Independence, Not Equidistance!
While Laloo Prasad Yadav was running from the Sonia darbar to CPI(ML) headquarters in Delhi, back in Patna Governor Vinod Pandey sprang a nasty surprise by inviting NDA leader Nitish Kumar to form the next government in Bihar. Till then the Governor was keeping an intriguingly low profile. Contrary to the by now established practice in hung parliaments and assemblies, he did not seek to elicit the opinions of different political parties in the Bihar Assembly. While it was known that the two rival camps had both staked their claims, it was not declared if he had given them any deadline for mustering and producing the necessary support for being invited to form the next government.
Viewed against this backdrop of secrecy, the suddenness of the Governor's decision could only be interpreted as characteristic of a fascist manoeuvre to usurp power. Even if Nitish Kumar had furnished the evidence of a larger "assured support", it was still way short of the necessary majority mark. Having already claimed the support of all but a few independents, the only way Nitish could still be expected to manufacture a majority was by engineering splits in parties like the Congress and BSP. The Governor's decision was therefore naturally seen to be a go-ahead signal to the NDA managers to grab the necessary support by all possible foul means a la Uttar Pradesh.
The democratic opinion in Bihar naturally felt alarmed and enraged and as the leader of the democratic movement in Bihar, CPI(ML) took the lead in voicing the popular indignation against the saffron conspiracy to usurp power by forcing a government packed with criminals and defectors on the people of Bihar. Apart from other programmes of protest, we also decided to observe a statewide parallel bandh synchronising with the RJD-sponsored action on March 5.
In the polarised context of Bihar, our political line of independent proletarian assertion is often understood simplistically as a line of equidistance from, or neutrality between, both NDA and RJD. This confusing or erroneous perception has probably also been reinforced by the adjustment we had with the CPI, for a section of CPI leaders have all along been articulating this so-called thesis of equidistance, even bordering in certain cases on a certain proximity to the NDA.
This equidistance or neutrality is a vulgar interpretation of the political independence cherished by revolutionary communists. Independence is an active concept which allows a revolutionary party to maximise its initiative in pursuing its own agenda, whereas neutrality is an opportunist notion which can only breed passivity and marginalisation. There cannot be any underestimating the danger posed by NDA in Bihar and as revolutionary communists we must put our best foot forward against this number one enemy.
CPI(ML) Delegation Met President,
Party Protests Against Union Budget
CPI(ML) Chennai City Committee and AICCTU organised protest dharna on March 2 in front of G.P.O. in Chennai against BJP government's millennium budget, terming it as an anti-working people budget. A hundred activists including 10 women participated in the dharna. The gathering was addressed by Com. S. Kumarsamy, CC member and Acting President of AICCTU and Com. G. Radhakrishnan, member of Chennai City Party Committee.
Joint Protest Against Clinton's Visit
On February 25, nine Left parties including CPI(ML) (Liberation), CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML) (New Democracy), and CPI(ML) (New Initiative) met and decided to unitedly launch a protest campaign against Clinton's proposed Andhra visit. Opposing the US imperialist policy of global hegemony, the campaign was initiated with a well-attended joint convention held in Hyderabad on 5 March. Party Central Committee members Com. N. Murthy and Com. Bangara Rao addressed the convention. District level conventions will soon follow.
Party PB Opposed Bihar Governor's Move
CPI(ML) Polit Bureau took strong exception to the Bihar Governor's decision to invite NDA leader Nitish Kumar to form his government. Describing the step as hasty, ill-conceived and violative of democratic norms, the Polit Bureau expressed the apprehension that such a move was liable to vitiate the political atmosphere in Bihar by opening the floodgates of large-scale horsetrading. The PB called upon all left and democratic forces to remain alert against the BJP's bid to purchase power in Bihar and frustrate any attempt to impose a fraudulent government backed by criminals and defectors with the contempt it deserves.The CPI(ML) and CPI legislators will unitedly oppose the NDA on the floor of Bihar Assembly. In Bihar, CPI(ML) will launch a public campaign against the NDA's bid to usurp power and impose the BJP's Uttar Pradesh model on Bihar.
Bihar Bandh Evokes Complete Response
The twelve-hour Bihar Bandh called by CPI(ML) on 5 March against the Governor's invitation to Nitish Kumar to form government in Bihar was a complete success. More than five thousand party activists and supporters courted arrest in various districts throughout Bihar. Led by Party's Polit Bureau member Com. Nand Kishore Prasad, Bihar State Committee Secretary Com. Ram Jatan Sharma and Central Committee members Comrades Ramji Rai, Saroj Chaube and K.D. Yadav, RYA President Com. Rajaram Singh, Central Secretariat member Com. Ranjit Abhigyan, Com. Murtza Ali, youth leaders Com. Paramhans Kumar and Dhananjay Sharma, hundreds of party activists courted arrest at Dak Bungalow Chowk in Patna. Apart from blocking roads, effigies of Prime Minister and Bihar Governor were also burnt at many places. Normal life came to complete standstill as the entire state rose in protest against the Governor's biased and undemocratic act.
In Nalanda, Nawadah, Sheikhpura, Aurangabad, Buxar, Bikramganj, Arrah, and Jahanabad, Party activists and leaders courted arrest while implementing bandh. Reports of arrests also came in from Siwan, Gopalganj, Motihari, Bettiah, Darbhanga, Samastipur, Madhubani, Saharsa, Purnea, Katihar and Muzaffarpur in north Bihar and Giridih, Hazaribagh, Dhanbad, Bokaro, Daltonganj and Ranchi in south Bihar. Bihar Bandh was part of the CPI(ML)'s continuing campaign to frustrate the BJP's fascistic bid to usurp power by foisting a fraudulent government of criminals and defectors on the people of Bihar.
Party General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya congratulated the people of Bihar for today's display of united resolve against the BJP's fascist manoeuvres. The Party will continue its agitation for recall of the controversial Bihar Governor Vinod Pandey.
Construction Union Opposes Demolition Drive
Rajasthan Construction Workers' Union took out a procession on 6 March in Jaipur in protest against the large scale demolition drive in the city, nowadays being undertakenin the name of beautifying the city to greet US president Clinton. The protest procession was led by CPI(ML) State Committee member Harkesh Bugalia.
Laloo Yadav Paid Visit to CPI(ML) Central Office
Mr. Laloo Yadav, former Chief Minister of Bihar and President of RJD, paid a visit to CPI(ML) Central Office at Shakarpur, Delhi on 2 March to ask for CPI(ML)'s support in government formation and talked with Party General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya. Com. Dipankar made it clear that the CPI(ML) will in no case support the NDA claim, and it will fight against NDA's conspiracy to usurp power by all sorts of nefarious means or impose president's rule in Bihar. However, the Party could also not lend support to RJD in the formation of government. But Party was committed to do everything to foil the saffron fascist bid to rule Bihar, Com. Dipankar said.
CPI(ML) Demands Action Against Home Secretary
CPI(ML) MP Dr. Jayanta Rongpi met home minister on 7 Feb. and handed him over a memorandum demanding removal of Union Home secretary Kamal Pandey "for his irresponsible statement which appears to be part of a deliberate disinformation campaign against revolutionary communists". The memorandum says that "CPI(ML)(Liberation) is a state recognised party in Assam and has a well known history of leading and mobilising millions of Indian people in just democratic struggles in various parts of the country". Refuting the completely baseless and wild allegations levelled at our party and movement, the memorandum observed that "key ministries of the NDA government including home and defence have been busy wielding the ISI stick for conducting political witch-hunt exercises but they have failed miserably in tackling the real activities of foreign intelligence agencies including the CIA and also the ISI". The Party demanded fixing of appropriate responsibility on Mr. Pandey, including his removal for his irresponsible statement which appears to be part of a deliberate disinformation campaign against revolutionary communists.
AISA-RYA March in Lucknow, 170 Court Arrest
AISA and RYA took out a procession from Char Bagh to Chief Minister's residence in Lucknow on 29 February demanding resignation of the Chief Minister on the issues of killing of four students in police firings in Balia and Ghazipur as well as saffronisation of education. Students from Lucknow, Allahabad, Varanasi, Faizabad, Balia and Pratapgarh participated in the procession. Soon as the processionists reached near Vidhan Sabha, police arrested 170 activists. Before their arrest the activists had blocked Royal Hotel chowk and conducted a protest meeting there which was addressed by AISA General Secretary Com. Sunil Yadav, State Secretary Com. Ajit Singh Yadav, State Convenor of RYA Com. Mohammad Salim and others.
AISA March Against RSS
Students led by AISA took out a protest march on 4 March against RSS proclamation to hold shakhas in Lucknow University campus. Led by State AISA secretary Com. Ajit Singh Yadav and Convenor of the Campus Branch Com. Rakesh Singh, the march had started from Shaheed Chowk and went up to Vice Chancellor's residence.
Party Protest in Pilibhit
CPI(ML) staged a big demonstration at the subdivision headquarters of Puranpur in Pilibhit district on 29 February in which around 1,400 people participated. Led by Com. Krishna Adhikary, Central Committee member, the people were demanding issue of red ration cards to the poor and arrest of village pradhan of Chandia-Hazara who had illegally attempted to seize their land.
Protest Against Saffron Onslaughts
RYA, AIPWA, AISA jointly demonstrated on 28 February in Chennai against the attack on Water shooting in Varanasi and prohibition imposed by UP Government. They also condemned the Union Govt. led by BJP for the withdrawal of volumes of Towards Freedom and accused it of rewriting history in its own saffron way. Com. AS Kumar, member of Chennai City Committee of CPI(ML) addressed the demonstrators.
Sinha's Bullet Budget, 2000
Although Sinha's "first budget of the millennium" doubled the foodgrains allocation quota for below the poverty line families from 10 kg. to 20 kg, the public distribution system (PDS) prices of foodgrains have also been drastically increased. Now the poor people will be compelled to pay 64% more for wheat and 46% more for rice at the ration shops (which amounts to 12% cut in food subsidy). When the real purchasing power of the poor has declined (the Economic Survey finds 2% decline in real wages in rural areas in the previous year), it is ridiculous to offer them a higher quota but at a much higher price. The ground realities of lack of purchasing power of the poor have to be addressed through food-for-employment schemes of which there is no mention at all in the budget. As for the urban working class, who will now be paid 1% less interest on their provident fund, and lower middle classes, the PDS ration shop prices for foodgrains may now be even higher than the open market prices!
According to Economic Survey, food production has declined by 40 million tonnes. Imported agricultural products are being dumped in our country, and this is bringing disaster to our agriculture. Now, the increase in prices of urea by 15% and other fertilizers by 7% to 15% in the millennium budget (which means 4.5% cut in subsidy to fertilizers), combined with the 12% to 48% the rise in the freight for chemical fertilisers in the rail budget will cumulatively increase the prices of all inputs costs. So the stagnation is expected not only to persist but result in a depression in agricultural production in general and in foodgrains production in particular.
Sinha's millennium budget freed about 700 items from import duty including agricultural products. Quantitative restrictions on import of 1500 items have already been lifted, including rice, potato, milk and cloth. Customs duties have been reduced by Rs.1428 cr. whereas excise duties on domestic products have been raised by Rs.6,500 cr. As a result all processed food, textile fabrics and garments, tyres and tubes and some consumer durables will be costlier. Total revenue gain on this tax management is expected to be Rs.3,252 cr.
This rise in tax, along with a 7.5% increase in rail freight rates, which will have its impact on prices of all commodities, constitutes the heaviest blow on producers who are struggling for revival of the industry after years of recession. Notwithstanding Sinha's love with cellular phone, computer, film and camera etc., budget would result in de-industrialisation of the economy.
Implementing "second generation reforms", the public sector banks have been asked to put 67% of their share capital on sale, while the public sector industries would sell 74% of their shares. The disinvestment target this year will once again be Rs.10,000 crore. Last year this target could not be achieved so this time the commission for disinvestment has been replaced by a ministry for disinvestment. This would be accompanied by closure of sick units. Even the profit-making public sector undertakings will have to promote voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) either by raising money from banks or by issuing bonds to the workers opting for VRS. Then the Economic Survey has also suggested downsizing the government. According to an official estimate, a minimum of 16 lakhs personnel have to be somehow gotten rid of to achieve this scheme. A massive job loss is very much in the offing.
A new element in the budget is freedom given to foreign venture capital to undertake risky speculative invenstments, to acquire shares in domestic industry up to 40%. Indian capital has also been allowed to acquire shares abroad. Moreover, Reserve Bank has been given financial autonomy by amending Reserve Bank Act to regulate financial flows including interest fixation.
This casino economy budget of speculators will only result in growth of unemployment, poverty and hardship to the masses. Consequently there would be a rise in mass struggles. To deal with it, the central police expenditure has been increased to Rs.6,735 cr. And then, to fulfil the dream of building military-industrial complex there is an unprecedented rise in defence allocations, up by 21% amounting a whopping increase of 13,000 crores! The outlay for 2000-2001 will in the normal terms be almost double that of 4 years earlier (1996-97 budget). This makes the millennium budget in fact a military budget.
Crimes Against Women Rising
The rate of growth of crime against women in the country is on the rise, says a report released by the National Crime Records Bureau. Crimes against women in the capital could be the highest. In Delhi alone, 7,000 complaints of domestic violence are reported annually of which barely 10% get translated into FIRs, the report says. An analysis of the statistics provided in the report reveals that the conviction rate of rape cases, which is the most heinous crime against women, is as low as 4%.(Times of India, 6 March 2000)
Party Pays Homage to Geeta Mukherjee
CPI(ML) has expressed deep sorrow over the sudden demise of veteran CPI leader and parliamentarian Comrade Geeta Mukherjee. A delegation of CPI(ML) leaders comprising
Party General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, Member of Parliament Dr. Jayanta Rongpi and other senior leaders went to the Ajay Bhavan to pay their homage to the departed leader. CPI(ML) leader and General Secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA), Kumudini Pati also visited Ajay Bhavan to pay her last respect.
In his condolence message, CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya described Comrade Geeta Mukherjee as "an inexhaustible source of inspiration and a role model for activists engaged in the fight for women's liberation and democratisation of India."
International Women's Day Seminar