Activists in Karnataka launched a concerted campaign called Janaagraha Andolana to ensure that the government heeds to people’s demands amidst the precarious Covid-19 pandemic.
The campaign was launched on 6th May by Panditaradhya Shri of Sanehalli. Centenarian Freedom fighter and activist Dr H. S. Doreswamy, Litterateur Baraguru Ramachandrappa, Retired IAS Officer Sasikanth Senthil, Senior Social Activist K.L. Ashok and Dalit Movement leader Mavalli Shankar were a part of this effort and inaugurated the campaign.
As a part of the campaign, an urgent letter signed and endorsed by more than 400 dignitaries and social activists working in different parts of the states representing various sectors was handed over to the Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa’s secretary on 10th May 2021 by the volunteers of the Janaagraha Andolana campaign, Varada Rajendra and Ravi Mohan.
The detailed urgent letter urges the government to initiate five measures on an urgent basis to save the lives and livelihoods of the people of Karnataka. The urgent demands put forth are with relation to the availability of Oxygen Beds in the state and provisioning of Vaccines, Ration Kits, Financial assistance to the families during the pandemic period and a compensation amount to each of the family who have lost their bread-winning member.
The demands are listed as under:
1. Corona Care Centres (CCC) and Oxygen-supported beds should be swiftly increased on a daily basis all over the state and information on the same should be made available to people daily.
2. Vaccines should be made available free of cost to citizens of all ages and arranged without any delay.
3. The government itself should provide complete food kits to all the families in the state free of cost.
4. Financial assistance of Rs. 5000 per month must be provided to all the unorganized workers, auto-taxi drivers, weavers, agricultural workers, small traders, self-employed persons and so on, just as it is done by the Delhi government. They should not be made to go from pillar to post but the amount should be transferred directly to their bank accounts.
5. A relief of Rs. 5 lakhs to be given to all the families who have lost their bread-winners due to Corona, to help them rebuild their lives afresh.
The urgent letter not just urges the government to initiate the measures but also points to sources from where the finances for undertaking the measures can be mobilized. These are broadly pointing to the possibility of imposing a Corona Cess of 2% on the turnover of all Corporates functioning in Karnataka and withholding unnecessary expenditures of the government and using them for the fight against Covid-19 pandemic. The other suggestion is to demand the Union Government to immediately release all funds due to the state on various accounts.
Highlighting the precarity of the issue, the urgent letter also warns the Chief Minister has to respond to the demands put forth immediately. The letter reads
“As the Chief Minister if you do not rush to the aid of the people through such bold measures, then we will also be constrained to take a decision to protest while abiding by the Covid regulations and even to reach out to you.” Because the people’s living is more important than our lives for us. We can never remain mute spectators to the crumbling life of the people.”
The three proposed sources for mobilizing the funds are:
1. Charge 2% Corona Cess on all Corporate business houses in Karnataka. Charge 5% tax on the annual incomes of all Crorepati business people and politicians. Promulgate an ordinance to the effect that such amounts should be immediately paid to the government.
2. Withhold money sanctioned for projects which are not pressing or very urgent in nature, like Metro expansion, roads expansion, construction of government mansions, grants to maths and other religious/community institutions etc. and divert the same towards fighting the Covid pandemic.
3. Demand the Central Government to immediately release all amounts pertaining to drought relief, flood relief, GST share, planning commission grants etc. Bring pressure on the PM to cancel all luxurious & wasteful expenditures like the ‘Central Vista’ [the Rs. 20,000 crore ‘Modi Mahal’] and to extend Covid special aid to all the states.
It must be noted here that most of the demands put forth have been suggested by eminent researchers, policymakers and subject matter experts as well. Recent reports studying the various impacts of Covid-19 and the lockdowns imposed by the governments to curtail the spread of the pandemic on various issues including Poverty and Hunger, Status of the Working Classes have all recommended similar measures. The neighboring states of Karnataka including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh have also resorted to similar measures.
The signatories of the urgent letter includes prominent names from the state of Karnataka like Actor Chetan, Former Minister and Writer BT Lalita Naik, Literary Critic Dr. GN Devy, Dr CS Dwarakanath, Dr Prakash Kammaradi, Dr Bhoomi Gowda, Dinesh Amin Mattu, Prof. Purushottama Bilimale, K Neela, Yaasin Malpe, B Suresh, Badagalapura Nagendra, Swarna Bhat, Kadidalu Shyamanna, Dr HS Anupama, Noor Sridhar, HR Basavarajappa, Kuruburu Shanthakumar, Guruprasad Keregodu and Dr Vasu HV.