All of us have witnessed unprecedented attacks on India's democracy and people in the past few months. As part of the nationwide struggle to protect our democracy and Constitutional values, and for a pro-people economic policy agenda, we conducted 18 campaigns, and more than 20 awareness programs including cultural programs and talks, during these three months. The social media campaigns included #WithdrawDraftEIA2020, #BlackLivesMatter, condemnation of arrests and harassment of anti-CAA activists and assault on our fundamental right to dissent, demanding improvement in the public distribution system, demanding nationalisation of the healthcare system and free healthcare for all, commemoration of Swami Vivekanand's death anniversary as #DharmikSalokhaDin, #RejectNEP2020, #FriendshipBeyondBorders, protest against the new farm bills, and "celebration" of National Unemployment Day. Relief activities for those adversely affected by the lockdown also continued throughout the last three months. Here is a brief report of these activities.
Webinars organised by Lokayat
11 Aug: NEP 2020 - Reading Between the Lines
By Prof. Anil Sadgopal
Prof. Anil Sadgopal, one of the best known educationists of India and a senior activist of the All India Forum for Right to Education explained the broad orientation of the NEP 2020 and how it will only benefit the corporates and exclude most children from quality education. The talk received a huge response from all over India. There were around 250 live viewers; subsequently, more than 3,000 people have viewed this talk so far.
15 Aug: India - Democracy and Republic at Crossroads
By Prof. Apoorvanand
Our republic is at the cross-roads; we need to decide which road to choose - struggle for democracy or descent into fascism. Prof. Apoorvanand, professor at Delhi university and a noted human rights activist, elaborated his view on the challenges facing us in this talk organised on the occasion of the 73rd anniversary of our country's independence. This video has reached about 12,000 people, and has been viewed by ~10,000 people.
Public Interest Lawyer, Supreme Court advocate and activist Prashant Bhushan was convicted of contempt of court for two tweets, a decision which was criticised by several retired Supreme Court judges and eminent advocates. Lawyers for Equality and Lokayat arranged an online talk on the implications of this judgement for freedom of speech. Retired Mumbai High Court Justice and noted activist B.G. Kolse Patil expressed his thoughts on this. We got an overwhelming response for this talk! About 100 people joined our zoom talk from all across Maharashtra.
Webinars organised together with other organisations
1 July: The Reality of Modi Government's Relief Package
By Neeraj Jain
In May 2020, PM Modi announced a Rs 20-lakh crore economic relief package to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. But when Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman gave its details, it turned out to be an empty package, yet another of PM Modi's lies. Neeraj Jain presented an in depth analysis of this relief package in this talk hosted over facebook. This talk was organised by Aam Aadmi Party, Maharashtra. About 2,000 people have viewed this talk so far.
A series of talks was organised by Workers Unity, Lokayat, Janpath, Janata Weekly, Paigam and Samajwadi Samagam titled "India after Corona". As a part of this series, Neeraj Jain delivered a talk on 6th July analyzing the challenges before us. Governments are licking the boots of corporates and have turned a deaf ear towards the cries of their own countrymen. Coordinated efforts from all opposition and socialist groups for demand of alternative policies is the only way out. This series received great response online and about 2,000 people have viewed this talk.
About 40% of the population of Pune city lives in slums. Many slums in the city have been sealed due to increasing number of corona patients. With people in dire straits, Lokayat called upon its network of supporters to donate funds and with the money thus raised, launched a relief programme. We distributed free ration kits to the needy and also provided help to community free food centers. We distributed rations to about 1600 people in 20 settlements in Pune city in the last three months, including those from marginalised communities like transgenders and migrant laborers. We reached out to families in Premnagar, Janwadi, Gokhalenagar, Wadarwadi, Sanghvi, Nanapeth and Shivajinagar areas of Pune. We also extended help to families affected by the cyclone in Ratnagiri, and distributed free ration kits to them.
Lokayat also worked together with other organizations to distribute more than 11,000 food packets to the city's most marginalised sections. Beneficiaries included AIDs patients, sex workers, homeless contract workers, domestic workers, rickshaw drivers, etc. As a part of this, we collaborated with Saad Foundation and distributed 1300+ food packets to sex workers in Budhwar Peth.
Lokayat is also running a helpline to disseminate information about government ration schemes. We have also been helping people not able to access rations provided by the government due to inefficiencies in the bureaucracy or corruption in the ration shops, by forwarding their complaints to the concerned officials of the Pune corporation and Maharashtra state administration, and doing the necessary follow up to ensure that the affected families get their quota of rations.
We started distribution of masks since the unlock process began. We have distributed masks to Kasewadi domestic helpers, daily wage workers in Shivajinagar, and other needy people in Somwar peth, Mangalwar peth, Mominpura, Nanapeth, and Pandavnagar in Pune. We have also distributed masks to police staff at Chaturshrungi, Swargate, Shivajinagar and Deccan police station and to Na. Ta. Wadi bus depot staff. All this distribution was done by local contacts with all required precautions.
The special government ration schemes for the poor during the lockdown period were due to expire on 30 June, 2020. On 25 June, we organised a social media campaign demanding that the government extend this scheme for at least 6 months. This campaign drew a good response not just from Pune people, but also people from all across the state. Many people from Pune slums participated in this program.
We also launched an online campaign demanding that the state government extend its free health care scheme launched to combat the health crisis in the state during the corona pandemic for another six months. This scheme, known as the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana, was going to expire on 31 July 2020.
With the active participation of the people in the slums with whom we had done relief work, we also organised an online protest against the electricity price hike in Maharashtra.
We call upon you to convey these messages to others and to extend every possible help to increase the coverage of the ongoing support work for the needy during this crisis!
Lokayat Social Media Campaigns
3 June: #ScrapNRCNPRCAA #ScrapUAPA
Stop suppressing dissenting voices!
Since December 2019, India witnessed massive protests against the biased and anti-constitutional Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. Muslim women and youth led these massive protests. More than 200 Shaheen baghs bloomed all over India, with slogans calling upon the government to respect the constitution. With the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, these protests halted. The Central government now launched a vicious offensive on the anti-NPR-NRC-CAA protestors, arresting all those active in the protests under false charges, and putting them in jail under the draconian UAPA. The Uttar Pradesh government too has not been far behind, arresting scores of activists across the state. These steps are a clear violation of our constitutional right to protest peacefully. In protest against this, we organized an online campaign demanding the immediate release of all those arrested on false charges and scrapping of the UAPA. Around 100 people participated in this campaign.
The Modi government is running the country solely for the profiteering of giant corporations. Taking advantage of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is repealing or diluting laws that constrain profiteering. As a part of this agenda, the Centre is now seeking to dilute environmental protection laws. This is the real purpose behind the draft Environmental Impact Assessment Act 2020.
There has been a huge nationwide protest against this draft act. We also participated in this campaign.
7 June: #YaadKaroSamvidhan
Remember the Constitution of India
To protest against the indiscriminate arrests of peaceful protesters against the NRC-NPR-CAA, a nationwide online campaign was organised by several prominent activists of the country. We too participated in the campaign, and called upon people to post their videos reading the preamble of the Constitution on their social media accounts and also send them to us. About 50 people participated in this campaign; they sent us their videos in many different languages, including Hindi, English, Marathi, Kannada, etc. Many posted their images with #YaadKaroSamvidhan hashtag to remind governments, police, courts and citizens, that the Constitution of India gives all citizens the right to life, freedom of thought and the right to protest together in peace.
10 June: #BlackLivesMatter
#ICantBreathe against any kind of discrimination
Following the assassination of George Floyd, a black man, in the USA, a huge movement - #BlackLivesMatter spread all across the United States. Along with blacks, whites too participated in very large numbers in these protests which targeted not just racism but also capitalism. Just as blacks have been discriminated against on the basis of color for centuries in the United States, so too in India there exists discrimination based on religion and caste in addition to color, which has even led to lynchings. In solidarity with the movement in America, we raised our voices against discrimination there and here as well. About 80 people posted creative posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!
28 June, 11 July, 25 July: #NationaliseHealthCare
Twitter storms demanding nationalisation of health services!
The government has failed to use the lockdown to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic - it did not take any steps to improve the public health system, nor did it provide adequate relief package for the poor. Consequently, the corona crisis keeps getting worse, with number of cases and deaths rising every day. Due to the dismal state of our public health services, which are badly underfunded and in a poor shape, and a booming private health sector which is not affordable for the poor, we are rapidly moving towards a situation wherein the country will not be in a position to provide decent health care to the poor. The need to demand nationalisation of healthcare has never been more urgent. But because of the lockdown, it was not possible to come out on the streets, and we were able to organise only online activities.
And so we organised three twitter storms in succession, one every fortnight, to create awareness among the people regarding our demand that the government nationalise health care and double or treble its investment in health. Hundreds of people from several states participated in these storms. During these twitter storms, we were able to tweet more than 19,000 tweets each time, and each time our hashtag succeeded in coming among the 20 most trending tweets in the country.
3 Aug: कष्टकऱ्यांचे रक्षाबंधन
Celebrating Rakshabandhan with the true protectors of our society
It is the working classes of our society who are protecting us from the Corona pandemic. All the essential work like cleaning roads, public toilets, sewers, driving buses and building houses and hospitals and looking after their maintenance, is done by the poor classes and the Dalit castes in our society. They are our true protectors, the real heroes. Lokayat activists celebrated Rakshabandhan by tying rakhi to these workers.
2 Aug: #HumDekhenge
In solidarity with Prashant Bhushan
Public Interest Advocate and Activist Prashant Bhushan was convicted of contempt of court by the Supreme Court for two tweets. The tweets were a bona fide expression of concern regarding the functioning of the Supreme Court, which is the fundamental right of every citizen. Along with hundreds of concerned citizens all over the country, Lokayat too ran an online campaign expressing solidarity with Prashant Bhushan and for Freedom of Speech.
9 Aug: Corporate Bhagao, Kisani Bachao
Twitter storm in support of nationwide farmer's protests
The three recently promulgated ordinances on agricultural policy give free rein to big corporate houses to enter into contract farming, engage in unregulated buying and stockpiling of agricultural produce, including foodgrains, while at the same time gradually ending government procurement of foodgrains. The small Indian farmer will be unable to compete with these giant corporations. So these ordinances are in effect the death warrant of the Indian farmer. They will also undermine the food security and sovereignty of the country. On 9th August, the historic 'Kranti Din', Lokayat organised a twitter storm in support of the Nationwide Farmers' Protest. Nearly a 1000 people participated in the storm and we secured 25th all India trending position.
13 Aug and 24 Aug: #RejectNEP2020
Reject anti-education policy: NEP 2020
NEP 2020 is an assault on our Constitutional vision of making available free/affordable education to all children in India, which should seven decades after independence encompass not just school education but college education too. It promotes homogenization of education, which will be very damaging for children's education. Instead of proposing measures to bring back to school the very large number of children who drop out of school even before completing elementary education, it promotes digitalisation and further privatisation of education which will further elitise our education. All these measures will only open up our education sector to profiteering by corporates. We organized a social media campaign and a twitter storm to protest this policy. About 1000 people participated and tweeted about 20,000 tweets enabling our storm to trend at the 26th position nationally.
18 June and 19 July: #आताबास
Stop domestic violence against women!
Incidents of domestic violence are on the rise in India. Figures from the National Commission for Women show that this has intensified during the lockdown. On 18 June, we organised an online campaign against these increasing incidents of domestic violence appealing to people to post messages online that they will not do any form of violence on women and will not allow domestic violence to take place in their presence. About 100 people joined us enthusiastically for this campaign.
Abhivyakti also organized a talk-cum-discussion on this topic on 19 July. Alka Joshi delivered a talk shedding light on the how and why women face gender inequality and its worsening during the lockdown. It was followed by an animated discussion. About 80 people participated in the program.
9 July: #BlackIsBeautiful
'Fair' gone, Now is the turn of 'Lovely'!
Hindustan Unilever had decided to change the name of 'Fair and Lovely' cream as it was being criticized for discrimination based on skin color in advertisements. We ran an online awareness campaign to make people stop looking at their own selves through the eyes of the biased media and corporate houses who want to profit by such biases, and get them to find new ways of looking at beauty beyond the body. There is beauty in our behavior, there is beauty in speech, there is beauty in self-confidence, there is beauty in self-reliance. There is beauty in making our own decisions. The most important thing is that each of us should love our own body, irrespective of whether we are fat or thin, tall or short, dark or fair. Youths responded actively to this campaign and about ~100 of them sent us their pics and videos and also posted on their social media handles.
23 July: #मी_घरकाम_करतो
A step towards gender equality
As a part of a campaign to sensitise men about the patriarchal and masculine values they have imbibed from society, we organised this campaign encouraging men to participate in housework. Housework is traditionally considered inferior work and most men hesitate in doing it, the purpose of this campaign was to break such stereotypes. This campaign invited men to share their pics while doing house chores. We got an amazing response from men, more than 150 men sent us their pictures washing utensils, cooking food, kneading dough, making chapatis, washing clothes, cleaning toilets and all sorts of work. They also posted these pics on their social media handles!
19 Aug: #ChangeAds
Targeting gender roles in Ads
Be it advertisements for soaps, home appliances, cookers, toilet cleaners, baby diapers, etc., all of them have one thing in common. They all show women doing this work. Why are there no men in such advertisements? Such advertisements further deepen the patriarchal values in society, that all household work is to be done by women; children watching these ads unconsciously absorb this value from a very young age. Targeting such ads, Abhivyakti ran a unique campaign #ChangeAds on 19 Aug. About 80 people participated with creative photos in this campaign.
4 July: #DharmikSalokhaDin
Religious Fraternity Day
Since the last few years, Lokayat together with other progressive organisations has been appealing to the people of the country, those who believe in Constitutional Values of Fraternity, Secularism and Democracy, to observe July 4 as RELIGIOUS FRATERNITY DAY, and spread Swami's Vivekananda's message of love and respect for all religions, and his call to the Youth of the country to dedicate their lives for the upliftment of the poor, be they Hindus, Muslims or Christians or any other faith. This year, we conducted an online campaign on this, due to the constraints of the lockdown. More than 50 people participated in this campaign!
5 July: संत विचार आणि धार्मिक सलोखा
Teachings of Saints & Religious Harmony
By H. B. P. Shyamsundar Sonnar Maharaj
Swami Vivekananda was a firm believer in equality of all religions, preached that all religions upheld the same ideals of ‘attainment of liberty and cessation of misery’, and preached equal respect and dignity for all religions, values that were later enshrined in the Indian Constitution. But because his teachings have not reached the masses, fundamentalist forces are misusing his name to spread religious hatred. Lokayat and Kafila organized an online talk in memory of Swami Vivekananda to spread the true message of his teachings on all religions. We received great response for this program. This video has reached about 9800 people!
Annabhau Sathe, a giant of Indian literature, still remains largely unknown. To mark his 100th birth anniversary, a cultural program of reading his stories and discussing them was organised by Kafila on 26 July. More than 80 people attended this program. Kafila also presented a program of songs on 1 Aug. Do watch the cultural program by clicking on the button below. Till date, more than 3,000 people have seen this video.
In today's era of Communalism and divisive hate politics, a social media Campaign was launched by Kafila/Lokayat called #FriendshipBeyondBorders of religion, caste, class, sex, age & region. In this campaign people, across religions, caste, class, sex, age & region, came together on the occasion of FRIENDSHIP DAY and appealed to cultivate friendship and solidarity across the artificial borders being built today.
Eminent artists & activists like T.M. Krishna (world renowned Carnatic vocalist), Neela Bhagwat (Hindustani Classical Singer), Dr. Ram Puniyani (Peace Activist), B. G. Kolse Patil (Former Judge - Bombay High Court), Dr. Manindranath Thakur (Associate Professor, Centre for Political Studies, JNU), Danish Hussain (Dastango), Savita Singh (Feminist Poet) and Vedi Sinha (The Avahan Project) endorsed and participated in the campaign by releasing their statements and art videos for the digital campaign.
The digital campaigners posted their songs, poems, selfie photos with creative posters, calligraphy art posters and creative art videos like 'pass the peace letter' to appeal to fellow citizens to reject hate and embrace love & friendship! About 100 people from 9 states participated!
Collaborative video on #FriendshipBeyondBorders
Songs on the occasion of birth anniversary of Annabhau Sathe
Songs on Independence day
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Neeraj Jain Lokayat Associate Editor, Janata Residence: C-2, Mantri Estate, Salisbury Park, Pune - 37 Ph. Mobile 94222 20311, 91300 99965 Landline: 020-24265181