There is No Substitute for
Assam Electricity Workers & Engineers on Warpath
Joint Action Committee comprising of Assam State Power Workers' Union and Association of Power Engineers of Assam and Meghalaya organised a convention on "Reform in power sector versus interests of consumers" at Gauri Sadan, Guwahati on 27 February. The presidium comprised of Com. Tulan Bharali, Nareshwar Hazarika, Ashok Das Purkayastha and Prag Jyoti Datta. It was attended by hundreds of power workers and engineers including TU leaders of other PSUs, intellectuals, mediapersons.
Com. Bibek Das, Secretary of Assam Party State Committee, Com. Subhas Sen, Secretary of AICCTU, Com. Ajanta Bardoloi of APBEA addressed the convention. The convention adopted important resolutions including a programme to stage a massive dharna before the Assam Assembly on 18 March during its budget session when the bill for privatisation of ASEB is likely to be introduced.
Party School in Sonebhadra
A two-day party school was held at Pipri in Sonebhadra district of U.P. on 27-28 February. Comrades Prabhu Singh, Ramgulli Chaube and Dinkar Kapoor were teachers dwelling on the subjects "Party's General Programme", "Orientation of Peasant Movement" and "Anarchism and Revolutionary Marxism". It was attended by 20 cadres. Com. Shyam Bihari Singh was the observer. After the Party class a large mass meeting was held at Pipri presided over by Com. Mallar Devi, AIPWA district president.
Party Class in Mysore
A Party class was held at Mysore on 27th February attended by 25 comrades from Mysore, H.D. Kote, Bangalore which included six women comrades. Topics such as Marxist philosophy, political economy and theory of class struggle were covered by Comrades Diwakar, Venugopal and Muzaffar Azadi. Com. Lakshminarayana spoke on caste question and dalit movement in Karnataka. Com. Rajani spoke on the history of communist movement and Com. Gopal spoke on the history of ML movement. The presentations were followed by discussions.
Party Opposes Clinton's India Visit
Left Convention in A.P.
The convention of 9 left parties including CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML), New Democracy, Janashakthi and Unity Initiative, ML Committee, SUCI and MCPI held on 5 March at Hyderabad gave a call to launch state-wide protests against Clinton's India and particularly Hyderabad visit. CPI(M) was represented by Com. Kotala Satyanarayana, CC member and Com. Raghavalu, State Secretary, CPI by Com. Narayana, Assistant State Secretary and Aziz Pasha, member of State council and our Party by CC members Comrades N Murthy and Bangar Rao. Other organisations were represented by their leading comrades. It was resolved that district level conventions will be held on 15 March and area level conventions on 19 March. Ultimately, a massive Hyderabad Chalo will be organised on 24 March.
Clinton Effigy Burnt in Delhi
CPI(ML) activists and sympathisers in East Delhi took out a procession on 13 March at Mandawali against Clinton's forthcoming visit to India. After burning the effigy of Bill Clinton, a mass meeting was held at Mandawali Bazar. It was addressed by Com. Rajendra Pratholi, Secretary Delhi State Committee, Ravindra Sharma, Samundra Paswan, Sumitra Sinha and others.
Party activists and sympathisers in Shahdara area in East Delhi took out a procession on 14 March and burnt the effigy of Bill Clinton.
Mass Meeting of Tannery Workers in Kanpur
The Party Branch of Jajmau in Kanpur organised a mass meeting on 6 March addressed by Com. Ramesh Singh Sengar, State Secy. of AICCTU, Com. Hari Singh, Anant Ram Vajpayee, Sadhana Valmiki, Netram and others. The Party leaders proclaimed to launch a consistent movement against oppression of tannery workers by the nexus of the tannery mill-owners and police. Jajmau is one of the leading leather industry centres.
Speakers said that labour laws are observed only in violation in the tannery mills. Now Land mafia are conspiring to evict workers from their hutments. The Party will fight for implementation of labour laws and for ownership right of hutments to the workers and civic amenities in these bustees.
NPMO Rally Resolves for General Strike
More than 10,000 people, mostly workers, participated in the procession against BJP-led government's pro-imperialist economic policies and saffron fascist measures on 9 March from Rajghat to Ramlila Maidan and subsequent mass meeting held there. The programme was called by National Platform of mass Organisations. In the mass meeting it was resolved that a general strike will be called on 11 May, 2000. Com. Swapan Mukherjee, Gen. Secy. of AICCTU and Kumudini Pati, Gen. Secy. of AIPWA addressed the gathering.
International Women's Day
AIPWA Procession in Lucknow on 8 March
U.P. State unit of AIPWA brought out a procession on 8 March in Lucknow on the demands of formation of State Women's Commission in U.P., death sentence to rapists etc. Over 300 women from various districts assembled at Char Bagh and the procession passing in front of the Legislative Assembly went to the Governor's residence where they submitted a memorandum. The procession was led by Com. Shivani Verma and Ajanta Lohit, president and secretary of U.P. unit of AIPWA. When the police obstructed the procession and did not allow the marchers to present their memorandum to the governor, the women blocked the busiest crossing of Hazratganj for two hours and staged a dharna there. Ultimately the district administration bowed down and let the AIPWA delegation meet the Governor. The processionist held a mass meeting at G.P.O. Park, which was addressed by Comrades Krishna Adhikari, Party CC member, Shobha Singh, vice President, Shubhra, propaganda secretary, Kripa Verma, Jagdamba, Sita Devi, Premlata, Babita, Snehlata and other women leaders. In its memorandum, AIPWA expressed deep concern on the rising incidents of oppression on women in the BJP-led rule in U.P. and demanded a check on these and also reservation for women.
The U.P. unit of AIPWA also brought out a 16-page booklet "Uttar Pradesh : Women Under BJP rule", which was released by Ms. Rooprekha Verma, ex-V.C. of Lucknow University. on the eve of International Women's Day at D.P.A. Hall in Lucknow. The function was presided over by renowned art critic Krishna Narain Kakkar. The preface of the booklet highlights the fact that out of the 97 ministers in BJP-led U.P. Government, as many as two dozen have not only criminal record to their credit but have been charged with heinous offences like murder, rape, molestation and abduction of women.
In another programme, AIDWA, the women's wing of CPI(M) and a number of non-government organisations (NGOs) took out a procession in Lucknow.
Fake Signals of Sangh Shake-up
One can discern that media is inclined to suggest that the change of guard in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is not a positive sign for the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. This is so because Mr. Vajpayee is projected in the media as one holding liberal views. Therefore it is speculated that on the controversial issues like WTO and Swadeshi, now Vajpayee may not find it easy. This is because as Mr. KS Sudarshan, known for his staunch (read die hard conservative) views, has now become the Sarsanghsanchalak or RSS chief.
It goes without saying that such fears never come true because they are never well founded. Even very recently one can discern an exchange of signals from both sides. Soon after the appointment of Mr. Sudarshan as RSS chief, Mr. Vajpayee went out of his way to oppose globalisation even while on a state visit to Mauritius. In a speech delivered in the University of Mauritius, he cautioned against the "worrisome impact of economic globalisation on our lives". He hit out on the ill-effects of globalisation, particularly the adverse impact of the global mergers and acquisitions by big corporations. As if he was haranguing against a Congress-sponsored new economic policy package on the floor of Parliament while himself being in opposition. He said that the debt burden was growing yearly with new debts being contracted to pay off the current interest charges, exactly what the Indian Government under his stewardship was doing quite religiously. He even went on to admit that "these huge global corporations enjoy official financial clout to erode the regulatory powers of nations". However, on his return to India he clarified at the airport itself that he was not opposed to globalisation. He really never was. On the contrary, he was looking forward to welcome the globaliser number one, Bill Clinton.
Mr. Sudarshan on his part, said that his equation with Mr. Atal Bihari was good and clarified that the "apparent contradiction" was there because "we take a long-term view and the Government has to think about today". It is this wisdom that guides Sangh to raise no objection when criminals are inducted into cabinets led by BJP. Even recently, seeing that BJP was in a fix over the question of Gujarat government permitting its employees to join RSS, the organisation gave green signal to take the controversial step back, even though a liberal Mr. Vajpayee was not ready to take the step back and debate the question on the floor of Parliament. Deliberate or unintended portrayal of RSS as a hard-headed principled organisation has got shattered several times during the last two years because Sangh itself has betrayed its businesslike interest in mundane problems of political economy and power politics.
Media is worried that the change of guard will affect the subjects such as Constitution and security policies. Everybody knows that RSS had never approved of a secular, socialist or democratic polity, rather it wanted a Hindu Rashtra with Rashtrapati as the Supreme authority. But they are never in a hurry, as for now they are rejoicing their victory over formation of the review commission, although they too know that no change in the Constitution is possible at present. Likewise, in economic matters they are content with holding Swadeshi Melas by milching government departments whereas the government opens floodgates to all sorts of foreign capital and goods and enters wholesale globalisation. After all, did the blocking of Jaswant Singh's appointment as Finance Minister in 1998 check any videshi capital or goods? As for security matters, digging pitches or inciting communal riots would suffice. The only thing that can be highlighted is a ban on cow slaughter.
Road Blocked by CPI(ML)
Hundreds of CPI(ML) activists and sympathisers blocked the main road for several hours at Padrauna of Kushinagar district in U.P. on 28 February demanding recovery of gram sabha land from the illegal possession of local gram pradhan at Munnipatti village. The agitators also demanded action against the SDM of Tamkuhi Raj for offering protection to the gram pradhan. A memorandum was submitted to the district administration.
DU Unit of JSM Formed
Delhi University unit of AISA organised a poster exhibition on 8 March and the newly formed DU group of Jan Sanskriti Manch staged a street play Aaj ki taaja khabar on exploitation of women in the name of beauty contests and the agenda of saffron brigade to govern the life of women on feudal lines by imposing dress code etc. Impressed by the play, several teachers as well as others have invited JSM team to perform in their colleges.
The Economic Survey and The Budget
Union Government presents Economic Survey for the outgoing year so that the forthcoming budget policies and provisions may be judged in the light of the economic perspective. But it seems that nowadays publication of the Survey is taken as an exercise in disinformation by means of withholding certain crucial informations. Even then, a lot gets revealed. In the face of the problems faced by the economy, the budget provisions not only seem to overlook them, rather they tend to aggravate them further. Here are a few points taken from the economic survey, 1999-2000.
1. Agriculture : Estimated foodgrains production in 1999-2000 may be lower by about 4 million tonnes representing a decrease of 1.9% over 1998-99. Pulses may record a decrease of 1.3 million tonnes over the last year and oilseeds production may be 21.6 million tonnes as compared to 25.2 million tonnes last year. Because of the setbacks in oilseeds, pulses and coarse cereals, the GDP from agriculture and allied sectors is expected to grow by only a meagre 0.8% in 1999-2000.
Public investment in agriculture has declined during the period 1993-94 to 1998-99. Annual plan investment in agriculture has been cut by 16%.
2. Industry : Growth rate of capital goods, 6.6% for April-December 1999, is lower than 11.3% recorded last year. Imports of capital goods during April-November 1999 were about 30% lower than their dollar value during the same period last year.
3. Investment : A sharp slump in investment. Total investment (at 1993-94 prices) declined by about 0.5 % in 1998-99. This deceleration in investment was linked to the deceleration in manufacturing and the slump in agriculture in the previous year, 1997-98.
4. Savings : Gross domestic saving declined sharply in 1998-99 to 22.3% of GDP from 24.7% of GDP last year. The 2.4 per cent points of GDP decline in saving rate has resulted from 1.4 per cent points decline in public saving and a 1 per cent point decline in household saving in direct investment. The corporate saving rate has declined to 3.8% of GDP in 1998-99 from 4.3% of GDP in 1997-98. However, interest rates on both general and public provident funds as well as small scale saving have been cut to discourage saving.
5. Gross domestic capital formation : It declined to 25.1% of GDP in 1998-99 (constant price) from 26.9% of GDP in the previous year. About half of this decline was due to a fall in household investment FDI has declined for the second year in succession.
6. Debt Trap : The outstanding external liabilities at the end of March 1999 on the basis of the exchange rate prevailing on the March 31, 1999 amounted to Rs. 1,77,934 crore. Internal liabilities amounted to Rs. 9,25,036 crore.
7. Unmployment : Besides the uneployment backlog, the growth rate in total organised sector declined from 1.44% in 1997 to 0.46% in 1998 . In public sector it was negative, -0.09%, and in private sector too it declined from 2.04% in 1997 to 1.72% in 1998. Overall growth rate of employment has been continuously declining.
8. Agrarian Labour : Agricultural labourers' real wages at all India level declined by 2.12% over the previous year 1998. This decline was extremely high in Tamil Nadu, by 13.98%, in West bengal 9.90%, Maharashtra by 8.85%, Bihar by 5.70% and Andhra 4.63%.
Thus, net impact of this budget would be to push more Indians below the poverty line.