01 January

On 3rd Cover : Formula of Destruction

If they don’t have bread, why don’t they eat cake? The French queen Marie Antoinette’s infamous words might have been recalled by NOIDA’s working class, as they witnessed the Formula One spectacle unfold at the Buddh International Circuit at Greater NOIDA. Why did India’s elite suddenly awaken to motor sports, which evolved in Europe and USA into a race of manufacturer giants and some private entrepreneurs known as privateers of the racing circuit? What prompted Mayawati’s Uttar Pradesh Government, bogged down in corruption scandals and facing the challenges of an upcoming assembly election, to provide special tax benefits to an elite sport? The Buddh International Circuit, set up at the cost of around Rs 1500 crores, may meet international standards but is futile for any promising Indian driver’s practice session! Ahead of the London Olympics, Indian athletes, swimmers and the hockey team are struggling to meet international standards due to lack of facilities at Sports Authority of India campuses. The Sports Ministry spends a bare minimum on sports infrastructure in the annual budget. Ace athletes PT Usha and Milkha Singh were right to contrast the standard of the athletics tracks in district, state and national level meets, with the cosmetic glory of the first Formula One circuit. Ex-skipper of the Indian football team Bhaichung Bhutia remarked, “I am skeptical about the future of Formula One in India. Asked my...

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On 2nd Cover : Kisan Sansad at Parliament Street Against LARR Bill

Hundreds of famers from all over the country gathered at Parliament Street on November 30 to hold a ‘Farmers’ Parliament’ (Kisan Sansad) on policy issues affecting farmers, including the Land Acquisition Bill and FDI in retail. The Kisan Sansad, organized by the All India Kisan Mahasabha (AIKM), was attended by farmers from UP, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Jharkhand, Bengal, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Assam, Odisha and several other states. Introducing the Kisan Sansad, Rajaram Singh, General Secretary of AIKM, said, “Parliament and Government are pushing through Bills and policies affecting farmers – without even consulting the farmers themselves. This is why we farmers are holding a Farmers’ Parliament – to assert farmers’ own views on laws and policies affecting them.” The Kisan Sansad was presided by Ruldu Singh, President, AIKM, AIKM Vice Presidents Kartick Pal, Prem Singh Gehlawat, Devendra Singh Chauhan, Rajaram, as well as CPI(ML) CC Member and former Jharkhand MLA Bahadur Oraon. The assembled farmers debated resolutions on the LARR Bill and the FDI in retail policy. The Kisan Sansad adopted a resolution demanding withdrawal of the UPA Government’s LARR Bill, declaring it to be a blueprint for land grab. Instead they demanded measures to protect agricultural, forest and costal land from land grab. Addressing the Kisan Sansad, CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said, “Land grab threatens not only the survival of farmers but also the country’s food security and...

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And Now, Moscow Warms Up For Democracy

In a matter of months since spring this year, the movement for democracy, transparency, probity in public life and other country-specific issues has crossed continents and acquired a global sweep. As the international year of street protests draws to a close, the snow-covered roads of Moscow and St Petersburg have started warming up with angry demonstrations. Not that post-Soviet Russia has not witnessed popular protests earlier. Early February 2010 for example saw a series of smaller protests in Moscow and St Petersburg in defence of the right to free assembly – guaranteed by the Russian constitution but seldom respected. The current agitation however is by far the biggest in scale and edge, both in its own terms and in terms of its global context. After a few small demonstrations following the allegedly rigged parliamentary elections on December 4, a huge peaceful rally was held in Bolotnaya Square, Moscow, on December 10. Between 25,000 (according to police estimate) to over 50,000 (according to activists) participated, consisting of liberals, communists, anarchists, nationalists and people without political affiliation. The majority consisted in upwardly mobile middle class people, young urban professionals and the intelligentsia – groups that had benefited from substantial growth in the Russian economy until the current economic crisis but have been alienated by increasing political corruption as well as recent stagnation in their income. The general mood of marchers was...

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Updates

In Solidarity With Irom In solidarity with Irom Sharmila, and against the draconian AFSPA, AIPWA held campaigns and protest initiatives in many states. On 3 November, an impressive day-long protest dharna was held at Devaria in Uttar Pradesh. A large number of rural women workers participated in the protest, which was joined by women advocates. The protest was led by AIPWA State Secretary Premlata Pandey, AIPWA leader Geeta Pandey and others. For many who came to attend the protest, it was an eye-opener about the 11-year-long ongoing fast of a woman against a repressive law imposed on the North East and Kashmir. At Varanasi, AIPWA organised a film screening on 5 November at Lanka. The film – AFSPA 1958 – directed by Haoban Pawan Kumar, that depicts the trail of trauma that AFSPA creates, left a powerful impact on viewers that was palpable from the moist eyes in the room. AIPWA dedicated the programme to the steely resolve of Irom Sharmila. Memorandums demanding scrapping of AFSPA were submitted in protest programmes held at Mirzapur, Sitapur, Gorakhpur, Kanpur, Lakhimpur, and Pilibhit. At Patna, a seminar was held on 3 December at Patna University, by AIPWA along with the Women’s Studies Department, in which several students participated. The seminar was presided over by Prof. Bharti S Kumar, and was addressed by Padmalata Thakur, in-charge of the Women’s Studies Department and professor...

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Update : Sankalp Divas in Memory of Comrade VM

December 18, the death anniversary of Comrade Vinod Mishra, was observed as Sankalp Divas (Pledge-taking Day) by Party units all over the country. This year, the December 18 programmes also launched the fund collection drive for the party’s forthcoming Ninth Congress. In Delhi, a cadre convention was held at the party’s central office, in which the December 18 call was read out by Comrade VKS Gautam. Comrade Kavita then discussed some of the key tasks outlined by the Call in the context of party work in Delhi, and Comrade Ravi presented a brief paper on the political perspective and organizational principles that underlie the ongoing task of membership renewal, recruitment, transformation of candidate members into party members, branch functioning and party organs. Several district and branch secretaries and party activists introspected on the ongoing work and the tasks ahead. CCM Comrade Rajendra Pratholi also addressed the Convention. Delhi State Secretary Comrade Sanjay Sharma concluded the discussion, calling on comrades to intensify the movement of Delhi’s working class and urban poor, and strengthen the party in Delhi. The Sankalp Divas at Patna was observed with a Cadre Convention by the Patna City Committee, addressed by the Bihar State Secretary Comrade Nand Kishore Prasad, AICCTU General Secretary Swapan Mukherjee and Lokyuddh editor Comrade BB Pandey, Patna City Secretary Comrade Saroj Chaubey, and was attended by a large number of leading activists....

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Obituary

Comrade R P Dimri Comrade R P Dimri passed away on 4 December 2011, after a brief bout with cancer of the urinary bladder. He was around 66, and is survived by his wife and two sons. Comrade Dimri was one of the few comrades in Delhi who joined the CPI(ML) early in its underground days. His home provided one of the main shelters for party activists and leaders in Delhi. Many comrades, including Comrades Vinod Mishra, Nagbhbushan Patnaik and Ram Naresh Ram, took shelter at his home when in Delhi for medical treatment. He took an active role in organizing party education in Delhi. He was a delegate to four party state conferences of Delhi, and also remained a state committee member for some period. He was secretary of school teachers’ party branch. Hard working and ever-smiling, Comrade R P Dimri, even in his last days, always felt very inspired by the spirit of the Naxalbari movement, and by news of mass militant struggles. Red Salute, Comrade R P Dimri! Comrade Lalan Kumar Comrade Lalan Kumar of Begusarai passed away untimely on 9 November 2011 at the age of 50, due to kidney failure, after a life-and-death struggle for the past year. Comrade Lalan joined the party in 1983 and took membership in 1984. He was active in IPF, and in cultural activism that attracted urban youth to...

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Tributes

Bhupen Hazarika: Voice Of The People An avalanche seemed to have burst on the streets of Guwahati. For three consecutive days from the 7th of November, wave upon wave of people kept flowing night and day towards a common destination – Judges’ Field, where lay the mortal remains of the man who had found a place in the hearts of all the people of the North Eastern part of India, especially his homeland, Assam. Born at Sadiya in Upper Assam in 1926, Bhupen Hazarika spent his formative years amidst the tumult of the freedom struggle. He also came in contact with two of the greatest cultural personalities of Assam – Jyoti Prasad Agrawal and Bishnu Prasad Rabha, who were a crucial formative influence on Hazarika as an artist. His first composition, written while still in his teens, was ‘Agni yugar firingoti moi’(I am the spark of the age of fire). It was an expression of his revolutionary thinking. As a student in Columbia University, in the USA, he met Paul Robeson, who told him that the guitar is not just a musical instrument; it can be a social instrument, an instrument for change. His interaction with Robeson and Richard Wright, the great cultural activists, left a lifelong mark on Hazarika. Even before his encounter with Robeson, Bhupen Hazarika had come into contact with the Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association (IPTA)...

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Special Report : Guarantee Land Reforms and Land Rights, Extend MNREGA to Agriculture, Stop Rural Loot

(excerpts from Comrade Dipankar’s concluding address at the 4th National Conference of AIALA in Patna on 22 November 2011) Land Reforms and Land Rights: As far as land is concerned, the government now only talks of land acquisition and land market. Peasant organizations have rightly rejected this policy and called for protection of agricultural land as well as forest and coastal land from corporate invasion or state-led acquisition of such land in corporate or commercial interest. The agricultural labour movement in the country must also come out boldly against the state-corporate drive for land acquisition and insist on land reforms and land rights. Today governments of various hues are not only abandoning land reforms but are also systematically trying to rob the rural poor of whatever gains they have made through years of struggle. The new TMC government of West Bengal has even termed the agricultural labour or poor peasant or tenant a land robber – it calls the rural poor’s hold on land achieved through years of struggle an act of land robbery! We must resist and defeat this eviction drive and move forward to force these governments to carry out land reforms and guarantee the land and shelter rights of the landless rural poor. The fight for homestead land has already started gathering momentum in many states and we must intensify this battle. Improve MNREGA, Extend it...

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Special Reoprt : Rural Poor Turn Out in Massive CPI(ML) Rally at Patna

Even as Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s much-hyped ‘Seva Yatras’ were proving to be a flop show, thousands of peasants, labourers and other sections of the rural poor turned out in CPI(ML)’s Rally at Gandhi Maidan, Patna on November 21. The “Bhrastachar Mitao-Loktantra Bachao” (Wipe Out Corruption – Save Democracy) Rally pointed out that corporate loot of land and resources was by far the most pervasive form of corruption. The participation of rural poor in the Rally in large numbers testified to the rejection of the Nitish Government’s claims of fighting corruption or empowering the poor and oppressed. It was widely recognized, even by the media which has largely been cosy with Nitish hitherto, that this was the largest rally in Bihar against the Nitish-led NDA Government. The rally was addressed by Comrades Dipankar Bhattacharya (General Secretary of the party), Arun Ghatani (CPRM Darjeeling), Mangat Ram Pasla (CPM Punjab), Rajaram Singh (CPIML’s CCM and General Secretary of the All India Kisan Mahasabha), Meena Tiwari (Party’s CCM and General Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association), Rameshwar Prasad (Party’s CCM and President of the All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association), KD Yadav (Party’s CCM and Bihar State President of the AIKM), Arun Singh (member of Party’s State Standing Committee), Mahbub Alam (Party’s State Committee member) and Satyadeo Ram (Party’s SCM and Bihar State President of AIALA). Comrade Rameshwar Prasad conducted the...

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Corporate Retail: Government Claims – and the Reality

In the face of immense opposition to its decision to permit 51% FDI in multi-brand retail, the Government has had to out its plans on hold. However, this is only a temporary setback, and the UPA Government is committed to introduce this policy at all costs. In order to do so, it has been peddling many myths about FDI in retail. It has brought out full-page ads in papers extolling FDI in retail. Unwittingly, these ads acknowledge people’s concerns of job losses, of kirana store owners being put out of business, of multinationals gaining full access to and control of India’s retail sector, of farmers being exploited – but attempt to dismiss these concerns as ‘myths.’ The UPA Government, as well as corporates and neoliberal ideologues, are telling us that if companies like Walmart (the US MNC, one of the world’s biggest retail chains), Carrefour, Tesco etc are given more space in India’s retail sector, they will create ten million new jobs; ensure low prices for consumers; and a better deal for farmers. Shankar Gopalakrishnan examines these claims, in the light of the international experience and the facts on the ground. In the flood of official (and media) propaganda in the wake of the government’s (temporarily stalled) move to permit FDI in retail, the actual reality of what this will mean is being lost. For this it’s necessary to...

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Policy Watch : UID Aadhaar Under Cloud

The UID (Aadhaar) Bill (National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010), pet project of Home Minister P Chidambaram and the UPA Government, is already underway in several states. Yet, a huge question mark now stands over its very existence. The Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance has delivered a huge blow to the Aadhaar project, endorsing many of the apprehensions, concerns and objections which many activists had been raising (See Liberation April 2011). The Parliament’s SCoF said, “…The Committee categorically convey their unacceptability of the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010…The Committee would, thus, urge the Government to reconsider and review the UID scheme.…” In the first place, the SCoF is severely critical of the fact that the Aadhaar project has been underway since September 2010, without bothering to seek or get Parliament’s approval. The SCoF also felt that the process of enrolment to get Aadhaar numbers, “compromises the security and confidentiality of information of Aadhaar number holders.” The SCoF noted that India has no law to protect the privacy of data collected from individuals. In the absence of any such legal protection of confidentiality, the SCoF feels that “it would be difficult to deal with the issues like access and misuse of personal information, surveillance, profiling, linking and matching of databases and securing confidentiality of information.” The SCoF is strongly critical of “the hasty manner” in which the...

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CPI(ML) Statement on Mullaperiyar Dispute

The CPI(ML) expresses grave concern over the alarming escalation of the controversy over the Mullaperiyar dam. CPI(ML) appeals to the people of Kerala and Tamil Nadu to maintain patience and peace, rebuffing attempts to whip up competitive chauvinism and violence. The people living in the area downstream from the dam in Kerala are apprehensive that the 116-year-old dam might burst, endangering the habitations in the region. These long-standing safety concerns have been heightened in the wake of recent tremors in the region. On the other hand, people of Tamil Nadu fear the denial or reduction in water supply in case of construction of a new dam at Mullaperiyar and any change in terms and conditions of the 999-year agreement between both states. Four districts of Tamilnadu have been traditionally dependent on the water rights they have long enjoyed from the dam, and there is a fear that any change in arrangements might endanger agriculture and the livelihood and survival of lakhs of peasants and labourers. These concerns assume even greater proportions in the backdrop of the deepening agrarian crisis and shrinkage of cultivable land in Tamilnadu. Continuity of the existing water rights for the people of Tamilnadu, and safety for the people of Kerala are both genuine concerns that must be recognised in their full gravity and adequately addressed in a manner that generates confidence among the people. A...

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Pakistan’s Pain Can Never Be India’s Gain

We don’t see Pakistan speaking in one voice very often; different stakeholders react differently to a given situation depending upon their interest and political leaning. However, the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers at the hands of NATO a few weeks ago united the Pakistani population in their collective grief. People sick and tired of the western design demanded in one voice a complete overhaul of the relationship with the US. But this development has elicited varied reactions in India. Some vocal sections have reacted with glee at the discomfort of its western neighbour. Below is an excerpt from a blog published in the Hindustan Times on the NATO attack: “Normally, I feel strongly against such blatant violations of the sovereignty of independent nations. But, and only as an exception, I must confess, the US action is giving me immense pleasure. Adding to my satisfaction, even unconcealed glee, is the decision of US President Barrack Obama not to tender an apology for the attack. A respected colleague is aghast at my reaction. He accuses me of being intrinsically anti-Pakistani. I’m not. But I also don’t believe, even for a minute, that it (Pakistan) is a friendly country; that engagement with it is the best way forward for us; that a strong and stable Pakistan is in our best interest; and that we must do our bit to strengthen its democratically...

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Bhanwari Devi Case: Dirty Picture of Feudal Exploitation and Violence

The disappearance of auxiliary nurse and midwife (ANM) Bhanwari Devi in Rajasthan has exposed the vulnerability of the state’s women health workers, especially dalit women, to exploitation and violence at the hands of top politicians. Bhanwari Devi has been missing since 1 September, and is suspected to have been killed to suppress the truth about her relationship with Congress Minister Mahipal Maderna. Maderna has been arrested by the CBI, and has been stripped of his membership of the Congress. The incident, coming on top of persistent corruption charges and the police firing on minorities at Gopalgarh, bought the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress Government to the brink. The case has shaken the Gehlot Government to the core, forcing the resignation of the entire Cabinet and a reshuffle in which several Ministers tainted by charges of corruption and violence against women have been replaced. Another Minister forced to resign was Ram Lal Jat, accused of personally intervening to hasten (and influence?) the post mortem of a woman with whom he had allegedly had a relationship, and who died in suspicious circumstances. Now, another current Minister in the Gehlot cabinet, Malkhan Singh, has been arrested by the CBI in the Bhanwari Devi case. Malkhan Singh is said to have been in a long-standing relationship with the missing ANM, and to have introduced her to Maderna. Bhanwari is said to have been in possession...

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The Killer Fumes of Corporate Greed

The morning of December 9 came as a huge shock to Kolkata and the entire country. More than 90 lives – including old-age patients in various stages of treatment and recovery – were lost in a fatal disaster in the AMRI hospital in Dhakuria in south Kolkata on that fateful morning. The disaster was triggered by a major fire that broke out in the basement of the super-speciality hospital in the pre-dawn hours, but it was the toxic fume engulfing the multi-storey building which claimed most of the lives. Every report emanating from the site of the disaster since then has compounded that shock and turned it into utter shame and indignation. The disaster can only be called a huge corporate crime with the state being equally complicit. Consider these facts. The fire broke out at around 3 AM, but it took the hospital authorities nearly two hours to inform the fire-brigade. The reason behind this inexplicable delay lies apparently in another case of fire which had broken out in the basement of the same building two months ago on October 8 – the security guard who had then promptly informed the fire-station had incurred the wrath of the hospital administration and was suspended for two weeks. So this time round the staff apparently tried to douse the fire themselves before informing the fire-brigade. Valuable time had already been...

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