People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 04, 2001
Delhi: Thousands of Poor Throng Parliament Street
ON February 27, the Jan Chetna Manch organised a large morcha of tens of thousands of protestors in Sansad Marg (Parliament Street), New Delhi, in protest against the anti-poor policies of the BJP-led NDA government at the centre and the Congress government in Delhi, both of which have been systematically attempting to force the poor to move away from Delhi. The Manch is a united platform of the CPI(M), CPI, RJD and JD(S), with V P Singh as its patron.
During the rally, the entire Parliament Street was jammed from end to end with people. Many of the protestors even climbed the nearby trees as well as small buildings, or the roofs of the vans standing aside, to have a glimpse of the leaders who had gathered to espouse their cause. The protestors included a number of women, many of whom had children in their laps. This was a protest march by the poor, the infirm and the invalids in wheel chairs who are being forced to move out of the capital.
And the reason? The central and the Delhi governments are demolishing the jhuggis in which these poor people live, closing down a large number of industrial units and thereby rendering these people jobless, and preventing the poor patariwalas and khonchawalas (street vendors and mobile vendors) from carrying out their petty income-generating activities. Moreover, an income ceiling of Rs 24,200 a year has been fixed for issuance of a ration card. As the statutory minimum wage in Delhi means an income of more than Rs 24,000 a year, this ploy will eliminate almost entire population of the national capital from the purview of the public distribution system.
The police tried to prevent the people from gathering and would not allow the RJD protesters who were coming in trucks, to converge to the venue. This caused tension for some time. The tension came to an end only when the police authorities issued instructions on wireless to the policemen to allow all peaceful protestors to join the rally.
In a show of unity, all the protestors joined in the slogans raised by Shabana Azami, and shouted in chorus --- Kamanewala Khayega! Lootnewala Jayega! Naya Zamana Ayega! This refrain reverberated through the entire Parliament Street and became the main thrust of the speeches that followed. Each and every leader reaffirmed the resolve that Delhi would not be allowed to become a ghost town of the rich, and that the removal of poor workers from the city would not be tolerated. There was a repeated call to change the Master Plan. Brinda Karat of the AIDWA did point out that the Master Plan of Delhi had already been amended over 250 times, and asked: Why was one more amendment not possible? In fact, she said, Delhi needed a mixed usage plan more than anything else.
A large number of leaders addressed the morcha which was conducted by Joginder Sharma, member of the CPI(M) Central Committee. The most important message given out was that if things do not improve for the poor, protestors will stage dharnas at all the police stations in Delhi and bring the capital to a standstill.
Former prime minister V P Singh said only the poor were responsible for todays situation; they were the ones to have voted to power the BJP that has now become a tool of the rich and is making all-out attempts to remove the poor from the capital. He reminded them that every man in every poor locality must ensure that he has a vote, and he must use that vote to forge a third alternative. He said a national policy on slums should be formulated at the earliest, or else there will be an agitation to bring life in the capital to a screeching halt.
CPI(M) general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet warned the central and Delhi governments that the people would not keep quite but stand up and fight for their rights. He pointed out how it was wrong to shift the small industrial units out of Delhi, an act that has rendered lakhs of people jobless and brought them sufferings. He asked the Congress party to have a look over the last few years and see as to what has happened to it. Once it used to be the largest party in the country and in parliament, but now it has been reduced to a much smaller party and its presence is dwindling in many parts of the country as it has been duping the poor and rushing benefits to the rich. Surjeet told the huge crowd that his party, the CPI(M), would always remain with the poor and fight for the poor.
The slogan coined by AIDWA general secretary Brinda Karat drew a loud of applause when she shouted --- Garib Nahi Rahega to Delhi Nahi Rahegi!
In his short speech, CPI general secretary A B Bardhan complimented V P Singh who he said had faced the bulldozers in Bombay so as to stop the demolitions on the railway land. Bardhan said even though the movement has started as a small trickle today, it is bound to become a mighty Ganga and change the fate of the nation. He said the present government was for the MNCs and supported only the rich. This is very clear from the example of the BALCO that is being sold for a song. He said even though he was not going to repeat what the chief minister of Chattisgarh has alleged, it will not be long before the doings of Arun Shourie, and of the government he represents, are exposed.
Punjabi writer Ajeet Kaur also spoke apart from leaders of the RJD and Janata Dal (Secular). (INN)