Resolution on Environmental Protection and People-centric Development

33. In the past two decades of liberalisation, there has been a relentless drive towards privatisation of natural resources – as exemplified by the successive changes to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act (MMDR Act) that open up minerals for private/corporate control, and also by moves to open up forests, rivers, and land for corporate use. This corporate grab of resources and land has led to intensified displacement and eviction, backed, as a rule, by intense state repression. It has also heralded massive corruption and threatens the country’s food security and forest cover. The only beneficiaries of this policy have been the mega corporations that have amassed huge profits from private expropriation and export of precious national wealth, and corrupt politicians that have facilitated the plunder. Protection of natural resources by all means, including nationalisation of mineral resources, must be an urgent priority.

At the behest of agencies like the World Bank, large tracts of forest land in Himalayas and elsewhere is now being brought under corporate control through various schemes related to the so-called ‘green bond/green bonus’ – all this under the dubious garb of ‘sustainability’. Such schemes have to be vigorously resisted and their larger corporate agenda exposed, Moreover, yet another dubious practice of systematically undermining the impact of massive deforestation due to so-called ‘development’ projects and pushing through projects with clauses for ‘compensatory afforestation’ should be resisted. It is a well-known fact that efforts at compensatory afforestation exists only on paper most of the time and do not even come close to compensating for the loss of precious mixed forests and ecologies formed over years.

People’s Welfare and People’s Rights

34. On the one hand, natural resources which are a national asset are being indiscriminately plundered to benefit a handful of Indian and foreign corporations, with no benefits, in fact huge losses for the national exchequer. On the other hand, ‘fund crunch’ becomes the plea for privatisation, which puts basic health, education, housing and other essentials for dignified survival, out of reach for the poor.

35. India’s abysmal social indicators in the matter of nutrition, and maternal and child mortality point to the disastrous impact of crumbling public health infrastructure. Vast areas of rural India, more so the forest areas, are devoid of the most basic healthcare. Preventable diseases routinely spiral into epidemics, claiming thousands of lives every year. With the privatisation of health care, the poor denied access to hospitals and left at the mercy of exorbitant private hospitals. Diagnostics and medical investigation are increasingly privatised and expensive, and preventive healthcare (for e.g prevention of communicable diseases and epidemics) is completely and criminally neglected. In the name of a promise of free healthcare to BPL card-holders, corporate hospitals get public land at throwaway prices, but subsequently, the poor are denied care and subjected to indignities.

36. We must strive to build popular struggles for people’s right to public health; demanding well-equipped health centres in every village; preventive health campaigns to end epidemics; well-equipped public hospitals modelled on AIIMS in every state with all facilities for diagnostics and research; and free prosthetics, educational and other aids to ensure a dignified life for all differently-abled people. Public places and facilities must all be made fully wheelchair accessible and friendly for the differently-abled.