04 April 2012

On 3rd Cover : Crackdown in Koodankulam

Koodankulam is under siege, as we go to press. The Tamil Nadu Government, soon after by-polls in nearby Sankarankoil took place on March 18, changed its tune on the nuclear project. Announcing a Cabinet decision to commission the Koodankulam project without further delay, the TN Government abandoned its posture of sharing the people’s concerns about the project’s safety, and has announced that the nuclear project is needed for the State’s ‘progress’. It claims that all safety concerns have been allayed. In preparations for what the local protestors fear will be a ‘nuclear Nandigram,’ there is huge police deployment in the area, incoming phones of activists have been jammed, and roads and transport towards Koodankulam and Idinthakarai have been blocked. Around 18 leading activists have been arrested, of whom several have been charged with sedition. Updates from local people say that 6000 armed policemen presided over by TN’s ADGP, 3 DIGs and 20 SPs are stationed in the area, as a menacing presence. At Idinthakarai, villagers are spending night and day at the protest site, waiting for a crackdown. Section 144 has been imposed, and protestors are defying curfews to come to the protest site by boats. Around 20,000 have gathered in spite of all odds at the gate of the plant, and are on a relay hunger strike. 15 activists (8 men and 7 women) including the main leaders...

Read More

On 2nd Cover : Planning Commission Does It Again!

Now, anyone spending more than Rs.22.40 in rural areas, and Rs 28.65 in urban areas, is NOT POOR! Not long ago, the Planning Commission headed by Montek Singh Ahluwalia generated countrywide outrage and protests when it submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating a poverty line of Rs 26 for rural India and Rs 32 for urban India. Now the Planning Commission has gone one step further, and has declared an even lower poverty line of Rs.22.40 in rural areas, and Rs 28.65 for urban areas. By shifting the goalposts and lowering the poverty benchmark, the Planning Commission and UPA Government want the country and the world to believe that the numbers of the poor in India has reduced! The Planning Commission’s latest figures claim that BPL population as a percentage of the total population has reduced by 7 per cent between 2004-05 to 2009-10. The Government’s motive in claiming a ‘reduction’ in poverty is obvious: it has to justify slashing subsidies and hiking prices in its Budgets, and it has to establish ‘poverty reduction’ as an achievement of its neoliberal policies, before the general elections in 2014. The idea that those spending above pitifully small amounts (not even Rs 23 and Rs 29 a day) are ‘not poor’ is a cruel joke, revealing of the insensitivity and complete disconnect from the reality of Indian people’s lives, on...

Read More

Obituary

Comrade Subodh Narayan Choubey a veteran leader of the State Government Employees movement in Jharkhand, passed away on 7 March, 2012, at Dumka. He had been suffering a kidney ailment for the past three years. Comrade Choubey had played a crucial role in building the employees movement in the Jharkhand region of unified Bihar, working closely with Comrade Yogeshwar Gopein battling the opportunist CPI(M) leadership and reorganising the employees movement under the leadership of the CPI(ML). After the formation of Jharkhand, Comrade Choubey was one of the main architects who shaped the Mahasangh (federation) of State Government employees in Jharkhand. Beyond the employees movement, too, he played an important role in developing the Party in the Santhal Pargana region, and was a member of the Dumka district committee of the party since its formation in the mid-90s. Comrade Ramesh Verma a member of the party’s Giridih district committee, passed away on 22 February 2012 in a hospital in Kolkata. He had been suffering from cancer of the liver. Comrade Ramesh joined our party nearly a decade ago, and since then he had been playing a leading role in developing the party and movement in the Gandey assemble segment of Giridih district. He had successfully won over struggling people from different political backgrounds, towards the CPI(ML). An impressive rally in Gandey on 28 February against loot and terror and for...

Read More

UPDATE : AILC Memo to President

A five-member AILC delegation comprising Comrades Mangat Ram Pasla (Secretary of CPM Punjab), Bhimrao Bansode (General Secretary of LNP(Leninist) Maharashtra), Taramani Rai (General Secretary of CPRM), Dipankar Bhattacharya (General Secretary of CPI(ML)Liberation) and Prem Singh Gehlawat (Party’s incharge for Haryana) presented the following memorandum at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Respected Madam, At the outset of the Budget Session of Parliament, the All India Left Coordination would like to bring to your attention several urgent legislative and policy issues requiring consideration in Parliament. 1. Anti Corruption Legislation: The Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill passed by the upper house has serious flaws and shortcomings that will render it completely incapable of combating the deeply ingrained cancer of corruption. In its present form, the Bill does not allow for a Lokpal/Lokayukta that is truly independent of the ruling regime of the day, nor one that has the requisite authority and force to independently probe and pursue complaints of corruption. It fails to cover a large range of public functionaries, while its clauses against ‘false complaints’ intimidate whistleblowers and anti-corruption activists. Further, it has no specific safeguards to discourage and penalise crony capitalism and corporate plunder of natural resources – that is the dominant characteristic of most big-ticket scams in India today. We submit that the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill be redrafted to ensure full independence, autonomy, and investigation powers of the Lokpal/Lokayukta institutions; bring...

Read More

Neither BJP nor Congress Win Voters’ Confidence

The close contest in Uttarakhand is being interpreted by some as a ‘respectable’ showing, rather than an outright rejection of the BJP. The BJP is taking solace by saying that the mandate doesn’t really imply a loss for the BJP, nor an outright win for the Congress. The fact is, however, that the mandate only underlines the lack of enthusiasm the voter in Uttarakhand has towards both the Congress and BJP, and the lack of confidence these parties generate. The BJP, replacing the corrupt Nishank as CM with Khanduri, contested the elections with the slogan, “Uttarakhand’s compulsion: Khanduri is a necessity.” However, it was apparent that the people of Uttarakhand did not find the BJP’s ‘poster-boy’ Chief Minister Khanduri to be necessary even in his own seat, which he lost by 4000 votes. Not only Khanduri, five Ministers of his Cabinet too lost the elections. Two other Ministers were not fielded at all, apprehending their defeat. So, out of a Cabinet of 12, 8 could not make it back to the Assembly. Clearly, the BJP Government and its Cabinet were almost wholly rejected by the electorate. At the same time, the Congress with its unfolding scams at the Centre and its history of corruption in the State, could not generate any confidence as an alternative. Apart from the 31 seats won by the Congress, 3 Congress rebels too won...

Read More

SP Sweeps, and Goons Rear Their Head

Beyond the predictions made by most observers and even its own internal assessments, the Samajwadi Party emerged as the sole pole against the BSP, in a neat reversal of the 2007 mandate. The Congress and Rahul Gandhi had a dismal showing, and the BJP too failed to gain. The media, which had been focused on Rahul Gandhi, discovered a new darling in Akhilesh Yadav, Mulayam’s son who became Chief Minister. The SP, fully aware that memories of the ‘goondaraj’ which had become the hallmark of its earlier regime had not faded, projected Akhilesh as a young and new face for the party. Akhilesh made the symbolic gesture of refusing to induct DP Yadav, thereby sending a message that the SP’s new leadership had learnt its lessons well. The State’s voters, tired of the corruption and repression of Mayawati’s rule, voted overwhelmingly for the SP. Certain trends in the UP elections were notable and significant. One of these was the aspirations of youth, for whom employment emerged as an important poll issue. Even during the elections, Employment Exchanges witnessed long queues of people seeking to register themselves. The SP’s last Government had introduced a Rs 500 unemployment allowance, and UP’s unemployed youth were hopeful that an SP Government would repeat this policy. The new government has immediately announced an unemployment allowance of Rs 1000 (but only those above 35 who...

Read More

Assembly Elections 2012

(as told by Comrade Mangat Ram Pasla, Secretary, CPM Punjab, and Comrade Harkanwal Singh, State Committee member, CPM Punjab) The Akali Dal-BJP combine bucked the long-established and unbroken trend of anti-incumbency in Punjab polls, and was re-elected to Government. The Akali Dal-BJP Government had a track record of aggressively pursuing neoliberal, anti-people policies, corruption, and broken promises to the poor. It pursued the same policy line as the Congress-UPA Government at the Centre. However, as elections approached, it made some populist gestures, conceding some of the demands raised by agitations of peasants and agricultural labourers. The Akali-BJP combine benefited from infighting within the Congress, and Manpreet Badal’s Punjab People’s Party too denied the Congress the exclusive benefits of the anti-Akali/BJP vote in the Malwa region. There was much hype about the Manpreet Badal phenomenon in these elections. Manpreet Badal, aggrieved nephew of the CM Prakash Singh Badal, and former Finance Minister in the Akali Government, developed a rivalry with Sukhbir Badal and broke away to form his PPP. For all his talk of Bhagat Singh, it was hidden from none that his policies as FM had been a carbon copy of those of Manmohan Singh! He had pursued the withdrawal of subsidies and imposition of user charges on electricity, increase in bus fares, sale of government property and cut-backs in social services. Manpreet Badal declared that Bhagat Singh was...

Read More

TU Rights Under Attack

In Mamata Banerjee’s rule in West Bengal, state government employees are having a rough time. Not only have the dearness allowance and other dues of the regular employees been withheld, the usual salary and pension of the employees of the state PSUs are being delayed for months together. The convenient plea has been acute fund crunch left over by the previous LF government. Driven by extreme desperation, one transport employee had to commit suicide because of inordinate delay in payment of wages. The latest onslaught on the employees has been the highhanded approach adopted by the WB government to thwart the general strike on 28th February. A veritable reign of terror was unleashed on the employees to scare them away from participating in the strike. The Government initially issued a radiogram on the eve of the strike stating that no leave would be granted for absence on the strike day. The Chief Minister went to the extent of threatening the employees that if they participate in the strike, “they would be taught such a lesson that they would not dare to participate in any strike in future.” In the face of this threat and in the absence of a resolute leadership to motivate and mobilize them into the strike, a large number of employees had to attend office on the strike day, albeit reluctantly. Still, quite a good number...

Read More

All India General Strike

The countrywide General Strike on 28 February 2012 received a huge response and was a clear mandate by the working class for the reversal of ongoing economic policies of liberalisation and privatisation. More than 10 crore workers, ranging from organized to unorganized sector, from industrial workers to agricultural workers, participated in this strike. In particular, contract workers employed in PSUs and government departments played a major role in this strike. Many states witnessed Bandh during this strike. The Strike witnessed a visible impact on almost all the sectors of the economy: coal, steel, petroleum, telecom, defence, banks, insurance, electricity, transport, port and dock, anganwadis, construction, brick-kilns, beedi etc. The Strike call was given by all the Central Trade Unions in the country and was endorsed by almost all the major Independent National Federations of employees and workers. The demands which the striking workers raised included curbing price rise; creation of employment; strict enforcement of all basic labour laws, stringent punitive measures for violations; universal social security cover for unorganized sector workers, creation of a National Social Security Fund with adequate resources; a stop to disinvestment in central and state PSUs; no contractualisation of permanent/perennial work, payment of wages and benefits to the contract workers at the same rate as to regular workers; amendment of Minimum Wages Act to ensure universal coverage irrespective of schedules, and fixation of statutory minimum...

Read More

COVER FEATURE : The Mandate from JNU Students: AISA, March on!

After a gap of four years, Jawaharlal Nehru University students voted on March 1 to elect their union, and the verdict could not have been more emphatic in favour of AISA, the flag-bearer of radical student politics in the campus. For the second successive term, AISA candidates swept the central panel. What was more, they all won by a thumping margin with the Presidential candidate polling more than 2000 votes leaving her SFI rival way behind, and for the first time AISA also secured a clear majority in the council, its candidates dominating the three biggest centres accounting for the largest number of students in the campus. On one level, the outcome of the JNUSU election may be seen as just yet another corroboration of the well-known and deeply entrenched Left tradition of the JNU campus. For the last two decades AISA has had a fairly prominent presence in the campus, winning as many as seven presidential elections since its first historic rise in 1993. If it was the SFI-AISF combine which dominated the campus in the 1970s and 1980s, it is AISA which has been the main contender since the 1990s; and over the last several years AISA has also succeeded in reinforcing its ideological-political influence with adequate organisational network and sustained initiatives on every major issue that mattered for the students. But if we look at the...

Read More

Taxing the Toiling People, Rewarding the Rich

Close on the heels of the massive freight hike before and fare hike in the Railway budget and reduction of interest rate on PF by 1.25 per cent affecting more than 70 lakh workers on the PF roll, General Budget 2012-13 deals a severe blow to the toiling and common people of the country. While presenting the budget, the Finance Minister has himself declared, “We are now at a juncture when it is necessary to take hard decisions.” Unfortunately, the common people, and not the rich, will be at the receiving end of these hard decisions. The Economic Backdrop Deeply integrated as we are with the global economy because of the ruling clique’s abject surrender to the policies of globalization, renewed global recession and financial crisis provide the crucial backdrop to this year’s budget. During his recent visit to Kolkata on the occasion of the 46th Convocation of Indian Statistical Institute, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz observed, “Now, with the Great Recession, the failures of the market – both in efficiency and equity – once again cannot be ignored. No democratic government, outside of war, has wasted resources on the scale of the devastation brought about by America’s financial sector….We should be clear: this is a failure of unfettered markets.” So he categorically warns India, “Let America’s experience be a warning. America is a rich country that can, perhaps, afford...

Read More

Why the NCTC Threatens Democracy

The National Counter-terrorism Centre (NCTC), announced by the Home Ministry, has run into trouble due to opposition from various State Governments – those ruled by opposition parties as well as UPA allies like the TMC. But we need to go beyond the contention in the ruling class camp, and examine what NCTC will really mean for common citizens and our democracy. Federalism and the NCTC The main ground of opposition by State Governments has been that it violates the norms of federalism by giving the NCTC powers to make arrests – thereby encroaching on the territory of the States’ police force – and obligating State agencies to furnish any information, document, transcript etc to the NCTC, on condition of confidentiality. In response to such criticism, the Home Ministry has argued that State Governments have been known to act in partisan ways. For example, BJP Governments have acted to protect those accused of Hindutva terror. According to the Home Ministry, the NCTC will only have the ‘minimum powers’ required to be able to act against terror suspects irrespective of the priorities and assessment of State Governments. This argument is hardly convincing, however. After all, what if it were a BJP Government at the Centre? Could it not then use the NCTC to protect Hindutva terrorists and witch-hunt innocent minorities? For that matter, haven’t even Congress Governments (such as the Governments...

Read More

The Real Foreign Hand in India

Tamilnadu CM Jayalalithaa has abaondoned all pretence of sympathy for the Koodankulam protest, and her cabinet has declared its intention to commission the plant. Massive repression has been unleashed, and the area is under seige. (see p 33 for more) According to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, ‘foreign’ powers (specifically US and Scandinavian countries) are secretly fuelling the protests against Bt Brinjal and nuclear plants (such as the Koodankulam plant), because they want to thwart India’s growth. The ‘thinking sections’ of India, according to the PM, are all for nuclear power. The Indian Prime Minister is implying that the thousands of Indian people questioning the safety of nuclear energy, and protesting against nuclear plants, especially in the wake of Fukushima, are ‘unthinking’ pawns of foreign powers. The PM’s statement has been followed by a witch-hunt of the leaders and organisations of the Koodankulam protest, with the Government scrutinising their funding sources and freezing the accounts of some NGOs. Blaming people’s protests on a ‘foreign hand’ is an old tactic, used by Indira Gandhi to justify the Emergency. In Manmohan Singh’s case, this gambit is rather laughable, given that Manmohan Singh’s career in politics began as the IMF’s nominee to become India’s Finance Minister in 1991, chosen to ‘reform’ India’s economic policies in line with World Bank-IMF-dictated ‘structural adjustment’. Foreign Hand Behind Policies There are many instances of ‘foreign hands’...

Read More

The Message of the Assembly Elections Mandate

The Assembly elections to the five states of Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Goa were projected to be the biggest electoral test in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The Congress and the BJP, the two biggest all-India parties, both had significant stakes in these elections. The results show that while the Congress has emerged as the biggest loser, the BJP has not gained much either. Uttar Pradesh, where both the Congress and the BJP were hoping to improve significantly upon their 2007 positions, has produced the biggest setback for both these parties. While the BJP’s tally has been reduced to 47, the Congress could win only 28 seats, losing heavily even in places like Raibareli and Amethi, the pocket boroughs of the Gandhi-Nehru family. The NDA’s surprise victory has come from Punjab, where for the first time in the state’s electoral history, an incumbent government has been voted back to power. But this could happen on the basis of an improved performance by the Akali Dal, which succeeded in increasing its tally to 56 seats, just three short of the majority mark in the state Assembly. The BJP’s presence came down from a record 19 seats in the outgoing Assembly to a more modest 12 seats. Clearly, it is the BJP which had to bear the brunt of corruption charges against the Akali-BJP government. The...

Read More

Comrade Bhaiyyaram Yadav’s Murder:

Much media hype has been manufactured about Bihar’s Nitish Government’s model of ‘good governance’ (sushasan) and development, which have supposedly made the notorious criminality and feudal violence things of the past. The murder of Comrade Bhaiyyaram Yadav, CPI(ML)’s Rohtas District Secretary, by feudal criminals enjoying BJP-JD(U) patronage, has busted such hype, proving that feudal forces and criminals are striking back with renewed confidence in Nitish’s Bihar. Comrade Bhaiyyaram Yadav was shot dead in Nasiriganj, by armed assailants on 14 March evening. The police had failed to come to the spot even after being informed of the shooting, and the accused assailants are yet to be arrested. A member of the CPI(ML)’s State Committee, Comrade Bhaiyyaram had been leading several struggles against instances of feudal atrocities and criminal violence. He had organized a major struggle demanding punishment for the notorious feudal strongmen responsible for the gang-rape and murder of a 6-year-old dalit girl late last year. However, the rapists, who are known to be close to the ruling BJP-JD(U), brazenly roam free in Rohtas. Instead, Comrade Bhaiyyaram had been jailed on cooked-up charges of assault. He was killed soon after being released on bail – at the behest of the same feudal criminals backed by the ruling combine whose arrogance and atrocities he had been challenging. One of Nitish Kumar’s first acts, on becoming CM for the first time, had...

Read More
  • 1
  • 2