In this Issue
Left Front Government Reneges on Promises to Singur Peasants
As expected, the joint committee comprising representatives of the Trinamul Congress (TMC) and of the state government has collapsed and the temporary truce that provided a breathing space to both sides has yielded place to the next round of pitched battle. With both the Left Front (including smaller partners, who have often been critical of the CPI(M)'s handling of the Singur and Nandigram issues) and the TMC holding mass meetings in Singur on consecutive days – the former to sell its “new and improved” pending further orders. This makes a mockery of the spirit of the Right to Information Act and package of compensation and the latter to re-launch its agitation following the violation of the September 7 agreement inked in the presence of governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi – the mercury is rising again in the hotspot of Bengal politics. Meanwhile, the Kolkata High Court passed an interim order upholding Tata’s contention that the agreement between Tata motors Ltd and the WB Government shall not be made public once again shows that in the ultimate analysis the judiciary too, like the executive, acts as an agent of big capital.
Agrarian workers, sharecroppers and other toilers who depend on the agro-based (both farm and off-farm) economy of Singur and constitute the backbone force of the anti- eviction movement, are feeling badly let down. Those who have lost their land can perhaps accept and fall back on the enhanced compensation money, but what will happen to us, they ask. What shall we do with the few thousands of rupees thrown out to us? Class polarisation is thus getting sharper and the party of revolutionary proletariat must energetically pursue the class line of relying mainly on the rural proletariat and semi-proletariat while consolidating the unity of the entire peasantry against the anti-people government. Thus alone can the movement develop to a new, higher phase.
Apart from its other deficiencies, the text of the TMC-WB Government “gentlemen’s agreement” contained no specific provision for compensation to agrarian workers and sharecroppers. We severely condemned this deliberate lapse in our state-wide campaign including a big rally in Singur. The new package that the government has since come up with claims to address this issue, but once again in a most casual fashion. For agricultural workers and unregistered sharecroppers, the government promises a compensation of 300 days of wage at NREGA rate. But workers have already been deprived of nearly 700 days of work since December 2006, when the fencing came up for the Tata project; and there is no alternative employment in sight for the bulk of them. So the compensation should be calculated for a much longer period – in fact, back in September 2006 a CPI (M) Politburo member talking on a national TV channel had promised five years’ wage as compensation – and should be supplemented with adequate rehabilitation. We have therefore demanded Rs one lakh in compensation plus alternative job for every rural worker, who has lost his/her livelihood.
The state government boasts that it has made no distinction between “willing” and “unwilling” peasants, offering the same – now enhanced – rate of compensation for both categories. It is scandalous, however, that it does make a distinction between registered and unregistered sharecroppers, relegating the latter to the category of agrarian workers, i.e., promising them nothing more than 300 days of wage. The unregistered sharecroppers are thus punished for no fault of theirs, and for the failure of the much trumpeted Operation Barga. This is not to say that registered sharecroppers have been offered something great. The state government proposes to give them only 25 per cent of the compensation money, with 75% going to the landowner. By contrast, we have demanded that both registered and unregistered sharecroppers must be compensated at par with landowners.
CPI(ML) Rally at Singur
CPI(ML) organised a rally at Singur on September 10 against the recent ‘compromise’ made by the WB Govt. with Mamta Banerjee which ignores the rights of sharecroppers and agricultural labourers. A procession from Kamarkundu station with almost two thousand enthusiastic people reached the meeting place demanding alternative land and livelihood for the victimised peasants and bargadars. A compensation of a minimum of one lakh rupees as rehabilitation cost along with alternative means of livelihood for the displaced agricultural labourers was also demanded. The protesters also criticised the fact that the CPI(M) is even ignoring the latest talks between government and opposition, which were mediated by the Governor, for the sake of absolute benefit of Tata. Immediate punishment for the killers of Tapasi Mallick and Rajkumar Vul was demanded. The father of Tapasi Malik was present through out the meeting supporting this demand. State secretary Comrade Partha Ghosh, politburo member Comrade Kartik Pal, state committee member Comrade Chaitali Sen and Comrade Sajal Adhikari addressed the meeting. It was presided over by state leader Comrade Tapan Batabyal.
Punish the Perpetrators of Serial Blasts in Delhi
Serial blasts in a prominent metro have become a grim, grisly, script that is played out again and again: claiming innocent lives and shedding innocent blood, and spreading terror among the people at large. Worst of all, such blasts provide political fodder for those forces who sow communal hatred and majoritarian fascist ideology to reap votes.
The notion that draconian laws – laws that allow the State to beat a confession out of arrested ‘suspects’ – can counter terrorism is in itself an admission of the abysmal failure of intelligence agencies to painstakingly investigate terrorism and trace the terror trail with properly documented evidence. The monumental injustice of branding and harassing an entire community as ‘terrorist,’ compounded with the crime of allowing majoritarian fascist groups to conduct communal pogroms against minorities for weeks on end, or conduct blasts in the guise of Muslims, without facing a ban or getting tagged as ‘terrorist,’ can only create fertile ground for the cancer of terrorism to grow.
With Delhi a couple of months away from Assembly elections, the ineptitude, ineffectuality and callousness of the Congress-led UPA Government and its Home Minister to terrorist violence is likely to prove costly. The BJP, meanwhile, is aggressively promising POTA and is launching a thinly veiled attack on the Muslim community as being associated with terror, accusing the UPA of being soft on Muslims and therefore on terror.
The BJP’s accusation is distorted and false. In reality, it has been seen that Congress-ruled states (Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi) have boasted of the same tactics as BJP-ruled states like Gujarat – of witch-hunting innocent Muslims, branding and torturing them as terrorists as a substitute of any serious and unbiased investigation of terrorist acts. With the growing evidence of involvement of Sangh cadre in blasts and masquerading as Muslims/SIMI etc, there can be no longer any excuse to keep the obvious political beneficiaries of terrorist acts – mainly the Sangh Parivar – out of the ambit of terror probes.
Police Forcibly Evacuates CPI (ML) Dharna in Chandauli
Democratic space is fast shrinking in Mayawati’s rule in UP, while communal forces have been given a free hand. The peaceful sit-in going on for last 44 days at Chandauli district headquarters was forcibly evacuated by the police recently. The Party sent a letter of protest to the home secretary condemning the action and demanding his intervention. The sit-in was going against the illegal grab of pond land by the local ward member of ward no. 6, forced eviction of members of the ‘Nat’ community from a piece of land, for payment of pending wages of more than 20 days under NREGA in Chuppepur village of Naugarh Block, to demand suspension of the BDO for not paying the labourers and using foul language against the women workers. When the district administration remained insensitive, the CPI(ML) announced to convert the dharna into a 72-hour hunger strike from 13 September and the district administration was given the prior information about this.
Under pressure from the movement led by CPI(ML) the very next day (13 September), the Chandauli district administration has started demolishing the illegal structure constructed by the ward member on the pond land.
On 12 September when most of the party leaders and activists were in the field preparing for the hunger strike leaving only a few activists at dharna site, administrative officials and police force destroyed the tent forcefully and threw the materials on road, and did not even let the activists sit nearby. The activists decided to start dharna at the Chandauli block headquarters, instead of going away as was desired by the police. Later, Party leaders announced that the protest and dharna will be continued at the office of the DM.
In Lucknow Party State Secretary Sudhakar Yadav condemned this act of the Mayawati regime saying that while peaceful democratic movements like dharna and fast are not being allowed, the communal forces have been given a free hand and this attitude of the BSP government must be opposed to protect the rights of the people and democracy.
CPI(ML) in Panchayat Polls in Uttarakhand
The Party contested in a total of 3 District Panchayat seats, 2 BDC and 6 village Pradhan seats. 2 BDC and 2 Pradhans in Pithoragarh, and one Pradhan in Almora supported by CPI(ML) also won.
In recently held Panchayat Election, the Party won one Block Development Committee seat (in Pithoragarh Dist.) and four Gram Pradhan seats (two each in Pithoragarh and Almora Districts).
CPI(ML)’s Flood Relief Initiatives: A Glimpse
CPI(ML) has launched a range of flood-relief and rescue initiatives in the affected regions of Bihar. The affected places are areas where AIALA has recently conducted mass membership; today, in the time of tragedy, the rural poor are finding CPI(ML) and AIALA activists at their side, working as one with them. In addition, they are also playing a key role in mobilizing the flood-affected people to hold government functionaries accountable.
CPI(ML), AICCTU, AIALA have till now collected and rendered Rs 3 lakh to the relief efforts, and relief collection is till on all over the country. Meanwhile, a team of students of JNU and Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi, including AISA activists and led by JNUSU President Sandeep Singh, have collected relief materials, including tarpaulin sheets, food and medicine, and visited the flood-affected regions to help with the relief efforts.
The CPI(ML) Bihar State Committee has set up a special Cell to oversee the flood relief operations, led by Comrade Dhirendra Jha, CCM, CPI(ML) and General Secretary of AIALA, and including Barsoi MLA Munnaf Alam.
At present, the flood waters have receded, and people are trying to return home – but their land and homes are in a state of devastation, and the Government is not counting those returning to their villages among those needing relief. The party is highlighting the demand that relief cannot be confined to those in the camps – rather, the Government must provide compensation and relief to help the affected people make a new start, and must assure free food and other essentials for at least six months.
The CPI(ML) had strongly challenged the myth that the floods were a ‘natural calamity’, and had pointed out the negligent and callous role of Governments at Patna and Delhi in failing to prevent the floods, and had demanded a Judicial enquiry in the matter. The Bihar Government has now ordered a Judicial Enquiry which is supposed to come up with a report in six months.
It is also necessary to expose the politics of flood-relief as pursued by the State and Central Governments. Public money (belonging to SAIL, RAIL, etc…) is being disbursed as though it were ‘private charity’ by UPA Ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Laloo Yadav. The Chief Minister and other representatives of the State Government have, shamefully, used the occasion of opening relief camps for political display, with much fanfare and ribbon-cutting ceremonies. Such politicking by those responsible for the misery of the people, as well as the aerial surveys and equally ‘aerial’ promises, have angered people in the flood-affected areas.
In Bhargama block of Araria, the CPI(ML), from 25 August onwards, has organized rescue teams, as well as mutual cooperation teams of villagers to help those worse off. Comrades Lalan Kumar Singh, Baidyanath Mandal, Shambhu Ram, Ramnath Mandal, Ashok Srivastava, and Kamla Devi, are involved in the rescue and relief efforts.
Comrade Bharat Bhushan Singh helped bring 450 people from Madhepura to the large Government relief camp at Purnea. The CPI(ML) has set up a Relief Camp in Purnea town at Ajit Sarkar Smarak Sthal – and relief efforts are being carried on by a team led by Comrade Madhavi Sarkar. Here, primary relief is provided, before sending people to the Government camp. Since the Govt camp does not provide special arrangements for children (milk etc), the CPI(ML) camp does so. The party is also active in Rupauli and Barhara Kothi blocks of Purnea district, providing food materials as well as cooked food among the affected people.
AIALA is leading the CPI(ML)’s rescue and relief work at Triveniganj in Supaul.
Food and relief materials were distributed amongst the affected in Bhagalpur.
Party activists are organizing to take people in groups to the Govt relief camp at Purnea; those who are staying back are being provided relief in Madhepura itself.
CPI(ML) General Secretary visited the flood-affected areas in Saharsa, Supaul and Madhepura on 3-4 September, accompanied by CCMs Dhirendra Jha, K D Yadav, AIALA National President Rameshwar Prasad and AIKSS National Convenor Rajaram Singh; and on 10 September he visited Katihar, Purnea, and Araria accompanied by Comrade Rameshwar Prasad, Madhavi Sarkar and others.
Why Is the UPA Government Hesitating to Ban the VHP and Bajrang Dal?
In Orissa, secular activists and political parties are not allowed to visit the scenes of the anti-Christian pogrom – Kandhamal and Gajapati; while notorious VHP hate-monger Praveen Togadia was allowed to visit the same areas and spread venom, leading to fresh outbursts of violence. The Bajrang Dal and its Sangh sisters meanwhile have killed a priest in Andhra Pradesh; assaulted two nuns carrying orphaned babies in a train at Durg station in Chhattisgarh; and have conducted an uninterrupted orgy of violence in BJP-ruled Karnataka, torching churches and stabbing Christians. This spree of violence is especially shameful given the UPA Govt’s much-touted commitment to secularism. One fails to understand why the Bajrang Dal and VHP are not banned, and are rather being given a free licence to kill in states ruled by BJP-NDA and even Congress, while the Centre remains a mute spectator. We demand stern action against the Sangh outfits and protection and compensation for the Christian victims of hate assaults.
Day-long Dharna Against Assaults on Christians
On September 3, a day-long dharna was held in Gwalior by the CPI(ML) against the anti-Chritisn communal violence. Addressing the dharna, CPI(ML) leader Comrade Vinod Rawat and other activists condemned the communal violence in Orissa, as well as in Gwalior itself, and demanded stern action against the Sangh outfits.
Public hearing on NREGA in Tamil Nadu
On September 2 a public hearing on NREGA was held at Kumbakonam, organised by AIALA and AIPWA. Around 500 panchayat level AIALA and AIPWA activist from 70 panchayats participated, representing 12 districts. A jury panel comprised of Geethalayan, a noted advocate, Revathi, journalist and filmmaker, Bapri, journalist, heard the depositions while leaders of AICCTU, AIALA, AIPWA and CPI(ML) conducted the hearing. The village activists presented their reports on the implementation of NREGA in their respective panchayats, based on a questionnaire circulated earlier. The jury panel found that starting from registration, issuance of job cards, and preparation of muster rolls, provision of employment and on the question of wage distribution there were gross irregularities, and corruption was rampant. In the past 2 years, nobody was given 100 days employment. In the name of rotation system workers were made to wait 6 weeks. They were underpaid and faced severe harassment by a nexus of panchyat presidents, project officers and influential political bigwigs who design and implement the scheme according to their whim in violation of the democratic process laid out in law. In the initial phase, women were discouraged on the plea that they could not do such hard work. Now the situation is upside down. More than 83% women workers were employed and no basic provisions as stipulated in the Act were provided for them; also, they were underpaid and had to faced harassment. Wherever AIALA and women workers waged struggles, they won wage hikes; but even in these cases lack of vigilance on part of workers allowed the vested interests to take away the raised wage. In one particular case the AIALA village unit could expose the bogus muster roll – even then the district collector did not take any action. In another case one village president employed the workers in his own paddy field and paid the wage from the NREGA scheme!
The jury members Geethalayan and Revathi spoke on behalf of the panel. The public hearing strongly indicted the state and central governments and demanded that the DMK accept responsibilities for the dismal implementation of the scheme. Strongly criticizing the Government for the unprovoked lathi charge and firing on Rettanni women workers for demanding minimum wage, the Hearing demanded immediate dismissal of the police and revenue officials, and also demanded 200 days and Rs. 200 wage per day and employment for 2 in a family.
CPI(ML) Politburo member and all India Vice-President of AIALA, Comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya, called upon the workers to resist the corrupt feudal nexus and hailed the fighting spirit of AIALA activists. He charged the DMK Govt for its political populism, at the cost of basic questions of the people. CPIML state secretary, Comrade Balasundaram was present as were AICCTU leader N K Natarajan, CPI(ML) leader Chandramohan, and AIPWA leaders Thenmozhi and Usha. AIALA state president N Gunasegaran presented a memento to the Jury.
Protest against Repression in Garhwa
The Police of Garhwa district in Jharkhand is harassing CPI(ML) supporters. Police from the police station of Dhurki and Nagar have continuously organised raids on areas of CPI(ML) influence, arresting activists on false claims that they have warrants against them; or booking them in cases where the FIR only lists unidentified people. Police has also tried to disrupt meetings held on questions of land. CPI(ML) supporters with their militant protests are challenging this police high-handedness head-on.