New Delhi: Bharat goes for a Bandh on August 9, the Quit India Day. And India is disturbed.
Few months ago Bharat came for a march to India. And India was awe-struck. Some two lakhs of most impoverished farmers and tribals of Maharashtra marched into Mumbai last March in the dark hours of the night walking towards Azad Maidan to press for the right minimum support price for their produce, and as a short run measure farm loan waiver. Today, they are together with army veterans, the Dalits and the women. And they have called for a Bharat Bandh on the day when an enslaved Bharat asked the British to Quit India some 75 years ago.
Farmers are angry because prices have been abysmally low for their produce, as low as Rs.2-5 per kilogram for onions and tomatoes while they sell in excess of Rs.25 per kilo in the urban markets. The MSP announced by the government is dubbed a fraud on the peasantry. It is as per the limited A2 + FL formula, and not the comprehensive C2 + 50% formula of the MS Swaminathan Commission, which includes land, labour and all input costs in C2. A few examples of this difference: Paddy - MSP announced is Rs 1750 instead of Rs 2340 per quintal as per C2 formula; Cotton - Rs 5150 instead of Rs 6771; Soyabean - Rs 3399 instead of Rs 4458; Groundnut - Rs 4890 instead of Rs 6279; and so on.
In fact, the BJP which came to power on the promise of ensuring full MSP for farm produce, has already gone on record as government through an affidavit in the Supreme Court that the Centre cannot ensure full MSP.
Farmers are angry because, their movements in different states invited state violence. During the last two years, there have been several cases of firing on famers, killing quite a lot of farmers: six in Mandsaur, MP; seven in Jharkhand; thirteen in Thoothukudi, TN. No action has been taken against the police in any of these cases. Very little, or delayed, and in some cases, no relief has been provided to the deceased farmers' families. And, since independence, across all regimes, some 4 lakh farmers have either committed suicide, or died in abject poverty, or shot dead in protests. This is only the documented official figures.
Tribals are angry primarily because the Forest Rights Act enacted for their protection is an Act known for being violated whoever is ruling. The FRA was enacted by the first UPA government, largely under the pressure of 61 Left MPs in 2006 to correct the 'historical injustice' done to tribals since the times of the British colonial regime. It provided for giving them land rights over the land that they had been cultivating in the forests for several generations and also over minor forest produce.
But, in recent times, more so under the current NDA government, there are basically three major violations of the FRA.
First, lakhs of claims to land made by tribals under FRA have been unjustly rejected.
Secondly, even where they have been accepted, much less land than what they are cultivating has been given to them.
Third, in large parts of the country, tribals are not even aware that the FRA exists, hence they have made no claims to the land they cultivate at all. Under the BJP regime, laws have been passed to curtail the FRA, to ensure that land of tribals can be given away to corporate houses for mining, iron and steel industry and even real estate.
Further, the farmers and tribals and Dalits are angry due for forced eviction from their ancestral lands. The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), other proposed industrial corridors and dedicated freight corridors in the country, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train corridor, the Mumbai-Vadodara Expressway, the Salem-Chennai Green Corridor, the Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Highway and several Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the country: in all of these instances, the farmers are fighting valiantly against forced land acquisition.
In May 2018, the Ministry of Defence issued instructions to the Army for opening of all Cantonment Roads for public use without any restrictions. The MoD’s order for opening of internal roads of military areas is being claimed by the retired army men bodies as illegal, in violation of Official Secrets Act & Cantonment Administration Rules. It has also invited criticism for compromising the security of troops, equipment, weapons, ammunition, installations and families. It adversely affects conduct of training and war preparedness of Armed Forces, thereby compromising on National security, according to the veterans.
Then there is the vexed OROP issue. OROP means that all soldiers of Indian Army, Navy, and the Air Force must get the same pension for th same rank with same length of service irrespective of their date of retirement. And any increase in the pension of current soldiers must be automatically passed on to past pensioners.
Congress Governments kept promising to give OROP but were always shy of accepting the demand in toto. Prime Minister Narendra Modi realized this disservice to gallant soldiers and promised in-front of 3 lakh soldiers on Sept 15, 2013 at an Ex-Service-Men (ESM) rally at Rewari, that his government will release full OROP if brought to power. A large family of ESM (4 crore votes) voted for BJP/NDA candidates. NDA Govt was sworn on May 17, 2014. NDA Govt approved OROP in its budget on July 10, 2014.
But despite various discussions, formal announcement and implementation of OROP was delayed. Finally ESM family started a Relay Hunger Strike and agitation at Jantar Mantar from June 15,2015. OROP was released bythe government on November 7, 2015, but it fell short of promises, From the Top of the Scale Model at a budget of Rs 8300 Crore, the government has implemented the Average Model at a cost of Rs 5500 Crore.
There are a slew of other demands including widow pensions, medical care that have not been looked at as yet.
The Dalits are angry in the light of the atrocities meted out to them from Una to Shahjahanpur to Bheema Koregaon, and arrests of several Dalit leaders who do not belong to any party but were involved in protests against local atrocities. Theynow demand withdrawal of all cases against Chandrashekhar, Shiv Kumar Pradhan, Sonu, Upkar Bawre and others detained under NSA and those arrested or implicated for the April 2, 2018 Bharat Bandh.
Further, the Dalit bodies want restoration of SC, ST (Prevention of) Atrocities Act 1989 as it existed with its all provisions and penalties prior to the Supreme Court Judgement on 20th March 2018 which limited the same. They opine that Dalit presence in judiciary is negligible and hence there should be the establishment of Indian Judicial Service under the Article 312 of the Constitution.
Those who have called for Bharat Bandh on August 9 also demand for an end to the hate-driven mob violence and lynching plaguing the country. They have asked to fast-track the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for murders and those backing them in an exemplary manner. Alongside, they have asked to revive and vote into law the Women’s Reservation Bill guaranteeing 33% reservation for Women in the Lok Sabha as well as state assemblies– within the term of the current (16th) Lok Sabha.
All the groups calling for the bandh have also demanded to scrap the Aadhaar, which has wreaked havoc with welfare schemes by widening exclusion, compromised civil liberties by creating new forms of discrimination, and made real the threat of a surveillance state. Adhaar card absence has led to ration being denied to the marginalized in Jharkhand with many dying in recent times.
[Professor Ujjwal Chowdhury is a media academic and columnist and is currently the School Head, School of Media, Pearl Academy, Delhi and Mumbai; and former Dean of Symbiosis and Amity Universities. First published by TheCitizen.in.]
For all the latest News, Opinions and Views, download ummid.com App
Select Langauge To Read in Urdu, Hindi, Marathi or Arabic