(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
November 23, 2008
TOWARDS A DEMOCRATIC ALTERNATIVE
Below we publish the Election Manifesto 2008 issued by the Jammu and Kashmir state committee of the CPI(M), released to the media on November 17. The party is contesting 8 seats in the state, including the two sitting seats and, for the first time, one seat in the Jammu region.
KASHMIR is a human tragedy. It is much more than a political conflict between India and Pakistan. It has to be viewed through a human perspective. In order to reach a stage where reconciliation was seen the only way out, Kashmiris have lost a generation in the pursuit of peace, justice and dignity. If the decades old conflict is to be settled, the neighbouring countries must do much more, to address the grievances and deal with the legacies of half a century effectively. The need of the hour is that both India and Pakistan must involve all shades of opinion across the divide, in order to reach an early settlement of this vexed issue. The countries need to foster all forms of bilateral contacts to improve the lives of Kashmiris, who have borne the brunt of the conflict. Dialogue will have to be expanded beyond high governmental levels, if real constituencies for peace are to be nurtured. The process is not simplistic, as it seems to be. There are many dimensions attached to this approach.
The CPI(M) considers the delay in resolution of the Kashmir issue as the main impediment in strengthening the democratic process and economic well being of our people. This is neither a territorial dispute nor any law and order issue but a political imbroglio, which has serious implications for peace in and stability of the entire subcontinent. The Kashmir issue is to be resolved peacefully through dialogue and reconciliation with due regard to the aspirations of the people of the state.
In a state where the hangover of history has acted as a formidable roadblock in its onward march, addressing the tension in the region assumes pivotal importance. In this context, the task of normalisation of relations and creating strong friendly ties between India and Pakistan needs to be pursued with sincerity of purpose. This envisages fresh and bold initiatives by the leadership of both the countries, to carry forward and strengthen the peace process in the subcontinent. An all-inclusive, sustained and result oriented structured dialogue is the need of the hour. It should inspire confidence among all the stakeholders through concrete action. We pledge to facilitate the efforts being made to rejuvenate the sagging peace process between India and Pakistan.
Peace cannot prevail unless the alienation among masses is addressed especially at a time when the atmosphere has been vitiated by Shri Amarnath Shrine Board land transfer row. Peace and reconciliatory efforts need to be stimulated in the larger interest of all affected by this unfortunate situation.
Through the cross-LOC trade, a good beginning has been made, in making the borders irrelevant. Borders between the two parts of the divided state of Jammu and Kashmir, have traumatised and separated families and friends. The division has inflicted deep wounds on the psyche of the people of the state. These wounds have to be healed by bridging this divide through promotion of free movement of people, goods and cultural exchanges. The present complicated permit system and transshipment of goods has to be substituted by a simple one. Any settlement has to be synchronised with the ethos and identity of the inhabitants of our state, which is based on the laudable principles of human brotherhood, tolerance and harmony. We shall work to maintain and preserve this ethos by taking along all the regions and sub-regions of the state for a harmonious development, without disturbing their ethnicity and respective identities. It is a difficult task for any dispensation in Jammu and Kashmir to address the plethora of problems faced by its people. But a humble effort to mitigate the sufferings is what the CPI(M) can offer. With your support, we are of the firm belief that we can facilitate a positive change. We propose:
1) Facilitating a Meaningful Dialogue with the Voices of Dissent: In a democratic set-up, there should be no provision to gag the voice of dissent. Engaging separatists in meaningful dialogue will undoubtedly pave the way for establishing peace in our trouble torn state. Our party believes that the state government, besides addressing day-to-day problems of people, has a definite role in creating a conducive atmosphere for intra-state and cross-LOC dialogue, besides dialogue between the centre and the people of the state. The CPI(M) will struggle for implementation of recommendations made by different working groups in respect of: (a) confidence building measures across segments of society in the state; (b) strengthening the relations across the line of control; (c) economic development; and (d) ensuring good governance.
2) Strengthening the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC): We are of the opinion that this commission is largely ineffective because it continues to lack any real power and authority to take action against those found guilty of human rights violations in the state, as its role has been limited by the statute. In addition, the commission is hindered by the fact that the security forces enjoy special powers and their actions do not come under the purview of the state government. Reports suggest that the administration, in most of the cases dishonours the recommendations made by this commission, thus depriving the victims of human rights violations of timely justice. We pledge to work for empowering the SHRC to investigate reports of human rights violations and suggest corrective measures.
During the turmoil, a number of judicial probes into alleged human rights violations have been ordered by the successive state governments but in most of the cases the truth was not unearthed. The need of the hour is to work for the logical conclusion of these probes. The delay in these probes is a reason of continuous agony to the families of the victims. The CPI(M) is committed to continuing its efforts for the speedy justice to these victims by proposing an independent commission on disappearances and fake encounters in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989. The findings of the Commission should be made public and the commission should be empowered to recommend the prosecution of the persons implicated in these abuses.
3) General Amnesty for Prisoners: We will continue to raise our voice for general amnesty for all prisoners languishing in different jails.
4a) Withdrawal of All Draconian Laws: Our emphasis will be on the withdrawal of all the draconian laws which include the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the Public Safety Act (PSA) and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which are infringing upon the fundamental rights of the citizens.
b) Disproportionate Presence of Security Forces: It is our considered opinion that the disproportionate presence of the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir is a major irritant for the common man. We believe that presence of security forces in the civilian areas, where the situation has markedly improved is proving counterproductive. The CPI(M) will continue its demand for gradual reduction of security forces.
5) Rehabilitation of Migrants: The exodus of Kashmiri Pundit community from the valley has caused incalculable damage to the age-old rich fabric of pluralistic society of Kashmir. Unless urgent steps are taken to correct this historical aberration, a void shall remain in the Kashmiri society. Kashmiri Pundits are presently living in a difficult situation outside their homes and hearths. The remedy lies in their dignified return to Kashmir to join their brethren in the valley. Putting them in clusters and ghettos, as also the suggestions of Homeland shall only add to their sufferings and insecurity. In the meantime, their living conditions need to be improved at Jammu and other places and their properties in the valley safeguarded. We resolve to work for dignified return of all the migrants and for the safeguarding their properties.
The inhabitants of the state living near the LOC have suffered for long due to intermittent exchange of fire and mining of vast areas. This has resulted in the loss of precious lives, rendering of cultivable land barren and also the migration of families due to danger to their lives. Though the Indo-Pak cease-fire on borders has eased the situation, their houses still remain damaged and no cultivation of land is possible due to mining. The education of their children too is affected. We resolve to fight for fulfilling the demands of border migrants, which include their rehabilitation, payment of compensation for loss of their cattle and de-mining of their lands. The refugees from Pakistan and Pakistan Administered Kashmir, who have been suffering for long, deserve to be rehabilitated with due humane concern. All possible facilities have to be provided to them to make their lives comfortable.
6) Strengthening the Right To Information (RTI) Act in Jammu and Kashmir: The Right to Information Act is a major step towards strengthening the democratic set-up and empowering a common man in having his say in the affairs of the governance. In this corruption-ridden state, we believe that the access to information is vital to the functioning of a democratic government. The state act is not as strong as the central RTI Act. Besides other provisions, it lacks the institution of an Information Commission. We will work for bringing this act at par with the central act.
7) Implementation of Labour Laws: The fallout of the ongoing turmoil has resulted in pauperisation and the economic distress of the workers, artisans, peasants, the small traders and those engaged in tourism and the handicraft industry. The disastrous liberalisation policies pursued by the central government have only resulted in price hike of essential commodities and dismantling whatever little public sector existed in Jammu and Kashmir. This was done with the sole aim of promoting the interests of big contractors, smugglers and handful of private business houses. The handicraft industry, with a workforce of 4 to 5 lakh is afflicted with a twin menace of middlemen and child labour. Labour laws could have helped the vast suffering population, but they are not being implemented. Instead, the administration continues to rely on repressive measures against the genuine struggle of the workers. The claims of the coalition government regarding "healing touch" got exposed when it resorted to oppressive measures against the struggling workers at different places of the state. We assure the working people, of our firm support for better wages and good working conditions. For this, a concerted effort for implementation of labour laws will be launched.
8) Employees and Workers Welfare: The delay in implementation of sixth pay commission recommendations can create uncertainty and unrest among the employees in Jammu and Kashmir. It can lead to strikes and agitations, impeding the developmental works. We will strive for speedy implementation of these recommendations as we believe that no discrimination should be exercised between the state and the central government employees. We also favour the release of Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), regularisation of the services of ad hoc, consolidated and contractual employees, and change in helpers' designation. We will also strive for increase in minimum wages for the daily wagers.
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) of the centre has received a lukewarm response in our State as the poor wages (only Rs 70 a day) are being paid to labourers and they are unable to make both ends meet with this amount because of the steep rise in the prices of essential commodities. We will continue our struggle to get the wages enhanced to make this scheme effective.
9) Youth and Unemployment: Today, our youth in particular and people in general, are confronted with the spectre of unemployment in its most severe form due to the bankrupt policies, pursued by successive governments. Growing unemployment affects both urban and rural masses in the state as never before. The state and the central governments have failed to come out with any worthwhile scheme to address this grave issue. The technological developments that have taken place during the last two decades have led to the phenomenon of "jobless" and "jobloss" growth, instead of contributing to the process of employment generation and providing relief to the youth of the state. The youth who constituted the majority of electorate in the previous elections have been grossly cheated by the successive governments on the issue of employment throughout their tenures. Even those who are apparently employed in the name of ad hoc, contractual, seasonal, casual labour and daily wage-basis are in severe distress.
It is in this backdrop of hard realities that the CPI(M) is of the considered view that this explosive aspect of youth unemployment must be comprehended from economic and social points of view concurrently. Serious efforts have to be made for industrialisation which can open up new avenues of employment. We will strive to ensure that hassle free adequate credit on cheap interest rates is provided to unemployed youth including artisans and handicapped persons under self-employment schemes. Besides, a comprehensive policy have to be evolved which includes creation of a credible and transparent mechanism for government jobs. Meanwhile, immediate measures have to be taken to provide unemployment allowance for our educated youth. The party will also work for the right of equal job opportunities for those who wish to live in peace, but are denied employment on the flimsy ground that they have a militant past.
10) Empowerment of Women: Women have an important role in the social, economic and the overall progress and development of the state. But the status they hold in a male dominated society is not what they deserve. With the inherent gender bias, woman folk are often subjected to social and economic injustice. Women continue to lag behind men, in education, employment and social status. We believe that special provisions in favour of this segment of society alone can help in their empowerment. We pledge to fight for upholding the rights of women, including reservation for them in the elected bodies. This will go along way in their empowerment and overall development.
11) Welfare of Gujjars, Bakarwaal and Paharis: Though the Gujjars and Bakarwaals have been granted schedule tribe status, they are still lagging behind and remain largely poverty stricken. The Pahari speaking people's legitimate demand for granting them schedule tribe status deserves to be conceded. The CPI (M) pledges to work for the upliftment of both the communities.
12) Welfare of Journalists and Writers: We will certainly voice the demand for their overall welfare which includes establishing of press clubs not only in the two State capitals of Srinagar and Jammu but also at the district level. Given the problems they face in delivering their professional duties in this conflict ridden zone, setting up of residential colonies for them in Srinagar and Jammu is the need of the hour. Moreover, there should be an independent "wage board" for the working journalists at par with the centre so that they get reasonable wages for their work. Writers should have facilities for the publication of their books and other works. The subsidy provided to them at present by the J&K Cultural Academy should be expanded and enhanced.
13) Health: The public health system is in disarray in the state. The CPI(M) will strive to have the expenditure on public health enhanced to expand health care facilities. It will strive to have adequate network of primary health centres with sufficient stock of medicines across the state. It will work towards ensuring supply of life saving drugs at prices, affordable to the common man. The Drug Control Act will be vigorously implemented to check price rise and assure the supply of quality drugs. We will ask for special outlays for preventive medicine and eradication of diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, cancer and AIDS. Health insurance and mediclaim policies on subsidised premium for the employees and people below poverty line has to be pursued vigorously.
14) Education: The present system of education is defective. It produces a large number of youth with out chances of suitable employment. The CPI(M) will endeavour to reform the system; and make it respond to the requirements of the modern age. It will require the system to promote quality of education and the overall development of student's personality. For this purpose, formulation of modified curriculum, reorientation of teachers and heads of institutions, preparation of textual and support material and adoption of improved methods of evaluation are required. We will revise existing constitution of the State Board of School Education, Board of Technical Education and the two Directorates of Education, so that while striving to make education universal, it is also made appropriate to the requirements of the youth. The intake capacity of universities and colleges, including professional ones, should be increased so that the meritorious students are not deprived of the opportunity for higher studies.
Desperate efforts are being made by the vested interests to commercialise and communalise the educational structure in the state. We pledge to continue our struggle against such nefarious designs and struggle for "education for all," and "employment for all."
15) Agriculture/Horticulture Sector: Agriculture despite being the primary sector of our economy continues to be victim of the criminal neglect. The benefits of modern methods of cultivation do not reach the marginal peasant or fruit grower. With the collapse of cooperative system, the peasants cannot secure easy credit, high quality seed, fertilisers and chemicals on reasonable terms. Pauperisation of the peasant and wide spread distress is the outcome of the faulty policies of the successive governments. The production continues to remain stagnant in this sector. We are yet to achieve the targets set for the production of vegetables, fish, meat and other commodities. Our world famous apple, almond, walnut, Ladakhi "Khobani" and even saffron crop cannot face the world market, in absence of infrastructural facilities and technological support to the growers.
Market intervention scheme has yet to create any tangible impact. We are committed to struggle for evolving a comprehensive, farmer friendly agricultural policy with emphasis on the following:
a) More public investment should be made in irrigation, power, infrastructure facilities, and science and technology in agriculture to ensure sustained growth in agricultural production and protect the interests of the majority of the peasantry.
b) Production and use of safe and improved varieties of seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and use of modern techniques in agricultural production should be encouraged.
c) Special credit allocation with credit card facility should be made available for serving the interests of rural artisans and peasants. The interest rate for institutional credit in agriculture and associated sub-sectors should be reduced. Debt relief measures in severe cases of indebtedness should be instituted.
d) Cooperatives should be encouraged and their structure and functioning should be democratised. Corruption in the cooperative be rooted out.
e) A comprehensive and subsidised crop insurance scheme at minimum premium rate for all crops should be implemented.
f) Steps should be taken to promote the growth of agro based and food processing industries to ensure better prices for farm produce and to encourage rural employment.
g) Serious efforts need to be taken to promote poultry, sericulture, floriculture, fish raring and dairy farming. Sheep rearing and animal husbandry, which have remained neglected, need to be provided all possible support so that the production of meat, milk and wool increases. These areas play an important role in rural life, substantially supplementing the income of rural households.
16) Public Distribution System (PDS): The liberalisation policies adopted by the successive governments have virtually destroyed and dismantled the public distribution system in the state. Government licenses have almost been abolished. The CPI(M) has been since long maintaining that the prevailing style of functioning of the PDS goes against the interests of common man. The frequent curtailment in ration distribution smacks of the worst kind of anti-poor state policies which create great miseries for the poor and the needy. The targeted PDS has proved an abject failure. Hence there must be universalisation of the public distribution system. All essential commodities and adequate quantity of food grains should be distributed through the PDS, which must be equipped with a well-knit and expanded network of fair price shops.
17) Restructuring of Welfare Schemes: Our state being the victim of violence, confidence building measures aimed at rehabilitation of all affected people must be taken on priority. Although one of the prime minister's working groups has recommended rehabilitation of the victims of violence no headway has been made in this direction so far. We therefore demand:
a) The relief amount given to the beneficiaries like widows and old age pensioners needs to be enhanced and delivered on time.
b) Victims of fake encounters, custodial killings, rape, molestation, torture, arbitrary detentions, collateral damage, enforced disappearances and all the sufferers of the turbulent situation need to be covered under special social welfare schemes formulated for the purpose.
c) Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), being the government's largest programme for the promotion of mother and child health (MCH) including their nutrition, must be implemented properly.
18) Panchayati Raj System: The state panchayati raj act lacks basic democratic elements and needs to be amended. Regular elections and democratic functioning of the panchayati raj system should be ensured. Our stand is to strengthen this system and to promote participatory governance at the grassroots level. The CPI(M) is committed to amend this act for its democratisation so that local self governance is ensured.
19) Basic Civic Amenities: Dilapidated roads, scarcity of drinking water, erratic electricity and inadequate healthcare has made life of a common man difficult. The CPI(M) will continue its struggle for providing these basic facilities on priority.
20) Revival of Sick Industrial Units: The decades of turbulence has ravaged our industrial sector which is a vital component of state's economy. The need of the hour is to rejuvenate the sick public sector units and encourage both public and private investment. We will work for revival of handicrafts and the state's age-old cottage industries including papier-mache, shawl and carpet weaving. We advocate expansion and promotion of agro based industries as rapid industrialisation remains a key area for the economic growth of the state. This will help us in creating more employment avenues. It is imperative for the success of this sector that the wages of the workers are enhanced and their rights protected.
21) Tourism: Tourism is an important component of Jammu and Kashmir economy. This sector was hit hard by the continuing turbulence and official apathy. 'Resource mobilisation' is the solution to get this vital component of Kashmir's economy back on the tracks. Our party will focus on 'eco-tourism', which can guarantee non-interference in our environment, besides promising thousands of jobs to our unemployed youth. While further developing the existing tourist places and health resorts, the new tourist resorts would have to be identified and developed properly.
22) Environment: Political instability in this region has affected the environment and water resources to the hilt. It is distressing to see our prized possessions, like forest wealth and water bodies particularly Dal, Wullar Manasbal, Anchaar, Nigeen, Surinsar, Mansar and other lakes became victims of criminal negligence. The CPI(M) will formulate an environment policy which will be integrated with the needs of rapid and sustainable development. The party will ensure strict control over industries using hazardous chemicals and technology which affect our fragile ecology and environment. The CPI(M) will advocate and adopt strong measures to put an end to smuggling of timber while making it available to the needy on reasonable rates at the government depots.
23) Compensation for Our Water Resources: The state has not been able to tap the tremendous water resources sufficiently, which could provide cheap hydroelectric power for its rapid industrialisation. We are already at the receiving end as far as the restrictions imposed by the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) are concerned. We will work for a sufficient compensation for this huge loss, besides demanding transfer of power projects under NHPC to our state.
24) Strengthening the State Monitoring Agencies: The scourge of corruption with all its manifestations has touched such a high level in Jammu and Kashmir that people have lost faith in the administration and the government. Nepotism, favouritism, malpractices, embezzlements, scams and scandals have become order of the day. The undue political interference in state monitoring agencies like Accountability Commission and the State Vigilance Organisation has added to the gravity of the situation. The CPI(M) is committed to revive the lost sheen of these prestigious institutions by working for their complete autonomy. Besides strengthening these agencies, we will work for transparency in government recruitment agencies.
25) Police Reforms: The only legitimate policing is the one that helps create an environment, free from fear and ensures security to the common man. Our endeavour will be to modernize and reform our police force while taking due care of the legitimate interests of our police personnel.
26) E-governance in Jammu and Kashmir: The state has been continuously suffering on account of ineffective governance. We have hardly a responsive administration and the bureaucracy continues to be inaccessible for the common man. Red-tapism and nepotism have surpassed all limits. Jammu and Kashmir State has touched the height of corruption. The CPI(M) believes in good governance which requires fair legal frameworks, transparency and accountability. Institutionalizing the administration and different organs is a pre-requisite in this direction.
The CPI(M) pledges to struggle for all possible changes that will help to evolve a peaceful, harmonious and dignified life for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The party aims at strengthening the democratic rights and local self-government; with adequate increase in allocations for education, health, agriculture, industry and tourism. We will launch a consistent and unrelenting struggle against human rights violations, made so common by a senseless climate of terror and counter terror. The success of the CPI(M) candidates will bring us closer to a democratic alternative, that we all want and look forward to.