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Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2007 > August 4, 2007 > Chandra Shekhar and other Socialists’ Fight against Globalisation

Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 33

Chandra Shekhar and other Socialists’ Fight against Globalisation

Wednesday 8 August 2007


Dr Prem Singh, in his article on Chandra Shekhar (in the July 14 issue of Mainstream) has brought out an important aspect of the bereaved leader’s views on globalisation and his intrepid activities on that issue. A further account of his activities in that direction is given hereunder. After the agreement between the Government of India and the Department of Agriculture of the US Government in December 1999 relating to India’s removal of quantitative restrictions on about three thousand commodities, the condition of the kisans, in particular, started to deteriorate. In response to their misery and plight, three former Prime Ministers and the leaders of the four Left parties launched a massive campaign for the mobilisation of the kisans. V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar and H.D. Deve Gowda and Harkishan Singh Surjeet, A.B. Bardhan, Abani Roy and Debabrta Biswas addressed several kisan rallies in Ernakulam, Bangalore, Mumbai, Bhopal, Jaipur, Lakshmi Nagar in Deoria district of UP and some other cities. Along with hundreds of kisans, they blockaded the Cochin port for full 24 hours to protest against the import of agricultural commodities from the USA. In Lakshmi Nagar, the occasion was the death of a sugar mill worker when the police opened fire on a peaceful sit-in of kisans and workers.

Chandra Shekhar had strongly criticised a status paper prepared by the advisory committee of economists of the Prime Minister, V.P. Singh, in 1990. He published the paper in the Young Indian weekly along with a document of the World Bank to demonstrate that the GOI paper had lifted whole paras without any change from the WB document. Montek Singh Ahluwalia was the author of the Indian paper. Chandra Shekhar was a prominent leader of the then Janata Dal which was the major constituent of the National Front Government. Yet, he felt it his duty to expose a fraud of this nature at the highest echelons of the nation.

Dr Prem Singh may not have known the activities of some other socialist workers. It appears necessary, therefore, to put certain facts on record and for the information of your readers including Dr Prem Singh. The socialist leaders, Madhu Dandavate, George Fernandes, Rabi Ray, Mrinal Gore, Pramila Dandavate, Sudha Varde and M.P. Veerendra Kumar, among others, had started their opposition to globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation in 1991, immediately after the inauguration of the ‘new’ economic policies. I organised a discussion in August 1991 in New Delhi which was attended, among others, by Rabi Ray, Madhu Dandavate and George Fernandes. Fernandes, Rabi Ray and I were present in Sevagram, Wardha, in December 1991, together with the leaders of the Sarve Seva Sangh and Bharat Jan Andolan to launch a people’s movement against the new policies dictated by the World Bank and the IMF. It was named ‘Azadi Bachao Andolan’. Dandavate and the three of us joined in a seminar organised by the Janata Dal in October 1991. Dandavate and Fernandes addressed a people’s march to Parliament in March 1992 which was called by the Azadi Bachao Andolan. The Hind Mazdoor Kisan Panchayat was a prominent participant in the march. All the socialist leaders also took a leading part in the mobilisation for the rally.

In January 1994, socialists from all over India rallied in a convention in New Delhi, on the initiative of George Fernandes, on the same issue. The differences between Fernandes and the rest of us like Mrinal Gore, Vinodanand Prasad Singh, Pramila Dandavate and Rabi Ray occurred on this occasion. Fernandes announced that all parties and mass organisations must fold their flag to launch a united struggle against globalisation. We were not prepared to form a united front along with the BJP, the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch and the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh. On the other hand, Fernandes was rather keen on this. With Chandra Shekhar also, our differences were on the same account. The threat of communal politics to the nation’s integrity and the unity among the people was not something to be easily sacrificed. Dr Prem Singh fully shares these concerns with us.

SEVERAL socialists launched the Samajwadi Jan Parishad in 1994 and one reason for this new outfit was the need to fight against globalisation etc. It was a constituent of the National Alliance of People’s Movements which, with Medha Patkar and Tom Kochery as its leaders and Siddharaj Dhaddha and Kishen Patnaik as intellectuals, held several agitations. The NAPM orgnised tours in several districts in various States and I was part of a team that went round Rajasthan. The Parishad also participated in the WTO-Virodhi Abhiyan in New Delhi and other cities. Patnaik, Vinodanand Prasad Singh, Mohammad Kharas, Jugal Kishore Raibir, Lingaraj, among others, were enthusiastic participants. In Kerala, a large number of districtwise dharnas and rallies were held on several occasions under the leadership of K. Chandrashekharan, Arangil Sreedharan, P. Vishwanbharan and M.P. Veeendra Kumar. The leading socialist ideologue that he is, though not known in that capacity, Veerendra Kumar, produced an immensely popular book on globalisation etc. in Malayalam.

On January 12 in 1998, police opened fire on a peaceful picketing of the Tehsil office by women in Multai in Betul (MP). A large number of kisans who had come in support of the picketing were hit by bullets and 24 of them were killed. Dr Sunilam, the leader of the Young Socialists and a member of the Presidium of the International Union of Socialist Youth, Vienna, who was there at the agitation for compensation of the crops destroyed by heavy rainfall was arrested and charged with attempt to murder and some other criminal acts. This agitation spread in the whole area and consolidated the kisans. The government tried to suppress it by show of force, but to no avail. Then, on the first anniversary of the Martyrs’ Day in January 1999, a large number of kisan groups and their leaders, Dr B.D. Sharma, Vijay Javandhia, Prof Thakur Das Bang, Purushottam Kaushik, Mahender Singh Tikait, Medha Patkar, Vinodanand Prasad Singh, Janak Lal Thakur, Sunil, Dr Sunilam, and others formulated a document, the ‘Multai Manifesto 1999’, of the kisans’ demands. It was a studied attack on globalisation, backed by a massive rally of over ten thousand kisans. I was also part of the agitation and rally in 1999.

In June 2002, the Socialist Front decided, in its Foundation convention presided over by Madhu Dandavate and Mrinal Gore, to fight against globalisation. S.P. Shukla, the former Commerce Secretary of the Union Government, Shahid Kamal and Bhai Vaidya were present. This was a constant theme of its State and district level conferences in 2002-04. In October 2003, Prof Hanumanthu held a zonal camp in Bangalore which was addressed by Panna Lal Surana, K. Chandrashekharan and others. The Socialist Front joined the anti-WTO rallies in New Delhi in 2003 and 2004. It has also opposed the Special Economic Zones in Dadri (UP), Bhubaneswar (Orissa) and elsewhere. Manju Mohan was among those arrested in Dadri.

Vijay Pratap, my extremely busy comrade of the Socialist Front, made use of the Asian Social Forum, held in Mumbai in 2006, for a discussion between the delegates of the Socialist International and the Socialist Front. His idea was that the SI should be made acquainted with our strong views on globalisation and also the conditions in the developing countries. Luis Ayala, Secretary General of the SI, and I were the co- chair. The former Prime Minister of Denmark started the discussion by dismissing any criticism of the WTO as foolish. He remarked that globalisation was inevitable. Other delegates of the SI spoke more or less in the same vein. I then recounted our experience of the WTO from 1997 to 2005 and also recalled the memorandum which the developing countries had submitted to Michael Moore, the Director General of the WTO, at Doha in 2001. They were not impressed. Then, a simple question was raised: what had the socialists in West Europe done for the Third World countries when they were in power in 13 out of 15 countries, alone or in coalitions, from 1993 to 1998? They felt embarrassed. Prof Arun Kumar saved the day by putting out Gandhiji’s remark that the security and well-being of the Last Man should be the guiding principle.

I am sorry that the letter has become lengthy, but I felt that it necessary to give a fuller account of the work of Chandra Shekhar and other socialists on this vital issue.

- New Delhi, Surendra Mohan

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