26th November: Notes from Constitution Club

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Matthew Cherian of Helpage India said that they are pressing for the demand of universal pension with Aruna and Nikhil and all the other people who are associated with the pension parishad and pledged active support for this cause. He went on to assert that when the pension scheme was first instituted, the amount was a paltry Rs. 75. Five years ago it was raised to Rs. 200 which in the current scenario is nowhere near to addressing the basic needs of the people. The people who are eligible for the pension, ie, people who are aged 60 and above, roughly number 10 crore but out of them only 2 crore actually receive pension. He underlined the issue of economic disparities in the country and was unanimous in demanding a minimum of Rs. 2000 as pension. He also stated that the ultimate goal was to help the people who are in dire need of pension. He was appointed to the national council for older persons and promised to put up the issue there.

Jaideep Chokar from the Association for Democratic Reforms said, “I’m happy that the pension parishad is organizing this dharna and I’m highly supportive of it. We try that the representatives of the people are not indulged in party politics and cater to the demands of the people. People should be able to identify with them and not their parties. In the present situation political parties are not democratic.” He cited the example of RTI and added that six national parties were demanded to classify themselves as ‘public authorities’ but they refused to do that and hence could not be included under the ambits of RTI. He urged for more transparency and a people-centric shift in politics.

Vipul Mudgal speaking for the Center for Studies of Developing Societies emphasized that the media doesn’t take sides on an issue but only judges and weighs the arguments of both parties. “media ko khabar denge, media ki khabar lenge”. He drew an analogy between the realisation of the ideals of democracy and a journey and said that it is not a destination to be reached but it is a continuous process which goes on.

Kiran Bhatty from CPR focused on the importance of education and cited various articles of the constitution viz. articles 45,19,29,30 etc. In 2010 Right to Education was given the status of a fundamental right and was included in the Right to Life. Looking at the constitutional provisions in theory and how they play out in practice, much needs to be done to bridge the gap between the two. These shortcomings are alarming as well as distressing.

Sanjay of Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan started off by reciting a poem in Hindi, written about the plight of the homeless. He asserted that shelter is one of the three basic necessities of a human and Art. 21 of the constitution can be deemed to cover within it, the Right to Shelter. However, this is being violated continuously and hence the organization came up. The efforts of the organization have resulted in an increase in the number of night shelters in Delhi from 12 to 173. He ended by extending thanks to the homeless people who came here. The most important  point made in his short speech was the participation of homeless people in the electoral process and lack thereof. As such people have no address, they cannot cast their vote.

Kiran Shaheen spoke on the issue of water and its availability in the context of the Right to Life (Art. 21) of the constitution. Also, there is discrimination in the supply of water between the posh and the “not-so-posh” areas of cities. Pollution of water as well as environment is unchecked which is a clear violation of Art. 21. UN convention on water termed it as a fundamental “human right”. In her speech, emphasis was laid on the need for water, access to clean water, economic access, the construing of water as a basic need, proper infrastructure for water distribution to remote places, the optimal usage of local water sources.

Annie Raja from NFIW said that there is a significant dearth in the number of women in parliament. NFIW is also sitting on a dharna demanding reservation for women in parliament. Presently there are just around 10% women in parliament after 66 years of independence while the ideal number should be 50%.  NFIW is pressing only for 33% reservation. She also highlighted that India has the highest number of women who die during labor, and also the highest IMR due to lack of medical facilities. For proper tackling of these issues there should be reservation of women in the parliament. Social evils like child marriage can also be eradicated in a better manner if there is reservation for women in parliament.

Paul Diwakar from dalit andolan spoke very briefly on casteist thinking. Budget allocations for dalit welfare and tribal welfare are 70,000 crore and 35,000 crore respectively, but this is just on paper. We are yet to see a significant change in the conditions of these people.

Vijay Pratap(world social conference )- ‘india shining’ is a misconception – access only to the educated, connected , urban youth. Emphasized on the manifesto of the commoners, the people.

Madhuresh(NAPM)- land rights. Association of land ownership with freedom.

Prof. sanjay kumar(Panchayat parishad)- basic needs – pension – citizens – secularism- appeasement of religion specific population is wrong- great turbulence at the time of the drafting of the constitution – Gujarat riots- citizen rights

Anjali bhardwaj(transparency, accountability)- RTI should not be compromised with , according to the whims and fancies of the political parties . exposition of scams and demand for rights . time-bound redressal of complaints through a process put in place


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