BUILD A MILITANT PEOPLE'S RESPONSE TO THE BUDGET DECEPTIONS
Following Laloo Yadav's 'Indrajal' rail budget, Palaniappan Chidambaram too has tried to spin his own magic in the election-oriented general budget. But the story of his Rs. 60,000-crore 'gift' to peasants is getting curiouser and curiouser. While doubts have been expressed as to whether the scheme cost was inflated to earn greater kudos, the mystery regarding where the money is to come from lingers on. The budget estimates had accounted for every single allocation except this huge amount, and when asked to come straight on this during a live pre-budget interview, the FM tore off his microphone wires and stomped off the conversation. Evidently, he just did not have an answer.
Of course, it was entirely feasible and advisable to generate the required revenues through available options like withdrawal of the huge tax bonanza offered to SEZs, enhancing the effective corporate tax rate and introduction of high ad valorem royalty rates for the massive extraction of minerals. But such measures are unthinkable in a patently pro-rich, neoliberal regime. In the absence of these, the debt relief together with nonproductive expenses like the huge defence allocation (which has been hiked by approximately 14 per cent relative to actual expenditure incurred last year) is likely to intensify inflationary pressures which would, as always, hit the poor and fixed- income segments of the population the hardest.
The return to bulk loan waiver after some 17 years (the last time the union government did this was in 1990, when Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal announced a Rs. 8900-crore loan relief; but that was in the pre-reform era) amounts to an admission that successive governments have done nothing to arrest the chronic decline of our agriculture and agriculturists. This year's budget proposals too (except for the somewhat enhanced attention to irrigation, which had been subjected to criminal negligence all these years) have nothing substantial to offer. No measures have been announced to protect Indian agriculture from unequal competition with heavily subsidised agriculture of the developed world. The question of cheaper imports and adequate support prices has also been left unaddressed. The National Commission on Farmers recommended lending money to farmers at four per cent interest, but that has fallen on deaf ears. The FM has also refused to address long-term issues such as crop insurance schemes, subsidization of insurance premiums, timely availability of the right kind of fertilisers, genuine and quality seeds, improving the storage, transport and processing facilities of grains, fruits and vegetables, preventing distress sale of produce, and so on.
Whereas the farming community has found the waiver scheme to be iniquitous and discriminatory -- suicide committed by a Vidarbha farmer who missed the bus (because his holding just exceeded the two-hectares limit) just after the budget was presented being symbolic of the widespread resentment that has gripped large sections of the Indian peasantry -- it is the banking sector that goes gaga. As PC himself pointed out, much of the loans already constituted non-performing assets and he proposed to write them off. The NPA portfolio of banks would thus get substantially cleaned up and banks would effectively get zero cost refinance on them.
Evidently tailor-made to win elections, at the end of the day the twin budgets can very well prove counter-productive -- if only we on the Left organise the people to turn the tables on the UPA government. Thus we can respond to PC's claim to provide debt relief by demanding cancellation of the entire debt burden (bank loans as well as private loans) of the rural poor and complete loan waiver for all farmers with holdings of up to four hectares in areas of dryland farming and acute agrarian distress. Similarly, we can catch Laloo Prasad on his promise of conversion of all coolies into gangmen and deployment of existing gangmen at unmanned level crossings, and mobilise the concerned sections in agitations demanding fulfillment of the grandiose claims. The Congress is trying to project universalisation of NREGA as something revolutionary; here we must demand assured employment for 200 days a year at a minimum wage of Rs. 100 for every eight hours of work.
Taking cover behind the sops and gimmicks of rail and general budgets, the UPA government has once again stepped up efforts for operationalisation of the Indo-US nuclear deal and the Logistics Supports Agreement. It is no less important to mobilise the masses against such attempts too. Combining in this way popular struggles on economic and political demands, we must further isolate the anti-people, anti-nation and highly deceptive UPA gauging and ensure its ouster at the hustings too.
CPI(ML) Strongly Condemns the Attack on CPI(M)'s Central Office
(Party's press statement of 9 March 2008 circulated to press in New Delhi)
The CPI(ML) strongly condemns the attack by Hindu Maha Sabha, BJP and RSS workers, led by senior BJP leaders, on the Central Office of the CPI(M) in Delhi. Politburo member of the CPI(ML) Comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya has said in a statement that the fascist goons and their leaders must immediately be arrested and given exemplary punishment. Such act of hooliganism against a political party office bears a dangerous signal that the Sangh Parivar and BJP can go to any extent against its political opponent. The Party has also condemned the fact that no proper security arrangements were made in spite of the prior information of Hindu Maha Sabha’s programme.
The CPI(ML) calls upon all democratic parties, organizations and individuals to stand firmly against such acts.
International Women’s Day Initiatives:
AIPWA Holds Protest Dharna at Parliament Street
In Delhi All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) observed International Women’s Day, 8th March, with a Dharna at Parliament Street, protesting against the UPA Government’s failure to deliver on its promises to women. Hundreds of women, mostly working-class women from Delhi’s slum clusters and unauthorised colonies, participated in the dharna, holding placards and raising slogans demanding tabling of the 33% Reservation Bill in the Budget Session of Parliament; protesting against continued price hikes of
Women at the dharna paid tribute to the working women of Chicago who had struggled for the 8-hour work day and for voting rights for women, in the memory of whom International Women’s Day is celebrated, and opposed the trivialisation and commercialisation of this tradition for corporate greed.
The West Bengal unit of AIPWA organised a march to Nandigram on 8 March 2008. Carrying colourful banners and posters, comrades paid floral tributes at martyr's columns -- very recently constructed by the struggling masses to commemorate the first anniversary of the great resistance struggle and massacre of 14 March 2007 -- in Gokulnagar-Adhikaripara and Sonachura market. At the latter place, a street-corner meeting was also held. Speakers including AIPWA state president Gita Das, state secretary Chaitali Sen and CPI (ML) state leader Mina Pal addressed the gathering. Local women and men participated in the programmes with great enthusiasm.
In Jharkhand Women's Day was celebrated at 17 places by taking up various protest demonstrations, dharnas, sit-ins, mass meetings etc. on the issues of women's dignity and the Day was also observed as Dhikkar Diwas for the incapability of the Madhu Koda Govt. in guaranteeing employment for women under NREGS. 8th March was observed at Ranchi, Bundu, Tamar, Hazaribagh, Ramgarh, Giridih, Saria, Bagodar, Rajdhanwar, Birni, Dhanbad, Bokaro, Devghar, Dumka, Lohardaga and Gumla.
In Tirunelveli, All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU )and Workers Rights Forum organized a demonstration on March 8. The demonstration condemned the lockout of Damodar Beedi Company as measure of victimizing beedi workers for fighting under the banner of AICCTU and wherein around 4000 beedi workers' families are affected. The demonstration sought immediate govt intervention on the issue.
The demonstration was led by Com.Nachiar, Dist Body member, Com. Rajamanickam, President, Com.Ramesh, Gen.Secy., Com. Mani, Jt.Secy. of Workers Rights Forum spoke in the demonstration. Com T.Sankarapandian, State Vice President, AICCTU, Com. Bhuvana, State Secy, AICCTU also addressed the gathering.
In Pallipalayam of Namakkal Dist, AICCTU and Workers Rights Forum held a Open Air Convention. Com. Thenmozhi of Working Women Rights Forum led the convention. Com.N.K.Natarajan, State GS of AICCTU and Com. Bhuvana, State Secretary, AICCTU, spoke in the convention. Com. Venkatachalam of RYA, Com Kadhiravan, and Com.Rajeswari of AIPWA also spoke.
The Convention demanded that the MANGAL SUTRA Scheme in the textile industry must be abolished and Model Standing Orders Act musr be amended to reduce the trainee period as 6 months and those who are employed in direct production must be treated as permanent workers.
In Chennai, Workers Right Forum and AIPWA held a convention which was led by Com Devaki of AIPWA. Com A.S.Kumar, State Dy. GS of AICCTU and Com Sekar of Workers Right Forum addressed the gathering.
In these meetings, demands such as 5 cent house stead patta for unorganized workers, Rs. 2000 pension for unorganized workers, amending TU Act to provide for TU recognition etc. These meetings called for women of TN to mobilize in large numbers in the Assembly gherao to be held on March 27.
On 8th March a convention "Violence on Women - Failure of Governments - Role of Women" attended by nearly 300 women from East, West Krishna and Ananthapur didstricts was held at Vijaywada. AIPWA State Secy. Com.Nagamani presided over the convention. Speakers included Jaladi Vijaya-prominent poet, Aruna, Gayathri, Ratna Kumari, Manga, and Parvathi.
On the eve of WD, dharnas on various women's issues were held at mandal HQs of Yeleswaram, Jaggampeta, Prathipadu and Peethapuram.
Jawab do Rally in Duddhi
The current Mayawati regime that came to power with the slogan of taming the criminals has rather emboldened them and the rampant loot of development funds is in full flow. Immediately after taking the reins of the State Mayawati had announced Rs.100/- as minimum wage. The Agricultural Labourer Association (AIALA) took to mass campaign in Sonbhadra dist. to get this implemented as well as ensuring 100 days of work under NREGS. Despite an order for time-wage (for one day) in the District the labourers are compelled to work on piece-rate. Under this arrangement each labourer has to excavate 100 cubic feet of earth. However the govt. rate for same work in road construction is Rs.105/- and for wells and ponds is Rs.133/-. This differential is being quietly siphoned off. When this was being exposed and opposed in vil. Dubha under Babhni block of Duddhi Tehsil, a bully Vijay Yadav who is the BSP leader and an area Panchayat member attacked RYA (Revolutionary Youth Assn) district vice-president Devkumar Vishwakarma. Despite submitting a written formal complaint the police took no action. Emboldened by this they also attacked AIALA dist. vice-president Pramod Chaube. Through news-paper statements the BSP leaders even threatened of violent actions. The Party organised a Jawab do (we want an answer) rally in Duddhi on 28th Feb. against this in which more than 3000 people participated. Speakers at the rally included CPI(ML) State standing committee member Com. Dinkar Kapur, AIALA State VP Ramayan Gaur, Dist.Secy. Biganram Gaur, Tehsil incharge Shambhunath Kaushik, RYA Dist. VP Shabir Hussain, AICCTU convener Rajesh Sachan, Contract Workers' Union President Surendra Pal, Myorpur Block Secy. Ramdev Gaur, Babhni Block Secy. Indradev Kharwar, Pramod Chaube and Devkumar Vishwakarma. The mass meeting was conducted by Prabhu Singh Advocate. After the mass meeting a procession was taken out in the Duddhi market.
Maha-dharna in Front of Jharkhand Assembly
Against Corrupt Koda Govt
The Jharkhand Mazdoor Kisan Samiti (JMKS) held a mahadharna (massive sit-in) on 27 February in front of the Jharkhand Assembly on crucial issues of working people of Jharkhand. On behalf of the assembled people a demand letter cum memorandum was presented to the Chief Minister of Jharkhand. It stated that all welfare programmes initiated for poor peasants and labourers have become a medium for loot of funds allocated for poor people. Instead of developing infrastructure in rural areas the NREGS has become captive of fake muster rolls and hoax reports. The unholy nexus of contractors-politicians-corrupt officials-mafia is completely lording it over the entire resources of the State and the development funds. It also stated in the very same letter that the current Government has backstabbed the people of Jharkhand.
The main demands of the mahadharna among others are: (1) CBI enquiry of the NREGS scam in the light of CAG report, holding responsible the BDO of Bundu for suicidal-death of Turia Munda and in this regard making public the report of NREG commissioner and taking prompt action against corrupt officials. (2) that the Govt. convenes special session of the Assembly to discuss the massive migration of poor people due to the institutionalised corruption in NREGS (3) provisioning of two acres of cultivable land to all landless peasants (4) arresting the killers of Com. Mahendra Singh and honouring all martyrs of the Jharkhand movement before and after the formation of the State, arresting and punishing all those behind the Doranda-Tapkara-Markachho police firings and (5) re-assessing the royalties of all minerals being mined in the state and spending the money on development of the State