A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 17, No. 03, 15 – 21 JANUARY 2014
The Awakened Aspirations of the People of Delhi Must Be Honoured
As thousands of people thronged the first Janta Durbar called by the new Delhi Government, the situation soon became chaotic, and the Chief Minister eventually had to beat a retreat. The BJP and Congress were quick to brand the whole exercise as 'anarchy', and the AAP's former fellow travelers like Kiran Bedi (now backing the BJP), sermonised them on how one should not seek to govern from rooftops. The media too, largely, delivered a verdict that the thronging people had 'spoiled' the Government's debut. It seems that these fairly predictable criticisms weighed in with the CM, who has announced that the Janta Durbars will no longer be held: grievances will be entertained only through online, postal or phone avenues, and the CM has promised to make area-wise personal visits to parts of the city.
To brand the outpouring of people at the Janta Durbar as 'anarchy' that can have no place in governance is to dishonour the aspirations of the people of Delhi. People on the streets seeking accountability from elected representatives are a must to keep Governments on their toes. The victory of the AAP in such a short time reflected the fact that the dam of people's patience with undemocratic and anti-people governments had burst. Instead of counselling patience to the people now, their insistent pressure on the Government must be welcomed and strengthened.
From all accounts, a large component of the thousands who thronged the Janta Durbar were Delhi's contract workers, expecting the Government to deliver on its promise to regularisation of contract labourers. What needs to be stressed here is that regularisation of contract workers isn't some populist slogan or promise that has its origins in the AAP manifesto – it is a legal obligation of any Government, and it is a demand with which workers and their unions have been agitating for years.
The Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act requires that workers employed in any work of a perennial nature be regularised, and that contract workers who perform the same or similar kind of work as the workers directly employed by the principal employer are entitled to same wage rates, holidays , hours of work and other conditions of service as the latter. Most importantly, in case the contractor defaults in this obligation, it is the principal employer who bears the liability to ensure payment of wages and other benefits. And in the case of the Delhi Metro, MTNL, DTC, BSES, ASHA workers, teachers, hospital staff, sanitation and security workers, construction workers and so on, the principal employer – and principal violator of the law on contract labour and minimum wages – is the Government itself.
In fact, the denial of wages and other rights amounts to one of biggest and most systematic instances of corruption. Take the case of the Delhi Metro workers. Contractor companies are accused of denying minimum wages and allotting fake PF and health insurance accounts to siphon off upto a fourth of the share of workers' dues. Despite complaints indicating that several crores of rupees are thus being looted from needy workers' pockets to those of the contract companies, the latter are yet to be blacklisted. The same story is repeated in all other Government sectors. Moreover, in factories too, the Government and Labour Department have turned a blind eye to the violations of the contract labour and minimum wage laws by the factory owners, and in Delhi, time and again, elected representatives have weighed in on behalf of the rampantly illegal acts of the owners, against the legal rights of the workers. The victory of AAP in Delhi is due in very large part to the hope on part of many thousands of workers, that this Government will keep its promise, enforce the law, and end this daylight robbery. Will the AAP Government do what the workers of Delhi demand? The AAP Government has announced its decision to scrap FDI in multibrand retail in Delhi - will it likewise lose no time in enforcing the labour laws, regularising contract workers and enforcing minimum wages? That is the question uppermost in the minds of Delhi's workers, whose courageous struggles have put the promise for regularisation on the AAP's agenda in the first place.
The Government has reduced power tariffs by subsidising the discoms, even before the outcome of the audit it has ordered. If the charges against discoms - of tampering with meters and padding costs to overcharge people – are found to be true by the audit, surely it would make sense to reverse the privatisation of power? In the case of both power and water, most of Delhi's poor suffer above all from lack of access to piped water and metered electricity supply. Ending the lopsided pattern of distribution that favours the rich, it is crucial to ensure access of water and power for all.
On other fronts too, aspirations are high and the Delhi Government's response awaited. For now, the Delhi Government's sole policy initiative in response to last year's anti-rape agitation has been that of a 'commando force' of common citizens trained by ex-army personnel. What will be the brief of such a force, and how will its accountability to the values of women's freedom be guaranteed, is far from clear. In Madhya Pradesh, the Nirbhaya Patrol of policewomen has quickly degenerated into a moral policing force, cracking down on consensual couples in public spaces; Delhi's 'commando force' runs the same danger. Moreover, a commando force cannot do much in the vast majority of cases of violence against women which take place in the household. The need is for the focus to shift to public spending on rape crisis centres and safe shelters for women, as well as more courts and judges to ensure speedier trials. The Government has also promised to crack down on auto rickshaw drivers who refuse passengers and introduction of a fleet of women auto rickshaw drivers. The fact is that auto rickshaws can only serve a very small, relatively well-off segment of the population. The emphasis must be on an adequate fleet of DTC buses, to ensure safe transport 24/7 for all, especially for women.
The pressure of right wing and establishment forces on the AAP and its Delhi Government is quite apparent. It is for the workers, women, and common people of Delhi to exert pressure in the other direction and ensure that the Government remains true to its promises.
CPI(ML) Releases List of 20 LS Seats in Bihar
'Jansamvad Yatra' Mass Contact Drive On
CPI(ML) has announced its intention to contest 20 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar. These 20 seats are: Ara, Karakat, Jehanabad, Pataliputra, Siwan, Katihar, Nalanda, Buxar, Darbhanga, Samstipur, Muzaffarpur, Valmikinagar, Jhanjharpur, Gaya, Sasaram, Ujiyarpur, Jamui, Purnea, Araria and Gopalganj.
In preparation for the polls, CPI(ML) has launched an intensive Jansamvad Yatra in Bihar from 10-25 January, addressing the issues of people's anger against non-delivery of basic services, inflated electricity bills, lack of employment and unbridled promotion of liquor by the Government; followed by sustained mass agitation in February on the demands of assured food, electricity and employment. In the course of the Jan Samvad Yatra, 1000 mass-dialogue (Jan Samvad) programmes will be held. This campaign is already underway, receiving an enthusiastic response. In February, Jandavedari (People's Assertion) rallies will be held in 14 districts: Samastipur (8 February), Muzaffarpur (9 February), Narkatiyaganj (10 February), Gopalganj (11 February), Siwan (12 February), Darbhanga (13 February), Purnea (14 February), Bikramganj (15 February), Daudnagar (16 February), Bhojpur (17 February), Nalanda (18 February), Paliganj (19 February), Jehenabad (20 February), and Buxar (21 February).
CPI(ML) Team Visits Muzaffarnagar Relief Camps
A CPI(ML) team led by the Party General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya visited relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts on 8 January 2014. The team also included Party Politburo members Swapan Mukherjee and Kavita Krishnan, Delhi State Secretary Sanjay Sharma, and Vice-President of AIKM Prem Singh Gehlawat. The team was also accompanied by activists of the All India Students' Association (AISA), Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) and the JNU Students' Union President Akbar Chawdhary.
In a statement issued following the visit, the CPI(ML) General Secretary said, "The UP State Government of the Samajwadi Party that has completely abdicated from its responsibility to prevent communal violence, and to ensure relief, rehabilitation and justice for the survivors. So far, the Central government has remained a silent spectator to the shocking aftermath of the Muzaffarnagar violence. Under Article 355 of the Indian Constitution, the Centre has the power to intervene in such situations and instruct the state government to discharge its constitutionally mandated responsibility. But as on many previous occasions, the Centre has once again failed to intervene and guarantee relief, rehabilitation and justice for the riot victims of Muzaffarnagar. The Supreme Court had asked the State Government to ensure facilities in the relief camps; instead it is busy trying to close down the relief camps. This blatant violation of even the Supreme Court's order is further ground for the Centre's immediate intervention."
The main observations of the team are:
The scope of the communal violence is far greater than what the Government of UP admits. The number of those missing since the violence erupted is at least double the number to which the UP Government admits, and the death toll is likely to more than a 100. Moreover, the violence affected not only Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts but also Baghpat district, and people from these three districts have fled due to communal violence and communal terror.
A large number of those displaced and rendered homeless by the communal violence are yet to be recognised as victims by the State Government. Even in the 9 villages identified by the Government as riot-affected, some 1500 ration-card holders who are currently displaced, are being denied compensation and recognition as riot victims. Moreover, residents of adjoining villages, who fled in terror as they saw armed mobs attack their neighbouring village, are also not being recognised as victims of communal violence, though their homes and property too were destroyed by the communal mobs. For instead, while Lisad village is recognised as riot-affected, the villagers who fled adjoining Hasanpur, that has the same Pradhan as Lisad, are not being recognised as bona fide victims of the riots! Those who have fled following communal violence in Baghpat too, are not being recognised as riot victims. To sum up, the victims of communal terror as well as communal violence, are equally deserving of compensation, relief and rehabilitation.
The residents of the camp are mostly labourers. Having lost their livelihood as well as their homes, they are destitute now. The riot-displaced people are understandably reluctant or afraid to return to their villages even as relief camps are being bulldozed and they are being re-evicted. Whatever land and other property they had in their villages are being systematically grabbed in what can only be described as a campaign of communal cleansing. Most shockingly, it is the state government which is endorsing this campaign with its seal of official approval. Riot survivors who have received compensation from the government have had to give written undertakings promising never to return to their villages or claim any compensation for the loss or damage of property suffered.
And now with police stories of attempted LeT recruitments from among Muzaffarnagar riot survivors claiming media attention, the agenda of relief and rehabilitation is getting further sidelined. The people in the riot camps were extremely angry and aggrieved at the leaking of such police stories, which they fear are further vitiating the communalised atmosphere in the region.
Students' Protests Continue in Madurai University
On 6th January, on the reopening day of MKU after IDC, AISA staged a protest in Madurai, demanding removal of VC. The protest highlighted the plight of universities in the liberalization era. It demanded:
• Appointment of all VCs should be scrutinized
• A white paper on the non-payment of fellowship in all TN Universities
• Enquiry on the appointment faculties in all the universities
• Implementation of GO 92 (Government paying fees on behalf of Dalit students studying post metric courses in Private Institutions)
On the same day, SFI gheraoed Collectorates of 4 southern districts.
On, 6th, Monday, AISA leaders organized struggle within the campus mobilizing students. The MKU authorities motivated non teaching staff to stage counter protest. Students were blocked on the roads leading to administration office by police and non-teaching staff. Comrades Arun and Pandiyan were called for discussion by the Syndicate members, however authorities were not ready to consider demands.
On 8th MKU students climbed atop Nagamali hills and staged protest for two days.
On 10th students met the collector and submitted a petition and the university was closed for Pongal Holidays. On the same day, SFI gheraoed Governor's office in Chennai.
Now AISA is planning to organize a joint protest of all students' organizations on 20th January, on the day of reopening of University after holidays.
Reports from Tamilnadu
On 10th January, when the government is preparing to open a new wine shop at Varatharajapuram of Chennai where CPI(ML) is present among urban poor, Local committee of the party intervened to stall it by mobilizing people. When the Government authorities insisted on opening it, Comrade Jeeva, secretary of the local committee sat in front of the wine shop on fast. More than 200 residents assembled at the spot in support. Deputy Commissioner of police and other government officials persuaded Comrade Jeeva to withdraw the fast. Representatives from DMK and PMK voluntarily came down at greeted the struggle. Since the wine shop has not been opened on that day, the Fast was called off and Party and people are determined to stall it. Immediately The signature campaign among residents are started and there is a mass demonstration planned on 17th January. Meanwhile Party is also approaching Chennai High court to get a stay.
On the 18th day of the strike by Asian Paint workers, RYA organised a public meeting in solidarity with striking workers on 6.1.2014.ComradeRajavguru of RYA presided over. More than 500 workers of Sriperumputhur area assembled. Comrade Kumarasamy, National president of AICCTU addressed the gathering. Comrades Rajavel from Hyandai, Iraniappan SCM, Palanivel, State Secretary of AICCTU and Sekar, Secretary of Chennai city committee also spoke. Comrade Gopalakrishnan of Asian Paints recited a poem describing the sufferings of workers in this industrial belt. Working class vanguards from 15 factories attended the meeting. The meeting resolved to continue the struggle and also decided to take up the issues of thousands of contract and apprentice workers.
Resisting Forced Sale of Kidney and Ovum, and Surrogate Motherhood
The case of Sakunthala, a 27- year old adivasi woman in Salem district of TN, highlights how difficult it is to speak of 'choice' in matters like surrogate motherhood, ovum sale, and so on, in patriarchal society and in a rampantly commercialized context.
Sakunthala and her friend, CPI(ML) activist Selvi, were attacked with a knife by Sakunthala's husband Navaraj at Komarapalayam in Salem (a centre for illegal organ racket). Shakunthala told the police in her statement that she was forced by Navaraj to donate her kidney in 2006 in a Coimbatore hospital, for which he got Rs 1 lakh. He also forced her to be a surrogate mother. And he and her mother-in-law forced her to donate her fertile eggs 18 times in various hospitals in Tamilnadu and Kerala. The money earned wasn't saved in Shakunthala's or her daughter's name. She took shelter at her friend Selvi's place in a bid to escape her abusive husband, but he tracked her there and attacked them both. Both are now recovering. Selvi brought up the matter with the Komarapalayam branch of the CPI(ML) and the party's efforts ensured that the FIR has been lodged and Navaraj arrested.
On the Occasion of South Korean President's India Visit
Citizens' Protest at Environment Ministry against Clearance to POSCO
Veerappa Moily, the new Minister of Environment and Forest (MOEF), audaciously cleared POSCO's Steel Project, violating all norms, just before the arrival of the President of South Korea, Park Geun-Hye's visit to India.
The Environment Ministry, in a dishonest sleight of hand, is turning an integrated project into convenient compartments and giving clearances separately to each one of them in a gradual manner to deceive the public. As the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) says, "You can't separate mines from the plant and the plant from the port. You can't also ignore the fact that certain matters are still tried in National Green Tribunal."
The people in Dhinkia, Patna, Govindpur and Nuagaon villages have taken a resolve to intensify our struggle at any cost and to ensure that POSCO is ousted from Odisha's soil. To protest against the coalition of two hostile governments (in the state and at the centre) on POSCO issue and to protest against atrocities launched on our democratically protesting population PPSS is organizing a massive Dharna in Dhinkia on January 15, 2014. A similar protest will also be organized in the capital city of Bhubaneswar. Solidarity groups have also decided to launch similar protest in other cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Bangalore, Chennai etc. In solidarity, the JNUSU, Delhi Solidarity Group, AISA and others organized a Citizens' Protest at the Environment Ministry.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.cpiml.org