A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 17 No. 27 1 - 7 JUL 2014
Prices Continue to Soar Unabated:
Modi Breaks His Biggest Election Promise
One of the main planks of Narendra Modi's election campaign was his promise to curb inflation. With people reeling under the relentless rise in prices of essential commodities, Modi's 'Enough is enough of the blows of price rise – Vote Modi Government' (Bahut ho chuki mahengai ki maar – ab ki baar Modi Sarkar) slogan touched a chord with people. However, in Modi's first month in power, his Government has intensified the blows of price rise all around, without even waiting for any discussion in Parliament. Such arbitrary and ruthless price rise marks only an accentuation of the UPA-II's policies. And even the excuses peddled by the Modi Government are the same old ones peddled by the Manmohan Singh Government!
Huge hikes have been effected in passenger rail fares. Freight charges have not been spared either, which would have a cascading effect on the prices of essential commodities that are transported by rail. Sugar prices have gone up. And the prices of essentials, especially retail prices of onions, are also soaring. Petrol and diesel prices have been hiked, and non-subsidised cooking gas (LPG) has been hiked by Rs 16.50 per cylinder. Gas prices are due to be hiked, which will lead to a hike in the prices of urea. In sum, common people, the poor, and farmers are feeling the brutal blows of price rise – and the blows are especially painful because they carry the sting of shamelessly broken election promises.
Hoarding and speculation are responsible in considerable measure for the hikes in prices, and the BJP Government is yet to take any effective measures to crack down on the hoarders and speculators.
Neoliberal apologists of the Modi Government have tried to blame the price rise on the nominal increases in Minimum Support Price (MSP) of paddy and pulses announced by the Government, accusing the latter of 'buckling to demands of farmers'. In fact, the increases in MSP are far from adequate, given the fact that the costs of production have steeply risen and government support for farmers has been severely cut back. The Government does not even acknowledge the urgent need to tackle the deeper structural causes of price rise – i.e, the need to invest in farm subsidies for fertiliser, irrigation, power, and infrastructure, so as to bring down production costs.
Moreover, price rise does not benefit the farmers. Take the example of the hike in sugar prices. The Modi Government announced substantial benefits to the sugar mills, with a hike in import duty and reduction in export duty as well as continuation of doles by way of massive interest free loans. But the Government made no attempt to ensure that the sugar lobby paid its astronomical arrears (to the tune of 110 billion rupees) to sugarcane farmers!
Increase in import duty on sugar could be a welcome measure if it were accompanied by measures to ensure that the benefits reached the cane farmers. Instead, although there is no supply constraint, the hike in import duty was treated by the sugar lobby as a signal to hike domestic sugar prices instantly! It is also to be noted that the Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, who has substantial sugar lobby interests in Maharashtra, attended the meeting which took the decisions that have brought a bonanza for the corporate sugar mills, no relief for sugarcane farmers, and woes for consumers.
The impending hike in gas prices will, likewise, benefit Mukesh Ambani's Reliance. Since gas accounts for 4/5ths of the costs of making urea, the hike in gas prices will undoubtedly push urea fertiliser prices up, creating an extra burden on fertiliser subsidies and farmers.
The Modi Government is busy blaming all its anti-people decisions on the previous Government. Modi, in his blog on completion of one month of the Government, has said that the Government, while working in 'national interest', has not 'communicated' its decisions properly. Justifying burdens on people and bonanzas for corporate lobbies in the name of 'national interest' is something that all neoliberal regimes, including the previous UPA-II Government, excelled in. The people of the country are not willing to wait indefinitely for Modi's 'acche din' promises. If the Modi Government imagines that corporate-backed 'communication', that brought it to power, can keep people's disappointment and anger at bay, it will be sorely mistaken.
Protests Against Rail Fare Hike
The rail fare hike was greeted with protests by CPI(ML) from the very first day.
Party workers all across Bihar came out on the streets on 21 June as part of a nationwide protest and expressed strong protest over the Modi government's stiff rail fare hike of 14.2% in passenger fares and 6.5% in freight charges. The Patna-Gaya passenger was stopped at Masaudhi due to which rail traffic in that sector was obstructed for hours. In the capital Patna scores of ML leaders and activists took out a protest march from the radio station to station circle. Protest marches were also taken out and effigies of PM Narendra Modi burnt at various places including Ara, Fatuha, Paliganj and Naubatpur of Patna rural, Jehanabad, Darbhanga, Siwan, Aurangabad, Gaya, Arwal, Nalanda and Madhubani.
The march in Patna was led by Party leaders including Central committee members Com. Meena Tiwari and Shashi Yadav, State standing committee member Com. RN Thakur, Patna city secretary Santosh Sahar, Patna city leader Murtaza Ali, and a meeting was organized at station circle. The meeting was presided over by Com. RN Thakur.
Earlier during the march from the radio station, party workers shouted slogans such as "Achhe din ki shuruaat", "Abki baar sabse mahangi sarkar", "Modi sarkar sharm karo, janadesh ka samman karo", "Petrol diesel rasoi gas moolya vriddhi nahi sahenge", ""Rail kiraya badhotri vaapas lo", "Corporate poonjipatiyon ki samarthhak Modi sarkar sharm karo".
At Masaudhi (Patna rural) Com. Gopal Ravidas led the campaign to stop the Patna-Gaya passenger train. At Fatuha about 200 party workers led by State committee member Com. Umesh Singh and Block secretary Shailendra Yadav blocked NH 30 and burnt the effigy of Narendra Modi. Protest marches were also taken out at Naubatpur, Paliganj and other places.
A protest march was also taken out at Ara, and State committee member Naeemuddin Ansari, AIPWA leader Sohila Gupta, Jainath Yadav and other leaders led the march at Siwan. 50 party workers led by ML youth leader Com. Neeraj Singh marched in protest at Aurangabad and burnt the effigy of Narendra Modi. Protest marches and effigy burning were also conducted at Jehanabad, Arwal, Gopalganj, Gaya, Darbhanga, Samastipur, Bhagalpur, Betiya, Muzaffarpur, and other places. CPI-ML leaders said that strong protest movements would be organized against this government which is attacking the democratic rights of the people.
On 23rd the CPI(ML) held protests all over the country against the massive hike in railway fares by the BJP Government.
In Delhi, at Jantar Mantar, CPI(ML) activists gathered to protest the rail fare hike. The protesters raised slogans and displayed placards saying "Acche Din Poll Rhetoric Has Turned Into Bure Din Reality – Shame On Modi Govt." Mocking the Modi campaign poster of 'Bahut Hua Mahengai ki Mar, Ab ki baar Modi Sarkar' (Enough of being hit by price rise, This Time Elect Modi govt), protesters displayed posters saying 'Ab ki baar phir mahengai ki maar, sharm karo Modi sarkar' (This time again we're hit by price rise – shame on Modi govt). The protest gathering was addressed by Delhi State Secretary of CPI(ML) Sanjay Sharma, AICCTU Delhi State President VKS Gautam, AICCTU leader Mathura Paswan, CPI(ML) Politburo member and AIPWA National Secretary Kavita Krishan, AISA leader Agnitra Ghosh, Jan Sanskriti Manch's Sudhir Suman, CPIML Delhi State Committee member Surender Panchal and trade union leader Shambhu Kumar and Munna Yadav.
Protests were held at various places in Uttar Pradesh also, the very day that the fare hike was announced. In response to the national call for protest on 23rd June, a protest march with a massive effigy of Narendra Modi was held at Lucknow, from the party's office at Lalkuan through the busy Husainganj crossing, where the effigy was burnt amid slogans. Protests were also held at various places in Ghazipur district, as well as Balia, Chandauli, Mau, Bhadohi, Jalaun, Ambedkarnagar, and Pilibhit. At Mathura, CPI(ML) held a protest jointly with CPI.
Protests were held at Puducherry, and statewide protests were held all over Tamilnadu. At Chennai, on 22 June, workers demonstrated in front of the Ambattur Railway station. At Coimbatore, demonstrations were held in Pricol plant 1 and Plant 2 in which hundreds of workers participated. Both the programmes were addressed by Com Kumarasamy, PB member of CPI(ML), as well as State committee members N K Natarajan, Damodharan, and Balasubramanian. At Vilupuram, the Ulundurpet Railway station was gheraoed on 25 June, and police arrested party cadres including state secretary of the party Com Balasundaram and district secretary Com Venkatesan. They were later released in the evening. At Pudukottai, demonstrations were held at Athanakottai and Gandarvakottai. At Nagapattinam, a demonstration was held at Mayiladuthurai on 26 June; at Namakkal on 30 June and at Cuddalore, the RYA held a demonstration.
On FYUP in Delhi University
The students and teachers of Delhi University must be congratulated for their victory in restoring the 3-year degree programme.
Since last year, March 2013, the teachers and students of DU had been waging a relentless struggle against the DU VC's hurried and forced imposition of the ill-thought out and disastrous FYUP. The reasoned arguments of the DUTA, students and noted academics and educationists were trampled upon by the VC using important bodies like the Academic and Executive Councils as mere rubber stamps to push through his dubious agenda with the blessings from the UPA Government.
It is the sustained campaign and agitation by students and teachers that made the FYUP an issue of national debate, forcing the new Government and UGC to finally accept the illegality and undesirability of the FYUP programme. Most importantly, the first batch of students affected by the FYUP had, in a historic referendum in August 2013, expressed their rejection of the FYUP and its substandard courses.
By refusing to abide by the UGC order for a week, the DU VC put lakhs of admission seekers from all over the country to immense stress, uncertainty, and trouble.
The Spirit of University's Autonomy
The DU VC claimed that the UGC instructions violate the University's autonomy. This is a specious and self-serving logic. The DU VC dealt body blows to the University's autonomy and internal democracy on multiple occasions. It is in fact the movement of students and teachers that best expressed and defended the University's autonomy.
To ram down the FYUP, the well-established processes in DU of framing syllabi for new courses and papers - such as departmental councils, and committees of courses - were summarily violated through administrative fiats within a month. Courses were formulated by hand-picked individuals and hastily passed through Academic Councils and ECs called overnight. The result was a bundle of courses of a laughable standard, that would not withstand any serious academic scrutiny.
The FYUP never got the requisite approval from the Visitor or the UGC, yet it was implemented.
The VC's autocracy cannot pass off for University's 'autonomy'. The VC had been violating all internal processes and checks and balances, squashing debates and discussions, ramming down decisions in the face of massive opposition from the University's main stakeholders (its teachers and students). By doing so, it is the DU VC who has made himself autonomous from the rest of the University community.
The University must have the fullest autonomy in terms of composition of courses, syllabus etc from outside political influence and so on. But a central University like Delhi cannot have a structure that is at odds with the structure (10+2+3) prevalent in the rest of the country. To bring DU in line with an American course structure, while pitting it against the National Education Policy of 10+2+3 cannot be accepted under any pretext of 'autonomy'.
The DU VC refused to defend DU's autonomy when it really was attacked by saffron goons.At the VC's personal initiative, DU meekly removed AK Ramanujam's scholarly essay '300 Ramayanas' from the English syllabus, against the reasoned arguments of concerned departments, following threats from the Hindutva brigade.
Safeguard the Students Already Enrolled
Students already enrolled under the B Tech programme must be safeguarded, as the B Tech programme runs for 4 years all over the country. All that UGC and AICTE must ensure is that the content of DU's B Tech programme conforms to national standards and equivalence.
To ensure that those already enrolled in 2013 under FYUP, are able to complete their Honours Degree within 3 years, the coherent and reasoned formula suggested by students and teachers must be adopted.
Onwards to Struggles Ahead
In the days to come, there are likely to continuing assaults of privatisation of higher education and fresh assaults of saffronisation of syllabi. The FYUP struggle has shown that students and teachers can indeed score a victory in the face of all odds. This inspiring example will certainly be wind in the sails of the movement against privatization and saffronization.
AISA's Role in FYUP Struggle
AISA first protested outside the Delhi University's Academic Council (AC) and Executive Council (EC) meetings on 7 and 9 March 2013 in which the first draft on FYUP circulated by DU VC was passed.
AISA campaigned outside all the 'open house meetings' held by the University with new entrants in different colleges and schools in May 2013, and students who asked questions inside the meetings were snubbed or ignored. Outside the last open house meeting held on 30th May in the Conference Centre, AISA organised a big students' open meeting – genuinely open to students' participation and questions - to expose the farcical nature of the ones organised by the University.
AISA then held a protest rally in the North Campus of DU on the first day of sale of forms on 5 June 2013. AISA also protested at the MHRD and were detained while protesting at India Gate in June 2013.
When the campus opened on 21 July, AISA carried out an intensive campaign of two weeks, speaking to new students about their own experience of FYUP, and sharing AISA's own critique of FYUP. In almost all the colleges, students spoke of the huge chaos and irregularities due to lack of infrastructures, faculties and even books and syllabus. Students were also upset that neither the University nor even the DUSU nor anyone but AISA had come to hear their complaints.
As the problems compounded, AISA conducted a two week campaign, after which AISA called a university wide Class Boycott and massive rally in North Campus on 7 August 2013, in which more than 1500 students participated.
As the situation worsened and the campaign intensified, AISA felt the need to create a platform for students' own opinions to be voiced. So, at the end of one month of classes under the FYUP, AISA organised a historic referendum on FYUP on 22 August outside more than 20 colleges of DU. More than 10,000 students participated in the referendum, with the vast majority voting strongly against the FYUP. AISA gave the University 10 days to respond to the referendum mandate, after which, on AISA's call, 5000 students sent submitted postcards to the Vice Chancellor on 2 September after a massive rally in North Campus.
AISA held a Students' Public Hearing on 4 October, where students testified to the many problems of syllabus, teaching, and evaluation of 'Foundation Courses' – which were of a scadalously bad quality. As similar scandals were witnessed in the first semester exams and its question paper, AISA organised an open meeting on 15 January on the experiences of the first semester.
AISA then initiated the 'Our DU Our Right Our Fight' campaign on the issues of quality and affordable education, transportation, accommodation. More than 15000 students were approached from more than 20 colleges, who filled up forms about their experience and their demands on these issues. More than 500 students then marched to Delhi Secretariat in a Mass Students' Delegation to the Delhi CM on 31st January.
On 14 February AISA marched to Sonia Gandhi's residence, and on 18th February AISA participated in a 2000-strong joint teachers' and students' March to Parliament, led by the DUTA.
Against the unresponsive attitude of government AISA decided to make FYUP the biggest students issue in the Lok Sabha elections, and organised a Delhi-wide Yatra from 26 February to 12 March, which ended with a Delhi-wide bikers' rally which covered more than 20 colleges.
On 9th June 2014, AISA held an Open Meeting on 'No More FYUP, The Alternative is here' , in which AISA placed its blueprint for an alternative scheme by which FYUP could be scrapped and the present batch under FYUP could be given an honours degree in the three years. Apart from First year students sharing their experiences of one year under FYUP, the meeting was also addressed by Dr. Nandita Narain, President, DUTA and Dr. Saikat Ghosh, Executive Member, DUTA.
AISA participated in the Halla Bol protest called by the DUTA on 19 June 2014. On 23 June, AISA burned the effigy of the DU VC and held a demonstration outside the MHRD demanding intervention by the MHRD to ensure that the Visitor of DU, the President of India intervene through the powers vested upon him by Section 31(6) of the DU Act.
AISA activists were detained by the Delhi Police and taken to the Parliament Police Station while trying to March to Rashtrapati Bhavan on 26 June (Emergency Day), to demand that the President of India intervene as Visitor of DU. AISA continued its protest inside the Police Station. Kavita Krishnan, National Secretary of AIPWA also came to express her solidarity with the AISA activists protesting inside the Parliament Street Police Station. A Memorandum was submitted to the President.
Later in the day AISA held a Protest Demonstration at UGC protesting against the DU's last ditch proposal to salvage FYUP. AISA also submitted its own alternative for students of 2013 batch. AISA leaders Om Prasad and Niraj Kumar met UGC Joint Sceretary Jitendar Kumar.
On 27 June, AISA held a victory procession from the VC House to Arts Faculty Gate hailing the rollback of FYUP. AISA also demanded that the current batch of students must be provided a degree in 3 years and that the B Tech course must be made to meet AICTE standards and allowed to remain. AISA also demand that the present VC and his team must not go scot free, and an inquiry must be initiated against the VC and his team to probe the many allegations of financial and administrative irregularities against them.
Emergency Anniversary Observed as Anti-Repression Day
On 26 June, a mass meeting was held by the CPI(ML) in the Wazirpur slum cluster in Delhi, to mark the anniversary of the Emergency, and also to protest against the 'undeclared Emergency', whereby repression is unleashed on protesting workers, dissenting voices are jailed, students are booked for jokes against the PM Narendra Modi, and fake encounters and custodial torture are a daily reality. Party Area Secretary Mathura Paswan and union leader Munna Yadav addressed the meeting.
Tamil Nadu Updates
On June 19, a demonstration was organised at Mayiladuthurai by RYA demanding implementation of the Verma committee recommendations on sexual atrocities and also a 13 point programme announced by CM of Tamilnadu.
Public meetings were held at Sriperumputhur and Ambattur demanding protection of workers of Nokia and its ancillaries, in the backdrop of 10,000 Nokia workers below 30 years of age being compelled to go on VRS. More than 300 workers attended the meeting in Ambattur. At Sriperumputhur, workers of Asian Paints, Tenanco, Nippon Express, OLG, and GE Topaz Tools took part.
In Salem, residents of the slum clearance board demonstrated in front of the collectorate demanding house site pattas on 23 June.
On 20 June, the AIKM held a demo at Salem condemning Private Toll plazas collecting toll from Yercaud tribals in the Hill areas.
AISA demonstrated at Madurai demanding resignation of the VC of Madurai Kamaraj University, after the Maduarai bench of Madras High Court held that her appointment was not as per norms. AISA also held a 'Save University' demonstration and petitioned the collector.
When party cadres Avudaiyappan, Sundar Raj and Kannan petitioned the Mayor demanding renovation of the public toilet at Thanchanallur area, they were ill treated by the Mayor. Condemning this, a demonstration was immediately held under the leadership of Sundar Raj , DC member. Com Balasundaram, state secretary, Com Ramesh state VP of AICCTU , Com Anbu selvi of AIPWA and other district committee members took part.
Women gheroed the PDS ration shop at Tirunelveli against the move to hand over kerosene distribution to private outlets. The move was withdrawn after the CPI(ML) District Committee gheraoed the shop.
A Public meeting was held at Tirunelveli by AIPWA demanding roll back of Railway fare hike, an end to atrocities on women and Dalits, against the impending increase in prices of cooking gas, kerosene etc. The demonstration was at the Pettai area under the leadership of Com Sumathy, and more than 70 women took part.