08 August 2010

Cultural Journey to Birthplace of People’s Poet Nagarjun

To mark the beginning of the birth centenary year of Nagarjun, the Jankavi (People’s Poet) of Hindi, Jan Sanskriti Manch organised several events in his memory. The third State Conference of JSM’s Bihar unit, held in Samastipur on 25 June with the theme ‘Against the culture of loot and lies, for creativity and struggle’, centred around Nagarjun. On this occasion JSM Bihar’s magazine ‘Samkaleen Chunauti’ was launched and its inaugural issue, dedicated to Nagarjun, was released by JSM National General Secretary Pranay Krishna. On 26 June, a large delegation of cultural activists, writers and poets travelled from Samastipur via Darbhanga to Nagarjun’s birthplace Tarauni in a cultural journey the ‘Nagarjun Janmasthali Yatra.’ At Darbhanga, a Seminar was held on ‘People’s Movements and Poetry’ by the Nagarjun Birth Centenary Celebrations Committee, at the Hall of the Music and Drama department of the Lalit Narayan Mishra University. Addressing the Seminar, Ramji Rai, editor-in-chief of Samkaleen Janmat, said that feudal and communal blood flows in the veins of India’s democracy, and Nagarjun was an uncompromising critic of this democracy. Closely associated with the peasant movement in India, he supported the 1974 movement against autocracy and was jailed for defying the Emergency. Subsequently he was disillusioned with the leadership of the 1974 movement of Jaiprakash Narayan (JP), but his commitment to people’s movements was unstoppable. His epic poem ‘Harijan Gatha’ indicates the birth...

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On 2nd Cover

No More Hiroshimas and Nagasakis! No More Bhopals! Say No to Civil Nuclear Liability Bill! Say No To ‘Strategic’ Slavery to US Imperialism! On August 6 2010, it will be 65 years since the world’s first atomic bomb was exploded when the United States flattened the city of Hiroshima in Japan, deliberately killing tens of thousands of civilians. Three days later, the US bombed Nagasaki. The victims of the bombings died a terrible death; the survivors were maimed, poisoned and deformed for generations to come. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are stark reminders of the US’ willingness to perpetrate the worst possible acts of terror in order to secure its imperialist hegemony. They are also reminders of the horrors that nuclear weapons and even civilian nuclear disasters can cause. In India, the Bhopal gas disaster of 1984 showed us how US corporations like Union Carbide (now transformed into Dow Chemicals) violate safety laws to poison and kill Indian people. The leakage of poisonous gases caused death of thousands as well as blindness, deformities and birth defects in generations till the present. Even today the people of the affected area are forced to consume poisoned ground water. Indian governments, in a shameful display of servility to US imperialism and corporate arrogance, continue to shield Dow Chemicals and those responsible for the Bhopal tragedy. And now, close on the heels of the Indo-US...

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All India Rural Workers’ Strike

For the very first time in India, rural workers as a class organised themselves for a synchronised protest across the country on 7 July 2010. In this strike, the rural workers asserted their right for Rs 200 wage for 200 days, kerosene and ration for Rs 2, ten decimal homestead land, immediate changes in the BPL categorisation and automatic inclusion of all agricultural labourers, marginal and small peasantry, artisans and contract workers who are employed in government schemes-campaigns for an honorarium, like Asha and anganwadi workers. A special relief package from Central government in view of the sky rocketing prices and reduction in fuel prices and essential commodities were part of the key slogans around which AIALA organised the rural poor. In areas where corruption and loot in the panchayats became an issue, the participation saw manifold qualitative difference in the militancy of the protests. In several places, contract workers participated enthusiastically. Women were present in large numbers and added a militant dimension to the assertion of the rural workforce. The strike brought together the urban poor with the rural poor in a new way. Across the country, in solidarity with the strike, CPIML units, AICCTU, AIPWA and other organisations of the urban poor and government employees participated in dharnas and burnt effigies of the central and state governments. The strike was led by AIALA in 3000 panchayats of...

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Robbing the Commons for the Games of the Wealthy

Brothers and Sisters this magnificent structure is now ready Now you may leave… With your full strength You cut the ground Laid a deep foundation Many of your comrades Were even buried beneath the earth … To be brief, you’ve created A shimmering heaven Of comfort, convenience and freedom A secure enclave For this labour And effort Many thanks to you Now you may leave …those dim hovels you’ve erected over there You’d better clear them off too… You are free our responsibilities are over now it is not right for you to stay here for a minute longer Gorakh Pandey, Swarg Se Bidai (Adieu from Heaven) In the wake of the 1982 Asiad Games in the national capital, Gorakh Pandey wrote his scathing satirical poem that accurately reflected the refined menace with which the government and the elite evicted the workers from the very heaven which they had created with their sweat and blood. In 1982, migrant workers had been herded from across the North Indian states to quickly erect flyovers, bridges and stadiums. Long before night shifts became the norm of city life, as preparation for the 1982 Asian Games began, workers were sweating day and night to build some of the prominent landmarks of the city. Many lost their lives in accidents on construction sites where labour and safety laws were routinely violated. Soon, however, the...

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Censored Truths

Report on Undermining and Betrayal of PESA [Legal rights of adivasis have come into being through a long and hard process of struggles. Like the legal rights of working class, or land ceiling laws that benefit the peasantry, laws intended to safeguard the rights of tribals are, however, observed more in the breach than in actual implementation. But Governments cannot even allow studies commissioned by its own Ministries to mention this truth! On April 24, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released the State of Panchayat Report (SoPR) 2010. The study was commissioned in 2009 by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj to Institute of Rural Management (IRMA), Anand. It has come to light, however, that the Ministry of Panchayati Raj had deleted an entire chapter from the original report. The chapter (titled PESA, Left-Wing Extremism and Governance: Concerns and Challenges in India’s Tribal Districts) that the Ministry found too embarrassing to include in the report is authored by Ajay Dandekar and Chitrangada Choudhury of IRMA, and deals with the rights of tribals, especially with regard to the implementation of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act or PESA. Why did the Ministry find the chapter inconvenient enough to censor? What does the UPA Government have to hide on the question of implementation of a law of the land that is central to the democratic rights of adivasis? We reproduce below excerpts...

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Political Literacy Campaign among Women in Bihar

To mark the centenary year of International Women’s Day, the Party decided to make all-out special efforts to induct new members from among women as well as to take effective steps in the direction of building women cadres. To this end, it was decided to conduct a women’s ‘political literacy’ campaign in the month of June on three subjects: ‘Our Revolution, Our Party’; ‘Women’s Movement – Basic concepts and Our Tasks’; and ‘Panchayats and Women’s Assertion.’ The Bihar State Committee took a target of reaching at least 15000 women through 500 classes. To begin with, seven teachers’ training camps were organized at the zonal level. District level camps were also organized in Patna, Gaya and Siwan. North Bihar’s training camp was organised under the leadership of Comrade Ramjatan Sharma, In-charge of Party’s Educational Department, where women state committee members of the Bihar State committee were also present. The zonal camp at Shahabad held on 8 June was conducted by Comrades Saroj Chaubey and Amar; the Magadh zonal camp was conducted by comrades Rita and Rajaram; while Comrade Shashi conducted the camp in the Nalanda-Nawada zone and Comrade Pradip Jha in the Purnea-Bhagalpur zone. These camps were organized on 8 June. The camp in the Patna Rural-Jahanabad zone was held on 11 June, which was conducted by Comrades Anita and Kunal, and the Siwan-Gopalganj zone’s camp was conducted by Comrade...

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In Memory of the Martyrs of Bathani Tola

Bathani is a little hamlet where 14 years ago, on 11 July 1996, a private army of upper caste landlords brutally massacred 8 children, 12 women, and 1 man from the landless Dalit community living there. And now, 14 years later, on 11 July 2010, a memorial was erected there. In this sculpture by the young artist Manoj Pankaj, we see the martyrs breaking through stone to rise and become visible. In the centre is a child holding a butterfly on whose wings a hammer and a sickle have been carved. This memorial not only evokes the dreams, aspirations, and the irrepressible strength of the poor and toiling masses in this country, but also raises questions about the social structure of rural India. The memorial bears the names of the martyrs and their age – and one wonders what it was about these people that the murderers could not countenance. What was it about these little children or about these women who dreamt of making life in the community just a little bit better, that they were all massacred in such a brutal way? At the time the Ranvir Sena and its chief Brahmeshwar Singh had justified the cold blooded massacre with their stock justification (through statements in the papers) that “women give birth to naxalites, and children grow up to become naxalites.” We could well ask –if what...

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Updates

National Convention to be held to Launch All India Left Coordination (Statement issued by CPI(ML) Liberation, Communist Party Marxist (Punjab), Lal Nishan Party (Leninist), Maharashtra, Left Coordination Committee, Kerala on 18 July 2010, at New Delhi) Four organizations of the Left – CPI(ML)(Liberation), CPM Punjab, Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) Maharashtra, and Left Coordination Committee, Kerala – held a meeting in Delhi on 17 July 2010, to discuss the need for a struggling Left platform to give voice to the growing popular anger against ruling class policies in the wake of steep price rise, acute agrarian crisis, massive unemployment, state repression and the all-out attack on workers’ rights and civil liberties. The meeting was held at the Central Office of the CPI(ML) Liberation. Participants included a delegation of the CPI(ML) led by Politbureau member Comrade Ramji Rai, and Central Committee members Comrades Swapan Mukherjee and V Shankar; Comrade Mangat Ram Pasla, General Secretary of the CPM (Punjab) and well as Comrade Harkamal Singh, State Secretariat member of the CPM (Punjab); Comrade Bhimrao Bansode, Secretary, and Uday Bhatt, Secretariat Member of the Lal Nishan Party (Leninist); and leaders of the Left Coordination Committee (Kerala) Comrade Azad, Comrade Chandrashekharan, Comrade Murali, Comrade Hariharan and Comrade Kumarankutty. At the meeting, the four groups have decided to hold a National Convention on 11 August in the National Capital on the burning issues facing the...

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The Rich Get Richer at the Cost of the Poor

[India’s ruling class, especially in the era of liberalisation, are keen to project an image of India as a country on the make; a country with a dollar-like symbol for its currency; a country that sups with the great powers of the world. Naturally, such a ruling class is reluctant to acknowledge the embarrassing fact of the sheer unvarnished poverty of much of its population. The findings of a recent study by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative with UNDP support would therefore be quite galling for our ruling class. The study establishes that 8 Indian states account for more poor people (421 million in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal) than in the 26 poorest African countries (410 million) combined. This study, instead of using income or calories alone as a measure of poverty, has developed a ‘multidimensional poverty index’ (MPI) that comprises ten indicators: years of schooling and child enrolment (education); child mortality and nutrition (health); and electricity, flooring, drinking water, sanitation, cooking fuel and assets (standard of living). The experts can quarrel about whether or not this new index is the most accurate measure of poverty or not. But what cannot be wished away is that while our ruling class rubs shoulders with the mighty imperialist powers and shrugs off the colonial legacy as a thing of the past,...

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Oil Prices: Deregulating – In Whose Interests?

On 25 June, in yet another cruel blow to the common man reeling under surging food prices and unabated inflation for more than two years now, the UPA Government declared a steep rise in all petroleum products – the second significant hike in the last six months. While the first hike four months back was effected using the traditional instruments of customs and excise duties, the hike this time has been brought into effect through a regime change in oil pricing by finally deregulating oil prices so that “the pricing of Petrol and Diesel both at the refinery gate and the retail level will be market-determined.” At a meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers, chaired by the Finance Minister, the Government took this much-hyped “historic” decision to decontrol petroleum prices and effect an immediate increase in the price of petrol by Rs 3.50 per litre, diesel by Rs 2 per litre, kerosene by Rs. 3 per litre and LPG by Rs 35 per cylinder in Delhi “with corresponding increases in other parts of the country”. The announcement goes on to add, “further increases will be made by the Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) in consultation with the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas”, while as a routine palliative stating “that in case of a high rise and volatility in international oil prices, Government will suitably intervene in...

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Lokayukta, Mining Mafia and Industrialisation

More than the resignation of Santosh Hegde Lokayukta of Karnataka, the developments subsequent to it have caused many skeletons to tumble out of the state’s political cupboard. The whole episode that unfolded has once again highlighted the mining mafia’s octopus grip in the entire state politics. The resignation of the Lokayukta, the huge furore raised by opposition parties on the floor of the state assembly and the snowballing resentment among the people against the mining mafia in the government could not embarrass the “value-based” BJP’s central and state leadership. The RSS, the ideological leadership of BJP, is conspicuously keeping mum while Sushma Swaraj is on her way to Bellary to defend the infamous mining mafia in a convention in order to mobilise public opinion in its favour. The Chief Minister has given a clean chit to the Reddy Brothers – showing that the BJP is planning to brazen out all investigations, probes and court cases against these two mafia BJP MLAs. The assembly was witness to rival political groups to the point nearly coming to blows. All opposition MLAs belonging to both JD(S) and the Congress indulged in a political theatrics by staying overnight at the precincts of the Vidhana Soudha for five days to back their demand of CBI enquiry, determined to make the most of the big political opportunity to embarrass the government. Unfazed, the ruling BJP...

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CPI(ML) Team Visits Sompeta

[A fact-finding team of the CPI(ML) comprising CC Members Comrades Kshitish Biswal, B. Bangar Rao, and M. Malleswar Rao, as well as AP State Committee member Murali Rao, Sanyasi Rao, 5 comrades of Srikakulam and some other comrades visited Sompeta after the firing. The team met with the bereaved families and also the injured in the hospitals. The team then visited the site allocated to the Nagarjuna Construction Company for the thermal power plant. M Malleswar Rao reports. – Ed/-] The proposed site is full of coconut trees, cashew gardens, paddy and vegetable fields. The site has two big natural water bodies (wetlands), called bheela in the local language. The water of a small river, the Mahendra Tanaya, flows into the bheelas. The larger wetland called ‘Pedda Bheela’ covers 972 acres of surface area and the other one, called ‘Chinna Bheela’ covers 750 acres. The water from these bodies supplies irrigation for 5000 acres of farmland in 8 panchayats. The fishermen, who have formed a society since 1957, fish in these wetlands. The Government, by agreeing to the construction of a thermal power plant, was planning to hand over these water bodies to the NCC for dumping ash; and was further handing over large tracts of the ecologically rich wetlands including agricultural lands to the company. If the plant were to come up, it would dump a huge amount...

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Hail the Peasants’ Resistance and Victory !

Once again, we have been witness to an unequal battle – thousands of women and men, defending their land and livelihood against corporate land grab armed with nothing but sticks and chilli powder facing a thousands-strong police platoon armed with batons and guns. Sompeta in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh is the latest to enact this heroic scene of resistance – seen earlier at Kalinganagar, Singur, Nandigram, Dadri, Jagatsinghpur and many other places. Four fishermen were killed in the police firing while over 60, including many women, were reportedly severely injured in the brutal lathicharge. At Sompeta, rural poor, mainly fisher-people were protesting the setting up of a thermal power plant by NCC Power Projects Limited (NCCPPL), a subsidiary of a real estate company, the Nagarjuna Construction Company (NCC). The power plant had been granted Environmental Clearance in spite of the fact that it would have destroyed the fragile ecosystem of the Beela wetlands in the area, thereby also devastating the livelihoods of the fisher-people. Just a week ago, the Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, had visited Sompeta and assured villagers that their concerns would be examined sympathetically. The power plant’s environmental clearance had been challenged, and the decision of the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) was awaited. The plant was yet to get clearance from the State Pollution Control Board. Yet, in spite of the...

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Massive Treasury Fraud Rocks Bihar

In parliamentary parlance, MLAs or MPs belonging to the government side are often described as comprising the ‘treasury benches’. The treasury is obviously quite central to the notion of any government. Highlighting the centrality of the treasury to Nitish Kumar’s theory and practice of ‘good governance’ in poll-bound Bihar is a staggering Rs. 11,412 crore treasury fraud. Successive annual reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) have been pointing to the growing discrepancy in amounts withdrawn from the Bihar treasury and accounts submitted by the Bihar government. With the Bihar government refusing to take any corrective action, in an unprecedented move, on July 15 the Patna High Court ordered a CBI probe into the issue of unaccounted withdrawals. The discrepancy detected by the CAG goes back to the year beginning on April 1, 2002 and runs through substantial periods under two successive regimes and the intermediate period of President’s Rule to March 31, 2008. While the withdrawals thus began during the last years of Rabri Devi’s reign as Chief Minister, the fraudulent withdrawals have grown dramatically in recent years and most of the withdrawals have happened under rural development and employment heads like Indira Awas, MNREGA, mid-day meals etc. Nitish Kumar never tires of telling the people of Bihar how he has ‘reversed’ the negative trends of the Lalu-Rabri era, but the treasury fraud, more than 11 times...

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Stop Killing and Insulting the Protesting People of Kashmir

Kashmir is once again exploding in anger. At least eleven civilians including a nine-year-old young boy was killed by paramilitary forces in the month of June. As we go to press (6 July 2010), there are reports of at least four more deaths, including a woman and a teenager, in a fresh spurt of CRPF atrocities on protesters in Srinagar. The killing of a child in police firing would evoke angry mass protests anywhere in India. But in Kashmir valley, the state is so afraid of the people and so contemptuous of any notion of democracy that the people are not allowed to protest even when they lose their near and dear ones in police firing or in fake encounters by the armed forces. The familiar cycle of killings-protests-more killings-curfew is being repeated once again all over Kashmir. Anantnag, Baramulla, Sopore, Srinagar – it is again curfew raj all over the valley. The state government has offered some formal apologies for some of the killings and announced a couple of probes. But these measures do not really carry any credibility for Kashmir has had enough and seen them all. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah initially sought to attribute everything to instigation by his political rival in the valley, the PDP led by Mehbooba Mufti. But as the intensity of protests grew and people started comparing the mass anger to the...

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