06 June 2008

One Year of Binayak Sen’s Imprisonment

‘Binayak Sen epitomises the kind of doctor India desperately needs, he has developed a model for working with the poorest people, devoting his whole life to this work. Instead of persecuting him the Indian government should be supporting and promoting his work’. Christian Medical College (Vellore) Alumni Association – UK Branch ‘The government at state and national level are trying to silence Dr Sen because he has the courage to expose what they are doing to the poor – using terror tactics to drive them from their land to make way for multinational corporations. We must not allow them to succeed’ – South Asia Solidarity Group “The massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 was widely recognised as an experiment in the Sangh Parivar ‘laboratory’ of Gujarat: a sort of curtain-raiser for the fascist project in the rest of the country. The developments in Chhattisgarh should be seen as no less. In fact, these are all the more disturbing and serious because Gujarat 2002 happened with a BJP-NDA Government at the Centre, whereas the Chhatisgarh ‘experiment’ is being conducted with the tacit consent of the Congress-UPA Government at the Centre… the footsteps of fascism can clearly be heard in the taming and silencing of the media; the repression of potential people’s resistance in Bastar, not just by army jackboots but also by invoking a manufactured ‘people’s uprising against naxalism’...

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Homage :

Homage to Vijay Tendulkar Noted progressive playwright Vijay Tendulkar passed away on May 19 2008 at the age of 80 following a protracted illness. Tendulkar revolutionised Marathi theatre with his ruthless exploration of social and political issues. His plays were a weapon to change society and challenge all hidebound ideas and injustices. They exploded the hypocrisies of polite society, broke new ground in their treatment of gender issues, and evolved a fresh genre of political satire full of vitality and contemporary meaning. ‘Shrimant’ (1956) jolted the conservative audience of the times with its portrayal of an unmarried young woman who decides to keep her unborn child while her rich father tries to “buy” her a husband in an attempt to save his social prestige. ‘Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe’ (“Silence! The Court Is In Session”, which went on stage in 1967) was a remarkable comment on the double standards of society towards women. ‘Sakharam Binder’ (1972) explored the different implications of unconventional lifestyles for men and women, and faced accusations of ‘obscenity’. ‘Ghasiram Kotwal’ (1972), based on the life of Nana Phadnavis (1741-1800), the prime minister in the court of the Peshwas, was a fearless satire on the rise of the Shiv Sena, and was met with violent attacks by political opponents. Tendulkar never lost that fearless voice against communal fascism: after the Gujarat genocide he raised the same bold...

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Two Years of DMK Rule in Tamilnadu

DMK claims that it has succeeded in fulfilling the expectations of the common man. Its own alliance partner PMK says that the DMK rule has failed on all fronts. Congress, CPI, and CPI(M) more or less accept the claims of DMK on its 2 year rule. Development and growth are the major planks that the Karunanidhi regime shares with his counterparts Nitish and Buddhadeb. Tamilnadu Industrial Development Corporation’s advertisement sums up the 2 years rule of DMK Government as: ‘People’s power. Technology. And the vision of a leader to shape it. Grow with Tamilnadu’. Thus the call is ‘Grow with Tamilnadu’. Technology based growth empowers people: this is the basic argument. The Facts Tamilnadu government claims that in the year 2008 alone 14 MoUs were signed for investment to the tune of Rs. 18,348 crores. Before the end of this year Rs.30, 000 crores investment would come in. The government claims that Tamilnadu has become a centre of attraction not only for Indian business houses but also for MNCs. They treat Sriperumbudur as a second base after America. The government claims that their version can be verified by a comparative study of investments made in the last two years in different states. M K Stalin, Local Administration Minister says that Tamilnadu’s share in the total IT production in the country now stands at 11% and that it will go...

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Karnataka Assembly Elections – 2008

If criminalisation of politics was the hallmark of polls in many states in north India, rampant corruption and subdued political campaign marred the recently concluded Assembly elections in Karnataka. Much was made of EC restrictions in these elections. The fact is that the EC did not seek beyond legal declarations by parties, and the scale and magnitude of attempts to corrupt the public was unprecedented. Even for the voters, it was so indigestible that many villagers registered indigenous, self-styled forms of protest. Some of them barred the distribution of money to individual voters and, instead, found some public projects, like temples, schools, etc., to be funded. While the EC maintained silence on the free flow of crores of rupees and liquor, the political campaign and the battle of ideas that used to be a general phenomenon in the earlier elections were a casualty of EC restrictions. May Day celebrations were virtually banned in the name of being ‘misused’ in favour of elections. Whatever campaign was on was only through print and electronic media where many candidates were denied chances while bourgeois parties either owned or bought some newspapers and television channels themselves. With such restrictions, parties that circumvent the essence of democratic process flourish while parties that go by democratic norms are not provided a level playing field. The Left, small parties and independents, bore the brunt of EC...

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AICCTU Initiative :

Towards All India Conference of Construction Workers An all-India conference of construction workers will take place on June 28-29, 2008 in Patna, under the leadership of AICCTU, to form an All India Federation of Construction Workers. In many states today, including Delhi, Bihar, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, W. Bengal, Tamilnadu, Pondicherry, Gujarat, Orissa etc. construction workers unions affiliated to AICCTU are leading their struggles. In Bihar, the Central legislation for construction workers has been implemented only after a sustained battle conducted by AICCTU. ‘Bihar State Construction Workers Union’ affiliated to AICCTU, represents the construction workers in the newly constituted Board. In Rajasthan, our union ‘Rajasthan Construction Workers Organisation’ has emerged as the most active force on a range of issues including implementation of central Act for construction workers. In Punjab, our ‘Red Flag Kiln Workers Union’ has grown as the biggest and most militant force among the kiln workers, scoring many important victories including wage increase. In W Bengal, we are conducting a campaign for workers’ registration in the newly constituted Board while in Delhi, a sustained battle is going on for ration cards, houses, higher pension etc., along with the campaign for registration in the Welfare Board. Construction workers constitute the second largest contingent of working class in the country, second only to the agricultural workers. Today their number is around 3.25 crores. The construction sector is...

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Some Reports

Highlights of CPI(ML) Protest Fortnight Against Price Rise The CPI(ML)’s fortnight-long all-India campaign against price rise, beginning on 15 April, culminated on May Day with spirited protests all over the country. ‘Bandho mahangi, roko daam’ (arrest inflation, check prices): that was the slogan throughout the campaign in Bihar. On 21 April the All India Students’ Association (AISA) and the Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) jointly held a protest march in Patna shouting ‘UPA-NDA bhai-bhai, Janlewa mahangai lai’ (UPA and NDA are brothers in bringing inflation), and burnt the effigy of PM Manmohan Singh at the ITO roundabout. The Patna city committee of CPI(ML) took out protest marches in various localities of the city on 26 April. All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) also organised protest march in Patna on 23 April. Most of the women were carrying empty containers and cans, empty gas cylinders and vessels shouting “Dilli-Patna ka kaisa khel – assi rupaye sarson tel” (about how Delhi and Patna have conspired to make mustard oil Rs. 80 a kg). On 28 April, various District committees held dharnas and protest demonstrations at their District Headquarters. On the same day in Patna a big dharna was held at Shahid Bhagat Singh crossing near Gandhi Maidan, in which hundreds of CPI(ML) members and leaders from different villages and towns participated. May Day marked the culmination of the entire series of protests....

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Women’s Movement and Communist Party: Basics Revisited

(The following is Part-I of a three-part paper written in preparation for a Party School soon to be organised for leading women cadres of the party. We will carry the rest of the paper in subsequent issues of Liberation. – Ed/-) “Woman, wake up; the tocsin of reason is being heard throughout the whole universe; discover your rights. … Enslaved man has multiplied his strength and needs recourse to yours to break his chains. Having become free, he has become unjust to his companion. Oh, women, women! When will you cease to be blind?” This was Olympe de Gouges speaking at the height of the French Revolution. The quotation is from her Declaration of the Rights of Woman (1791), a rejoinder to the Constituent Assembly’s Declaration of the Rights of Man adopted earlier. The very next year would see the publication of the epoch-making A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft. de Gouges and Wollstonecraft were certainly not the first in fighting for the women’s cause — early figures like Mary Astell (authoress of A Serious Proposal to the Ladies (1694)) easily come to mind – and certainly not the last. Many of them were magnificent visionaries. Wollstonecraft for example argued convincingly for equal suffrage for women and criticised the male prejudices of stalwarts like J J Rousseau who was against this. What these valiant fighters...

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Crisis Engulfs the Global Financial System

Headlines such as “Apocalypse now?”, “The Great American Slowdown”, and “Panic is in the Air” have dominated commercial financial media recently. The US Federal Reserve Bank has thrown its own rule book out the window to not just rescue Bear Sterns but the entire financial system. The British government has been forced to nationalise one of the big mortgage lenders Northern Rock. All the world stock market indexes have been in free fall for the last few months. No wonder billionaire George Soros called the current financial crisis the worst since the Great Depression. The current crisis is not limited to FIRE (finance, insurance, and real estate) sector, although this is where it started. It is spreading like wild fire to other sectors of the economy. According to most estimates the US is already in a recession and the real question is how severe and for how long. Ben Bernanke, chief of the US Federal Reserve, and Henry Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury, along with the others are busy dousing the flames. Bernanke is a well known academic with expertise in the Great Depression and Paulson is the former Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious investment banks. As of now the fire in FIRE is still raging and could get worse. Bear Sterns is a case in point. Bear Stearns’ Fire...

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India’s New Hunger: When Soaring Prices Empty Your Plates

In conjunction with global food crisis, the inflation rate in India is blowing the roof off; and so far the “betting on a credible monetary policy” has failed to contain the turbulent price rise, which is touching 8% now. Neoliberal theory will tell you that rising inflation signals a robust, (so called “inclusive”) growth story, and hence can be tamed with a seasoned monetary policy. But the announcement of a host of controls over time, such as successive cuts in CRR, hike in export duties on steel and cement, etc. have all the more caught the Finance Minister in the inflation frenzy. This has further intensified the spiraling of food prices and essential commodities, which endangered the livelihoods of the teeming millions and added another layer of vulnerability to the already fragile state of the Indians farmers. US President and State Secretary Condoleezza Rice, however, true to their grain, has chosen to explain the whole global food crisis by a ‘prosperity and rising food demand’ theory, therefore placing the whole burden of the price rise squarely on the ‘rising prosperity and increase in demand for food from the middle classes of the two most developing nations of India and China’. But alas, the recent FAO analysis has blown off such lies describing them as ‘unfounded’. According to FAO, the consumption of cereals by India is estimated to have grown...

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Global Food Crisis : Corporate Coffers Full While Stomachs Go Empty

At the moment the whole world is caught in inflation frenzy, with skyrocketing global food prices but the neoliberal diktats are again wrongfully addressing the problem with a slew of monetary policies and bluffing the world with lame reasons for the cause of such an acute crisis. While on one hand, almost every corner of the developing countries have witnessed food riots, on the other hand the corporate biggies are busy counting massive profits expropriated at the cost of falling purchasing power of those teeming millions directly and indirectly linked to farm produce. While the people across the various parts of the globe: Philippines, Bangladesh, Argentina, Egypt, Mozambique, Dubai, Nepal, Indonesia, etc.are facing food riots, on the corporate-half of the globe there is the shower of agri-bonanza. As the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) sums it up, over the one year from March 2007 and March 2008 prices of cereals has increased 88%, oils and fats 106%, and dairy 48%. The overall FAO food price index climbed 57% in one year — and most of the increase occurred in the past few months. According to the World Bank, it has happened in the last 36 months ending February 2008 that global wheat prices rose 181% and overall global food prices increased by 83%. The bank expects most food prices to remain well above 2004 levels until at least...

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The Divisive Agenda of the Jaipur Blasts Must Not Succeed!

Yet again, terrorism has targeted Indian people. The serial blasts that rocked Jaipur on May 15 have claimed over 60 innocent lives and injured hundreds. Such heinous acts of terror, aimed at fanning up fear and divisive sentiments, and causing untold pain and destruction, deserve the strongest condemnation and their cold-blooded master-minds, the severest punishment. As the Rajasthan state government ruled by the BJP and the Congress-UPA-led Centre trade blame for the incident, it is evident that these Governments have failed dismally to protect the people. During the regimes of both the NDA Government as well as the UPA Government, terrorist strikes have taken place unabated time and again. The exemplary humanitarian response of the people of the Jaipur has certainly thwarted the divisive ploy of the terror attack. Reportedly, efforts of communal forces to ignite violence in several parts of Rajasthan have failed. Investigative agencies have claimed that the blasts are likely to be the handiwork of a Bangladeshi group, the HuJI, which is also credited with serial blasts in UP. An email by another group calling itself the ‘Indian Mujahideen’ has also claimed responsibility for the Jaipur blasts. While all possible investigative steps should be taken to bring the culprits to book, there is ground to be wary of witch-hunting and targeting of innocents. In the UP blasts case, a so-called “HuJI mastermind” who was arrested from...

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Defending the Indefensible, Reconciling the Irreconcilable

[The triennial Congresses of both CPI and CPI(M) were held recently in Hyderabad and Coimbatore respectively. Still awaiting the final version of the Political-Organisational Report adopted at the CPI(M) Congress, Liberation takes a look at the deliberations based on reports appearing primarily in the CPI(M)’s weekly organ People’s Democracy.] The Political-Organisational Report (POR) presented at the CPI(M)’s Coimbatore Congress marked a declared departure from the party’s usual pattern of Congress documents. For the first time, the POR included a part dealing with the role of Left-led governments. This may sound quite strange, considering that running state governments has been such a key area of the CPI(M)’s practice over the last three decades. But then, as the saying goes, truth is often stranger than fiction. What prompted this sudden departure? Obviously, the most pressing reason must have been the post-Nandigram crisis facing the West Bengal government and the entire party and the debate generated by the CPI(M)’s much trumpeted theory and practice of building capitalism under the aegis of a bourgeois-landlord state. For once, the CPI(M) found it difficult not only to browbeat the toiling people and the progressive intelligentsia of West Bengal but also to mobilize its own ranks in the rest of the country. Predictably enough, the CPI(M) leadership however did not go into any critical review of the role and performance of state governments led by the...

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Bush Says Starving India Eats Too Much

Karl Marx, born on 5 May, 1818, nearly two centuries ago, had in 1867 laid bare the “intimate connection between the pangs of hunger of the most industrious layers of the working class, and the extravagant consumption, coarse or refined, of the rich, for which capitalist accumulation is the basis” (Capital Vol. 1, Ch. 25). In May 2008, nearly a century and a half later, as we hear Emperor Bush hold forth on global hunger, we are reminded that capitalism and global wealth remains just as intimately wedded to hunger. The global policeman Bush, in the time-honoured traditions of the backyard bully, has long harboured the habit of dictating to nations who their friends and enemies should be. Now, he has taken to telling nations how much they should eat, and of wagging a disapproving finger at poor nations whose middle class has made some improvements in its diet. Bush’s sentiments (and those of his lieutenant Condoleezza Rice) reek of callous contempt for the world’s poor. They lay bare the fact that the only perspective Bush and US imperialism is capable of is that of the US corporations. In Bush’s words, the growing purchasing power of the middle class in the developing world is “good” because “y’know, it’s hard to sell products into countries that aren’t prosperous”. But, lamented Bush, “you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition...

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