21 March 2012, New Delhi: It was the second day at the National People’s Parliament that has been taking place in Rajendra Bhawan, New Delhi’s. Attended by more than 350 people from across 20 states, the Jan Sansad debated two key issues during the day: 1) Agrarian Crisis & Food Security, 2) Assertion of People’s Politics, Democratic Governance and Electoral reforms.
In the context of ever-increasing numbers of farmer’s suicides and diversion of agricultural land for corporate interests, the Jan Saansads demanded that, laws and policies such as the Special Economic Zone and Land Acquisition Act, which aid the acquisition of fertile agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, be scrapped with immediate effect. Various factors including reduced subsidies, increased use of pesticides and fertilisers, replacing indigenous varieties with genetically modified seeds and BT Cotton, and reduced access to resources such as water and power are making it financially unviable for farmers to continue cultivation. “The NSSO’s survey shows that in 2005-2006 40% of the farmers were willing to stop cultivation if provided with any other source of livelihood. What does it tell about a government that hires an American consulting firm to prepare the vision document for agriculture in India by 2020?” asked Lingaraj Pradhan from Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Odisha.
This model of development, where agriculture is at the bottom of the pyramid and the service sector is at the top, needs to be challenged and reversed. Dr. Sunilam from Kisan Sangharsh Morcha, Madhya Pradesh who strongly advocated against diversion of agricultural land, said the following, “The European model of viewing agriculture as a profit making business does not work in our country. Neither is it feasible to feed our population on imported grains.” It is inexcusable that even while taking land away from local farmers, the government is proposing that our farmers cultivate on land in Ethiopia. “The Indian Government is leasing lakhs of acres of land for as low as Rs.40 per acre per year in Ethiopia” said Chennaiah from the Agricultural Workers Union (APVVU), Andhra Pradesh.
The session on People’s Politics and Electoral Reforms discussed issues in electoral processes and alternatives. Public intellectual and analyst Yogendra Yadav reiterated that there has to be sufficient debate in the Parliament and outside before any bill is passed. Acts such as the AFSPA and UAPA have no room in a democracy. Representing the Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India (CERI), MC Raj pointed out the flaws in the electoral democratic process in India and asked for comprehensive reforms – and not just temporary improvements by the Election Commission. The political representation process has gotten so weak that only the rich and elite could even contest elections to the parliament and assemblies. The Jan Sansad also demanded a process where Gram Sabhas consent, through referendum, would be sought before passing of legislations.
The Jan Sansad observed silence for the sudden demise of Matanhy Saldana, Chairperson of National Fishworkers Forum (NFF), who passed away early in the day. Mr. Saldana had recently won the Assembly elections in and was appointed the Minister of Environment & Forests and Tourism, Goa.
Lok Shakti Abhiyan, National Alliance of Peoples’ Movement
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