In the midst of massive scams that rocked the country from 2010 onwards, AISA and RYA spearheaded a spirited campaign against the UPA-NDA regime of corruption and corporate loot. If on the one hand, the UPA-II government at the Centre was embroiled in several scams – each dwarfing the predecessor in sheer scale – the NDA governments in various states such as Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh too were equally implicated in this regime of corruption and corporate loot.
Since January 2011, AISA and RYA took on as a national campaign, a sustained campaign against corruption and corporate loot. This campaign took great pains to identify the roots of corruption and corporate loot in neoliberal economic policies. The UPA-II rule was marked by steady exposures of corruption and scams-from CWG to 2G, Antrix to Krishna Godavari Basin, from mines of Bellary to grab of land and forests in Orissa-Jharkhand-Chattisgarh. Each scam dwarfed the earlier one – all indicating the massive loot of country’s precious natural and people’s resources by corporates facilitated by the neo-liberal policies of the government. From the beginning of 2011, AISA started a sustained campaign against
this corruption and corporate loot. A Nationwide Student-Youth Campaign Against Corruption and Corporate Loot was launched, and throughout the summer months of May, June and July, AISA activists campaigned everyday in bazaars and coaching centres, in railway stations and buses, in hostels as well as rented accommodations across the country. As the demand for a strong Jan Lokpal Bill to punish the corrupt caught the imagination of the country, AISA’s campaign asserted the crying need to link corruption with the issue of neoliberal economic policies of privatisation. Our slogan was “Liberalisation-Privatisation Breeds Corruption! Fight Privatisation! End Corruption!”
AISA and RYA asserted that corruption today is not only a matter of morally corrupt individuals. Rather it has been institutionalised by the present phase of rampant privatization policies that have opened the doors for corporate loot of extremely valuable resources like land, minerals, spectrum, etc in the country. These policies have resulted in an unprecedented increase in the scale of corruption, leading to scams amounting to lakhs of crores in these sectors like minerals, natural resources and spectrum.
And as thousands and thousands of people become aware of corruption and take to the streets, they are being faced with brutal crackdowns.Therefore, the movement against corruption today has inextricably got linked to the vital questions of civil rights, space of common people’s voices and dissent in a living democracy. A high point of AISA’s anti-corruption campaign was the 100-hour barricade against corruption and corporate loot at Jantar Mantar from 9th-13th August 2011, where thousands of students from across the country participated. This barricade was organised at a time when the beleaguered UPA had banned protests and continuous gatherings at Jantar Mantar in an attempt to quell the growing anti-corruption movement. AISA activists faced arrests and detentions, and on the strength of the participants’ militancy and determination, succeeded in reclaiming Jantar Mantar as a space of protest. This was a significant blow to the attempts of the UPA to shrink the spaces of protest in the national capital. AISA’s campaign also robustly asserted
that the anti-corruption movement cannot be silent on the burning issues of democracy and secularism that the country faces. On 9th August 2012 once again, AISA stormed the barricades and marched to Parliament, braving massive crackdown and lathicharge, against corporate loot, ne-liberal education bills like the Educational Tribunal Bill and the Foreign Universities Bill, and demanding employment as a fundamental right.
A Brief Timeline of the Campaign Against Corruption and Corporate Loot
- January 2011: AISA organises a 10-day national campaign against corruption, corporate loot and state repression. This campaign raised the issue of Binayak Sen’s long incarceration, and the regime of corporate loot and land grab. Across the country, AISA units held meetings and demonstrations on these issues.
- 5 July 2011: Convention at Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi on ‘Combating Corruption Today: Who is Undermining Democracy – Peoples’ Movements or the Government?’
- 9-13 August 2011: 100-Hour Barricade Against Corruption and Corporate Loot
- 16 August 2011: Black flag shown to Kapil Sibal against the toothless Lokpal Bill.
- 9 August 2012: Student-Youth Rights’ Campaign ‘March to Parliament’ for Education, Employment, Democracy – against Corruption and Corporate Loot
Some reports on the campaign: