By:Tikender Singh Panwar
The Mandi parliamentary segment is the largest constituency in the country with respect to the area dimensions. It has 17 assembly seats, one from Shimla district, the lone Kinnaur assembly seat, minus one i.e Dharampur from Mandi district, all the 4 assembly segments from Kullu and the lone assembly seat of Bharmour in Chamba district and the entire district of Lahaul and Spiti that contains only one assembly segment. So geographically this parliamentary seat covers almost half of the entire state.
This parliamentary segment has a wide majority of BJP legislators with all the three tribal constituencies with them. The social composition of the area is also quite varied. The entire tribal belt from Pangi-Kilar to Kinnaur falls in this constituency. The Kullu has semi tribal relations and a strong presence of caste differentiation. The district of Mandi has a predominantly feudal relationship prevalent in almost all the regions. It is because of this that there has been a widespread movement in the past called the â€˜Mujaaraâ€™ movement. The Communist party was the forefront leader of this movement. Because of this the entire region had several elected representatives of the Left in the state assembly. The regions of Balh, Jogindernagar and such other areas had quite a strong movement. Consequently, land was distributed in this area after the 70s, mainly the dalits have been the beneficiaries. The Congress party was able to maneuver the people despite the fact that Communist Party led the struggle, the congress party gained access and became a symbol of land distribution etc., but in reality it helped the landlords through the leakage in ceilings and privy purses and so on. The congress party in a nutshell was able to befool the people.
The welfare state concept continued till the 80s followed by an era of neo-liberalism led by the Congress party under which the hard gains made by the working people and the peasantry through their innumerable struggles also became target and were snatched. The people were made bereft of their rights. The concept of welfare state was hard hit. The social sector was also made the target. The philosophy that market would govern everything ruled the roost. The IMF-World Bank dictated policies asked the governments to cut down their developmental budgets and bring down the fiscal deficit to 2% which both the Congress and BJP vehemently and merrily agreed.
Effect of Fall Out
- The agriculture sector was severely thrashed, subsidies were cut subsequently. Whatever subsidies were being provided were cut substantially. The governmentsâ€™ intervention in the market support system also was withdrawn. This led to a situation where the cost of production increased enormously and the prices fell drastically. It is because of this reason that half the number of peasants has been coerced to accept whatever option came their way other than agriculture. It is primarily because of this reason that one suicide takes place in half an hour and the total number of such suicides has almost reached 2 lac in the country. The price fluctuation has severely affected the peasantry in the horticulture growing regions.
- The other important area being affected is the social services sector. This sector mainly comprising of education and health has virtually being converted into a commercial enterprising area. Not only rampant privatization of the educational institutions was allowed, even the governments run educational institutions like the degree colleges, medical colleges, universities etc are being targeted for resource mobilization and under this garb, generating money from a category called non â€“ subsidized seats became the easiest way of mobilization. Apart from this an increase of more than 600% in respective fees structure has also taken place. This has eventually led to a situation where the common people are being fleeced in a clandestine manner. Similarly, the health sector in the previous years, especially under the BJP rule, has become the most profitable money generating enterprise. Initially the government run health centers were turned into â€˜Rogi kalian Samitisâ€™ and then through these samitis fleecing the poor patients became the methodology. Now such samitis would work at all the health centres. Continuing this drive, the government has abdicated from the responsibility of providing health services to the people and instead has flooded the state with private medical institutions and centres. Under the guise of Green field projects, the government has even planned to attach government hospitals with private medical colleges. The society for medical services named the VMRT at Palampur has been given to the Jay Pee group of industries, in one go only.
- Employment generation one amongst the biggest fears of neo liberalism! The unemployment is soaring with large proportions in the state. Because of these policies, the registered figure has reached 9 lac. Taking into account the marginal workers and those who do not get work round the year, the figure soars to nearly 15 lakhs. This is 25% of the population and nearly 45% of the workforce. This means that every second person in the age group of working population is unemployed. The government has virtually declared a complete moratorium over the services. More than 35000 posts were scrapped up at one stroke by the government. The privare sector also does not provide employment for the people of the state as the major industries are situated in the periphery where people from neighboring states get employment.
- The mystery of missing people from the offices! A new mystery, it seems has gripped the government schools and hospitals. This mystery is about the missing employees. Especially in the tribal and backward areas there are innumerable schools and colleges where there are no employees or just one teacher manning a school and just one para-med or even a Class IV employee taking care of the entire health centre. Systematically, this has been done by successive governments. The vacancies in both these sectors are not being filled up. The employment being provided is on contract basis. Both the Congress and the BJP have blatantly supported contractual form of employment.
- Diminishing land and restricted rights ! Over 70% of the stateâ€™s population is dependent on agriculture and other related activities. More than 90% live in the rural side. The land holdings have increased to over 12 lakhs (1221589)in the state. This has further put pressure and burden on the existing land structure.To add to the woes more than 66% land in the state is under forest area. Plus the total land that can be used for agricultural purposes is just 6 lakh hectare of which nearly 1 lakh hectare has either submerged in Dams or used for cement plants and other industrial purposes. It is in this background that when the then Dhumal government in 2002 asked the peasantry to file their claims for the encroachments done on either government or forest land nearly 1 lakh turned up exhibiting their encroachments. The successive Congress government, in 2003, and the Virbhadra Singh ministry asked for eviction of the encroachers. A strong drive was carried out in Nirmand, Arsu, Anni in Kullu district, Bhaturi, Sapni in Kinnaur district and at several other places in Shimla district. It was however stopped because of the powerful resistance by the peasants under the banner of Himachal Kisan Sabha. Now, after the forest tribal and forest dwellers act 2006, the same encroachments can be regularized and hence it becomes a foremost issue of the tribal and other contiguous regions. Both the Congress and the BJP are trying to evade this question.
The financial meltdown
Then came the financial meltdown in the world . The pillars or the outposts of financial liberalization started melting down. The main ardent of the philosophy of neo liberalism today stands defeated. They are on the defensive. It is here that the Left and particularly the CPIM has to play an offensive role in the contemporary politics. Despite the fact that the neo liberal order, or simply speaking the outlook that the market would decide everything or privatization is the panacea for all the ills, stands on the back foot and grounded. But the incumbent BJP government is pursuing this neo liberal agenda with crony capitalism.
No wonder one of the main crony is Jay Pee industries starting from a mere contract of Rs 10 crore for example, in the Swan channelization to mega projects like the Wangtoo Karcham hydel projects, Bagha cement plants, further extending to the opening of medical colleges, universities, even medical trusts, JP as its called is the prime beneficiary. The Congress is no different than the BJP in economic policies. Still after the fall of liberalization dream, they have learnt no lessons. Moreover, it was the Congress government headed by Virbhadra Singh that fired at the tribals in Wangtoo Karcham agitation.
It is with this background that a strong alternative power providing people friendly policies which is the need of the hour can be provided by none other than Dr. Onkar Shad the Left candidate from Mandi parliamentary seat.