Conterview, November 3 2014, Pune: The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), India’s apex body of tens of mass organizations, ended its 10th Biennial National Convention in Pune with a promise to usher in a new Left-wing movement in India by calling for “united action” of “secular, socialist and progressive” forces to “combat the rising fundamentalist and fascist forces in the country.” The NAPM, in a statement did not, however, suggest which “progressive forces” it wanted to unite with, but said the new rule by “a fundamentalist-religious-corporate cabal” was seeking to against destroy India’s social fabric.
Calling for a “massive convergence” on December 2 in Delhi” to oppose NDA-proposed “changes” in the laws promulgated by the previous UPA government — the new land Act, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), the forest rights Act (FRA) — the NAPM stressed, the alternative was “to establish a democratic socialist politics in this country”, which faces “major challenges” when world capital was looking for “new markets” and was “hobnobbing” with the corporate and political elite in India “to establish crony capitalism here.”
Even as targeting the Modi government without naming it, the NAPM did not say with whom it would align with to oppose it. In fact, it suggested on the need for equidistance by saying that “in the last 20 years, two major political camps (UPA and NDA) have come in unison to implement the agenda of neo-liberal capitalism and most of the political parties have come to accept that.” Pointing out that “this needs to change”, it insisted, the main of the NAPM is to fight “neo-liberal economic policies, religious fundamentalism, patriarchy and casteism.”
A NAPM statement said, the its convention was held in the backdrop of brutal murder of three members of a Dalit family in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district; recent communal violence and frenzy in Delhi ahead of by-elections as seen as part of strategy of BJP in election bound states; and significant dilutions and proposed amendments in land and environmental laws to facilitate corporate loot of natural resources.”
Even as demanding “punishment for those responsible for the atrocities against Dalits and adivasis and bring changes in SC/ST Act making it more effective”, the NAPM demanded that the Centre should immediately stop “the increase in height of Sardar Sarovar Dam and the illegal construction of Statue of Unity without statutory clearances.” It also demanded that the government must take action against “illegal land grab by thermal power plants in Eastern Madhya Pradesh and other places.”
The NAPM stressed o the “need for protection for right to information (RTI) activists and punishment to those responsible for death of several RTI activists in past many years”, even as enacting the Whistleblowers Protection Act. It demanded stop to “illegal evictions in cities like Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad and implement Rajiv Awas Yojana”, ensure “fair prices for farm produce and appropriate compensation to farmers for crop failure due to natural disasters”, and “social security for migrant and unorganized sector workers.”
Insisting on “roll back changes to labour laws derecognizing right to form union and promoting hire and fire practices”, the NAPM demanded withdrawal of the new ‘coal ordinance’ which is in “complete violation of the recommendation of the Supreme Court judgment canceling the licenses given to many corporate houses.” It also demanded that the “government must recover huge loans given by the public sector banks to these corporations, who must not be allowed to default, nor be sanctioned new loans or allotted new coal blocks.”
Among those who were part of the Pune meeting included Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Dr BD Sharma, Dr Binayak Sen, P Chennaiah, Geetha Ramakrishnan, Sister Celia, Anand Mazgaonkar and Dr Sandeep Pandey. Senior activist from the Paryavaran Sukaksha Samiti, Krishnakant, represented Gujarat. Ending the meet, Patkar said, “In the next two years we must strive to put halt to the corporate plunder of land, water, forests, minerals, fightback brazen attack on secular and plural framework of society, on freedom of expression and criminalisation of dissent, and arrest the growth of fundamentalist forces.”