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in the Election of Tamil Nadu to Represent
as People’s Representative
in the Legislative Assembly

by Christina Samy
Renganathapuram, Tamil Nadu, India

Ms. Delphin, Ms. Leelavathi and Ms. Kothai and Christinasamy  of SWATE
The picture is of Ms. Delphin, Ms. Leelavathi and Ms. Kothai of SWATE, representatives who have been selected by the Integrated People’s Movement to contest in the coming elections. Christinasamy (left) of SWATE is seen presenting the candidates to the public in a meeting held at Karur town on March 15th. Photo courtesy SWATE.

Taking sand from the Cavery River. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.
Taking sand (referred to in the article) from the Cavery River, Tamil Nadu. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.

Christina Samy. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke
Christina Samy in Renganathapuram, Tamil Nadu. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.
Christina Samy is the program coordinator of AREDS (Association of Rural Education and Development Service) and works with SWATE (Society of Women in Action for Total Empowerment) in the Tamil Nadu state of India.

Political empowerment strategy

“WATER will not be privatized, Land for housing and Agriculture to the Dalits and Women. Create more employment possibilities to the rural unemployed. Quality Education and more funds to the service sector. State to own and make responsible in allocation of funds to the primary sector” are the voices that ring in the four Assembly constituencies of Karur district where three SWATE women contest in the election.

Dear Friends and Partners in Development,

Greetings from SWATE.

We are very happy to share with you the growth and the process of our political empowerment strategy with you who have journeyed with us for many years. We appeal to you to be part of this history making by the very women who were not allowed and who were frightened to come out of their houses for the fear of their men and oppressive male dominated system. Today they have grown to the reality of taking politics in their hands and are ready to face the challenges of becoming a policy maker amidst a fundamentalist and anti-women and anti-Dalit political scenario.

Two years ago, 312 persons belonging to the integrated peoples movement together with SWATE under the leadership of Christinasamy of Karur district, Tamil Nadu were imprisoned by the state for taking up the democratic means of agitation action against sand lifting and protection of Water and livelihood resources of the populace. Today, at more or less the same time, three women representatives of the SWATE are contesting in the state elections.

SWATE from its formation of sangams, (village level women organization or association) to a federation and to a women movement has witnessed 5 state elections so far. In all these elections, the elected candidates both to the Legislative Assembly and to the Parliament could not have won without the support of the integrated people’s movements viz. Forum for Protection of Water and Livelihood Resources (FPWLR), Society of Women in Action for Total Empowerment (SWATE), People’s Development Movement, Dalit Rights Awareness and Liberation Movement (DRALM) and Karur District All Labour Union (KADALU). But the elected candidates after having won with the support of these movements did not and could not take a political stand to the demands of the people, neither making a policy nor creating legal measures to safeguard the livelihood resources, nor remove poverty or violence against women. But they were busy selling resources to the contractors and giving away the agricultural lands to the companies. The giving away of lands to the companies was stayed in the courts only with the initiative of the people’s movements.

Today, again, the political parties have come forward with temporary and fancy programmes to allure the disadvantaged, rural and illiterate and ignorant masses from basic and active political participation. In order to make the public and the votes to participate actively even after the elections and to create a pressure and accountability to the voters with the definite issues and programmes, the integrated people’s movement of Karur have decided to contest in three out of four Legislative assembly seats in Karur district and they will support a woman candidate of the opposition party. This means that women will contest in all the four seats of the Legislative Assembly in Karur.

The process to break the hegemony of political parties enables the people to exercise and own the political hegemony

The following are the manifesto of SWATE women in the election:

  • The solution to our problems rests in our collective strength and continuous struggle.
  • We have witnessed and voted in 12 elections and no one representative of the political party we had supported has come forward to create policy and programmes to change our reality.
  • We have been struggling to safeguard our livelihood resources and even been arrested and no one political party has come forward to listen to our 15 years of struggle.
  • The promises given by the political parties to the issues of people have been sidelined and conveniently forgotten and they were only supporting the companies and multinationals.

Hence we can not stay in this situation forever and we need to bring a change and it is time that our voice and voice of the women, Dalits, peasants and unorganized laborers are raised and heard in the Legislative assembly. It is time we directly represent ourselves and become policy makers.

Ever since the announcement and the decision was made and when the press carried out the news that SWATE is fielding its candidature for the election, many people’s movements, and even the political parties from all over the state, have welcomed this move. And, more than we had expected, the support in canvassing and promotion of these women candidates is coming in through phones and mails and letters. Some organizations have even wanted to come to the area for direct canvassing for these candidates.

SWATE together with their candidates

SWATE, together with their candidates, have come forward and they have signed to work for the following:

1. Safeguard and encourage the local industries and voice against privatization of Water, which is not only a source of life but life itself is water.
2. Never be a party to selling the resources to multinational companies
3. Create more local and rural industries to create local employment
4. To implement the rural employment guarantee bill to be taken up in Karur district
5. Fight for the Housing land to the Dalits
6. Agricultural lands to the Dalits
7. Provide potable drinking water to all the villages in the district
8. Policy and programmes to enable all the local self-government bodies to have full power enshrined in the 73rd constitutional amendment bill
9. Prevent the polluted water sent by the dying units to the river
10. To improve the rural infrastructures viz. Roads, conveyance, schools etc. in the district
11. All the funds allocated to the Member of the Legislative Assembly will be transparent and it shall be only used by the Panchayat system with local participation
12. Stop the illegal sand lifting in the rivers.

The three candidates contesting in three constituencies Aravakurichi, Krishnarayapuram and Kulithalai read out the promises to the public before they signed the contract with the people. This is a very new gesture from any candidate.

In solidarity

The victory of these candidates solely rests with the support of the people in concern and people and organizations like yours. We need your solidarity and help to make this initiative become a success and a history in the region. We women have made this decision with the consensus of the people in concern who have come forward with Rs. 20 a member to contribute towards this election expenses.

The other candidates who are nominated by the political parties are supported by the respective parties and business houses. Their expenses amount to Rs. 5 million to Rs.10 million. Our strength is not money but the strength of the number. After all, at the end of the day, it is the number of votes that counts ones victory not the money. But still we need a minimum amount for the propaganda and travel and media to reach everyone in the constituency. The bare minimum we require for each candidate is Rs. 500,000 and for three candidates we require Rs.1.5 million. In Euro 30,000

These expenses are required for the following:

1. Towards hiring of vehicles
2. Towards printing of posters and hand bills
3. Food and travel assistance to the speakers from other states.
4. Public address systems and stage expenses during public meetings in 30 places in the constituency.

As we have the support of the public, this is the minimum assistance we require to create a history and a change in the politics of this state in favour of women and Dalits and other vulnerable sections. The victory of these four women in a district will be an indicator for the successful promulgation of the women bill in the parliament.

We request to you be generous and invite you to be our partner in the initiative and move we have made in women empowerment.

Your contribution even if it is one Euro will play a role in the history of these women candidates of SWATE who have struggled for the safeguarding of Water and other livelihood resources for the past 25 years.

Your contribution can be sent to the following:

Account Holder: ARREDS Trust
Bank Account: 13714
SWIFT Number: 8520190
Bank Name: Indian Overseas Bank
Bank address: Lalapet,
Krishnarayapuram Taluk,
Karur District- 639 105
Tamil Nadu, INDIA.

Thanking you in anticipation for your help and support.

Yours in solidarity,

Christina Samy

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Published in In Motion Magazine April 30, 2006