Saturday 17 November 2018

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Politics | Lok Sabha '98

'Slavery is the prime issue before the country'

 

First person account by Dr Claude Alvares, Journalist-cum-Environmentalist

First of all, I do not believe that any issue can be discussed just because elections are round the corner. No issue is significant to polls, because election has no means by which decisions can be taken on these issues.

At the most, every five years (nowadays it can be anytime) when elections come, these political parties mention the issues in their manifestos. But not even elementary things mentioned in it are ever implemented. They also know it. That’s why they are willing to incorporate anything in the manifesto, like how BJP talks about Muslims etc in its manifesto.

I don’t think that any party, in the last 50 years, has carried out its manifesto as such. Issues are taken as they come up. Was Mandal commission subject of any party’s manifesto ? It suddenly became an issue and everybody jumped upon it.

Frankly speaking, I don’t want to contribute anything in terms of what should be the issues before these elections. Issues are presented by the people. They (political parties) say they agree with it and incorporate it in their manifesto. There is no commitment beyond that.

But if you want to discuss issues in larger perspective, then I personally feel that the prime issue before this country in 1998 is its sovereignty. After 50 years of its independence, we are reverting back to the slavery of 500 years ago.

In 1947, we might have had at the most 50 multinationals. But today we have over 4000 MNCs, most of which have come up in last four years. Take, for example, Dhirubhai Ambani’s project at Jamnagar, worth Rs 30,000 crore. Every bit of it is done by this or that foreign corporation.

Invasion of such corporations is taking charge of every bit of our economy. Technology is brought in under the garb of liberalisation, at the cost of ample manpower resources available in India. What is the use of such technology, which makes even the employed an unemployed ? The retrenchments are now affecting their own market since there is no consumer to buy their products.

When you hand over your production forces to external agents, they become the decision-making authorities. I am particularly disturbed with the plans like wholesale transfer of insurance sector etc. Every literal piece of exclusive sovereignty that we had is being sold out.

Recently, there was a WTO ruling against India, saying that we have not carried out changes in the acts to facilitate the IPR regime. It’s not a small thing when the external forces ask for changes all across the board, from agriculture to insurance sector.

For the first time, agenda of the Parliament is being dictated by the outsiders, and not by those 90 crore people who are supposed to elect the Parliament. In such a situation, where is the point of electing the Parliament itself if outsiders are going to decide everything ?

Now they are asking for full right to invest wherever they want, with no intervention from the government. They call it level-playing field, as though we can compete at the level they are. That’s absurd. It will be a severe setback for our crucial agenda of agriculture, industry and employment.

Naturally, an activist like me is bound to think that elections is a mere tamasha. Whatever changes come, I believe, is through the Street Parliament. To be precise, changes come through what happens outside the Parliament.

When the Parliament passed a law violating human rights, we go to the court or stage a dharna or wage an agitation. What happened to Thapar Du Pont’s Nylon 6,6 project in Goa ? The same Goa Assembly, which had given green signal to it, dropped the pollutant project after mass protests.

You are asking me what is the alternative. I don’t know. But Parliamentary democracy is not the fit institution for India, which had its own institutions for 5000 long years. It’s an imported model, ideal for a small island. It has to be overthrown at some or other stage.

Till such time when something would evolve out of this chaos, our responsibility is to build up the people’s power. Such power alone makes this government the Government of the People and begins to respect wishes of the people. It is far more beneficial than floating your own political party.

Maneka Gandhi was trying it once, by floating the party of environmentalists. She felt she could deliver the goods better as the environment minister rather than the environmental activist. No doubt she passed some good judgements. But they were never carried out by this system.

I am not saying that we cannot have a good Parliamentary democracy. Indian democracy is far more superior than the kind of democracy exists in the USA or in Japan, where people’s struggles are crushed mercilessly. But even our democracy can remain active until there is a strong and mobilised public opinion.

The Parliament appointed the National Human Rights Commission. However, it remained an effective instrument solely because human rights groups kept it alive since ’70, raising several relevant issues. But these issues are outside the framework and cannot be the electoral issues.

How do you convert sovereignty, environmental degradation or animal rights into electoral issues, except incorporating it into their manifestos ? For example, the BJP was with us to fight the Nylon 6,6 project. But they did not even pass a resolution, because L K Advani was very close to Thapar.

They have their own agenda. They can be downplayed only through political intervention by the people, outside the framework of electoral process. Politics is not run by the people, but by the MPs and the MLAs, with their own agendas.

The journalist-cum-environmentalist, based in Goa, spoke to Sandesh Prabhudesai.






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