10 October 2011

Spending More Than Rs 25 A day? :: You’re Rich, According To Manmohan Singh!

[In September, the Planning Commission submitted an affidavit, approved by the Prime Minister’s Office, to the Supreme Court, laying down the norms for identifying BPL households. A person, the Planning Commission says, is rich if he or she spends more than Rs 25 a day in rural areas and Rs 32 a day in urban centres. The Times of India (22 September) broke down the overall monthly figure (Rs 32) for urban areas and used the consumer price index (CPI) for industrial workers along with the Tendulkar committee report figures to see what these numbers translate to. Based on those calculations, let us see how much the UPA Government believes is enough to spend on essential items so as not to be deemed poor.] The Planning Commission and the Indian Government are headed by the World Bank’s favourite Indian economists, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Manmohan Singh respectively. Let us see what, according to these great economists, constitutes poverty (and wealth) in India today. Food According to Messrs. Montek and Manmohan, a person in a city is not rich if he/she spends, per day: Rs 5.5 on food grains / Rs 1.02 on pulses / Rs 2.33 on milk / Rs 1.55 on edible oil / Rs 1.95 on vegetables/44 paisa on fruits / 70 paisa on sugar / 78 paisa on salt and spices / Rs 1.51 on other...

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Protest Against Koodankulam Nuclear Plant

After Jaitapur, Idinthakari village in coastal Tamil Nadu is becoming an epicentre of huge protests against nuclear power plants. Here, 127 people from villages in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts began an indefinite hunger strike on September 11 demanding closure of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) proposed here. It ended on the 11th day, after the agitation forced the TN Government to change its posture, and promised to get the project halted. Between 15000- 25000 people from nearly villages participated in the protest every day since September 11. More than 1 lakh people are estimated to have participated in the protest within 11 days. These included fisher-folk, farmers, manual labourers, thousands of women. Students boycotted schools and colleges, and shops have remained closed. Coastal Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari were among the worst hit by the 2004 tsunami. The local people have keenly followed the tragic tsunami in Fukushima this year, which resulted in a nuclear disaster. They are resolutely unconvinced by the promises of the Government and ‘experts’ who assure them that the Indo-Russian Nuclear Plant project will be ‘safe’ from natural disasters such as quakes and tsunamis. “We don’t want to risk any Chernobyls on our soil” is the refrain here. The Koodankulam project would have the untested VVER (Vodo-Vodyanoi Energetichesky Reactor; Water-Water Energetic Reactor) 1000 technology imported from Russia. People in the area are well aware that...

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Updates

10th UP State Conference of CPI(ML) The 10th Uttar Pradesh State Conference of CPI(ML) was held on 19-21 September at Gorakhpur (for the Conference the town was named in memory of Com. Jita Kaur Nagar who started her political life here). The conference was attended by 376 delegates including 31 observers. Hundreds of Party activists holding red flags marched from the railway station to the conference hall, renamed after legendary freedom fighter and communist fighter Com. Ram Bali Pandey. The Conference was inaugurated by the General Secretary of CPI(ML) Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya. The Central Committee observer for the Conference Comrade Manoj Bhakta, Politburo member Ramji Rai, Mr. Madan Mohan, a noted writer in Hindi and Com. Sudhakar Yadav, State Secretary of the out-going State Committee also addressed the inaugural session which was conducted by Comrade Rajesh Sahni, the District Secretary of Gorakhpur. The delegate session debated and adopted the draft document placed by the outgoing Secretary. The Conference elected a 27 member state committee and re-elected Comrade Sudhakar Yadav as State Secretary. Left Convention at Kolkata Four Left organizations of West Bengal – CPI(ML) Liberation, Democratic Communist Party (Marxist), Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists and Marxbadi Mancha organised a convention on Land And Democracy at Kolkata on 15 September, 2011 on behalf of the All India Left Co-ordination, at the University Institute Hall. The convention was supposed to be...

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Police Firing on Dalits in TN

Following the police firing on protesting Dalits at Paramakudi of Ramanathapuram district, Ilayangudi of Sivaganga district, Chinthamani of Madurai district (Southern Tamilnadu) on September 11, a CPIML fact-finding team visited the three districts on 19-20 September. The team visited all the victims’ villages, hospitals, police stations, offices of the Superintendent and Collector, and the places at Paramakudi and Ilayangudi, where firing took place. Members of the fact finding team included Balasundaram, State Secretary, CPIML, T Sankarapandian, State Vice-President AICCTU, Auvudaiappan, State Council Member, AIALA, Divya, State Committee Member of AISA, C Mathivanan, District Leading Team Secretary, Madurai, Jeeva, District in-charge, Sivagangai district, K G Desigan, Editorial Team Member of Orumaipadu (Solidarity). September 11th is the 54th death anniversary of Emmanuel Sekaran, a dalit activist brutally killed by upper caste hirelings in 1957. His burial place is in Paramakudi. He is revered as a martyr by the Dalit people of Southern Tamil Nadu. Every year on September 11, Dalit people and organizations rally in large numbers at his memorial. The AIADMK Government led by Jayalalitha declared the death anniversary of Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar (leader of Mukkulathore community Kallar, Maravar and Agamudaiyar) as an official Government function. As a natural corollary, Dalit people and organizations also demanded that Emmanuel Sekaran’s death anniversary also be declared as a Government function. An AIADMK contestant even promised to meet this demand in the last...

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Seeking to Legalise Land Grab

(We are grateful for insights provided by Pranab De’s note on the Draft LARR Bill 2011.) Jairam Ramesh has been declaring that the LARR Bill, proposed to replace the notorious 1894 Land Acquisition Act, is a result of Rahul Gandhi’s deep concern and padyatra for farmers facing land grab. The truth is that even the original draft Bill seriously compromised farmers’ interests. But now the version of the Bill approved by the UPA Cabinet has backtracked even further. Private Profit=Public Purpose One of the most serious issues in land acquisition has been that governments have been declaring private projects (such as the Tata’s Nano factory at Singur) to be for ‘public purpose’ in order to justify land grab. The LARR Bill proposes to legalise this ploy. Its definition of ‘Public Purpose’ includes PPP projects and land for private companies as long as they “for the production of public goods or the provision of public services.” In fact, the preamble to the LARR Bill omits to stipulate that land acquisition is to be for ‘public purpose’ – it quite openly declares that land acquisition is necessary for ‘urbanisation’ and ‘infrastructure’ development. Having made it clear that the main purpose of the Bill is to facilitate such land grab, it adds that such acquisition must be ‘balanced’ with the interests of farmers! Why should the Rural Development Ministry propose a law...

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At the Confluence of Workers and Women’s Movement

(Arindam Sen with inputs from Comrade Rajendra Pratholi is Central Committee in-charge of Uttarakhand.) The upcoming agitations and organisations of rural health workers are powered by a new awakening of a seven lakh strong contingent of women workers who have entered the labour force over the last five years or so and whose ranks are steadily swelling, even as the workforce in many other sectors are on the decline. They also represent a powerful challenge thrown up to an obnoxious set of labour policies of the neliberal state: casualisation of permanent jobs, extremely exploitative feminisation of low-paid work and denial of even minimum wages, not to speak of government employee status, to those engaged in hundred percent public projects. In the backdrop of our first national initiative in this sector, it is time to reflect on the experience gained so far and on the path that lies ahead. So far the fastest development in this sector – reminiscent of but probably surpassing the speed witnessed in Assam about four years ago – has been recorded in Uttarakhand. The work started here with midday meal cooks and spread to Anganwadi and then to ASHA. But the last became the first in a matter of about four months since summer this year, when a drastic cut in honorarium (see Liberation, August 2 011) made the ASHAs extremely agitated and the Party...

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Grassroots Experience of an AIPWA Activist

The seventh West Bengal State conference of AIPWA (2006) decided that to solve the long-standing problem of our very weak mass base, we should pay special attention to unorganised working women. Accordingly, I started organising the mid- day meal workers and ASHAs in Polba-Dadpur area of Hooghly district. Group meetings, at first combined ones involving both ASHA and mid-day meal workers and then held separately, became the platform for formulating demands and charting the course of advance. Since then and to this day, the two separate streams have developed together, united in a strong bond of solidarity under the banner of the women’s association. Gradually we realised that the work is more of a trade union nature and went in for formation of a district level union. We did not opt for a state-level union because we had hardly any work in other districts of the state. Demonstrations and deputations – under the AIPWA banner to start with and then under the union banner – at BDOs, the DM, the CMOH etc with regular follow-up actions enabled us to solve some local problems like non/late- payment of dues and other harassments. On 29 July a more than 700 strong demonstration and deputation at the office of the Health Secretary, Government of West Bengal, was organised in Kolkata, with some 600 participants from our district and the rest from West...

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Through Twists and Turns : the Story of Assam

Starting with 5 ASHAs in Tinsukia district in mid-2007, quickly followed by a district convention attended by about 300 and then a demonstration on 17 JULY before the DC office with about 400 participants, our work in Assam made a really very impressive beginning. But then one problem after another began to crop up. The ruling class parties — the Congress and the BJP and particularly the Vishwa Hindu Parishad — began to pull the ‘ASHA’ leadership in opposite directions to snatch the initiative from us. They started a slander campaign against me for I was the only male in all the female ASHA organisation. The BJP succeeded in winning over the leadership and we could not even hold any meeting. After a gap of nearly three years a state-level trade union was formed and registered in June 2010. However, another government-sponsored organization was formed soon and it started disturbing us in every possible way. But we went on taking one programme after another, like holding a state mobilisation on 3rd October 2010 where more than 3000 ASHAs were mobilized, then a sit-in- demonstration of about 500 in front of the Assam Assembly in session, then again a NRHM Head Quarters gherao on 4th March next year, and so on. In June 2011, a group of about 40 ‘ASHA’s of the rival organization forcibly disrupted the state council meeting...

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A Counteroffensive Against Neoliberal Labour Policy

The impressive ASHA rally of 5th September marks the culmination of serious organising efforts which merit some attention. So in addition to a brief report of the event we bring you here a state-level story submitted by an AICCTU leader who is also a senior co-convenor of the All India ASHA/SAHIYA Union, a block level experience sent by a leading AIPWA cadre and a perspective analysis from an editor of Liberation. Delhi, 5 September 2011. Braving heavy downpour, thousands of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) from different states, notably Jharkhand, Assam (including Karbi Anglong), Bihar, and Uttarakhand, held a maha-dharna at Jantar Mantar near Parliament in New Delhi under the banners of All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) and All India ASHA/SAHIYA Association. This was the first ever national-level protest on behalf of more than 7 lakh ASHA workers. A six member delegation from the dharna handed over a memorandum to the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad. The memorandum pointed out, inter alia, that the Planning Commission has recommended another 4 lakh ASHAs to be added to the existing 7 lakhs by the year 2012 so as to achieve Eleventh Five Year Plan targets on reducing maternal mortality ratio, infant mortality rate etc. It has further recommended appropriate monetary and non-monetary incentives, including higher salary and better housing facilities, to encourage...

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Grasp the new dynamics of ongoing working class movement! :: Strive for a planned expansion of our TU base!

The 8th All India Conference is due to be held in the second week of November, 2011 at steel city Bhilai, one of the important industrial centres of Chhattisgarh. The crucial point in this Conference is how to rise above the mere technical accomplishment of the conference and promote a new vision, along with achieving some new gains to justify the radical character of our TU centre. In this context let us start with 8th Party Congress Political-Organisational Report guideline: “On the basis of the latest count of membership AICCTU has been officially recognised as a central TU. The TU centre must try to improve its membership ranking and more importantly it should expand its role and raise the level of its initiative and organisational functioning …… as the first radical left TU centre to win central level recognition, we should pay more attention to unleashing our independent initiative and raising our operational profile through our own struggle as well as timely and appropriate solidarity action.” In the light of the above guideline and experiences gained in our practice in the working class movement of the last three years, let us try to determine our tasks and targets for the proposed All India Conference of AICCTU. Ongoing situation at a glance: The impact of economic liberalisation for the past two decades has already reshaped the industrial and service sector...

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Maruti Workers’ Struggle

[AISA activists visited the workers on dharna at the Maruti’s Manesar plant several times. AISA President Sandeep Singh writes about one such visit. Inputs from Saptorshi and Agnitro.] As they described how the assembly line of workers prepares a whole car in 40 seconds flat, scenes from Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’ took shape before my eyes. All young workers – Sanjay (12th Std. pass) from Yamunanagar; Krishna (graduate) from Sonipat; Sunil from near Chandigarh, Suresh from Alwar…They soon became friendly with us, as we (Saurabh, Nitin, Sandipan and I) sat on the street and talked to them – they were boys of our age, some even younger than us. The Maruti plant is very big. Around 3500 workers work in four main shops – the Press Shop, Weld Shop, Paint Shop and Assembly. Workers The Assembly has a conveyor line. In ‘Modern Times’, there’s an unforgettable scene where Chaplin with other workers, tightening bolts on a machine, begins to behave like the machine. That machine is the conveyor line. These workers tell us that when they work on that line that produced 70-75 cars an hour, they become like robots. They are not left with a nano second even to scratch an itch. Sanjay says that when any ‘big shot’ visits the factory, the pace slows down to 35 cars per hour – but the punishing pace is back again...

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Social Democratic Capitulation and the CPI(M)’s Decline:

The crushing defeat suffered by the CPI(M)-led Left Front after an uninterrupted reign of 34 years in power in West Bengal has triggered renewed debates and considerable churning within Left circles in the country. The ruling classes and almost all major non-Left trends in Indian politics would love to treat this defeat as a veritable beginning of the end of the Left in India. Most voices within and around the Left have however rightly rejected this cry of bourgeois triumphalism. They have pointed out that the debacle suffered by the CPI(M) in West Bengal has been of the CPI(M)’s own making. The party and its government in West Bengal have been duly punished for their anti-people blunders, unmitigated arrogance and growing rightwing tendencies. There is a need for all genuine forces of the Left to learn from this experience and rejuvenate the Left movement. The CPI(M) itself is yet to come out with any serious review of the West Bengal debacle. It remains to be seen how the next Congress of the party scheduled early next year deals with this critical juncture. Outwardly, CPI(M) leaders continue to downplay the Bengal debacle as just one electoral defeat coming after seven successive victories. But those aware of the ground reality in West Bengal know it very well that the situation facing the CPI(M) in the state today is anything but ‘normal’....

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The Janlokpal Movement: A Critical Assessment

With Anna Hazare’s fast over, it is time to revisit some of the debates over the direction and content of the anti-corruption movement. At the outset let us say that the Janlokpal movement (led by Anna Hazare) is one current (albeit the dominant current) in the anti-corruption movement. Instead of speaking of Anna and the anti-corruption movement as coterminous, we will seek to make a critical assessment of the Anna-led Janlokpal movement from the perspective of consistent democracy. Defeat of Sarkari Lokpal and Arrogant UPA One fact that stands out above all is that there is a tremendous sense of victory and vindication among people: a sense that the Janlokpal movement forced Parliament to acknowledge the people’s wishes in the matter of the Lokpal legislation. The UPA Government had all along tried to arrogantly preach ‘supremacy of parliamentary process’ over people’s movements. But the protestors who rallied around Anna Hazare’s 12-day fast ensured that ‘parliamentary process’ is not above the people. Rather, the people asserted their right to hold parliament and all its processes under their close scrutiny and supervision. However, even on the limited question of the Lokpal Bill, it is clear that the battle is far from won. The Government’s own draft stands thoroughly discredited and parliament has had to adopt a ‘sense of the house’ resolution accepting in spirit the demand for constitution of Lokayuktas in...

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‘Watchdog’ CPI(M) Barked in Public, Wagged in Private

Cables of US diplomats posted in India, made public by Wikileaks, throw an interesting light on the CPI(M)’s dealings with the US embassy, and CPI(M)’s relationship with the UPA Government in the crucial period between 2005-2008 when the CPI(M) had played the self-professed role of ‘watchdog’ which could not only bark but even bite (i.e pull down the Government by withdrawing support) if the UPA Government betrayed India’s interests in the name of ‘strategic partnership’ with the US. These cables reveal that the ‘watchdog’ not only refrained from biting, it even wagged its tail and received pats from the very same imperialist force against which it was supposed to be guarding the people! Support for 2005 Indo-US Joint Statement Take the cable dated 28 July 2005. PM Manmohan Singh had just visited the US, and his visit had culminated in the Joint Statement signed on July 18, which laid the foundation of the Indo-US Nuke Deal, defence agreement and broader strategic partnership between India and the US. Publicly, the CPI(M) had repeatedly characterised this joint statement as a “continuation of the trend of India being accommodated as a strategic ally of the United States.” (Report on Political Developments adopted by the CPI(M) CC Meeting, September 2-4, 2005) There had been vociferous opposition by the CPI-CPI(M) to the PM’s US visit. But it seems that there was a calculated difference...

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Modi’s Fast, Advani’s Rath – Whitewash Can’t Hide Blood And Dirt

Modi, with his 3-day fast for ‘harmony,’ was quick to capitalise on the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Gulberg Society massacre case – a verdict that was certainly disappointing to secular forces and minorities, though it was by no stretch a clean chit for Modi. His audacious fast was also boosted by World Bank’s praise and a US Congressional report projecting him as the BJP’s next PM candidate. All of a sudden, the BJP was claiming that with the SC sword no longer hanging on his head, Modi had shaken off the Gujarat genocide taint and was now officially Prime Minister material. But it was apparent to all that Modi’s fast was a case of the ‘cat going on pious pilgrimage after eating a hundred mice!’ With the Supreme Court leaving the Gujarat pogrom case to the trial court, the prospect of speedy justice being meted out to Modi is certainly more remote. But if anything, the allegations and evidence (of communal massacre, murder, fake encounter and criminal conspiracy and cover-up) against Modi have piled higher than ever before. In the wake of the acquittal of the accused in the former Minister Haren Pandya’s murder, Pandya’s family has reiterated their allegation that CM Narendra Modi had Pandya killed because the latter had given evidence of Modi’s green signal for the 2002 communal pogrom. Several police officers also have given...

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