Curious Twists to the Discourse on Bihar
The discourse on Bihar is getting curiouser and curiouser.
After years of ‘interesting groundwork’, the World Bank is now ready to enter Bihar in a big way. The declaration of the Bank’s intent came from none other than the Bank’s Country Director for India, Michael Carter, at a daylong workshop on Bihar’s Development Strategy at Patna on 18 June, held jointly by the World Bank, Planning Commission of India and the State Government of Bihar. In his opening address Carter said that the Bank would not only show the path to development but also guide the state towards this goal. In other words, the Bank is readying itself for a full-scale takeover of Bihar, and the Bank’s own investment would be a soft long-term loan of a modest magnitude, a $100 million Bihar Rural Livelihood Project to be launched in September 2006.
A key component of the Bank’s ‘interesting groundwork’ has clearly been the promotion over the years of a battery of ‘Bihar experts’, comprising both Patna-based globe-trotting economists as well as members of the ‘Bihari diaspora’ within the Bank’s own panel of economists and officials. All of them were quick to welcome the Bank’s arrival in Bihar as a historic opportunity for this backward state. And to be sure, Governor Buta Singh too did not miss this opportunity to outline his government’s ‘development vision’, complete with “e-governance project, including video-conferencing facility linking divisional headquarters with the state headquarters for periodic review of schemes and computerisation of key departments”.
What sort of an outcome can Bihar expect from the World Bank’s intended foray into the state? The experience of Andhra Pradesh can be a very useful guide. Once advertised as a model state by the World Bank, Andhra Pradesh has today emerged as the biggest graveyard for India’s farmers and the rural poor, and the shadow that looms largest over this graveyard is that of the World Bank. The slogans of ‘empowerment’ and ‘development’ reverberate as cruel jokes as death and devastation continue to stalk the entire landscape of the state. Even after the ouster of Naidu’s TDP in the Assembly elections held in May 2004, Andhra continues to record the highest number of farmers’ suicides (758 between April and December 2004, as admitted by the UPA government on the floor of Parliament).
The World Bank clearly has no relevant expertise to offer to Bihar. The Bank’s pet prescription of privatisation has played havoc in country after country. It is not for nothing that the Bank is dreaded and opposed the world over as the biggest destroyer of human livelihood and natural resources. Bihar has hardly anything left to be privatised – the challenge before Bihar is that of creation and development of public institutions, including toning up of the public administration, and the Bank has no proven expertise in this field. It is almost universally recognised that what Bihar needs most is implementation of thoroughgoing land reforms, enhanced public investment in agriculture and irrigation, industrial revival and promotion of employment-generating enterprises, and real social dignity and opportunities of public participation for the oppressed poor, the unemployed youth and the women of Bihar. The Bank can only block, and not pave, the way towards such a development.
Two days after the Bank-sponsored brainstorming, it was Lalu Prasad’s turn to address the state RJD leadership and activists at Patna. While he kept quiet about the World Bank’s prescriptions and also about the frequent hikes in petrol and diesel prices being announced by the UPA government, in his hour of crisis he once again turned to an anti-feudal and pro-left rhetoric. He tried to pacify the anger in his own camp by pretending to accept exclusive responsibility for the RJD’s failure in the February elections. He then went on not only to talk about a feudal-communal conspiracy to capture power in Bihar, but also to issue a warning to the Left by saying that the NDA’s success in Bihar would prompt it to eye West Bengal as its next target. In a veiled threat, he also said that the RJD had a base beyond Bihar, but refrained from putting up candidates so as to prevent division of ‘secular votes’. There were also talks of rebuilding the RJD on the lines of the CPI(M).
Interesting words, but they only ring a hollow, pretentious and desperate note. His rule of fifteen years has been infamous for his compromises with the feudal forces and the license and state patronage enjoyed by sundry landlord armies and mafia gangs to massacre the rural poor and their communist fighters. His empty boasts against feudal forces have been thoroughly exposed by the RJD’s abject surrender to the rule of the ‘estates’ in the feudal stronghold of Champaran and his open collaboration with the ‘Devil’s forces’ to crush the CPI(ML) which is widely recognised as the most consistent and courageous voice of anti-feudal awakening in Bihar. And even the two old communist parties that have almost always stood by his government have had to pay a heavy price. Both the parties have been systematically humiliated and marginalised and even their leaders killed in political violence sponsored by the ruling party.
The World Bank and Lalu Prasad need not worry too much about the future of Bihar. The oppressed poor and the working and productive people of Bihar are perfectly capable of producing a real script for Bihar’s development by defeating the empty boasts and pretentious claims of the lords of loot and plunder. And the revolutionary communists of Bihar have the drive and organisation to defeat the feudal-criminal-bureaucrat-corrupt politician nexus and realise the people’s long-cherished aspirations for dignity, democracy and development.
Left Parties Should Immediately Quit UPA Coordination
The Left-UPA ‘co-ordination committee’ right from the start was intended to hoodwink the people by securing a ‘Left seal of approval’ for the economic policies of liberalisation and other anti-people measures of the UPA Government.
This ‘co-ordination’ therefore was never anything but a ‘committee of mass-deception’. Virtually every meeting of this ‘co-ordination committee’ has been followed by a fresh announcement of anti-people measures, be it the increased FDI caps in key sectors, progressive mockery and dilution of employment guarantee or repeated hikes in petro-prices.
The ‘co-ordination committee’ never even made any effort to scrap a draconian killer law like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
Therefore, for the democratic forces and the working people of the country, this ‘co-ordination committee’ never had any relevance.
The sooner the CPI(M) realises the futility of such ‘co-ordination’ with the UPA, the better. Rather than issuing empty threats, the Left parties should immediately quit the ‘co-ordination committee’.
BHEL Disinvestment : UPA Govt.’s First Anniversary Gift to the Corporates and FIIs
Ten percent of government’s equity, amounting to approximately Rs. 2,000 crores, in Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited is being divested to ‘public’. The decision was taken just after ten days of celebrating the completion of first year by the UPA in government. Moreover, there are talks that a list of other profit making PSUs is ready with the govt. for more disinvestment proposals.
If Finance Minister is to be believed, this act is completely in agreement with the govt.’s common minimum programme, though latter clearly states that the profit making PSUs must not be disinvested. His logic is that a quarter of the money will go to the National Investment Fund and three quarters to the social sector. Why, then, is so much applause among the corporates as is evident also from the immediate rise in the prices of BHEL shares in the market just after the decision? Second largest investors in this 'navratna' company are foreign institutional investors (FIIs) with 22% stakes. And when it comes to fix the issue price of BHEL shares for disinvestment they have the capacity to potentially influence the market prices in their favour as has been done on past occasions. Moreover, multinationals like SIEMENS may now have better opportunity in the direction of establishing their control over BHEL by increasing the stakes.
While 66% stakes in BHEL are with the govt. (it will come down to 56%), it argues that this is in no way ‘privatisation’ as still there will be more than 50% shares to control the affairs of BHEL with it. As if it will not amount to transferring the profit against those shares worth Rs. 2000 crores to the private sector? Government may consider following the same definition of ‘privatisation’ in case of other profit making PSUs.
On many occasions in last one year the UPA has shown its unwillingness to seriously act as far as investment in social sector is concerned. Toothless attenuated Employment Guarantee Scheme is a burning example. The most logical way to increase the allocation for the social sector is levying taxes from those big corporates who reap huge profits only because our govt. makes policies in their favour and allow them to use our national infrastructure and resources.
Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), established in 1953, is one of leading power generation equipment manufacturers in the world. BHEL has 14 manufacturing units, 13 Regional Operation Divisions and more than hundred “service-at-sites” facilities spread all over India. BHEL offers comprehensive service to its customers in Conventional and Non-Conventional Energy, Industry, Transportation, Telecommunication and Oil sectors. BHEL has also bagged export orders from 40 countries around the world. This is first state-owned company to acquire ISO 9000 certification during 1993 for all its operations. BHEL’s valves have been exported to Malta , Cyprus , Malaysia and Indonesia while pressure part equipment and spares have been exported to the USA . Boiler components have been supplied to China and Seamless Steel Tubes have been exported to Malaysia .
BHEL has sustained its market prestige in face of unequal competition with many multinational corporations in an unfavourable atmosphere created by the government and ruling politicians following liberalization. It was not given the benefit of import duty exemptions while companies like Enron enjoyed the same. In spite of this, BHEL continues as a profit making public venture. While the foreign investment limit in the telecom sector has already been raised and the UPA govt. has also decided to free up prices of PSU products including that of coal and other commodities, selling of BHEL stakes only reflects government’s continuing willingness to serve the corporate world and imperialist bosses at the cost of public money and development.
Enact Comprehensive Legislation for Women
I f the government of the day genuinely feels to do something to curb the anti-women violence, it must immediately enact a comprehensive legislation which can effectively tackle all sorts of violence perpetrated against the women, be it within the confines of home or outside, be it at the workplace or Remand Home or in the countryside where they face worst types of violence by the feudals and criminals or the violence targetted against the women by the state and its police and armed forces. Any legal remedy skewed in nature and fragmented in structure will not serve the purpose.
At a time when women are moving out of their homes and participating in numerous activities of production and are accepting and fulfilling the social and political roles, any attempt to ignore or downplay the violence committed against them outside the confines of homes, which poses direct criminal threats over women's assertion, will only be a half-hearted and diversionary act. All of us including police and the government admit the bare fact that even the well-connected and well-lit streets, taxi, bus, three wheelers, university campuses, stadia, hospitals, military areas, police custody, etc. in the national capital are not safe for women. Where, then, are they safe outside home? The law and order authorities have not only miserably failed in combating such violence but also seem to be in a helpless mood. Had this helplessness in addressing the outdoor growing violence, including rapes and murders, against women driven the Govt. to indoors (domestic violence)? This is clearly deceptive and criminally negligent for the women's issues - a vital question for the democracy. Thus, the need of the hour is a comprehensive legislation, a serious and comprehensive approach.
There must be a resolve to guarantee the economic, social and political rights of the women. Any gender discrimination at the workplace must immediately be curbed and immediate punishment be meted out to the guilty persons and equal opportunities and rights be guaranteed for women at these places. Women’s right to property should be legalised and implemented strictly. Parliament should pass the long-pending Women’s Reservation Bill without any delay. And, in any case of anti-women violence, accountability must be fixed on the concerned DMs, SPs and police station in-charges. In the cases of violence occurred in the police custodies and police stations, concerned guilty police officials must immediately be suspended and punished. In similar cases at the workplaces, culprits must immediately be brought to justice.
Nationwide Protests against Hike in Prices of Petrol and Diesel
CPI(ML) organised a 'protest week' and held protests all over the country against the recent hike of petroleum products from 21-28 June. Protests demonstrations were held in many state capitals to demand the immediate withdrawal of this hike which goes against the promises and orientation of govt.'s own common minimum programme. In New Delhi , effigy of Manmohan Singh was burnt at Parliament Street on June 24.
In Bihar , protests were held in almost all the districts at various levels throughtout the week. While on June 28, CPI(ML) called 'Chakka Jam' received an overwhelming response in all the districts including Ara, Biharsharif, Dehri-on-Sone, Jehanabad, Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, Sahrsa, Bhagalpur and Purnea. In Patna party activists led by State Secretary Ramjatan Sharma blockaded road at Dakbangla chowk. In Orissa, road blockade was organised at three places in Gunupur district on June 24. In Rajasthan, protests were held in several areas including capital Jaipur. In Jaipur protest was held jointly by CPI(ML) and Samajwadi Party and burnt the effigy of PM on June 24. In Banswara, Jhunjhunu and Udaipur similar protest were held by the CPI(ML). In Gurgaon of Haryana, Party activists held a demonstration on June 28. In Jharkhand, protest marches and burning of effigies were organised in various districts and upto block levels. In Ranchi , a demonstration was held on June 21 where the effigy of PM Manmohan Singh was burnt at Albert Ekka square. In Daltonganj, headquarter of Palamou region, people held on June 22 a funeral procession of Manmohan Singh in protest and protest were held at every block of the district. It was also decided to launch a mass awakening campaign against UPA's anti-people policies in the district. In Dhanbad, Ramgarh, Bhurkumda and other places protests and effigy burnings were held from June 21-28. In UP, similar programmes were organised at various places. Effigy of PM was burnt in front of State Assembly on June 24, while protest was held in Ghazipur on June 25 and in Varanasi on June 21. RYA and AISA held a protest demonstration on June 23 at Raiganj in West Bengal . Assam State Committee of CPI(ML) held a dharna at Guwahati on 24 June as part of the nationwide protest week against hike in petrol and diesel prices. A protest procession was brought out in the city to demand withdrawal of price hike. A memorandum was sent demanding withdrawal of price hike of petrol and diesel to the Prime Minister through DC, Kamrup. Similar programmes were taken up in other districts during the week. A joint programme against hike of price of petrol and diesel with other left parties was held in Guwahati on 28 June. In Tamil Nadu, street corner meetings were held on June 25 in Chennai at two centers against petrol and diesel price hike in which workers, students and women participated in large numbers. S.Kumarasami, CCM, attended both the meetings. In Tirunelveli, a demonstration was held on June 26 which was participated by a good number of loading, construction and beedi workers who raised slogans against petrol-diesel price hike.
Instead of curbing the growing prices and putting a halt on the sorry plight of common people, this step by the government will further increase the prices of all essential commodities. This has affected the common man most besides direct consumers of petrol and diesel. It is yet another blow unbearable to the common people who want to live their lives with hard labour and honesty. CPI(ML) has appealed to all concerned citizens to join countrywide protests movement and force the government to withdraw price hike. The UPA govt.'s logic of higher prices in international oil market is thoroughly mischievous and confusing, while the truth is that America has imbalanced the oil market in its own interests and accumulated huge oil reserves for itself. UPA govt. has imposed this US sponsored price-hike on the people of the nation. If needed, the govt. should not hesitate to give subsidies to its oil companies. But, this hike must be rolled back.
Anti-Emergency Day Observed
On June 26, Punjab peasants wore black turbans and held protests to commemorate the anti-emergency day as well as to express their resolve to fight back against the crackdown let loose on the farmers of Mansa-Bhatinda-Sangrur-Ludhiana belt by the Amrinder Singh govt. Hundreds of peasants, men and women, in black turbans and shawls, marched in Mansa demanding immediate release of their comrades sent in jail by the administration to protect the illegal moneylender-arhtiya-police nexus. A mass meeting was also held in Mansa organised by CPI(ML) and BKU(Ekta) on June 27. Arrested peasant and CPI(ML) leaders and activists led by Party's State Secretary Rajwinder Singh Rana also held protest and wore black turbans inside the Bhatinda jail on June 26. (Comrade Rana and others are reported to have been released on June 27).
People's Union for Human Rights (PUHR) in UP organised a Seminar on "Police Repression and Question of Democracy" on June 26 to commemorate the day when emergency was imposed over the country thirty years ago by Indira Gandhi. Speakers compared the present day situation with that of the emergency and reiterated that all the draconian measures taken up during emergency are being used by the governments to suppress the people's movements, particularly those oriented agaisnt the government's pro-imperialist policies of liberalisation inflicting severe crisis in agriculture and immense miseries for the people. Left activists and leaders of agrarian labour movement are being framed under all sorts of draconian laws by the UP's Mulayam Singh govt. putting aside all democratic norms and people's wishes. This is as draconian as the emergency of three decades back. Speakers condemned UP govt. for not withdrawing false cases under Gangster Act against CPI(ML) leaders in Lakhimpur-Kheri Ramdaras and Kranti Kumar, both members of UP State Committee, even after months of protests.
Protesting Atrocities and Rapes by CRPF
On June 20, centring around incidents of police repression on common people nearly a thousand protested in front of district collectorate in Gunupur of Rayagada district in Orissa.
One minor girl was kidnapped in Padmapur village and gangraped by CRPF men. They also raped an adivasi woman who went to search her cattle in the fields.
Police threatened the AIALA activists conducting door-to-door contacts among agri. and rural labourers and membership campaign in Peddaguda. While in Kodamadi village police conducted a house to house raid in order to humiliate and terrorise people. The protest was led by Party State Secretary Kshitish Biswal.
Protest against Demolitions
Party's UP unit has strongly protested against UP govt.'s demolition drive in districts of eastern UP which is rendering jobless thousands of vendors and small shopkeepers who run shops on footpaths and earn their living. Sonbhadra unit of CPI(ML) organised 48-hours hunger strike and dharna on 23-25 June in protest demanding immediate stop to this demolition drive till alternate arrangements for the evacuees are made by the govt. Vidyashankar Kanaujia sat on the hunger strike.
Besides, a ten-day protest dharna was held in front of Robertsganj Municipality to demand the resolution of severe crisis of potable water in the town. It was pointed out that loot and corruption adds fuel to this crisis. Many hand pumps were dig by the officials and the contractors at at a shallower level than the stipulated and sanctioned depth rendering them useless.
AICCTU and Shramik Solidarity Forum organised a Seminar in Anpara on June 25 against the privatisation bid of electricity sector by the UP government. UP govt. has initiated the proceedings to sell the Anpara-C power house in private hands and power sector employees are opposing this bid.
Agitation for Land in Mirzapur
CPI(ML) and AIALA have started an indefinite dharna at Madihan tehsil of Mirzapur district since June 24 to demand redistribution of land. The demand for constituting a Land Commission to resolve the problem of incomplete land reforms and to redistribute land under the illegal occupation of land mafia and feudals was reiterated.
A march was also organised by AIALA in a village where 650 acres of land is illegally occupied by Baba Jaigurudev defying law. Hundreds of people took part in the march and demanded to free the land and redistribute it among landless poor villagers.
Initiatives in Raiganj
Paschim Banga Krishak Samiti organised a dharna at LRO office on June 15 protesting against various problems of peasants in the district and handed over a memorandum. This was participated by more than a thousand peasants. A demonstration was also held in the town. Hundreds of peasants also held a dharna at Kanki on similar demands.
CPI(ML), Krishak Samiti, RYA and AISA jointly held a six-hour 'bandh' in Hemtabad on June 23 to protest eviction of adivasis.
AISA-RYA also conducted a campaign in Raiganj against the atrocities by police on students of Jadavpur University and held a demonstration and burnt effigy of CM on June 20.
Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication, R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22518248, e-mail: email@example.com, website: www.cpiml.org