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NAPM Press Release                                                 16th March 2000

Farmers, Dalits, Tribals & Women Resolve to Fight Against Globalization

In the peaceful surroundings of Chota Badada on the banks of the still-flowing Narmada, the 3rd convention of the National Alliance of People's Movements brought together organizations, movements, individuals and parties from all over India for an intense, thought-provoking, 4-day deliberation from March 11-14, on struggles and alternatives in agriculture, labour, politics, globalization, water, energy, weaponization, art and culture. There was a remarkable consensus in a wide cross-section of people who have been fighting in various local struggles in different parts of India, and covering all age groups, from charka spinning Gandhians who had the good fortune of seeing the Mahatma, to dalit groups who remembered Ambedkar through their songs, to young activists in Reva ke Yuva fighting against faulty development symbolized by the dams on the Narmada.

The consensus of such diverse talent group was that something is wrong, seriously wrong that needs to be challenged, stopped and corrected. And this is not just the yester year brow-beating of capitalism in search for some higher ideals, that which is wrong is taking all our countryís wealth including our right to live on a land that is free, free from being exploited, sold and lost permanently to foreign multinationals. Todays no-holds-barred globalization and ever widening gap between the rich and the poor leading to marginalization of most of the humanity, and being achieved without giving any public information or consultation must be stopped before it is too late and our treasured freedom is gone once again.

On such concrete actions "Clinton go back", "IMF, WTO, World Bank go back" there was uniform strong support from every local and state level movement. Just as there was support for the agricultural laborers waiting for the welfare bill to be passed that will give them pension and compensatory benefits. There was both a grasp of the corrective measures as well as the will to fight against the global onslaught. Sessions ranged from empowering the villages so that they can generate their own electricity to the alarming rate at which water policy is being drafted in India that will effect millions and make water, even water that our very thirst depends on, a commercial commodity that can be totally acquired by the rich and powerful. The participants tackled current issues such as constituition review which they opposed strongly since no public debates have been held, which are a pre-requisite for a healthy functioning democracy and because of the hidden agenda of the ruling government such as to ensure its continuity. It is true development, not destruction they want, just as the people of Narmada in Chota Badada where the waters are rising every year with every step of the dam. Some of the important points raised and decisions made were:

  1. Globalization and Bill Clintonís Visit : Talks by Kishen Patnaik, Gabrieli Dietrich and Sunil Bhai set the stage for discussions on globalization and the danger at which it is spreading - even the agriculture sector will be affectd by it - which means people will start buying outside food products and Indian farmers and related agriculture industry will suffer. A firm stand against globalization was taken by all the member organizations and state level units that were present. Protest actions against Bill Clintonís India visit are being planned by all the state NAPM units including Andhra Pradesh, WB, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi, since the American presidency stands strongly for WTO, IMF and globalization so as to establish its hegemony. Representatives from Direct Action Network, the organizers of the WTO-Seattle protest action, were also there. They are planning an initiative in Washington DC in April and during the Sept 26-28 IMF-World Bank meeting in USA.
  2. Agriculture: An important agricultural bill that has been pending for being passed by the parliament was presented by P. Chenniah and Narendranath, leaders of landless labourers in Andhra Pradesh. It gives benefits such as pension & compensation to agricultural, landless workers, who are among the poorest. It gives them some legal ground to sue even if they donít belong to a union, and if their rights are violated. There is full support from all NAPM state-level units and a nation-wide struggle and campaign will be launched for safe-guarding the agricultural sector and interest of farmers and agricultural labourers. Members also decided to gather information on land distribution patterns in each state which will enable district level initiatives to be started. NAPM members also committed themselves to village level resource mapping wherever member organizations are active and planning towards self-reliance.
  3. Alternate Politics: It was resolved that to get the alternate development paradigm evolved, alternate politics will be strengthened from grassroots level upwards and NAPM itself will not contest elections. Some felt it was important to create the space for alternate politics first by challenging the current political atmosphere with more active campaigns like for example taking up the issue of manifestos and after-election performances in a much more vigorous way. A few also expressed the view that it would be good if some individuals jumped in the fray seriously. Finally it was decided that at this point NAPM would keep out of electoral politics but will support initiatives by individual candidates and like-minded groups.
  4. Alternatives for energy and water: It was noted that water is a shared/common resource and there are two components - one for immediate life-use and other for commercial use - where the rights of the former usage have to be gauranteed. Thus citizens have to get more involved in water and energy policy issues. Secondly as discussed by Dr. K. R. Datye and Venkatesh Iyer, at the village level it was felt that there was a need to set up biomass cum solar-thermal initiatives as well as network of farmers who are willing to experiment on some part of their fields and share the experiences.Follow-up meetings and training will be held in Khargone (for north) and near Goa (for south) in a month. Awareness pamphlets on water-literacy/understanding and energy literacy, that are relevant for the city and village audience are necessary. There was a strong support in NAPM for this.
  5. Constituition Review : It was felt strongly that there was a non-performance on many key issues of importance already present and safe-guarded in the fundamental rights and directive principles. The review started without the democratic process of public meetings and consultations is in the same dangerous direction as covert decisions made previously for GATT, WTO and nuclear policy bypassing the democratic processes. There is a hidden agenda to stabilize the current government even if it were to lose confidence of the house and to change articles that will only make the Kashmir problem worse. NAPM decided to strongly oppose the review and hold public meetings to expose the underlying issues to dalits and the people at large whose rights would be further taken away by a review undertaken in this manner, and along with them assert for operationalization of the rights and privilages in the present constituition with appropriate ammendements.
  6. International Day against big dams : Hundreds of Sardar Sarovar afected people were joined by representatives from 70 organizations working in different parts of the country including people fighting against the Tehri, Koyna, Gosi Khurd, Ramanjery, Koel Karo, Suvernarekha and Mahi-Kadana dams across the country, Bargi, Maheswar, Veda dam affected people of Narmada, along with NAPM representatives from 12 states took out a huge rally in Badwani where the slogan was "Water for life, not for death". A statement against large destructive dams in the Narmada valley along with statements emphasizing the need to evolve sustainable and equitable ways of harnessing energy and water by people found overwhelming support. Siddharaj Dhadda, Thomas Kocherry, Vijay Javandia and others reiterated faith in alternate water management and the alternate path to development. While Medha Patkar reiterated that to the struggle to save the Narmada valley and assert the power to the people required the preparedness for ultimate sacrifice, revered social worker Baba Amte sent a message saying that "if people decide no power ever will succeed in filling the Dams. Justice will prevail."
  7. Elections : New office bearers were chosen by consensus through a participatory democratic process. Thomas Kocherry and Sanjay M.G. will continue as Coordinator and Co-coordinator respectively. Medha Patkar, P. Chenniah (AP), Lata P.M.(Maharashtra), Sandeep Pandey (UP), Rajni Dave (Gujarat), Gabriele D (TN), Nalini Nayak (Kerala), Sukhendu B (WB) and Vimal Bhai (Delhi) will be the National Convenors while Kishe Patnaik, Ajit Bose and Siddharaj Daddha will be permanent invitees along with the editors of the 4 NAPM bulletins.

The conference ended with announcements of upcoming actions such as anti-nuclear actions on Chernobyl Day, the 26th of April, in Nagarcoil near the planned Koodankulam power plant and 11th May in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The fishworker organizations will storm Delhi on 12th June and launch an indefinite struggle with support of several groups joining in. Another program in which NAPM-Delhi will participate brings many organizations working with urban poor together. Finally commitment to nav-nirman and alternate development was expressed by the decision to send NAPM representatives to participate in the Peopleís Health Assembly in Dhaka and to the preparatory workshop being held in Hyderabad on April 7-8.

Medha Patkar
Sanjay M. G.
Lata P.M.