02 February

On Cover : Children in Neoliberal India – Starved and Stunted

PM Manmohan Singh would like us to believe that adopting the policies of liberalisation have put India on the fast track towards becoming a global superpower. Recent studies have, however, called his bluff, showing that when it comes to tackling hunger and basic literacy, India’s showing is among the worst in the world. Let’s look at some of the facts. STARVING STOMACHS AND STUNTED BODIES The Global Hunger Index 2011 ranks India at 67th place amongst 81 countries, shockingly, behind even other South Asian neighbours like Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and other notoriously poor and backward countries like Sudan. According to the GHI: • 21% Indians are undernourished • Nearly 44% of India’s under-5 children are underweight • 7% of India’s children die before they reach five years A recent ‘HUNGaMA’ (Hunger and Malnutrition) report prepared by some corporates and NGOs and backed by MPs cutting across party lines found that in the 100 focus districts of the study: • 42% of children under 5 are underweight and • 59% children under 5 are stunted The PM Manmohan Singh, releasing the HUNGaMA report, said it was a ‘national shame.’ If hunger and malnutrition are indeed a national shame, why is the Prime Minister paying mere lip service to the issue? • The GHI report holds that steep hikes in food prices are mainly responsible for global hunger. The Indian...

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Update : For a Brighter World: the Quest Continues

[A slightly modified version of this review was published in Biblio, September – October 2011.] “We do not set ourselves up against the world in doctrinaire fashion with a new principle: Here is the truth! Here you must kneel! We do not seek to anticipate the new world dogmatically, but rather to discover it in the criticism of the old… It is not our task to build up the future in advance and to settle all problems for all time; our task is ruthless criticism of everything that exists, ruthless in the sense that the criticism will not shrink either from its own conclusions or from conflict with the powers that be…” Karl Marx (Letter to Arnold Ruge, 1843) Upright against the fiercest powers that be and dauntless about the most unexpected or shocking outcomes of its own critical investigation, Marxism was born free — intrepid and thoroughly democratic, bent on continuous self renewal and never demanding blind loyalty from others. But before long it began to find itself in chains — chains of determinism and doctrinarism — compelling an ageing Marx cry out in disgust: “All that I know is that I am not a Marxist.” The history of Marxism since then has been one of struggle against such lifeless canonisation, better known as dogmatism, and against the opposite trend, conveniently called revisionism, of abandoning the key principles...

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Karbi Autonomous Council Elections

In the recently concluded elections to the Karbi Autonomous Council, out of 26 seats, Congress won 15, and the PAPA (People’s Alliance for Peace Agreement) won 8, while independents won 3, including two dissidents who joined Congress after elections. CPI(ML) Liberation contested 19 seats and Holiram Terang’s people’s Front in 3. BJP contested 15 seats. But in face of the sharp polarization between Congress and PAPA, all others got only marginal votes with no seats. PAPA had been extremely confident of wresting the Council from the Congress, highlighting the ‘achievement’ of the peace agreement between UPDS and the Government. It contested on a plank of ‘peace, development and implementation of Agreement.’ But in fact, as the election results show, PAPA, instead of evolving as a political alternative to the Congress, proved itself to be dependent on the Congress, and its poll plank, with its focus on the 25 November 2011 Agreement, only helped Congress retain and regain strength. CPI(ML) opposed the 25 November 2011 Agreement as surrender of and betrayal of the movement for Autonomous State. The party will continue to carry forward the Autonomous State movement and Karbi People’s movement against corruption and...

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Update : Criminal Apathy of State and Central Governments

The cyclone Thane that hit Puducherry as well as Cuddalore and Villupuram districts of Tamilnadu recently caused severe devastation. On 4 January 2012, a team led by Comrade Balasundaram (State Secretary, Tamilnadu) and Comrade Balasubramanian (State Secretary, Puducherry) visited the affected areas. Other members of the team included Comrades M Venkatesan (District Secretary, Villupuram) S Ammaiyappan (District Secretary, Cuddalore), S Ilangovan (District Secretary, Nagai-Thanjavur), TKS Janarthanan (State President, AIALA), Kaliyamurthi (Block Secretary, Thirunavalur), Thanavel (District Organizer, RYA, Cuddalore), Rajasankar (District Organizer, AISA, Cuddalore) and N Ganesan (AICCTU). A report of the main observations of the team as well as some of the initiatives of the party on the issue by Balasundaram. The Government had ample warning about Cyclone Thane, more than six days before it hit. But it failed to initiate any precautions, and this has been the main cause of the worst damage. The only ‘precaution’ the Government thought fit to take was to shut down the power supply. For several days after the cyclone, the government machinery remained a passive spectator, while the affected people themselves led the relief work, removing debris and assisting the wounded. The Cuddalore general hospital was dysfunctional, and the District Administration took no steps to make it functional. The CM Jaya was busy in handling storm caused by Miss. Sasikala and she should have thought it is unworthy to tackle the damage...

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Update : AICCTU’s Proposals for the Forthcoming Union Budget

[Central TU organizations were invited for a pre-Budget consultation meeting with the Finance Minister on 16 January 2012. Central TUs presented a joint memorandum with a detailed set of proposals for the forthcoming Union Budget 2012-13. Rajeev Dimri, National Secretary, represented AICCTU at the meeting. Along with the joint memo, AICCTU also submitted a complementary note with its views and proposals. Excerpts of the latter are reproduced below.] The views and proposals submitted by central trade unions in the pre-budget consultation meetings every year either do not find any place in the budget or are addressed in the form of some cosmetic measures, which too are not implemented as can be seen from the examples of “Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act 2008” and increase in the honorarium of Anaganwadi workers in the last budget. The issues of unorganized, contract workers, honorarium/incentive based workers like ASHA, Anganwadi, Mid-day meal, etc. working in several lakhs, implementing the most important schemes of the government but living in miserable conditions, do not find due importance in the budgets. The note on “State of Indian Economy”, sent by MOF to us appears more interested in giving details of GDP and outflow and inflow of foreign capital without proper assessment of actual impact of the economic growth on the people particularly regarding the mounting unemployment, growing agricultural crisis, inflation, declining real wages, etc. One slogan...

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Support the United Platform of Fighting Left in Punjab!

The Akali-BJP Government in Punjab is facing people’s anger for its corrupt and repressive character. However, the Congress too stands deeply discredited thanks to the prevailing anger against the UPA rule at the centre. In the last 5 years, three BJP Ministers of the Akali-BJP coalition had to be removed on corruption charges. There is widespread dissidence in BJP’s ranks. The Akali Dal has given tickets this time to IAS and IPS officers, NRIs, industrialists and traders, since Sukhbir Badal says “governance is a serious business.” It remains to be seen whether this new profile of leaders touches a chord with the Akali’s traditional Jat-rural base. The Akali-BJP Government with its corporate style of governance, faced powerful movements and resentment of various sections of people. It has tried for some damage control in the past six months, making calculated concessions to various segments of people, including rural power groups. Yet, there is an underlying resentment in sections of its traditional rural base. Manpreet Badal, nephew of Prakash Singh Badal, and former Finance Minister in the Akali-BJP regime has broken away to form his own party. An ardent follower of ‘Manmohanomics’, he is now trying to invoke Shaheed-eAzam Bhagat Singh for votes, though he says Bhagat Singh’s (revolutionary left) ideology has no relevance today. After an initial impact, Manpreeet lost most of his team, with many of his powerful lieutenants...

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Teach A Lesson To Betrayers of Hill People’s Aspirations in Uttarakhand!

Elections to the Uttarakhand Assembly are being held for the third time. For over a decade, Congress and BJP governments, turn by turn, have vied with each other to break all records for scams. What these successive governments have achieved is to give national and international crime networks a foothold in the state and intensify the plunder of natural resources and degradation of environment. People are being evicted in the name of hydro-electric projects and forest reserves. Peasants are forced to give up farming due to agrarian crisis and anti-farmer policies. Out-migration has risen due to rampant unemployment, and dismal conditions of education, health, and transport in the state. The BJP Government, true to its communal colours, fomented communal riots in Rudrapur, and it is notable that the local Congress MLA too played a role in this violence on minorities. BJP was forced to replace its CM Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ with Khanduri with a view to approaching polls – but neither this hurried change nor Khanduri’s Lokayukta Act can make people forget the huge scams over which the BJP Government under Nishank presided. For all the talk of Lokayukta and ending corruption, the Khanduri Government is careful not to begin any proceedings against Nishank in the corruption cases. Its Lokayukta Act stipulates that the full 7-member Bench of Lokayukta must give consent to begin any investigation of cases against...

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Defeat the Forces of Corruption, Loot and Communalism in UP!

[CPI(ML) is fielding 44 candidates in the elections to the 16th Assembly of Uttar Pradesh. Below is an overview of the main issues and agenda outlined by the party, based on in its election manifesto.] CPI(ML)’s election campaign in UP has a solid foundation of consistent movements for the rights and dignity of the poor, for democracy against state and feudal repression, and a glorious legacy of struggles and sacrifices. During the Mayawati Government’s tenure, several party leaders and cadres have been subjected to custodial torture, false cases under Goonda and Gangster Acts, jail, and expulsion from the district (zila-badar) for leading struggles of agricultural workers, landless, dalit peasants and youth from Ghazipur in eastern UP to Pilibhit in the west of the state. The Party conducted a powerful anti-corruption campaign, demanding an effective Lokpal Bill with strong provisions to curb and punish corporate plunder. Struggling against land grab, the party has demanded enactment of a law to protect agricultural land, in place of any law to facilitate land acquisition. The party has been at the forefront of struggles against violence against women, which has grown steeply in the past few years. The party has raised a consistent voice against the witch-hunt of minorities in the name of fighting terrorism, in Azamgarh and all over the state. Corruption and Plunder The BSP came to power promising a crime-free, corruption-free...

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Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik Government In the Dock

Odisha’s BJD Government has been rocked to the foundations by protests against the brutal gang rape and attempted murder of a 19-year-old dalit girl in Arjungoda, in Pipili constituency of Puri district. In the wake of the incident and the protests, Naveen Patnaik has been forced to get a Cabinet Minister Pradeep Maharathy to resign following allegations that he has been shielding the rapists. Maharathy is a notorious mafia of the area and is the BJD MLA from Pipili. The four rapists are known to be close associates of Maharathy and members of BJD’s local goon brigade. They gang-raped the 19-year-old, and then strangled her, leaving her for dead. Her parents found her in a coma. But when they went to the Pipili Hospital, they found that the hospital, under pressure from Maharathy, refused to admit her. The Cuttack Medical College Hospital also refused to admit her. The Pipili Police Station refused to let them lodge an FIR. When they approached the State Women’s Commission in Bhubaneshwar, they were told to ‘come back tomorrow.’ Only when the parents approached the State Human Rights Commission did they get some relief, with the SHRC demanding an explanation from police and doctors for their inaction. The media also picked up the story at this point. The victim’s family had first approached the police station on November 18. But the FIR could be...

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Mass Political Campaign in Jharkhand : An Overview

On 15 November 2011, the state of Jharkhand completed 11 years. In its journey of more than a decade, Jharkhand has acquired two persistent characteristics: as a fertile ground for growing loot, and recurring political instability. Corporate loot of natural rsources (land, forest, water and minerals) and human resources (cheap labour) has aggravated the loot in rural schemes below, and “commission”-centric loot by Ministers and bureaucrats at the top. Conflicts emerging from the growing loot are a crucial factor behind the political instability in Jharkhand, but there are other factors too. The first-ever government in Jharkhand was formed by the saffron forces, which had had nothing whatsoever to do with 50 years of the legacy of the Jharkhand movement. As a result the Government, from its very birth, was marked by alienation from the broad aspirations of Jharkhandi people. None of the successive governments could eliminate this birth-mark, and all governments, BJP or non-BJP, remained products of crude opportunism and pragmatism, with no roots in popular support. Second, regionalism in Jharkhand forced both BJP and Congress, or UPA and NDA, to depend on regional forces to form any government. Challenging the hegemony of JMM, the Sudesh Mahato-led AJSU and Babulal Marandi-led JVM have emerged as viable regional forces in Jharkhand. The AJSU began as a representative of the kulak power group of Kurmi background, promoting lumpenisation among a section...

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Rally at Kolkata for Land, Livelihood, Democracy

On 10 January 2012, thousands of toiling people under the banner of CPI(ML) rallied at Rani Rashmoni Avenue, Kolkata, demanding “Land, Livelihood, and Democracy”. Protesting against the anti-people policies of the new State Government, and the betrayal of the left legacy of West Bengal by the CPI(M)-led Left Front, the rally sent a powerful message that CPI(ML) is the only Left alternative and voice of resistance against the State Government led by the TMC-Congress combine. Unregistered agrarian labourers who had been evicted from their land, landless poor peasants, farmers who have been denied of their remunerative price, minorities, workers of the transport sector, contract workers particularly from the Public Health Engineering department, tea garden workers, women bidi workers, women ASHA and Midday Meal workers, students, youth, intellectuals, and cultural workers – all participated enthusiastically in the Rally. Three contingents of people, from Sealdah and Howrah stations and from Subodh Mallick Square, marched with red flags, festoons, banners, and slogans to gather at Rani Rashmoni Avenue. CPI(ML) State Secretary Comrade Partha Ghosh presided over the mass meeting and read out a charter of demands before the gathering. The rally was addressed by Taramani Rai, General Secretary of Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM), noted poet Nabarun Bhattacharya, CPI(ML) PB member Comrade Kartick Pal, CC member Comrade Abhijit Majumdar, Malay Tiwari of AISA, Chaitali Sen, National Secretary, AIPWA, AICCTU leader Basudev...

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COVER FEATURE : Challenges for the Women’s Movement

[The 6th National Conference of AIPWA is to be held at Vijaywada on 8-9 February. As a curtain-raiser, we have an overview of the major issues and challenges facing the women’s movement in India today.] All over the world – be it in the Arab Spring, in the movements against austerity measures all over Europe, in the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests in the US, or in struggles against corruption and corporate land grab in India –women have been at the forefront of a remarkable wave of people’s movements for democracy. In India, too, women are coming forward to assert their rights and demand equality. But ruling class policies, and regressive social forces, present a formidable challenge to women’s assertion. The Indian Government, led by the UPA in its second term, makes tall claims that two decades of liberalization have ‘empowered’ women. The facts on the ground present a very different – and shameful – reality. Gender Biases and Discrimination Sex Ratio For women in India, discrimination begins in the womb and at birth. The latest census figures show that the number of girls in the 0-6 age-group has fallen to the lowest since Independence – a mere 914 girls for every 1000 boys. Governments at the State and Centre have been deliberately lax in implementation of the PC & PNDT Act (Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994) that...

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From the Horse’s Mouth: Perils of Neoliberalism

How do the custodians of global capitalism view the world economic and political scenario today? Let us hear from two of them: the IMF and the World Economic Forum (WEF). The gloomy picture drawn by the IMF was not that unexpected, but it is the “Insight Report” by WEF – from which we bring you substantial excerpts – that makes really interesting reading. It carries unmistakable imprints of the tumultuous 2011 on bourgeois psyche and provides us with an authentic list of their major worries. World GDP: Down, Down, Down The IMF World Economic Outlook published in September 2011 predicted worldwide GDP growth of 4% in 2011 and 2012, down from 5% in 2010. In June 2011 it had projected 4.5 per cent growth, but by September held that “a barrage of economic shocks in 2011 combined with other factors” would lead to “a worse than anticipated outcome.” The economy was in “a dangerous new phase” marked by weaker activity and a sharp decline in confidence, it added. In a matter of less than four months, it has had to revise the estimates downwards again, even as the euro zone crisis was spreading fast. Italian newswire ANSA reported on 19 January that the IMF now expects the 2012 global gross domestic product to rise only by 3.3%. The estimate for 2013 shows GDP growth of 4.0%, compared with a...

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Anti-Corruption Movement: Popular Resolve Must Overcome Team Anna’s Predicament

In April 2011, the Anna Hazare phenomenon had suddenly taken India by a storm. The idea of a powerful anti-corruption institutional watchdog tapped into the simmering anger of the Indian people and ‘Team Anna’ emerged as the most visible centre of a growing campaign calling for an immediate passage of an effective Jan Lokpal legislation. Overnight, Anna Hazare assumed iconic proportions in the eyes of the country’s youth fed up with corrupt and self-seeking politicians. The government’s attempt to delegitimize the Jan Lokpal campaign by accusing it of undermining Parliament’s sovereignty did not work and Parliament was forced to adopt a resolution endorsing some key points raised by Team Anna while the Prime Minister promised to make Lokpal a legislative reality in the winter session of Parliament. As the winter session progressed it however became crystal clear that most parties in power – whether at the Centre or in various states – were opposed to the idea of having any powerful institutional framework to check corruption. By every indication, the situation called for a third and decisive round of the Jan Lokpal agitation. Indeed, Anna and his colleagues had time and again voiced this idea during their public speeches. Yet, when the Congess and the BJP connived with each other with help from some other parties in reducing the Lokpal bill to a parliamentary farce in the closing moments...

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