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Janta Parliament (जनता संसद) was envisioned as a simulated virtual people’s Parliament session to discuss urgent Covid related policy issues. In view of the ongoing farmer agitations at various sites on state borders with Delhi, Special Kisan Sessions of the Janta Parliament were held. Today, the resolutions passed and questions raised in the earlier six sessions of the Special Kisan Session of the Janta Parliament were posed to the political parties which were represented by senior leaders from the Congress, TMC, CPI-ML, CPI, RJD, VCK, AIFB, SP and CPI (M). The session was conducted by P. Sainath, senior journalist on behalf of the presidium comprising of P. Sainath, Aruna Roy, M G Devasahayam, Annie Raja, and Thomas Franco.

This is a coordinated effort at setting out a concrete, well-researched and pragmatic agenda to address urgent COVID-19 related policy issues whenever the next parliamentary session takes place. To start off, Janta Parliament is going to hold a press briefing at 1430 hours today (13th August 2020). Therefore, we urge all media organisations to. Janta Parliament (जनता संसद) was envisioned as a simulated virtual people’s Parliament session to discuss urgent Covid related policy issues. In view of the ongoing farmer agitations at various sites on state borders with Delhi, Special Kisan Sessions of the Janta Parliament were held.

Press Release of the Janta Parliament’s Special Kisan Session with Political Representatives

There was unanimous solidarity for the historic farmers struggle for the repeal of the three farm laws passed by the central government, by all the political parties who were present for the session today. And all parties attending agreed that a special session of the Parliament needed to be convened to discuss legalisation of MSP as well as other aspects of the agrarian crisis. Some even said that maybe in the budget session two-three days should be exclusively kept for this.

On the SC order of the formation of a new committee, they all asked why not go with the decision of previous committees. And that a committee report already exists in the form of the Swaminathan Committee and what the government needed to do was to implement the Swaminathan Committee’s report.

Raju and Rajeev Gowda from the Indian National Congress joined. They said that the Congress party supports the demand for a legal MSP that is backed by procurement. A written statement (attached) sent by Sonia Gandhi was also read out where she highlighted that Congress led state governments have constitutionally passed laws against the central farm acts and that they will pursue this further legally to get approval from the President.

Dipankar Bhattacharya of the CPI-ML stated that his party stands with the farmers and that there should be repeal and not a pause of the farms laws. He also said that the Public Distribution System must be universalised to ensure food security as well as higher procurement of crops by the government.

Raja of the Communist Party of India said that all their class and mass organisations have been participating in the on-going farmer protests. He said that the purpose of the three farm laws are to serve the corporates.

Sukhendu Sekhar Roy of the TMC spoke about the undermining of Parliament during the passage of these laws. He also said that agriculture is essentially a state subject and that by these laws there has been an intrusion by the centre on a state subject. He added that apart from a special session of Parliament, the laws should also be sent to a Select Committee for proper stakeholder consultation.

Prof. Manoj K. Jha of the RJD, one of the parties that has gone to the Supreme Court over the farm laws, brought to notice that governments around the world have taken advantage of the pandemic. He said that although he is an MP in the Rajya Sabha, in the Monsoon Session, he had to sit in the Lok Sabha and so could not do anything even though he was agitated by the way that the laws were passed in the Rajya Sabha. He also confided that he felt that the opposition parties have not done enough and not got out of their comfort zone to resist the various autocratic measures taken by the government. He also informed the gathering that on 30th January 2021, in Bihar, RJD and all opposition parties will be forming a human chain to oppose the farm laws.

Dr. D. Ravikumar, MP from Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) party said that due to the way that the Parliament was organised during the pandemic, there wasn’t sufficient time to discuss the farm laws. He said that some of them were getting time to address the Parliament at midnight. G. Devarajan of the All India Forward Bloc said that he has been to the Singhu border.

Ghanshyam Tiwari of the Samajwadi Party said that Amazon and other online marts will soon be selling farmer produce with companies like Adani at the backend to supply and deliver farmers’ produce.

Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M) said that his party stands with the farmers position to not talk to any committee. He asked if consultations are being held now, what was the need to pass these laws in a truncated session of Parliament without a proper vote. He said that the government – and not any committee – must speak to the farmers and all other stakeholders and then bring any new laws.

In the end members of presidium presented their views on the three farm laws. Aruna Roy asked political parties present in Janta Parliament to spread awareness about the three farm laws via their district level committees. She added that political parties should ask the Gram Sabhas to pass a resolution to repeal the three farm laws on 26th January. P. Sainth requested formation of ‘Save Farmer, Save Nation’ committees and organise a ground level boycott of the products by corporates which are directly harming the farmers.

Link to video of Janta Parliament – Special Kisan Session with Political Representatives – https://www.facebook.com/jansarokar2019/videos/3646978145367891/

Link to written statement sent by Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, Congress Parliamentary Party – https://drive.google.com/file/d/1KDcvwIEA5WsKGQHQQ6toLmVMItKSpZ-Z/view?usp=sharing

Janta Parliament calls on urgent action for ecological security

Given the inability or unwillingness of the government to convene a monsoon session of parliament in time, people’s movements and groups are organizing an online Janta Parliament with 11 thematic sessions various public interest issues from 16-21st August.

Today, in the Environment session of the Janta Parliament, about 30 speakers from various parts of India presented their views on the state of India’s environment. This session was organised by Kalpavriksh, National Alliance of People’s Movements, Environment Support Group, Greenpeace India, Veditum, Fridays for Future India, Extinction Rebellion India, Let India Breathe, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Vikalp Sangam, and Yugma.

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In the backdrop of the realization that pandemics like COVID19 are a result of the destruction of natural ecosystems, and the recent countrywide uproar on the proposed EIA notification for ‘ease of doing business’, the session highlighted several key issues:

(i) India’s environment has been rapidly deteriorating, and its environmental regulatory regime weakened in the name of ‘ease of doing business’;

(ii) Steps taken by the government in the last 5 months, such as clearances of many mining, hydro and highway projects in ecologically sensitive areas, have further worsened the situation;

(iii) Several proposals or decisions with major environmental impacts are being taken in a period in which effective public participation has been impossible, such as the proposed EIA notification;

(iv) These steps have also violated the country’s environmental commitments under international agreements, e.g. the 2015 Paris Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals, Convention on Biological Diversity;

(v) The government’s ‘self-reliance’ package is oriented more towards corporatisation than towards the interests and self-reliance of farmers, fishers, pastoralists, craftspersons, and other sections of society most closely dependent on nature and natural resources;

(vi) The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has become a mere rubber stamp for destructive development and corporate profiteering.

In view of the above, the People’s House passed the following resolutions, amongst others:

(i) Withdraw clearances given to mining, industrial, and infrastructural projects in the last 5 months; withdraw coal block auctions;

(ii) Withdraw the draft EIA notification 2020, and begin widespread consultation to draft a comprehensive environmental regulatory regime;

(iii) Revise the draft National Fisheries Policy 2020 and the PM-MSY scheme, currently oriented towards culture fisheries and big investment, in a manner that will ensure food security and livelihoods of traditional fishing communities;

(iv) Put a moratorium on diversion of natural ecosystems for projects (except very small ones for community basic needs), till such a regulatory regime is in place;

(v) Revive quality of air, water and soil to safe levels; for this, substantially revise the National Clean Air Plan, amend the Water and Air Acts, and notifications under the Environment Protection Act, increasing the autonomy of all pollution control and monitoring institutions and participation of citizens;

(vi) Revise the national climate action plan, with widespread participation of communities most affected, with substantial upward revision of goals for mitigation and adaptation;

(vii) Reorient national energy policy away from fossil fuels, large hydro and nuclear,as also from mega-solar/wind parks, towards decentralised renewable energy that is both ecologically sustainable and democratic;

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(viii) Initiate dialogue and collaboration with neighbouring countries for regional climate and environmental action;

(ix) Regenerate and conserve natural ecosystems across India, including forests, coastal & marine, grassland, wetland, desert and mountain areas;

(x) Empower local self-governance bodies (gram sabhas, area sabhas, etc) to govern surrounding nature and natural resources, and to be mandatory part of all planning, budgeting, and policy-making;

(xi) Bring in a comprehensive legal regime toensure ecologically sensitive areas are permanently conserved, and provide governance and management rights to local communities;

(xii) Put maximum resources in a green recovery packagetowards generating tens of millions of ecologically sustainable and dignified livelihoods, including organic agriculture, assistance to pastoralists, fishers and forest-dwellers, decentralized renewable energy and water harvesting, cottage industries including crafts, and regeneration of degraded land and water systems;

(xiii) Fundamentally re-orient the Atmanirbharbharat packages, which currently favour corporatisation and big players, to the above approach;

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(xiv) Frame comprehensive urban decentralisation and sustainability policy and framework law, including central participation of urban local bodies in all matters of land, water, budgeting, nature conservation, energy, and so on;

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(xv) In all of the above, ensure participation and rights of women, youth, and other socially or economically marginalised sections of society.

Overall, members of the Janta Parliament resolved to continue acting towards, and pressurising the government to act on, the above recommendations.

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