The name of one Indian political tempest was Jai Prakash Narain. Born in a village, straddling UP and Bihar on the banks of the Ganga river, he was arguably the most powerful voice against the autocratic excesses of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency period.
He was supported by a sizeable number of youth in many parts of India, most notably in Bihar. Some of those erstwhile members, much aged now, gathered in Jantar Mantar today to remind both the state and central governments of the promises made to their JP Sainani Samman Yojana, which they feel have been scuttled or ignored by all governments since the 1970’s.
The predominantly male participants, led by social worker Ram Pravesh Singh and former MLA Surya Dev Tyagi, were from across Bihar. Navlakh Singh, JP Sangathan convenor from Bhojpur District, sang out his protest in his local dialect.
Another member of Jai Prakash Narayanan’s original committee of 1975 powerfully reminded the gathering about the ideals of their historical protest, which seem just as far from reality today as they were then – of a society free from hunger and unemployment.
They have submitted a 6-point wish list to the central and Bihar state government that includes the need for a strong and committed anti-corruption drive, which they feel has fatally infected the political system from the Panchayat to the Parliament, and with them educational institutions from schools to institutions of higher learning.
They want integrated policies to address the acute problems related to water – drought, floods and the plunging water table. The helpless dependency of farmers on corrupt middle-men also needs urgent interventions to allow farmers to earn commensurate to the toil they put in.
In addition, they want members of the JP Sainani Samman Yojana to be given old age pension, free bus and train travel and subsidised accommodation in Patna for short stay visits.