauguration Political Convention along with a mass rally in Mandya, app. 150 km from Bangalore. N. Venkatesh, the chief Secretary of DSS, Anusuyaamma, vice-president of DSS, KS Puttanaiah, exec chairman of Sarvodaya Party of Karnataka, Kuldeep Nayyar, Advocate Ravivarma Kumar, Yogendra Yadav etc. spoke and were joined by newly arrived speakers from Tamilnadu, Geetha Ramakrishnan of the Tamilnadu unorganized sector union and Christina Samy of the Women’s Front in Karur District of Tamilnadu.
Ajit jha, Prof of History, spoke on SEZ’s. He said even supporters of capitalism are against SEZ’s. the Indian Govt. is going to loose more than a crore of rupees per year due to SEZ. It can only be explained historically that due to the Chinese adopting SEZ’s, India was forced to do the same. Even in China the effects of SEZ’s are very negative and China is reconsidering this decision. Though SEZ’s have generally failed, still one hopes they will generate income and growth. There are no laws against their use as yet. Land is always required for SEZ’s and land laws are very unfair towards the public - as the W. Bengal and Orissa examples show –the state power is used mercilessly against the people. Still they tell lies that the laws are made in favor of the people.
Yogendra Yadav presented the problematics behind SEZ’s in a very lucid, didactic and pedagogic manner. He raised five questions and also presented the five right and wrong answers:
1. What is SEZ?; the Govt. says it will be a place where the Industry will produce and create wealth from export of products etc., but in reality it will be like a country within our country, an island with its own laws!
2. Why do we need SEZ’s?: the Govt. says to provide economic growth, but SEZ has nothing to do with economy. It is only Real Estate, capturing our most precious asset, namely land. Only Tatas and Ambanis will benefit, taking important pieces of land, creating townships and cities with their own laws in app. a hundred years from now. No Ryot will be able to buy any land then.
3. What is wrong with SEZ?: even those opposing SEZ’s are not giving answers. They are only complaining about the farmers not getting proper compensation. That is however not the only problem. Compensation can be given, but SEZ is the biggest tax evasion scam. It is about money. My money is being robbed through SEZ. In his area, Gurgaon, YOGENDRA YADAV said Land is now Rs. One Crore an acre!
4. Who is supporting/opposing SEZ’s?: the answer is like in the case of the elephant whom blind people are experiencing from different angles. Fact is that the political rulers of this country as well as the small movement-wallas are supporting it and the people are opposing it.
5. What can we do about it?How do we oppose and stop it?: we should oppose it, but that is not enough. We have to oppose the politics, the root cause of it; we have to take on the establishment of this country. We have now had 35 different parties in power in parliaments in center or states in the last 5 years. So the entire political establishment has to be opposed.
YOGENDRA YADAV also pointed at the uniqueness of Karnataka political history. It has always offered models of social transformation. Women’s organizations are part of the movement here, he said. Nowhere in North have Dalits and farmers been together in movements. He said we, from North, have come here to the South to learn from them and their experiences.

Advocate Joshi Jacob of Kerala pointed at the grim situation of the Indian farmers. He said even prior to the Globalisation era, farmers were nowhere on the agenda of any of the political parties. Now they are all talking only about farmer’s suicides.
Sunil talked of root causes of farmer’s suicides, namely the development policies of the Indian Government. He said, we need a radical political force to raise issues of farmers, poor Dalits and Adivasis. We should oppose bailouts of big business groups.
Prof. Devanoor Mahadeva said, Karnataka has the strength of leading the country in this process of search for a new political force, the strength of the Sarvodaya Karnataka, the strength of the farmers and Dalits! Under LRM banner they already are about forty thousand members. Still they lost the elections due to the practise of bribes and due to caste divisions in society. The farmers unit is very strong however and they won elections in 2 constituencies. When the Karnataka Govt. invited them, 15 thousand farmers went and fought for their rights, but politically they still need to learn how to win elections. They did not enter politics till now, because they did not trust any party, Congress, BJP, JD(O). he said, the Journalists in Karnataka have played a positive role in bringing the farmers and the Dalits together. At the rally in Mandya nearly fifty thousand would have taken part, but for the running harvesting season, when the farmers are busy at home. Advocate Ravivarma Kumar thanked the speakers and participants from the North for all the ideas we gave in our speeches. He said we hope to have many more such meetings of North and South in future. We now have to think in terms of programs and policies. He suggested forming a South India Regional Council of LRM and the North should come and take part in the Council’s meetings. Strategies and policies need being discussed. In Mandya general constituency 2 candidates, Ravivarma kumar from Tumkur and one from Mysore are going to contest. Since there are a number of Tamilian sugercane workers working in Mandya and registered too, he asked Christina to help in winning them over for voting for the NRM candidates.
Christina from Tamilnadu Women’s Front said in her speech that women have been asking for reservations for long. Now they have stopped asking, instead they have formed a women’s front, to be registered soon as a political party in Tamilnadu. Goal is to have women’s leadership in politics. Men are members of the organization though, total membership being 2.5 lacs today! They are thinking of getting another 2.5 lacs in coming months and are already present in 22 of the 31 districts in Tamilnadu. They also do not want to align with any political party today. LRM is an alternative they accept. They want to go beyond state boundaries, also in solving Cauveri water problems.
Joshi Jacob said Jan Parishad is contesting in Kottayam under LRM banner, but is sceptical due to their base being not large yet. Suresh of Kerala Samajwadi party suggested a meeting of LRM in Tamilnadu, where women, farmers and unorganized worker’s movements can meet.
In the following discussion several questions regarding the political reforms necessary, the manifesto of LRM, the number of and the verifications required regarding the code of conduct of the candidates etc. were raised. What is the strategy of LRM, a unilateral party or part of an alliance? I suggested taking up as one of the codes of conduct for each of our candidates, that there is no case of domestic violence (rape, dowry death, bride burning) or of sexual harassment at workplace against the candidate.
Ajit Jha said, that the divergence of opinions on all issues needs to be discussed in the next Delhi meeting. We should not just distribute tickets, put any candidate without checking his/her character etc. we should seriously think about differences of opinions. No understanding however with NDA or UPA. Feedback from different states is also awaited. LRM should attract students in the movement.
Sunil also wanted to build youth wings of Samajwadi party, with a vision of an alternative as a task.
At this point I made a remark for us as PPF members, to remain open and to learn in a dialogue with the Youth and the Women’s movement experts about their particular issues and approaches.
Sudha Reddy raised the particular issue of girls missing in youth wings and requested all to consciously integrate more girls into our movement.
Someone said we should get more information on why our constitution is anti-people.
Yogendra Yadav reminded us about what our strength is, namely vision, ideology and experience of struggle! And what is our weakness? It is the lack of visibility. As an example he said many Dalit activists do not know Devanoor Mahadeva. Sarvodaya Karnataka is not known widely. We have no viability and no resources. He pointed at us concentrating on our weaknesses and building coalitions, bringing fresh blood into the movement, inventing a new language/ form for example to address girls/ youth. We need role models! We need to have a short 10 point charter in/as manifesto, we need a National Fund, at least a Crore of rupees for our work, we need a flag and/or a song as our symbol! And we need the Media.
Ajit Jha summed up saying this semi formal and unstructured approach of LRM meetings has helped in bringing out some fresh ideas. He said this method can be used again, in future. He gave information about coming elections in May. We should have notified candidates by mid March. Every state is asked to give feedback to Delhi. At the next National Committee meeting (end February in Delhi?) final decisions will be taken. We should not restrict ourselves to the election only, even afterwards what we need to do. For the organizational work, he asked for some people who do not already belong to any organization of NRM.
Mr. Shivprasad, a speaker presented a Harikatha like style of speech with lot of songs, rhymes of wisdom of Kabira, Basawa and other Indian saints etc. I felt this should become the dominant form of speech style amongst us, due to its strong cultural roots.
Geetha Ramakrishna of Nirman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangham in Tamilnadu said NRM is very important to them for a social revolutionary change in Indian society. She pointed at the fact that 93% of unorganized sector are farmers, construction workers, weavers, women etc. and they contribute to 65% of GDP. Still they do not have any social security. MLA’s etc., who work for only 5 years or so, get a huge pension. This shows the unfairness of our society towards the working class. Added to this is the fact that these very people do not even have control and/or rights over the natural resources, which they work with. Christina of Women’s Front in Tamilnadu spoke of the wave of change that women are bringing about. Common resources are wealth of our country as long as the people/communities own them. When grabbed by individuals they become private property. The Government is systematically delinking people - who are also natural resources- from their own common resources. Most affected by such policies are women, as people who are very close to natural resources. Not people, but money is important for the development policies of the Govt. She said money and male domination have been the major decision-makers in the last 61 years of India’s independence from the British rulers. Women, who constitute 51% of the population, have now to be the center stage of Indian politics. And it is our, women’s responsibility to change the society towards a more humanitarian one. It is not an alternative politics, but the original democratic concept, which should dominate. Women have to become owners and controllers of these resources. They have been doing it silently all the time.
One representative of the Republican Trade Union in Tamilnadu spoke of their achievements in land and agriculture and also in Dalits issues. Leelavathi, head of the federation spoke of the fact that people have no control over natural resources like water, air and land. One lake area in Chennai has been handed over to a private company, who has built a Food Company there. The Govt. is polluting all the rivers in Chennai by allowing all sorts of industrial users along the rivers, but the poor people living in slums along the rivers are being evicted as if they are the polluters of the rivers!? Right to livelihood is one issue they are involved with.

Towards the end of the first half of the last day, Ajit Jha approached us, Asha Kachru and Sudha Reddy, asking us about any inputs we wanted to give to the gathering. We had joined the meetings as observers on behalf of South Asian Dialog on Ecological democracy (SADED) and also because we were interested in knowing more about the alternative political initiatives happening in India at this precarious moment of our independent history. We pointed at the missing issue of Adivasis in the agenda and at the missing symbolic presence of women next to Gandhiji or Baswa or Budha on the posters/flags decorating the inauguration event as well as otherwise. I sang 2 songs from the Indian Women’s movement written by Vibhuti Patel of Bomby women’s group and Kamla Bhasin of Delhi respectively, describing a rural women’s work day (Uth Jaag Meri Behna…) and the New Economic Policy (Jo Desh Gulaam Banaye, Kaisi Neeti Ye…).
At the very impressive rally in Mandya, there were at least 10 thousand farmers, Dalits, workers and women from various parts of Karnataka and neighboring states. It was an exhilarating experience for all of us. Unfortunately we had to leave earlier and could not be part of the closing ceremony. Wishing us all well, Asha Kachru from Kohir village in Medak District of Andhra Pradesh 502210.

We must become the change we want to see- Mohandas Karamchand GANDHI

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Democracy and Politics

By Yogendra Yadav
I like a game very much. Whenever i go to some school, i play it there with students. This is a very simple game. First i ask from students: Democracy is good or bad? Almost Everybody raises hand that democracy is indeed a good thing. The second question i ask: Politics is good or bad? and almost everybody replies "bad". Even if one or two students raise their hand, after seeing others they also bring it down. On average the ratio is like while 98 say democracy is good, 2 say that politics is good. Then i ask third question: Is democracy possible without politics?The question is not whether politics is possible without democracy. Of course in Saudi arabia politics is going on without democracy, In pakistan and nepal it was going on without democracy. But anywhere in the world democracy is going on without politics? Is there any place where no political organisation, no opposition, no criticism, no picketing, nothing political is there and still democracy is running smoothely. After some discussion students reply: No democracy can't function without politics. Then i say to them to combine all the three responses: "You are telling Democracy is good, you are telling Politics is bad and you are also telling Democracy can't function without politics. Do you realise what you are really telling?".

Few facts for you all to consider

These Fact talk about problems of world in numbers:
1. According to the report, published by the World Institute for Development Economics Research (WIDER) and based on data from 2000, the top one percent of the world’s adult population (about 37 million people) owns 40 percent of the world’s wealth, while the top two percent owns over half and the top 10 percent owns 85 percent. Wealth is defined as physical and financial assets minus liabilities.
In contrast, the bottom half of the world’s adult population—or about 1.85 billion people—owns collectively only one percent of the world’s assets.
This means that the top one percent of the world’s adult population owns 40 times more than the bottom 50 percent, and nearly 3 times more than the bottom 90 percent. Put another way, the authors note, "The average member of the top decile [top 10 percent] owns nearly 3,000 times the mean wealth of the bottom decile, and the average member of the top percentile [top one percent] is more than 13,000 times richer."(The report does not take into account individuals under the age of 20). Using a common measure of inequality, the Gini coefficient, the authors note that the global wealth Gini is higher, at 0.892, than the corresponding figure for income. A Gini value of 0.892 "roughly corresponds to the Gini value that would be recorded in a 10-person population if one person had $1,000 and the remaining 9 people each had $1," the report notes.
In 1960, the 20% of the world’s people in the richest countries had 30 times the income of the poorest 20% — in 2000, 80 times as much.
Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day(with PPP) or 20 Rs per day approximaely.

2. According to the report, the top one percent of the population in the US owns 32.7 percent of the wealth, trailing only Switzerland, where the top one percent owns 34.8 percent. However, the US figure excludes the very richest families that are included in the list of Forbes billionaires. If these were included, the share owned by the top one percent would rise to 34.7 percent. The share owned by the top ten percent, a figure that is available for a larger set of countries, ranges from 41.4 percent in China to 69.8 percent in the US. The richest one-tenth of one percent of the population, or about 300,000 Americans, reported significantly higher combined pretax income in 2004 than the poorest 120 million.

3.World gross domestic product (world population approximately 6.5 billion) in 2006 was $48.2 trillion in 2006.
The world’s wealthiest countries (approximately 1 billion people) accounted for $36.6 trillion dollars (76%).
The world’s billionaires — just 497 people (approximately 0.000008% of the world’s population) — were worth $3.5 trillion (over 7% of world GDP).
Low income countries (2.4 billion people) accounted for just $1.6 trillion of GDP (3.3%).
Middle income countries (3 billion people) made up the rest of GDP at just over $10 trillion (20.7%). The world’s low income countries (2.4 billion people) account for just 2.4% of world exports.
4.Around 27-28 percent of all children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or stunted. According to UNICEF, 26,500-30,000 children die each day due to poverty. Infectious diseases continue to blight the lives of the poor across the world. An estimated 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, with 3 million deaths in 2004. Every year there are 350–500 million cases of malaria, with 1 million fatalities: Africa accounts for 90 percent of malarial deaths and African children account for over 80 percent of malaria victims worldwide.
5. In recorded history since 3600 BC, over 14,500 major wars have killed close to four billion people – two-thirds of the current world population In armed conflicts since 1945, 90 per cent of casualties have been civilians compared to 50 per cent in the Second World War and 10 per cent in the First. There are at least 250,000 child soldiers fighting in armed conflict. USA is World’s biggest arms exporter – supplies around 40 per cent of the developing world’s arms. World’s second-largest arms exporter with a 25 per cent share of the legal global market.

6. Over millenia, due to agriculture and deforestation carried out by ancient and medieval societies, CO2 levels in the atmosphere inched along from 260 parts per million (ppm) to about 278 ppm until the time of the Industrial Revolution. However, since the mid-18th century, CO2 has jumped to 384 ppm, much of it in the past few decades. As a consequence, the Earth’s average temperature has risen about 0.8 degrees C since the Industrial Revolution, reaching 14.5 degrees C in 2005. The problem, as Paul Brown explains in Global Warming: The Last Chance for Change, is that there’s more warming in the pipeline. There’s a lag of about 25-30 years between greenhouse gases being emitted and the full effects of their warming. So the recent climate chaos is actually the consequence of emissions in the late 1970s. The full effects of more recent emissions, including from China’s coal-based power stations that some are suddenly and rightly concerned about, will be felt in the years to come. We are committed, Brown writes, to a further 0.7 degrees C. That would add up to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. At 1.5 degrees, 18 per cent of the world’s species will die, and 400 million more people worldwide will be exposed to water stress. In terms of historical emissions, industrialized countries account for roughly 80% of the carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere to date. Annually, more than 60 percent of global industrial carbon dioxide emissions originate in industrialized countries, where only about 20 percent of the world’s population resides. the North is responsible for the problem of global warming given their huge historical emissions. It owes its current prosperity to decades of overuse of the common atmospheric space and its limited capacity to absorb GHGs. Per capita emissions of carbon in the U.S. are over 20 times higher than India, 12 times higher than Brazil and seven times higher than China.
7. 1.8 billion people who have access to a water source within 1 kilometre, but not in their house or yard, consume around 20 litres per day. In the United Kingdom the average person uses more than 50 litres of water a day flushing toilets (where average daily water usage is about 150 liters a day. The highest average water use in the world is in the US, at 600 liters day).
A mere 12 percent of the world’s population uses 85 percent of its water.
8. In the slums of mumbai countless women line up for water every morning. From four in the morning they begin positioning their buckets in line to stake their place in the queue. Sometimes, they might not get the water they wait for, which is no more than 40-50 litres a day. In and around the same Mumbai, in the same period, there were 24 amusement water parks using 50 billion – that’s right, 50 billion – litres of water a day for the entertainment of the rich. In the desert state of Rajasthan, plagued by actual scarcity of water for five years, more water parks and golf courses were planned. A single golf course takes 1.8 to 2.3 million litres of water a day through the season. On that amount of water, over 100,000 villagers in the state could have all their water needs met for the entire summer season.
9. In india Public spending on health is a mere 0.8% of GDP(reduced from 1.5% from 20 years earlier) , and medical care is now the second most common cause of rural family debt in india. The UNHDR records that almost a third of India's children, or 30 per cent, are below average weight at birth. Amongst children under the age of five, 47 per cent in India are underweight.
Each year since 1990, the Human Development Report (HDR) of the UNDP publishes the Human Development Index (HDI). This index "looks beyond GDP to a broader definition of well-being." The HDI seeks to capture "three dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life (measured by life expectancy at birth). Being educated (measured by adult literacy and enrolment in primary, secondary and tertiary education). And third: GDP per capita measured in U.S. dollars at Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)." the rank of 128 puts us in the bottom 50 of the 177 nations that the UNDP Human Development Report looks at. Treat Adivasis and Dalits as a separate nation and you will find that nation in the bottom 25. Or subtract our per capita GDP ranking from the process and watch India as a whole do a slide.India rose in the dollar billionaire rankings, though. From rank 8 in 2006 to number 4 in the Forbes list this year, but we slipped from 126 to 128 in human development. Cuba has zero standing in the roll call of billionaires. In terms of per capita income, it ranks low in the world. But when it comes to human development, it ranks 51 - that is, 77 places ahead of us.

10. An analysis of long-term trends shows the distance between the richest and poorest countries was about:
3 to 1 in 1820
11 to 1 in 1913
35 to 1 in 1950
44 to 1 in 1973
72 to 1 in 1992

In Monetary terms according to the World Bank, the 2.3 billion residents of low-income countries accounted for less than 3% of public and private consumption in 2004, while the 1 billion residents of high-income countries consumed more than 80% of the global total. In this same year the United States accounted for 4.6 percent of the world's population and 33 percent of global consumption--more than $9 trillion U.S. dollars.In The U.S. itself also has the largest gap and inequality between rich and poor compared to all the other industrialized nations. For example, the top 1% receives more money than the bottom 40% and the gap is the widest in 70 years. Furthermore, in the last 20 years while the share of income going to the top 1% has increased, it has decreased for the poorest 40%.

Youth and Politics part2

My dear friend,
In last letter we agreed that change is required, change is possible and politics is necessary instrument for any broad and stable change. In this letter i want to put forward my opinion on two questions: why interaction of youth and politics is particularly important, and what are steps youth need to take in order to do positive politics.
Interaction of youth and politics is important in our country because:
1) Some 47% of country's population is under 20 and 70% is under 35. Youth (age group of 13 to 35) make around 40% in countries population. For any strong and healthy democracy involvement of such huge section in politics process is very necessary. Today youth are alienated from politics and that's why they sometimes disrespect democracy itself. If india has to be biggest democracy in reality and not only in textbooks, youth would have to politicise themselves and politics would have to create space for young.
2) Young, since they have ability to dream and think beyond immediate personal gains, are least interested in maintaining the status quo and if something better is possible which would improve the lot of masses, they will be ready to fight for it. Justics, Equality, Liberty all such great values attract them and if given proper platform they can be the most passionate satyagrahis for a just, egalitarian and free society. Politics need the passion of youth.
3) If youth wont do politics, they will become a silent spectator and hence supporter of other's politics. The best friend of status quo are those who feel that it is unjust and inhuman and yet prefer silence. As i already stressed in first part, world wide a special kind of politics is going on: politics of hunger, startvation and prolonged malnutrition, politics of individual and state terrorism, politics of ecological destruction etc. Either youth will do their own idealistic politics against this mainstream rotten one, or they would remain a passive instrument in the hands of those who do mainstream politics.
4) Any individual who is a bit sensitive and socially conscius would be forced to ask this question, when he sees around himself: Is this the society, the nation, the world I want to leave for my future generation to live in? and this is not an insignificant question. It made our freedom fighters give their lives so that we can be citizen of a free nation. Soon he will find the answer: no, there are many things that ought to be changed. His sensitiveness would force him to find ways to do something for society and bring a positive change. and the best way to bring a positive broad and stable change is politics. So for sensitive youths, the hope and the vision to create a better society, a better country and a better world would find its destination in politics.

Now i come to the final topic of my letter: What are precautions youth need to take or thing they need to learn in order to do positive politics:
1) Fault in character or in understanding: We all talk alot about faluty character of politicians: that they are corrupt, greedy, selfish etc. Any problem comes and we attribute it to the fault in character. Thats why few youth who think of coming in politics, assume that since they are strong in character, they are not corrupt, greedy or selfish, they dont have to worry about anything else in order to do positive politics. But in reality fault in understanding is perhaps bigger reason of evil winning the battle. So youth who are interested in politics would have to form an understanding of problems of world: in short Idealogy. If you have to connect farmers suciede in Vidarbha, BT cotton and GATT agreements or inflation and opening of markets or poverty and richness going side by side and form a view about any broad issue, you need an idealogy. It does not have to be dogmatic but you need one if you have to do politics. Like for example, i think in present day india, to form an idealogy, we need to learn from socialists like ram manohar lohia and JP, from Cast system opposers like Jyotiba phule and B. R. Ambedkar, from revolutionary side of gandhi and bhagat both, from feminism and envrionmentalism, from 19th century marxism as well liberalism and form an understanding of the issues our nation and world is facing today.
2) Where to start: I have seen many enthusiastic youth organisations coming and vanishing in last 2 years. The reason behind it are two: first they dont understand that rome was not built in one day (change comes slowly) and second they fail to identify where the potential for change or revolution is, in our society. Since last 25 years this energy for change is coming from various grassroot people movments working through out the country.(You might search on net about MKSS: Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghtan, Aazadi Bachao Andolan, Narmada Bachao Andolan etc). Youth who want to do something for society would find these people movments as an excellent platform to put their passion in practice. Many people movments after working for decades on ground have realised the need to intervene directly into politics and together they have formed Lok Rajnitik Manch(People political forum). It is a flexible organisation of organisations. If you are interested in doing pro-people politics, i invite you to become a part of the manch. This is the platform for you to start.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Youth and Politics: A Letter

I am writing this letter to an average middle class youth of india who loves to hate politics. Hating politics and loving cricket are his two passions compteting for the first position. I do so,as a friend of him, who understand his frustation and anger but disagree with his conclusions. I do so, with an intention, that some day we will walk together and try to make this world a better place to live.

Dear friend, Your hatred of politics is not baseless. When you say "politics has become very dirty", "there is no scope for good people in it", "Politics without muscle power and money power: forget it dude", "Nothing is going to change man, hoping for a better society is fruitless, be practical" etc, it becomes clear that there is something very serious wrong with the present political establishment. This establishment does not deliever what we want, it does not even care to listen. So you have concluded that it is futile to speak and the best option is to withdraw. I think,No, if it does not care to listen, let us shout and if it does not respond even then let us keep ready the instruments needed for an ear surgery.

On a serious note, You should not withdraw because it is impossible to be neutral on a running train. A specific kind of politics is being promoted by ruling party and its loyal opposition around the world: resulting in 496 individuals having more than double the weath of 2.3 billion people, 27000 children below five dying each day because of poverty, misery of many for enrichment of few, prolonged malnourishment and starvation, individual and state terrorism, irreversible environmental damage, increasing crime, insecurity, depression to name a few. In India this politics has resulted into more than 150,000 farmers commiting sucide because of farm crisis, people being displaced and their land being snatched, 83 coror people living on less than 20 Rs per day while Ambanis are growing richer, health care budget declining from 1.5% of GDP to 0.8% in last 20 years, widespread corruption etc. If you are not shouting against it, you are silent in favour of it.

I hope now you agree that Change is required. But what about "kuch nahi badlane wala" (Nothing is going to Change), well let us try to find answer to this question in history. Our country and many other countries were colonised by Brithish Imperalism. People, like you and me, participating in freedom struggle did not think "kuch nahi badlane wala", and the empire was defeated. Slavery was a custom, from ancient greece to modern america. But People, like you and me, fought against it and secured victory. Women's opression, Monarchy, Voting rights only for property holders, Untouchability in our country etc all these things were norms of some place at some time. But when people realised that it is unjust and woke up, change followed. History teaches us that no norm, no custom, no system is god given and at numerous instances ordinary people like you and me, standing together, have defeated empires and brought out important change. Change is possible.

"Ok fine, but this dirty politics can not be an instrument for such change. Ya i want to do something for soceity. I will join some NGO and do social work" are you thinking this my dear friend? Well it is possible to teach 2 hours per week in slum through NGO but the route to reform education system so that quality education is accessible to all goes via politics. It is possible to conduct a medical camp on weekend as social work but politics is bound to come into picture if one thinks of a well functioning public health care system. For any broad and stable change, politics( in a broad sense, not merely the power game) is only instrument. You take example of education, for instance. We all would agree that every child should a minimum of 10-12 years of education. Now in order to achieve it: people might have to come together and start a campign, government might have to pass a law and allocate necessary resources, then create awareness on a massive scale so that children attend school and recieve the education. All these are inherently political steps.
NGO is about charity of rich and luck of poor, Politics is about responsibility of state and rights of people. NGO is about (only) feeding the poor: easy, self esteem building but ineffective, Politics is about eradicating the poverty and hunger: tough, includes suffering but long lasting and effective. Politics has the power to create and stop war, NGO can, at best, heal the wounded. So while what NGOs do may be a good thing in itself, for broad and stable changes in any field like education, economy etc politics is absolutely necessary. So Politics is necessary instrument for change.

So Change is required, Change is possible and Politics(again in a broad sense, not merely as the power game) is necessary instrument for any broad and stable change. You still hate politics, my dear friend? I hope not anymore!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lok Rajniti Manch: why and how?

LRM is an outcome of various initiatives that have in the course of last several years tried to address a long felt need to forge a political instrument for people's movement. All these initiatives were rooted in the realization that all the popular struggles and movements in the country had a political dimension in so far as any attempt to bring about fundamental transformation in any aspect of the existing system acquired a political character. It requires an integral political outlook, an understanding of how the political system operates and can be tackled and some kind of a political instrument or vehicle.
The experience of peoples' movements also demonstrates that none of the mainstream political parties can be relied upon to do justice to the issues, demands and the energy of the peoples movements. Let alone becoming the vehicles of social transformation, most of the mainstream parties are deeply cut-off from the people and have become unaccountable centers of power. Even those mainstream parties that appear to take up people’s issues are no different from the rest whenever they are in power. Far from being a part of the solution, the political establishment of the country has become a central part of the problem itself. People feel helpless vis-à-vis political leaders and parties that operate in their name. Sometimes this helplessness drives them in the direction of violent and in the long-run self-destructive forms of protest.

This has resulted in a reversal of democratic possibilities in the country. While the 'third space' in politics has expanded, thanks to the energy unleashed by people’s movements, the political formations that seek to represent this space have shrunk. There have been many meaningful attempts outside the political mainstream to forge a political alternative, often an alternative of national political party. While these initiatives provide a useful starting point, they did not quite succeed in meeting their objectives. These initiatives have remained limited, localised and largely ineffective. None of these has succeeded in capturing the national political imagination. Hence the need for a new alternative expression of peoples politics.
LRM would address the following objectives:
1. Create a national level centre of alternative politics that can draw a wide spectrum of citizens, especially the youth, who are increasingly alienated from politics;
2. Provide a forum where various peoples movements can forge a shared understanding of the political implication of their struggles and work out a common political strategy and a political agenda;
3. Create a mechanism to identify, unite and strengthen the various organizations and initiatives all over the country that are already working towards forging an alternative politics;
Serve as an organizational vehicle for some joint political action or intervention in the political arena by people’s movements in the country.

These objectives and the past experience would suggest that LRM should be organized in the form of a loose confederation, an oragnisation of organizations (including some small political parties with a similar objective) and individuals. Its success depends upon it not becoming or being perceived as a supra-organization that can dictate all its constituents. A political front of this kind would undertake only a few activities, after considerable preparation and deliberation. But it is hoped that such activities would have a deeper imprint on the political landscape of the country than the many isolated attempts being made today.

In the next year or so, the LRM could undertake the following activities:
1. Prepare a people's manifesto, publicize it and develop a widespread consensus around it so as to put pressure on mainstream political parties to incorporate its main points;
2. Start a dialogue with peoples political movements, groups and parties about effective intervention in the next Lok Sabha elections
3. Work out ways (media expose, RTI, PIL etc) of exposing the character of parties and candidates representing the political establishment
4. Identify as many candidates as possible all over the country that can be extended support by the LRM as symbols of alternative politics
5. Launch a focused and visible struggle on one issue (SEZ is one such example) that exposes the anti people character of the entire political establishment.