Union Budget : Five Demands, From JNU

Sandeep Singh

1. The increasing inequality in the society has today brought the country to a horrific point wherein 76% of the country’s wealth is vested in the hands of 10% of its wealthy. Such inequity has never existed in the country before. This inequality is not limited only to income but also with regard to opportunity which is worsened by caste, regional and religious identities. The time has come to determine whose country is it. It is imperative that the wealth of the country be re-distributed. Ironically, the 10% of the wealthy are also the ones who borrow from the government with no intention to repay and are also involved in the siphoning of black money to offshore accounts. Every year the state increases the various tax cuts and subsidies provided to big capitalists. It is time to put inheritance tax on this 10% rich and demand a payback of the government loans of several crores given to them.

2. The deepening agricultural crisis has today reached a critical point and the existing drought conditions have added to the horror of the crisis. The recent Patel and Jat agitations for reservation are an expression of this very agricultural crisis and cannot be suppressed with brute force. Due to the worsening condition, farmer in Bundelkhand have been forced to sell blood for their very survival. Suicides, extreme starvation and lack of livelihood opportunities have completely distorted the face of the Indian farmer. The farmers are in dire need of immediate relief. Agriculture and farmers are the backbone of this country and it is on their back that the urban industrialisation has taken place. The time has come for the country to repay its debt to its farmers. To solve the farmer’s cash crisis it is important for the state to provide better prices for the farm produce, waive the farm loans, improve the health facilities and provide quality education. The state should increase investments in infrastructure (electricity-roads-water-education-health) to improve the agricultural sector instead of redundant policies like bullet trains or purchase of latest defence armaments. In the upcoming budget session the question of the farmers should be given top priority.

3. Empty the jails. 70% of the prisoners in Indian jails are dalits, adivasis, muslims and members of other marginalised communities. Additionally, most of them are undertrials awaiting the culmination of their trial. Why is it that it is people from these communities who are being sent to jail again and again? The law mandates that prisoners who have spent more than half of the maximum sentence for which they can be detained should be released from jail. The State should undertake more concrete steps towards the implementation of this provision and provide compensation to the victims. For strengthening democracy and a just government it is mandatory that the voices of marginalised communities be given a sensitive and satisfactory hearing. In this light it is necessary that voices of dissent and protest are given the proper space in the democracy. In the process of ‘nation-building’ it is necessary that the aspirations and liberatory struggles of the marginalised groups be given the importance they need.

4. It is a fact that almost all the students who graduate from JNU are capable of finding gainful employment. The reason behind this is JNU’s tradition of debate and dialogue and the high quality of academic training provided by the institution. It this light we demand the establishment of a JNU in every state.

5. Keeping the recent decision of the government to unfurl a 207 feet tricolour in university, We would like to demand demand that the parliament make it mandatory for every university to incorporate the autobiography of Gandhi and the Dr. Ambedkar’s Constitution in every course.

Sandeep Singh is the former President of the JNU Students’ Union