Lakhs of workers, farmers and agricultural labourers from across the country held a massive rally in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan, marking the culmination of an extensive campaign undertaken in more than 400 districts spanning more than five months.
In an effort to raise issues concerning the masses, the organisers, under the leadership of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), and All India Agriculture Workers Union (AIAWU), expressed the need for such campaigns in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
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“We will make sure that the next general election is fought on ‘real issues’ and not on figures and data postulated by the government. The government’s data paints a rosy picture of the economic and social conditions. We will repeatedly ask pressing questions with hard facts. People need to be sensitised on issues like inflation, growing intolerance, misuse of institutions, stagnant wages and concentration of wealth by a few,” said Rakesh Meena, AIKS functionary from Alwar, Rajasthan.
A measured approach
After the successful completion of our door-to-door outreach programme in districts and states, a massive campaign was launched with jathas, processions, dharnas, performances by cultural troupes, and through social media.
“Sensitisation and awareness initiatives met with unprecedented enthusiasm and support from common people. We are very confident that in the next few months, we will successfully set the narrative on issues that will serve as the main plank on which the general elections would be fought,” said Prabin Mondol, a farmer leader from West Bengal.
Students from Jawaharlal Nehru University expressed confidence in the movement and said: “Whenever workers, farmers and groups representing the working class have come together, it has forced the government to take notice. See what happened to the highly contentious farm laws. The relentless protest in Delhi was successful, forcing the government to roll back the three farm laws,” said Parvathi, who is pursuing her Masters in Labour Studies from JNU.
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Jafreed Rizwan Shah, a young entrepreneur from Kashmir, has urged the government to maximise Kashmir’s potential as a hub of horticulture. “Kashmiri youths are brimming with ideas. It is up to the government to channelise their strengths. Kashmir is an integral part of India and India’s overall development is linked to the development of the state.”
The organisers want the government to ensure minimum wages of Rs 26,000 per month and pension of Rs 10,000 to all workers, including scheme workers. They also demanded scrapping the four Labour Codes and Electricity Amendment Bill 2022.
In a show of support for MGNREGA workers, who are currently camping in Delhi against Centre’s digital initiatives, organisers drew attention to the Centre’s alleged attempt to disempower workers by rendering them jobless.
Ensuring job security and guarantee for all, increasing MGNREGA workdays to 200 with minimum wages at Rs 600 per day, paying all pending wages; and enacting a National Urban Employment Guarantee Act were few demands specific to the rural employment guarantee scheme.
More such campaigns in the lead-up to 2024 polls
Speaking to The Federal, Dr Abha Dev Habib, an eminent academician, refused to see today’s rally as the end of the campaign. “The campaign will be in stages. The movement will go and is likely to peak before the 2024 polls. Such a sustained campaign would ensure that issues central to the masses find mention in the manifestos of political parties,” said Habib.
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“It is only when there is a push from the people and political parties realise this, issues affecting the masses will be deliberated upon. The inclusion of farmers, workers, agricultural labourers, students and teachers in one common platform has strengthened the movement,” said Habib.
One of the aims of the rally is to present a political alternative to the present regime, in terms of pro-poor policies. “More rallies and nation-wide campaigns would follow the Delhi rally, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election next year, reiterated the academician.