CPI(ML) HOME Vol.11, No.10 4 - 10 MAR 2008

The Weekly News Bulletin of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)(Liberation)
U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi 110092. Tel: (91)11-22521067. Fax(91)11-22518248


In this Issue

Budget Session 2008: UPA’s Election Signals

The UPA government has used the first week of the ongoing budget session of Parliament to the hilt to send out a series of election-eve signals. The customary presidential address at the beginning of the session sang all the oft-heard paeans for economic growth. True to the UPA rhetoric, the address described the ongoing growth as being “socially inclusive, regionally balanced and environmentally sustainable” but kept conspicuously mum about the fact that this growth has been absolutely jobless, and that it has completely bypassed the agricultural sector. It did not even dare mention the rude rural reality of continuing peasant suicides and starvation deaths or the growing universal resistance to SEZs and corporate land-grab. But on the foreign policy front, it was particular about reiterating the Congress commitment to closer ties with the US including the Nuke Deal that has been rejected by the entire country.
Significantly enough, while the UPA government reiterated its commitment to the Deal on the floor of the same Parliament that has earlier expressed its overwhelming disapproval of the Deal, the US Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in Delhi to remind the government and also the leader of Opposition LK Advani that the clock was ticking. The meeting between Robert Gates and AK Antony stressed not only the Nuke Deal but also other highly objectionable aspects of military cooperation like the so-called Logistics Support Agreement which, if finalized, will effectively reduce India to a military base for Washington.

The pre-budget Economic Survey this year has been lauded by the media for its ‘realistic projections and refreshing candour’. The survey could not possibly hide the fact that growth rate in agriculture had further dipped, but it had no solution to offer beyond the empty rhetoric of a second green revolution! But where the survey really revealed its candour was in terms of policy prescriptions and reform options that included extending privatization and FDI to areas still untouched (like rural banking and coal mining, for example) and introducing a 12-hour working day by amending the Factories Act. This ‘road map’ may not be implemented before the next elections, but it certainly indicates the future direction of the ruling classes and the Congress and in the process it does explode the myth of the CMP so assiduously nurtured by the CPI(M).

Unlike the Economic Survey, the budgets were however widely expected to be peppered with election-eve populism and the government has indeed been cautious not to announce any ‘bold’ steps prescribed in the Survey right in this year’s budgetary proposals. But even in terms of populism, the budget proposals do not go beyond shallow half-measures and sheer posturing. While most of the much-acclaimed ‘fare reductions’ announced in the railway budget are either simply symbolic or qualified by several unspecified conditions, there is substantial motion towards privatization (the new catchphrase is public-private partnership!) in railway-related manufacturing as well as service sectors. And as for Lalu Prasad’s bold declaration regarding one-time conversion of coolies into Group D railway employees, it would be important to see how many licensed porters are actually transformed into gangmen and how many existing gangmen are actually deployed to man the unmanned level-crossings.

Chidambaram’s general budget, the Congress claims, is a bold answer to the agrarian crisis. The basis of this claim is a projected debt waiving of Rs. 60,000 crore that would presumably benefit 4 crore indebted farmers. Before we examine the merits of the claim, let us ask the most obvious question. If debt waiving can ease the agrarian crisis why did the UPA not take this step all these last four years? Why did the UPA have to wait for 60,000 suicides before shelling out this debt relief package? The country will never forgive the UPA government for its criminally callous handling of the agrarian crisis.

Let us now take a close look at the debt relief package. According to the Finance Minister, bank loans advanced to small and marginal farmers will be completely waived by June 30, 2008 while other farmers will have the benefit of a one-time settlement whereby 25% of the debt will be written off on repayment of the rest. Now the package says nothing about the non-institutional credit – in real life small and marginal farmers have little access to bank loans and are heavily exploited by private money-lenders. Secondly, many of the most badly affected cotton growers in regions like Vidarbha and Telengana have more than two hectares of land and it is ridiculous to ask them to first repay 75% of their loans to get a 25% discount. Were they in a position to repay 75% of their loans we would not have been seeing these waves of suicides. In areas of acute agrarian crisis, the debt relief package must therefore also fully cover farmers tilling up to ten acres of land, and remit half the debt of other heavily indebted farmers.

Granting Rahul Gandhi’s much publicized ‘wish’, the budget has extended NREGA to all 596 rural districts of the country. But the allocation remains only a measly Rs. 16,000 crore which makes a complete mockery of the scheme. The FM also remained completely silent about the fact that the Act that promised to provide 100 days of assured employment to every rural jobseeker has actually provided only ten to fifteen days of average employment in most states and districts! The increase in food subsidy has been not even of the order of Rs. 1,000 crore while Anganwadi workers, a key workforce employed in the government’s much trumpeted rural health campaign, have been promised a monthly honorarium of only Rs. 1,500 which is far less than even the minimum wages stipulated by the government under NREGA!

The budget speech did devote some time for education, but the actual funds allocated once again fell woefully short of the promised 6% of the annual GDP – hovering barely above the 2% level. And if we look at the key area of elementary education, the neglect becomes all too glaring. Investment in irrigation and agriculture has once again received only lip-service while defence budget has now gone past the Rs. 100,000 crore level! The hefty tax exemptions enjoyed by the corporates and the tax holidays and subsidies granted under SEZs will continue unabated. If the corporate sector seems so obviously happy with the supposedly aam aadmi budget of Mr. Chidambaram, the reason is obvious. The budget has left all avenues of corporate loot absolutely untouched.

By all indications, the Congress will now try to buy back its way to power with all the populist posturing and rejuvenated aam aadmi rhetoric of the 2008-09 budgets. In the coming months we must mobilize the same aam aadmi – the rural poor, the crisis-ridden peasantry, the unemployed youth and the working class – to teach the Congress a fitting rebuff and reverse the policies that pamper big business and pauperise the masses.

AIALA Holds Rally in Orissa Defying Crackdown in the name of Countering Maoists

Following the attack on the police station at Nayagarh by the Maoists, the Naveen Patnaik Government of Orissa has gone on a spree of killing innocent villagers in the name of 'Maoists'. The killing of a labourer Akshaya Rout of Sarankul is a case in point. The Patnaik Government is using the bogey of Maoism to crack down on all manner of mass movements and people's resistance in the state. On the same pretext, vested interests and the Government conspired to sabotage a Rally of AIALA, which has been at the forefront of mobilising the rural poor in Orissa.

On 23 February, as part of AIALA's nationwide protest on the issues of NREGA, BPL, supply of food grains and kerosene etc, AIALA was due to hold a state-wide rally at Bhubaneswar. Notably, the CAG Draft Report found Orissa to be among the worst in implementing NREGA. At Bissam Buttack and Muniguda, AIALA had recently conducted successful militant mass land struggles against local landlords and money-lenders backed by the police. Those landlords and moneylenders, with the help of the Bolangir SP and the police at Bissam Cuttack and Muniguda, raised the bogey of Maoists gathering at Bhubaneswar under cover of the AIALA mobilisation. The Bolangir SP at Bolangir Railway Station detained and interrogates 42 activists en route to the AIALA Rally.

The next day, following intervention from the CPI(ML) State Secretary, 38 out of the 42 were released, while four leaders including the CPI(ML) Rayagada District Committee member Trinath Saina were kept under arrest. The AIALA Rally strongly condemned the arrests, and a Press Conference against the arrests was addressed by AIALA President Comrade Rameshwar Prasad, Kshitish Biswal, State Secretary of Orissa, as well as other leaders Comrades Yudhistir Mohapatra, Tirupati Gamang, Rashakant Sethi, Muralidhar Behera and Satyabadi Behera. Following the Press Conference, the four leaders were released. The next morning, a massive victory procession was held at Rayagada culminating in a public meeting.

CPI(ML)'s Sabarkantha Bandh Successful

Against the anti-people, anti-adivasi policy of the Modi Government, the CPI(ML) held a successful Bandh in the Sabarkantha district of Gujarat on 25 February. Specifically, the Bandh was in protest against the police firing on an adivasi protest on 13 February in which two adivasi peasants - Bodant Sanjaji Roopsingh and Shailesh Babubhai Rathore - lost their lives, and three others were badly injured.

In 2005, officials at the Dhaulvani Range Forest in Vijaynagar Taluka grabbed many acres of adivasi land in the name of a nursery. Local Congress MP Madhusudan Mistry and MLAs too broke their promises of restoring the land to the adivasis. A few days before 13 February, adivasis began laying claim to their land, and even local BAMCEF leaders took part in these land struggles.

The Forest Department lodged FIRs against many people and 16 were arrested on charges of illegal grabbing of forest land, cutting trees and keeping arms. When angered people gathered in protest to free their comrades at the Dhaulvani Range Office, police fired on them without warning.

Immediately after the firing, CPI(ML) District Secretary Comrade Dashrath Singhali and DC member Comrade Maqbul Masi led other CPI(ML) activists to visit the area and mobilise people in protest. 

On 21 February, a team led by Comrades Singhali and Masi met and submitted a memo to the Gujarat Governor, demanding a judicial enquiry into the firing, suspension of the officers responsible for the firing, Rs. 15 Lakhs and 10 acres land, as well as Givernment jobs as compensation for families of the victims; and also unconditional release of all arrested peasants and the right of adivasis to the forest land.

The Bandh on 25 February was highly successful, with all shops and transport closed almost all over the district. Spontaneous actions in support of the bandh were seen by adivasi peasants. The Rally called by the Congress on the same day was by contrast very poorly attended, with barely a hundred people participating. The CPI(ML) is determined to take this struggle for adivasis' rights and challenging Modi's fascist regime, forward in the days to come.

'Jawab Do' Rally in Rajdhanwar

CPI(ML) and JMKS (Jharkhand Majdoor Kisan Samiti) organized a 'Jawab Do Rally' in Rajdhanwar of Jharkhand on Feb 25 against criminalization and continuing patronage of criminal-police nexus by the politicians. Rajdhanwar was covered with red flags, with a massive participation of peasants and agricultural workers in the rally which was addressed by Party General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya.

A protégé of the local MP Babulal Marandi in Dharwar, Basant Bhokta, killed a villager Munshi Turi on August 27 last in a land dispute. The Administration tried to dub the death as suicide, though the post mortem report clearly spoke of a murder; and the killer was allowed to go scot-free. In another incident the police opened fire on the day of ‘Muharram’ in Makhmargo village killing one person, Ramzan Mian, and injuring at least half a dozen people. The Jawab Do Rally was organized in this backdrop, demanding that the UPA State Government stop atrocities on the common people.

Comrade Dipankar thanked the people of the region for standing up against criminal-police-politician nexus in such a large numbers. He said that it was an irony that loot, murder, suicide, price-rise, and forced migration have become the order of the day for the rural poor in the state while Tata, Birla, Mittal, Jindal, etc. are enjoying land and mineral resources of the state almost free of cost. The people are organizing themselves against such regime and now they are ready to assert for their due rights. He called upon the people to come in even bigger numbers to the Rally to be held in the capital Ranchi on April 10.

CPI(ML) MLA Vinod Singh, State Committee member Rajkumar Yadav, JMKS Vice President Parmeshwar Mahto, District Committee members Rajesh Yadav and Kaushalya Devi also addressed the rally. Party’s CC member Ibnul Hasan Basru presided over in the rally while Satyanarayan Das conducted the proceedings. The Party conducted a massive campaign through out the district in preparation of the rally. Party Central Committee members Rajaram and Bahadur Oraon were also present in the rally.

Students Protest: Go Back Gates!

On 25-26 February, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates visited India - a visit during which steps were taken towards a Logistics Support Agreement' (LSA) between USA and India, and Gates put pressure on India to hurry the signing of the Nuke Deal.

Students from JNU, Jamia Millia Islamia, and Delhi University under the banner of AISA held a spirited and well-attended protest demonstration on 25 February, raising the slogan 'Go Back Gates'; 'Gates Closed for LSA with USA'; and 'Scrap Indo-US Nuke Deal'.

AISA Joins DU Students and Teachers in Protesting Against Vandalism by ABVP

AISA and the AISA-led JNUSU strongly protested against the vandalism of the DU History Department by the ABVP in the name of demanding deletion of an essay by renowned scholar A K Ramanujan titled 'Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation'. The AISA-led JNUSU held an effigy burning of the ABVP on the JNU campus, while AISA joined the students and teachers of DU in the series of ongoing protests on the DU campus.

AISA reminded that from the Baroda campus to Ujjain to the violence unleashed during the recent JNUSU elections, the ABVP has a history of lumpen attacks on academic, artistic and human freedom.

Calling upon students and teachers of colleges and universities to resist the culture of 'mob censorship', the AISA also condemned the recent 'suggestion' by the Supreme Court that some paras be deleted from James Laine's book on Shivaji. Rather than meting our punishment to those Shiv Sainiks guilty of vandalising the Bhandarkar Institute, the SC is peddling logic that legitimises the politics of the vandals.

AIPWA Fact-finding Team Visits Bhadohi

Bhadohi is a major centre of the carpet industry. The sexual exploitation of a 25-year-old young dalit woman worker, Santoshi, at the hands of a carpet manufacturer has exposed the hollowness of Mayawati's slogans of social justice and security. Rachna, the college-going daughter of the V K Rai and Pushpa Rai - the social activist couple who took up Santoshi's case - has recently been kidnapped. An AIPWA team comprising Tahira Hasan, Kusum Verma, Sarita Patel from AISA, and Shikha, visited Bhadohi on 15 February to express solidarity with the struggle of Santoshi and the Rais for justice.

Ever since Santoshi was 12-13 years old, she had been subject to sexual exploitation by the powerful carpet manufacturer Ghulam Rasool. Santoshi's family migrated from West Bengal and almost the whole family labours at the homes of carpet manufacturers. Santoshi was forced to undergo three abortions, suffered one miscarriage, and now has a 2½ year-old son (fathered by Rasool). Forced out of Rasool's home, she now lives in destitution, but bravely raised her voice in public to demand justice. V K and Pushpa Rai of the CERT took up her cause and on 5 February lodged an FIR accusing Rasool of rape of a minor. The SP at Kotwali Gyanpur scoffed at them, saying "Couldn't you find anyone better than this dirty woman to take up a cause?" Then their daughter Rachna was kidnapped and is missing since then.

On 7 February voluntary organisations sat on a dharna at Rasool's house demanding his arrest. AIPWA along with other groups at Lucknow also held a protest at the Home Ministry; the rape question was raised within the Assembly too.
Eventually Rasool was arrested and has reportedly agreed to marry Santoshi and acknowledge paternity of the child. But AIPWA held that such talk of marriage was mere eyewash by Rasool to escape paying for the enormity of his crime - namely the repeated rape of a young girl, and the kidnapping of Rachna Rai.

The AIPWA team which met and spoke with Santoshi, demanded compensation for Santoshi and maintenance for her child; prosecution and punishment of Rasool for the rape of a minor; and action against the SP and DM for their deliberate protection of Rasool. 

Medical Camp for Contract and Daily Wage Workers In JNU

On 22 February, the AISA-led JNUSU held a Medical Camp with the help of doctors and research scholars, for the contract and daily wage workers on the campus, in solidarity with the country wide efforts to ensure the release of PUCL Vice-President and Peoples' Doctor, Dr. Binayak Sen who earlier a part of the faculty of JNU. More than 250 workers, their family members and children were treated at the medical camp and provided with medicines. Dr. Sen is known for his efforts in extending medical treatment to the poorest sections of society. Dr. Sen, a paediatrician, public health doctor and human rights activist, was arrested on May 14, 2007 in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, and has since been incarcerated under provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006 (CSPSA), and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967). The JNUSU plans to hold such medical camps regularly at JNU.

AIPWA and JNUSU Demand Justice for Schoolgirl

A team comprising Sandeep, JNUSU President, Kumudini Pati, GS, AIPWA and Satya Sivaraman, Freelance Journalist visited the young school girl who was a victim of a brutal battering at the hands of a teacher at a Delhi school. The team observed that corporal punishment is rampant despite its being illegal; and the privatisation of schooling and lack of monitoring of private or aided schools further allows such brutality to go unchecked. Students and parents are reluctant to complain, fearing that they may be thrown out of the school.

Rinki Kaushik, a student of Class X, was beaten up so brutally by a teacher of Dinkar National Model School, Kondli, Delhi-96 that she had a brain injury leading to coma. The girl's only fault was to refuse tuitions under a teacher of the school, Dhirendra Mahto (son of the Principal). Rinki is a dalit girl and was to appear for her board exams this year. Her father has spent more than 2 lakh rupees on her treatment and though the incident dates back to 10 November, 07, an FIR could be lodged only on 16 February '08. She is still in the ICU and the perpetrators of the crime have not been arrested till date.

The team visited the Hospital (Agrasen Hospital, Punjabibagh) and spoke to Mr. Naresh Kaushik, her father. The team decided to take up the matter with the Delhi Government, The DCW and NCW as well as the NHRC. The team demanded that the medical expenditure be fully reimbursed and further treatment be free; a compensation of 2 lakhs be made to the family; Principal Upendra Mahto and Dhirendra Mahto be arrested immediately; recognition of the school be withdrawn and it be taken over by the Government; a monitoring committee of Academicians, retired officers and Social Organisations as well as Child Psychologists be formed under the Ministry of Education to regulate these schools.

Workers’ Struggle in Dhanbad

CPI(ML) and AICCTU organized a dharna on Feb 24 in Sindri with the demand to restart the Sindri Fertilizer Factory. Workers were demanding a budgetary provision for the revival of the Sindri factory in the current budget. While the ruling parties makes promise for its revival in every election, the truth is that the conspiracy is on to privatize the factory. The speakers in the dharna said that the central and state governments are evading their responsibility of industrial development and employment generation and conspiratorially handing over the state’s resources to the corporate houses. The demand of providing all facilities to the peasants who were displaced due to the construction of the factory was also raised.

Comrade Swapan Mukherjee, AICCTU General Secretary, demanded accountability from the local MP and criticized him for giving confusing statements on this count. He called upon the workers to fight against the mafia-politician-administration nexus in order to establish a greater unity for a bigger struggle.

Coal Workers’ Protest

The AICCTU affiliated Coal Mines Workers’ Union (CMWU) organized a campaign from 1-20 February for a 20-point charter. The campaign culminated in a militant protest of the workers at the headquarters of the BCCL in Dhanbad. Hundreds of coal workers took part in this protest. Contract workers and other types of unorganized coal workers also took part in this protest. They shouted slogans condemning the privatization attempts of the coal industry (a process that the Government intends to complete in the next decade). They also demanded a five-years wage agreement, 40 percent interim relief, equal wages for contract workers and workers co-operatives for the coal-cutters. The protest was led by Swapan Mukherjee, CMWU Vice President Arun Singh, and others. The speakers called upon to intensify the struggle against the coal mafia and politician nexus. A memorandum was also submitted to the BCCL management.

Earlier during the campaign, the Coal Workers’ Conventions were organized in Dhanbad, on 6 February and in Agargadda on 13 February. Later, after the campaign, a protest was also organized in Ranchi on February 26 in front of CCL headquarters which was addressed by CPI(ML) State Secretary Subhendu Sen besides other leaders.

Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication, R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22518248, e-mail: mlupdate@cpiml.org, website: www.cpiml.org
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