Bihar Rises against Nitish Kumar’s Liquor-Promotion Drive
Deaths caused by spurious liquor have emerged as the latest form of massacre in Bihar. The victims almost invariably belong to the toiling rural and urban poor, who are otherwise sought to be wooed by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as ‘Mahadalits’. Understandably enough, the continuing spate of liquor deaths has triggered a tremendous uproar in Bihar and on 15 December the state observed a day’s bandh at the call of the CPI(ML) demanding a ban on liquor. This is probably the first time since the 1974 movement that the struggle against the liquor mafia has emerged high on the political agenda of the people’s movement in the state.
The liquor deaths are no sudden aberration nor are they being caused only by ‘illicit’ liquor. The unfortunate people who died in Gaya the other day had all bought their drink of death from liquor shops with proper official licence. Death came in liquor sachets bearing the official imprint of Nitish Kumar’s ‘good governance’. On latest official count Bihar was found having a huge network of 5,624 licensed liquor shops. Almost every panchayat in Bihar today has a licensed liquor shop and it is an open secret that for every licensed liquor shop there are at least two unlicensed ones. Contrary to the government’s claims, the expansion of the licensed network has not eclipsed or replaced the illicit network; rather the two have grown in tandem with the legal serving as a front for the illegal.
This rapid expansion of the network of liquor shops is central to Nitish Kumar’s economics and politics of ‘good governance’. The government proudly points to the growing revenue – from a paltry Rs 329 crore in 2005-06 the revenue accrual from liquor has gone up to Rs 2,045 crore in 2011-12. If revenue has recorded a six-fold increase in six years, one can easily imagine how huge must have been the jump in the profit earned by the liquor lobby. Any independent investigation will reveal a massive excise scam thriving behind the curtain. We all remember how Nitish Kumar had summarily sacked his excise minister Jamshed Ashraf in February 2010 for seeking a probe into a Rs 500 crore scam in his department.
Even as Bihar mourns the deaths of the hundreds of hapless liquor victims, Nitish Kumar had the temerity to suggest that his fancy populist schemes like distribution of school uniform or cycles among girl students could only be funded by the revenue flowing in from the growing production and sale of liquor. Could it not be argued equally emphatically that the revenue from liquor was being used to fund his government’s self-congratulatory advertisements and his wasteful yatras aimed at self-promotion?
It is well known in Bihar that the liquor mafia has emerged as a principal prop of the new regime. In fact, the feudal-kulak kingpins of the infamous kidnapping industry of yesteryear have now turned in a big way to real estate, construction contracts and liquor trade. Nitish Kumar’s vision of ‘development’ is of course not confined to the home-grown liquor mafia; liquor barons like Vijay Mallya are also spreading their tentacles in Bihar. If Nitish Kumar can have his way, the sugar mills of Bihar will all give way to alcohol and bio-fuel. Yet faced with a popular outrage, Nitish Kumar is now waxing eloquent against the liquor mafia, and in a most glaring display of hypocrisy his government observed November 26, the day Nitish Kumar was sworn in for his second term, as a ‘prohibition day’!
The systematic spread of liquor remains a key factor behind the alarming increase in violence against women and the renewed spurt in crimes and social oppression. Girls in Bihar have been right in affirming that if cycles are to be funded by liquor-driven revenue then they would rather prefer to do without such cycles. Bihar cannot afford to bear the social cost of Nitish Kumar’s liquor-promotion drive, a fact realised most acutely by the women of Bihar who are fighting in the forefront of the anti-liquor campaign. The youth must now join hands with the women to challenge the liquor mafia and the government that disburses death in liquor sachets. The anti-liquor movement in Bihar has already thrown up role models like Comrade Bhaiyaram Yadav, the young secretary of CPI(ML)’s Rohtas district committee, who was killed earlier this year for taking on the liquor mafia and rising in defence of the dignity of women. The combined might of Bihar’s fighting youth and women can surely trounce the liquor mafia and their political patrons.
Successful Bihar Bandh on CPI(ML)'s Call
Bihar Bandh on 15th December against the massacre of mahadalits by liquor and demanding complete ban on liquor in Bihar, and against widespread scam in MNREGA was highly successful in terms of bandh effectiveness and mass participation in the bandh. Politically too the move resonated with the desires of common people in every district of Bihar, Gaya and Bhojpur especially witnessed intensive participation. The CPI(M), CPI and SUCI extended moral support to the bandh.
CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya courted arrest in Patna during the bandh along with several other Party leaders that included Comrades Kunal, KD Yadav, Ram Jatan Sharma, Meena Tiwari, Sashi Yadav, Rameshwar Prasad, Dhirendra Jha, and Amar among others.
Roads and rail traffic was blockaded by the CPI(ML) members and bandh supporters throughout the State. Since early morning the Party cadres took to the streets at Arrah, Jahanabad, Darbhanga, Arwal, Siwan, Buxar, Purnia, Muzaffarpur, Gaya, Madhubani, calling out for observing bandh and ensuring markets remained bandh. At Forbesganj, CPI(ML) cadres and bandh supporters sat on the railway track at the town’s railway station and stopped movement of trains for hours. Prior to the sit in a rally marched through the town. At Leheriasarai in Darbhanga, trains were stopped. NH 57 in Muzaffarpur remained cut off for vehicular movement for hours, Muzaffarpur-Sheohar road was blockaded at Meenapur, NH–105 in Madhubani, NH–31 in Nalanda, and Fatuha–Gaya road at Hilsa, NH¬30 and Arrah-Sasaram road at Arrah, NH¬–98 between Arwal and Kaler, road linking UP and Bihar at JP chowk in Siwan and at Guthni, NH–31 at Begusarai and Patna–Arrah main highway were blockaded for hours.
Rail movement and railway tracks were blockaded at several places including Buxar, Arrah, Darbhanga, Nawada and Forbesganj.
Shri Hind Kesri Yadav participated in the bandh in Muzaffarpur; Shri Devendra Yadav in Madhubani, and Shri Ramdev in Munger. The LJP’s women wing held a separate protest while the RJD deferred its protest march to 17th December. In the bandh the militant participation of significant number of women and youth is a quite encouraging sign for building a sustained militant agitation against liquor production and sale in Bihar.
Delhi CM Sheila Dixit Must Take Responsibility for the Horrific Gang Rape in a Delhi Bus and Resign
Delhi Police Commissioner Must Resign
(Press statement by AISA, AIPWA, RYA on 19 December, Delhi)
Students from Delhi University, JNU, and Jamia Millia Islamia, women from Delhi’s slum clusters, workers, and citizens from many walks of life are protesting today at the Delhi CM Sheila Dixit’s residence, demanding her resignation over the horrific gang rape of a young woman in a Delhi bus. The protest has been organized by the All India Students’ Association (AISA), All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), and the Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA).
We hold the Delhi CM Sheila Dixit responsible for the insecurity of women in Delhi. In the case of the gang rape in a bus, it is shocking that a private bus, unaccountable to any norms or regulations, has been free to ply Delhi’s streets. The state of affairs is such that this bus, manned by a bunch of heinous rapists, has been doubling as a school bus in the capital city!
Further, when a journalist Sowmya was murdered some years back, the CM Sheila Dixit had responded by calling her ‘rash and reckless’ for being out late at night. The Delhi police chief in a press conference some months ago, had declared that the police could not be expected to provide protection if women insisted on venturing out alone at 2 am. Senior police officers in the Delhi-NCR region, in a sting operation by Tehelka magazine, had declared that rape complaints were as a rule fake, and that women who dressed ‘provocatively’ should expect to be raped.
The culture of blaming women for ‘provoking’ sexual violence by being out late at night or wearing ‘provocative’ clothing is a shameful attempt to justify violence on women. Those in public positions of government, police or judiciary who blame women for sexual violence must resign. We demand the resignation of the Delhi CM and the Delhi Police Commissioner.
We demand that the rapists in the bus gang-rape case be booked for rape as well as attempt to murder, since their assault has left the victim’s life in danger. This case also underlines the need for changes in the laws on rape. Under the present law, rape by insertion of an object is not recognized as rape. We demand that a comprehensive law on sexual assault be enacted without delay, in consultation with women’s movement organizations.
We condemn the statement of BJP MP Sushma Swaraj in Parliament, that even if the rape victim survives, she would be a ‘living corpse’ for the rest of her life. This culture of telling women that ‘there is no life after rape,’ and shaming rape victims, must be condemned in the strongest terms. We must ensure that rape survivors live the fullest possible life with their head held high – and the first condition of this is that they get justice, that the perpetrators spend the rest of their life in jail.
In the Delhi bus gang rape case, the woman victim and her male friend had boarded a bus. When a bunch of men on the bus began sexual harassment, making lewd remarks about the man and the woman, the latter resisted fiercely and boldly. The men then decided to ‘teach her a lesson’ –raping and brutalizing her in the moving bus and dumping her along with her friend on the street.
What we need to recognize is that the widespread and growing rapes in Delhi are, in fact, motivated by the patriarchal urge to ‘teach women a lesson’ for seeking equality and dignity and for asserting their freedom. The problem is that the political parties, police and judiciary are not defending and asserting women’s freedom. Even when they talk of ‘protecting’ women, they do so by advising women to dress and move ‘carefully,’ thereby justifying the rapes by implying it is natural for men to rape women who defy patriarchal norms.
We are appalled by the fact that the Delhi Police’s ad campaign against violence on women features no women – rather, it features a male actor, urging men to ‘Be a man’ and ‘Protect women’! Instead of such campaigns that reinforce patriarchy, we demand that institutions including governments, police and judiciary be accountable to defending and safeguarding women’s unqualified freedom and right to live without fear of violence, in the home or the street; day or night; irrespective of what they wear or do.
AISA students of JNU participated in large numbers in protests called by the JNUSU at the Vasant Vihar police station on 17 December and blockaded the road (chakka jam) near the Vasant Vihar PS in Munirka for 3 hours on 18 December to protest against the rape.
Reports from WB
Struggle against Land Grab in Solidarity with Singur and Loba Rejuvenated
"The struggling farmers of Singur achieved what 552 MPs could not - they turned the colonial-era (1894) Land Acquisition Act into a piece of scrap paper", said Tapan Batabyal, CPI(ML) State Committee member and veteran activist of the Singur movement, addressing a peasant gathering at Singur. "The CPI(ML) resolutely stands by Singur's long-drawn struggle and should the farmers decide to take over their land, the revolutionary left will march alongside", announced State Secretary Partha Ghosh in Singur on 12th December.
It’s been six years since the Singur movement erupted and marked an exemplary struggle against land grab in contemporary Indian politics. Even after such a long wait, the farmers are yet to get their land back. Trinamool Congress, which came to power riding on the Singur-Nandigram wave, stands exposed with its mask of commitment to Singur farmers torn to shreds. The CPI(M) is back at its old game of using the farmers' resentment against the TMC regime to argue in favour of the Tatas. Under these circumstances the CPI(ML) organized a rally to reiterate its resolve to continue the land struggle with renewed zeal and pledged commitment to the demands of the farmers, bargadars and agricultural labourers of Singur. Hundreds rallied with the Party's march from Kamarkundu railway station to Bajemelia. Slogans were raised demanding- (1) return of acquired land to all farmers, irrespective of whether they were initially 'willing' or 'unwilling' to part with their land, (2) Exacting compensation from the Tatas as penalty for destroying farmland in the name of industrialization, (3) payment of a one-time compensation of Rs. 7 lakhs to all affected farmers, bargadars and agricultural labourers sans discrimination based on political 'colour', (4) hands-off policy ensuring political freedom of activists and mass movement workers.
CPI(ML) leaders present at the rally paid tributes at the memorials of martyrs Rajkumar Bhul and Tapasi Malik, and relived the experiences and lessons of the Singur movement in their addresses. They accused the TMC government of doublespeak, corruption and irresponsible handling leading to the current legal imbroglio and pointed out that corrupt and sectarian faces of the likes of Becharam Manna of Singur or Anubrata Mondal of Loba - have and will continue to be rejected by the masses. Politburo member comrade Kartick Pal announced that the CPI(ML) will contest the upcoming Panchayat elections in Singur and Haripal.
CITU Jute Workers join AICCTU en masse
Nearly 1000 workers of Jagaddal Jute Industries (in North 24 Parganas, West Bengal), formerly owing allegiance to the CITU, joined the Bengal Chatkal Mazdoor Forum (BCMF) affiliated to the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) on the 16th of December 2012. Among them are 5 party members of the CPI(M).
Since 2006, certain radical sections within the CITU, such as these, have been sparking debates in the inner circles. They criticized CITU’s anti-worker, pro-management role within the factory in general and in the jute industry workers’ struggle in particular. They formed a ‘Teesri Morcha’ which captured the imagination of the workers of the Jagaddal Mill. When they fought the PF trustee election under this banner, they even won 5 seats. After this decisive victory, the official CITU leadership settled with these forces and managed to retain them within the CITU union. But the basic debates, revolving around the anti-strike position of CITU during the industry-wide strike in 2008, along with CITU’s growing pro-corporate role in West Bengal, were never resolved. As a result these sections of workers waited for an opportune moment to form a new fighting union and made contacts with local AICCTU leaders.
In 2012, the PF trustee election was held again. Two dissident CITU leaders (who joined AICCTU) won among 6 candidates, and are presently functioning as PF trustee members. After the CPI(M) and Left Front Govt was ousted from power in West Bengal they decided to join AICCTU and CPI(ML) and started bilateral discussions. It was decided that the formal announcement of joining AICCTU would be made at a workers’ convention.
Accordingly, on the 16th of December, workers assembled in front of the newly built AICCTU office. Ram Sevak Thakur, a retired worker, hoisted the flag and inaugurated the union office. Basudev Bose (GS, AICCTU), Atanu Chakravarty (GS, BCMF), Nabendu Dasgupta (President, BCMF), Narayan Dey and Shambhu Bandopadhyay (AICCTU leaders), Omprakash Rajbhar (Secretary, BCMF - JJI unit) and others were present. A minute's silence was observed in memory of the worker martyrs, following which the convention was held at the Shams Urdu Primary School premises. The proceedings were marked by overwhelming participation and enthusiasm of fighting jute workers of the factory.
Com. Omprakash Rajbhar addressed the convention and placed a charter of demands. He criticized the Central Govt’s decision to dilute the mandatory Packaging Act allowing the synthetic lobby - a move that would tell upon the Jute economy. Comrade Omprakash informed the workers that the management had asked him and other leaders to refrain from joining a “naxalite” TU in lieu of which he had been offered the Secretary post of INTUC in the factory! The management had even threatened them with dire consequences if the warning went unheeded.
Other leaders who addressed the convention were Nabendu Dasgupta, Atanu Chakravarty, Mazahar Khan, Basudev Bose and Sh. Alam (organizing secretary of the newly formed union), who presided over the conference. The convention resolved to place the Charter of Demands before the management en masse. Following the convention a workers’ rally was organized.
State Transport Workers March to West Bengal State Assembly
Several thousand transport workers working in state-run CTC, NBSTC, CSTC and WBSTC jointly rallied on 11th of December under Trade Union banners affiliated to AICCTU, CITU, AITUC, INTUC and HMS. The workers' procession, decorated with placards and red flags, marched from Nonapukur tram depot towards the State Assembly. When stopped by the police midway, a protest meeting was held at Esplanade. The following demands were raised from the rally - 1) The policy of firing workers under the garb of VRS must be scrapped; 2) Land, buses and bus-routes belonging to the state transport corporations must not be handed over to private owners; 3) All arrears in salary, D.A., bonus, increment, gratuity and pension must be paid without further delay; 4) Following death of a worker, a family member must be offered a job; and 5) For all workers who have committed suicide under financial duress, a compensation of Rs. 10 lakhs and a job to a family member must be offered.
AICCTU Participation in ILO Meeting on Sexual Harassment
Comrade Bhuvaneshwari, National Secretary of AICCTU attended tripartite committee meeting organised by ILO on sexual harassment of women workers at Bangalore on October 29-30.The purpose of the meeting is to ensure stopping harassment of women at work places. Meeting was attended by central trade unions represented by AICCTU, AITUC, CITU, UTUC, AIUTUC, INTUC, HMS, BMS, and NFITU and labour department officials representing Tamilnadu, Delhi, Haryana, Assam and Maharashtra, Assocham representing Employers.
Com. Bhuvana presented a paper on behalf of AICCTU which dealt with changing composition of women work force, i.e. diminishing organised sector and rise in women’s employment in the unorganised sector without any safeguards and social security measures. Supreme Court directive on Visaka case is with respect to organised sector whose number is comparatively lesser. The women workforce mainly comprises of the unorganized workers whose working conditions are already vulnerable. Patriarchal excesses are well entrenched in their employment conditions. She also narrated the initiatives taken by AICCTU.
AICCTU has been campaigning for long on the following issues: mass enumeration of women workers, implementation of Visaka directives, meaningful social security for women workers, and equal wages for equal work. We demand that a committee on the lines of Sachar Committee must be formed to investigate into such aspects within a specific time frame. AICCTU paper presented concludes that the Bill on sexual harassment presented in the Lok Sabha has loopholes, yet the Trade union movement instead of dismissing it has to fight for its enrichment.
Comrade Sankar Mitra
Comrade Sankar Mitra, veteran communist and CPI(ML) leader passed away due to a massive heart attack on 18 December 2012. He was 73.
Born in January 1940, he had been in the Central Committee of the Party. Between the 4th and the 5th Party Congress he was also in the Politburo. He was involved in the panel on History of The Communist Movement in India. He was incharge of the Delhi Unit in late 80’s and of Tamilnadu in early 90’s before returning to Bengal. He was also the Chairman of Central Control Commission from 5th to 7th Congress of the Party.
Comrade Sankar Mitra suffered long years in Jail in the 70’s. He was a leader of the LIC Employees before becoming a professional revolutionary. Committed and simple, he paid attention to Marxist basics and socio-cultural study and investigation.
During the 18 December (coinciding with Comrade VM’s death anniversary) programme all over the Country, when the news reached of the death of Comrade Mitra, the organising committees instantly observed silence to pay tributes to our beloved Comrade Mitra.
Red Salute to Comrade Sankar Mitra
(Please see January issue of Liberation for a detailed obituary).