Thursday, April 3, 2014

Meeting on Present Political Situation, Nagpur, 29 March 2014

Lokavidya Jan Andoal (LJA) in Nagpur organized a meeting on 29th March to discuss the present political situation, particularly in the context of the forthcoming Lok Sabha Elections. Although it was a small meeting of about 15 persons, among those present were leaders and activists from social movements, trade unions, dalit organizations, Shetkari Sanghatna, Media, Lokavidya Jan Andolan and Vidya Ashram. The discussion revolved around the meaning of the emergence of Aam Admi Party (AAP) and the future of social movements (SM). 
Sunil Sahasrabudhey opened the discussion on the nature of AAP. He stated that it was a party of the new professional class, a class which has been shaping itself for about two decades now in the wake of Globalization and the Information Technologies. Seen as a collection of highly educated persons connected through the social media, this class is less connected with the people than any other ruling classes so far. He said that the anti-corruption movement and the AAP represent a phenomenon very similar to the movements of last five years in the large cities of Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Thailand, Ukraine and even the United States of America. It has been said that in all these movements the social media, face-book and other, has had a major role to play. All of them have found support of the Western governments and their media. Also these movements, although rising often in the name of democracy, have allied with the armed forces with ease. No wonder that the peasants, artisans and adivasis are by and large absent from the discourses started by AAP. This is an urban movement and has shown concern to the conditions of life of the urban poor. The AAP is welcome to the extent that it has shaken the political establishment, however they have minced no words in saying that they are not against capitalism. They are not against corporations either, for they have attacked Mukesh Ambani and Adani but not the system of corporations. They have a stated policy of no tolerance towards corruption and a stated policy of administrative reforms for its solution. Although they disturb the political establishment, by their method and policy, apparent from the selection of candidates and the method of campaign they are headed to shrink the space available for regional political parties, thus inevitably distancing the political process from the people. The entire show is underlining a pressing requirement of a new politics of the people. 
It was observed that a large number of senior activists from social movements have chosen to contest elections on the AAP ticket. And this is giving the impression of a sweeping co-option of the social movements in the current electoral party political process. This is perhaps not so much because these activists see a promise in AAP, but more because they see little option for the SM today. So the question of rebuilding the SM now emerges as one of the big questions before the social activists involved in various struggles all over the country. 
Vijay Jawandhia, the well-known farmers' leader from Wardha, said that AAP has risen through an anti-corruption movement which still remains its focus, but it has nothing to say on the biggest corruption of this land namely the loot of farmers and adivasis by giving extremely low price for their product and work and taking away the resources that they have commanded from all time. He concretized his argument by focusing on the rising disparity between the incomes of the unorganized sector and the organized sector. He compared the incomes of the farm workers with those of the government employees. His argument was built around the Pay-commissions periodically appointed by the central governments. The 7th Pay-commission has been announced and its recommendations may take effect from 2016. He said that this is the chief source of poverty and resourcelessness of the people and this time a strong demand needs to be built for the farm workers to get the same amount as the minimum wages according to the 7th Pay-commission. He said this ought to be one of the most important issues addressed by the social movements. Sunil whole heartedly agreed and pointed out that LJA has been saying this all these years, namely that everybody must get the equivalent of a government salary for the work they do on the basis of their own knowledge, lokavidya. This is the path of rebuilding this nation with economic justice and equal respect for all. 
Jaideep Hardikar, Nagpur reporter of The Telegraph, Kolkata, said many things from the point of view of a generation that has matured through the mid 1990s. He said that they have never seen a political wave and do notice that this time there are no people's issues being debated in the run up to the General Elections. He agreed with the assessment that the AAP is a party of the new professional class. He said that the present media has a huge overlap with this class. The most important observation he made was that the present media and politics have a huge and serious disconnect with the people and the actual social processes. He also felt that independent social movements are a necessity and the present situation does demand rebuilding the same. 
Advocate Ashok Thule expressed his agreement with the analysis provided by Sunil and said that the conditions now were very different and everybody will have to come together, which they should, to rebuild the social movement. 
Dr. Girish Sahasrabudhey, from LJA, said that the perception of people's needs must be revised. A fresh view needs to be taken on this count. The language of socialism and progress so far prevalent seems to have run its course and now perhaps there is need to draw upon the lokavidya knowledge discourse to be able to perceive people's needs and strengths enmeshed into one, so that a new base to erect social movements is shaped.
Comrade Gurpreet Singh, from Center of Indian Trade Unions, stressed the need to keep together in SM the organized sector unions. He said that these unions are active on many issues but the media gives no coverage. For example when the national media was covering a motley crowd of AAP workers doing a dharana at Jantar-Mantar, a protest by several lakhs under the banner of trade unions in the same Delhi was completely ignored by the media. 
Prakash Bansod, a leader from the Dalit Panther Movement, summed up the meeting. Vilas Bhongade from Kashtakari Jan Andolan and LJA conducted the meeting, which at the end discussed how what was discussed could be taken forward. The suggestion on which everybody agreed was that after the elections, probably in June end, a meeting of people's struggles be organized to discuss the two main points that had emerged during the deliberations. These were
  1. The inequality between the wages of the unorganized sector and the government employees must end. Everybody should get the minimum wage fixed by the Pay-commissions appointed by the Central Government. Most people work and earn their living based on their own knowledge, lokavidya. All these people must get regular monthly remuneration equal to the salary of government employees. 
  2. Groups of social activists, campaigns and struggles across issues, themes and regions need to come together to re-build the people's movement. Move forward from the traps of development, democracy and progress and formulate the basis of a new world in terms of their own knowledge and their own language. 
Vidya Ashram 

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