Programme of the People's Front
The Lok Morcha (People’s Front) issued the following common minimum programme on June 2, 2001.
INDIA is passing through a critical period. We are in the midst of a major transition in our economic, social and political life. India, despite its immense material and human resource potential, is plagued by backwardness and impoverishment of its vast majority of people. The country and the people need to overcome and reverse these growing inhuman inequalities. The true potential of our great country needs to be realised in terms of uplifting the material and spiritual standards of our people at large. Truly, where our "head is held high and our mind is without fear."
Such a transformation is crucial to shape a modern vibrant India in the 21st century --- a transformation that needs to be guided by the unflinching commitment to strengthen the principles of secular democracy, federalism, social justice and self-reliance. The aspirations of our freedom struggle and the ethos of our humanist traditions inspire the People's Front to earnestly seek to achieve this patriotic objective.
The BJP-led government at the centre has proved harmful for the country in all respects. The narrow sectarian ideology of the BJP, with fascistic implications, threatens national unity and negates the very basis of our syncretic civilisation; the economic policies have opened the doors for ruthless exploitation by foreign capital, mortgaging our economic sovereignty. Corruption has corroded the system and drained away precious resources required for development. The BJP shamelessly defends this and brazenly protects the guilty.
At no time since independence have the communal forces posed such a serious threat to the secular democratic foundations of India. The very independence of the country, with all its concomitant ideals, values and morality, for which lakhs of people made tremendous sacrifices, is today endangered by the BJP's shameless policy of surrendering India's economic interests to imperialism.
It is essential to meet this challenge, stem the rot and present a democratic alternative around which people can unite.
The monopoly of power of the Congress has ended more than a decade ago. By pursuing policies negating the ideals and aspirations of the people that emerged during the freedom struggle and compromising with the pressures of the communal forces, the Congress party has forfeited its position to protect India today and transform its future positively. It is the Congress government in 1991 which initiated the harmful economic policies which have caused so much suffering to the people. Its record of corruption, while in government, does not inspire confidence in the people who wish to see the end of BJP rule.
Conscious of the need for forging a viable alternative, a new political alliance, the People's Front has been formed. Such a front is based on a common minimum programme, which would provide the basis for giving the country a new direction and fulfil its immense potential.
The People's Front presents the following programme before the people of India.
More than 50 years after independence, India presents a striking contrast --- a country with vast natural resources and tremendous potential but host to a large mass of poverty stricken people. Hunger, lack of educational, health and housing facilities are the norm for still an unacceptably large section of the population. Malnutrition and disease stalk the country's children. Unemployment blights the future of millions of young men and women.
India is proud to be the world's largest democracy. But for the very people who exercise their franchise, their right to earn a livelihood, to decide their children's future and to participate, as equal citizens, in a democratic set-up are all rights which are severely curtailed.
Any programme has to be centered on how to ensure the right of every Indian to live as equal citizens in a democratic, secular and economically and socially just society. No programme can be meaningful without tackling the enormous poverty and deprivation and creating the basis for fulfilling the economic, social and cultural needs of the people.
The constitution provides for a secular state. The Indian freedom struggle laid the basis for the secular edifice of India's state and society. It is the paramount task to defend the secular principle.
For this, the People's Front advocates:
- Defending and strengthening the secular provisions of the Indian constitution.
- Taking legal steps against misuse of religion in politics.
- Protection of the right to profess religion and practice one's religion.
- Maintaining and enforcing the provisions of the constitution which relate to the rights of minorities.
- Implementation of "Protection of Places of Worship Act" which prohibits change of the character of the religious places of worship after 1947.
The People's Front is committed to strengthening federalism by restructuring centre-state relations. It is against the concentration of all powers in the hands of the centre. The People's Front stands for:
- Adequate powers to the state in the decision-making in the economic and political spheres. Constitutional amendments for evolving more powers to the state --- economic, fiscal and administrative.
- Article 356 to be suitably changed so that the draconian powers of the centre to dismiss state governments is checked.
- Further activation of the Inter-State Council and cancellation of all measures meant to circumscribe the state's power through the fiscal monitoring scheme.
The BJP-RSS combine have caused immense harm to Indian unity by propagating hatred against minorities and trying to impose false homogeneity based on their own doctrine of Hindutva.
The People's Front aims to strengthen Indian unity by removing the feeling of alienation and neglect which has bred separatism in different parts of the country. The People's Front will not countenance any variety of religious fundamentalism or communalism.
The People's Front stands for maximum autonomy for the state of Jammu & Kashmir within the ambit or article 370 of the constitution. The People's Front opposes the trifurcation of the state on religious lines. It advocates that regional autonomy with equitable distribution of resources should be provided to the Jammu and Ladakh regions.
- Negotiations should be conducted with all groups in the north east while firmly defending the integrity of the Indian Union.
- Special provision for the development of the north-eastern region with particular emphasis on infrastructure and development of employment opportunities.
The People's Front is strongly opposed to the review of the constitution with an aim to undermine parliamentary democracy, the secular provisions of the constitution and equal rights for all citizens. On the contrary, it is necessary to strengthen parliamentary democracy by ensuring electoral reforms and decentralising powers upto the village panchayat.
The People's Front stands for the right to information; amendment to the Official Secrets Act to make the administration more accountable.
The People's Front is committed to implement police reforms; revising the old colonial Police Code to change its outlook and serve the people.
- Amendment of section 77 of the Representation of Peoples Act; plug loopholes in enforcing ceiling on election expenditure by bringing all election expenses including those by party and friends in the candidate’s expenditure.
- State funding in the form of materials to recognised political parties.
- Amendment to the anti-defection law so that any elected representative who leaves the party is to vacate the seat forthwith.
- Devolution of more powers from the centre to the states with suitable constitutional amendments. Decentralisation to the district bodies and panchayats; ensuring local participation in the formulation of plans and projects; regular elections to local bodies.
- Lokpal Act should be adopted covering all public servants upto the level of the prime minister.
- Firm steps to curb corruption at all levels, particularly by those holding high public office, by investigating and prosecuting the cases of corruption.
The BJP-led government has more or less abandoned the long-standing tenets of an independent and non-aligned foreign policy. The People's Front advocates an independent and non-aligned foreign policy. In the present world situation, it is essential that such a policy take into account the need for developing ties in a multi-polar world without one-sided reliance on the sole superpower. It is in India's interests to develop friendly and close relations with all the neighbouring countries in South Asia.
In the three years since the BJP first came to power in 1998, after hypocritically raising the slogan of swadeshi, it has gone ahead with destroying the self-reliant basis of India's economy. The farmers who form the backbone of India's agriculture and economy are in distress. The working class who produce the wealth of Indian industry are being thrown out of jobs and deprived of their hard-earned rights. VRS, downsizing and closures are further shrinking employment avenues. Lakhs of artisans and weavers are facing ruin. Small-scale industrialists and domestic entrepreneurs are in a crisis.
All this is due to the pro-imperialist economic policies of the BJP-led government’s policies, which are dictated by the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation.
One of the significant achievements since independence was the growth in agricultural production. India can produce enough foodgrains to feed its population. The pursuit of food security now stands threatened. The opening up of imports of agricultural commodities under the WTO regime is causing havoc. The steep fall in prices of agricultural commodities is ruining India's farmers. Suicides by farmers all over the country symbolise this shameful policy.
The People's Front is of the firm belief that Indian agriculture is to be protected and defended. This requires
- Reimposing quantitative restrictions on imports of agricultural commodities and adequate tariff rates to protect the interests of our farmers, artisans and the small scale sector.
- Increase in public investment in agriculture.
- Greater allocation for developing irrigation facilities.
- Ensuring self-sufficiency in foodgrains for food security.
- Maintaining the procurement machinery with minimum support price and adequate facilities for storage and distribution by state agencies.
- Expansion of credit facilities for small farmers; implementation of land reforms measures and correction of land records and security for tenants. Distribution of cultivable waste lands to the landless instead of handing them over to big business corporations.
- Protecting farmers’ rights to seeds, opposing the patenting of traditional usage of plants and other bio-material.
- Cancellation of longstanding debts of farmers, agricultural labourers and artisans.
In Defence of the
The policies of liberalisation and privatisation have led to a direct onslaught on the livelihood of the working people. Industrial workers have been the worst affected with the closure of thousands of private sector units, dismantling of public sector and the failure to revive sick industries.
The People's Front is committed to the provision for need based minimum wages for workers, protective legislation for unorganised workers, schemes for workers’ participation in management, recognition of trade unions through secret ballot and protection of trade union rights.
The agricultural workers, who live by earning their daily wage, are suffering because of lack of employment opportunities, subsistence wages and no social security. The People's Front will work for a central legislation for agricultural workers, guarantee of minimum wages and pension and other social benefits, provision of homestead land, and equal wages for equal work for women agricultural workers.
The systematic dismantling of the public sector by the BJP-led government is hitting at the very basis of India's self-reliant growth. The sale of profitable public sector units at ridiculously low prices and using the proceeds to bridge the budgetary deficit is a shocking case of corruption and crony capitalism.
The People's Front will strengthen the public sector in the core and strategic areas with adequate injection of capital and technology.
- Adequate public investment in power and telecom sectors and other infrastructural sectors will be ensured.
- The public sector will continue to play a crucial role in meeting the basic needs of the people like mass transport, education and health.
- Protection of domestic industry from indiscriminate lowering of import duties and take-over of existing Indian companies by foreign companies.
- Private sector will be encouraged to invest in new productive areas, frontier technology and in the expanding information and services sectors.
- The small-scale industries sector will receive special attention with adequate incentives and sufficient credit from banks. Protection of traditional industries such as handloom. Yarn to be provided at control rates for weavers.
The public sector in insurance will be strengthened and expanded. Foreign companies should be barred from entry into this sector.
- Privatising the banking sector should be halted. Reforms in the banking sector to make it more accountable and to restore social priorities. Regulation of non-banking finance companies to safeguard the interest of depositors.
- Fraudulent speculation in stock markets by brokers utilising vast unsecured loans from banks, which leads to the ruination of thousands of small investors, should be firmly put down.
- Steps should be taken to compel corporate houses to repay the "non-performing assets" owed by them to the banks.
- Curb black money and money earned through corruption, smuggling and other means.
The BJP-led government is moving towards dismantling the entire public distribution system. It is a shocking spectacle that 4.5 crore tonnes of foodgrains have accumulated and rotting in the godowns of the FCI while lakhs of people are going hungry in the drought affected areas of the country. Any policy, which curtails the public distribution system in India where there is mass poverty and hunger, is a cruel and senseless policy.
The People's Front will restore the importance of the public distribution system.
- Provision of cheap foodgrains for all sections of the people except the 10 per cent of the affluent will be the aim.
- A network of fair price shops and cooperatives to cover all panchayats.
- Apart from rice, wheat and sugar, other essential commodities should be included in the PDS.
- Overhead costs should be curtailed; wastage and leakage in the FCI mechanism should be limited.
The People’s Front is committed to end religious and caste discrimination and all forms of social oppression.
- Strict action must be taken against atrocities on scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women
- Ensure that quotas for reservation for scheduled castes and tribes are filled up. Reservation to be extended to dalit Christians.
- OBC reservation to be implemented.
- Ensure the right to access to forests and forest produces for the adivasi people.
The People’s Front stands for equal status for women in the social, economic and political spheres.
- Evolve a consensus on representation for women in legislatures and parliament.
- Equal rights in property and joint matrimonial property rights.
- Increasing employment opportunities for women. Special schemes for female-headed households in rural areas.
Formulating a national sports policy with provision for adequate funds, playgrounds and encouragement to all genuine talented sports persons.
- Drinking water in all villages must be provided as a priority task.
- Provision of adequate network of primary health centres; ensuring supply of essential drugs at affordable prices.
- Right to education should be made a fundamental right in the Constitution. Free and universal education for children upto the age of 14 years. Free mid-day meals in primary schools.
- Syllabus and curriculum to inculcate secularism, scientific temper and democratic values. Steps will be taken to purge the saffronisation of text books, syllabi, etc, and curb the commercialisation of education.
- Housing to be accorded a basic right. Provision of housing schemes for hutments. Slum dwellers should not be evicted without provision of alternative accommodation.
- Right to work should be made a fundamental right in the constitution.
The People’s Front believes that the above Common Minimum Programme provides a framework for a real alternative in terms of pro-people policies of national development based on self-reliance and utilising the full potential of the Indian people.
The country has seen the disastrous impact of the policies of liberalisation and privatisation. They benefit only the MNCs, big business and affluent sections of the population. The kisans, the agricultural workers, the industrial workers, the artisans, the small shopkeepers, working women and the youth of the country require a new deal. The middle class is feeling more and more insecure and disillusioned.
In the task of building such a vibrant India of equality, justice, fraternity and all-round socio-economic development, the People's Front seeks the fullest support of the Indian people.
Let us all unitedly struggle and build movements to achieve this programme --- to open the way for a new India, free from caste, class and social exploitation.