People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 29, 2006
REPUBLIC DAY RESOLVE
Carry Forward The Popular Struggles
People’s Democracy greets its readers on the occasion of the 56th anniversary of the Indian Republic.
It is customary that on this occasion every year the Indian people resolve to consolidate the gains made so far and to advance their struggles for a better life in the future. This is also an occasion to declare the redoubling of the resolve to strengthen republican values in the country. This necessarily means the strengthening of the foundation pillars of our Constitution viz. secular democracy, federalism, economic self-reliance and social justice.
However, important they may be, mere declaration of intent is not sufficient to realize this aim. On every one of these scores, much more needs to be done. Through these columns in the past we have repeatedly analysed that the lofty objectives contained in our Constitution are prevented from being translated into reality by the class rule that exists in the country. The Constitution was the product of the freedom movement where the mighty popular upsurge against British colonial rule had thrown up high aspirations amongst the people. These could not be ignored at that time and many provisions of the Constitution reflected this popular struggle. However, the bourgeois-landlord classes that assumed the leadership of the class rule in independent India under the leadership of the big bourgeoisie, in pursuit of their class interests have not allowed the fruition of many of the aims and ideals set out in the Constitution.
In fact, in the interregnum after the Constitution was drafted by the Constituent assembly and before it was formally adopted on January 26, 1950 Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had warned that until we convert the one man — one vote principle enshrined in the Constitution into a one man — one value society, the very edifice of the political structure will constantly be in jeopardy. It is this conversion that is still left undone. The resolve on this year’s Republic Day therefore will have to be to carry forward this struggle while consolidating the gains made so far.
The particular international conjuncture in which this anniversary falls must also determine the contours of people’s struggles in the year ahead. Imperialism led by USA has embarked on an aggressive hegemonic drive. Following the devastation it caused earlier in Afghanistan later with its military occupation of Iraq it is now targetting Iran. While globalisation is mercilessly assaulting the economic sovereignty of independent countries, imperialism through this process is seeking to economically recolonise the developing world. The paramount need to strengthen India’s economic sovereignty and thereby our self-reliance must preoccupy our attention in the year ahead. Apart from articles by Harkishan Singh Surjeet, Jyoti Basu, which give an overview of the present challenges and how to meet them, these specific concerns are reflected in the articles written by Prabhat Patnaik, Utsa Patnaik and C P Chandrasekhar in this issue.
Though the BJP was removed from controlling the reins of state power in the 2004 general elections, much to the relief of the Indian people, it would be a grave mistake to underestimate the havoc communal forces have created in recent years and are capable of doing so in the future. Teesta Setalvad’s article in this issue draws attention to this danger. Prakash Karat also assets that much of the penetration of the communal and retrograde ideology in all spheres of our lives under the BJP rule still needs to be undone. Through these columns in the past, we have repeatedly analysed the nature and impact of such activities on our country’s unity and integrity. The Indian people need to redouble their resolve to combat such forces in the year ahead.
As the relentless neo-liberal economic reforms continue to widen inequalities in the country, the plight of the deprived is becoming much worse. Distress suicides by the farmers, starvation deaths in the countryside and the worsening plight of the tribals, dalits and the other weaker sections give a clear indication that there are two Indias in the making. The disconnect between these two seems to widen by the day. The Kalinganagar incident clearly shows the tenuous living conditions of our tribal population. Biman’s Basu’s article highlights the issues in uplifting the Indian tribals and the urgent need to integrate their struggles with the broader democratic struggle of the Indian people.
Despite half a century of reservations, the plight of the dalits continues to be woeful. Concrete affirmative action is urgently required in order to ameliorate their problems and increase their capabilities so that they are able to stand on an equal footing with the privileged. Dr S K Thorat’s article draws attention to these issues correctly arguing that reservations must be extended to the private sector if this objective is to be achieved. Alongwith the regressive trends concerning the lives of the minorities, dalits and tribals, come alarmingly increasing reports of gender crimes and discrimination. It is imperative that in order to create a better society in India, issues of gender inequality and discrimination must be urgently addressed. It is indeed a matter of shame that for over a decade the parliament has not been able to adopt the women’s reservation bill despite the fact that nearly two-thirds of the political parties that constitute the Lok Sabha have openly declared their support for women’s reservation. Clearly, this is being sabotaged. Sudha Sundaraman’s article highlights some of these issues on the basis of which concrete popular struggles must be strengthened in the coming year.
One marked feature of the last decade of liberal economic reforms has been growing economic disparities amongst different regions of the country. At one level, this is fuelling demands for separate states. At another level, almost all state government’s have been pushed into a financial crunch due to declining fiscal support from the Centre. Centre-State relations, which has always been an important contentious issue for strengthening one of our constitutional pillars of federalism, has assumed a crucial dimension today. Anil Biswas’s article draws the readers attention for the need to build a popular movement for strengthening the federal content of the Indian constitution and relentlessly opposing the drive towards a unitary State structure by the bourgeois-landlord ruling classes.
One other aspect has been considered in this issue. In this era of neoliberal economic reforms the media plays an important role. Of the two Indias that we talked of above, the media often neglects the real India which is home to bulk of Indian people while highlighting the exclusivist privileged India. P. Sainath discusses the vast disconnect as reflected in the media between the agonies of real India and the celebrations of privileged India. This disconnect often assumes inhuman dimensions.
There are of course many other areas which need attention and positive intervention to improve the situation. It is a remarkable coincidence that the 56th anniversary of our Republic Day comes at a time when 54 per cent of Indians are below the age of 25. India is one of the youngest countries in the world today. If India has to emerge as a country of reckoning in the 21st century then this has to rest on these young shoulders. It is time for us to change the official mindset which considers our youthful population as a liability and not an asset. We must resolve in the year ahead to convert this youthful advantage we have into an asset for the future. This requires a massive investment in the future in terms of providing quality education to these sections. The struggle to ensure that at least six percent of India’s GDP is spent on education must therefore be redoubled.
The situation concerning the health of our people is indeed woeful. There are thousands of habitations which do not have potable drinking water. Even a small improvement in sanitary conditions in rural areas can save the lives of lakhs of people who succumb to completely curable diseases. India today spends a miniscule 0.9 per cent of its GDP on public health. The misfortune is that the State’s contribution to this has so drastically reduced that two-thirds of expenditure on health services is under private sector. Clearly, the situation needs drastic improvement.
Further, the privatisation and commercialization of these sectors is fast removing the right to education and decent health from the vast majority of Indians. This is the surest recipe for disinvestment in the future while what is required is to urgently enhance the levels of investment in the future. The popular struggles in the year ahead must focus on this issue.
Therefore, while resolving to strengthen the foundational pillars of our constitution, the year ahead must concentrate energies to put pressure on the government through popular struggles to shift the focus of economic reforms from being solely preoccupied with corporate profit towards people’s welfare.
While greeting our readers on this occasion of the Republic Day we wish to urge upon the Indian people to rise together to meet the pressing challenges of our times. We the Indian people who gave ourselves this constitution must now resolve to carry forward the popular struggles to translate much of its content into reality and on that basis carry forward the struggle towards an Indian society where exploitation of man by man ceases to exist.
-- Sitaram Yechury