The Challenge of Change
2012, the year of exposes, is now nearing its end. The stream of scams being exposed since 2010 flew into a veritable sea in 2012 as skeletons tumbled out of every cupboard in the corridors of power. The relentless unearthing of scams coupled with unmasking of political figures and families has revealed an ominous picture of an ever-expanding nexus between corporate power and political power which has popularly come to be known as the business-politics nexus. Capitalism in India remains mired in the murky depths of cronyism, and democracy is fast getting reduced to what can only be called a corporatocracy – government of the corporates, for the corporates, by the corporates. The Radia tape in which the richest Indian capitalist calls the oldest ruling party of India ‘aapni dukaan’ (own shop) revealed it most glaringly.
The competitive revelations have left both the Congress and the BJP, the two largest ruling parties heading two contending coalitions, almost at par. Scams are a great leveller – the Congress and the BJP both stand exposed as ‘dukaans’ (shops) doing brisk business in the name of ruling the country or different states. The business-politics nexus no longer means collaboration between business and politics, but increasingly the conversion of politics into business, convergence and coalescence of the two in the crucible of power. The Vadra-DLF deals and the operations of Gadkari’s Purti group of companies give us an idea of the intricate ways in which political influence is converted into corporate wealth. They also tell us how business bonhomie transcends the political divide. Thus BJP President Gadkari’s ‘social entrepreneurship’ thrives in Congress-ruled Maharashtra just as the Jindals of the Congress stable in Haryana merrily expand their business empire in BJP-ruled Jharkhand.
The revelations have thus clearly determined the agenda for a national political alternative. Corruption must be checked, and to combat corruption the expanding business-politics nexus must be reined in. The resources of the country must be saved from corporate plunder, placed under public control and utilised judiciously to fulfil the urgent needs of the people. Development must be defined not in terms of an abstract growth in GDP, but in terms of removal of poverty and answering the basic needs of the common people. The budgetary priorities must be reformulated to ensure a massive hike in public investment in agriculture, education and public health. And foreign investment, institutional as well as direct, must be subjected to strict regulation and made subservient to the goals of self-reliant, sustainable and people-oriented development.
The parties of the ruling classes are scary of the prospects of crystallisation of such a national agenda and popular mobilisation insisting on its implementation. Desperate attempts have therefore begun to rubbish the corruption charges and mislead the people. The Congress has launched a vigorous campaign to discredit the CAG by contrasting the figures of the latest 2G spectrum auction (about Rs 9,000 crore) to the estimates made by the CAG of the loss inflicted on the national exchequer because of the UPA-I’s act of free distribution of spectrum on the basis of a dubious ‘first-come-first-served’ policy. Can an auction held in 2012 in the backdrop of a global recession for an almost saturated 2G market be compared to an auction that could have been held four years ago when a euphoric India Inc and their global partners were dying for grabbing a share in a rapidly growing cellphone market in the world’s second most populous country? Yet the Congress believes it can rubbish the CAG and get itself absolved in the eyes of the people of the unprecedented corruption it has been charged with!
The other point on which the Congress seems determined to stick its neck out is the issue of inviting FDI in multi-brand retail. The party, that always tries to bask in the glory of the freedom movement, went to the extent of holding a public rally in support of FDI in retail, trying to sell the crisis-ridden Indian farmers and inflation-hit market-ravaged Indian consumers a deceptive dream of FDI-induced prosperity. Buoyed by the renewed victory of Barack Obama in US Presidential poll and his “India-is-a-big-part-of-my-plan” assurance to Manmohan Singh, the Congress that had earlier put the issue of FDI in retail on hold pending a national consensus now calls it a policy ‘cast in stone’ and dares the Indian people to try and oppose it! And to wriggle out of a possible showdown and defeat on the floor of Parliament on the issue of FDI, in a secretive way the UPA government enacted the execution of Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab just a day before the winter session of Parliament was scheduled to begin.
If the Congress believes it can silence the people by citing the hanging of Kasab, the BJP has already begun to raise a shrill demand for the execution of Afzal Guru, the Kashmiri who has been convicted in the December 13, 2001 attack on Parliament case on the basis of insufficient and questionable evidence. Narendra Modi, who is engaged in a high-tech electioneering extravaganza trying to come back to power for the third time in a row, has been quick to call for a speedy hanging of Afzal Guru. In Mumbai, the communal cousins of the BJP, the Shiv Sainiks, have demonstrated their readiness to keep alive the legacy of Bal Thackeray, the Hindutva advocate who openly admired and likened himself to Hitler, by shutting down Mumbai after Thackeray’s demise and vandalising the clinic of a doctor whose niece had posted a comment on Facebook to question the Mumbai shutdown. And the Mumbai police, dancing as usual to the tune of the SS, went to the extent of arresting Shaheen Dhada who posted the comment, and her friend Renu Srinivasan who liked it, accusing them of hurting the religious sentiment of others!
The contours of the impending battle are thus emerging quite clearly. The Congress and the BJP are once again unleashing an agenda of competitive communalism and jingoism to divert the attention of the people and prevent them from delivering a powerful mandate against the disastrous course of neo-liberalism. The people will have to fight back on both fronts and build a political alternative that rejects both neo-liberalism and communal jingoism and firmly upholds the banner of secularism, democracy and people’s welfare. The powerful assembly of tens of thousands of brave and fighting people in CPI(ML)’s “Parivartan Rally” in Patna on November 9, radiated the energy and enthusiasm for securing precisely such a meaningful change in the coming days. Defying the arrogance and conspiracies of the rulers, let us move on in bold and united steps.
Party’s 1st Chandigarh District Conference
The First District conference of CPI(ML) Liberation's Chandigarh unit was held on 18/11/2012. A total of 53 delegates were present in the first conference, of whom seven were women. Comrade Gurjant Singh was the observer from Party State Committee. The conference was inaugurated by Comrade Gurmeet Bakhtpura. Most of the members in Chandigarh Party branch are contract workers working at various places and also few students and youth. District Secretary Comrade Kanwaljit presented the report. New 15 member committee was elected, of whom 3 are women and Comrade Kanwaljit is elected as District Secretary.
Protest in Puducherry against Attacks on Dalits in Dharmapuri
In the aftermath of the caste violence in Dharmapuri district of northern Tamil Nadu, thousands of Dalits have been rendered homeless and living in constant fear of another possible attack. On 7 November, a mob of 2,500 backward-caste Vanniyars had burnt and looted around 500 houses of Dalits, claiming to avenge the death of a Vanniyar who committed suicide after his daughter married a Dalit. Adding to the fear is a statement by Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) MLA Kaduvetti Guru, who heads the Vanniyar Sangam, forbidding inter-caste marriages. Locals and even the police officials posted in the area say the attack was premeditated and done with the connivance of pro-Vanniyar sections of the police and cadres of the PMK. Between 5 pm and 10 pm on 7 November, every single house of the three hamlets of Nathamkottai, Kondampatti and Annanagar was burnt down.
A massive protest demonstration was organised by the rural committee of CPI(ML) Puducherry District on 20th November 2012 demanding probe by a sitting High Court Judge about the loot and arson unleashed on dalit villages.
The demonstration was led by Comrade P Murugan, Rural Committee Secretary. The demonstration was largely participated by rural women and Trade Union activists. Com. S. Balasubramanian, State Secretary CPI(ML), CPI(ML) Puducherry District Secretary G Palani, AICCTU Vice President P Sankaran, CPI(ML) Urban Committee Secretary S Motilal, N M Tamilmani, Classical Tamil Movement, R V Lenin, Human Rights and Consumer Protection Society G Sugumaran, Peoples Rights Committee spoke among the demonstrators.
The demonstrators demanded the Tamilnadu Chief Minister: (1) Immediate arrest and interrogation of J Guru, a PMK leader who instigated violence through his virulent speech at a public meeting, (2) Invoke the provisions of the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 and arrest the perpetrators of violence including the district revenue and police officers, (3) Confiscate the properties of the perpetrators and suitably compensate the victims, (4) Immediately construct shelters/temporary dwelling places for the families that lost their houses, (5) Issue duplicate documents such as ration cards, NRGES Job cards, property documents, educational certificates etc. that were burnt in arson, to all.
National Conference of Construction Workers
2nd National Conference of All India Construction Workers Federation (AICWF) affiliated to the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) was held at the Ram Leela Maidan in Delhi on 26th November and Rally on 27th at Jantar Mantar with the central slogan of fight for “Better Wages and Labour Dignity, Regular Employment and Social Security”.
Delegates from several states including Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Punjab, Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Pondicherry gathered with impressive participation of women comrades, to attend the Conference. The Conference elected seven-member presidium including Comrades Bala Subramanium (Pondicherry), S K Sharma (Bihar) P P Upanna (Karnataka), Gurmeet Singh (Punjab), Kishor Sarkar (W Bengal), Babulal (UP) and Mahesh (Rajasthan). A minute’s silence was observed to remember the martyrs followed by the inaugural address by AICCTU General Secretary Comrade Swapan Mukherjee. Comrade R N Thakur placed the report for further enrichment and discussion. He summed up the achievements and challenges and experiences of struggles and initiatives after the first conference, especially, how the federation evolved with its national character. The conference furthered the 10 point main demand including uniform rules at national level, Rs. 500/day minimum wages, Rs.3000 minimum pension. Speakers from all states participated in debates. The Conference elected Com Bala Subramanium as President, Comrade S K Sharma as General Secretary, Comrade R N Thakur as Organizational Secretary including 9 vice presidents, 9 secretaries and 46 member Executive Committee.
On 27 of November thousands of construction workers marched towards the Parliament and held a demonstration at Jantar Mantar. Later a 10 point memorandum was submitted to the labour minister. Newly elected national leaders of AICWF and Comrade Swapan addressed the rally. Following are the main demands: (i) Rs. 500/- per day minimum wage and minimum Rs. 3000/- per month old age pension to all workers, with addition of VDA, (ii) Residential (Workers’) Colonies in city areas and plot of land for house in rural/town areas for construction workers, (iii) Free registration and period of renewal to be increased from one to 5yrs. The process of registration in welfare board should be made easier, and the present central Act for construction workers along with other labour laws must be implemented strictly. To do away with state-wise differences and variations in the rules, the central government should frame common rules on national basis basing which the state governments should frame their rules, (iv) Construction Workers should be brought under E.P.F and E.S.I Scheme, (v) All Construction Workers to be included in BPL lists, (vii) Inter state Migrant labour Act must be followed strictly and a National commission on the lines of “SC-ST Commission” must be constituted for Construction Workers, (viii) Un-organised Workers’ social security Act must be immediately implemented in all the States and State level Boards to be constituted for them and Central and State govts. must allocate appropriate fund for the Board, (ix) Sand Workers to be brought under the Construction Workers rules, (x) Stop gender discrimination against women construction workers, strictly implement “equal payment for similar work”
AISA’s Initiatives in Uttarakhand
Pithoragarh: After winning the President’s post in students’ union election recently, All India Students’ Association called for a day long college bandh to highlight the plight of students and educational facilities. Issues such as vacant teaching posts, unavailability of drinking water in college premises, corruption in campus, cheap cooking fuel and rations for outstation students figured prominently during the bandh. ABVP tried to disrupt and create chaos during the bandh meeting by bursting crackers. A memorandum was handed over to the DM by 50 students on bandh day.
Rudrapur: A dharna was held at the DM’s office against extremely difficult conditions set for being eligible for unemployment allowance, announced by the State Govt. AISA demanded for removal of such irrational terms and to lower the age for unemployment allowance to 22 years. When the Govt went ahead with its pre-set terms and gave allowances on 9th November only on its own terms, AISA held protests on 10th November and burnt CM’s effigy at Pithoragarh and on 11th November in Rudrapur. Memorandums were sent to the CM from AISA units of Srinagar and Gopeshwar.
Bal Thackeray’s Legacy Spells Doom, While Shaheen’s Courage Holds Out Hope
The events that followed the death of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray raise questions about the health of India’s democracy. Thackeray – whose political career of four and a half decades was one of calculated hate-mongering, and who built the Shiv Sena around an agenda of vicious communal and regional-chauvinist violence, was given an official state funeral by the Maharashtra Government. He was wrapped in the national tricolour, and received a 12-gun salute. The President of India praised his work for the ‘ordinary man’, and the Prime Minister, likewise, praised him for his efforts on behalf of Maharashtra. A few days before Thackeray’s death, Digvijaya Singh, the designated propagandist for Congress’s secular posturing, said Thackeray was a “fighter” all his life and would also “fight” his illness. Laloo and Nitish alike expressed grief at the passing of the Bihar—basher. In death, therefore, Bal Thackeray achieved the success of having his brand of fascist politics endorsed in precisely the terms he sought – as equivalent with ‘nationalism’ and Maharashtra’s pride. His funeral was a virtual Who’s Who of film and cricket stars.
The Congress government of the late 1960s promoted Thackeray and the Shiv Sena as an (ultimately successful) ploy to destabilise and decimate Mumbai’s powerful working class movement. The Shiv Sena made its political debut in 1967 by burning down the CPI’s legendary Girni Kamgar Union office, followed by the assassination of popular Trade Union leader and CPI’s sitting MLA Krishna Desai in 1970. Thackeray congratulated the Sainiks for that assassination, declaring that it should serve as a warning to the ‘Lal Bhais’ (Red Comrades). In the by-election that followed, the Shiv Sena defeated the CPI, and elected the first-ever Shiv Sena MLA. So, the first targets of the Shiv Sena’s bloody campaign of fascist terror were the Red unions and working class militancy. The Shiv Sena, which began life as the Congress’ muscle against the working class, then emerged as a force in its own right.
It was a time when the mighty mills of Mumbai were being closed down, to pave the way for a textile industry dominated by private corporate players like Dhirubai Ambani. The Shiv Sena, having waged war on and defeated the Left-led trade union movement with the backing of the Congress Government, then proceeded to divide the working class by mobilising Marathi workers on a son-of-the-soil plank against the migrant workers. The Shiv Sena tested out its son-of-the-soil plank with violent attacks on Kannadiga workers in 1969. (It is ironic that today, the BJP and Sangh Parivar are trying to recreate the same Shiv Sena type of son-of-the-soil politics in Karnataka, mobilising Kannadiga workers against the other migrants!)
The Marathi manoos political plank resonated mainly in the metropolis of Mumbai. The Shiv Sena acquired a wider base only when it adopted a virulent communal politics masquerading as nationalism, targeting the Muslim minority. Thackeray made no secret of his admiration for Hitler’s fascist politics. The crowds at Thackeray’s funeral indicated the hegemony his brand of fascist politics achieved in Mumbai: a hegemony that has destroyed the life-spirit of the city that once called upon people from all over the whole country to sing ‘Ye hai Bombay meri jaan’ (This is Bombay my love).
The corporate media, top TV anchors and print columnists, all abandoned any measure of rational or honest assessment, valorising Thackeray as a Marathi and Hindu hero. A story released by ANI said, “Social issues such as immigration and communalism were of particular interest to him in the context of national well being and welfare”. So, the communal pogrom of Mumbai 1992-93, and organised violence against migrants, have been sanitised to become innocuous sounding “social issues of immigration and communalism” and examples of “national well being and welfare”!
But the media’s rosy remix of Thackeray’s legacy got a jarring reality check. A young woman, 21-year-old Shaheed Dhada, dared to declare that the Emperor wore no clothes. In a post on Facebook, she said “With all respect, every day, thousands of people die, but still the world moves on. Just due to one politician died a natural death, everyone just goes bonkers. They should know, we are resilient by force, not by choice. When was the last time, did anyone showed some respect or even a two-minute silence for Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Azad, Sukhdev or any of the people because of whom we are free-living Indians? Respect is earned, given, and definitely not forced. Today, Mumbai shuts down due to fear, not due to respect.” Her friend Renu ‘liked’ the post. Within half an hour the police (in a Congress-ruled state!) were at her door, and both young women were arrested, to be released later on bail. A Shiv Sena mob vandalised Shaheen’s uncle’s dental clinic. The fact that Shaheen is a Muslim who dared to express a critical opinion of Thackeray’s funeral was enough to mark her as a fit target for Shiv Sena’s reign of terror.
Congress governments and their police never arrested Thackeray (or his nephew Raj Thackeray) for publicly spouting vitriol and whipping up violence against Muslims and Biharis. But a Congress government rushed to arrest two 21-year-old women for expressing an opinion!
Following a national uproar, the Congress Governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra have promised to punish police officers responsible for the arrest. But even as the Maharashtra Government had to retreat from the arrest with embarrassment, senior Congress leaders like Harish Rawat and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, instead of apologising for this outrageous assault on civil liberties which befits a totalitarian state rather than the ‘world’s largest democracy’, advised people to be ‘careful and cautious’ about what they say and when, on an occasion of the death of a man of Thackeray’s ‘stature’!
Yet again, the ‘secular’ Congress, the much-vaunted Indian free media, and other proud democratic institutions have given us little cause for hope, in the face of the fascist brand of politics. But the ray of hope does come from young Shaheen and Renu – whose courage exposed the real content of Thackeray’s legacy, and forced the media and ruling class to change the discourse surrounding Thackeray’s death.
Reports from Chhattisgarh
The GM of Ore Handling Plant at Bhilai Steel Plant was gheraoed by more than hundred workers for non-payment of ‘daily reward’. The workers were led by the Centre of Steel Workers General Secretary Rajendra Pargniha. Gherao lasted half an hour after the management assured to address the demand within a week’s time.
Joint Convention of Trade Unions in Raipur
The joint platform of TUs held a Convention on 4th November in Raipur in which more than 800 people participated. AICCTU’s National Secretary Comrade Brijendra Tiwari was in the presidium of the Convention. Comrade Bhim Rao Bagde addressed on behalf of the AICCTU. The Convention took a decision for ‘jail bharo’ on 18-19 December in the District and Raipur respectively. The Convention also appealed for making the two-day national strike of 20-21 February 2013 a grand success.
Comrade M L Dronkar:
Comrade M L Dronkar, died at the age of 82 in a road accident while crossing a road on 29th October. He passed away the following day in Bhilai Hospital. He was a worker in Bhilai Steel Plant in 1959-60. He lost his job for being active in communist movement. He left CPI(M) in 1996 and joined CPI(ML) the same year. He always participated in Party activities and advocated Left unity. A meeting was held in Bhilai to pay tributes to him. He is survived by his wife, five children and his entire Party comrades.