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Press Release                                                 December 16, 1999


The people's organisations and movements from all over Maharashtra have asserted that the process of evolving strong alternative politics will be further intensified for the effective control over present politics since it has not been seriously taken cognisance of the basic issues of life and resources of common people. The people are serious about safeguarding their right to life and natural resources, against the onslaught of the national and multinational capitalist forces. The emerging struggles have been shaping a non-party political process and the people's movements are serious on intensifying this new and basic politics.

This was made clear by Medha Patkar and other main activists during the day long "Janvikas Parishad", held in Nagpur on Thursday (Dec. 16) with over fifty organisations from all the parts of the state reiterating the issues they have been raising. "The movements raised their specific issues and also the wider issues of development policy, displacement, people's rights for information and consultation and their right to consent or not to the development projects and policies. The organisations have been challenging the propriety of the "public purpose" and "eminent domain" of the state to usurp people's resources like land, water and forest for the benefit of the capitalist forces. The struggle is now from the village to the global level to oppose the forces like the World Trade Organisation (WTO), globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation", she said.

Over two thousand representatives from all parts of Maharashtra attended the conference, which was held in Nagpur in the context of ongoing session of the state legislature. Organisations of the project affected people from Koyana, Narmada, Tapi and Gosi-Khurd dams, affected villagers by the Mumbai-Pune express way, Pench-Totaladoh dam, organisations of the farmers in Vidarbha, Marathwada and Konkan like Shoshit Jan Andolan, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, Farmers and Farm Labourers organisation participated in the Parishad. The environmental and human rights groups in Melghat (Vidarbha), Radhanagri (W. Maharashtra) fighting to save the forest and adivasis from the onslaught of 'development', organisations of the urban displaced people in Mumbai like Shramik Mukti Dal participated in the meeting. The groups and organistions working for the alternatives like "Self Rule Movement" of Medha Lekha, Sarvodayi organisations in Nagpur, Amravati also participated in this joint meeting. Some stalls exhibiting the alternatives in health, education and cottage industry products were also present.

The organisations and the main activists from all these movements reiterated the resolve for changing the decision making process, by bringing in " our rule in our village and our government in Delhi and Mumbai". The people made it clear that the decisions affecting their life and natural resources cannot be taken without their consultation and consent. They questioned the established pattern of development and wondered whether the tall claims of all the past projects were ever realised. The Koyana affected people, one of the first "temples of modern India" lamented that they were still without any means of livelihood even after 30 years of the displacement. The villagers affected by the Express Way questioned the propriety of the six-lane highway, when the alternatives have been available all along. People affected by Gosi-Khurd dam resolved that they won't allow the dam to go ahead without their consultation and consent. Chandrakant Wankhade, active with the farmers and farm labourers came heavily down upon Sharad Joshi for opposing the Narmada Bachao Andolan. He made it clear that the so-called development projects and policy have affected the farmers most.

The Janvikas Parishad was inaugurated by the young legislator and president of Kisan Sangharsha Samiti in Multai ( M.P.), Dr. Sunilam. He expressed the frustration over the way the legislators have been wasting their time on non-issues and have been dodging the basic issues of the life and resources of the people. Prof. Sanjay M.G., a national coordinator of the National Alliance of People's Movements, who has returned back from anti-WTO agitations in Seattle, explained the need to link up the local struggle and the global coordination to fight against the onslaught of the global capitalist powers on the land, water and forests in the hands of the people in the Third World. Veteran adivasi leader from Vidarbha, Sukhdeo Babu Uike termed the present development and development projects as "racial homicide of tribals". The activists also linked up the struggle against the prevalent developmental policy and projects to the struggle for existence of Dalits and minorities.

Some legislators in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and Council also attended the convention. Prof. Jayant Thakre, K.C. Padvi, Padmakar Valvi, Vasant Suryavanshi along with the Maharashtra Minister of State for Labour, Dr. Hemant Deshmukh attended the meeting. The legislators vowed to fight for the rights of the Narmada oustees. As per Mr. Padvi, the adivasi legislators in Dhule and Nandurbar districts have asked the Maharashtra Chief Minister to follow the Madhya Pradesh government, which had asked for the establishment of new Narmada Tribunal and reduction of the height of the dam with the stoppage of the work. All of them assured to actively support the issues raised by the people's movements. For the first time, the legislators in Maharashtra have demanded that the state government must change its stance in the Sardar Sarovar issue and take the line of the Government of Madhya Pradesh. All those who have been demanding this are adivasi legislators.

Sanjay Sangvai