(CNS): To protest against the decision of Planning Commission of India to file an affidavit with ridiculous definition of poverty, growing number of people from many cities will observe a five-days fast (22-26 October) and observe a black Diwali (Indian festival of lights). "We have decided to observe five day fast from 22nd October 2011, to the morning after the Diwali at my Ashram in Lalpur village of Hardoi District of U.P. and will observe a black Diwali along with the villagers this year. The government has adopted an economic policy which is clearly benefitting the already well off sections of society at the cost of the poor. It has no idea how to deal with poverty and price rise making the survival of poor very difficult. It has not been able to check farmer suicides, hunger deaths, malnourishment of children or maternal mortality rate. While the ministers have made crores in corruption the government has chosen to remain insensitive to the issue of poor" said Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee and a visiting Professor at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Gandhinagar.
The call for black Diwali has been endorsed by the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), Asha Parivar and Lok Rajniti Manch among others. The signature petition campaign in support of this drive is online at: www.citizen-news.org
The five-days fast and observance of black Diwali is to demand:
(1) Withdrawal of BPL norms of expenditure of Rs. 32 per person in urban areas and Rs. 26 per person in rural areas.
(2) Universalisation of Public Distribution System. Every poor should get subsidized food as they can demand work under NREGS.
(3) BPL lists to be decided by Gram Sabha/Ward Sabhas.
(4) Withdrawal of the cash transfer scheme as a substitute for PDS.
(5) Rs. 250 as minimum wages under NREGS with scope for upgradation with price rise and with every hike in salaries of government employees. All agricultural wages to be paid through NREGS.
(6) Inclusion of the concept of Common School System under Right to Education Act.
"It is high time issues of poor are raised as the poor are being taken for a ride by the ruling elites with the middle class keeping silent. The increasing gap between rich and poor and different quality of services like education, health care, etc., for different classes of people cannot be allowed in a democracy. This protest is on the issues of discrimination against poor and rural areas and hence the fast is being undertaken in a poor village consisting of SC-OBC population" added Dr Sandeep Pandey, who also leads National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and is a member of National Presidium of Lok Rajniti Manch (People's Politics Front). (CNS)
Bobby Ramakant – CNS
(The author serves as the Director (Policy and Programmes), CNS and is a World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General's WNTD Awardee 2008. He writes extensively on health and development through Citizen News Service (CNS). Email: [email protected], website: www.citizen-news.org)