- Open Letter to Rahul Gandhi by Human Rights Forum released by member of coordination committee Jeevan Kumar.
Sri Rahul Gandhi,
Indian National Congress leader & Lok Sabha member
Representing Wynad (Kerala) Lok Sabha Constituency
As a representative of the All India Congress Committee, you are doing a pan India pada yatra, in the name of Bharat Jodo Yatra. In the yatra you are mainly raising issues related to the hate politics of the RSS and the BJP, unemployment, price rise and wealth concentration. As an organisation working on rights we urge you to make public your categorical opinion on these issues, and your future plan of action on these issues.
We agree that false propaganda, and distortion of the truth are main weapons for communal and fascist organisations. Rational thought is their enemy. Due to their persistence now hate and division have taken roots among the people. Hiding behind religion, ruling classes are wiping out democracy, welfare and constitutional institutions. They are altering the polity such that there is no alternative to the BJP at the centre and in the States. Under these circumstances, not only minority religions but all economic, social, and political groups are choked. The economic destruction that has taken place in the name of religion is slowly becoming visible. Ordinary people are realising that the rulers have not done anything for them beyond provoking them to hate other Indians. We congratulate you for the work you are doing to expose the hate politics. Since even a small shift in this environment away from hate politics is good, and welcome, we are fully in solidarity with you in this effort.
In your meetings with the unemployed persons in Karnataka you explained how you will be creating new jobs. You said you will fill up all vacancies in government departments as soon as the vacancies arise. You said you will create new jobs in education, health and nutrition, provide support to small and medium businesses, and will work towards better utilisation of opportunities in outsourced IT services.
In response to a question from a young person you said your party was opposed to unrestrained privatisation of the public sector units. Only PSUs can provide employment for weaker sections. Of these, other than the idea of creating new jobs in education, health and nutrition, all the other ideas are routine assertions made by all parties and governments. Small and medium firms and their production and commerce are not new. Their destruction is intimately connected to globalisation. To some extent supporting them may create some self employment but we cannot call them jobs. As a matter of fact the path to privatisation of public sector was laid during the Congress rule under the watch of late Prime MInister P V Narasimha Rao and Manmohan SIngh. The story of loss of jobs began then. Even now you are not promising that new jobs will be created through strengthening public sector units. The problem of unemployment cannot be solved through vague and unclear assertions. If you and your party are committed to solving unemployment problem you should not stop at blaming it on the ruling party. You have to review your past policies and announce a categorical policy statement on creation of jobs. Only by developing a pragmatic and enduring job creation programme will you ever be able to provide relief to the unemployed.
Prices are rising manifold not because of increased production costs, but because of the market distortions. All governments and political parties are giving incentives to middlemen instead of curtailing them. At a time when ordinary middlemen are being wiped out by large corporate houses, the BJP is reducing this further to less than a handful of corporate houses. As a result monopoly power over the retail market is increasing tremendously. In the future, prices are likely to increase even more. Not only essential commodities but education and health services have become a challenge and sometimes they become life and death matters for ordinary people. Super rich people on one side and abject poor on the other and sandwiched between these two, the middle class which is forever unsure of its prospects make Indian society. None of the political parties which came to power on the promise of arresting price rise has succeeded in it. In the increase of prices, all political parties including the Indian National Congress are responsible for prise rise. Hence we urge you to declare a clear policy on the prices of essential commodities.
In a press conference in Karnatka you made the explicit statement that you are not opposed to corporate houses and to businesses. You said you are only opposed to monopolisation of Indian business. Does that mean that you are opposed to concentration in the hands of one person like Adani, but you approve of concentration in the hands of ten or 15 corporate houses ? Will that ensure de-monopolisation? Are not policies facilitating robbing ordinary people and privatisation of natural resources, privatisation of profitable PSUs, payment of low wages to physical and intellectual workers, withdrawing minimum support prices to farmers, supporting the corporate houses that destroy small and medium firms – aren’t all these the root cause of wealth concentration? Is not the Congress itself party to these policies?
The citizens of this country are partners and owners of the natural resources and the public sector undertakings of this country. Yet, all political parties treat them as masses that deserve only to be treated as reserve army of labour for the national and multinational corporations or as deserving of charity. When will this change? Many governments across the governments take the welfare of their citizens as their moral responsibility. Our constitution places that responsibility on our rulers. Article 38 in the directive principles of the constitution directs the state to work towards welfare of the citizens and towards providing economic, social and political justice and reducing economic inequalities to the minimum. Article 39, says that livelihood must be seen as a right of all citizens and that the state must ensure that wealth is not concentrated in the hands of a few. However for the last many decades what has been going on in this country is the exact opposite. The BJP has no respect for the constitution. The BJP leaders cannot be expected to understand its spirit. In contrast, you insist that you respect the constitution. But without changing your old policies, you cannot stop wealth concentration, you cannot create new jobs. The spirit of the constitution can be implemented only when you give up pro-corporate policies and adopt pro-people policies. Can you do it?
Democracy and rights
While you have raised many issues in the Bharat Jodo Yatra, you have been conspicuously silent on two main issues: democracy and rights. You have spoken about rights abuse due to religious discrimination. But you are not speaking of breach of fundamental rights of all citizens. Democracy is not merely a matter of periodic elections. Rulers must conduct themselves with the public democratically at all times. In this your record leaves much to be desired. We are not pointing only to the past. Living evidence of your party’s disregard for democracy and rights is right there in Chattisgarh where your party is in power. In Silger block in Sukma district, thousands of Adivasis have been engaged in non-violent protests against your government policies which have led to large scale exploitation of minerals from the area under the protection of CRPF. Five innocent people were killed last year when firing was opened on these protesters. Recently when Adivasis went on a padayatra from Silger to Sukma led by the national leaders of CPI, your government stopped them on grounds that they had no permissions. Can there be different rules for different padayatras – one set for Bharat Jodo and another for the Adivasis of Sukma? We cannot overlook the fact that many of the repressive laws in this country took shape during your rule. TADA, UAPA were conceived under your watch. Denial of protests by people, violent assaults on innocent people in the name of controlling armed struggles, fake encounters, abetting private militias like salwa judem, were all done by governments of your party. The present government is merely building on the repressive potential of the UAPA created by you. Can we expect you to announce that you will oppose that law and that you will work towards repeal of the law. Rulers must understand that behind armed struggles there are millions of unnamed disenfranchised people and their aspirations. Rulers must work towards making those aspirations realizable. That is the only mark of true democracy.
TODAY, OF COURSE, INDIA NEEDS UNITY. BUT THAT UNITY WILL BE MEANINGLESS WITHOUT TRUE DEMOCRACY
Of the above issues, we believe that we can trust the Congress party only on the first point, that is, resisting hate politics to some extent. If you can make a categorical statement about reviewing your old policies people will be able to assess you better and can join the Bharat Jodo Yatra with more confidence and clarity and conviction. If you continue to exploit popular disaffection against the ruling party and keep on following your old policies, then even if you come to power for some time, you will not be able to offer a genuine alternative to the citizens of India. Today, there is a dire need for a genuine alternative at the centre and in many states.
We hope that you will devote intellectual and political energy towards developing genuinely new alternatives to hateful and divisive politics.
HUMAN RIGHTS FORUM
Telangana and Andhra Pradesh