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People's Issues Not At Centrestage In UP Elections

People's Issues Not At Centrestage In UP Elections


By Bobby Ramakant

"People's issues highlighted through various people's movements going on in the UP state are sadly not at centrestage in UP elections" said Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee 2002 and National Convener of NAPM (National Alliance of People's Movements). Caste-based politics is becoming decisive in UP.

NAPM, the largest network of grassroots people's struggles in India , came up with People's Political Front (PPF) before 2004 Lok Sabha elections. PPF is giving voice and platform to grassroots activists to participate in electoral process in UP.

Arundhati Dhuru, a Narmada Bachao Andolan frontline veteran activist, who is actively working on Right-to-food, RTI (Right to Information) and NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) all across UP, said that "PPF is trying to increase representation and meaningful participation of the most underserved communities. It is within this context that the role of people's movements becomes imperative. The movements have been 'in politics', as they have been shaping and trying to change the power structure and decision making processes within society. That is what politics is all about. Electoral politics is one of the dimensions of the larger political sphere. Even within the electoral politics the people's movements have been participating in various capacities, either by pressurizing existing political parties to integrate peoples' issues into their agenda, creating awareness among the voters, trying to weed out corruption and malpractice, and supporting suitable political parties. Contesting the election by the members of people's movements is again one of the ways of direct intervention into electoral politics".

Keshav Chand, another grassroots leader from Deoria, said that "people's movements must have a say in policy making. Right to work and food for work must be made the fundamental rights".

There were many grassroots leaders supported by PPF from all across UP. Mahesh Kumar from Kanpur, Ram Sagar Verma from Hardoi, Keshav Chand from Deoria, Jaishankar from Chandauli, Prem Kumar from Moradabad, Jashodhara Dasgupta from Lucknow, Gyan Kumar from Dynamic Action Group, Prof. Ramesh Dixit from Nationalist Congress Party, Kamta Prasad Vishwakarma from Indian Justice Party, Arun Kumar from CPI-ML, Rakesh from CPI, Arundhati Dhuru and Sandeep Pandey from NAPM/PPF.

They resolved to struggle for the right to life, right to work, and protection of livelihoods of the workers in unorganized and organized sectors.

"We will struggle for the enactment of legislation to ban the water extraction and water utilization for the soft drink industries and ban on all non- essential water-based consumer luxury products. We are in and take ahead the struggle against Coca-Cola and Pepsi factories in Uttar Pradesh, and call for a national campaign to boycott all products of multi-national companies" said another grassroots leader Master Nandlal from Mehndiganj village in Varanasi.

Dr Sandeep Pandey adds that "We assert that water, land, forest, mineral, and aquatic wealth belong to people. It has community ownership and does not belong to either the state or corporate powers. We reject and will fight against attempts to privatize water bodies, water supply depriving common people of the right to water for drinking, domestic use, and livelihood."

"Corporatisation and criminalisation of politics is a major concern," said Dr Pandey. The PPF's decision to enter electoral politics was aimed at changing the nature of politics, said he.

A people's forum was held in Hardoi on 23rd April 2007 to question the candidates about their stand on these issues. This sheet with list of people's issues is being circulated in a number of assembly areas to encourage people to ask questions from candidates in their areas, informed Dr Pandey.

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(Bobby Ramakant is a develoment journalist based in India, and can be reached at: bobbyramakant @ yahoo.com )

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