Activists join hands to push ‘people issues’ with parties


Nearly 50 activists and organisations are coming together on a common platform to lobby for "issues of the people" with political parties ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

They include Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan's (MKSS) Aruna Roy (a member of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council); former NAC member Harsh Mander; Ekta Parishad's P V Rajagopal, who recently led a march of tribals and others from MP to the Capital over land acquisition policies of the government; Greenpeace; and Medha Patkar's National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM ).

"We want this initiative called Countdown to 2014 to be just that, reminding political formations that while lobbying in India now means mega-dollars influencing policy, they will have to come to the people to get our votes," said Roy.

Deliberations will be held for three days to reach a consensus on issues germane to the people and to launch a 'People's Manifesto'.

Lectures and discussions have been organised on issues such as the state's responsibility to enable social services for the poor.

The list of speakers includes Romila Thapar, Shiv Vishwanathan, Prabhat Patnaik, Asghar Ali Engineer, Justice J S Verma and Javed Akhtar. The subjects touched would include 'people's control over natural resources', 'panchayati raj and decentralised governance', 'fighting state repression', and 'deepening democracy'.

An important aim, said Anjali Bhardwaj of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information), is "to ensure that Parliament clears legislation pending before it and to put pressure on all parties to do that".

When asked about their relationship to Anna Hazare's group and Arvind Kejriwal and associates, Nikhil De of the MKSS said they were keen to not become a single-issue formation, focusing on corruption alone.

"As far as Arvind Kejriwal's team is concerned, they will be a political party, I presume, and we will hold them to the same standards as other political parties. On Hazare's team, things are not very clear at present," De said.

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