Will the Samata Salvo Torpedo the National Disaster Alliance
The chickens of the Tehelka revelations and the May mandate have begun to come home to roost. In fact they are coming home much faster than many would have imagined.
On May 13, even as results of the Assembly elections in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry began to come out, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee left on his mission to Malaysia. With a suggestive wink in his eye, Vajpayee revealed his first reaction to the waiting journalists at the airport. The results, he said, were on expected lines.
By the time his plane returned to Delhi, the expected lines were however all too visible on his wrinkled face. He likened the results to a veritable warning for his party to gird its loins for the next round of parliamentary elections. Over the last few days RSS-BJP leaders have indeed been busy in what they call introspection sessions. But clearly, what they have been mulling over concerns not so much the party's dismal performance in the May polls but rather the growing crisis of the NDA government at the Centre.
If Mamata's pre-election decision to sever her ties with the NDA was rather predictable, the salvo from the Samata Party must be giving a lot of anxious moments to the BJP's crisis managers. The BJP knew it all along that the dismal performance of the NDA in the May Assembly elections might catalyse a chain reaction among its allies leading to a realignment of political forces. The managers had therefore launched contingency preparations well in advance. Ajit Panja and possibly a few more rebel TMC MPs had already been ensured for extending a helping hand. Then there are the rebel RJD MPs led by Ranjan Yadav and the two RLD MPs including Ajit Singh. It is another matter that any attempt to induct Ajit Singh would surely be obstructed by Chautala and his group of INLD MPs. BJP leaders have also been maintaining their channel of communication with the BSP, hoping for some crucial support in lieu of yet another possible bargain in Uttar Pradesh. And in case TDP may plan to create trouble, BJP would throw its full weight for a separate Telengana movement thereby trapping Naidu in his own backyard.
All this would have looked a like full-proof arrangement, but meanwhile Manipur has happened, giving Samata Party the long awaited alibi to get even with the BJP for the Tehelka ignominy thrust upon it.
It is indeed an interesting spectacle to see BJP send emissaries to humour Mr. Fernandes and Mr. Fernandes sending them back. After all, Mr. Fernandes happens to be the convener of NDA and has been sighted on so many previous occasions running similar errands for an NDA in crisis.
The increasingly shrill noise emanating from Sangh outfits like VHP and BMS also seems to suggest that the RSS probably does not expect the Vajpayee government to last much longer. Yet Vajpayee and his men would not miss out on a single chance to send the right message to their American masters. The alacrity with which the Vajpayee government rushed to welcome the NMD project of Pentagon had no parallel in the world. And now even as several chief ministers are forced to articulate their anxiety over the impact of WTO, the government is busy defending the blanket lifting of QRs. The only thing that Vajpayee is worried about is his knee. Come June and his other knee will also be laid on the surgical table. But if Vajpayee needs his knees most to genuflect before the American masters, the people must also welcome and utilise every opportunity to bring his government down on its knees. The gathering clouds of uncertainty on the NDA sky augur quite well for a heightened campaign for the ouster of the government of the National Disaster Alliance.
Vajpayee's Anti-Worker Speech Condemned
Attacking Mr. Vajpayee's adamant stress on pressing forward economic reforms in his speech at the Indian Labour Conference, CPI(ML) said on 19 May that if for Vajpayee there was "no question of going back on economic reforms", for working class there was no other way but to launch a powerful political resistance unifying all vigourous but scattered struggles going on in several parts of the country and meet the threat effectively and defeat it decisively.
Party said that the process of "globalisation, privatisation and liberalisation" that is threatening the very integrity of the nation is anti-democratic at the core. Resisting it has become an essential condition fo building a self-reliant and pro-people economy, ensuring a corruption-free polity and safeguarding the democracy in the country.
Party Condemns Israel's Attack on Palestinians
CPI(ML) condemned the Zionist Sharon government of Israel for bombarding Gaza Strip and West Bank with F-16 fighter planes for the first time since 1967 in which 12 civilians were killed and around 50 killed. The Party said that the Sharon government was an enemy of the peace process and Bush administration was helping it by threatening veto power against any possible UN intervention called by Arab states. It is unfortunate, the Party said, that the NDA govt. has maintained dubious silence on condemning this terrorist attack, which shows that it has finally relinquished its independence concerning foreign policy matters.
Vajpayee-Naidu Join Hands to Curtail Panchayat Raj
The 87th Constitution Amendment proposed by Telugu Desam government's seeks to defeat the basic object of the Panchayat Raj Act together with the 73rd Amendment. According to it, states must be given full authority to decide upon the election to local bodies. Direct elections will be held only at gram panchayat level and not at block and district levels. The bill now has been referred to Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural and Urban Development for preparing a "comprehensive" legislation for strengthening grassroots bodies". It is clear that BJP too wants to eliminate whatever grassroots democracy has been offered to the people in the Panchayat Raj Act. The Union Cabinet had circulated the Bill to the States and UTs for opinion, but majority of them didn't agree. In the meantime the postponement of panchayat elections in Andhra was chalenged in the Supreme Court, which directed the Andhra Pradesh government to hold panchayat elections before July 31. This precipitated the urgency to convene an all-party meeting on May 19. But it failed to reach a consensus on the Amendment Bill. Whereas TDP found support from SP, Akali Dal, INLD, DMK and MGR ADMK, strong opposition came from Congress, Left, BSP, BJD, JMM and JD(U). Thus NDA itself was a divided house over the issue. But why Mr. Vajpayee is so eager to amend the Constitution even before the Commission appointed by him comes up with the review of the whole Constitution at work? Perhaps due to Naidu's pressure and BJP's own inclination to curb people's rights at the grassroots.
Results of Panchayat Elections in Bihar
Below are the posts won by our Party candidates (No. of non-Party candidates won with our support is given in brackets) in the recently held Panchayat elections in Bihar. Till now results from other districts have not been announced, and counting is still going on. Figures for the remaining districts will be given later.
District||Mukhiya||Panchayat Samiti ||District Council
Bhojpur ||22(+1) || 30 ||5|
Jahanabad|| 11(+3) || 25(+3) || 3|
Nalanda ||10|| 17|| 1|
Siwan|| 13|| 14|| 1|
Buxar|| 5|| 4|| 1|
W. Champaran|| 3|| 5|| 1|
Gopalganj|| 1|| 18|| 1|
Aurangabad|| 2|| 3(+2) || 1|
Darbhanga|| 8(+2) || 16|| 0|
Kaimur|| 3|| 5|| 0|
Samastipur|| 1|| 3|| 0|
Begusarai|| 3|| 0|| 0|
Katihar|| 3(+2) || 3(+2) || 0|
Patna*|| 12|| 12|| 2|
*In Patna, counting was still going on at the time of publication of this issue.
Leather Workers' Movement in Kanpur
Leather workers' unions in Kanpur had formed a joint front to launch industrial bandh on 9-10-11 May demanding end to the jungle raj prevailing in the Jazmau tanneries, implementation of minimum wages act and other labour laws related to lay off, as well as wage revision. For one month the joint front held meetings at the gates of various tanneries. In the last phase of the campaign, the opportunist trade union leaders compromised and withdrew the strike. To initiate an independent movement and expose the treachery, the AICCTU-affiliated Tannery and Leather Workers Ekta Manch organised a meeting at Nayi Chungi crossing, Jazmau on 12 May and later held a demonstration before District Labour Office on 17 May. The meeting was addressed by trade union leaders including Ramesh Singh Senger, Netram, Sunderlal, Shahnawaj Naqwi and others.
Nation in Disarray
The horrendous situation where nearly one-third of the children under 16 are forced into labour, 135 million people are denied access to primary health care, 226 million are without safe drinking water, 640 million lack basic sanitation and 50% world illiterate lie in India. Even Planning Commission statistics accept that 268 million do not have enough to eat and half of the women in the age group of 15-19 and three-fouth of the children are anaemic. And yet government stubbornly refuses to start a food-for-work programme which will also give employment for millions. But such is the hold of bureaucratic oligarchy that this idea is not even being debated inspite of mass deprivation in Orissa, Gujarat and Rajasthan. ...
Looking around I find an eerie similarity to the period of French Revolution which made Rousseau say, "when a Prince no longer administers the State according to laws then the State is dissolved, the social pact is broken and poltical life is destroyed." (Rajinder Sachar, Ex Chief Justice, Delhi High Court, The Hindu, 21-5-2001)
Letter from Andaman
We conducted an organising tour in the month of April from Diglipur in the North Andaman to Campbell Bay, the southernmost point of this Union Territory. Processions and public meetings were conducted mobilising existing trade union members and also new trade union wings were formed. The programmes included protest against the budget and anti-people and anti-national economic policies of the NDA government. Main slogans were "Congress-BJP are the two sides of the same coin for the kisans and mazdoors of India", "Oust Vajpayee, save kisan", "Oust NDA govt., save working class". CPI(ML) was represented in all these programmes as the Party which has AICCTU as its trade union wing. Since 2 April, AICCTU continued to stage protest before the secretariat on several dates and took out processions demanding ouster of NDA government. Also rallies, demonstrations, meetings etc. were held on 16, 20 and 27 April in various parts of the island.
On 22 April a public meeting was organised at Campbell Bay under AICCTU banner in which the need to join CPI(ML) and launch movement along the revolutionary line for the second freedom, to fulfil the dreams of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, for the freedom of over 80% of the population.
May Day celebrations took place under AICCTU banner at Port Blair, Rangat, Mayabunder, Diglipur, Katchal and Campbell Bay.
In Port Blair, a colourful procession was taken out from Children's Park, Delanipur and passed through the streets of the city cluminating in a mass meeting addressed by Com. Sadasivam, SK Wazid and NKP Nair. At Campbell Bay, Com. H.Kokre and Leonard Barla led the procession. At Katchal, the procession was led by Com. Chandran. At Diglipur the members of ASKKS Forest Solidarity Union and Electricity Workers took out a massive procession that was led by Com. Asokan, Ramkrishna, Karupaiah and Nandi. At Mayabunder, the procession was led by Com. Tata Rao, who also addressed the meeting. At Rangat the procession was led by Com. Subramanium and Anand, who spoke at a public meeting.
AIREC Observes May Day
A mass meeting of raiway workers was organised by All India Railway Employees' Confederation (AIREC) in the Railway Campus, Dhanbad, to observe May Day. Important among the speakers were Comrades CM Singh, Gen. Secy. of AIREC, BR Singh, divisional president of AIREC, Basudev Mahato, Gen. Secy. of Railway Engineering Workers' Association, and others. During the programme, evolutionary songs were presented by local IPTA activists. Com. Upendra Singh, Gen. Secy. of Coal Mines Workers Union (CMWU), the main speaker at the meeting, opposed the government policies of disinvestment, privatisation and downsizing and called upon the workers and employees of the organised sector to rally around Workers Solidarity Conference to be held on 10 June in Dhanbad.
Railway Strike of 1974 Remembered
The historic day of 1974 railway workers' national strike-- 8 May-- was observed at Dhanbad by staging a dharna at the DRM office under the leadership of AIREC Dhanbad Division. Negotiations with the Divisional Railway Manager was done basing on 19-point memorandum. Main issues included stopping the surplus creation and surrender of posts. During the 4 months this year, 1014 posts have been surrendered and the DRM was awarded a shield from the Railway Board for this anti-worker performance), transfer of a corrupt doctor posted at Gomoh for the past 12 years whereas rules provide for only a 3-year term for service at any station, regularisation of water and electricity supply in the railway colony, issue of identity cards to gangmen, building gang-huts at railway station, etc. The dharna was addressed by Com. CM Singh, Sukhdev Prasad, Advisor of Railway Engineering Workers Association, Com. BR Singh, and others. It was announced that a massive workers' rally will be held in June on these issues at the Divisional Headquarters in Dhanbad and the full efforts will be made to make Workers' Solidarity Conference a success.
Bihar AICCTU Conference
The first State Conference of AICCTU in Bihar after its bifurcation was held on 14-15 May in Muzaffarpur. On 14 May, a colourful rally was taken out which after covering 5-km stretch reached Railway Recreation Club, the venue of the conference. The conference hall was named after the martyr AICCTU leader Com Jagdev Sharma who was killed by mafia in Palamu. After the flag hoisting by outgoing president Com. KP Singh, the opening session was addressed by Com. Meena Tiwary, State Committee member and Muzaffarpur District Secretary of CPI(ML), Com. Pradeep Jha, convenor of Mazdoor Ekta Manch, Com. Swapan Mukherjee, General Secretary of AICCTU, and other leaders.
A draft document based on the present situation of working class in the state was placed before the hundred delegates by Com. RN Thakur, outgoing General Secretary. The draft generated a lively debate in which cross-section of delegates participated. The conference decided to take up one month's campaign from 1 June focussing on reopening of the closed mills, payment of Rs.1,000 to the workers of closed industries, strict implementation of minimum wages and other labour laws.
The conference elected a 31-member state committee which in turn elected a 19-member executive committee. The office bearers include President Com. Shyam Lal, General Secretary Com. RN Thakur, 6 vice presidents including Com. Dashrath Singh, Latafat Husain, KP Singh and Ragho Sharan Singh. There are 4 secretaries and a treasurer as well among the office bearers.
Demonstration Before Local MLA
Party's Patparganj Committe in East Delhi staged a demonstration before local MLA on 20 May, holding him accountable for lack of civic amenities for slum-dwellers in Kalyanvas area. The gathering at the MLA's house was addressed by Delhi SC members Com. Sunita and Gautam and local Party leaders Com. Shashibhushan, Tamrup and Chiranji Lal. Later a memorandum was handed over to the MLA.
37th Indian Labour Conference
The recently held Indian Labour Conference proved to be the first labour meet presided over by a virulent anti-labour prime minister, who could "rebuff" trade unions in a conference supposedly convened to discuss betterment of labour. Before the conference, centrally recongnised trade unions had met with Vajpayee, but they failed to get any assurance on the burning issue of amendment in labour laws and disinvestment in PSUs. In fact Mr. Vajpayee almost revealed his desire to finish off trade unionism itself.
Mr. Vajpayee accused the trade unions of harbouring "a tendency to overreact", and to be sure, he had in his mind the Sangh Parivar's arm BMS as well. It would interesting to note that Mr. Dave, the BMS leader who also spoke at the occasion, not only asked Vajpayee to "rethink" on the reforms, he categorically asserted that the reforms have gone against the interests of the workers, small and big industries and in fact, the nation. However, in his speech Vajpayee declared in an extremely die-hard fashion to push forward the economic reforms, go ahead to introduce amendment in labour laws as well as pursue disinvestment policy in full steam. Thus class struggle came out in the open in the conference itself.
Whereas Vajpayee kept on posing the same deceptive question as to "What does one do with PSUs which are making losses", Mr. Dave accused the government of selling the profit making PSUs, and only profit-making companies for that matter. Even as the data cited on the agenda paper of the Labour Conference suggested that the industrial growth had fallen from 6.6% in 1999-2000 to 5.1% in 2000-01, and unemployment rate had gone up from 6.7% in 1993-94 to 9.35 in 1999-2000, Vajpayee brazenly claimed progress on both fronts. Then again, it was a white lie on Vajpayee's part that the workers would not be thrown out following disinvestment. If workers' employment is so much of your concern, why are you eager to introduce a law that allows the owners to fire workers at will? Why do you want to introduce bankruptcy law like the one in the USA and wind up BIFR and do away with the Sick Industries Company Act?
Therefore, when on the last day, the govt. moved a resolution in support of its policies, the trade unions opposed and the conference ended without passing any resolution. Instead, the unions decided to launch a countrywide agitation against the reform policies, amendment in labour laws and disinvestment drive. While welcoming this we should not lose this opportunity to heighten the revolutionary class consciousness of workers.
Arab League Unites Against Israel
On 15 May, millions of Palestinian Arabs at home or in the Diaspora marked the end of old Palestine and establishment of Zionist Israel. On that day 53 years ago nearly a million Palestinians were driven from their homes in the conflict, which began in 1948 and continues to this day.
In the Arab world it was marked by protests and solidarity demonstrations. Tens of thousands of young Palestinians marched in the streets of the West Bank and Gaza Strip demanding the right of some four million Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in what is now called Israel. At noon the sirens sounded and three minutes silence was observed for the 200,000 Palestinian Arab martyrs who gave their lives defending their rights. Palestinian President Yasser Arafat denounced Israel for trying to "kill justice with tanks, rockets and helicopter gunships", and the West for "hypocrisy, double standards and silence in face of overwhelming oppression against the Palestinians". He stressed that a just and lasting peace in the Middle East would not come with Israel's total withdrawal from all the territories occupied in 1967 including Arab East Jerusalem as well as the implementation of the right of return for the refugees in accordance with UN resolution 194.
Israeli raids into Palestinian "autonomous" areas are increasing and anger is spreading throughout the Arab and Muslim world. The Arab League has held Israel responsible for the violence and stressing that the current Sharon administration was a war government rather than a government of peace.
This became manifest when Israel massively bombarded Gaza and the West Bank, using F-16 fighter-bombers for the first time since 1967 in the attacks on 18 May. At least 12 Palestinians were killed and 50 wounded. Israeli tanks also shelled a Palestinian security post in Ramallah. Hours earlier, six Israelis and a suicide bomber were killed, and more than 40 injured, in a powerful explosion outside a crowded shopping mall in Netanya.
Palestinian radio has reported that five children were wounded when Israeli soldiers fired on them as they played football near an Israeli guard post in the Gaza Strip. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he is deeply disturbed at the "disproportionate Israeli response" to the Hamas suicide attack on the Israeli mall.
The Arab League Foreign Ministers finally managed to get their act together and have decided not to hold any political dialogue with Isreal till it ceases its military operations and lifts the seize on the Palestinian territories. Even Egypt and Zordan that have normalised relations with Israel supported the other Arab states which always favoured a tougher line towards Israel. Clearly this has sent trouble signals to Washington which has so far been obstructing UN intervention by virtue of its veto power.