Wednesday, 26 November 2014

ML Update | No. 48 | 2014

ML Update

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol.  17 | No. 48 | 25 NOV - 1 DEC 2014

Resisting the Modimix of Corporate Plunder and Communal Venom
'Government that cares for the poor, government that lives for the poor' – this is how Narendra Modi had described his would-be government addressing newly elected party MPs in his first speech in the central hall of Parliament. That was on 20 May, 2014, six days before he was actually sworn in as Prime Minister. Six months later as Narendra Modi returns to India after completing yet another long foreign trip, the new regime has indisputably established itself as India's most openly corporate-driven government till date, government that is completely dedicated to big business, government that exists for Adani-Ambani and their ilk.
A picture is worth a thousand words, goes the adage. Two images of Modi out of the thousands that we have seen in the last six months give us a clearer idea about his government than all the broom-wielding photo-ops showcasing Modi and other BJP leaders and ministers. The first picture was Modi climbing into an Adani jet to fly from Ahmedabad to Delhi before his May 26 swearing-in. The second was when Modi went to Mumbai to inaugurate the latest Ambani hospital to provide us with that rare photo of Mukesh Ambani patting Modi on his back. If it took the Radia tapes to testify to the UPA variety of crony capitalism, Modi is brazen in displaying his intimacy with Adani and Ambani.
Indeed, the rise of Gautam Adani as India's tenth biggest dollar billionaire has been an integral part of the larger Narendra Modi saga. Adani's financial muscle grew from 765 million USD in 2002 to 8.8 billion USD in 2013. Adani virtually grabbed Kutch after the disastrous 2001 earthquake, using the exemptions and incentives granted in the name of post-quake rebuilding of Kutch to build his own economic empire. And now the central government is on the job – it has granted environmental clearance for Adani's massive SEZ project in Gujarat which was dubbed illegal by the Gujarat High Court and the SBI has sanctioned 1 billion USD (Rs 6000 crore) loan for Adani's coal mining venture in Australia. It should be noted that between March 31, 2014 and September 30, 2014, Adani group's outstanding bank loan has already shot up by Rs 7653.33 crore to reach an astronomical Rs 72,632.37 crore.
Ahead of the winter session of Parliament, the Modi government has clearly unveiled its reckless pro-corporate pro-FDI agenda. The notorious coal ordinance has already opened up the coal sector for private commercial mining, the shares of ONGC are up for sale, diesel price has been deregulated and gas pricing policy has been revised to raise domestic gas price by a third. Key sectors like defence, insurance and railways are being opened up big time for foreign investment, and the drug price control regime has been subverted to allow foreign pharmaceutical majors to make bigger profits from the Indian market. India's intellectual property laws are being subjected to US monitoring and US pharma MNC representatives are being allowed to openly lobby with Indian patent officials and judiciary.
Add to this the ongoing subversion of welfare legislations and the new government's economic agenda become as clear as daylight. Labour laws are being amended to free companies from any monitoring regarding compliance with factory laws and give them a free hand to hire and fire on their own terms without bothering about the laws of the land. The MNREGA is being sought to be restricted to select districts and degraded from its present status as an employment guarantee act to an employment generation scheme dependent on the whims of the government of the day. The land acquisition act is being sought to be amended to dilute provisions of consent and compensation for land-losing farmers and remove landless livelihood losers from the ambit of compensation and rehabilitation. The food security act is being subjected to endless dilly-dallying even as the process of capitulation to the pressure of rich countries on the issue of food subsidy has begun with the recent Indo-US deal on WTO's Bali round.
Accompanying this anti-poor economic offensive is the new regime's relentless campaign for deepening RSS control over the country's system of education and research and information and broadcasting. So six months after the BJP's ascent to power we are faced with this ominous Modimix of corporate plunder and communal venom. The new regime has accelerated the processes of concentration of wealth, centralisation of power and communalisation of society. The fighting contingents of the Indian people will have to summon all their strength to challenge and defeat this dangerous design.

Historic Strike by West Bengal Tea Garden Workers 
On 11-12 November, tea garden workers in West Bengal registered a militant protest demanding minimum wages and other workers' rights. They held a 48-hours strike in the entire tea sector of North Bengal, and a 12-hour general strike in three tea intensive districts and 2 sub-divisions.
It is a well-known fact that tea garden workers in Bengal, who produce tea which is enjoyed across the world, work under abominable conditions and are paid extremely paltry amounts for their hard labour. The fact of the matter is that the wage paid to tea workers is less than the wage given to agricultural labours under MNREGA, which is Rs 167 per day in West Bengal. As a result of the persistent denial of rights, there have been several deaths due to malnutrition and illness in the tea gardens of north Bengal.
On 11-12 November, lakhs of workers in nearly 300 tea gardens in Dooars and Darjeeling Hills of West Bengal observed a strike demanding the declaration of minimum wages of tea garden workers who still get paid a meagre wage of Rs 90 to Rs 95 per day. There was absolutely no work in 103 tea gardens in the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration as the workers supported the strike.
The strike was called by a joint forum of 23 trade unions operating in the tea gardens, including AICCTU. CPI(ML) CC member Comrade Abhijit Majumdar is joint convenor of this joint forum of trade unions. All these trade unions had called this united protest against the Trinamool Congress led government in West Bengal, which has been continuously denying even basic rights to tea garden workers. While the trade unions have been insisting on the declaration of minimum wages, the Bengal government has only agreed to increase the wages by Rs 40 that too in a phased manner in three years — Rs 18, Rs 11 and Rs 11, respectively. Several rounds of negotiations had taken place between the tea garden workers and the West Bengal government; the government however refused to release a notification declaring minimum wages for workers in the tea industry.
The strike was a huge success as workers in three districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and parts of two districts Coochbehar and Uttar Dinajpur chose not to work. The Joint Forum of trade unions also called for a 12-hour general strike in the entire area, demanding rights for tea garden workers.

Working Women's Workshop in West Bengal
Close on the heels of the working women's workshop held successfully in Hooghly on 9 November, a state level workshop was held jointly by AICCTU and AIPWA on Nov. 16 in Kolkata. This workshop was also aimed at concretizing women workers' specific demands to be raised during the upcoming united workers' rally and congregation organized by AICCTU on Rani Rashmani Road on the coming 8th December. Trade Union leaders as well as working women comrades from various sectors such as Asha, Anganwari, Mid-day Meal, Domestic Work etc. took part. Some salient points that came up in the workshop paper (presented by comrade Atanu Chakravarti) and the ensuing discussions are-
1.    The demand for conducting an extensive 'labour census' of women workers in the state must be constantly raised and popularised.
2.    Rights won on the question of sexual harrasment at the workplace, along with the current legal understanding of the 'workplace' as the 'world of work' (including not just the confines of the workplace but also all spaces involving commutes and travels related to the work) must be disseminated widely through awareness programmes.
3.    Equal rights, Dignity, Equal wages, Social security are the overarching slogans for the massive contingent of women workers.
4.    Social security (including rights to health, pension, children's education) is either completely absent or grossly inadequate. While 5 types of schemes exist for organised workers, there are 9 categories of schemes for unroganized workers – but these remain mostly on paper and the budgetory allocation for 95% of India's working population (employed in the unorganised sector) is a meagre breadcrumb of 1000 crores.
5.    The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (National Health Insurance Programme) was discussed at length, and demands for extending it to women workers of all sectors (for example Mid-day meal workers who are left out of its scope) came up as an immediate demand.
6.    Three sectors where women are exclusively employed as workers – Asha, Anganwadi and Mid-day meal – were discussed at some length. It is important to note the different terminologies employed by the government in these three sectors. The Anganwadi workers are "honorary workers", the Anganwadi workers are "cook-cum-helpers" whereas Asha workers are "honorary volunteers"! These terminologies imply that the government trivialises women working in these sectors as something "less than a worker", and thus deserving less or no labour rights! A detailed assessment of the terminology and associated rights showed a direct correlation between the degree of trivialisation of terminology and rights denied! For example, for the Asha "volunteers", there are no monthly salaries but performance-based incentives! There are no holidays nor are there PF rights! For Mid-day meal workers, the rights to 'permanent work' is eternally denied so is the acknowledgement as full-fledged workers. For Anganwadi workers, official salary is replaced by monthly honorariums! There exist no rules whatsoever for increments, employment or permanence of work!
7.    The National Labour Conference has demanded women working in all the above three sectors to be acknowledged as workers by the government and to be brought under the scope of minimum wages, social security rights such as pension, gratuity, health and maternity rights.
8.    At present India has 25.7 lakh Mid-day meal workers. Our mid-day meal union has submitted a charter of demands to the Rajya Sabha standing committee, demanding among other things, an 'Employment Standing Order' to be instituted (which should specify rules of recruiting, employment conditions, and implement safeguards against arbitrary firing). This demand should be made more popular.
9.    Citing a recent MHRD Empowered Committee meeting minutes, the appalling discrepancy in the wages of Mid-day Meal workers was exposed. Whereas Kerala pays 4500-6000, Tamil Nadu 5500-7500, Puducherry 5000-9000, Lashadweep 6000, West Bengal pays its MDM workers a wage of 1500 per month! Budgetory allocations for the MDM sector over the years 2007-2014/15 was discussed to show the insensitivity of the government towards women in this sector.
10.    The Domestic Worker sector, comprising presently of 1 crore workers, and 15 lakhs being added annually – the only women-dominated sector that's recognised as workers – is also fraught with gross violation of labour rights. Starting from the non-ratification of the ILO convention, no minimum wages, no mechanisms for redressal of sexual harassment complaints (and disputes not being treated as labour disputes), and no central labour law to cover the domestic workers, no regulation of the exploitative agancies, no check on trafficking the list is long. The 2010 draft of a law resulting from the central government's own task force report is still not passed as an act.
11.    Demands in the Domestic Workers sectors must include specifying minimum wages (per hour, per day and per month) on a high priority. All Domestic workers must be covered by the RSBY health scheme. Weekly and annual leave rights must be ensured and ward-level grievance redressal mechanism for sexual harassment and labour disputes must be demanded. Here again, the examples of several states like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Rajasthan, TN, Maharashtra were discussed – where minimum wages and/or social security acts for domestic workers have been put in work. But West Bengal has done neither.
12.    Several key issues regarding women workers in the construction sector and Beedi sector were also discussed and demands charted out.
Several participants of the workshop – comrades Jahanara, Chaitali, Kajal, Archana, Jayashree, Sabita, Kasturi, Mamata, Swapna and others - chipped in with their concrete experiences and suggestions. Comrade Basudab Bose conducted and comrade Meena Pal summed up the discussions.

West Bengal Blast Probe
Witch-hunt by Investigative Agencies 

Ever since the Burdwan bomb blast, there has been a new phase of witch hunt of minorities in West Bengal. Corporate media houses have been running kangaroo trails based on half baked information and misleading facts.
Two men were killed in the blast – Shakil Ahmed and Sovan Mandal. The police, and later the NIA and NSG too, zeroed in on the theory that the perpetrators were associates of Shakil Ahmad, ignoring Sovan Mandal largely.
The story of two young workers, Zulfikar Ali (35) and Haider Ali (34), victims of the witch-hunt is a harrowing one. It underlines how due process and civil liberties are blithely crushed underfoot by investigative agencies.   
 After three weeks of incarceration, torture and humiliation Zulfikar Ali and Haider Ali(34) were released by the Jammu and Kashmir Police on 30th October evening. Zulfikaar and Haider were picked up by Jammu and Kashmir Police from their rented home in Kanshipura Gausia of Baramula district on 6th and 8th October respectively.
After retrieving their id cards from the police, they boarded a home bound train on 2nd November and reached on 4th November. They held a press conference on 5th November at Rampurhat. Comrade Malay Tewari and Comrade Pradyot Mukherji of CPI(ML) were present at that press conference.
For several years Haider had been going to Kashmir to work as a mason. Zulfikar joined him six months back. Rabiul, Zulfikar's elder brother has been working there for almost a decade. These three used to stay in in a rented house. On the night of 6th October on the day of Bakrid, police raided their rented house in civil dress, and picked up Rabiul and Zulfikar. They were taken to Baramulla Police Station, where they were slapped and verbally abused. They were asked whether they know how to use fire arms. Then the police released Rabiul after getting him to sign a form written in Urdu.
The next day Rabiul with the help of his colleagues Tipu and Barkat and some other friends got to know that Zulfikar was arrested because of his supposed connection with the 'West Bengal Case' (i.e. Burdwan blast). Next day while at work Rabiul got an emergency phone call from Haider and he came back to their rented house and finds it again being raided by police. A scared Rabiul spent that night at a friend's place and boarded a home bound train on the very next day. After reaching home he was informed by his friends from Baramulla that police arrested Haider.
Zulfikar and Haider live in village called Nayagram of Murari-1 Block in Birbhum.  When Rabiul with the help of local school teachers and other neighbours called the Baramulla Police Station, police told them that "they were merely assisting the IB". The Murari Police denied to lodge a formal diary entry. On 21st October, Comrade Malay, Comrade Ashoke from Birbhum District Committee and comrade Bilas visited Zulfikar's home in Nayagram. Haider's mother told that his son Haider is introvert in nature, liked by their fellow villagers because of his sweet behaviour and masonry skills with which he constructed the arched mosque of their village.
Zulfikar told the press that he was arrested on 6th October evening on the day of Bakrid. The next day, he was sent to Cargo Joint Interrogation Centre, where he was tortured for several consecutive days. He was given electric shocks in his body parts other than being beaten by lathi and belts made of tyres by 6 IB personnel. According to Zulfikar, he was repeatedly asked why he and his friends went sightseeing instead of leaving Kashmir when most of the migrant labourers were leaving because of the flood. Based on the videos in Zulfikar's mobile taken during their trip, police further arrested Haider.
On 16th October Zulfikar was sent to another makeshift jail within army barracks, where he met Haider. Haider too was heckled, manhandled and abused while in custody. Haider was arrested with Rs 11200, but while being released Police deducted a sum of Rs 3200 from Haider's money as a 'price' of their food. They were never given any arrest memo or any such documents.
On 12th October Times of India reported the arrest of these two youths without naming them, but connecting them with the Burdwan blast and ISIS in a 'bigger game plan'. But with the intervention of civil liberties activists and political activists, the facts began to emerge and the media could not continue with its witch-hunt.
According to story published in 'Indian Express' on 25th October the Jammu and Kashmir DG K Rajindra stated that NIA is conducting the entire investigation, and after thorough investigation they have concluded that the Burdwan blast has no connection with Kashmir, and nobody was arrested in this regard. He further informed that they had detained two people for interrogation, but both of them were released subsequently. Even while talking to our representatives the DG repeatedly said that they have no clue about these two people after them being released. On 28th October he finally said he will see what can be done even these two people are not found after three days. It was after all these efforts that the two men were released on 30th October.
How can the investigative agencies be allowed to abduct people (holding people without informing family of their whereabouts amounts to abduction) and torture them? Had Rabiul and various activists not pursued the case relentlessly, would it not have been all too easy for the investigators to torture the men into a 'confession'? How can the media blithely talk of 'ISIS' connections and brand people as terrorists, and not even have to apologise?  
Even failing to produce any substantial evidence after repeated police 'investigation' – i.e indiscriminate raids in the madarsas – most of the media is shamelessly spreading communal stereotypes against the minority community.

AICCTU - HAL Contract Workers Struggle Charter!
Thousands of contract workers of HAL assembled on 20 Nov. 2014 to elect their new office-bearers and to submit their Charter of Demands (C0D) to the HAL Management. Casual and Contract Workers' Association of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Bangalore, affiliated to AICCTU, held its General Body Meeting on 20 Nov. 2014. Series of gate meetings addressed by Com. Balan, state president of AICCTU and V Shankar, All India Vice President, culminated in the general body meeting of contract workers of HAL.
The General Body unanimously re-elected Com. Balan as the president, reposing complete confidence in him and removed corrupt, careerist elements from the leadership. Com. Srinivas was elected General Secretary of the new team of Office Bearers.
The Charter of Demands was also passed by the general body to be submitted to the HAL management. Workers demanded abolition of contract labour system in HAL, same pay and service conditions for those engaged in same and similar kind of work, etc.
The workers decided to intensify their struggle to achieve the charter of demands in the coming period.
The General Body was addressed by Com. Balan, State President of AICCTU, Shankar V, AICCTU All India Vice President, Gandhimathi, AIPWA, Mohan Kumar, AICCTU Bangalore City Convenor among others.

Repression on Massive Student Movement in Mexico
A massive student movement is underway in Mexico against the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico, suspected of being abducted and murdered. The students had gone to protest a speech by the Mayor's wife, and it is suspected that the police captured them and handed them over to a drug cartel to have them killed.
Protesters have held President Enrique Pena Nieto responsible, and have set fire to the doors of the national palace in Mexico City. Mexico's Attorney General has told parents the students were murdered by criminals on police orders. Three gang members have apparently confessed to loading the students on to trucks, murdering them at a landfill, burning their bodies and dumping their remains in a river.
The Mexico government has responded to the protests with brutal repression. Eight men and three women among the protestors are under arrest and being held in maximum-security facilities, and they also face charges of homicidal intent and organized crime.
The disappearances and brutal killing of the students, followed by the crackdown and arrests of protestors, are compounding the anger of Mexican people against the corrupt political system and repressive police force. "#YaMeCansé" or "I'm fed up" has become one of the rallying slogans of the massive protests, along with "#LibertadPresosPoliticos", or "Freedom for Political Prisoners". 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

ML Update | No. 47 | 2014

ML Update
A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol.  17 | No. 47 | 18 - 24 NOV 2014

Chhattisgarh Sterilization Massacre 

The deaths of 15 women in a sterilization camp in Chhattisgarh are an indictment of the criminal complicity of the Chhattisgarh Government in a corrupt and callous healthcare regime. They are also a wake-up call for the entire country, about the grievous violence done to women's bodies by the 'population control' policies pushed by international funding agencies and the Indian State.      

The Chhattisgarh Government simply cannot wash off its responsibility for the deaths of the poor women who were killed. The emerging evidence shows that the immediate cause of the deaths could be either polluted drugs or due to sepsis from rusty or infected instruments used during the surgery. The drugs administered apparently showed traces of toxic substances. The State Government must answer why it continued to procure drugs from the Mahawar Pharma company even after it was charged with selling sub-standard drugs two years back? In March 2012, the Health Minister Amar Agarwal himself had informed the State Assembly that a case had been registered against this company for selling duplicate generic drugs. Seven medicines supplied by this company had been banned by the State Government at different points in time. The sterilization camps in the Health Minister's own constituency (one of them a short distance from his own home) had abysmal standards of basic hygiene. Operations were done on the floor, women were piled on to beds, rusty and infected instruments were used – all presenting a grim reality check that contrasts with the 'Clean India' hype pushed by the BJP Governments in the Centre and States. 

The doctor (since arrested) performed 83 operations in 5 hours. Though India adopts no sterilization targets nationally, states routinely adopt and push sterilization targets. In Chhattisgarh, too, the Government cannot deny that it had a policy of rewarding 'record numbers' of sterilization surgeries – on Republic Day this year, the Government had awarded a medal to the same doctor for performing 1 lakh sterilizations in his career. Target-driven and incentive-driven sterilizations lead to women being pressurized into having the surgeries, held in 'camps', thus privileging speed and volume of surgeries over safety and individual women's informed decisions. The State Government must squarely accept responsibility for the target-driven and incentive-driven approach.      

The Chhattisgarh Government and the BJP have been touting the State as a model of 'development', boasting of its forest cover and mineral wealth in order to woo investors. The fact is that the poor and the adivasis in the State have already been at the receiving end of a brutal war waged by the State in order to grab those very resources. Now, it becomes clear that the claims of 'development' mock the fact that the poor and deprived in the State have no access to basic, regular healthcare and contraception. Instead, they are given 'camp-based' healthcare – which means that time and again they are herded into camps where large numbers lost eyesight in botched cataract operations and 7000 women had uteruses illegally removed in botched and unnecessary hysterectomies in 2012, making it clear that the latest deaths are by no means an exception.

The Chhattisgarh Government's attempts to shield its Health Minister are highly condemnable. The Chief Minister himself should resign if he continues to deny the responsibility and liability of his Minister. But the problem goes beyond that of a single State alone. Facts presented in Parliament show that 707 women died between 2009 and 2012 because of botched sterilization operations in camps. This means that 15 women are dying every month in these sterilization camps – and these numbers are likely to be much higher since in many cases the health authorities distance the camps from the deaths. The sterilization massacre in Chhattisgarh has shocked the world – but the fact is that a massacre of the same scale happens routinely every month in India. If we are to stop this bloodshed of women, we need to review and reverse India's approach to contraception.

The question of people's and women's access to safe contraception needs to be prioritised, and the framework of 'population control' and 'family planning' needs to be abandoned. 'Overpopulation' in 'poor countries' as a cause for poverty and environmental damage is a racist myth that colonial and imperialist powers have historically peddled. Poverty, hunger, and pollution are caused, not by 'too many poor people' in 'poor countries', but because of the unequal distribution of the world's resources and wealth and by exploitation and plunder by the world's corporations.

International funding agencies are also implicated in the violence against women's bodies in the name of 'population control'. In the name of controlling 'overpopulation', these agencies, backed by the Governments of US and UK and powerful corporations, fund sterilization, as well as dangerous contraceptive implants, that endanger the lives and health of women in India and other target countries. The funds that flow in fuel the race to 'achieve' a high number of sterilizations, and the Indian health authorities also offer 'incentives' to women and men to get sterilized, but also to touts for herding large numbers of people for these operations. Rural health workers are rewarded for persuading larger numbers of women to come to sterilization camps, and penalised for failing to do so.   

 The Indian Government must stop accepting aid for 'population control' under any pretext. The Government must stop trying to control and regulate family size or population size. It must, in particular, end the practise of identifying 'high fertility' and 'low fertility' regions and communities. Instead, it must ensure that every Indian woman has access to a range of safe contraceptive methods. Sterilization surgery must be the last recommended contraceptive option, and hormonal implants must be disallowed entirely. Instead of these invasive methods, safe and non-invasive contraceptive methods must be made available. And women must be able to make informed, individual decisions about contraception. The camp-based approach to healthcare also must be abandoned, and replaced by public spending to ensure high-quality healthcare in the farthest corners of India, available to every Indian citizen.           

Jan Sunwai in Bihar

A massive jan sunwai was organized by the Party in Patna on 16 November, which reverberated with slogans for Left unity and a collective struggle for peoples' rights. Left leaders from various parties called for a strong joint Left struggle against the Delhi and Patna governments. The jan sunwai was attended by CPI(ML) General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya, CPI(M) General Secretary Com. Prakash Karat, CPI national secretarial board member Com. Atul Kumar Anjan and other Left leaders. Representatives from SUCI(C), Forward Bloc, various peoples' movements as well as journalists and intellectuals from the city attended in large numbers.

This jan sunwai was held after a 3-month long survey on the socio-economic conditions in Bihar organized by the CPI(ML). About 2 lakh rural and urban and poor and minority families had been surveyed as part of the Party's Bihar ka sach, logon ka haq campaign and an in-depth analysis of the data and information thus collected has been done. The survey documented a wide range of issues such as changes in the socio-economic and educational condition of rural and urban poor and minorities and the ground realities regarding implementation of various government projects. The survey had also identified new and emerging areas for concern for the peoples' movement. A detailed report of the results of the survey was presented at the jan sunwai on 16 November.

Addressing the jan sunwai, the CPI(ML) General Secretary pointed out that every year the government presents a 'report card' on development; however, this year the people of Bihar have decided to present their assessment and their own version of the government's 'report card' before the government could do so. This report card shows that the rights of the people have continually being impinged upon. He stressed on the need for a joint struggle on the issues which have emerged from the survey. He further called upon CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat, CPI leader Atul Kumar Anjan are other Left leaders to seriously consider the possibility of a joint Left rally in February 2015 aimed at asserting a robust and militant Left resistance to the existing ruling class regimes both in Patna as well as in Delhi.

CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat congratulated each and every person who was involved in conducting the extensive socio-economic survey of Bihar, which had brought out the truth about the state of 'development' from the point of view of the poor in Bihar. He pointed out that the land reforms agenda is pivotal to development in Bihar, but the Nitish government has effectively shelved this agenda. Incidents of violence against women and mahadalits are coming to light frequently, but the Bihar government is unable to take any action. He stated that the need of the hour was a forceful agitation for the rights of sharecroppers, the poor and the landless. He also asserted that the building of a new Bihar was possible only with Left unity. He said that the CPI(ML) report would act as a guiding principle for Left's agitations and initiatives in the future. Targeting the Modi government, he said that this government is betraying its promises to the people, and fostering an atmosphere of communal hatred in the country.

CPI leader Atul Kumar Anjan said that Left unity should be all-pervasive, from the streets to Parliament and Assemblies. He said that the Modi government is trying to inflict autocracy on the country. Much as this government boasts of development of the poor, the ground reality is that the rights of the poor are steadily being curtailed. MNREGA is being reduced, and LPG is getting costlier. He also pointed out that this crucial juncture, the survey conducted by the CPI(ML) is commendable, as it brings out the actual facts of poor people's lives and issues for future struggles.

Earlier, the jan sunwai started by paying tributes to popular leader from Jehanabad-Arwal Com. Shah Chand. One minute's silence was observed in his memory, after which the Party Bihar State Secretary presented the results of the survey. Com. Dhirendra Jha and Com. Rajaram Singh read out, respectively, the Summary of the survey and the political resolutions. Several demands were raised – including immediate release of those booked under the draconian TADA law, reinstatement of the Amir Das commission and action against all those providing political support to feudal forces such as the Ranveer Sena, immediate implementation of the recommendations of the Bandopadhyay report on land reforms in Bihar, water conservation, flood control, end to diversion of fertile land for non-agricultural purposes, implementation of a common school system, better health facilities and end to contractual labour. Former MP Com. Rameshwar Prasad and AIPWA leader Com. Meena Tiwari also addressed the jan sunwai. The programme was conducted by CCW member Com. KD Yadav. CPI State Secretary Rajendra Prasad Singh, CPI(M) State Secretary Vijaykant Thakur, SUCI State committee member Arun Kumar Singh, senior CPI(ML) leader Swadesh Bhattacharya as well as comrades Ramjatan Sharma, Nandkishore Prasad, Amar, Saroj Choube, Shashi Yadav, Mahboob Alam and other leaders also attended the jan sunwai along with several journalists and intellectuals from Patna and thousands of people from different parts of Bihar.

West Bengal Tea Garden Workers on Strike

On 11 November, tea garden workers in West Bengal registered a militant protest demanding minimum wages and other workers' rights. It is a well-known fact that tea garden workers in Bengal, who produce tea which is enjoyed across the world, work under abominable conditions and are paid extremely paltry amounts for their hard labour. The fact of the matter is that the wage paid to tea workers is less than the wage given to agricultural labours under MNREGA, which is Rs 167 per day in West Bengal. As a result of the persistent denial of rights, there have been several deaths due to malnutrition and illness in the tea gardens of north Bengal. On 11 November, lakhs of workers in nearly 300 tea gardens in Dooars and Darjeeling Hills of West Bengal observed a strike demanding the declaration of minimum wages of tea garden workers who still get paid a meagre wage of Rs 90 to Rs 95 per day. There was absolutely no work in 103 tea gardens in the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration as the workers supported the strike.

The strike was called by a joint forum of 23 trade unions operating in the tea gardens, including AICCTU. CPI(ML) CC member Comrade Abhijit Majumdar is joint convenor of this joint forum of trade unions. All these trade unions had called this united protest against the Trinamool Congress led government in West Bengal, which has been continuously denying even basic rights to tea garden workers. While the trade unions have been insisting on the declaration of minimum wages, the Bengal government has only agreed to increase the wages by Rs 40 that too in a phased manner in three years — Rs 18, Rs 11 and Rs 11, respectively. Several rounds of negotiations had taken place between the tea garden workers and the West Bengal government; the government however refused to release a notification declaring minimum wages for workers in the tea industry.

The strike was a huge success as workers in three districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and parts of two districts Coochbehar and Uttar Dinajpur chose not to work. The Joint Forum of trade unions also called for a 12-hour general strike in the entire area, demanding rights for tea garden workers.

State-level Cadre Meeting in Rajasthan

A State-level cadre meeting of CPI(ML) was held at the Kisan Bhavan in Udaipur, Rajasthan, on 2 November 2014. The meeting was organized to review the campaign which was conducted in July in Rajasthan to expand and strengthen the Party organization in order to effectively meet the challenge posed in the context of the increasing corporate-communal dangers following BJP's coming to power at the Centre.

Addressing the meeting, PB member Com. Swadesh Bhattacharya said that the campaign conducted in July was not just a matter of Party expansion; rather, it is to do with an effective strategy to establish an effective network of the Party among the people to give a fitting reply to the increasing attacks on the poor and the workers by corporate ad communal forces who have become stronger after the BJP's coming to power at the Centre and now in States like Maharashtra and Haryana. To do this, the Party and peoples' organizations should be expanded through new memberships; also, Party branches and active cadre groups should be formed, Party publications should be distributed widely, funds should be generated, and close rapport should be established with people through initiating issues of interest to them.

Addressing the meeting, AICCTU National secretary Com. Rajiv Dimri pointed out the need to counter the Vasundhara Raje government's corporate-friendly policies and its assaults on the working class. Party State Secretary Mahendra Chowdhury presented an analysis of the July campaign and said that although the Party has taken initiatives in Jhunjhunu, Pratapgarh, and Udaipur districts, CPI(ML) needs to move forward quickly and take steps regarding membership renewal, expansion, and strengthening of branches. Com. Phool Chand Dhewa pointed out the laxity of the State leading team in the matter of increasing Party activity, and made suggestions for improvement and expansion. Several concrete proposals regarding membership and expansion were discussed and agreed upon.

Reports from Udaipur, Jhunjhunu, and Pratapgarh were presented and discussed. Comrades Ramchandra Kulhari, Gautam Lal Meena, Raju Lohar, Gotam Dhawda, Chandradev Ola, Om Prakash Jharoda, Shambhu and Raziya also expressed their views.  After inducting some new names into the State leading team, the meeting concluded by paying tribute to Com Shah Chand Mukhiya. 

Lucknow: Meeting Against 'Love Jihad' Myth Disrupted by ABVP

On 15 November, the ABVP in Lucknow University disrupted AISA's public meeting against the communal 'love jihad' campaign, which was to be addressed by AIPWA national secretary Kavita Krishnan. Prior permission had been taken by AISA – with the Lucknow University Proctor board clearly stating that they had "no objection" to the meeting. AISA had been running a spirited campaign against ABVP's communal hate, violence and riot mongering, specifically exposing the communal bogey of the 'love jihad campaign' in UP and elsewhere. This campaign had been receiving a good response from common students of Lucknow University. The ABVP, angered by AISA's spirited campaign, stated on the day before the proposed public meeting that they would not allow the meeting, going to the extent of threatening and intimidating AISA activists. They also put pressure on the LU proctorical board to cancel permission for the meeting. AISA however decided to go ahead with the meeting.

What followed was an open display of patriarchal violence, lumpenism and fascist assaults on freedom of expression. Goons affiliated to ABVP stormed into the venue of the public meeting, tore AISA banners and flags, disrupted the talk, and told the AISA activists present that they would not allow 'wrong' and 'immoral' speakers like Comrade Kavita to express their opinion. They also claimed that any meeting against love jihad would not be allowed, because it was "against Indian culture". ABVP continued to threaten and intimidate the women activists present, even as several girl students stated ABVP creates fear among women. ABVP raised threatening slogans saying, "Desh hai pukarta, pukarti hai Bharati; Khoon se tilak karo, goliyon se aarti". There was a not a single woman student with them, and one of them declared, as they attacked AISA, that 'khap panchayats hamara seena garva se ooncha karti hain, aap unke khilaf bol nahin sakte' (khap panchayats make us swell with pride, we won't let you speak against them). ABVP activists also tried to manhandle AISA leaders and Comrade Kavita.

After the meeting was disrupted, AISA led a protest march across the University against this fascist disruption and violence. Several common women students supported the protest, pointing out that recently at a dance competition organised by Lucknow University, girls who were performing dances had male students throwing coins and flowers at them. While ABVP was fine with that disgusting display of patriarchal 'culture', they were disrupting a peaceful talk, several women pointed out.

State-wide Agitation by Uttarakhand ASHA Workers' Union

Uttarakhand Asha Health Workers' Union affiliated to AICCTU organized a state-wide agitation against the repeated betrayals of the Uttarakhand government and demanding rights for the Asha workers in the State. Even though Asha workers are the backbone of the health department, the government is not even providing them a minimum honorarium.

In 2011, after a sustained agitation of Asha workers, the Uttarakhand Chief Minister had announced an annual incentive of Rs 5000. Three years after this announcement, even this small amount has not been paid to their accounts. The Asha workers' union had organized a huge demonstration in the capital Dehradun (called the "Jawab do-Hisab do" rally) on 15 September, to demand answers from the government for this betrayal. After this protest, the government was forced to promise payment of the incentive amount while also making assurances of action on other demands. However, till date, neither has the payment been made, and nor has action on any other matter been taken. The state-wide agitation was thus undertaken.

After demonstrations and effigy burnings across the State, the workers submitted memorandums to the Chief Minister through various authorized officials, and warned that the struggle would continue till their demands were met. The memorandum submitted several demands such as regularization of Asha workers with government employee status, Rs 15000 minimum monthly wage and Rs 5000 annual incentive with immediate payment along with arrears, Diwali bonus, free treatment for Asha workers in government hospitals and issue of health cards, accident insurance, end of PPP model in the health department, and guarantee of pension. Protests were held in Haldwani, Nainital, Ramnagar, Garampani, Betalghat, Dhari, Bindukhatta, Rudrapur, Kashipur, Bhikiyasain, Kapkot, Bageshwar, Dwarhat, Jaspur, Bajpur, Khatima, Sitarganj, Tanakpur, Lohaghat, Didihat, Dharchula, Ranikhet, and Almora.

Protests Against Rape and Feudal Violence in Patna

A protest was held in Patna on 7 November against the police inaction in a case of gang rape and murder of a minor girl in Mahua Bagh, Bihar. The young girl had gone to listen to a 'mata jagaran' at the local Shiva temple on 1 November – and had been gang raped. A delegation consisting of Gurudev Das, Jayprakash Paswan, Gopal Ravidas, Sharifa Manjhi and Nirmala Devi met the thana incharge at Parsa bazaar police station and demanded a speedy and proper enquiry into the matter, compensation of Rs 10 lakhs and a job for a family member, as well as action against the ongoing intimidation of the victim's family.

On 8 November, various women's organisations in Patna held a joint protest at Kargil chowk demanding justice for the Kurmuri gang rape victims as well as the Parsa Bazaar victim. AIPWA, Bihar Mahila Samaj, Kamkaji Mahila Association, Dalit Adhikar Manch, Women's Network and other women's groups, activists and intellectuals joined this protest. The protestors pointed out that despite growing instances of sexual, patriarchal and feudal violence in the State, the ruling government seemed determined not to take any strong action. Moreover, the opposition BJP forces choose to conveniently support the perpetrators in cases of feudal violence such as the Kurmuri gang rape case. The protestors pointed out the need to fight all instances of sexual violence, irrespective of considerations of caste and religion. The protest was conducted by Com. Anita Sinha. AIPWA general secretary Meena Tiwari, AIPWA state president Saroj Choubey, Sushila Sahay, Dr. Shanti Ojha, Shivani, Nivedita and Rampari amongst others addressed the protest. Vibha Gupta, Anuradha, Manju Yadav, Janki Devi and others participated in the protest.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

ML Update | No. 46 | 2014

ML Update

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol.  17 | No. 46 | 11 - 17 NOV 2014


Modi's Cabinet:

Green Signal to Crime, Corruption, and Communal Hate-Speech 

Narendra Modi's latest expansion of his Cabinet brings the total strength of Ministers to 66. The compulsions of accommodating leaders from a variety of states, castes and allied parties triumphed over the initial claims of 'minimum government, maximum governance'.

What is most striking about the Cabinet expansion is the unashamed accommodation of leaders tainted by serious crimes and corruption: the very question on which Modi Sarkar had promised to mark a break from the UPA Cabinet. Seven of the new Ministers have serious criminal charges against them, including those of murder, rioting and rape. In all, a study has shown that 20 (31%) out of entire strength of 64 Ministers, have serious criminal charges against them. Modi apologists have tried to label the charges as 'flimsy' – but such defences do not hold much water.

Moreover, one of the new Ministers, JP Nadda, is implicated in getting whistleblower Sanjeev Chaturvedi removed from his post as AIIMS CVO. Allegedly, Nadda pressurised the then Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to remove Chaturvedi, who was investigating an officer close to Nadda for corrupt deals to the tune of crores of rupees. 

Then, there is the case of the Suresh Prabhu, who shifted allegiance from Shiv Sena to BJP on the eve of his induction into the Cabinet. Prabhu, former Environment Minister in the Vajpayee Government, ironically has a flat in the Adarsh Society in Maharashtra, notorious for violating a host of environmental laws and regulations. Prabhu's flat is also larger that the area to which he is legally entitled. The Adarsh Society scam was a serious black mark on the Congress-NCP Government in the State, but Opposition political leaders including Prabhu are alleged to be beneficiaries of the scam. With Prabhu finding a berth in Modi's Cabinet, the issue of corruption has come full circle – showing the essential continuity between the UPA and NDA regimes on this issue.

The inclusion of Jayant Sinha (son of BJP leader Yashwant Sinha) in the Cabinet is also noteworthy – pointing to the close overlapping of corporate and government interests, and the consequent conflict of these interests with those of the country and its citizens. Jayant Sinha is a former head of the Omidyar Network in India – known to be run by the eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar. Sinha quit Omidyar to join Modi's election campaign as an advisor. Soon after, Modi publicly endorsed the opening of India's e-commerce market to FDI – a move that would massively benefit Omidyar who represents one of the foremost global corporate interests in e-commerce.

Cabinet apart, Modi's chosen Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, too has a record of being a blatant advocate of US corporate interests. As late as March 2013, he had advised US Congress on the "challenges" posed by India's domestic "protectionism" to US business interests. Why is Modi's hand-picked Economic Advisor a man with an IMF background, who believes India should stop protecting the interests of its people in order to benefit US businesses?   

The inclusion of Giriraj Singh – the BJP MP from Nawada in Bihar – is yet another instance of Modi's wink to corruption. A few months ago, a huge stash of cash – Rs 1.14 crore - was recovered from a thief who had stolen the amount from Singh's house. Singh had only reported a theft of Rs 50,000. A red-faced Singh had offered the truly flimsy explanation that the cash belonged to his 'cousin' – a real estate builder with interests in Nagpur. But Giriraj Singh's inclusion as Modi's Cabinet Minister is significant for other reasons too. The BJP has, till now, claimed to distance the party and the Prime Minister from the poisonous communal and casteist utterances of various figures associated with the Sangh Parivar and BJP. While the 'love jehad' lie was a central vehicle of the BJP campaign in Uttar Pradesh, with MP Adityanath making especially vile speeches provoking violence on this pretext, the BJP claimed that Adityanath did not have the party's and Modi's approval. But Giriraj Singh's elevation to Cabinet Minister gives the lie to BJP's claims.

Giriraj Singh had, during the Lok Sabha election campaign counselled Modi's critics, especially Muslims, to 'go to Pakistan'. His statement openly mocked at democratic norms of the space for dissent, and displayed his vision of Modi's rule as an authoritarian Hindu Nation with no room for minorities and dissenters. Giriraj Singh also openly defended Adityanath's hate-speech and amplified it, endorsing the 'love jehad' lie quite openly. And Giriraj Singh is also notorious for having equated the Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh, who had the blood of massacres of dalit landless poor on his hands, with Gandhi. If Singh's inclusion in Modi's cabinet shows the communal-casteist-undemocratic face behind the 'development' mask, the inclusion of Nadda, Prabhu and Jayant Sinha reveal that 'development' in the Modi regime, as in the UPA regime that it replaced, will continue to mean corporate plunder, corruption and flagrant disregard for the environment and the country's precious resources.                 


All India Kisan Mahasabha's Bihar State Conference Held

Over the past month, district-level conferences of All India Kisan Mahasabha had been held in several districts of Bihar – and the 7th Bihar State Conference of the Kisan Mahasabha was held on 1-2 Nov 2014 in Vaishali district of Bihar. The conference began by paying tributes to all martyred comrades and flag hoisting at the Shaheed Smarak by Com. Ramashish Singh. Inaugurating the conference, Kisan Mahasabha General Secretary Com. Rajaram Singh critiqued the Modi government's policies related to land and the agricultural sector – the concessions to foreign corporate companies investing in India, the field trials of GM seeds which will gravely endanger food crops, the proposed pro-corporate and anti-farmer reforms in the land acquisition Bill and the dilution of environmental standards. He pointed out that the phenomenon of sharecropping is on the rise in Bihar, but instead of helping the smaller sharecropper by encouraging public investment, the central and state governments are making all sorts of cuts in farmer subsidies. As a result of the government's policies in the agricultural sector, farming outlays are getting costlier through privatisation of farming material, even as the government refuses to give sharecroppers the status of "farmer" and the benefits which go with it. 

Kisan Mahasabha National President Com. Ruldu Singh also highlighted the deteriorating socio-economic conditions of farmers due to the rising cost of farming inputs. He pointed out that farmers in the so-called rich agricultural belt of Punjab were inveigled and trapped in the debt syndrome and weighed down by loans to the tune of thousands of crores. More than half of the debts were owed to private moneylenders and usurers, leading small farmers to commit suicides in large numbers. National secretary Purushottam Sharma from Uttarakhand said that the uncontrolled industrialization and indiscriminate tourism development in that State was destroying the villages of poor farmers. CPI(ML) leader Com. Rajaram Singh said that recently the Party had conducted a survey of 2 lakh farmers in Bihar, especially sharecroppers, and studied their problems. In the coming days the Party would be taking up steps to organize poor farmers and sharecroppers and initiate struggles.

Focusing on the need to raise sharecroppers' issues effectively, Bihar State secretary Birendra Gupta pointed out that as a good portion of farm labour is engaged in sharecropping, there are increased possibilities for a united struggle. Vice President of the Bihar State Kisan Sabha (affiliated to the CPI) Com. Ramchandra Mahto and State secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha (affiliated to the CPI(M)) Com. Awadhesh underlined the need to develop a united farmers' struggle to combat the impact of neoliberal policies. Com. Surendra Singh and Com. Rambali Prasad also spoke of the devastation caused by neoliberal policies, stating that not only were farmers being deprived of economic rights, their right to organized struggle was also in jeopardy.

Samkaleen joint editor Pradeep Jha pointed out that agriculture was gradually moving from a feudal sharecropping system to a corporate sharecropping system, even as the farmer has not been able to get ownership rights to his crop. He stressed the need to find new ways to strengthen small farmers and to fight the ruling class attempts to wedge a divide between farmers and sharecroppers in Bihar. He appealed for widespread dissemination of the D. Bandopadhyay commission recommendations relating to sharecroppers and for a concerted effort to build an effective farmers' and sharecroppers' movement.

The delegate session was held in the evening of 1 November. Reports of the earlier work of the mahasabha were presented, in which issues such as the dilapidated condition of canals, ahars, and government hand pumps, black marketing of seeds and fertilizers, corruption in PACS (primary agricultural cooperative societies) elections and crop purchase centres, shelving of the D Bandopadhyay recommendations, and forceful land acquisition were discussed. In particular, the denial of sharecroppers' rights was highlighted. Struggles of the Kisan Mahasabha in the last 4-5 years for sharecroppers' rights and crop purchase, and for sugar cane farmers' issues were detailed. The intervention of the Mahasabha in farmers' protest against land acquisition was also discussed. A 17-point list of responsibilities was presented, for widening the organizational strength of the Mahasabha.

32 representatives participated in the discussion. They discussed issues such as the economic oppression of workers in dairy farms, water logging problems in several districts, false electricity bills and extreme shortage of electricity, problems of fruit and vegetable growers due to lack of local mandis, common farmers being deprived of PACS membership, the need to fix the sugar cane purchase price before the sugar mills start working and to include representation of sugar cane farmers in the process of price fixing, failure of the government to buy the crops at the appropriate time, extreme delay in payment, and lack of proper compensation for destroyed crops.

On 2 November, the presiding board declared the inclusion of the issues raised by the representatives in the agenda of the Kisan Mahasabha. Com. Shivsagar Sharma and Com. Krishna Dev Yadav stressed the need for strong intervention on farmers' issues, especially sharecroppers' issues. The report was then passed unanimously. In the final organizational session, National Secretary Com. Ishwari Prasad Kushwaha oversaw the election of new office bearers. 76 comrades were elected to the 81-member council, while 5 places remain vacant. A 33-member executive was elected from among the council members. Com. Vishveshwar Prasad was elected State President and Com. Sudama Prasad State secretary. 8 Vice Presidents and 8 joint secretaries were also elected. Finally, a 12-point political resolution was passed. It was resolved to observe the week from 28 November to 4 December as a state-wide "Demand Week" to demand sharecroppers' rights through organized dharnas in all blocks. The conference ended by paying tributes to Com. Shah Chand, news of whose sad demise reached just as the conference was coming to an end. Prior to this state conference, at the district-level conferences of the Bihar Kisan Mahasabha had been held in Bhojpur, Rohtas, Siwan, Gopalganj, Muzaffarpur, Jamui and Begusarai.


Movement for Peoples' Rights in Ramgarh

During the past month, CPI(ML) has been leading several struggles in Ramgarh, Jharkhand. 17-year old Kamlesh Munda died of hunger in September, and since then CPI(ML) has been demanding justice for his family. After his death, an 8-member enquiry team led by Com. Devki Nandan Bediya and Vigendra Thakur visited Kamlesh Munda's village, Betul Khurd. The team met the villagers as well as the victim's brother Sunil Munda and enquired into the incident. The villagers informed the CPI(ML) team that Kamlesh Munda's father died of hunger in 2003, when Kamlesh and his brother Sunil were just 6 and 5 years old respectively. At that time, the State government had undertaken to pay for the care and education of both the children and had admitted them to the Adivasi school in Mandu. Last year, both boys failed the Matric exam and returned to the village to live with their grandfather in a dilapidated 2-room Indira Awas home. Kamlesh Munda, already suffering from epilepsy, could no longer get medicine due to lack of money. Without money to buy food on the ration card, Sunil started working at the Kaku hotel in Hemantpur. Sometimes they had money for rations, and sometimes the villagers helped them. The BDO was kept informed about this situation. Panchayat sewak Ramji Mahto sometimes visited the village on behalf of the government, but he could not render any help to Kamlesh. Finally the 17-year old Kamlesh died on 25 September. The villagers informed the BDO, who in turn sent the panchayat sewak to the village. The BDO and SDO visited the village in the evening, gave 10,000 as compensation, and suspended the panchayat sewak in an attempt to absolve the government from accountability. CPI(ML) organized a dharna and nukkad sabha to protest against Kamlesh's death and to demand a high level enquiry, action against the guilty as well as and proper care, medical and educational expenses for Sunil Munda.

On 14-15 October, a CPI(ML) team led by Com. Devki Nandan Bediya visited the areas in Gola block of Ramgarh district affected by the Hudhud cyclone.  The DC, SP, BDO, CO and other officials visited only 2 of the affected villages and of all the hundreds of affected homes, gave 2.5 to 5 kg rice, 1.5 kg chiwda, 1.5 kg jiggery, 2 bottles of water, some biscuits, and some assurances in just 35 homes. CPI(ML) organized a rally of over 300 people and a public meeting in Gola block on 17 October to demand compensation for the affected villages and to raise other peoples' issues. Comrades Devki Nandan Bediya, Bigendra Thakur, Tejpal Mahto, Gobind Kushwaha, Shankar Munda, Aloki Devi as well as Akli Devi, condemned the government's gross neglect. The villagers described their problems, and submitted a 19-point charter of demands.

A rally was organized in Mandu block on 17 October to protest looting of land by the land mafia, destruction of crops by poisonous emissions from sponge iron factories, and to demand minimum wages for workers. A rally was also organized in Patratu block to protest against removal of 400 names of poor people from the BPL list, against bribery and corruption in ration distribution and in issuing land deeds for farmers, against the gair-majruwa land scam and land acquisition by the Jindal corporate house. A memorandum was submitted on these issues. A dharna was also held in Dulmi block to demand subsidies in seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides for farmers, and to protest against the scams in construction of toilets in rural areas and corruption in the Indira Awas schemes. A memorandum on these issues was submitted.

'Vishwasghat Virodhi' March In Ranchi

A 'Vishwasghat Virodhi' march was held in Ranchi on 20 October, to protest against the steady betrayals of peoples' aspirations by the Hemant Soren government in Jharkhand and the Modi government at the Centre. This rally, called by the Ranchi town committee, began from the Party State office in Ranchi, and culminated in a protest gathering at the Albert Ekka chowk. The march was led by CPI(ML)'s central control commission board member Com. Sukhdev Prasad, Ranchi district secretary Bhuvaneshwar Kevat and Sudama Khalko. Speakers at the rally pointed out that the JMM and BJP had held power in Jharkhand for the longest period, and therefore need to be held responsible for the corporate loot, corruption, forced migration and human trafficking in Jharkhand. The rally was addressed by Pratap Choudhary, Bhim Sahu, Maqsood Alam, Tulsi Singh, Shanti Sen, Meena Lakra, Inamul Haque and others.

Left Parties Press Release

A meeting of six Left parties – Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party, All India Forward Bloc, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)-Liberation and Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist) was held on 3 November at New Delhi. They have issued the following statement:

With the advent of the Modi government in power there is a concerted rightwing offensive fueled by the corporate-Hindutva forces. There is a growing onslaught on the people through the imposition of neo-liberal policies which is going to adversely impact the livelihood of the people. There is no respite for the people from price rise, unemployment and corruption.

The Hindutva forces are resorting to aggressive communal activities. The Modi government's patronage of the RSS and its outfits is aimed at communalising the educational, social and cultural institutions. There is rise in communal tensions in different parts of the country.

The Left parties decided to conduct a week long protest campaign between December 8 to 14, 2014 on the following issues:

(i)      Against steps to curtail and dilute the MNREGA

(ii)    Curb price rise; control exorbitant price of medicines and drugs

(iii)    No increased FDI in insurance.

(iv)   Take firm action to unearth black money

(v)              Stop infiltration of the RSS and Hindutva ideology in education, public broadcasting media and  other institutions of the State.

(vi)   Stop the "love jihad" hate campaign and other forms of communal propaganda

(vii)  Stop attacks on minorities and their rights

(viii)                       Fight violence against women and all forms of gender oppression

(ix)  Fight against atrocities on dalits and caste oppression

Those who attended the meeting were: Debabrata Biswas (AIFB); Kshiti Goswami & Manoj Bhattacharya (RSP); Swapan Mukherjee & Kavita Krishnan (CPI(ML)-Liberation); Manik Mukherjee & Ranjit Dhar (SUCI(C)), A.B. Bardhan & D Raja (CPI) and Prakash Karat & S Ramachandran Pillai (CPI(M)).

Workshop for Working Women in Bengal

An encouraging workshop of working women was organised by AIPWA and AICCTU on 9 November at Chinsura, Hooghly. More than 100 working class women from different sectors participated, expressed their trials and tribulations and shared their experiences with others. Women workers of Asha, anganwadi and midday meal schemes as well as domestic workers and even agricultural labourers actively took part in the discussion.  Chaitali Sen (Secretary AIPWA, West
Bengal) initiated the discussion and explained the necessity of the workshop. Atanu Chakravarty, President, AICCTU, West Bengal gave an introductory speech, stressing particularly on sexual harassment of women at workplaces, and mentioning some crucial points from the existing Act against sexual violence and harassment. He explained that workplace also means 'world of
work', which ILO uses to include the broader place of economic activity, i.e., on public transportation going to work, or returning back home after a night shift or selling products in the street. The concept of 'world of work' helps capture paid productive work that does not take place within the traditional "public sphere" such as a factory or office. He also mentioned that the 45th session of Indian Labour Conference held in May 2013 concluded that all women working in Asha, MDM and Anganwadi schemes should be treated as workers – they should be paid minimum wage and should get all social security benefits such as pension, gratuity, and maternity benefits. It was also mentioned that domestic workers are explicitly included in the Unorganized workers (social security) Act, 2008 and have come under the coverage of Rashtriya Swasth Bima Yogana.

Representatives and leaders from different sectors expressed their experiences and humiliation which they face from employers and even from government officials such as school authorities and health personnel. Com. Chaitali summed up the discussion and informed the gathering that a similar workshop would take place on 16 Nov at a state level. Prabir Haldar, President AICCTU Hooghly district committee, assured the participants of all active help and cooperation and reiterated the need to break the narrow confines of various sectors in order to assert as a fighting class against all forms of patriarchy and class oppression. Com. Sobha Banerjee, President AIPWA Hoogly, presided over the proceedings.


A Tribute to Minakshi Sen, progressive litterateur

Noted progressive littérateur and academician Minskshi Sen passed away on 24 October 2014 in Agartala. Always deeply sympathetic to the revolutionary communist movement, she had been associated with a variety of peoples' movements, starting with her involvement in the 1970s when she was a college student at City College Kolkata. She joined the Naxalite movement and was arrested in the year 1973 and subsequently released from jail in the year 1977. Her experiences in jail found a reflection in her legendry works such as "jeler bhetor jel". She worked extensively to build the academic discourse around media, gender, conflict and reconciliation, language, music and literature of the North Eastern region. After completion of her post graduation, she came to Tripura and started her profession as a college teacher. Within very short period, she became a popular teacher. Till her death, she maintained a good relation with CPI(ML). Not long before her demise, when the party's state leaders met her, she gave her consent to join the All India Peoples' Forum. Her passing is an immeasurable loss for revolutionary literature and the progressive democratic movement.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

ML Update | No. 45 | 2014

ML Update

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol.  17 | No. 45 | 4 - 10 NOV 2014


Communal Politics in Delhi

The Delhi Assembly elections are to be held in the next few months. And, even before the official announcement of the elections, communal tensions have been systematically stoked in the city by India's ruling political party in collusion with a pliant Delhi Police.

Delhi is now witnessing the exact same pattern that has already been tried and tested in Western Uttar Pradesh by the BJP under Amit Shah. The CPI(ML) has recently published a booklet with the findings of an in-depth fact-finding into series of communal incidents in Western UP preceding elections there. The pattern revealed that systematically, every small incident (from children quarrelling over fruit trees bordering neighbours' homes, to elopements, to loudspeakers in religious institutions or festivals) was escalated into a communal incident. A 'Hindu-Muslim' twist was given to the most innocuous of incidents. And over and above this, systematic venom was propagated against the Muslim community, branding them as 'rapists', 'threats to our mothers and daughters', and 'terrorists'.  

In Delhi, at Trilokpuri, Bawana, Mundka and Nand Nagri, the same pattern is being seen. At Trilokpuri, for instance, a brawl amongst some drunken youth – both Hindu and Muslim – on the night of Diwali, was given a communal colour with the help of rumours. The quarrel itself subsided in the night itself. But a former BJP MLA held a large meeting at his house, following which systematic stone-pelting and violence took place the next day. The police, instead of imposing prohibitory orders and making preventive arrests, allowed the violence to continue for two more days. And while the police has arrested many young men (mostly Muslim, some Hindu, but with little evidence against any), they have yet to touch the former BJP MLA who held the meeting at his house!

In Bawana, the police's role is even more questionable. Here, at the time of Eid, rumours of 'cow slaughter' were stoked, in response to which the police conducted 'raids' of Muslim homes in a slum cluster. The occasion of a Muslim festival was turned into a climate of terror for them, with Hindutva groups indulging openly in distributing posters and leaflets spreading hatred against the festival, with no action from the police. Again, on the eve of Muharram, venom was spread against the impending Taziya procession. Posters and leaflets appeared, branding the Taziya (which is a procession of mourning and self-flagellation) as a 'show of strength' by the minority community. The police, which is directly under the Modi Government in Delhi, did not assure the minority that they could hold their procession safely without threat of violence. Instead, they told the minority community to curtail the route of their Taziya procession if they wanted to be safe. The minority community complied. Yet, a 'mahapanchayat' with thousands of people from the dominant Jat community, was allowed by the police, with the open purpose of preventing the Taziya procession from taking place.

The sitting BJP MLA attended and addressed the mahapanchayat, openly branding the Muslim community as 'them' who are a threat to 'our mothers and daughters', and branding the Taziya procession as a 'show of strength'. He congratulated youth for joining the mahapanchayat, which would not 'allow' the Taziya to follow its usual route. From the dais, speeches were made branding Muslims as 'outsiders' to the nation in which Hindus were 'original inhabitants'. Calls for violence were openly issued from the dais, and announcements were made that participants would be 'secretly' intimated about plans for violence on the day of Muharram. Yet the police booked no cases against those making inflammatory speeches inciting violence. Mahapanchayats were the platforms for mobilizing violence in Muzaffarnagar – yet such a mahapanchayat with the explicit purpose of obstructing a yearly minority religious procession was allowed by the police.

What is the message that India's ruling party, the BJP, and the Delhi Police directly controlled by the Home Ministry of Modi's Government, is giving to the minority? The message seems to be what Golwalkar, the RSS founder, said in his book, We or Our Nationhood Defined, in 1939:

 "… the foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment not even citizen's rights."

It cannot be a coincidence that Modi is the first PM in independent India not to greet the nation on the occasion of Eid, and to address the public on the occasion of Vijayadashami. The message is unmistakeable – that the minority's religious occasions are 'foreign' to the 'nation', and will not be graced with recognition and acceptance by the Prime Minister.    

The fact that Muslims' Taziya procession can be curtailed with the approval of the police, in India's national capital under pressure from Hindutva outfits that openly threaten violence if it follows its route, is an alarming symptom of India's shrinking democracy. The Modi Government likes to boast of 'good governance' and 'strong leadership'. No governance and leadership is worth much in a democracy if it is unable to ensure that the minorities can live without fear.

The fact that BJP is seeking to foment communal tensions towards elections in Delhi, actually reveals its insecurity as to the outcome of those elections. It is aware that the people are not impressed with the way in which the Modi Government has broken its promise to bring down prices, bring back black money, ensure justice for women, and has instead unleashed an offensive against the rights of workers. The communal ploys are a desperate attempt to take attention away from these burning questions, by the tactics of divide and rule. Democratic forces are determined to defeat this ploy, and recognise and resist the BJP's communal tactics.   


Resisting Communal Hate and Riot Mongering in Delhi

For the past ten days, Delhi has been witnessing well-orchestrated campaigns of hate and communal rumour mongering, leading to large-scale tensions and violence. Immediately after Diwali, vested interests, led by former BJP MLA from Trilokpuri Sunil Vaidya, helped to spread all sorts of wild rumours and fomented tensions and violence in Trilokpuri. Soon after, the occasion of Muharram was used to spread massive tensions and fear amongst the minority community in Bawana. The Delhi Police, controlled by the Modi government's Home Ministry, failed to intervene to control the situation and in fact exacerbated the tensions through arbitrary arrests.

In the midst of this communal riot mongering, AISA, AICCTU and CPI(ML), along with several progressive and democratic forces in Delhi, have been actively intervening in several ways to resist this orchestrated violence and hate mongering. Immediately after the violence in Trilokpuri began, at a time when all sorts of rumours were being spread to escalate communal tensions across Delhi, various teams (including members of AISA, CPI(ML) and JNUSU) visited the area to meet the people and document the facts. These teams highlighted the manner in which common brawls between individuals were deliberately being given a communal colour by vested interests. At a time when the media was completely blocking out the role of the Delhi Police – the lack of adequate action to begin with, the arbitrary arrests of people, the injuries inflicted by the police lathi charge on men and women in Muslim dominated areas, the torture and beatings in police custody of those arrested, and moreover the lack of action against the former BJP MLA Sunil Vaidya and other RSS leaders who had clearly played a role in inciting the violence – these teams highlighted the need to demand accountability from the police and the state machinery.

JNUSU took the initiative to organise a Citizens' Protest against the prejudiced role of the Delhi Police on 1 November 2014. AISA and various left and democratic individuals and organizations, including the Delhi Forum and left student groups such as Democratic Students' Union (DSU) and Democratic Students' Federation (DSF) participated in this demonstration. This protest was anchored by JNUSU President Comrade Ashutosh. A delegation consisting of JNUSU office bearers (JNUSU President Ashutosh, Vice President Anant, General Secretary Chintu, Joint Secretary Shahqat) as well JNUSU councillors Rama Naga and Fayaz met representatives of the Delhi Police and submitted a detailed note demanding strong action against responsible police officers who failed to act in time to stop the violence, immediate action against well-known instigators of the violence such former BJP MLA Sunil Vaidya and RSS leader Ramcharan Gujarati, an end to the arbitrary arrests and chargesheets without evidence and investigation, and provision of proper security, medical and legal aids to those accused persons who are inside Tihar jail. AISA and JNUSU are also actively part of the ongoing initiatives to provide proper legal aid to those arbitrarily arrested and tortured as 'rioters' (around 75-80 per cent of those arrested by the police are Muslims) and to provide medical and legal aid to those injured in the Trilokpuri violence. They have been intervening with the Minority Commission as well as with the Delhi Police to demand action and justice in this milieu of violence and communal hate mongering.

Even as democratic forces were dealing with the situation in Trilokpuri, tensions broke out in Bawana as Muharram approached. Long-standing communal tensions in Bawana (at the outskirts of Delhi) took a vicious inflammatory turn, when a Mahapanchayat was called on 2nd November to provoke hatred against the Taziya (Moharram procession) in Bawana. On hearing of the communal mobilisation in Bawana, JNUSU wrote to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi demanding immediate action to prevent the Mahapanchayat. On the day of the Mahapanchayat, an AISA team visited Bawana on 2 November, met local people and witnessed the Mahapanchayat and the developments around it. They collected concrete evidence of the horrific communal speeches delivered at the Mahapanchayat by the sitting BJP MLA Gugan Singh Ranga, a sitting councillor from the Congress, and several other leaders from BJP. They also met the residents of the JJ colony in Bawana, who spoke of the atmosphere of fear and intimidation, despite the fact that Muslims had already agreed to limit the route of the Taziya procession within the JJ colony. On the day of Muharram (4 November 2014), AISA and JNUSU teams from DU and JNU went to both Trilokpuri and Bawana to resist all attempts to foment violence and communal tensions during the Taziya procession. Even as those who foment communal tensions roam around free in Delhi, AISA activists were detained by the Delhi Police when they tried to enter Bawana – for several hours they were detained in different police stations in the region and were released only late at night.


Anti-Communal Peace March in Bhojpur

In Sahar (Bhojpur), communal fascist forces systematically tried to perpetrate attacks, looting and riots on the occasion of the idol immersion during the Laxmi puja. CPI(ML) took the initiative to robustly resist all these dubious plans to break Hindu-Muslim unity, and organised a march for peace and goodwill (Shanti Sadbhavana march) to protest attempts to create communal tensions and divisions. The march, led by Politburo member comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya, former MP comrade Rameshwar Prasad, comrades Sudama Prasad, Jawahar Singh and others, traversed the entire area appealing for peace and harmony. Addressing the meeting organized on the occasion, which was also the fourth death anniversary of comrade Ramnaresh Ram, comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya pointed out that feudal-communal forces were together conspiring to break the unity of the poor and the oppressed and in the process undermining Bhojpur's anti-communal, anti-colonial legacy.

The tensions during the Laxmi idol immersion in Bhojpur was not a spur of the moment incident, but a result of systematic planning by local BJP activists including Madhukar Prasad, Shyamal Rai, Vimal Rai, Ashok Sodhi and others. Two or three kiosks belonging to the Muslim community were set afire, after which the DM and SP as well as JD (U) MLA Sunil Pandey and RJD leaders arrived at the Sahar thana. Subsequently, despite their presence in the thana, 28 shops belonging to Muslims were set ablaze. The people of Sahar foiled the attempts to start communal riots all over the area, but the BJP started spreading false rumours that CPI(ML) activists were involved in the attacks. Clearly, the BJP is stooping to any levels in order to break the unity of the poor. CPI(ML) leaders and several teams organized meetings in villages around Sahar against this mischievous rumour and exposing the communal conspiracy. Former MP Rameshwar Prasad, Raju Yadav, Sudama Prasad, Qayamuddin, Chandradeep Singh, Manoj Manzil and other leaders organized meetings at different villages, appealed for peace, and demanded the immediate arrest of all the conspirators. Moreover, Party volunteers were present at all the ghats in Bhojpur on the occasion of Chhath to ensure that the communal intentions of the BJP did not succeed. It was also decided to observe 1-2 November as Anti-communal Day (Sampradayikta Virodhi Diwas) at all the Chatti bazaars.


Jan Sunwai in Darbhanga

A panchayat level 'Jan Sunwai' was organized on 13 October 2014 by the CPI(ML) at village Rupauli, 18 km from Darbhanga town. This panchayat falls under Hanuman Nagar block of Bahadurpur Assembly constituency. A survey had earlier been conducted at 2 booths in this panchayat (booth no. 57 and 60). The people of Rupuali village had been engaged in a movement for flood relief, and for several days a large number of women and children sat in dharna at the Polo maidan near the DM's office. Although there is no Party member in Rupauli village, Party comrades intervened to help organize this movement and make it successful. The Jan Sunwai held at Rupauli village was thus part of this ongoing movement. About 250 women, men, students, and youth participated in this programme which was organized in the community hall complex. After the declaration of the Presidential board and jury, comrade Sunil gave details of the 102 families surveyed in both the booths. The detailed report highlighted several issues – number of adults missing from the voters' lists, status of anganwadis, schools and student scholarships in the area, status of land ownership, housing and healthcare facilities, status of implementation of MNREGA and food security schemes, and status of toilet, electricity and water facilities. After this report was presented, the chairman of the jury Samkaleen Lok Yudh joint editor Pradeep Jha asked the people present to speak on every one of these issues relating to the condition of Rupauli village, and it came to light that the situation on the ground was even worse. The women were most forthright. They pointed out that rations were being cut, and the price of rice and wheat were being raised by Rs 5 and Rs 4 per kg respectively. A few people were getting work for 10-12 days under MNREGA, but even they had got either no payment at all or only partial payment. Students pointed out that the transformer has been burnt out for some months now, but the electricity bills are coming in regularly without fail. Their studies are being affected due to lack of electricity, and so their exam results are not up to their capability. Scholarships in government schools are being given to students selectively. There is no anganwadi and no sub-health centre. The villagers showed that one side of the village was covered with flood waters and their crops have been destroyed. They were angry because no relief had reached them.

Addressing the Jan Sunwai, CPI(ML) Darbhanga district Secretary Vaidyanath Yadav condemned the government's discriminatory attitude and negligence towards flood victims as well as the indifferent attitude towards scams in ration distribution. He called upon the people present to participate in large numbers in the Hanuman Nagar block office gherao on 5 November announced by CPI(ML). Local woman activist Pramila Devi contributed significantly towards making this programme a success. Party district committee member and Khet Mazdoor Sabha district Secretary comrade Jamal, AISA activist Prince Kumar, and comrade Saheb were present in the Jan Sunwai programme.


Release of Booklet on Communal Politics in Uttar Pradesh

On 1 November, the state unit of CPI(ML) released a 32-page booklet on the communal politics in western Uttar Pradesh at a programme organised at the UP Press Club in Lucknow. The UP state committee had set up a 3-member team consisting of CC member comrade Mohd. Salim, AIKM state President Jayprakash Narayan and UP state committee member Ramayan Ram – and this folder is the result of week-long investigation by this CPI(ML) team which went to various parts of western Uttar Pradesh. Titled 'Pashchimi Uttar Pradesh: Sampradayik Fasiwad ki Nayi Prayogshaala – CPI(ML) Jaanch Dal ki Tathyakmak Padtal', this booklet documents the manner in which innocuous differences and brawls between individuals were deliberately given a communal colour with a clear intention to polarise society. It also documents the role of the ruling SP government in failing to control the communal mobilisation and failing to take strong and timely action against the communal fascist forces.  


Red Salute to Comrade Shah Chand!

Comrade Shah Chand Mukhiya, beloved popular leader from Jehanabad-Arwal, loved and respected as the "Nelson Mandela of Bihar", passed away on 2 November. A wave of grief enveloped the whole area with the news of his demise. His funeral procession was taken out from his village Bhadasi on 3 November, and a sea of people turned out for one last sight of their beloved leader. Long queues of men and women lined both sides of the road from Bhadasi to Karbala, and more joined in as the procession proceeded. The mourners included Party General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya, Com. Kunal, Com. Ramjatan Sharma, Dhirendra Jha, Amar, Meena Tiwari, Saroj Choube, Anwar Hussain, Rajaram Singh, Raldu Singh, Wasi Ahmad, Suhail, and other leaders. Earlier, Com. Dipankar met Com. Shah Chand's wife Com. Jameela Khatoon and sons, and consoled them with the assurance that every single Party worker stands with them.

Com. Shah Chand was an extremely popular leader of entire Bihar, particularly Jehanabad-Arwal. After passing his Matric from Umairabad, he graduated from BN College, Patna. After higher studies he associated himself with the struggle for social change. In 1977 he became the mukhiya of Bhadasi panchayat for the first time. For his memorable achievements in the panchayat, he got the award of best mukhiya in the whole district. In 2001, when there were elections for mukhiya after a long period in Bihar, he was once again elected by a huge margin of votes. In 2003 while he was still holding the office of mukhiya, he was sentenced to life under TADA.

Shah Chand was born in a zamindar family but his life was dedicated to the poor and he was greatly feared by feudal forces in society. Soon after becoming active in political life he joined IPF in 1985. By then he was convinced that the committed farmers' struggle under CPI(ML) was the only hope for the poor. Feudal forces in the Arwal area were shaken to the core by the forceful rise of the poor. In 1988 the Bhadasi incident took place, after which false cases were slapped at the behest of feudal forces on 13 people including Shah Chand. The draconian act TADA, meant for controlling 'terrorism', was also unfairly slapped on all 14 prisoners. Subsequently, a forceful movement for removing TADA was organised during the Lalu-Rabri regime. CPI(ML) MLAs regularly raised questions regarding TADA in the Assembly, but the Lalu-Rabri government deliberately ignored them. In the 2000 Assembly elections, Shah Chand stood from Arwal as the CPI(ML) candidate. There was a huge mobilisation of the poor in his favour, but because of the double game played by the administration, he lost by a mere 1000 votes to the RJD candidate Akhilesh Singh. But this near victory put the fear into the feudal forces and they left no stone unturned in their attempt to punish him. In 2003 the Supreme Court sentenced him and his 13 comrades to life imprisonment. The sentence was upheld even after 3 appeals, proving that the administrative machinery as well as tyrannical judgements was against those fighting for the rights of the poor. The sentence did not reduce the revolutionary fire in comrade Shah Chand. He carried on peoples' struggles from jail, started organizing prisoners on various issues, and fighting for prisoners' rights.

For the past few months comrade Shah Chand was in very bad health. He had spent 13 years in jail and his release was being demanded so that he could get proper treatment. In this regard, a CPI(ML) delegation met Home Secretary Amir Subhani and later CM Jitan Ram Majhi. But the attitude of the Nitish-Jitan government towards this champion of the poor was no different from that of Lalu Prasad. His release on parole met with administrative obstacles, and in the absence of proper treatment his life could not be saved. The attitude of the Bihar government is the height of insensitivity, exposing the true face of the so-called 'social justice' of Lalu-Nitish.

After comrade Shah Chand's funeral procession, comrade Dipankar and other mourners spoke of his courage and commitment, condemned the role of the government and administration in his death, and pledged that his work for the rights of the poor would be taken forward by the Party and people's struggles. Earlier, a condolence meeting was organized and 2 minutes' silence was observed. Com. Tribhuvan Sharma, Ind Mehta, and others spoke at the meeting. Moreover, all 449 prisoners in Jehanabad jail went on a 24 hour hunger strike to protest the death of Com. Shah Chand Mukhiya. Red Salute to Comrade Shah Chand!