Leaders of Nineteen Opposition Parties have issued the following Statement after an Online Meeting on August 20, 2021 • We strongly condemn the manner in which the Central government and the ruling party disrupted the monsoon session of Parliament, refusing to discuss or answer the illegal usage of Pegasus military spyware to conduct unauthorized surveillance, repeal of the three anti-farmer laws, gross mismanagement of Covid-19 pandemic, runaway inflation & price rise as also spiraling unemployment. All these and many other issues affecting the Country and the people were deliberately ignored by the ruling government.
Parliament witnessed unprecedented scenes where MPs, including women MPs, were injured by Marshalls deployed to disrupt Opposition protests. Apart from denying the Opposition their right to raise crucial issues concerning the country and the people, the government steamrolled legislations through the din of the disruption caused by its handling of both Houses of Parliament.
• The Prime Minister, in his Independence Day address, did not focus on a single-issue concerning people’s miseries. The speech was full of rhetoric, empty slogans and disinformation. In fact, it was a repackaging of earlier speeches given in 2019 and 2020. This speech is an ominous warning that lives of our people will continue to be ruined further. • The massive mismanagement in handling the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in imposing severe pain on a large number of people, particularly families who have lost their beloved members. The instances of under reporting, both the number of infections and the deaths, have been noted by many International and National agencies, who estimate that the actual figures are at least five times more than what is being officially stated.
To prevent a catastrophic third wave, it is imperative that the rate of vaccination increases exponentially. Currently, a mere 11.3% of our adult population has received both doses and 40% (including this 11.3%) have received a single dose. At this rate, the target of vaccinating the entire adult population by this year-end would be impossible to meet. The main reason for the slow pace of vaccination is vaccine shortages. In a single day, the government informed the Parliament three different statistics of the availability of vaccines.
• The destruction of the Indian economy, with deepening recession, is pushing crores of our people into joblessness, escalating the levels of poverty and hunger. The run-away inflation & price rise is adding to people’s woes and destroying livelihoods.
• The historic struggle by our farmers continues into the ninth month now, with the government being obdurate in not repealing the three anti-farmer Laws and compulsorily guaranteeing & giving MSP to the farmers. We, the undersigned, reiterate our support to the struggle launched by the farmers under the banner of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha.
• The procuring of the Pegasus Military Spyware for surveillance of people by Government of India is extremely alarming. The government refuses to answer one straight question – Has it, or any of its agencies purchased the Pegasus Spyware from the Israeli firm – NSO, known for cyber military surveillance? The government must answer and come clean. Such surveillance is not only a gross violation of people’s fundamental right to privacy but is an attack on Indian democracy and democratic institutions. The list of those under surveillance include political leaders, journalists, a former Supreme Court Judge and officers of the judiciary, a former Prime Minister, a former CBI Chief, a former Election Commissioner, two former Chief Ministers and others. This is ominous. Global media exposures show that such surveillance was rampant in 2019 on the eve of the general elections to Parliament. Apart from individuals, this is an attack on institutions that act as vital checks and balances in a democracy and discharge their Constitutional responsibilities.
• Loot of National Assets: The destruction of the economy is accompanied by a mega loot of our National Assets; large-scale privatization of the Public Sector, including banks and financial services; the privatization of our mineral resources and public utilities to benefit the cronies of Prime Minister. This will be strongly resisted.
• The attacks on Dalits, tribals and women have multiplied exponentially. This completely negates the Constitutional imperative of moving towards social justice in the country.
• Neither the Parliament could discuss any of these issues nor the Prime Minister in his address on August 15 provided any solution to mitigate the worsening conditions of the people, their lives and livelihoods.
Under these circumstances, We, the undersigned, demand from the Central Government the following:
1. Marshall and augment all vaccine production capabilities in India, procure vaccines globally and speed up the free universal mass vaccination drive immediately; provide adequate compensation for those who lost their lives due to Covid; proceed to vastly expand public health care system.
2. Central Government must implement free cash transfers of Rs.7,500 per month to all families outside the income tax bracket. Distribute free food kits containing all essential commodities of daily consumption to all the needy.
3. Withdraw unprecedented hikes in Central Excise duties on Petroleum & Diesel, reduce prices of Cooking Gas and essential commodities, particularly Cooking Oil and control galloping inflation.
4. Repeal the three anti-Agriculture Laws and compulsorily guarantee MSP to farmers.
5. Stop and reverse the unbridled privatization of the public sector; repeal the labour codes which dilute the rights of the labour and the working class. Restore the rights of the working people to protest and for wage bargaining.
6. Implement monetary stimulus packages for revival of MSMEs, not provision of loans. Increase public investments to build our economic and social infrastructure generating jobs and boosting domestic demand. Fill up the vacancies in government jobs.
7. Vastly enlarge MGNREGA with increasing guarantee for 200 days with at least doubling of wages. Legislate an urban employment guarantee programme on similar lines.
8. Prioritize the vaccination of teachers, staff and students to ensure early re-opening of educational institutions.
9. Hold immediate Supreme Court monitored judicial enquiry into the use of Pegasus Spyware for surveillance of people. High level investigation into the Rafale deal – the cancellation of the earlier order and placing of a new order at higher cost.
10. Release all political prisoners, including those under draconian UAPA in Bhima Koregaon case and anti-CAA protests. Stop using other draconian laws like sedition/NSA to violate democratic rights and civil liberties of the people. Release all media personnel detained for exercising their fundamental right of freedom of expression.
11. Release all political prisoners in J&K. Restore full statehood including J&K cadre of central services. Conduct free and fair election at the earliest. The undersigned parties will jointly organize protest actions all over the country from September 20 to September 30, 2021. The forms of these public protest actions will be decided by the respective state units of our parties depending on the concrete conditions of the Covid regulations and protocols existing in the state. These forms, amongst others, may include dharnas, protest demonstrations, hartals etc. We, the leaders of 19 Opposition Parties, call upon the people of India to rise to the occasion to defend our secular, democratic Republican order with all our might. Save India today, so that we can change it for a better tomorrow. Leader of Samajwadi Party, Shri Akhilesh Yadav wrote a letter and expressed his inability to join the meeting as he was in the interior of the State. This statement was, however, sent to him. Apart from Chief Ministers of some of the Opposition-ruled States including Jharkhand’s Hemant Soren, other top leaders included Sharad Pawar (NCP), Farooq Abdullah (National Conference), Mehbooba Mufti (PDP), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), D Raja (CPI), Tejaswi Yadav (RJD) among others.