In this Issue
Children in Manmohan’s India – Starved and Stunted
PM Manmohan Singh would like us to believe that adopting the policies of liberalisation have put India on the fast track towards becoming a global superpower. Recent studies have, however, called his bluff, showing that when it comes to tackling hunger and basic literacy, India’s showing is among the worst in the world.
The Global Hunger Index 2011 ranks India at 67th place amongst 81 countries, shockingly, behind even other South Asian neighbours like Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and other notoriously poor and backward countries like Sudan. The GHI held that 21% Indians are undernourished, nearly 44% of India’s under-5 children underweight, and 7% of them die before they reach five years.
Meanwhile, Indian students scored bottom at the tests conducted by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assessed the ability of 15-year-old students at basic reading, maths and science. 16,000 students from 400 schools in Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh (both enjoying relatively high ranking on human development indicators among Indian states) participating in the PISA exercise, scoring the lowest scores in the world, second only to Kyrghistan. A very small percentage of students in these states had even baseline proficiency in reading, mathematics and science.
Ironically, the UPA Government, itself responsible for the abysmal conditions of food security and schooling, has tried to present a ‘human face’ of concern for these issues.
Releasing a recent ‘HUNGaMA’ (Hunger and Malnutrition) report prepared by some corporates and NGOs and backed by MPs cutting across party lines, the PM said it was a ‘national shame’ that in the 100 focus districts of the study, 42% of children under five are underweight and 59% are stunted. And HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has just released the Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER) on rural India, prepared by an NGO, Pratham. This report, studying both government and private schools in rural India, shows rising enrolment in school, but declining attendance, over-reliance on private tuitions, and a marked decline in reading and mathematical ability of children in the age group between six and 14.
If hunger and malnutrition are indeed a national shame, why is the Prime Minister paying mere lip service to the issue? The GHI report holds that steep hikes in food prices are mainly responsible for global hunger. The Indian Government has completely failed to curb hikes in food prices. The National Food Security Bill tabled in Parliament recently is an insult to those who are battling hunger. It persists with the ‘targeting’ method, rather than providing universal coverage. While the Government was forced to back down on its Rs 26/Rs 32 poverty criteria, the Bill’s ‘priority’ section covers only a small section of the population beyond this infamous poverty line. The Bill proposes to fix the state-wise numbers for the ‘priority’ (BPL) section arbitrarily from above. The actual amount of food rations per family will be reduced when the Bill comes into effect, and the subsidised rates for food grain too are higher than those prevalent now in many states. Many current APL card-holders will find themselves deprived of coverage when the Bill comes into effect. Further, food grain rates for APL beneficiaries, instead of being fixed, are tagged at half the MSP, and are therefore vulnerable to fluctuations and hikes. The criteria for the BPL census are designed to exclude a large number of the poor. Above all, the Bill allows the Central Government to declare a shift from food entitlements to cash transfers, and tags the entire PDS to the highly controversial Aadhaar (UID) scheme.
In spite of a Supreme Court directive, the Government is yet to universalise the ICDS scheme, which is the main scheme dedicated to improving nutrition and survival of women and children. The Government’s fund coverage for ICDS is still highly inadequate. As a result, over 1 lakh anganwadis remain unoperational, while those that do operate often lack the most basic facilities. Anganwadi workers are extremely underpaid and overworked. Now, the Government is talking of ‘restructuring’ the ICDS in keeping with World Bank recommendations, and is proposing to privatise the ICDS on a ‘PPP’ model. Such measures can only help food marketing companies prey on the malnutrition of women and children for profit.
Faced with the PISA rankings and the ASER report, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal was quick to shift the blame for poor schooling standards to state governments. However, the facts stare us in the face – Sibal’s much-hyped ‘Right to Education Act’ has done precious little to improve the quality of schooling in India. The RTE did nothing to end the discriminatory divide in schooling, whereby a small number of rich children avail of good schooling at select private schools at high fees; while the bulk of students are doomed to schools which lack the most basic educational facilities. Interestingly, while the ASER report shows that more and more children are shifting to private schools, it also shows that most private schools too lack the minimum educational and infrastructural criteria laid down by the RTE, and the educational performance of students in these private schools too is far below the mark. This means that the private school industry that is mushrooming all over the country, extorting high fees and exploiting the hunger for education, is also lacking in basic educational standards!
It is notable that China’s performance in the PISA ranking is among the highest in the world, topping the rankings in maths and science. This ought to be a reminder to India, that quality schooling for every student is possible only when the Government makes schooling a priority. As long as privatisation of education remains the norm; as long as educational access remains contingent on the ability to pay high fees; as long as government schools are starved while private players are free to prey on students and profit from education, students in India will remain educationally deprived.
Thanks to the Indian Government’s pro-liberalisation policies, India’s future generation of children are starved of nutrition and learning, and stunted both physically and intellectually. No cosmetic measures promising ‘right to education’ or ‘right to food’ can carry any credibility until and unless these rights are guaranteed universally to all, and backed by a serious shift in policy priorities.
CPI(ML) Holds Massive Rally in Kolkata for Land-Livelihood-Democracy
On 10 January 2012, Kolkata witnessed an unprecedented rally of the toiling masses, defying the inclement weather and assembled at Rani Rashmoni Avenue demanding “Land-Livelihood and Democracy”, at the call of CPI(ML) State Committee of West Bengal. People from various backgrounds rallied in thousands and thousands, protesting against the anti-people policies of the new government that betrayed the left legacy of West Bengal, sending a message in no uncertain terms that CPI(ML) is the only Left alternative against the TMC-Congress combine State Government.
Unregistered agrarian labourers who had been evicted from their land, landless poor peasants, farmers who have been denied of their remunerative prices, minority community, left masses from other workers of transport industry, contract workers particularly from Public Health Engineering, Left parties, workers of Tea-Garden, Bidi, ASHA & midday meal female workers, students-youth-intellectuals, cultural workers – were the main components of this gathering.
Within a short span of 7 months, the sheen of TMC’s slogan of 'Ma-Mati-Manush' (Mother-Motherland-People) has started tearing asunder. The TMC-Congress Govt rode to power, on the back of peasant revolt that rocked the polity in the aftermath of Singur and Nandigram. But this government has started showing criminal apathy towards the real demands of the peasants and farmers, and the entire rural Bengal is again in the throes of a new agrarian crisis. Till date, 21 peasants have committed suicide, the TMC goons have unleashed a reign of terror, extortion has become the order of the day. The entire educational sphere is experiencing widespread anarchy, State’s health system has collapsed, crisis is looming large in all corners of human life and dignity. This government has failed on all fronts. Lakhs and crores of central fund remains unutilised, MGNREGA has turned out to be a cruel joke.
The slogan “Land-Livelihood-Democracy” was against this fast deteriorating political scenario. Three big rallies, from Sealdah and Howrah station and another from Subodh Mullick Square started simultaneously, with red flags, festoons, banners, and slogans, which culminated at Rani Rashmoni Avenue. Comrade Partha Ghosh presided over the mass meeting and read the text of charter of demands before the gathering. After that, leaders of different mass organisations made speeches. Com. Dipankar, CPI(ML) General Secretary was the main speaker. He said that if the people of West Bengal voted for a change in favour of Land-Livelihood and Democracy, they shall again change the government if their hopes and aspiration remain unfulfilled. He exposed the hypocrisy of TMC government, and said the people of Singur have not yet received any compensation. Just a few days back 174 people died in 24 Parganas(S) after consuming poisonous liquor, 18 peasants committed suicide, 12 of them only from Burdwan. Mother and sisters lost thier lives at Magrahat after police fired upon the poor villagers. But Chief Minister of the self proclaimed Ma-Mati-Manush government didn't care to visit and meet the victims. This government has declared that it will not tolerate land robbery and is bent upon to seize all the land hitherto occupied by the peasants in rural Bengal. He also called for a genuine revolutionary left unity and independent left assertion in West Bengal.
Comrade Sufiyan’s Martyrdom-day Celebrated with Protest in Bhojpur
“The heroes that fight crime, those that risk their life and embrace martyrdom for a better society against forces of darkness become immortal and inspiration for others.” These were the words of Jasam’s Bihar President Ram Nihal Gunjan remembering Comrade Sufiyan at a protest meeting held in Arrah on his 4th Martyrdom anniversary protesting frequently recurring incidents of crime. Comrade Sufiyan sacrificed his life in the anti-crime struggle. He was a hero of anti-crime and anti-communalism struggles in Bhojpur. He thwarted all designs to disgrace the Muslim community in the district. Speakers at the protest meeting said that intensifying all round struggle against the criminal forces is the only true tribute to him.
Cyclone ‘Thane’: Devastation Multiplied by Govt. Callousness
On 30-12-2011 Thane hit Puducherry and Cuddalore and villlupuram districts of Tamilnadu and caused unprecedented damage to infrastructure, crops, fishing boats and nets, and houses especially huts and the total green cover in Puducherry district of the UT of Puducherry. Four lakh huts were damaged in Cuddalore and Villupuram districts alone. A total of 10 lakhs acres of farm land of 8 districts, namely cuddalore, Villupuram, Nagai, Thiruvarur, Kanchipuram, Thiruvallur, Tanjore and Ariyalur faced disastrous damage.
On 4th January 2012 a team led by Com. Balasundaram (State Secretary, Tamilnadu) and comprising several others including Com. Balasubramanian (State Secretary, Puducherry Union Territory) visited various villages of the affected area and met people. The team travelled 280 Km and had close interaction with the victims.
Comrade Balasundarm, on behalf of the team, held a press conference on 6th January to publish the findings of the team, the estimate of the loss and the pathetic status of the relief work being provided by the Government. The meteorological dept at Chennai warned about the cyclone on 24th December itself and about the probable severity with wind speeds of 150km/hr. The warning was repeated for several days and the Government had more than six days to act, but it chose not to act. The Government did not step into precautionary action. All the district administrations remained inactive and this is the root cause of severe damage caused by the cyclone.
The Congress Government in Puducherry led by its Chief Minister Rangasamy not only failed to take precautionary steps to handle foreseen disaster but was also callous in responding swiftly even after 10 days since ‘Thane’ hit over Puducherry region. The government announced and paid a solatium of Rs. 2000/- to each ration card holder family and kept idle for days.
Not even single hut can be constructed with the relief amount, Rs 2500/ 5000, declared by the Government. Paddy farmers are asking for Rs 10,000 per acre lost. The Government has declared Rs 4000 per acre. The farmers are annoyed and in grief. Cashew gardens from which a farmer earns more than 30000 per year are totally destroyed in Cuddalore, Villupuram Districts. The Government has decided to provide a paltry amount of Rs 3600 per acre. It is estimated that loss faced by cashew farmers is Rs 300 Crores, in Cuddalore District alone.
Condemning the lethargic attitude of the Puducherry government, Puducherry State Council of AICCTU and Movement for Protection of Roofless jointly held a massive protest Dharna in front of District Collector’s office on 10 January, demanding speedy relief and rehabilitation measurers to all affected people. The demonstration was jointly led by S. Motilal State Secretary, AICCTU and J. Sakthivelu, Co-Convenor Movement for Protection of Roofless. A memorandum was submitted to the Chief Minister through the district Collector.
The CPI(ML) has demanded that the UPA Government at the centre and AIADMK and Congress govts in the two states should expedite the relief and rescue work for speedy recovery of affected people and properties, immediate release of Rs. 2,000 crores as interim relief to the UT of Puducherry, because the UT is fully dependent on the centre economically and appropriate compensation to the families of cyclone victims.
After 2004 Tsunami many demanded that coaster shelterbelts should be created. Seven years have passed and the Government is ritually paying homage to the people lost during Tsunami, and has failed to establish any worthy shelterbelt along the coasts, rather it was busy in missapprobriating Tsunami relief funds. If shelterbelts were in place the damage caused by Thane could have been minimized. We should note that the Cyclone travalled 107 Km inland. Guidelines under Disaster Management Act regarding prepardness, management, relief and reconstruction have not been followed and structures are not being created. And this is another reason for the severity of the disaster caused by this cyclone.
Domestic Women Workers' Union Conference
The second annual conference of Noida unit of Gharelu Mahila Kamgar Union (Domestic Women Wokers' Union) was held on 11 January 2012. Around eighty domestic women workers from Noida attended this conference. This was addressed by AICCTU General Secretary Swapan Mukherjee where he emphasized on expanding the union and need to develop more leaders from among domestic women workers. Many domestic workers narrated their work conditions and demanded a safe and secure work atmosphere which can only be achieved if the Government takes initiatives in this direction and recognize the work of domestic workers. Comrade Shyamkishore Yadav said that more intense work needs to be done in this regard along with developing more professional approach towards building an union in a highly unorganized and vulnerable segment of society which at the same time is highly neglected and made deprived by the governmental discrimination. The conference was also addressed by Sanjay Sharma, Chandrabhan Singh, Aslam Khan and many others. A 25-member Executive Committee with Shyamali Sarkar as President was elected by the Conference.
Party GBM in DTC
DTC Party unit held its 8th Sector GBM on 14 January 2012 where it was resolved to expand anti-privatisation campaign further among new workers who are mainly employed under contract, casual or by private corporations like Tata. The delegates were unanimous on the task of providing political edge to the prevailing discontent in DTC after two decades of privatisation and contractorisation. The GBM also resolve to fulfill various organisational targets towards the preparations of the 9th Congress of the the Party. They resolved to march towards being the biggest union in this important wing of the transport sector. A programme was also chalked out to hold a mass-convention against corruption and privatisation of public transport in Delhi.
The GBM was inaugurated by CC member Prabhat Kumar. He praised the role of transport workers in building the party in Delhi. Delhi State Secretary Sanjay Sharma delivered the concluding speech where he called upon to address the new challenges before the working class movement. A 15-member Sector Committee was elected by the GBM which in turn re-elected Comrade Shankaran as its Secretary. The GBM contributed Rs. 5000 for the Party's 9th Congress Fund.
Views and Proposals of AICCTU submitted in the pre-Budget consultation meeting with Finance Minister (on 16 January 2012) for the forthcoming Union Budget 2012-13
To begin with, we are constrained to say that the views and proposals submitted by central trade unions in the pre-budget consultation meetings every year either do not find any place in the budget or are addressed in the form of some cosmetic measures, which too are not implemented as can be seen from the examples of “Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act 2008” and increase in the honorarium of Anaganwadi workers in the last budget. The issues of unorganized, contract workers, honorarium/incentive based workers like ASHA, Anganbadi, Mid-day meal, etc. working in several lakhs, implementing the most important schemes of the govt. but living in miserable conditions, do not find due importance in the budgets.
We are afraid that if this continues it will make this exercise of pre-consultation meetings with central trade unions very formal.
It is becoming clearer day by day that under the regime of economic globalization i.e. policies of LPG the economic growth does not equate with wellness of people. Our country continues to be at the bottom in regard to most of human development and social indices particularly hunger and malnutrition and, peasants continue to commit suicides. This trend of committing suicides has even extended to among jobless people in urban areas.
Even the note on “State of Indian Economy”, sent by MOF to us appears more interested in giving details of GDP and outflow and inflow of foreign capital without proper assessment of actual impact of the economic growth on the people particularly regarding the mounting unemployment, growing agricultural crisis, inflation, declining real wages, etc.
One slogan has emerged universally which epitomizes the crux of ongoing situation. “We are the 99%”- this slogan emerging from “Occupy Wall Street” movement has universally symbolized the growing anger against the policies of economic globalization and their growing rejection, and at the same time has symbolized the demand of working people for bringing the policies and measures for the 99%, and not 1%. The views and proposals raised by we all central trade unions collectively in our memorandum submitted in this pre- budget meeting also reflect the same.
So, in view of the prevailing situation in the country and also the ongoing global crisis, we urge upon you that the coming budget should be working people-oriented with focus on addressing the issues of unorganized labour, domestic workers, honorarium/incentive workers particularly increasing their minimum wages, bringing them under social security cover and extending the coverage of all govt. schemes and statutory benefits to them; the issues of poverty, unemployment and social infrastructure; with focus on strengthening the purchasing power of working people and domestic market, and on resource mobilization through taxing the corporate and the rich, unearthing huge accumulation of black money including the huge unaccounted money in tax heavens abroad, recovering the NPAs etc. and putting a halt on extending all kinds of concessions and sops to the corporate and the rich. So, with this end in view we would, apart from extending full support to the joint memorandum submitted here, like to reiterate the following demands for the coming budget for serious consideration by the government:
- a) Make Massive public investment in agriculture and rural sector and guarantee the implementation of land reforms. b) Housing for urban poor (workers’ colonies) and land puttas for rural poor.
- For all unorganized workers- Universal coverage of all employments under Minimum Wage Act and fixation of statutory minimum wage not less than Rs 10,000/- per month with indexation. Extend PDS and the benefits like PF, ESI, bonus, etc to all unorganized workers. Grant status of govt. employee to honorarium workers, like ASHA and Anganbadi and others, and for now, regularize them and bring them under the coverage of statutory minimum wage and social security. It may be noted that ASHA workers have been applauded by the health ministry of govt. for bringing down the infant mortality rate to more than half and doing excellent service in rural health sector. The survival of this important NRHM scheme depends on their well being.
- Assured Pension for all including all unorganized workers- Against the measly pension the working people are getting, the proposed pension in the range of 100 to 1000 is unjustified. The pension should not be less than Rs. 7500/ with VDA for all pensioners/workers, who toil for their entire life for progress of the nation. Also stop privatization and FDI in Pension and withdraw the PFRDA Bill being introduced. Stop the move to reduce interest rate on PF. Raise this rate to 12.5%.
- National fund for unorganized workers with allocation of 4% of GDP in present situation. b) Inclusion of agricultural workers under the “Unorganised Workers Social Security Act 2008”. Also a Separate Act for agricultural workers.
- No to Contractorisation and outsourcing of work of permanent / perennial nature. Till the contractorisation is abolished payment of wages and benefits to such workers at the same rate as available to the regular workers of the industry/establishment
- Bring Urban employment scheme in the lines of NREGA and provide employment under NREGA for a minimum period of 200 days.
- Take stringent measures against hoarders and ban forward trading in food grains to curb Price rise, and take other protective measures against price rise.
- Lift ban on recruitment in govt. and public sector.
- Stop disinvestment in CPSUs and provide budgetary support for revival of sick CPSUs.
- For protection of migrant workers bring legislation in line with SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.