04 April 2010

Obituary

Hari Sharma (1934-2010) Hari Prakash Sharma, writer, activist and friend of the Naxalbari movement, passed away at his home in Vancouver, Canada on March 16 following a prolonged battle with cancer. Born in UP and educated at Agra University and Delhi University, he moved to the US for further education in 1963. While a student in the US, he like many others was radicalised in the course of the movement against the Vietnam war, and remained a life-long Marxist. He was also a gifted writer of short stories in Hindi and a photographer. Inspired by the Naxalbari peasant uprising in 1967, he visited Naxalbari, and remained a sympathiser and friend of the movement all his life. Along with Kathleen Gough, he edited Imperialism and Revolution in South Asia, which was published in 1973 by the Monthly Review Press, New York. In 1975, he along with other comrades founded the Indian People’s Association in North America )IPANA( in Montreal on June 25, 1975 the day Emergency was declared in India. These activities led to the revocation of his passport by the Indira Gandhi government in 1976. In 1989 Hari Sharma mobilised the South Asian community of Canada to form the Komagata Maru Historical Society to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident, in which Indian immigrants traveling to Canada on a chartered ship were turned away from the...

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‘Crisis’ for the Poor – Bonanza for the Rich

India’s poor are being pushed out of the official poverty lists but more and more India’s CEOs are making it to the lists of the world’s richest people. 23 Indians made it to the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires in 2009. The recession is causing unprecedented inflation; 77% of Indians who live on less than Rs. 20 a day, facing the additional burden of soaring food prices and retrenchment are finding it increasingly difficult to survive; hunger deaths are being reported from all over the country. India’s rulers blame this state of affairs on the global recession and call for patient sacrifices from the people. But the sacrifices are all on one side, it seems: the exclusive club of India’s richest has, during the same recession, expanded and continued to grow richer. Worldwide, too, it seems that the crisis has hit the poor and the working class hardest while the billionaires whose greed and unscrupulousness caused the crisis in the first place have grown richer! According to the Forbes list, 200 people were added to the list of the world’s billionaires, who grew 50% richer in 2009. In 2009, the global unemployment rate rose from 7.7 to 10 percent, three million jobs were lost, and wages fell dramatically. Millions of families lost their homes and became dislocated. But productivity rose by 7%. ‘Austerity’ measures and unemployment for the...

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Act Three, Scene One

The crisis in Greece is rapidly escalating as all sections of workers and peasants came out on the streets in three large rallies in one month to protest against their government’s decisions to curb inflation and manage the debt crisis by hard austerity measures. In January the government announced a Euro 4.8 billion austerity package which includes pension freezes, consumer tax hikes and cuts to civil servants pay. The cost of fuel and all consumer goods and services has gone up due to a hike in sales tax. The brunt of these measures fall on the working class, peasantry and poorer sections of Greek society. Greece’s economy this time around started tottering from 2008 with the world recession and economic meltdown exposing its financial weaknesses. It is deeply in debt and there are doubts whether it can repay its loans. This has sent shock waves throughout the European Union as they all share the same Euro currency. Since 2009 the EU is trying damage control by giving Greece loans to prop it up and has demanded that Greece get its finances into order by slashing its budget deficit from approx 12.7 % of GDP to a more respectable 8.7% and 3% by 2012 and by drastically cutting its overall wage bill. While the first round of workers’ strikes in 2009 were half-hearted the unions are now being forced by...

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Occupation is a Crime!

(The 7th anniversary of the war on Iraq was marked by huge protests all over the US against war and occupation. Shashwat Sinha, who participated in the San Francisco anti-war rally, reports.) Hey hey, ho ho…the occupation got to go! This was one of the many spirited slogans chanted by people in the anti-war rally in San Francisco held on March 20. The rally was part of a coordinated protest all over the United States to mark the 7th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. More than 5,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of downtown San Francisco calling for an immediate end to the occupations of Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. The march had protesters beating drums, blowing trumpets and full bands playing anti-war music all along the way. The protesters carried a big flag showing flags of the US and 7 other countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, Lebanon) where it is directly involved. Some of the slogans raised were: ‘They say cut back, we say fight back’; ‘US-Israel you will see, Palestine will be free’; ‘What do we want – US out, when do we want – Now!’; ‘Money for jobs & education, not for war & occupation’; ‘Working people are under attack – what do we do – stand up fight back’. The rally included many children (mostly 4th graders) who along with their teachers demanded...

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Updates

Construction Workers’ March to Parliament On 15 March 2010, under the banner of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU)-affiliated All India Construction Workers’ Federation (AICWF), hundreds of construction workers from different states held a March to Parliament against hike in fuel rates, price rise and to demand implementation of the Central Construction Workers’ Act 1996 throughout the country. The procession was led by AICCTU General Secretary Swapan Mukherjee, the General Secretary of the Federation RN Thakur, President of the Federation S Balasubramanian, V.President SK Sharma, Dashrath Sinhali from Gujarat, Harkesh Bugalia from Rajasthan, several construction workers’ leaders from Bihar, AICCTU Delhi State Secretary Santosh Roy, President NM Thomas, AICWF leaders like VKS Gautam, Ardhendu Roy from Delhi and Anthonymutthu and Iraniappan from Tamilnadu and AIPWA Secretary Kavita Krishnan. While the Construction Labour Act has not been implemented throughout the country even 14 years after its enactment, the pro-corporate Acts like SEZ are implemented promptly even at gunpoint. Six crore workers of the flourishing construction industry do not even get a living wage and any protection from skyrocketing price rise. As the majority of these construction workers are migrant workers, they face attacks at the hands of regional chauvinistic forces. The March to Parliament gave a call for an all-out protest against the budget 2010 and intensification of movement of unorganized workers including construction workers. The March...

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CPI(ML) Fact-finding Report

(On 2 March, communal riots broke out in Bareilly, centre of Rohilkhand and known for communal harmony. A 5-member CPI(ML) team comprising CC Member Krishna Adhikari, State Standing Committee member Afroz Alam, State Committee member Rohitas Rajput, People’s Union for Human Rights (PUHR) member and advocate Kishan Lal, and the party in-charge for Bareilly Atri Kumar Rishi visited Bareilly on 16 March where they spent two days visiting the riot-affected areas, speaking to local people and seeking out the facts in the midst of the political and media propaganda. Below is their report. – Ed/-) Our fact-finding team had informed the local administration of our intended visit and sought cooperation. In spite of this, the administration did all it could to prevent the visit. Entry points to Bareilly were blocked and attempts were made at the Party State office as well as at Pilibhit and Puranpur to arrest members of the fact-finding team. In spite of these attempts by the Mayawati Government, the team conducted its investigation and released the findings at a press conference in a tourism department hotel in Bareilly on 17 March. Curfew had been imposed in Bareilly since 2 March. When the team arrived in Bareilly in the morning of 16 March, curfew had been lifted till 2 pm daily; in spite of this, the bus-stand which would usually be crowded, was almost deserted. There...

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Draconian Laws against CPI(ML) Activists in Ghazipur

Activists who organise the rural poor are being branded ‘gangsters’ and goondas’ and booked under the draconian ‘Gangster Act’ and ‘Goonda Act’ in Mayawati’s UP. On 15 February 2010, some criminals attacked the Bhadaura Primary Health Centre (PHC) in Gahmar PS of Ghazipur district. Some ASHA workers were then at the PHC, and a local resident Firozeshah who had come with his wife when she was to deliver a child was killed by the attackers to prevent him from identifying them. Sanjay Singh who is a son of a doctor Surendra Singh who had retired from the PHC and who is notorious as a local criminal and who has several criminal cases against him, was the main accused in this incident. But the police came under pressure of powerful forces and released Sanjay Singh, and instead falsely implicated and jailed poor tribals for this incident. On 25 February, the CPI(ML) held a dharna outside the Bhadaura PHC to demand the arrest of the real criminals and protest against the framing of the innocent tribals, and also to raise the issues of widespread corruption in the PHC. In the presence of the Deputy CMO (Chief Medical Officer) who had come to accept the memorandum, Sanjay Singh came and threatened to shoot dead the Ghazipur district president of AIALA Shrikrishna Maurya who was among those leading the dharna. Subsequently Sanjay Singh...

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International Women’s Day Centenary Events

On the occasion of the centenary of International Women’s Day on 8th March 2010, AIPWA held demonstrations in various states and districts across the country, raising the slogan – ‘Salute 100 years of Women’s Liberation Struggles! Onwards to Achieve Liberty, Equality and Dignity!’ Women participating in these events protested against price rise, growing violence on women and state repression, and also against the shameful display of patriarchal disruption of the Rajya Sabha on the tabling of the Women’s Bill. In Delhi, AIPWA along with AISA participated in a March to Parliament from Mandi House organised by a coalition of several groups under the banner of the Centenary Celebration Committee. Women from various jhuggi clusters, women workers as well as students from JNU, DU and Jamia Millia participated in the March. Health workers of the All India CGHS Employees Association (Women’s Wing) led by the Women’s Wing General Secretary Rajkumari Ujjainwal also marched along with AIPWA in the procession. The demonstration here was addressed by AIPWA’s National Secretary Comrade Kavita Krishnan and JNUSU Vice President and AISA leader Shephalika Shekhar among others. In Bihar, a huge rally was organised jointly by AIPWA and Parivartan Kendra in Patna on 8 March. The rally began from Gandhi Maidan and reached the Legislative assembly gate at R-Block crossing. Hundreds of women from Patna and Vaishali districts participated in the rally. The main demands...

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Raise the Level of Mass Assertion; Expand the Realm of Party Initiatives

This April 22, as we observe the 41st foundation day of the CPI(ML), let us pay attention to some key areas of our mass practice and find out ways to raise the level of mass assertion and expand the realm of Party initiatives. We are passing through a phase of persistent agrarian crisis and relentless rise in prices of all essential goods and services. The agrarian poor are facing tremendous insecurity while the real wages and purchasing power of the working people in other spheres are also suffering steady erosion. The air is thick with mass resentment and we must do everything to channelize it towards powerful mass assertion against the policies and performance of the powers that be. While pressing for a rollback of hikes in prices of essential goods and services, the battle against soaring prices must also focus on increasing wages. This is the most opportune time to demand doubling of wages under NREGS and significant upward revision of minimum wages for all occupations. Rising prices are adding to the coffers of the rich, especially big capitalists and big traders, and the Party of the working class must respond with heightened wage struggles. A particularly cruel joke the poor are facing almost in all states concerns the BPL list. The more our governments are talking of inclusive development, the more the poor are getting excluded from...

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Corporatising agriculture

(The following article has been reproduced from the New Indian Express of March 8, 2010. The author is a renowned agricultural scientist.) While north India celebrated Holi and Parliament witnessed much turmoil on account of the price rise of essential food items, two things happened quietly with most of the Indians not really gripping the seriousness of the issues. First was the drafting of the draconian Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill (BRAI) which will be tabled in Parliament soon. The second was the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Washington and New Delhi which will make the American presence in the Indian farm sector very strong. The visit of Hillary Clinton to New Delhi in October was a presage to this. Most recently, the reciprocal visit of Manmohan Singh to Washington in November, where the ‘Knowledge Initiative In Agriculture’ was signed. The budget, which professes to be ‘pro-farmer’, is, indeed, pro ‘corporate farmer’. All the three put together, will take India on the corporate road, leaving the poor small farmer in the wilderness. The MoU has been quietly approved by the Cabinet, against established protocol, without taking Parliament into confidence. It is titled ‘Agriculture Cooperation and Food Security’ between India and the US. The MoU is primarily intended to enable private American investments in the country. It also seeks to privatise the huge Indian network of agricultural extension. The...

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Bihar Economic Survey 2010: Balance-Sheet of Growth Hype

The mystery shrouding the 11% growth miracle claimed by the Nitish Kumar government of Bihar is getting deeper and deeper. When the government of Bihar first claimed to have averaged more than 11% annual economic growth over the period 2004-2009, observers of the Bihar economic scene had valid reasons to take the government’s claim with a pinch of salt. For one, based on figures cited in the 2008-09 Economic Survey presented by the Government of Bihar in February 2009, the average annual growth rate for the same period (at 1999-00 constant prices) stood at 7.34%. The 11% claim surpassed the 2008-09 survey figures by as much as 3.7%! The claim also exceeded Bihar government’s own 2006 vision of achieving a growth rate of 8.5% for the 11th Plan period, and that too when actual private investment inflow in Bihar remains abysmally low. It was hoped that the 2009-10 economic survey would throw some light on the growth riddle. But far from resolving the growth riddle, the survey has only added a few more layers to it. Ironically enough, in an unprecedented departure from the convention of pre-budget presentation of economic survey, the 2009-10 economic survey was tabled after the 2010-11 budget had already been presented, and the word “March” was clearly pasted on the cover in place of “February”. In another significant departure, the 2009-10 survey restricts itself to...

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Post Mortem Reports Underline Unanswered Questions

[Long-suppressed post mortem reports of Atif Ameen and Md. Sajid, killed by the police in an alleged ‘encounter’ in the Batla House have finally come out in the public domain. They underline the crucial unanswered questions which the various police versions beg, chiefly: what accounts for the preponderance of injuries in the back and top of the head, as well as for multiple bruises and abrasions on the bodies of the slain young men? The following is from a statement by the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association.] The NHRC has released the documents (including post mortem reports) which formed the basis of its conclusion that the Batla House ‘encounter’ was genuine. Thus far, the Delhi Police and AIIMS (which conducted the post mortem) have declined to provide information citing 8 (1) b and 8 (1) h of the RTI Act. It should be noted that when the RTI was filed the first time by RTI activist and Jamia student Afroze Alam Sahil, a few days after the ‘encounter’, there was no direction from the court that such information be withheld. Indeed, frustrated by the Police’s refusal to part with the post mortem report, the Central Information Commission directed the Delhi Police to submit all documents pertaining to the Batla House Encounter before it by March 5, 2009 for inspection by the bench” so that it could examine whether the information...

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Karnataka Govt Charges AIPWA VP with ‘Sedition’

In BJP-ruled Karnataka, if you criticise the Government or organise marginalised sections of people, you are liable to be accused of ‘sedition.’ This is what is implied by an FIR recently filed by the Karnataka police charging Dr E Rati Rao, a senior scientist and long-standing activist of the women’s rights movement of sedition. Dr. Rati Rao is Vice-President of PUCL-Karnataka and Vice President of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA). Dr. Rati Rao was Editor of an in-house PUCL-Karnataka Kannada language bulletin (called PUCL Varthapatra) for private circulation among PUCL members – and it is this bulletin (last published in 2007) that is the supposed basis for the charges of ‘sedition’. The FIR against Dr. Rati Rao accuses her of publishing the PUCL bulletin that is “favoring naxals and Muslims and is propagating that the police are killing innocent people in the name of encounter”; that “calls upon dalits, women, minorities, farmers and adivasis to build organizations in order to fight for their rights”; that “accuses the Sangh Parivar in Karavali (coastal Karnataka) of indulging in false propaganda and fueling communal disharmony” and “calls upon the secular forces to raise their voice against such spread of communal hate”; and “by raising such issues incite and spread intolerance, disbelief, discontent amongst the public”; that “in the name of doing good to the dalits, women, minorities, & adivasis the...

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Big Bounties for the Corporate Biggies,

[“This budget belongs to the aam aadmi,” said Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in his budget speech. But what really is the UPA’s yardstick for the aam aadmi? Pranab Mukherjee has defined the aam aadmi for our benefit. The aam aadmi is not one of those 80 crore Indians living on a daily budget of less than Rs. 20, he is one with an annual taxable income of Rs. 400,000 or more. The 60% tax-payers who were handed out tax benefits in this year’s budget all belong to this bracket. In fact, the ones to get an annual tax reduction of more than Rs. 50,000 belong to the Rs. 800,000-plus club. While direct taxes fell by Rs. 26,000 crore, indirect taxes which do not distinguish between the rich and the poor, rose by Rs. 45,000 crore. While the budget has done nothing to check soaring prices, it has done everything to add fuel to the inflationary fire. The hike in petrol and diesel prices coupled with the pre-budget 10% hike in urea prices is sure to trigger a widespread upward push in prices affecting common consumers and small agricultural producers alike. The government has also announced the policy of decontrolling fertilizer prices leaving big fertilizer companies free to fix prices, while the Kirit Parekh panel report on deregulation of fuel prices is very much under consideration. With fertilizer and fuel...

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Serving up BSNL for Private Loot

In 1987, Sam Pitroda, celebrated consultant of the corporate world, started the process of corporatisation of the Indian Telecom Sector. The formation of BSNL in 2000 too was part of the process of corporatiisation. Now Pitroda has emerged again to complete the process he began – with plans to hand over enormous wealth of BSNL to private corporate houses. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s deep concern for the corporation’s declining profit prompted him to form a committee with HDFC chairperson Deepak Parikh and telecom Secretary P.J.Thomas, and headed by his personal advisor, Sam Pitroda. This committee, formed in January this year acted fast and submitted its recommendations to the PM on the 3rd of March. The committee headed by Pitroda has made 15 recommendations ‘to make the corporation viable and prevent it from making loss’ – all of which translates to ‘allow the private corporate world to plunder BSNL.’ Pitroda recommends 30% disinvestment of BSNL to begin with and further disinvestments after 3 years following review. He also recommends strategic sale to an India operator. The Finance Ministry objected to this recommendation and said that the government will never opt for a strategic sale, but will only dilute its stake through an IPO and will ensure that the public will have a share in the wealth. He also said that the government would definitely retain 51% shares in the company....

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