A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 16 No. 27 25 JUN- 1 JUL 2013
Uttarakhand's Himalayan Tragedy:
Natural Disaster of Man-Made Origin
The unusually high rainfall and flash floods devastating the Uttarakhand region have cost lives that are yet to be fully counted. Thousands of local people, pilgrims and tourists still await rescue even as the heroic rescue efforts by Armed forces, and relief efforts by local people who are putting aside their own adversity to help others in distress, continue. As we go to press, one rescue helicopter has crashed, tragically killing several people including 8 armed forces personnel.
At the same time, India's ruling class politics has cut a sorry figure, with a sordid drama of one-upmanship. The macho boasts made by Narendra Modi's spin doctors of 'rescuing 15000 Gujaratis' are not only unsubstantiated, they stand in stark contrast to the modesty of those on the ground who are truly risking lives to save people, without unseemly boasts of body-counts. They are also a shameful display of regionalism at a time when people's concerns for the disaster-affected are overcoming boundaries of states and nations. The helicopter trips by various political 'VIPs' and photo ops by Congress and UPA leaders 'flagging off' relief trucks are no less unseemly and shameful.
The inescapable fact of the matter is that both the BJP and the Congress that have ruled Uttarakhand and the Centre are implicated in this disaster. To call it a 'natural' disaster is only a half-truth. The unfolding tragedy of Himalayan proportions has been caused by decades of criminal policies of plundering hills and rivers in the name of 'development'.
Environmentalists and people of Uttarakhand have pointed out time and again that the Himalayas are young mountains, prone to high intensity rainfall events, cloud bursts, flash floods, and landslides. The rivers in the region are silt-laden and capable of great destruction. Yet the model of 'development' imposed on the State – riding rough-shod over the struggles of the local people – has been one of hundreds of hydro-electric projects, big dams, illegal sand mining in river beds, deforestation, unregulated tourism, indiscriminate real estate activity and urbanisation on mountainsides and river-beds in the absence of any zoning laws, and indiscriminate blasting of mountains for roadways. All this has happened without any assessment of the carrying capacity of the region's delicate environment. And all this brutal ravaging has rendered 'nature' less able to cope with cloudbursts and rainfall.
Those who have raised environmental concerns have been derided and branded as 'anti-development.' Resistance to environmental regulations has been guided, not by the purported concern for local people's development, but by the powerful public and private sector hydel power and real estate contractors whose interests are threatened by regulations. One glaring fact is the failure to issue a timely warning against the disaster, and the delay in beginning effective rescue operations. In spite of disaster after disaster, India is yet to invest in proper mechanisms to predict disasters and cope with disasters.
The Uttarakhand CM has pooh-poohed the criticisms linking the disaster with the development policy of the State, claiming that all projects commissioned by his predecessor governments as well as in his tenure, enjoyed the approval of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The CM's claims are belied by the facts. A CAG report has pointed out that Uttarakhand's disaster management authority formed in 2007 did not hold even a single meeting till date, and had warned that the 53 hydel power projects proposed on the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers would damage the mountains, dry up the riverbeds, and increase chances of flash floods. The CAG report was flouted – and there are now around 680 dams in various stages of commissioning, construction, or planning in Uttarakhand. The CM has claimed that the dams have actually helped to control the floods – but this claim is yet to be substantiated. Instead, there are reports from some areas – such as Srinagar town and Rudraprayag – that release of water from hydropower projects, along with the illegally dumped muck in the river beds resulting in diversion of the river course, contributed to the force of the disaster.
Moreover, the State Government stubbornly refused to learn lessons from past disasters. Just last year, when Uttarkashi witnessed devastation due to flash floods, the State's Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre report had recommended legislation to "strictly regulate developmental initiatives in close vicinity of streams and rivers." Needless to say, no steps have been taken in this direction. Similarly, following landslides in Rudraprayag last year, the State's DMMC had recommended a ban on the use of explosives in the fragile Himalayan terrain for infrastructure developmental works. In spite of this, the use of explosives is rampant. Reports from the ground by CPI(ML) activists indicate that even now, in the midst of the disaster, the Border Roads Organisation is using explosives to clear the roads blocked by landslides. The possibility of the extreme climate events being linked to climate change is also strong – and calls for urgent investigation and corrective action.
While media attention and that of the ruling political class has focused almost exclusively on the pilgrims and tourists, the plight of the people of Uttarakhand has been criminally neglected. Many of the local people working as guides or running shops in the affected areas, agricultural workers, as well as those eking out a living gathering rare herbs and fungi, are yet to be rescued. The numbers of such people missing or killed is yet to be estimated. Their homes and sources of livelihood – cars, transport animals, shops etc – have been washed away. While those pilgrims being rescued are starting to see an end to their ordeal, the local people's struggle for survival and rehabilitation is just to begin.
Relief and rehabilitation will of course be a priority for people's movements at this juncture. At the same time, it is equally urgent to struggle to ensure a reversal of the policies that lead to such tragedies in the first place. The State and Central Governments must immediately halt the construction of ongoing hydel power projects and declare a moratorium on new ones, until a comprehensive review of the existing projects and of projected environmental impacts is carried out by an impartial agency. Similarly the use of explosives in construction projects must be stopped, and laws enacted and implemented to regulate constructions in ecologically sensitive areas. The local people must be consulted and their approval taken before initiating any new development project. The only true homage we can pay to the countless people who lost their lives in this tragedy can be to ensure that such a tragedy is never repeated again, and that the right lessons are taken from it.
Contribute Generously to Support the Flood Devastated People in Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand is suffering a calamity of Himalayan proportions, with heavy rains and cloudbursts causing devastating floods. Thousands of lives are likely to have been lost, and thousands remain stranded, deprived of homes, loved ones, and means of livelihood. CPI(ML) shares the grief of the bereaved families.
Activists of CPI(ML) on the ground, especially in the worst-affected Garhwal and Pithoragarh regions, are organising rescue and relief operations, working closely with rescue teams.
We are launching a nationwide campaign for flood relief in Uttarakhand. We appeal to you to make your contributions by cheque/draft in favour of "CPIML". Please indicate that the donation is for "Uttarakhand Flood Relief".
Please send your donations to:
U-90, Shakarpur Delhi 110 092, India
The tragedy in Uttarakhand today is more man-made than natural, linked directly with the corporate-driven, anti-people model of 'development' undertaken in the State, involving indiscriminate deforestation, big dams in ecologically sensitive areas, plunder of natural resources and rampant absence or violation of environment protection laws. The consequences today are being borne by the poorest people in Uttarakhand. In the days to come, CPI(ML) will also seek your support and cooperation in the struggle to ensure that Uttarakhand's poor receive the compensation and rehabilitation measures that they need, and that immediate steps are taken to reverse the disastrous course of environmental devastation in the name of development.
Contact numbers of comrades organising relief work in Uttarakhand:
Jagat Martoliya: 09411308833
Indresh Maikhuri: 09412120571
CPI(ML)'s Uttarakhand State Secretary Rajendra Pratholi can also be contacted at 09456188623 for more details.
Left Parties to Hold Bihar Bandh Against Bagaha Firing
New Delhi, 25 June 2013
In a heinous instance of police barbarity, police firing on peaceful protesters in Bagaha (West Champaran district of Bihar) and killed 6. Those killed were from the scheduled tribes, and had been protesting against the suspected killing of a missing young man from their village.
State repression, unleashing bullets and batons on protesters, especially on those from oppressed communities and minorities, has become the order of the day for the Nitish Government. In 2011, police firing and brutality at Forbesganj killed 4 people from the poor minority community. In 2012, police firing on protesting students at Madhubani claimed one life. And in 2012, the police brutally beat up peaceful protesters at Aurangabad, who were protesting against the murder of a popular panchayat mukhiya. The Bihar police also brutally lathicharged a teachers' protest in Patna, inviting censure from the Supreme Court. The Bagaha firing is the latest in this long line of police atrocities.
The CPI(ML) demands arrest and prosecution of the guilty police officials, suspension of the DM and the SP, and compensation of Rs 10 lakh for each victim's family. The CPI(ML) along with other Left parties CPI, CPI(M) and Forward Bloc has called for a Bihar Bandh against the firing on 27 June.
The BJP's call for a bandh against the firing smacks of hypocrisy. Till the other day, BJP was a loyal part of the same Government, and never raised its voice against any of the firings and brutality that took place. In fact, the Forbesganj firing took place at the instance of the local BJP MLC, who unleashed the police to protest his own corrupt bid at grabbing public land. The BJP's opportunistic claim of resisting state repression must be thoroughly exposed.
- Prabhat Kumar,
For CPI(ML) Central Committee
The Stage Is Set for the Lok Sabha Elections
The stage is almost set for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections and battle lines are nearly drawn. Major parties of the ruling classes – whether 'national' parties like the Congress and the BJP or the host of regional parties wielding power in various states – are giving finishing touches to their battle plans. The contours of potential pre- or post-poll coalitions have also begun suggesting themselves amidst ongoing political realignments. Several possibilities that were being speculated for quite some time have started taking shape, setting off a chain of rapid political developments.
The only point that now remains to be settled is the schedule - whether elections are to be held ahead of schedule along with the next round of Assembly elections due later this year or we have to wait till early next year when the present Lok Sabha completes its five-year term. Considering the current pace of political developments, it is entirely possible that the Congress may go for elections ahead of the scheduled time.
The BJP has made up its mind to have Modi as its mascot for the coming Lok Sabha elections. The BJP leadership must have anticipated the consequences that followed, like the revolt of Advani and the exit of the JD(U) from the NDA, but the fact that the party still fell for the Modi gamble clearly shows the party's desperation. Almost all poll surveys have been pointing to the fact that while the Congress is surely losing ground, the BJP is not gaining in proportion. It now remains to be seen whether the Sangh Parivar's desperate gamble to play the Modi tune to improve the party's poll prospect pays off or proves counterproductive. Advani and his supporters are openly apprehensive that the BJP's decision to act in haste in pressing the Modi button may only leave the party with the destiny of repenting at leisure.
As far as the Congress is concerned, the only way the party can really hope to gain or salvage anything is by cornering or isolating the BJP or damaging its prospects. In states where there are multi-corner contests or where the Congress has to contend primarily with non-BJP parties, the Congress has little chances of improving its position. So far, the Congress has been successful in dethroning the BJP in as many as four states, directly in Uttarakhand and Karnataka and indirectly in Jharkhand and Bihar. Unlike the BJP, the Congress also has developed the skill of doing business with mutually opposed parties in several states – like the SP and BSP in UP, and now the RJD and JD(U) in Bihar, or for that matter, the TMC and CPI(M) in West Bengal.
Between the Congress and the BJP, or a possible UPA-III and NDA-III if you will, hangs the prospect of the mythical 'third front'. The two traditional pillars of a third front – a sizable non-Congress non-BJP party of the Janata Dal variety and a numerically significant Left bloc – have weakened over the years. While the Janata Dal has been splintered into as many as four parties, the Left bloc has lost in numbers. Moreover, having failed miserably in its 2009 attempt to cobble a 'third front', the CPI(M) has now become wary of making another experiment. The new noise of a 'federal front' comprising a disparate group of ruling regional parties like the TMC in West Bengal, JD(U) in Bihar and BJD in Odisha is more 'sound and fury' with little substance. Of course, with the chances of an NDA-III or a UPA-III looking rather slim at the moment, the rise of a somewhat different post-poll coalition arrangement cannot be ruled out.
With the possibilities of multipolar contests in many states and the Congress, BJP and many ruling regional parties all suffering from serious crisis of credibility, the coming Lok Sabha elections promise to be much more competitive than most of our bourgeois ideologues would like. Of course, the BJP and the Congress would try their level best in the coming days to reduce the election to a pro- and anti-Modi contest. The revolutionary Left must counter this game-plan of the ruling classes with vigorous preparations for a well-organised election campaign that must assert the growing strength of people's struggles as the most reliable bulwark of resistance against corporate fascism. The determination to roll back the plundering pro-corporate policies and secure greater rights for the deprived and oppressed people must be the defining spirit of Left intervention in the coming electoral battle.
Protests Continue on the Streets of Tinsukia
Since the assassination of Com. Gangaram Koul, on 25th March 2013, not a single day has passed without protests in the Tinsukia district and Assam, demanding the arrest of the accused, all of whom are Congress leaders, the prime accused among them being Mr. Raju Sahu - one of the Parliamentary Secretaries and an MLA from Chabua Legislative Assembly Constituency and also a member of the faction within the Congress that is opposed to the Chief Minister of Assam.
On 12th June 2000 protesters took part in a street march in Tinsukia, and slogans of 'Arrest Raju Sahu immediately, Tarun Gogoi down down, oust Tarun Gogoi to save democracy, to save Assam, down with Gogoi's killers' raj and mafiadom' reverberated.
The march, which started from the Durgabari Hall, Tinsukia was led by Com. Subhas Sen, Rubul Sharma, Vivek Das, Arup Mahanta, Shubhrajyoti Bardhan, Balindra Saikia, Haripada Sarkar, Shikha Das, Gangaram Koul's life-partner Shakeela Munda, Subhas Singh, Pawan Majhi, Gobin Proja, Sunil Tanti, Govinda Namashudra, Chandan Handique,(Brihattar Asamiya Juba Manch) and others. The march became a road-blockade that lasted for more than an hour at Tinsukia, the busiest spot of the town. The protesters, braving the scorching heat, demanded that the D.C. come to the spot of the road blockade to accept the memorandum addressed to the Governor of Assam. At this spot the effigy of Raju Sahu was burnt. Then the marchers pushed in though the main gate of the Circle Office (S.D.C.) who accepted the memorandum. Inside the complex of the Circle Office, a protest meeting was held which was addressed by Comrades Subhas Sen and party State Secretary Bibek Das. The processionists then again marched back to the Durgabari Hall where a mass meeting was held which was presided over by Com. Harendra Nath Borthakur – the veteran CPI (ML )member and the President of the Sodou Asom Janasangskritik Parishad.
A Souvenir named "Uttaran" (Transformation) in memory of Com. Koul was released by noted intellectualual and economist Dr. Jyoti Prasad Chatiha, and party Polit Bureau member Rubul Sharma, State Secretary Bibek Das, Shakeela Munda, Raju Bhumij, Gobin Proja, Bojen Konwar and others addressed the gathering. Com. Balindra Saikia Sang a popular song composed by Com. Bibek Das depicting the arduous life of tea workers and a Jhumair song was also sung by Shri Suman Tanti. The leaders gave a call to the gathering to come in large numbers to join CPI (ML) to take Com. Koul's struggles forward. A resolution was passed in the house asking the Govt. to arrest Raju Sahu by the 15th of August (Independence Day) 2013 or the people will have the right to gherao Raju Sahu when and where he will be available after that date, and administer a fitting punishment.
Black Day Observed Against POSCO
On 22nd June, a Protest Day was held by four Left parties, the CPI(ML)Liberation, CPI ML), CPI(ML)ND and SUCI (C) throughout Odisha, demanding to scrap the POSCO project and withdrawal of all police cases against the anti-POSCO farmers.
The protest day was observed at Bhubaneswar, Angul, Berhampur, Rayagada , Kendrapara, Bhadrak and at the POSCO project sites at Patna and Govindpur areas. This is the first time the protest was organized as a black day in different places.
A big rally of about 500 protesters started from Bhubaneswar railway station to Odisha Vidhan Sabha Marg, raising slogans against corporate land grab and police atrocities, and against the Naveen Patnaik and Manmohan Singh Governments.
The meeting was addressed by Comrade Radhakanta Sethi, State Committee member of the CPI(ML) Liberation and the meeting was presided by Comrade Yudhistir Mohapatra, CCM of CPI(ML) Liberation, Comrade Sivram of CPI(ML) and Comrade Santosh Rath of SUCI spoke, declaring that the Naveen Government was acting as MNC agent in the state. All speakers congratulated the anti-POSCO movement on completing 8 years of heroic struggle.
Rally and Convention in Srikakulam
On the morning of 17th June, a dharna was held by the CPI(ML) before Revenue Divisional office at Palakonda in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh and a memorandum given on the burning issues of land, PDS, support prices and opposing the 'elephant zone.' An impressive rally was held in the town. In the afternoon a Convention was held on the theme of "Corporate destruction of people's lives and tasks of the revolutionary left". P Bhaskar, member of Vutharandhra (northern Andhra comprising Visakha, Vijayanagaram and Srikakulam districts) regional leading team presided over the meeting and chief guest N Murthy and central leaders M Malleswara Rao, B Bangar Rao, State leaders B Vasudeva Rao, Sanyasi Rao, district leaders M Rama Rao, Dushyanth, Raju, Naidu and local advocate Chandramouliswara Rao addressed the Convention. Around 250 people attended the Convention, mostly youth from the old struggle area. The JSM unit of Boddapadu inspired people with their cultural performances.
Palakonda, a divisional headquarter of Srikakulam district was an important centre of Srikakulam struggle. Preceding the Convention, a good campaign was undertaken in four mandals in Vijayanagaram district and eight mandals of Srikakulam. 8000 leaflets were widely distributed and 500 posters put up. A mass fund campaign was conducted in mandal towns of Palakonda, Parvathipuram, and Veeraghattam.
Adivasis in Gujarat Protest Against Corporates and Land Mafia Protected by Modi Govt
On 19th June, the CPI(ML)'s Valsad unit in Gujarat held a demonstration at the DM's office in which a large number of poor adivasi workers and peasants demanded their rights to forests, land and proper wages. In spite of heavy rains for the past 10 days, the participation in the Rally was impressive, with people from far-off hilly and forest areas like Kaprada, Dharampur, and Umbergaon. The rally began from Valsad station, with scores of adivasi men and women raising red flags and slogans against plunder of land and rights by corporations and land mafia protected by the Gujarat Government.
The rally was led by the party's Valsad in-charge Lakshman Bhai Varia, and among the leaders who participated were PB member Prabhat Kumar, Gujarat's state in-charge Ranjan Ganguly, RYA National Secretary Amit Patanvaria, adivasi youth leader and the party's Kaprada unit's secretary Kamlesh Bhai, Comrade Mohan Bhai of Bhilad, Comrade Santu Bhai, Comrade Mohan Bhai Dubhada of Sarigam Industrial Area, and Comrade Jayanti Ben.
A 7-member delegation met the DM at the end of the Rally and submitted a memorandum with the following issues:
Land mafia in collusion with the Government machinery is grabbing the traditional land of the adivasis by force or deceit. The police is not filing the complaints of adivasis in this regard, falsely claiming the matter to be a civil rather than criminal one. Police harassment of adivasis is rampant in the area. GIDC (Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation) is colluding with land mafia to falsely obtain NOCs for company owners from panchayats and gram sabhas. Adivasi villages in coastal areas are being cleared out to make way for ports.
Valsad district, especially the Kaprada taluka, has vast forest areas. Under the Forest Rights Act 2005 the adivasis cultivating this land have the right to the land. Yet they are being evicted by the Forest Department in collusion with the land mafia, by using ploys such as fencing off land in the name of plantation nursery, demarcation line etc and handing it over to land mafias to 'develop logistic centres'. According to a survey conducted by party comrades recently, 234 adivasi families are cultivating 987 acres of land in Kaprada taluka, and have been doing so for generations, yet they have no papers to prove their ownership.
Vapi, Sarigam and Unbergaon GIDCs in the Umbergaon taluka are the hub of massive chemical industries. Violating all pollution control laws, these industries are polluting the fields, rivers, ponds and soil in the adivasis' villages. The Government turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to any complaints.
Those who raise the above issues, especially CPI(ML) activists are booked under false cases or attacked physically by land mafia forces. In the last Assembly polls, party leader Lakshman Bhai Varia's name was deleted from the voter list.
Party leaders who addressed the demonstration said that the plight of adivasis in Valsad illustrated the true face of Modi's claims of 'development', which was nothing but open plunder by corporate and powerful vested interests, and repression of forces of resistance. Copies of the memo were sent to the Governor of Gujarat and the Central Ministers for Social Welfare and Home Affairs.
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: 22518248, e-mail: email@example.com, website: www.cpiml.org