A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 14, No. 28, 05 – 11 JULY 2011
Shirking Responsibility for Price Rise, Jobless Growth and Corruption
With the UPA Government besieged by corruption, fuel price hike and repression, the Prime Minister engaged in a Press Meet aimed at damage control last week, interacting with editors. The editors, who had been hand-picked with care, spared him any hard-hitting questions. But even so, it was clear that the PM and his Government were seeking to evade any responsibility for the burning problems that their government has foisted on the country.
On the question of corruption, the Prime Minister chose to shoot the messenger – criticising the role of the media and the CAG rather than that of his own Ministers who are mired in scams. In implying that the CAG has no right to brief the media and examine policy issues, the PM is simply trying to muzzle the institution that has brought to light some of the worst scams in India's history. He trivialized the scams by suggesting that rather than being conscious acts of corruption, they were simply a case of the government having to take decisions in an "uncertain" environment in absence of all the facts.
Such disingenuous excuses cannot carry any credibility. After all, the PM was fully aware of the allegations against P V Thomas when he appointed the latter as CVC. In the 2G scam, too, the actions of Maran and Raja were no mere errors of judgment; they were violations of regulations, to benefit certain corporate interests. In the latest scam, the DGH (Director General of Hydrocarbons) and the Oil Ministry's failure to monitor and verify the capital costs claimed by Reliance was not due to any lack of facts at their disposal. The government's questionable pricing policy on oil and gas was also deliberately tailored to benefit private companies, the RIL in particular.
In the revelations of scams and the demands for effective anti-corruption institutions, the PM invoked the bogey of a return to the 'license-permit-quota raj' where 'everybody is policing everybody else.' This, he claimed, would deter government and bureaucrats from 'taking decisions in the national interest when all facts are not known' and thereby endanger the 'gains of liberalisation which we must cherish.' So, according to the PM, vigilance exercised by anti-corruption institutions like CAG or by anti-corruption activists, amounts to undue 'policing'; and liberalization requires that the government be free to 'take decisions' (i.e., flout rules and regulations) in 'national interest' (i.e., corporate interest) without having to face any scrutiny. The PM implied that those making corruption an issue were creating 'an atmosphere of cynicism' which would discourage 'growth impulses' and 'entrepreneurial impulses'.
Reading between the lines of these statements, it is clear that the PM is saying that corruption and scams should be played down in order to appease corporate interests (which he equates with 'growth' and 'entrepreneurship') and stall any rethinking on the 'mantra' of liberalization – even if all the evidence points to the fact that it is those very same policies of liberalization and corporate appeasement which are at the root of the worst scams in the first place.
In a series of instances (major ones being POSCO and Lavasa), the UPA Government has given environmental clearances in the face of explicit evidence of violations of forest and environmental laws. Accepting that the Environment Ministry had taken many such decisions under direct pressure from the PM, Manmohan Singh justified it by claiming that Gandhiji had said 'poverty is the biggest polluter,' and environmental laws needed to be balanced with the needs of growth, that would end poverty.
To justify gross violations of environmental and forest laws in the name of Gandhian concern for the poor reeks of an audacious and dishonest disregard for the truth. In the first place, it is doubtful if Gandhi ever said the words that Manmohan Singh attributes to him (though similar sentiments have been voiced during the climate change debates by US Presidents like George Bush Sr, in an attempt to shift blame for pollution on poor countries like India). Far from generating jobs and alleviating poverty, projects like POSCO threaten to destroy the livelihood and survival of the poor.
The PM's claims of liberalized 'growth' leading to more jobs and poverty alleviation are belied by recent NSSO data, which show a drop in employment rate from 42 % in 2004-05 to 39.2 % in 2009-10 – i.e., in the UPA Government's first tenure. In its first tenure, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) generated a mere 400,000 jobs a year. The NSSO data does show a drop in the narrowly defined unemployment rate from 2.3 % to 2 % in the same period, but this fails to take into account the high degree (51%) of self-employment, much of which is disguised unemployment.
Jobless growth has been accompanied by soaring prices. Again, the PM in his Press Meet predictably blamed inflation on 'global' factors over which the government had no control. For long, the UPA Government has insulted the poor by blaming inflation on the so-called 'increased purchasing power of the people.' Now, Planning Commission Vice-Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia has added insult to injury by claiming that the hike in fuel prices will be helpful in curbing inflation as it would soak up excess liquidity and 'suck money away from the system'!
The UPA Government is squarely responsible for inflicting an unprecedented scale of corruption, inflation, jobless growth and repression on the country. The common people and youth of the country will certainly put Manmohan Singh and his government in the dock for this betrayal.
CPI(ML) CC Meeting Held in Mysore
For the first time in the history of the CPI(ML), a meeting of the Central Committee was held in Mysore. The Karnataka unit of the Party made excellent arrangements for the meeting held from 30 June to July 3 which was followed by a mass political convention addressed among others by Party General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya, CC incharge for Karnataka Com. V Shankar, Karnataka Party Secretary Com. Ramappa, AIPWA Vice-President Com. Rati Rao, and Prof. Laxminarayana. Comrade KS Hariharan of LCC, Kerala also addressed the convention as a special guest. The convention was attended by more than 400 comrades comprising an impressive contingent of workers from Bangalore, women from rural areas of Mysore and many young comrades from the Koppal-Gangavathy region.
Earlier, the CC meeting began on June 30 after paying homage to former Karnataka Secretary Com. J Shankaran and other comrades who passed away since the last meeting of the CC held in Odisha in February. The CC called upon the entire Party to intensify the ongoing campaign against corruption and rising prices and the UPA government's undeclared Emergency. The campaign will culminate in jail bharo/rasta roko agitation on August 9 in state capitals and district headquarters as well as a student-youth mahadharna in Delhi. The CC also took note of various legislative/policy initiatives of the UPA government and clarified the Party's position on these subjects.
1. Food Security: The reality of the UPA Government's much-touted claims of providing 'food security' has been exposed by the Planning Commission position on poverty line and the ongoing BPL census as well as by the latest NAC draft of the Food Security Bill.
According to the Planning Commission, a person consuming Rs 20 per day in urban areas and Rs 15 per day in rural areas is not poor. Such a definition of poverty is an insult to the poor. The ongoing BPL census is also designed to exclude a large section of the poor. The draft Food Bill cannot guarantee food security because it accepts the central government's exclusionary methodology of identifying 'BPL'; and its proposed entitlements for BPL and APL are highly inadequate to meet the nutritional needs of people.
Studies such as the Arjun Sengupta Committee report have suggested that 77% of India's people consume less than Rs 20 a day. In the light of this, the CPI(ML) demands that the Food Security Bill should automatically include this struggling majority of India's people, excluding only the obviously rich from the purview of the PDS. All unorganized sector workers; agricultural labourers; contract workers; workers in ill-paid and insecure jobs (such as ASHA-anganwadi, para teachers etc); as well as all SC/STs who do not meet the criteria for the obviously rich should be included in the BPL category. 50 kg of food grains at Rs 2 per kg should be provided as monthly rations for all such households, and other essential nutritional requirements like dal, cooking oil, vegetables and milk should also be included in PDS rations.
2. Land Acquisition: Land grab has emerged as a major issue across the country, from Jagatsinghpur to Jaitapur, Singur to Bhatta Parsaul to Guwahati. The UPA Govt.'s Land Acquisition Amendment and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill is quite inadequate in protecting the interests of poor farmers and tribals. The Government is trying to protect the state from the adverse political fallout of land grab, but continues to facilitate land acquisition for private/corporate purposes. The CPI(ML) demands a complete stop to forced acquisition and legal provisions for protection of agricultural land; along with improved and enhanced price and compensation for small landowners and landless labourers where consensual acquisition for public purpose is unavoidable.
3. Lokpal Bill: The government draft of the Lokpal Bill is toothless since it aims to keep out the PM, MPs as well as higher judiciary out of its purview. Worse, it is heavily tilted against those fighting corruption, since its tough punitive provisions against 'false complaints' can only serve to discourage and intimidate anti-corruption activists. The PM, MPs, Ministers and higher judiciary must certainly be under the purview of the Lokpal Bill, and instead of draconian measures against 'false complaints,' there should be measures to protect anti-corruption activists at the grassroots.
The UPA Government, in its offensive against the anti-corruption movement, is declaring that street protests, hunger fasts, and citizens' activism poses a threat to democracy. The CPI(ML) holds that democracy cannot be restricted to the confines of parliament alone; citizens have every right to push parliament to adopt laws and policies of their choice, through all means of democratic struggle and mass mobilization. The Government's attempts to delegitimize protest and justify repression must be exposed as an attempt to enforce an undeclared Emergency. The true threat to democracy lies in these repressive moves of the Government – and the people's movement against corruption needs to expand its scope to defend the range of democratic freedoms.
4. UID (Aadhar) Project: It is unacceptable that the UID (Aadhar) project is being implemented without any debate or enactment in Parliament, let alone any wider, informed debate in society. The UID Project is beset with serious concerns regarding privacy issues; it is apprehended that personal data secured in the name of UID may be misused for commercial/surveillance purposes. Also, making social welfare schemes contingent on UID is dangerous because many who fail to get UIDs may be excluded from the schemes and deprived of their rights. The viability of biometric identification in a country like ours is questionable. Highly dubious US MNCs with a failed track record of providing biometric security systems have been entrusted with the UID Project. Pending a transparent debate on these issues – in the public and in Parliament – the UID Project must be stalled.
5. Communal Violence Bill: An effective law against Communal Violence was the need of the hour, in the lights of the long record of communal riots and state-sponsored pogroms in India. But the draft CV Bill's definition of 'communal violence' is needlessly narrow, stipulating that such violence must "destroy the secular fabric of the nation" if it is to come under the purview of the law. It also needlessly invokes the President's Rule law. The Bill therefore calls for suitable amendment before it is enacted.
6. Women's Reservation: Once again the UPA Government is preparing for the empty ritual of attempts to evolve a 'consensus' on the Women's Bill, as a pretext for failing to introduce it for voting in Parliament. The CPI(ML) demands that the Bill to reserve 33% seats for women in Assemblies and Parliament be introduced without further delay, and without truncation in the monsoon session of Parliament.
7. NMIZ Policy: The Central Govt.'s proposal of an 'NMIZ (National Manufacturing Industrial Zone) Policy' of manufacturing zones where labour laws would effectively be suspended is a new and even worse version than the discredited SEZs. The working class movement must reject and resist the NMIZ policy.
8. Seed Bill: The proposed Seed Bill, recently cleared by the UPA's Cabinet, is a blueprint for robbing farmers of their traditional sovereignty over seeds and shackling farmers and Indian agriculture to the MNC seed monopolies. The Bill aims to pave the way for unreliable and unsafe hybrid and 'GM' seed varieties being researched and marketed by MNC seed companies without regard for concerns regarding bio-safety and safety for human consumption. The Bill also has no adequate provisions for compensation of farmers or liability for seed companies in case of seed failure or poor quality seeds. The peasant movement will resist the existing Seed Bill which is an assault on farmers' rights, and will struggle for safeguards against commercial and MNC interests seeking to control the seed market, and guarantee of farmers' rights to affordable and high quality seeds.
Combating Corruption Today
Who is Undermining Democracy-
People's Movement or the Govt
The Student-youth Campaign Against Corruption initiated by All India Students'Association (AISA) and Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) organised a symposium at the Gandhi Peace Foundation in Delhi on July 5th 2011. This symposium was held in the backdrop of a spate of scams and at a time when the beleaguered UPA has launched an all-out offensive against every voice protesting against this regime of corruption and corporate loot. Protests are being termed as dangerous 'street coercion' by Congress spokespersons, and civil society intervention is being portrayed as a threat to democracy and the sovereignty of the Parliament.
Noted journalists Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Seema Mustafa, Anand Pradhan and Ajit Sahi addressed the symposium as well as teachers and intellectuals including Prof. Arun Kumar, Dr. Maninder Thakur and Prof. Manager Pandey (all three JNU faculty members). Students from JNU, Jamia Millia Islamia and Delhi University also spoke at the symposium.
On behalf of the Student-youth Campaign Against Corruption, Sandeep Singh (AISA's National President) addressed the gathering and pointed out that corruption today is spawned and encouraged by the economic policies of neo-liberalisation. Prof. Arun Kumar talked about the economy of black money, and said that the generation of black money was no aberration, it is systemic and systematic. He pointed out that black money accounts for a whopping 50% of India's GDP. He also asserted that the nexus of business men, bureaucrats and politicians have made laws to enable this massive drain of wealth and it is precisely this nexus which is preventing any action being taken to stop this loot.
Noted Senior Journalist and currently resident editor of The Sunday Guardian, Seema Mustafa said that the Congress today is intimidating civil society, attacking activists physically or verbally and trying to hold up the Lokpal Bill or dilute it so as to make it completely ineffective. Every dissenting voice, whether that of an activist, or the CAG, is being attacked and academic spaces of dissent are being reduced. She also pointed out that media coverage of the scams has very carefully protected corporate houses – while the Kalmadis and Rajas are attacked the Tatas and the Ambanis are being protected.
Dr. Maninder Thakur asserted that the struggle against corruption should be linked to the struggle for socialism. Ajit Sahi of Tehelka pointed out that institutionalised corruption is rampant in media houses and the journalists are not supposed to report real news – if they do, the management will simply sack them. Today, several journalists are not even aware that their right to report freely is protected by the Working Journalists Act and the Industrial Disputes Act. And on the other hand, there are attempts to dispense off and dilute these protective legislations. As a result, there are no unions in newspapers, reporters are removed every day and we read only paid news.
Noted senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta also pointed out how the nexus between business men, politicians and bureaucrats is deliberately being encouraged in India, and how policies are encouraging corruption. Anand Pradhan (IIMC Faculty member) also pointed out that corruption is institutionalised today in our economic policies. The Congress is saying that RSS is behind every anti-corruption protest, however the fact of the matter is that the Congress and the UPA is benefitting the BJP-RSS-NDA through its regime of corruption. Anand Pradhan also pointed out that imperialist powers like the US and corporate houses as well as groups like the CII and Assocham were essentially directing and writing our economic policies. He said that it is precisely these forces that were undermining the parliament, not civil society.
Prof. Manager Pandey said that Manmohan Singh had indeed learnt governance from the British, and the existing system of corporate loot is an indication of this. He said that the fact that resources belonging collectively to the entire nation are being handed out by the government to a handful of corporations is the biggest corruption.
Sucheta De (GS, AISA's JNU unit). Sunny Kumar (GS, AISA's DU unit) and Aslam from RYA related experiences of campaigning against corruption and corporate loot in Delhi. They underlined the need to connect the fight against corruption to the fight against inequality, poverty and unemployment and the struggle for social change and social justice. At the end of the symposium, Sandipan, Delhi State President of AISA, thanked all those present and appealed to everyone to take forward the ongoing campaign in the days to come.
Human Chain in Chennai against New Fee Structure: AISA held a protest in the form of human chain on 2nd July in Chennai demanding withdrawal of the new fee structure recommended by Raviraja Panidian Commitee. Chennai and Tiruvallore district students participated in this human chain. It was led by comrades Bharathi and Malarvizhi, State President and Secretary respectively of AISA. Over 200 students, youth and workers formed the human chain. Com. AS Kumar, SCM, spoke among the protesters.
Dharna in Pilibhit against the Arrest of CPI(ML) Leader
Uttar Pradesh State Committee of the CPI(ML) has strongly condemned the arrest and jailing of its State Committee's Standing member and National Executive Committee member of the All India Kisan Mahasabha Comrade Afroz Alam. In a strongly worded letter to the State's Home Secretary the Party has protested the arrest and physical assault on him inside the jail. Party has demanded his immediate and unconditional release, high level enquiry of the whole incident, punishing the real conspirators and strict action against the guilty policemen. Expressing deep ire at the blatant harassment and pressing for the above demands to be responded to urgently the Party held a dharna in Pilibhit on 4 July.
As reported in detail in earlier issues (Vol.14, #13, 31 May-06 June, and other issues) of ML Update about the aggressive efforts for landgrab in Pilibhit district by one Congress leader BM Singh aided by the administration and police. Comrade Afroz, along with other Party and AIALA and AIKM leaders has been leading the movement to foil the attempt to grab village and forest land. In May this year CPI(ML) had asked why the forest rights act was not being implemented in the district and that CPI(ML) accepted the challenge from the state that wants to evict and displace lakhs of farmers. The peasants are ready to die but not give up their land.
On 2nd July the Congress Party supporters brought persons unknown to the locality and tried to illegally capture land. Police did not act even after receiving a complaint. Meanwhile, the Congress supporters got one hut consigned to flames to frame CPI(ML) leaders Comrades Afroz and Prahlad (another Party activist). The police, which remained unmoved till now hurriedly pressed several cases against these two and many other Party leaders. A concerted effort is being made by the Mayawati administration to frame them under more false cases and eventually press gangster act. The Party will intensify agitation to foil these attempts.
On 26 June, the Bindukhatta area in Nainital district held its Party Conference which was addressed by CPI(ML)'s State incharge Comrade Raja Bahuguna. He said that the Party will gain strength when the lower/area level committees become stronger. For strengthening the Party in Bindukhatta it is important for Kisan Mahasabha (AIKM) to take regular initiatives. The struggle that has been initiated by the Kisan Mahasabha for bringing the panchayati rights to the khattavasis and vanvasis must be carried to its conclusion. The Congress and BJP govts have always cheated the forest dwellers and gurjars. The Conference fixed various targets and responsibilities and in the end resolutions were passed. Many other Party and mass organisation leaders also addressed the Conference. Comrade Man Singh Pal was elected secretary.
26 June Protest in Uttarakhand: As part of the nationwide protests on the 37th anniversary of Emergency, different Party units of the State held programmes to protest the undeclared emergency, state repression, corporate loot, massive corruption and yet another hike in diesel-kerosene-LPG prices. An effigy of UPA Govt was burnt at Bhagat Singh Chauk and nukkad sabha was organised in Bindukhatta led by Comrade Raja Bahuguna. The meeting also condemned and protested the attack on AISA President Sandeep Singh in Ranchi by the Congress goons.
In Srinagar in Garhwal, the meeting was organised at Gola Park led by Comrade Indresh Maikhuri. In Pithoragarh the protest meeting was held at Gandhi Chauk led by comrades Jagat Martoliya and Govind Kaphalia. Many other leaders of the Party also addressed these meetings and there were hundreds in audience at both the places.
Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication, R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22442790, e-mail: email@example.com, website: www.cpiml.org