Voters of Silchar prepare their own manifesto

Consultation on People's Manifesto at Silchar, Assam

Consultation on People’s Manifesto at Silchar, Assam

 

Report of Consultation on Peoples Manifesto at Silchar

Introduction: So far we have seen that the political parties of the country prepare their manifesto before elections and place it before people and on that basis we elect our representatives. But from this year a new process has been started by a forum named Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA) and it has taken an initiative to “let people define our national priorities” that is, the general people will prepare such manifesto comprising of their demands and place it before the political parties and will go for election on the basis of their commitments to work for the fulfillment of these demands.

To prepare such a manifesto at the Silchar Loksabha constituency level the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) organized a consultation programme on 13th of March 2014 at Madhya Sahar Sanskritik Samiti Hall in collaboration with Wada Na Todo Abhiyan.

Plan of the Programme: 1. ‘Wada Na Todo Abhiyan’ activists identified Silchar Loksabha constituency as one of constituencies where initiative for people’s manifesto writing process can be taken. BHRPC agreed to work on this as per guidelines of the WNTA as applicable in the particular circumstances of the locality.

2. BHRPC held two group discussions on 8 and 9 March 2014 at its city office at Silchar, Assam. A draft proposal of demands was prepared which was later circulated among the invitees.

3. Invitation to the consultation was sent to the district offices of all political parties along with 40 civil society organizations. The invitation letter was accompanied by the draft list of demands prepared during the group discussions.

4. For better conduct of the meeting BHRPC activists held a preparatory meeting of BHRPC members at the office where responsibilities were distributed among the workers.

Nature of the Programme: It was a consultation programme in nature where the various aspirations, grievances and demands were raised by grass-root activists and other individuals. The proposals raised were thoroughly examined by the participants and after many additions, subtractions and supplementations a list of 40 demands were adopted as the People’s Manifesto for Silchar constituency for 2014 parliamentary election.

Report of the programme: The following persons participated in the consultation:

Sl. No.

Name

Organisation/Address

Phone No.

1

Nirmal Kumar Das

Asom Mojuri Sramik Union

9435238753

2

Sanjib Roy

Cachar Hindibashi Chatro Parishad

9864282564

3

Ali Reja Osmani

Model Society Assam

9435578622

4

Sihab Uddin Ahmed

Humanity Foundation

 

5

Dr. Subir Kar

Aam Admi Party

9435171933

6

Dipankar Bhattacharjee

Jana Jagaran Mancho

9101236867

7

Shahajahan Laskar

BVSDS Malugram

9435352831

8

Sabana Ahmed Mazumder

Human Rights Oorganisation, Cachar

8486674573

9

Somar Bijoy Chakraborty

Barak Upatyaka Bangho Sahityo Snskriti Sammelon

9435372983

10

Dipangshu Sekhar Das

Bengali Jatio Parishad

9577748247

11

Saidul Hoque Laskar

Kishan Vikash Samiti

9435696872

12

Abhijit Biswas

AGP

9401848581

13

Nazir Hussain Laskar

Samaj Bandhab

9854894018

14

Haridas Dutta

Nagarik Sartho Rakha Sangram Parishad

9435173535

15

Suraj Panday

Y.S.P.

 

16

Bishnu Paul

A.C.S.Y.S.P.

9613710937

17

Abdulla Laskar

Samaj Kalyan Club

9435793013

18

Joynal Abedin

Editor, Islamic Dristikon

9401853244

19

Sadhan Purkayastha

Amora Bangali

9435621159

20

Bayanul H. Laskar

Cachar Kalyan Sangstha

9435431745

21

Ajmal Hussain Laskar

Raja Friends Club

9401140398

22

S. Herajit Singh

COPE

9954736835

23

Abdul Noor Choudhury

MMDO Assam

9854348131

24

Jishnu Dutta

SAFE

9401534808

25

Krishanu Bhattacharjee

Peoples Science Society

9957196871

26

Abu Taher Barbhuiya

DOPS

9706058617

27

Abbas Ali

SBI Employee Association

8724979120

28

Taniya Laskar

BHRPC

9401616763

29

Shyamal Dey

Rongpur Bajar Samiti

 

30

Debashish Das

Silchar

995434138

31

Abdul Mannan Barbhuiya

Consultant, ADB, World Bank

9706170713

32

Jasim Uddin Barbhuiya

BHRPC, Barkhola

9435898241

33

M Baby Chanu

Social Worker, Rongpur

9401700389

34

Faruk Ahmed Barbhuiya

BHRPC, Udharbandh

9435295460

35

Arun Kumar Goala

BHRPC, Badribasti

9859939193

36

Raju Barbhuiya

BHRPC, Kashipur

9435212453

37

Moinul Hoque Barbhuiya

BHRPC, Rongpur

9401684594

38

Altaf Hussain Laskar

 

9435909820

39

Dipak Sengupta

Secretary, Barak Upatyaka Bangho Sahityo Snskriti Sammelon

9435173280

40

Abid Raja Mazumder

Retd. Pricipal, Nehru College, Pailapool

9435260893

41

Pran Dev

President, YSP

9435201072

42

Manabendu Bhumij

YSP

9707887774

43

Fulan Ahmed Barbhuiya

Samaj Kalyan Club, Didarkush

9401326308

44

Aftabur Rahman Laskar

BHRPC, Rupaibali

9435883413

45

Dipu Laskar

Silchar

9859808205

46

Jakir Hussain Talukder

Dudhpatil, Silchar

9706239204

47

Kalam Ahmed Barbhuiya

Sarvajanin Seva Saangha, Banskandi

9957626130

48

Ramchandra Hajam

Pailapool

9859888697

49

Jia Uddin Choudhury

Sec., Manipuri Muslim Dev. Org.

9859525526

50

Husham Uddin Choudhury

MMDO

9435635262

51

Kabir Ahmed Laskar

Malugram

9854585839

52

Neharul Ahmed Mazumder

BHRPC

9435989997

53

S Sharmila Singha

BHRPC, Rongpur

9085483788

54

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

BHRPC

9401942234

55

Sadique Mohammed Laskar

BHRPC

9435201685

 

Before the consultation begun registration of the participants started at 11 am and was facilitated by Ms Sharmila Singha and Mr Arun Goala. Ms Taniya Laskar, Ms Baby Chanu, Mr Fanjaobam Loknath and Mr Aftabur Rahman Laskar were given the responsibility to note down the consultation process in Bengali and in English.

The consultation started at 11.30 am with the proposal of Mr Sadique Mohammed Laskar, who worked as host of the event that Mr Waliullah Ahmed Laskar would moderate the consultation and the proposal was supported by all. After the chair was taken by Mr W A Laskar, the participants introduced themselves. Then Mr Neharul Ahmed Mazumder delivered a brief welcome address where he also described the concept of People’s Manifesto and basic principles of the process. With an introductory remark the moderator then invited Mr Sadique Mohammed Laskar of BHRPC to present his proposals of demands. The proposals raised by him given below:

  1. Construction of Silchar-Lumding broad gauge rail lines must be completed within 2014.
  2. Construction of Silchar-Saurastra Maha Sadak must be completed within 2014.
  3. In addition, an alternative road from Silchar to Guwahati should be constructed as soon as possible.

In response to the proposals Mr Sahajahan Laskar of Barak Valley Social Development Society pointed out that a defined route of such a road should be prepared. Mr Sihab Uddin Ahmed of Humanity Foundation informed that such a defined route had already been prepared and submitted to the State Public Works Department and it could be collected and considered. Mr Debashis Das raised a demand for an alternative rail way service from Silchar to Guwahati via Harengajao. The proposals were accepted.

  1. Infrastructural development of National Institute of Information Technology at Silchar.

Regarding this proposal Mr Samar Bijoy Chakrabarty informed that recently a proposal was advanced by the director of NIIT that some extensions of the institute would be made at some places outside Barak valley. Mr Chakrabarty saw in this proposal some design to remove the NIIT from Silchar. He, therefore, specifically insisted that the infrastructural and academic development should be done at Silchar campus only. The participants agreed to make the demand accordingly.

Then Mr Nirmal Kumar Das of Asom Majuri Shramik Union presented his proposals as follows:

1. Dredging of the river Barak and in appropriate cases its tributaries should be done to control the flood situation and to facilitate water transportation in Barak valley.

2. A law should be enacted ensuring traditionally enjoyed rights over land, water and forest for those who have been enjoying such rights traditionally for at least three generations but do not hold any legal titles and which rights do not come under the Forest Rights Act.

3. To enact Janlokpal Bill as a law.

4. Power should be devolved to the smaller administrative units. The devolution should be through an autonomous system of governance with two houses for a region within the states. The autonomous region should be demarcated not on the basis of ethnicity but on the bases of geographical unity, economic backwardness and administrative convenience. The lower house will consist of general representatives of people and the upper house will be comprised of one representative of each ethnic and/or linguistic group living within the region irrespective of the number of the people belonging to such communities to protect the community rights.

Taking part in the discussion Mr Sihab Uddin Laskar added to the first demand that the river Barak should be tapped and tamed and used for agricultural purposes with lift irrigation.

Mr Dipak Sengupta of Barak Upotyoka Bango Sahityo O Sanskritik Sammelon argued that Barak valley needs an Autonomous Economic Council. The moderator pointed out that the proposal for devolution of power made by Mr Nirmal Kumar Das is a broad based proposal and based on the right to self-governance and it also can address the specific situation of Barak valley. Constitution of Autonomous councils here and there would not solve problems. Rather this type of piecemeal patchwork is a characteristic of counter insurgency policy of the government which in effect causes more ethnic bitterness. All regions should be given equal importance and all people should get the benefit of devolution of power equally.

Next presenter of proposals was Mr Neharul Ahmed Mazumder and his proposals were as follows:

  1. Full implementation of the provisions of the Right to Education Act in their letters and spirits including the provisions of 25% reservation for economically backward students in nongovernment schools.

 

The moderator added that for such implementation there needs to be periodical social audits and public monitoring. Mr Nirmal Kumar Das suggested that the audit and monitoring should be done by educationists who are not affiliated with any political parties. Dr Subir Kar noted that the basic problems faced regarding social issues are mostly non-implementation of welfare legislations including RTE. He, therefore, thought that establishment of a national implementation monitoring commission can be considered.

 

  1. To repeal the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 and to bring those who violated human rights in the garb of working under the Act to justice.

At the invitation from the moderator most of the participants expressed their opinions that the proposal was proper and must be included in the manifesto.

  1. To construct a women’s hostel in Silchar for girl students and working women.

The proposal was supported by the participants.

4.    To establish a world class super-specialty hospital like AIIMS in Silchar.

Responding to this proposal Mr Sanjeeb Roy said that in the year 2008 Kanchi Shankaracharya Trust took an initiative to construct a Kanchi Super Specialty Hospital at Arunabandh tea estate at Udharband of Cachar. The owners tea garden also gave their no objection certificate over 30 acres of land. For unknown reasons no further steps were taken.

Ms Taniya Laskar said that there were objections from the tea workers to construct the hospital as they were to be evicted from their houses and rendered homeless. Dr Subir Kar also pointed out that the hospital should be run by government or by a charitable trust so that the poor people can access the service free or with nominal fees.

It was said from the chair that if the labourers are in danger of being evicted and rendered homeless without their proper rehabilitation the hospital should be constructed elsewhere and with their proper rehabilitation the hospital can be constructed at the proposed site if the garden is closed and the trust is a charitable trust and the hospital will be open for all free or with nominal fees. Otherwise, he opined, the government of India should construct the hospital at a proper place.

5. To resolve the traffic situation of Silchar town at least 3 flyover should be constructed over the national highways. One is at Sadarghat point over the NH 37, another is at at Tarapur point over NH53 and the other is at Rangirkhadi over NH54.

The participants expressed their agreements with the proposal.

Ms Taniya Laskar, then, presented some more proposals. They are as under:

1. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 should be implemented fully and particularly Shelter Homes under the Act should be constructed in every block of three districts of Barak valley.

2. A fund should be allotted for raising awareness among the general people regarding superstitions and social evils like with-hunting, dowry, female foeticide etc.

3. Those communities belonging to tea tribes who are recognised as Scheduled Tribes elsewhere should also be given ST status in Assam.

4. The tea tribes of Assam should be provided with facilities of primary education in their mother tongues.

5. 33% seats should be reserved for women in all political, administrative and other government as well as non-government jobs.

After a little discussion all participants agreed to these proposals.

After that Mr Waliullah Ahmed Laskar proposed the following demands:

1. A National Hunger Monitoring Commission should be established as an autonomous statutory body like the National Human Rights Commission but with state commission and field offices at the district level to monitor hunger situations in the country. The Commission may be comprised of the persons of legal background like retired Supreme Court and high court judges, medical experts, nutrition experts and social activists. The field offices should identify situations of hunger or malnutrition and monitor them by recording symptoms related to malnutrition periodically and monitoring the implantation of flagship schemes related right to food. The commission may also take actions on complaint/information of hunger deaths and investigate the reported cases and such other functions.

The Commission can also be called the National Nutrition Commission or by any other appropriate name.

To this proposal Mr Abdul Mannan Barbhuiya suggested the body should be a constitutional one. After some discussion it was agreed that a statutory body will serve the purpose.

2. As the Plantation Labour Act, 1951 perpetuates the archaic labour system by providing for a system of labour which has become a modern form of slavery and bonded labour system because the Act provides for payment of wages both in cash and kind like housing facilities, medical care etc. and wages are far less than the minimum wages prevailing in the state under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. The Act also closes door the right to choose their vocation for the labourers by providing that the housing facilities are provided by the estate owners. It is obvious that if the labouers choose another vocation they will be evicted from the houses and will be rendered homeless and such situation they will not be in a position to exercise their right to choose vocation. This feudal system of labour should be replaced by one which is in conformity with modern socio economic situations and basic human rights norms.

Responding to this proposal Mr Sanjeeb Roy said that there is difference between wages paid in Brahmaputra valley and in Barak valley which is 75.00 and 85.00 respectively. Mr Nirmal Kumar Das proposed that the wage should be 145.00 which is the minimum wage for unskilled labourers in Assam. Mr Moinul Hoque Barbhuiya commented that a part of wages are paid in kind so it comes to the minimum wages. Responding to the comment made by Mr M H Barbhuiya many of the participants expressed their views that the payments in kind are not properly made and it also curtails the bargaining power of the labourers. Therefore, the system of making payment in kind should not be there and the wage should at least equal to the minimum wages.

3. There are about 2 lacks voters in Assam who are dubbed as D (doubtful) voters in electoral rolls and they are debarred from exercising many citizenship rights including casting their votes. The process of dubbing the D-voters is arbitrary as it does not provide for right to a fair hearing to the concerned persons. The procedure followed by the Foreigners Tribunals in determining citizenship of an accused is not in conformity with the international standard and due process norms. The alleged country of origin (Bangladesh or Nepal) does not reconise the procedure and its outcome on this ground. Therefore, a person found to be not Indian citizen by the tribunal is not accepted by his/her alleged country of origin as its national or citizen. They are rendered stateless which is against international law.

India, therefore, needs to negotiate with Bangladesh and Nepal a treaty providing for a mechanism for determining citizenship of persons whose nationality and citizenship is under doubt and the procedure of repatriation of those who are found to be not Indian citizens. The mechanism and its procedure should be compatible with international human rights and refugee laws.

In response to the proposal Mr Sadan Purakayastha said that these D-voters as well as many others whose citizenship status are doubtful are kept in detention camps in inhuman conditions violating their human rights. He also added that those who came to India due to civil disturbances in their country of origin should be given Indian citizenship. Mr Jishnu Dutta wondered why only Bengalis are D-voters and not Nepalis.

Responding to the comments Mr W A Laskar said that we can demand that rights violations in detention camp should be stopped and the alleged cases should be investigated and those who came to India from other countries due to civil disturbances may come under the definition of refugee under international law and we can demand that they should be treated as per refugee law.

4. The Police Act, 1861 is a colonial piece of legislation and the Supreme Court of India directed the Union and State governments to amend the Act incorporating its 7 directives issued in Prakash Singh case in 2006 in letter and spirit. The 1861 Act should be repealed and a new central Police Act as per Supreme Court directives should be passed as a model for the states.

The participants agreed to this proposal wholly.

Then, Maulana Joynul Abedin, editor of Islamic Dristikon, presented 3 proposals regarding minorities as given below:

1. Reservation for minorities in political positions, government jobs and in education should be made in proportion to their populations even if it needs amendment of the constitution.

Mr Abid Raja Mazumder responded to this proposal saying that instead of expressly demanding reservation we should demand implementation of the recommendations of Sachar Committee and Ranga Nath Mishra Commission. The moderator said it is better to make a demand specifically.

2. The Communal Violence Bill should be passed.

The participants expressed their agreement to the proposal.

3. A law should be passed providing for payment of adequate compensation to those who were put in jail under charges of terrorism but later acquitted by the courts.

To this also the participants expressed their agreement.

After this, Mr Faruk Hussain Barbhuiya put the following demands before the participants in the consultation for inclusion in the manifesto:

1. A Passport Seva Kendra should be opened at Silchar to collect applications for passports from people living in Barak valley.

The participants agreed to this demand.

2. An office of, at least, a deputy or an assistant director of pensions should be opened in Silchar as plying through Silchar and Guwahati causes hardships to the senior citizens.

The moderator said that this demand pertains to state government.

Then Krishanu Bhattacharya of People’s Science Forum, taking part in discussion asked for the details of national hunger monitoring commission and requested to demand a development monitoring commission and to ensure civil society representation in its composition.

The moderator responded by repeating the proposal for national hunger monitoring commission as stated above and also pointed out that the idea of development monitoring commission is very good but it needs further discussion.

Mr Neharul Ahmed Mazumder again came out with a demand that the Kumbhirgram Airport, Silchar should be brought under civil aviation and to make it serve 24×7.

Then Professor Subir Kar put forward the following demands:

1. Silchar-Kolkata waterways via Bangladesh should be reopened.

2. Karimganj-Kolkata railways via Bangladesh should be reopened.

3. All tea workers’ families should be brought under BPL category.

Then Mr Abdul Nur Choudhury of Manipuri Muslim Development Organisation put forward a demand that the Manipuri community should be recognized as Scheduled Tribe (Plain).

Mr Ali Reja Osmani of Model Society, Silchar presented the last proposal demanding that a policy for management and recycling of e-waste should be formulated.

The consultation then came to an end with a brief remark of moderator thanking the participants.

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