PRESS RELEASE-State Repression on Punjab farmers: an offensive response to democratic protest


March 10, 2013

PUDR Press Statement

Democracy within its value frame assumes the right to protest as a vital means towards ensuring the guarantee of those rights and values it stands for. However, today we are witnessing a different ‘culture of democracy’ where the right to protest is increasingly becoming not just an empty notion, in fact, protest itself is being turned into an offence. The mass arrest of members and activists of 17 peasants’ and workers’ organizations in Punjab as a preventive act of securing law and order situation is symptomatic of this different ‘culture of democracy’.

On 6 March, members of these organizations had decided to jam rail traffic under their state-wide ‘Rail Roko’ agitation to push for their long pending demands after witnessing a prolonged response of apathy from the government. The farmers have been demanding an increase in the Minimum Support Price based on the price index, as per the Swaminathan Committee report, more subsidies for the poor and checks on the hike in prices of diesel and other farm inputs. Government responded in pre-emptive confinement of those involved with the agitation, under the name of protection law and order situation. Early in the day, Punjab police arrested Jagmohan Singh (provincial General secretary, BKU Ekta_dakaunda), Dr. Darshan Pal and Satwant Singh Wazidpur, Patiala distt. president & secretary of BKU (Ekta Dakaunda) Darshan Lal, state secretary of Dehati Mazdoor Sabha (CPM Pasla); Ruldu Singh, president of Punjab Khet Union; Harmesh Malri, state president of Pendu Khet Mazdoor Union; Kanwalpreet Singh Pannu, state convener of Kisan Sangharsh Committee (Piddy); Nirbhai Singh Dhudike, Moga president of Kirti Kisan Union; Gurmeet Singh Bakhtupura, AICTU state president and during the day, another 1353 persons were rounded up. Houses of many Union activists were raided and many were detained to be either released by the evening or sent to Judicial Custody.

This act of police repression is an attempt to quell the protest aimed at securing what has been due to the farmers and workers for long. In the given political climate of state repression we apprehend fabrication of false charges against those participating in this people’s movement. The forebodings of such acts are clear in ending into a deterred space of struggle for democratic rights, something that defeats the end that democracy is meant to achieve. PUDR strongly condemns this act of repression by the state elite and demands the immediate release of the activists. PUDR also extends solidarity with protesters and their demands.

Asish Gupta and D. Manjit
(Secretaries, PUDR)

 

#India- Costly push to mega projects


Author(s):
Sugandh Juneja
Issue Date:
2013-1-15

Cabinet Committee for Investment may dilute environmental and forest clearances

DESPITE concerns from civil society groups, the Union Cabinet gave in-principle nod for setting up a Cabinet Committee for Investment (CCI) on December 13. Introduced as the National Investment Board (NIB) by the Union finance ministry earlier this year, CCI is being set up for expediting clearances for mega projects with investment of above Rs 1,000 crore. CCI will be chaired by the prime minister and comprise members from various ministries as decided by him.

Setting up of the committee is in line with the recommendation of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), released in May this year, on augmentation of coal production. “There is a need to constitute an empowered group along the lines of Foreign Investment Promotion Board as a single-window mechanism with representatives of Central nodal ministries and state governments to grant the necessary clearances…,” the report says. The idea has been picked up by the finance ministry, which alleges green clearances are holding up the country’s infrastructure development and growth.

An analysis of clearances granted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) during the 11th Five Year Plan shows the finance ministry’s allegations do not hold water. The analysis by Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) shows that the ministry granted many times more environment clearances than planned for the 11th Five Year Plan in key sectors like thermal power, coal and non-coal mining, cement and iron and steel. About 200,000 hectares of forestland was diverted during the period for these sectors. “Where is the question of green clearances holding up growth? MoEF is granting way more clearances than required, disregarding environment and social issues. What is needed is institutional reform in MoEF to make  the clearance process stronger, transparent and accountable. Otherwise, more institutions like CCI will come up and further dilute the process,” says Chandra Bhushan, deputy director of CSE.

JAYANTHI NATARAJAN An investment board will only promote investment, while MoEF has to protect the integrity of environment
JAYANTHI NATARAJAN,
UNION ENVIRONMENT MINISTER

In October, Union environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan wrote to the prime minister expressing concern over setting up of such a body. “When a minister…,” she wrote, “acting upon the expert advice of officers, takes a decision, there is absolutely no justification for an NIB (now CCI) to assume his/her authority, nor will the NIB have the competence to do so.” She also stated that no one has the right to set up a project just in the name of investment. Her concerns, as pointed out in the letter, stem from a fundamental difference between NIB and MoEF: the objective of an investment board will be to promote investment while that of MoEF is to protect the integrity of the environment and protect forests, wildlife and forest-dwellers.

During a discussion in the Lok Sabha in November, K P Dhanapalan, an MP from Kerala, also said that CCI may dilute clearance procedures. “This may aggravate environmental issues and hence needs to be carefully thought through,” he said. During the discussion, Finance Minister P Chidambaram clarified that CCI will only deal with large projects that give a fillip to the economy. “The committee will monitor these projects and will advise the ministries concerned…,” he explained.

P  
CHIDAMBARAM Cabinet Committee for Investment will only deal with large projects that give a fillip to the economy
P CHIDAMBARAM,
UNION FINANCE MINISTER

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has welcomed CII. “We hope the committee helps the industry get state clearances also in a faster and time-bound manner as maximum clearances are required at the state level,” FICCI president R V Kanoria said in a press release.

Meanwhile, civil society groups are opposing setting up of CCI. Greenpeace and Bengaluru-based non-profit Environment Support Group (ESG) have initiated online campaigns against it. “Setting up of CCI is undemocratic, dangerous and against the national interest,” says Leo Saldahna, coordinator at ESG. Shilpa Chohan, Supreme Court lawyer, says till the time CCI does not overrule the decision of a ministry and is just an administrative body to look into delays, it may prove to be a positive step by bringing together different departments on a single platform.


Source URL: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/costly-push-mega-projects

 

This my people -Irom’s Manipur, Pazo Bibi’s Balochistan and Obama’s America


[ The Friday Times (Lahore), December 28 – January 03, 2012 – Vol. XXIV, No. 46 ; Frontier(web), 27 Nov 2012 ]

By- Garga Chatterjea

The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity, but the one that removes awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an outside.

—Allan Bloom

When there is a festival, it may create an illusion as if the ‘whole world’ is happy at this moment. Or so we like to think. Solitary wails cannot be heard above the sea of laughter. For a certain segment of inhabitants of the Indian Union, the high note of last November was Barrack Obama’s victory in the US presidential elections. He asked for 4 more years. He got it. Resident and non-resident desis watched his victory speech of hope.  USA may or may not have 4 more years of hope, but that November also marked 12 years of hopelessness in a part of this subcontinent. Irom Sharmila Chanu, the Gandhi that Gandhi never was, finished 12 years of her epic fast, protesting the torture perpetrated by the armed wing of the Indian state in Manipur, especially in the cover of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). And she is not finished, yet. She may get 12 more years. I sincerely hope not.

A major part of the reason why the cries of Manipuri women, as exemplified by Irom Sharmila Chanu, can be ignored is the purported ‘insignificance’ of Manipur in the ‘national’ scene. This ‘national scene’ effectively came into being in the Indian Union after the Republic was proclaimed in 1950. Even before the Indian Union was a Republic, it had managed to dismiss the democratically elected government of Manipur led by the Praja Shanti party. The Congress had fought the elections of Manipur and lost. Manipur, with an elected government and at that point not an integral part of the Union, was annexed by the Union of India, which was still not a Republic. Original sins often create particularly bad ulcers.  Excision is not an option for a ‘modern nation state’. Hence ‘insignificant’ ulcers bleed on as the rest of the body is on pain-killers, reading history and civics dutifully from official textbooks.

The focus on the US presidential election also focused the minds of some desis on to the two other elections happening in the USA at the same time – those to the US Congress and the US Senate. Let us understand a few things carefully. The US Congress is analogous to the Lok Sabha of the Indian Union. But the USA is a nation constituted by a more real commitment to federalism rather than a semantic charade in the name of federalism. Hence its upper house, the US Senate is not analogous to the Rajya Sabha of the Indian Union. In the lower house in both USA and the Indian Union, the numbers of seats are meant to be proportional to the population. This represents that strand of the nation-state that gives precedence to the whole. This whole is ahistorical and is a legal instrument, though much time and money is spent in the Indian Union to create a fictional past of this legal form. The upper house in the USA represents that strand where past compacts and differing trajectories and identities are represented in the form of states. The states form the ‘United’ States of America – hence in the Senate the unit is the state, not the individual citizen. That is why in the US Senate, each state, irrespective of population, has 2 members. This respects diversity of states and acts as a protection against the domination of more populous states and ensures that smaller states are respected and are equal stake-holders of the Union. In the Indian Union, the so-called ‘Rajya Sabha’ is simply a copy of the Lok Sabha, with multiple staggered time offsets. Even in the Rajya Sabha, the seats allotted to each state are roughly proportional to its population – and hence at its core does not represent any different take on the Indian Union. In the Sabha of the Rajyas, the Rajyas are not the unit, making a mockery of the name itself. Manipur has 1 representative in a Rajya Sabha of 245 members. Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura altogether have 7 members in that Rajya Sabha. No group thinks of themselves as ‘lesser people’ for being fewer in number. A federal democratic union is not only for the children of Bharatmata. It is a way of having a joint family with many mothers, for no one’s mata is less important than my mata.

This pattern is replicated all across the subcontinent. When one looks to the west, once sees the autonomy of the Khanate of Kalat being usurped unilaterally as part of the ‘One Unit’ scheme, again by a fresh Pakistan state that itself did not possess a republican constitution. And there too, one sees a festering ulcer that bleeds intermittently. Sweeping powers given to the Frontier Corps do not help. Nor do the extra-judicial killings and torture of young Baloch activists help. Piercing an ulcer with a dirty knife risks a general blood poisoning. Every missing person, every body-less head, every tortured torso that ‘appears’ by the highway in Balochistan makes the lofty pronouncements about human rights made from Islamabad that much more hollow. And even if the Baloch decided to try to democratic path, what can they do in a system where they count for less than a tenth of the seats, in the national assembly. In November, the extra-ordinary powers of the Frontier Corps were extended in Balochistan again. Maintaining ‘law and order’ is the universal answer to all protestations – that same cover that the British used to beat brown people into pulp. If the brutal actions of the Frontier Corps as well as the impunity enjoyed by themselves sounds familiar across the border, it is because their colonial cousins in Khaki also have a similar record of glory. It is this impunity that has broader implications. Live footages of Sarfaraz Shah’s killing or Chongkham Sanjit’s murder will not lead to anyone’s pension being withheld. Behind the scenes, there might well be pats on the backs for the ‘lions’.

It is useful to understand why it is in the best interest of a democratic Union that the Rajya Sabha be constituted on a fundamentally different paradigm than the Lok Sabha, rather than replicating it. In contrast to the ‘whole’ viewpoint, the regions of the Indian Union and Pakistan have diverse pasts, some of which have hardly ever been intertwined with the ‘centre’, however defined. This also means that concerns, aspirations and visions of the future also differ based on a region’s perceived attitude towards a monolithic ‘whole’. A federal democratic union is one that does not discriminate between aspirations and is rather flexible enough to accommodate differing aspirations. Rather than using ‘unity in diversity’ as an anxious mantra of a paranoid monolith, one might want to creatively forge a unity whose first step is the honest assessment of diversity by admitting that the Indian Union or Pakistan are really multi-national nation-states.

Irom Sharmila’s struggle is failing partly because in this fight for dignity of the Manipuri people, the subcontinental constitutions drowns the voice of the victim in the crowd of the apathetic and the indifferent, inside and outside the legislative chambers of Delhi and Islamabad. Violence then becomes a way to be heard above the high decibel ritual chants of the ‘idea of India’ or ‘fortress of Islam’ or ‘Jinnah’s Pakistan’. Ideologically vitiated ‘national’ school syllabi and impunity of military forces do not produce unity – it produces a polarization between unity and diverse dignities. There is no unity without the constitutive parts’ dignity. Hindi majoritarianism or Punjabi-Urdu majoritarianism may not appear so to its practitioners but from the vantage of the step-children of the majoritarian nation-state, the world looks very different.  When such questions are raised in the subcontinent, one may see tacit agreement or opposition. As far as the opposition goes, it is important to make a few mental notes. Is the person who opposes the idea for whatever reason, from Delhi/Islamabad/Lahore or broadly from North India / West Punjab? Also, has the concerned person lived most of their adult life in a province different from where his/her grandfather lived. If the answer to either if this is yes, there is a high likelihood that the pattern of response to questions raised in this piece will be of a certain kind. Inherent majorities with the noblest of democratic pretensions end up forming imperious centres in the name of a union. A democratic union of states takes into cognizance the subcontinent as it is, not the subcontinent that delhiwallas and isloo/lahorewallas would want it to be like.

A point often made by legal honchos of the subcontinent is that neither Pakistan nor the Union of India is a union of states in the same way the United States of America is. What they mean is that these nation-states did not come into being due to some agreement or treaty between states. Rather they maintain that the states/provinces are arbitrary legal entities/ instruments created by the respective constitutions for administrative ease. What such a reading aims to do is to delegitimize any expression of aspiration of the states/provinces that may not be in line with the centre. How can an arbitrary legal entity created by central fiat and also alterable by fiat have autonomous will? This legalese collapses in the face of sub-continental reality where states/provinces as they exist today are broadly along ethno-linguistic lines. These entities are along ethno-linguistic lines ( and more are in the pipeline in Seraiki province or Telegana) because ‘administrative’ units can only be arbitrary to a point, irrespective of the total arbitrariness that constitutions permit. The ethno-linguistic ground-swells are real, aspirations to homeland are real, and since the capital cities do not have enough experimental chambers to convert all inhabitants into ‘nothing but Indian’ or ‘nothing but Pakistani’, these are here to stay and do not seem to have any immediate plans of committing suicide. While the specific drawing of the lines may be arbitrary (something that applies to the whole nation-state too), that in no way makes the reality of ethno-linguistic community habitats vanish. A legal stranglehold that denies this reality also ends up denying that the subcontinent existed before the constitutions were drawn up. If the BritIsh didn’t happen to the subcontinent, and if one or more large nation-states had to happen in the subcontinent, such entities would have been due to agreements between different near-sovereign entities. That states/provinces did not have such agency to make such a compact in 1947 is a legacy of British rule. Ironically, such a scenario bequeathed from the British is the bedrock of the post-colonial nation-states of Pakistan and the Indian Union. Both like to call themselves federal, for no one else calls them so.

A creative re-conceptualization of the distribution of representation and power in the Indian Union as well as Pakistan may show that one does not necessarily need to choose between the unity and diversity. Accounting for more than a sixth of humanity and a serious breadth of non-domesticated diversity, that subcontinental experiment is worth doing, irrespective of its outcome. A people’s democratic union is not only feasible but also humane. For far too long, bedtime stories commissioned by the state have been read out in schools and in media outlets, so that our deep metropolitan slumber is not interrupted by real nightmares in rougher parts. But there are just too many truths to spoil the myth.

International Workers Day -May Day Rally – Mumbai, India


Trade Union Joint Action Committee (TUJAC) organised the May Day rally on 1st May. The Rally was attendedby banks employess union,teachers union, TradeUnions, Nurses Union and many mumbaikars at Dadar Station (E), Mumbai.More than 1000 people joined rally and passed resolution  for strengthening the public sector services in areas of education, health , labour and against the privatisation of the essentual services in India. The Meeting also dwelled into the draconian alws against the right to strike and protest

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Protest to Arrest

Faking Democracy- Free Irom Sharmila Now

Faking Democracy- Repression Anti- Nuke activists

JAPA- MUSICAL ACTIVISM

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