Jan Sangarh Morcha Press Release
  19 November 2002
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Thousands converge in Manawar to protest hike in electricity prices as Bijli
Bachao-Azadi Bachao Yatra enters fourth day

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District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
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Tel: 07141-33971

Call to scrap anti-people tariff hike proposal and agreement with Asia Development Bank : The state government must choose between the ADB and the people of the state

Over two thousand people assembled in Manawar town in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh to protest against the massive electricity tariff hike that has recently been proposed by the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board. As the Bijli Bachao - Azadi Bachao yatra entered its fourth day and the travelling contingent of over a hundred farmers, mazdoors, adivasis and women left behind the Malwa region to enter the plains of Nimad in the Narmada valley on the fourth day of its journey, spirits ran high. The thousands of assembled people spoke out vociferously against the electricity policy of the state government and demanded that the state government ensure that the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board immediately withdraw its tariff hike proposal submitted to the MPSERC. The assembled people also demanded that the sinister and anti-people agreement with the Asian Development Bank that is at the root of this proposed tariff hike, the second in a year , must be scrapped.

Speaking at Manawar, Shri Devenbhai , Kisan leader from neighbouring Village Piplaj said that it was shocking that the government chosen by the people of this state had turned against us, and is trying to put power out of the reach of the common people rather than provide us with cheap and affordable electricity. He said that various changes in the power sector was being effected at the instance of the Asian Development Bank who had become the master of the state, and that the people of Madhya Pradesh would not accept it at any cost. He said that it was distressing that the people of the Narmada valley and those irrigating from other rivers were being asked to pay 600% of the present tariff, at a time when they were unable to bear even last year's tariff increase.

Shri Mansharam bhai of Village Sat talai and senior activist of Narmada Bachao Andolan said that the major political parties in the state have failed the people. The ruling party Congress had ignored the interests of the people to propose this scandalous price hike, and the Bharatiya Janta Party that was the largest opposition was maintaining a stony silence on the issue. What was the reason that the Congress and the BJP were in such absolute agreement with the Asia Development Bank ?

Speaking at Manawar, Shri Sunil Gupta, senior activist of Kisan Adivasi Sangathan, Hoshangabad said that there was a international conspiracy to destroy and pauperise the farmers in the country. On one hand, the costs of agricultural investment has been rising sharply, as the WTO and the developed countries have prescribed the cessation of all subsidies to farmers, on the other hand due to the WTO regime, quantitative restrictions on agricultural commodities have been removed and today the farmers were unable to sell their produce at remunerative prices. The electricity tariff hike would be the last straw on the camel's back.

The Member of Legislative Assembly, Manawar, Shri Balwant Singh Mandloi of the Congress Party also spoke at the demonstration and said that a large number of elected representatives from his party were also against the tariff hike and that they were trying to pressure the Digvijay Singh government to withdraw this proposal.

Shri Alok Agarwal of the Jan Sangharsh Morcha and the Nimad Malwa Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan who had been leading this yatra from Indore said that there was no way to proceed except for struggle, and more struggle. If the popular protest against the destructive power sector reforms increased, the government would have to take back this proposal. He said that this government had executed a large number of agreements with the Asia Development Bank not only regarding power but also other significant infrastructure like roads, transportation, etc. These agreements were startling and were intended to ensure full control of the state by the Asia Development Bank. The situation was clear - the Madhya Pradesh government must choose which master to serve, the people or the Asia Development Bank ? If it chose the latter, the people would not tolerate the government for an instant longer.

The yatra that had started from Indore on the 15th of November had travelled through Dewas, Ujjain, Ratlam and Nagda in the next two days. As the yatris marched through each large and small town and kasba on the way, giving slogans such as " Asiai Vikas Bank Bharat Chodo", "Videshi Gulami nahi sahenge " and "Bijli ke daam nahi badne denge", they evoked a tremendous response. People gathered at every place to hear the real story behind the proposed tariff hikes and to express their support for these demands.

The yatra was welcomed and joined at Ujjain by a contingent of women and male workers led by Shri Harish Mishra at Ujjain , They were joined at Ratlam at a public meeting organised by Shri Javedi , Brajmohan Shrotri of the Communist Party of India , Prof. Ratan Chauhan , Jan Natya Manch, Ramesh Sharma, Janwadi Lekhak Sanghathan , Narendra Singh Dodiya of Prachi Sangathan , Shri Joshi of RMS Union and many other belonging to trade unions and cultural organizations. At Nagda , Shri Krishnaswamy, Shri Yadav of AITUC and many mill workers of GRASIM and other mills at Nagda participated in the rally and public meeting.

Chittaroopa Palit
Mangat Verma