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National Campaign: Save the Constitution, Save the Nation

Statement approved by participants of National Meeting of Activists organised by Hum Samajwadi to launch nationwide campaign on:

Save the Constitution, Save the Nation

I

It was after a long struggle, in which the vast multitudes of our country participated and made innumerable sacrifices, that the country won freedom in 1947. The Indian Constitution embodies the dreams and values that inspired our people in this heroic fight. The drafting of the Constitution was done by the leaders of our freedom struggle, and included some of the finest minds of that time, including Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, who was the chairperson of the drafting committee, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, to name a few. It took them as many as 2 years, 11 months and 18 days to finalise the Constitution. It was unanimously adopted by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949, and came into effect on January 26, 1950.

The Constitution declares India to be a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic. The preamble recognises liberty, equality and fraternity as the basic principles that should govern Indian society. As Dr Ambedkar pointed out in his final speech to the Constituent Assembly, all these values, liberty, equality, fraternity, secularism and democracy, cannot be divorced from each other, either all of them stand together, or fall together. The Supreme Court has ruled that these basic features of our Constitution are inalienable, and cannot be altered or destroyed even by the Parliament of India.

The Constitution alo gives directives to future governments on the orientation of economic policies to be followed by them. These are included in the Directive Principles, about which Dr Ambedkar made clear on the floor of the Constituent Assembly that these are to be fundamental to governance, and that all future governments have to strive to implement them “even under hard and unpropitous circumstances”. The Directive Principles direct the State to:

  • strive to build an egalitarian society and a social order in which justice, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life;

  • minimise inequalities in income, and ensure that there is no concentration of wealth in the country;

  • ensure that the ownership and control of the country’s resources should be such that they benefit the common good, implying that they should not be used for private enrichment.

  • secure for all people for all people education, healthcare and nutrition, and an adequate means of livelihood.

  • secure the right to work, and ensure that people get a decent wage that enables them to have a decent standard of living and full enjoyment of leisure and social and cultural opportunities.

Unfortunately, with the coming to power of the BJP at the Centre in 2014, not only are these principles contained in the Constitution are being violated with impunity, BJP and RSS leaders have made it very clear that their aim of coming to power is to change the Constitution.

The BJP and its parent, the RSS, do not believe in any of the principles enshrined in the Constitution. The BJP–RSS do not believe in democracy. They have launched a brutal offensive to silence its political opponents as well as secular and Left intellectuals, labelling all opponents of the regime as anti-nationals, hounding them through a pliant media and getting a docile police force to arrest them under false charges of sedition. They do not  believe in equality. They in fact believe in resurrecting all the traditional hierarchies of the past, including both the caste system as well as gender inequality, as sanctioned by the infamous law book of ancient India, the Manusmriti. They do not believe in secularism too; Ever since the BJP has come to power, the RSS and the dozens  of organisations spawned by it have launched a vicious offensive against the minorities. Muslims and Christians are being attacked under all kinds of excuses, and even being killed. BJP and RSS leaders have made no secret of their desire to remove the word 'secularism' from the preamble of the Indian Constitution. It is well known that both the BJP and the RSS are committed to transforming secular and democratic India into a Hindu Rashtra. To hide their real intentions, and also provide a cover for their attack on these democracy, equality and secularism, the BJP and RSS are propagating a false nationalism.

For the last nearly three decades, ever since the country began globalisation, the entire orientation of our economic policies is opposite to the orientation outlined in the Directive Principles of the Constitution. With the coming to power of the BJP, the pace of implementation of these economic policies, better known as neoliberal policies, has tremendously accelerated.

Our natural resources, including land, forests and even water, as well as the mineral wealth of the country, are being transferred to corporate houses for their naked profiteering. Agriculture has been pushed into such deep crisis that more than 3.5 lakh farmers have committed suicide in the last two decades – something which did not happen even during the days of the British Raj. The BJP his privatising the country's premier public sector undertakings; it has also launched an aggressive privatisation of the railways. The country's financial sector, that is, our public sector banks and insurance companies, and even the pension and provident funds, are being privatised. This implies that control of the tens of lakhs of crores of rupees of public savings are going to be handed over to private, including both foreign and big Indian, corporations. These savings will then not be used for investment in national priorities, but will be used by them for their profiteering. Worse, these private corporations can even indulge in financial mismanagement or cheating and declare bankruptcy, depriving people of their life's hard-savings. Even the public sector defence PSUs who  produce armaments for our air force, army and navy, are being privatised—which means our security will then become dependent on private corporations, including foreign corporations. The ‘nationalist’ BJP is even putting our security preparedness on sale!  

Youth employment has reached staggering proportions. The Planning Commission admits that the economy is not creating formal jobs; total formal jobs in the economy have actually fallen in absolute numbers over the decade 2000-10. Because of privatisation, public sector employment in the country has fallen in absolute terms since globalisation began. And with the government rapidly dismantling labour laws to allow corporations to reduce their labour costs and maximise profits, the only jobs now available in the private sector are low wage, insecure, contract jobs.

Despite the dismal state of our essential services such as education, health and ration system, the government is making sharp cuts in its social sector expenditures, because of which all our essential services are in serious crisis. Worse, all these essential services are being privatised to allow naked profiteering by corporations, with the result that providing education for their children and accessing healthcare are becoming unaffordable for the poor.

The net result of all these policies is that inequality in the country has grown to monstrous levels. Just one percent of the population today owns 60% of the country’s wealth. The latest Oxfam report points out that in 2017, the richest 1% people cornered 73% of the increase in the country's wealth, while 67 crore people, comprising the bottom half of the population, got only 1% of it.

II

It is therefore important to launch a nationwide campaign to create awareness among the people regarding this threat to the very principles on the basis of which our freedom struggle was fought, and which are enshrined in our Constitution and constitute its fundamental pillars. We need to build a broadest possible front of all organisations who believe in our Constitution for this campaign. We also need to develop a common minimum programme of demands around which we should build our nationwide movement.

We, the participants of this meeting called by 'Hum Samajwadi', would like to suggest the following demands as a rough outline of such a programme. Please note that this is only a rough programme. We need to discuss and debate it, modify / improve / refine it.

1. We need to fight the false nationalism of the BJP-RSS and their attack on democracy, equality and secularism and defend these Constitutional principles through the Constitution itself. Article 51A of the Constitution calls upon all citizens to cherish and follow the noble ideals that inspired India’s freedom struggle and are enshrined in the Constitution. It exhorts citizens to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; and also asks them to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture. It asks people to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women. It thus defines what are the values that constitute true nationalism. We can fight the false nationalism of the BJP and its attack on our Constitutional values through this true nationalism as defined by our Constitution.

2. We should demand the implementation of alternate economic policies along the lines stressed in the Directive Principles of the Constitution. We give below a rough outline of these alternative economic demands that we should raise.

i) Free education for all children up to Class XII. Government should commit itself to improving all schools to the quality of Kendriya Vidyalayas, student-teacher ratio should be brought down to at at the most 30:1, which would require additional teachers to be recruited, and also that all teachers should be made permanent. This would obviously require a huge increase in budget allocation for school education, which should be increased to at least 6% of the GDP to begin with, of which at least 50% should be borne by the Centre directly. This means that the Centre’s school education budget should go up to at least Rs 5 lakh crore.

ii) Free / affordable health care for all people. The country’s public health system is in crisis because of the very inadequate expenditure on public health care. The health budget needs to be raised to at least 3% of the GDP immediately, of which at least 50% should be borne by the Centre, which means that the Centre needs to allocate at least Rs 2.5 lakh crore for health care in its budget.

iii) Providing minimum nutrition to all, which requires a huge strengthening of the ration system. For this, the farce of targeting of PDS system to the most needy should be done away with, and universalised PDS needs to be implemented. The PDS system needs to be expanded to provide 35 kg of rice/wheat/millets to all households per month; additionally, all households should also be provided 2 kg of pulses and 1 kg of cooking oil per month through the PDS system. This would probably need a budget allocation of Rs 3 lakh crore or so.

iv) Providing purified drinking water to all people in the country – this would probably require a annual budget of Rs 1 lakh crore.

v) We need to raise demands for bringing agriculture out of its present crisis. One demand would be complete waiver of all farm loans, both institutional loans as well as loans from private moneylenders. Apart from this, we also need to raise demands for public procurement – for at least some crops. And we also need to demand increased public investment in agriculture, including for increased input subsidies to agriculture such as electricity and fertiliser subsidies.

vi) Many of these demands would lead to a huge creation of jobs in the public sector, in areas such as school teachers and health workers. Apart from that, if we increase investment in rural infrastructure, through a much better implementation of MGNREGA, that would also give rise to large number of jobs.

vii) In all factories employing 20 workers or more, all workers must be made permament (that is, contract work must be abolished), and all jobs must ensure a decent minimum wage, job security and minimum social benefits. All steps being taken to abolish the 8-hour working day and weekly off must be withdrawn.

viii) The commanding heights of the economy must remain in the public sector. Steps being taken to privatise our premier public sector undertakings, such as the railways, BHEL, NTPC, ONGC, etc must be abandoned. Privatisation of public sector defence undertakings must also be scrapped. Most importantly, our financial sector institutions, including our insurance and banks, must remain in the public sector, their privatisation must be stopped forthwith.

This is only a rough outline of the kinds of economic demands that we need to raise. We need to think deeper on these issues, consult various experts working in these fields, and further concretise these demands, and well as expand our demands to other areas than those outlined above.

3. To raise the resources to meet these demands, we should demand that the tax to GDP ratio be increased to at least 25% of GDP from the 16% at present. This would lead to an increase in our tax revenues by at least Rs 15 lakh crore. We also need to increase our non-tax revenues. One way this can be done is by renegotiating and increasing the royalty payments on mineral resources that have been given to the private sector on lease. In the long run, we need to end this policy of privatising our natural resources. 


Minutes of Meeting

A National Meeting of Activists on “National Campaign to Create Awareness About the Indian Constitution” was organised at the initiative of 'We the Socialist Institutions' (Hum Samajwadi Sansthayein) on January 20, 2018, at Rusi Mehta Hall in Mumbai.

Date
January 20, 2018


Venue
Mumbai


Organised by

We the Socialist Institutions
(Hum Samajwadi Sansthayein)

Nearly 40 activists from all over the country attended the meeting. Prominent among those who attended the meeting included: Dr G.G. Parekh (Yusuf Meherally Centre, Mumbai), Dr Sunilam (former MLA, Madhya Pradesh), Lohia Samata Aadivasi Kendra & NAPM ) Arun Srivastava (National General Secretary, Janata Dal (United) from Delhi/UttarPradesh), B.R. Patil (MLA, Karnataka), Justice Kolse Patil (Retd. Judge, Mumbai High Court, from Pune, Maharashtra), Faisal Khan (Khudai Khidmatgar, Delhi), P.J. Josey (National Council Member, Janata Dal (United), Kerala), Neeta Mahadev (Gujarat Lok Samiti, Gujarat), Shaikh Abdul Rehman (former MP, Jammu and Kashmir), Kailash Meena (Rajasthan), Prabhakar Narkar, Aparna Dalvi and Sanjeev Sadanand (Janata Dal (Secular), Mumbai), Anita Pagare ( Sangini Mahila Jagruti Mandal, Nashik) Ahmzad Shaikh and Shadan Shaikh ( SDPF, Mumbai ) Roshan Lal Agarwal ( Aartik nyay Manch, Chattisgarh) Subhash Ware (SM Joshi Socialist Foundation, Pune), Subhash Lomte (Swaraj Abhiyan, Aurangabad), Umesh Kadam and Mahadev Patil (Rashtra Seva Dal, Mumbai), Guddi (Janata Trust, Mumbai) and Neeraj Jain (Lokayat / SPI, Pune, Maharashtra).

This meeting was organised to discuss the growing attack on our Constitution from the ruling BJP-RSS, and discuss and formulate plans to launch a nationwide campaign to educate the people regarding the Constitution.

The meeting was chaired by Dr. G.G. Parekh, and Dr Sunilam conducted the proceedings. At the meeting, Neeraj Jain read out a draft statement on behalf of 'We the the Socialist Institutions', which outlined the growing crisis facing the country, especially the attack on the Constitution, by the BJP-RSS, the need to launch a nationwide campaign to create awareness among the people regarding this, and proposed a set of minimum demands around which such a campaign could be conducted. The statement was discussed and finalised by participants. The statement is attached below.

The participants agreed to the necessity of organising such a nationwide campaign. Some of the participants also pointed out the importance of such a campaign keeping in mind the political situation in the country, wherein elections are going to take place in several states during the later part of this year, and elections to the Lok Sabha are scheduled for 2019. There is a strong possibility of all the major opposition parties coming together to form a joint front to fight the ruling BJP. In such a situation, we can then press upon these opposition parties make the demand of 'Save the Constitution' as one of their key election planks, and take a stand on the demands being raised by us. If we succeed in taking these demands to the people, and are able to give sufficient publicity to these demands, it is possible that some or many of these demands we are raising could be a part of the minimum common programme of these opposition alliances in the coming elections. 

Details of National Campaign finalised in Meeting:

  1. It was agreed to name this nationwide campaign, 'Save the Constitution, Save the Nation'.
  2. As a part of this campaign, the participants agreed to organise a series of seminars in different parts of the country. Where possible, these seminars would be organised under the banner of Hum Samajwadi / We the Socialist Institutions. It was agreed to invite all local organisations willing to participate in such a campaign to defend the Constitution to the seminar. These seminars could be the launching pad for building up local campaigns around the Constitution.

The participants agreed to organise the following seminars in various parts of the country:


Date

Place

Contact Person

Phone No of Contact Person

1.

February 24

Thrissur

P.J. Josey

09447014659

2.

March 6

Bhubaneshwar

Kalyan Anand, Praful Samantray

09438362372

3.

March 17

Mumbai

Guddi

07738082170

4.

April 7

Jaipur

Kailash Meena

09928136988

5.

Date to be decided

Gulbarga / Bangalore

B.R. Patil

09448344266

6.

Date to be decided

Lucknow / Varanasi

Arun Srivastava

09810108801


  1. Apart from these seminars, two other programs were also finalised:
  1. April 6: It was decided to organise solidarity programs in various villages where mob lynchings have taken place. These would be organised in at least 5-6 villages, mainly in Rajasthan and Western UP. Faisal Khan of Khudai Khidmatgar agreed to coordinate these programs, identify the villages where these solidarity programs would be organised, and take the lead in organising the programs in these villages. All the programs would be organised simultaneously, on April 6.
  2. April 14, birth anniversary of Dr B.R. Ambedkar: The participants agreed to issue a national call to organise programs across the country under the banner of the slogan 'Save the Constitution, Save the Nation'.
  1. Concluding Program: Pune, April 22: A national seminar would be organised in Pune to conclude this campaign. The responsibility for organising this seminar was taken by S.M. Joshi Socialist Foundation, Lokayat and Justice B.G. Kolse Patil. Several participants agreed to contribute towards the expenses of organising this seminar.
The statement regarding the objectives of the Campaign 'Save the Constitution, Save the Nation', and the demands to be raised as a part of this campaign, is attached below. 

We look forward to your comments on the above programme, and if you would like to participate in this nationwide campaign, what would you like to do.

Minutes circulated on behalf of:Dr. G.G. Parekh, Dr. Sunilam, Neeraj Jain and Guddi.

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