| Jan Sangarsh Morcha Press Release
|| 26 November 2002
Jan Sangharsh Morcha rally against electricity tariffs reaches Bhopal
NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
SHRAMIK ADIVASI SANGATHAN
Near Bohra Masjid, Betul, MP
Today more than five thousand farmers, adivasis and workers marched through the streets of Bhopal in a protest rally organized by the Jan Sangharsh Morcha to declare their opposition to the proposed electricity tariff hikes. This rally, which began from Yadgare Shahajani Park, marched through all the main roads of Bhopal and culminated in a massive public meeting at Neelam Park.
Farmers, workers as well as leaders of the Jan Sangharsh Morcha, speaking at the public meeting declared that the electricity tariff hike is a conspiracy of the foreign financial institutions and multinational corporations against the common people of the State of Madhya Pradesh. They said that they would fight to unmask and finish this conspiracy with all their strength in the coming months.
It may be recalled that the Jan Sangarsh Morcha had arranged, "Bijli Bachao Azadi Bachao" Yatras all over the State in protest against the proposed electricity tariff hike as well against the destruction of the power sector in Madhya Pradesh on the behest of foreign financial institutions like the ADB in the name of reforms.
These Yatras received widespread public support as they traveled through 22 districts of Madhya Pradesh. Today in the culmination of the Yatra at Bhopal, thousands of peasants, landless people and adivasis from all over the State came together in an impressive show of strength and unity. The public meeting began with the garlanding of the "Bijli Bachao Azadi Bachao" Yatris who had traveled through the State for the last fifteen days. Smt. Punibai of Narmada Bachao Andolan related the experiences of the Yatra. She said that the Yatra received tremendous public support and that it served to articulate the public anger on misgovernance and the collapse of the State machinery vis-à-vis power sector. She said that is has become more and more apparent that the Government is the cause of the present power sector crisis and therefore cannot be relied upon formulating any remedies to improve the situation for the benefit of farmers and the landless. Shri. Bhaita Bhai of Dalit Jagrut Adivasi Sangathan, Shri. Munjibhai of Shramik Adivasi Sangathan and Guliabai of Kisan Adivasi Sangathan of Hoshangabad related on the power situation on adivasi area of the State. They said that even though the country had achieved independence 55 years ago, still power had not reached millions of hamlets in the state. Those homes and villages where electricity had reached after substantial efforts are now being deprived of whatever benefits they have received. The adivasis and farmers of the State who are facing the fourth year of severe drought will be destroyed completely if the electricity tariffs are hiked, they said.
Shri. Shailendra Chauhan and Jagadish Patidar of Nimad Malwa Mazdoor Kisan Sangathan said that the farmers of Nimad and Malwa in the last two decades brought in irrigation facilities at their own cost and on the basis of bank loans, which had yet to be paid back. They said that if the proposed electricity tariff hikes are accepted, the farmers would not be able to pay the electricity bills in spite of selling all their harvest and that they would be crushed under further indebtedness. They mentioned that this would lead to large scale land alienation and land sale and this would compel thousands of farmers to commit suicide in the manner of Shri Kishan Okte of District Chindwaada and other farmers of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab. They called on the farmers of the state not to take recourse to hopelessness and despair but rather to unite together to fight against this destruction.
Shri Alok Agarwal, Convenor of Jan Sangharsh Morcha, said that it is necessary to comprehend the conspiracy of the foreign financial institutions that lay behind the tariff hike. The reality is that tariff hikes are a fulfillment of the conditions of the loan executed by the Madhya Pradesh government with the Asian Development Bank. Our struggle is to ensure that electricity remains accessible for the common consumers at affordable rates. The struggle is also to save the State and country from being taken over by foreign financial institutions and powers. He warned the State government that there was tremendous anger in the entire state and if there was any attempt to hike the power tariffs it would cost a great deal to the incumbent government.
Shri. Sunilbhai of Samajwadi Jan Parishad said that there is foreign interference not only in the power sector but in every sector of the economy and therefore it is essential that all of us should come together to fight for our rights and to save our sovereignty. Senior activist of Shramik Adivasi Sangathan said that our first priority should be that electricity should reach areas where it has not reached so far. She said that this was the Constitutional duty of the State Government.
Dr. Sunilam, Member of the Legislative Assembly and Member of Kisan Sangarsh Samiti announced at the public meeting that if the government dares to increase the power tariff, all forces would have to come together to launch a statewide movement. Non-cooperation movements would be launched calling on the common people of Madhya Pradesh not to pay their unjustifiedly large electricity bills and to fill the jails of this state.
Shri. Ramsingh Bhai of Adivasi Mukti Sangathan, Shri. Badamilal Devada of Kisan Mazdoor Adivasi Sangathan, Hamida Bi of Bhopal Gas Pidit Mahila Udyog Sangathan, Shri. Ajay Khare of Nari Chetana Manch, Reva, Shri. Kashiram Devada of Adivasi Ekta Sangathan, Shri. Brij Kishore Chaurasiya of Jay Yuvak Kranti Dal, Shri Asiwal of City Trade Union Council, Shri. Bhanage of Hind Mazdoor Sabha and Shri. Raghav Narsalay of Focus-Mumbai as well as senior activists of many other organizations addressed this meeting and expressed their resolve to fight together to save their State and country from the clutch of multinationals and from the entire economy being destroyed by the so-called power sector reforms.
A memorandum in the name of the Chief Minister was read out at the end of the meeting to be sent to the Chief Minister. The demands articulated in the Memorandum included that the proposed electricity tariff petition must be withdrawn, the agreement with the ADB must be cancelled. That the tariff increase brought last year must be reviewed and decreased and that sufficient and cheap electricity must be made available to all consumers in Madhya Pradesh. Thousands of people stood together at the end of the public rally and voiced their common resolve that