Hundreds of construction workers, street vendors, domestic labourers, slum dwellers marched towards the Yojana Bhavan (Planning Commission office) on Friday in protest against the poverty line of Rs 26 for rural India and Rs 32 for urban India per capita per day fixed by the Planning Commission.
Holding banners of the All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association (AIALA), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), All India Progressive Women\’s Association (AIPWA) and All India Students\’Association (AISA) and CPI(ML), the protestors marched from Jantar Mantar to the Planning Commission office, they were stopped at Parliament Street where they broke the barricades and held a protest meeting. A memorandum was given to the Planning Commission.
Addressing the protest meeting, Rameshwar Prasad, National President, All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association (AIALA) said, “According to the Planning Commission, a man or woman should not be considered poor if he or she is in a position to spend Rs 965 per month (around Rs 32 per day) for urban areas and Rs 781 per month (around Rs 26 per day) in rural areas on food, health and education. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is ex-officio Chairman of the Planning Commission, and therefore directly responsible for this utterly callous mockery of the poor millions in India. Manmohan Singh and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia are said to be economists backed by the World Bank and IMF. Can they explain to ordinary Indians how adequate nutritious diet, medicine and education can be had on Rs 26 or Rs 32 a day – especially at a time when, thanks to the policies followed by their own Government, food prices are soaring daily, and increasingly privatized healthcare and education is resulting in steep hikes in medical and school fees?”
AISA President Sandeep Singh said, “The silent conspiracy of exclusion amidst tall claims of “inclusive growth” is unacceptable to the people of India. The UPA Govt has been pleasing ‘fund crunch’ to defend the absurd poverty line. They claim they don’t have enough money, so they tried to serve the most needy. This is the biggest lie. If the government takes serious steps to recover black money hoarded within the country and abroad, if the government would only refrain from promoting the systematic loot of taxpayers’ money through mega scams, if the government would reverse its policy of granting whopping tax-cuts and other privileges to multi-billionaire corporations, there will be no dearth of money for expansion and even universalisation of the social security net! There is no shortage of funds, only a shortage of political will or concern for the poor.”
AICCTU National Secretary Santosh Roy said, “The UPA Govt has devised is a cruel lottery of ‘Kaun Banega BPL,’ in which only a tiny minority of the poor will actually be able to avail BPL rations and other social security benefits. We are here to tell the Govt – don’t trap the poor in ‘poverty lines.’ Don’t lay ‘exclusion traps’ for the poor. The vast majority of India’s people are poor. Barring those who are obviously rich, the rest must be guaranteed food rations and other welfare and social security measures.”
CPI(ML) Delhi State Secretary Sanjay Sharma said that September 30 was observed as an all India Protest Day by the CPI(ML) and its mass organisations against the UPA Government’s callous poverty norms.
The protestors submitted a memorandum addressed to Manmohan Singh who heads the Planning Commission, demanding that
The Planning Commission withdraw its affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court immediately
BPL category must include all casual/contract/honorarium-based workers and all those in jobs covered by The Minimum Wages Act
Ensure 50 kg of food grains at Re 1 per kg, as well as subsidized supply of other essential requirements like dal, cooking oil, vegetables and milk for all such needy BPL households
Universalization of all social benefits and social security
End the privatisation of healthcare and education; ensure free medical care and schooling for all.