A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 18 | No. 02 | 06 - 12 JAN 2015
Rajasthan Ordinance on Educational Qualification for Panchayat Candidates:
Disenfranchising the Poor and Marginalized
The BJP Government in Rajasthan has, days before panchayat polls in the State, introduced an ordinance mandating minimum educational qualifications for Panchayat candidates. According to the ordinance, a candidate should have passed Class 10 to contest the Zila Parishad or Panchayat Samiti polls; be Class 8 pass from any school to contest the Sarpanch elections on general seats and have passed Class 5 from a school to become a Sarpanch in the scheduled seats. The BJP Government has chosen to use the 'ordinance route' – bypassing any debate or vote in the Assembly, in spite of the fact that ordinances are meant only for emergency measures. What was the pressing emergency to deprive nearly 80% of the state's citizens from contesting the panchayat polls?
According to the Census 2011, rural literacy levels in Rajasthan are abysmally low – 61% for men and 45% for women. In the 2010 Rajasthan Panchayat polls, more than 70% of elected Panchayat Samiti members and 77% SC Panchayat Samiti representatives; 55% of Zila Parishad members; 61% of the Scheduled Caste and 63% of Scheduled Tribes representatives fail to meet the criteria specified by the ordinance. With this ordinance, the Rajasthan Government is punishing women, SC/ST persons, and the vast majority of rural Rajasthan for the failure of the State to ensure education for all!
The educational criterion imposed by the Ordinance is Class 5 pass for SC/ST reserved seats. But the fact is that STs have held even unreserved panchayat seats in some parts of the State – and may now be debarred by the Ordinance from doing so. Till now, a large number of the 27 panchayats of Shahabad block and 32 panchayats in Kishanganj block of Baran district have been held by Sahariya adivasis, beyond the seats reserved for STs. Now, the ordinance imposing and educational bar have ensured that very few among the Sahariyas will be able to contest.
The ordinance becomes even more absurd when considered alongside the fact that 23 BJP MLAs and 2 BJP MPs in Rajasthan are below 10th pass, and 20% of the Modi Government's Cabinet Ministers are below 12th Pass. This means that Sarpanches in rural Rajasthan are required to meet educational criteria that MPs and MLAs, who enact laws for the country and the State, are exempt from.
The BJP Government's claim that this is a move to curb corruption is shockingly elitist, implying that those deprived of education are likely to be more corrupt. Local self-governance in rural areas is mandated by the 73rd Constitutional amendment that did not stipulate any minimum educational qualifications.
The Supreme Court refused to entertain petitions against the ordinance, saying that the Rajasthan High Court was the correct forum to raise the issue. By failing to at least extend the deadline for filing nominations until the High Court can take up the matter, the Supreme Court has been remiss in its duty to protect Constitutional rights of citizens.
Rural Rajasthan and much of rural India are deprived of education. Levels of literacy and education among the Dalits, adivasis and women are especially low in India. The only criteria that need concern us about Panchayat representatives are their incorruptibility and their commitment to leading people's struggles for their rights. These criteria, needless to say, cannot be enforced by Governments but can only be pursued and enforced by the rural people, by demanding transparency and accountability from elected representatives.
The silence of the Modi-led Central Government on the Rajasthan ordinance disenfranchising the poorest and weakest of the rural population is yet another danger signal for India's democracy.
Press Statement issued by Left Parties on Upcoming Visit of US President Barack Obama
Obama Visit: Observe Protest Day on January 24
The Modi government and the BJP have unleashed the forces of Hindutva which threatens the secular and democratic values of the Indian Republic. It is at such a juncture that the Government has invited President Obama of the United States of America to be the Chief Guest of the Republic Day on January 26.
It is a supreme irony that the day which symbolizes India's independence and sovereignty is being graced by the head of a country which has done the most to assault and destroy the sovereignty of many countries around the world. President Obama himself is responsible for the aggression in Libya and for the rerun of bombing and sending troops back to Iraq. The US is doing everything to destroy Syria as a national entity.
The Left parties protest the visit of President Obama because:
1. The United States is targeting and destabilizing governments and countries in West Asia by military interventions like in Iraq, Libya and Syria.
2. The United States is the patron and staunch supporter of Israel which occupies Palestinian land and Arab territories and subjects the Palestinian people to colonial oppression.
3. The United States has shifted a substantial part of its naval and military resources to Asia as part of the pivot of Asia and is creating new military bases and tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.
4. US intervention in Afghanistan and role in Pakistan have nurtured fundamentalist forces, the disastrous consequences of which serve as a warning to India.
5. US which wages wars in the name of defending democracy, is facing massive protests at home against racial murders by its police force. Further the terrible record of torture and Islamophobic profiling by the CIA with the approval of the US government has recently exposed the US as amongst the worst violator of human rights and democracy in the world.
The BJP government is pursuing a pro-US foreign policy which is contrary to an independent non-aligned foreign policy. This is being done in the interests of Indian and foreign monopoly capital.
The Left parties strongly protest:
1. The decision to renew the India-US Defence Framework Agreement for another ten years. This is a pact which will yoke India to American military strategy in Asia.
2. Seeking to pressurise India to change its foreign policy orientation vis a vis Palestine, Israel and Iran to suit US interests
3. The relentless pressures exercised by the Obama administration on India to open up the financial sector to US capital, as a result of which the Modi government has promulgated an ordinance to allow 49 per cent FDI in the insurance sector.
4. The strong pressure of the US to weaken the patents regime in India to benefit the US drug companies, so that they can sell drugs in India at high prices.
5. America's pressures that India to give up its food security programme by undermining public procurement and the public distribution system.
6. US pressuring India to weaken laws that protect labour rights and environment, to benefit US corporations.
7. The Obama-Modi efforts to dilute the civil nuclear liability law to favour US nuclear companies.
The Left parties call for a Protest Day against the visit of President Obama on January 24.
Halt US aggression !
Stop interference in India's domestic matters !
Stop US-India strategic collaboration !
Prakash Karat, General Secretary, CPI(M)
Sudhakar Reddy, General Secretary, CPI
Dipankar Bhattacharya General Secretary, CPI(ML)-Liberation
Provash Ghosh, General Secretary, SUCI(C)
Debabrata Biswas, General Secretary, AIFB
Abani Roy, General Secretary, RSP
Successful Bihar Bandh by Niyojit Sewakarmi Samyukta Morcha
A state-wide bandh was organized on 22 December by the Bihar State Contractual-Honorarium Employees' United Front (Samyukt Morcha) pressing for an 8-point charter of demands, including scrapping of the contractual/honorarium based planning policy, ensuring permanent appointment and equal pay for equal work for all such employees, strict implementation of the Bihar government's resolution No. 2401 dated 18.07.2007, protection of trade union rights, repeal of oppressive actions and prompt appointments to fill vacant teaching and other posts. Organizations associated with the Samyukt Morcha demonstrated in large numbers in districts, blocks and tehsil HQs across Bihar and ensured that the call for Bihar bandh was a big success.
In the capital Patna, a march from Gandhi maidan was organized by the Samyukt Morcha. It was led by chief patron Rambali Prasad, President Ranvijay Kumar, Gen. Secretary Shiv Shankar Prasad, AICCTU Gen. Secretary RN Thakur, Aasnarayan Singh, Devanand Thakur, Ravishankar Sinha, Binda Prasad, Shyam Prasad Sao, Upendra Prasad, Chhattu Prasad, Shatrughan Sinha, Premchand Sinha and others. Thousands of people participated in the march, including the Special Police Personnel Union, the Midday Meal Workers' Union, the Samvida (contractual) Ameen union, AICCTU and Mahasangh (Gope faction). The protest march proceeded from Gandhi maidan to the Dak Bunglow crossing. Several people who have passed the TET and STET exams also proceeded in a large procession from Gandhi maidan and reached the Dak Bunglow crossing, led by Markandey Thakur. Protestors and participants in the march gheraod the Dak Bunglow crossing. Thousands of protestors were arrested.
CPI(ML) activists came out on the streets throughout Bihar in support of the bandh and obstructed road and rail traffic at several places. About 500 Party activists marched from Gandhi maidan and courted arrest at the Dak Bunglow crossing, led by State secretary comrade Kunal, Politburo member comrade Amar, AIPWA Gen. Secretary Meena Tiwari, AIPWA State President Saroj Choube, comrades Shashi Yadav, Santosh Sahar, Rambali Yadav, Anita Sinha, AISA national secretary Abhyuday and RYA leader Naveen Kumar.
Addressing the protest meeting at the Dak Bunglow crossing, various speakers pointed out that the attitude of the government towards contract/honorarium workers is one of total neglect. These workers frequently come out on the streets to agitate on issues like planning and wages, but the government answers them only in the language of repression, lathis and bullets. This attitude and injustice was strongly condemned. The speakers also pointed out that whether it is the Modi government at the Centre, or the JD(U) government in Bihar, both implement neo-liberal policies and want to run the country on the basis of temporary planning through contract/honorarium where workers get no guarantee of either dignity or social security. Therefore, the policy of contractual planning must be totally reversed and the struggle for the implementation of permanent appointments must be strengthened. On the one hand, peoples' rights are being attacked and reduced, and on the other hand price rise and corruption are increasing. The Modi government has deeply betrayed the people of the country.
Addressing the meeting, AIPWA and AISA leaders said that a substantial number of women today labour as ASHA workers, midday meal workers, anganwadi workers and nurses, but they are not getting even minimum wages to take care of their families. The government has made their lives a veritable hell. The Delhi and Bihar governments sell dreams of employment to the unemployed, but they have no concrete policy for the youth. AISA and AIPWA leaders stressed that workers do not want contractual or honorarium jobs; their demand is for permanent, regular employment with dignity. Until the government can provide this, they should give unemployment allowance. If the government does not accede to these just demands, this agitation should be further escalated. After the meeting, the protesters marched on towards the kotwali and were arrested and kept inside the kotwali thana.
The bandh had a widespread effect in Patna rural district. About 800 Party supporters took to the streets in Paliganj, while 600 were arrested in Arwal and another 125 were arrested in Fatuha. The bandh was very effective in Ara, Sasaram, Buxar, Motihari, western Champaran, Siwan, and Bhagalpur. In Nawada, CPI(ML) and AIPWA participated in large numbers – and 234 women were arrested for participating in the protest. Beguserai and Darbhanga also saw large numbers of protesters out on the streets, as did Samastipur, where 200 activists were arrested. In Vaishali AICCTU, Mahasangh (Gope faction) and CPI(ML) launched a strong agitation to make the bandh a huge success. Hundreds of workers from the Bihar Shiksha Pariyojana Parishad Employees' Union protested on the Patna-Hajipur National Highway and kept it blocked for about 2 hours. People who have passed the TET and STET exams turned out in large numbers to protest and sat on a dharna in Hajipur. On the eve of the bandh, on 21 December, over 150 contractual workers held a mashal juloos and protest meeting. Protest marches were also taken out at Shekhpura, Madhubani, Saharsa, Supoul, Chhapra, Kaimur, Lakhiserai, Banka, Sitamarhi, and other districts.
AIKM Protest in Uttarakhand
The Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha (AIKM) held a protest at Lalkuan tehsil, against the state government's moves to declare Bindukhatta a municipality. The protest demanded that Bindukhatta should be declared a revenue village. The protesters gathered in hundreds and made their way, shouting slogans, through Lalkuan bazaar to the tehsil headquarters, led by Kisan Mahasabha National Secretary comrade Purushottam Sharma, senior AIKM leader Bahadur Singh Jangi, CPI(ML) district secretary Kailash Pandey, Bhuvan Joshi, Anand Sijwali and others. Following the protest, a memorandum of objection, signed by several people, was submitted to the Director, Urban Development (Uttarakhand) through the tehsildar.
Addressing the protest meeting at Car Road, comrade Purushottam Sharma pointed out the various reasons behind the opposition to making Bindukhatta in Nainital district a municipality. Bindukhatta is a fully rural area, and its residents are dependent for their livelihood on rural occupations such as farming, animal husbandry, and associated occupations. Therefore, the appropriate step towards development of Bindukhatta would be to declare it a revenue village. If it is made a municipality, these traditional occupations will not only be badly affected, they actually stand in danger of being completely annihilated. Comrade Sharma pointed out that Bindukhatta is situated entirely in forest land, and the people here have long been demanding its transfer from the forest department to the revenue department. They have also been demanding that residents be given ownership rights of the land. All political parties and all ruling governments had promised to fulfill this demand. But the present government's decision to make it a municipality rather than a revenue village means an effective death of all aspirations of the local residents to get ownership rights to the land. Comrade Sharma stated that the government must answer the peoples' question: why can't the government transfer the forest lands in the name of the poor people instead of handing over land to companies such as Birla, Indian Oil, and sleeper factories as well as to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)?
Comrade Kailash Pandey pointed out that the interim notification of the government in this regard was not even published in the public domain, thereby not informing the public in time and not giving enough time for the people to register their protest. This proves that there are hidden political and economic ulterior motives behind the declaration of Bindukhatta as a municipality.
Senior leader Bahadur Singh Jangi said that we reiterate our long-standing demand for making Bindukhatta a revenue village and we demand that the proposal of forming the municipality be immediately taken back, so that the local residents can get ownership rights to their land and get all the constitutional rights under the Panchayati Raj law. Hundreds of protesters, including Pushkar Dubadiya, Vimla Raunthan, Nirmala, Basanti Bisht, Gangaram and Kamlapati Joshi were present at the meeting.
Dharna Demanding Relief for Cyclone Victims
On 28 November 2014, Left parties held a massive dharna at the Vishakapatnam collectorate, demanding relief and rehabilitation for the Hududh cyclone victims in Andhra Pradesh. CPI(ML) state committee member comrade B. Vasudeva Rao addressed the dharna on behalf of CPI(ML). Party leader comrade M. Ramachandra Raju and Visakha Building Construction Workers' Union Leader K. Ramana also participated. The dharna was addressed by leaders of various Left parties. A detailed memorandum was also submitted to the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and to the Inter-ministerial Central team for assessment of the Hudhud cyclone.
It was demanded that the government should immediately survey, enumerate and register all the effected dwellings. Moreover, housing schemes should also put in place to address the needs of slum dwellers as well as tenant residents who live in rented spaces. It was also demanded that the government should fully compensate the agricultural losses, including losses incurred by tenant farmers. All industrial units – both large factories and public sector units, as well as small units – must be adequately compensated. The fishing industry, which suffered huge losses, should also be compensated, and relief should be provided to fishermen, fish vendors and fishing workers. Moreover, efforts should be made to immediately address the losses suffered in tribal areas due to loss of food crops and plantations. The memorandum of demands was signed by leaders of CPI(ML), CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML) New Democracy, SUCI(C) and MCPI(U).
Network Professionals in Karnataka Seeking Justice
Network Professionals of Karnataka State Wide Area Network (KSWAN), under the e-governance department of the Karnataka state government, and organized under the KSWAN Employees' Union affiliated to AICCTU, organized a protest march in Bangalore on 29 December 2014. Employees from various taluks and districts in Karnataka marched to Bangalore to meet the CEO of the e-govenrnance department, seeking justice.
The government has employed a contractor and a corporate company, United Telecom Limited to handle the services of video conferencing, internet telephony, data transmission, etc., that connect the state administration in various districts with the state administrative headquarters in Bangalore. These workers are maintaining the government's nerve centre of e-communication. However, the company has not even paid notified minimum wages to the workers. The backlog runs into two crores and more, including non-payment of PF dues. When the workers formed their union, affiliated to AICCTU, and sought legitimate demands, the management resorted to witch-hunting and unfair labour practices.
When workers and their leaders met the CEO Mr. Rathan Kelkar in Bangalore, he immediately convened a meeting of the Additional Labour Commissioner Mr. Jinkalappa, Union leaders Comrades Balan, Clifton and Shankar along with representatives of the company, UTL. The union demanded:
1. Regularisation and Absorption of all employees under government services.
2. Continuation of services of all employees in the government irrespective of change in contractor.
3. Clearing the legally due arrears as per government notification, the proceedings of which are pending before the Additional Labour Commissioner.
4. Immediately stopping unfair labour practices, including threat, intimidation and coercion of all employees.
The following decisions were also agreed upon:
1. Services of workers will not be terminated unilaterally. Workers will not be removed as per the whims and fancies of the management of UTL and due procedures of law, including consideration of seniority and compensation, etc., will be followed upon.
2. Legally due wage arrears will be cleared at the earliest as a part of labour department proceedings.
3. The company will continue the services of employees till they continue with the contract and also explore options to accommodate the employees becoming surplus because of closure of Government Business Centers (GBCs) by the state government. All employees will be retained by the company in some form or other through mutual discussions.
4. The government will positively consider options of engaging the services of all employees, including engaging them under KSWAN II and other government operations.
The union has decided to take up the issue of regularization of all employees under government services and continuation of their services even when the contractor is changed. This issue has to be pursued at appropriate levels, including approaching the Chief Minister of Karnataka, as the closure of GBCs is a decision by the state government.
March in Darbhanga demanding Justice for Baleshwar Paswan
A protest march was held in Darbhanga on 22 December 2014, demanding a speedy trial and action against the murderers of comrade Baleshwar Paswan. Despite widespread protests, all those involved in the murder of comrade Baleshwar Paswan have not yet been brought to book. The protest march started from the polo grounds and culminated at the IG office in Darbhanga. A charter of demands was submitted at the IG office.
Addressing the protest march, CPI(ML) politburo member Dhirendra Jha called for unity of all progressive and democratic forces to fight political assassinations and feudal violence. In order to counter the growing communal fascist forces and the RSS-BJP combine, CPI(ML) is initiating a national platform of democratic forces while simultaneously strengthening all efforts at a united Left resistance. Comrade Satyadev Ram pointed out that several instances brutal murders, rapes and feudal casteist violence have come to light in Bihar in the past few months – with no action being taken by the Bihar government. If arrests in the Baleshwar Paswan case do not happen within 15 days, the movement for justice will expand and reach Patna, he declared. The protest meeting was presided over by Ashok Paswan and conducted by comrade Abhishek Kumar. At the end, a 5-point political resolution was passed.
AIALA protest in Devaria, UP
The All India Agricultural Labourers' Association (AIALA) held a protest in Devaria, UP, on 10 December 2014. After a 500-strong protest march which began from the CPI(ML) office in Devaria town and culminated at the district headquarters, a memorandum of demands against the policies of the Modi government in the Centre and the Akhilesh Yadav government in the state was submitted to the district administration. Moreover, for the time in the Bhagalpur block of the same district, a protest under the AIALA banner was held. Around 400 people participated in this protest which was led by AIALA district coordinator Sriram Kushwaha. A 5-point charter was submitted to the President, via the district administration and a 9-point charter of demands was submitted to the block development officer of Bhagalpur block.
The charter included the following demands: immediate rollback of all efforts to dilute MNREGA and reduce its funding, linking of MNREGA with agriculture, guarantee of year-old employment and payment of a minimum of Rs 300 per day, inclusion of families with monthly income of Rs 10,000 in the BPL list, implementation of Food Security Act in UP and provision of at least 15 kgs of food grains every month, inclusion of right to employment as a fundamental right, payment of pending dues to workers under the MNREGA schemes and end of corruption in the distribution of ration cards.
Midday meal workers' protests in Fatuha, Bihar