04 April 2011

Stop Imperialist Aggression on Libya

(with inputs from Arvind) With the Western powers and their allies including the Saudi monarchy launching a military intervention in Libya, the people’s ongoing movement to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi’s regime has entered a new, more complex phase. Now in addition to their struggle against the domestic tyrant comes the new challenge of foreign imperialist intervention. At least forty eight people are reported dead in aerial bombardments and missile attacks on the first day itself, and this is just the beginning. The NATO forces claim that the intervention is aimed at protecting the Libyan people and restoring peace. Well, it’s like “putting out fire with gasoline”, as Nicaraguan leader Ortega commented. If they are so concerned about the safety of civilians, why did they not raise a finger in Gaza in 2008-09, when hundreds of noncombatants were being killed by Israeli warplanes in furtherance of an illegal occupation? And why does the US today allow its client regime in Bahrain, where it has a major naval base, to violently repress the popular and peaceful uprising with the help of vassals like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait? So this is only another instance of the pretexts and double standards the Western powers are known for. What is happening in Libya is evidently a gross violation of her sovereignty, an act of aggression aimed at regime change and possession of her...

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Updates from Punjab AICCTU

The main base of AICCTU in Sangrur district is the brick kiln workers. They work most of the time as bonded labour; they get advance payments at the start of the season, on account of which they are deprived of negotiation capacity and forced to accept all the harsh working conditions. The old unions associated to CITU and AITUC rarely went beyond organizing customary type of strikes and then negotiating over a few percent of increase in the wages. The issue of the maintaining record of workmen by the brick kiln owners, registering them with the Provident Fund department, ESI, Group Insurance etc., getting uniforms, fixing of work hours, abolition or regulation of the piece rate payments etc. were always pushed back. So AICCTU this time submitted a demand notice to the brick kiln owners union and raised all the basic demands. The owners joined the conciliatory process and an agreement was finally signed which secured the victory of workmen over the PF question apart from an increment of 25% in the wages above the minimum wages and many other demands. Similarly in Barnala district, we secured a victory over the above demands after a brief strike and an indefinite dharna in front of the DC office. Victory rallies in both these districts were attended by hundreds of workers. The main base of AICCTU in Chandigarh is contract workers...

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Campaign for a Just Wage for N Bengal Tea Plantation Workers

With 1692 registered tea producers and nine auction centers, the tea industry sees an annual turnover of over Rs. 9000 crores. North Bengal has about 450 gardens spread out in the Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars region that are registered as sellers in the Siliguri tea Auction Centre with about 3.5 lakh permanent workers. It is estimated that more than 25, 00,000 people are dependent on the tea industry in the region. The last 10 years has seen many changes within the tea industry of the region. Closed and Abandoned gardens In the last decade or so the region saw large number of tea gardens closing down. More than 50 gardens had closed during this period affecting a huge section of the work force. 4 gardens continue to be abandoned. Interestingly, despite the crisis, till 2007 the tea industry in West Bengal saw only 8 workers’ strikes as against 202 lockouts! Of about 14 tea gardens abandoned by their owners, few were run by the Operative Management Committees (OMC) – a committee initiated and formed with the workers of the garden to keep the plucking of tea leaves going so as to provide subsistence to the workers of the garden. Most of these have now reopened with the Special Tea Fund released in 2007 by the Ministry of Finance of the Government of India but are functioning under the...

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Attack on Dalits in Madurai

On 13 February, there was an attack on Dalits in Parali Pudur village near Madurai but which is part of Dindigul District. The police and administration failed to act for the next 10 days. On 22 February a fact finding team of CPIML led by its State Secretary met the Dalits in their hamlet. The team members were: Comrades Jayaveeran (Secretary Dindigul District), Thenmozhi (AIPWA State President), Usha (SCM), Manivel (AICCTU, Dindigul), Divya (AISA State Committee), Ramachandiran (District Secretary, Karur) and Mathivanan (Member, District Leading Team, Madurai) The team found that the attack was well planned and deliberate. The village is dominated by the backward caste Mutharaiyars who are known as Valaiyars. They are landed kulaks and had encroached lands issued to Dalits under the 2 acre scheme of the DMK government. They had also taken away the ‘Holy Land’ of dalits 40 years ago and still continue to use it though the Government claims to have restored it to Dalits. They have encroached common lands of the village and are denying access to Dalits. They could not tolerate the independent Dalits, and fear the growing economic power of the Dalits who are settled in cities and are starting to buy lands with their savings so that they can settle in their own village after retirement. The attack took place on 23 February when the Mutharaiyars assembled to erect...

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Suspected Child Sacrifice in TN Village

A fact finding team of PUCL, AIPWA and AISA visited the village Katchaikatti in Madurai district of Tamil Nadu on 26 January to investigate the brutal murder of a four and a half year old girl child Rajalakshmi. The child, daughter of a dalit couple Mr. Thottan and Annakili, had disappeared on 1st January 2011, and her body was found the following day, with the body drained of every drop of blood and no signs of blood at the site where the body was found. The team intervened after the police could not make any headway even after 25 days. The team included PUCL’s Vice President Dr. R Murali (and Professor of Philosophy in Madurai College), Prof. Mohan Kalyana Sundaram, former Principal, Saraswathi Narayan College, Madurai, Usha, State Secretary, AIPWA, Divya, AISA, Prof. R Govindarajan, Dept. of Chemistry, Madurai College, Prof. Periyasamy Raja, Dept. of Tamil, VHNSN College, Virudhunagar, Mr. Hameed, media activist, Marupakkam and Mr.Balaraman, Research Scholar,Vadipatti. The team found that the throat of the child was slit and a portion of flesh taken off near its right eye. The body was first spotted in close proximity to a well. The murder was committed in a fashion similar to sacrificing a goat or chicken for its blood and was executed on Amavasya (new moon) which is considered auspicious day for black magic. It was therefore suspected that the...

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Bloodshed and Bold Resistance

[On 28 February, villagers protesting a thermal power plant in Kakarapalli, Andhra Pradesh, faced severe repression and police firing in which two were killed and many injured. On 2 March, a CPI(ML) team comprising N Murthy, D Harinath, B Vasudevarao, R Nagamani, T Sanyasirao, M Ramarao P Kameswarrao, K Dushyanth, P Sundaramma and others visited the affected people of the concerned villages. A report follows.] The people of Kakarapalli, Vadditandra, Akasalakkavaram, Seerapuvanipeta of Santha Bommali mandal of Srikakulam district had been waging a determined struggle against a proposed thermal power plant by the East Coast Energy Pvt Ltd, which enjoyed strong political backing. East Coast Energy, promoter of a thermal power plant with an investment of Rs 11, 500 crores with the target of 660 MW production in the first phase, claimed to have acquired 2550 acres waste land from the government and initiated work on the plant three years back. Initially the people of the area were promised development, reasonable compensation and employment opportunities. Resolutions were passed in panchayats in favour of the factory by managing representatives of the local of bodies. It was claimed that all necessary clearances had been procured in favour of the plant. But the realities are quite otherwise. Devastation of Nature and Agriculture A village named Thene Neelapuram, very close to the plant site, houses a bird sanctuary visited by migratory birds from...

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First AIKM State Conference in Uttarakhand

The first Uttarakhand State Conference of All India Kisan Mahasabha (AIKM) was held on 9-10 March at Almora. The conference venue was named after Comrade Ram Naresh Ram and the venue gate was named after Comrade Chandra Singh Garhwali, the hero of the Peshawar rebellion. About 85 delegates participated in the Conference. Comrade Raja Ram Singh, General Secretary of AIKM, addressing the conference as the main speaker said that small-scale and marginal farmers are being constantly thrown out of agriculture by making it unrewarding. Governments are acquiring agricultural lands for corporate SEZs, hydropower projects etc by evicting the poor from their land. Uttarakhand’s Party incharge Comrade Raja Bahuguna inaugurated the Conference and stressed on creating a new wave of peasant struggles. Comrade Purushottam Sharma presented the discussion paper and noted that anti-farmer policies of successive governments in the State has resulted in shrinkage of agriculture sector spending to less than 10 %. The paper was passed unanimously after enthusiastic debate. The summing up remarks of the two-day Conference was presented by CPI(ML) CC member Comrade Rajendra Pratholi. The Conference resolved to spread the AIKM to all 13 districts of Uttarakhand in next two years and raise the membership to fifty thousand from the present ten thousand. The Conference also elected 27 member State Council and 7 member State Executive. Comrades Purushottam Sharma and Jagat Martoliya were elected State President...

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Women Celebrating IWD Centenary Arrested in UP

Women at many places in Uttar Pradesh were forced to celebrate International Women’s Day in jail! UP has seen a spate of incidents of violence on women, with ruling BSP MLAs involved in several such incidents of rape, abduction and murder of women. Women from poor and oppressed communities in particular have been at the receiving end of these incidents. On 8 March this year, the UP Administration once again underlined its hostility to women’s assertion and demands for equality, by arresting women who had gathered to celebrate the International Women’s Day Centenary! Women across the State were prevented and denied by the police from holding Women’s Day demonstrations under the pretext that Section 144 had been imposed across the state in view of the Samajwati Party’s state-wide agitation. Women pointed out that Women’s Day had nothing to do with the SP agitation but to no avail. In Pilibhit, when AIPWA members, mainly poor agricultural women labourers gathered near the District Headquarters to hold a demonstration they were manhandled by the police. CPI(ML) leader Comrade Afroz Alam who came to argue out the matter with the police was beaten up. Many lawyers and Bar Council members who were on the premises came out and protested the action. But the police picked up Comrade Afroz, took him to the thana and beat him up brutally after tying his hands behind...

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Remembering Dr. Kotnis in his Birth Centenary Year

Dwarakanath Shantaram Kotnis was one of the younger members of the Indian medical mission to China in 1938. Born in October 1910 in a lower middle class family in Solapur in Maharastra, the young Kotnis must not have found it very easy to leave behind the prospects of a medical career for an uncertain future of selfless service in a strange land. His father, a factory clerk had had to borrow huge amount for Kotnis’ study of medicine in Bombay University. What drove this young man to join forces with the toiling Chinese people who were then fighting fierce Japanese Imperialist attack on their land? Was it just the anti-imperialist libertarian sentiment that was so common those days to average Indians? Was it the ethos of service to the ill, disabled and dying? Or was it simply the adventurism of youth? Or was it the call of the ideal of the working people’s liberation from the yoke of age old exploitative system? Going by Kotnis’ own admission, he did not have any clarity on the ideals of working people’s liberation or the proletarian world view in the early days of the mission. Then his ‘consciousness was clouded by bourgeois concepts’. Whatever was the source the initial inspiration for Dwarakanath Kotnis and his comrades in the mission to begin that new journey, it is something to cherish and emulate. It...

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Combating Corruption in Corporate-Dominated India

Corruption has once again emerged as arguably the foremost concern of the Indian people. Not a week passes without some scam being unearthed in some corner of the country. These scams could be related to any department of any government, but as easily they could also involve the top brass of the Army, venerable judges of the apex judiciary or top officials of premier institutions of scientific research. While the pecuniary gains involved in these scams may not always be obvious or easily measurable, all scams slaughter public good for private gain in utter disregard for the fundamental notions of fair play and justice. Given the frequency, range and magnitude of these scams, one can easily say that corruption today is certainly no aberration; it is a hallmark of governance in the corporate era. Paradoxically enough, the lengthening list of scams in India is matched by an even longer list of probes by different agencies, yet India is yet to see an example of a guilty being brought to justice by the system. The list of cases in which investigations petered out and the culprits got away is endless. A major reason for this impunity enjoyed by the corrupt, especially the corrupt in high places, is the inherent hollowness of the existing anti-corruption mechanisms in our country. Any meaningful and consistent campaign against corruption must therefore have two prongs....

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What’s the ‘Aadhaar’ of the UID Scheme?

“The national identity card scheme represents the worst of government. It is intrusive and bullying. It is ineffective and expensive. It is an assault on individual liberty that does not promise a great good…” – Theresa May (British Home Secretary) announcing the complete dismantling of the UID project in the UK in June 2010. The UPA’s National Identification Authority of India Bill has been approved by the Union Cabinet, and subsequently the UPA has already launched its much-touted and ambitious Unique Identification (UID) project, called Aadhaar, in some parts of the country. It is to be noted that this massive project, which has tremendous repercussions for democracy in India, is being introduced without even a formal clearance by the Indian parliament, let alone a broad-based, country-wide discussion on its implications. It is also ironical that the UPA is promoting the UID project in India at a time when several countries in the world (including the USA, the UK, Australia, China, Canada and Germany) have scrapped similar projects. As the powers-that-be try to convince us of the ‘advantages’ of the UID project, let us consider the claims. ‘Better Delivery of Social Sector Schemes’? According to the UPA Government, the UID will enable ‘inclusive growth’ and help the poor to better access social services by providing each citizen with a verifiable identity. The UID, we’re told, will ‘facilitate delivery of basic...

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AILC March to Parliament

On 14 March, thousands of people from all over the country marched through the streets of Delhi to Parliament demanding that the UPA Government quit in light of unprecedented corruption, backbreaking price rise, rampant unemployment and assault on people’s movements. The ‘People’s March to Parliament’ was organized by the All India Left Coordination (AILC) comprising four Left parties – the CPI(ML) Liberation, CPM Punjab, Left Coordination Committee (Kerala) and Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) Maharashtra. For two consecutive days prior to the 14th, rallyists from various states thronged the Capital city to participate in the March. On 14 March, the procession – well decorated with red banners and flags, colourful festoons and placards and reverberating with slogans demanding ‘UPA Government Quit Power’ – marched from the Ramlila Grounds at 11 am. Participants in the March were from all over the country including Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Kerala. The procession culminated in a mass meeting at Parliament Street. Senior leaders, leaders from various states of the four parties graced the dais. The mass meeting was presided over by a presidium consisting of the leaders from the four left parties which included Comrades Rameshwar Prasad (CPIML), Rajendra Baooke (LNP-L), Vimla (LCC-Kerala) and Ratanlal Randhawa (CPM Punjab). The proceedings were conducted by Comrade Swapan Mukherjee, Central Committee member of CPI(ML). The sea of demonstrators was welcomed...

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What’s the ‘Aadhaar’ of the UID Scheme?

“The national identity card scheme represents the worst of government. It is intrusive and bullying. It is ineffective and expensive. It is an assault on individual liberty that does not promise a great good…” – Theresa May (British Home Secretary) announcing the complete dismantling of the UID project in the UK in June 2010. The UPA’s National Identification Authority of India Bill has been approved by the Union Cabinet, and subsequently the UPA has already launched its much-touted and ambitious Unique Identification (UID) project, called Aadhaar, in some parts of the country. It is to be noted that this massive project, which has tremendous repercussions for democracy in India, is being introduced without even a formal clearance by the Indian parliament, let alone a broad-based, country-wide discussion on its implications. It is also ironical that the UPA is promoting the UID project in India at a time when several countries in the world (including the USA, the UK, Australia, China, Canada and Germany) have scrapped similar projects. As the powers-that-be try to convince us of the ‘advantages’ of the UID project, let us consider the claims. ‘Better Delivery of Social Sector Schemes’? According to the UPA Government, the UID will enable ‘inclusive growth’ and help the poor to better access social services by providing each citizen with a verifiable identity. The UID, we’re told, will ‘facilitate delivery of basic...

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The Appointee Has Lost His Job, the ‘Masters’ Must also Lose theirs!

Six months after appointing PJ Thomas as the Central vigilance Commissioner, on March 7 Manmohan Singh told the Lok Sabha that the appointment was an error of judgement. The PM’s admission of course came only after the Supreme Court struck down the appointment on 3 March as being illegal and arbitrary. Till that moment the government adamantly defended the appointment in the face of a growing public outcry. The Prime Minister even advised the judiciary to stay within its limits and not intrude into the domains of the legislature or executive. At one stage Home Minister P Chidambaram, one of the three members of the High Power Committee alongside the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, even sought to argue that the government was not aware of Mr. Thomas being chargesheeted in the palmolein scam that had rocked Kerala in the early 1990s. Evidently, the government has been defeated on the issue of appointment of the CVC and the PM who blames coalition compulsions for every pressing problem now haunting the country – be it soaring prices or unbridled corruption – is now trying to put up a brave face by describing it as ‘an error of judgement’ and taking ‘full responsibility’ for the error. Sushma Swaraj, the vocal BJP leader and the third member of the High Power Committee who had submitted a dissenting note when...

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Infernos in Fukushima: Need to Re-think Nuclear Energy

Even before we could grapple with the losses due to the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, news of a horrendous nuclear accident from its north-eastern prefecture of Sendai started pouring in. Three nuclear power stations – Fukushima, Onagawa and Tokai – have been badly hit by the earthquake and tsunami. Out of these, the situation at Fukushima (which houses a total of 10 reactors on its two sites – Daiichi and Daini) has become too dire. From Hiroshima to Fukushima, Japan has made a tragic journey. Unfolding Crisis The massive earthquake and 13-meter high tsunami waves damaged the cooling systems in the Fukushima Daiichi reactors. Even the diesel-based auxiliary cooling pumps and the third back-up of battery operated emergency cooling were crippled by the tsunami. This led to alarming rise in temperature inside the reactor vessels. Simultaneous on-site and off-site blackout was a situation that the operator TEPCO had never imagined. In a totally out of manual desperate attempt to avert a Chernobyl like total meltdown, they resorted to pouring sea water into the reactors. This saline sea-water, reacting with the Zirconium claddings of the nuclear fuel, produced hydrogen and high pressure inside the main vessel. Even after venting out this radioactive vapor repeatedly over next three days, the hydrogen pressure kept increasing and led to explosions in Daiichi No. 1, 2 and 3. At least 8 workers...

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