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January 10, 1998


The Rediff Election Special/Medha Patkar

'Democracy can only survive if voting takes place on the basis of public issues'

There is no ideology left for today's politicians. All parties portray that they are fighting the election on their party programmes. But after the results are declared, all of them join hands for power. Elections! I do not believe in contesting elections from anywhere.

In fact, the National Alliance Of People's Movements, which is a group of more than 100 non-governmental organisations, has decided not to contest the election. Personally, I am not supporting any particular candidate. On behalf of the NAPM, I have decided I will support only those candidates who will answer questions framed by us. If the candidates contesting the election are able to answer our questions. We will surely support them.

We have realised that all the political parties are pro-liberalisation which is an anti-people policy. So we have decided to support only those candidates which are not casteist-communalist-corrupt, pro-people and without a criminal background.

Mahatma Gandhi told us to fight against the foreign companies. But today all of us are welcoming them.

In fact, the very idea of having freedom has served no purpose to Indians. The East India Company came as traders and started ruling the country. In the same way the MNCs have come to India and are ruling the country.

In fact the consumerist culture has crept so much in our country that even voters have become a commodity for political parties

People have the duty to choose candidates who can fulfill their aspirations. The importance of assurance, ideological positions has been steadily decreasing which has a serious impact on our democracy.

Democracy can only survive if voting takes place on the basis of public issues.

The NAPM wants political parties and candidates to highlight the basic and wider issues related to people's life, resources and rights. The issues that we think are important and should be taken up urgently include a clarification on the Fundamental Rights and Directive Priniciples in the Constitution.

They should not give tickets to persons chargesheeted for corruption. No selection should be made on the basis of caste and religion. Manifestos must contain party stands on the post-Ayodhya dispute.

Thirty per cent of the tickets should be given to women. After the candidature, every candidate should declare his assets.

Any special policies for dalits should be specified, and should also reveal their stand on the implementation of all recommendation of the Mandal Commission Report.

They should also explain their plans to safeguard the access of water, land and forest produce to women, dalits, adivasis and other organised sections. Their views on the displacement of tribals in urban and rural areas. To enact the state-level law regarding Tribal Self Rule in tribal areas, 1996 within six months. Also, to give prime land to village based decentralised industries, dependent on local resources.

To stop the craze for big dams and promote and equitable distribution of water. Protect our fisherfolk from attacks from multinational trawlers. Strengthen the textile policy, to prevent the handloom sector from extinction and restart sick units.

They should take steps to prohibit the dumping of poisonous material from developed countries into India and control pollution. They should also explain their stand on corrupt MNCs like Enron and Cogentrix. Enron is the most corrupt MNC that has entered India and the government has done nothing about it.

Another important thing is giving free and equal education to children.

It is issues like these that we want the parties and candidates to take up. We will be sending a list of these issues in the form of a questionnaire to all candidates before the election. This will also be the first-ever opinion poll for electoral candidates in India.

After the election, we will hold a rally on April 27-28 called the Janadhikar Panchayat. People from all parts of the country will assemble in their state/ district/ block capitals to show their unity to fight for the powers of the people. The rally will include speeches against globalisation, atrocities against dalits, water and power projects etc.

Enviromental crusader Medha Patkar spoke to Syed Firdaus Ashraf and Archana Masih.

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