The 124 civil society groups, trade unions, and non-governmental organizations that are orchestrating Action 2007, a nationwide campaign against the acquisition of farm land for industrial projects and special economic zones (SEZ), have decided to broaden the scope of their agitation.
Their new demands, listed in a three-page charter, relate to displacement, the current crisis in agriculture, the SEZ policy, and a comprehensive employment legislation for workers in the unorganized sector.
Over four weeks starting 19 March, two days before the current session of Parliament comes to an end, the groups plan to stage protests, interact with bureaucrats and visit various ministries to present their point of view.
On the first five days of Action 2007, thousands of protesters from across the country will camp outside Jantar Mantar, which has become a popular place for protests due to its proximity to Parliament.
“While this is a long-term action plan, certain survival issues have to be resolved. This government’s pro-poor initiatives have been half-hearted and contradictory. Suicide rates are not declining and the Budget has failed to address the issue of remunerative wages,” said Ajay Jha, a professor at Delhi University and a member of the coordination committee for Action 2007.
In a bid to give their campaign a historical perspective, the organizers term it a movement for sovereignty, linking it with the 150th anniversary of the 1857 War of Independence, and the 75th year of the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh.
The protesters who’ll gather at Jantar Mantar will include farmers, dalits, forest workers, tribal groups and unorganized workers such as hawkers and daily-wage labourers. The various groups would present a united front, said M.T. Vijayan, another member of the co-ordination committee, adding that there were “no clashes or contradictions” between them.
The organizers of the protest have invited over 100 bureaucrats to interact with the protesters; these sessions will have moderators such as B. Mungekar and Syeda Hameed, both members of the Planning Commission.
The organizers plan to send daily reports to the ministry concerned. During week two, which starts 26 March, the representatives of the 124 groups will meet various ministries and press. And in week three, they will meet officials at the Planning Commission, the Election Commission, and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Commission, apart from discussing the rehabilitation policy with the rural development ministry. Organizers said they would also try and interact with the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Mass movements always have great impact if they are properly directed, non-political and have committed leadership. But they must first educate politicians. Bureaucrats cannot do much,” said R.Radhakrishna, director, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research.