People’s Organizations lunch campaign for liquor free & party free Gram Panchayat election
Bhubaneswar ,18.09.2016 (Story by Sanjit Kumar Mohanty)-A one day convention was organized at Lohia Bhawan in Bhubaneshwar today to launch a campaign that urged people to vote for candidates who support ban on liquor in the upcoming panchayat elections.The campaign stressed that the ultimate decision making power must lie with the Gram Sabha and demanded more financial strength and autonomy for the panchayat.Several activists and leaders from across the state addressed the gathering and focused on the need to prevent political party interference to ensure that the power is firmly in the hands of people’s representatives and not vested interests. Noted social activist Prafulla Samantara of Lok Shakti Abhiyan said Gram Sabhas in Scheduled Areas arethe ultimate decision making bodies as outlined in PESA Act and this should to be the basis of all development planning. Advocating the ban on liquor, he said “People’s movements have been at theforefront of opposing forcible land acquisition and corporate loot of natural resources and a similarmovement needs to be mounted to oppose the debilitating effects of the liquor mafia. Women areleading the struggle for a liquor ban as they are the ones who suffer the most from this indiscriminate business that sends families into crushing debt.”Representatives of various people’s organizations stated that it is time to take the anti-liqour movementto all the villages in every panchayat and have resolutions passed to root out the social menace.The fact that many blocks with majority adivasi population are still not categorized as scheduled areaswas highlighted by Amulya Nayak of Adivasi Chetna Sangathan. “This is one of the many ways provisionsof PESA Act are subverted. The panchayati raj laws are also discriminatory for women and prevent those with two children from contesting elections.” he said. He urged voters to oppose proxy candidates who take advantage of seats reserved for women, SC and ST candidates.Manorama from POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti shared that LARR Act 2013, Coal Bearing Act and MMDR Act 2015 have also recognized that the final decision making body is the Gram Sabha and no forcible acquisition can take place without the consent of the people. “The mass rejection of the LandOrdinance introduced by the central government last year is also testimony to people’s power at the grassroots.” she said.Many other eminent leaders such as Lingaraj of Swaraj Abhiyan, senior journalist Rabi Das, Padma Charan Nayak, leaders of Nasamukti Andolan addressed the gathering and urged voters to ensure that elections are conducted without the influence of party money and muscle. A unanimous call was given by all the leaders and activists to make an informed choice in the 2017 Panchayat Elections free of caste,gender and party discrimination. The voters are urged to vote who will ban liquor in panchayat after being elected and demand to make panchayat independent of political pressor.