A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 13, No. 10, 02 – 08 MARCH 2010
Big Bounties for the Corporate Biggies,
Empty Rhetoric and Soaring Prices for the Aam Aadmi
This budget belongs to the aam aadmi,” said Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in his budget speech. But what really is the UPA’s yardstick for the aam aadmi? Pranab Mukherjee has defined the aam aadmi for our benefit. The aam aadmi is not one of those 80 crore Indians living on a daily budget of less than Rs. 20, he is one with an annual taxable income of Rs. 400,000 or more. The 60% tax-payers who were handed out tax benefits in this year’s budget all belong to this bracket. In fact, the ones to get an annual tax reduction of more than Rs. 50,000 belong to the Rs. 800,000-plus club. While direct taxes fell by Rs. 26,000 crore, indirect taxes which do not distinguish between the rich and the poor, rose by Rs. 45,000 crore. An aam aadmi budget indeed!
While the budget has done nothing to check soaring prices, it has done everything to add fuel to the inflationary fire. The hike in petrol and diesel prices coupled with the pre-budget 10% hike in urea prices is sure to trigger a widespread upward push in prices affecting common consumers and small agricultural producers alike. The government has also announced the policy of decontrolling fertilizer prices leaving big fertilizer companies free to fix prices, while the Kirit Parekh panel report on deregulation of fuel prices is very much under consideration. With fertilizer and fuel prices continuing to be pushed upward, food prices too can only go up.
Any serious attempt to tackle the growing problem of food insecurity and food inflation should involve a two-pronged approach – expanding and improving the public distribution system to provide immediate relief to the needy and addressing the structural roots of persistent agrarian crisis. The budget does neither. None of the Finance Minister’s cosmetic measures and ‘bold’ announcements – extension of debt repayment period by six months or talks of promoting green revolution in the eastern states of Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa with a budget of Rs. 400 crore or developing ‘pulses and oilseed villages’ – go beyond the familiar realm of tokenism. While agriculture and peasants continue to get a raw deal, agribusiness and food processing industry have plenty to celebrate.
As usual, the corporate biggies are the biggest beneficiaries of the Finance Minister’s generosity. The amount of revenues foregone – and much of it translate directly into corporate gain – has reached a phenomenal Rs. 500,000 crore. This means a whopping Rs. 57 crore every hour or nearly 1 crore a minute (P Sainath in The Hindu, March 2, 2010)! There is of course much more for the corporate sector in this year’s budgets than these concessions and sops – a clear push towards faster and wider privatization. Public-private Partnership is the keyword in the railway budget and the railway’s “Vision 2020” and the General Budget too has opened major new avenues for the private sector. Disinvestment sale target has been raised to Rs. 40,000 crore, coal sector has been further opened up and most crucially, the RBI has been directed to hand out banking licenses to private players including NBFCs.
The budget makes noisy claims about rural employment, rural reconstruction and social security, but once again the claims find no reflection in allocations. A Social Sector Security Fund has been launched with an outlay of only a paltry Rs. 1,000 crore. The NREGS, now peddled in the name of Mahatma Gandhi, has a modest allocation of only Rs. 40,000 crore, and if the poor are lucky enough to get an Indira Awas sanctioned, the allocation is only Rs. 45,000 in plain areas and Rs. 48,000 in hilly areas (and this includes the mandatory commission deducted by the nexus of panchayat representatives, block officials and sundry middlemen). Contrast this to the relentlessly rising defence outlay which now stands at Rs 147,000 crore and the mother of all allocations – tax exemptions and revenues foregone that add up to Rs. 500,000 crore, and you know how serious the government is about its new-found catchphrases of employment guarantee and social security!
Budget 2010: Promoting Inflation and Putting the Burden on the Aam Aadmi
UPA-II’s Union Budget 2010 does nothing to rein in runaway inflation – rather, it proposes to promote inflation and make sure that the lion’s share of the burden of inflation is disproportionately borne by the poor and working people. Meanwhile, the ‘Sensex salute’ that followed the Budget announcement is a testimonial tribute to the Budget’s policy of promoting privatisation and continuing with generous tax sops to the corporate sector.
While announcing an excise hike of Re 1 per litre of petrol and diesel, the FM also indicated that proposals for steep rice in fuel prices in the Kirit Parekh report on fuel price deregulation will be taken up by Petroleum Minister Murli Deora in due course. The Damocles sword of even sharper rise in prices thus continues to hang over the people.
The budget does nothing to tackle the pressing issue of food inflation either by way of strengthening and expanding the public distribution system or by addressing the structural roots of the persistent and deep agrarian crisis which lies at the heart of food insecurity and food inflation. The Budget makes no move to hike public investment in agriculture or irrigation, or to increase the inflow of rural credit. Apart from some token announcements – such as Rs. 400 crore for ‘green revolution’ in some Eastern Indian states, and some talk of developing ‘climate resilient agriculture’ and developing ‘pulse and oilseed villages,’ or extending the deadline for farm loan repayment by another 6 months, the budget has no initiative on the agrarian front.
The increase in allocation for rural and social sectors is also extremely inadequate. NREGS has got just Rs 40,100 crore. The Indira Awas Yojana scheme's unit cost has been raised only marginally to Rs 45,000 in plain area and Rs 48,500 in hilly areas – while agricultural labourers across the country have long been demanding a minimum grant of Rs 1 lakh for housing. A ‘Social Sector Security Fund’ has been announced – but backed with a meagre allocation of just Rs 1000 crore.
In contrast to the inadequate and token allocations for agricultural investment, rural development and social security, the allocation for defence is a whopping Rs 147,000 crore.
Meanwhile the Budget goes full steam ahead with the agenda of privatisation. The government will raise Rs 25,000 crore from disinvestment of its stake in state-owned firms; banking privatisation is being promoted with RBI to give license to some more private sector players and NBFCs; “a firm view on opening up of the retail sector” has been recommended; and gradual coal sector privatisation is also clearly on the agenda what with the setting up of the Coal Development Regulatory Authority.
A particularly disturbing aspect of the budget lies in the field of tax revenue. Direct tax yield is set to decline by Rs. 26,000 crore (corporate surcharge has been reduced from 10% to 7.5%) while indirect tax revenue is estimated to increase by Rs. 45,000 crore (thanks primarily to an across the board excise hike of 2%). This makes the tax system in India further regressive because the brunt of indirect taxes is always borne disproportionately by the poor and low-income consumers who constitute the overwhelming majority of buyers in Indian markets.
The CPI(ML) calls upon the Finance Minister to withdraw the hike in petrol and diesel and excise duties, expand the public distribution system, provide at least Rs. 10,000 crore for the social security fund, and increase rural and social sector allocations while reducing the defence outlay and increasing corporate tax. The CPI(ML) appeals to the working people and mass organisations of the rural poor and peasants as well as trade unions and student-youth and women's organisations to exert pressure on the government to withdraw inflationary measures and corporate sops and ensure immediate relief for the common people.
General Secretary, CPI(ML)(Liberation)
Protests against anti-people Union Budget
Delhi: CPI(ML) Delhi State Committee, All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) and the All India Students’ Association (AISA) jointly held a protest demonstration on Parliament Street in New Delhi and burnt an effigy of the UPA Govt. on 3rd March for its inflation stoking budget. The demonstration was addressed by Com. Santosh Rai of AICCTU, Com. Aslam from AISA’s Jamia unit and Com. Sandeep Singh from JNU.
Tamil Nadu: AICCTU, CITU and AITUC jointly held a demonstration on 2nd March in Ambattur Estate. Over 150 workers participated in the demonstration and raised slogans against the UPA government and its anti-people and anti-workers budget. The demonstration was led by Com. Munusami, AICCTU State Council Member. Com. AS Kumar, DGS, AICCTU, Com. Baluchami of CITU and Com. Jagannathan of AITUC spoke in the demonstration.
Uttar Pradesh: State-wide demonstration was held by the CPI(ML) in UP on 27th February to protest the Union Budget and hike in the prices of petrol and diesel. Effigy of the budget was burnt in many towns and cities including Lucknow. Speakers addressing the demonstration in Lucknow accused the UPA Govt. with making no effort worth the name to address the agrarian crisis which is the root cause of food insecurity and spiraling inflation of food prices.
Anti-budget demonstrations were also held in Gorakhpur, Jalaun, Chandauli, Sonbhadra, Mau, Maharajgunj, Balia, Ambedkar Nagar, and Khiri apart from many other places.
People's Long-Suppressed Anger against Crminal-Police Nexus Erupts
The area under Vijaipur police station in Gopalgunj Dist. of Bihar has been witnessing all sorts of crimes perpetrated by locally strong and dominant feudal elements and not only protected but supported by the local police. The arrogance of these elements and the police had reached a level which made them think they could do anything and nothing would happen. They were right in context of the Nitish Kumar’s administration and policing, but they learnt a whole new lesson in people’s justice. People led by CPI(ML) leader Com. Amar Nath Yadav (also an MLA from Darauli in Siwan) showed them that oppressive and intimidating quantum of force lying with the nexus of police and criminals is no match to people’s force when they are united.
Here are just a few recent examples of their crime and blatant arrogance:
=On 10th January Babloo and Mannu Pandey of Parsauni village under this police station badly beat up a 15 year old Suman Sharma and her mother because they were opposing sexual harassment of the teenager by them. Despite FIRs, protest marches, dharna at the District Headquarters and even demand from the District Magistrate the Police did not arrest them.
=Village mukhiya has been controlling the NREGA work and getting it done as per his desires. Police in nexus with hooch mafia Munna Pandey implicated eight Party members in false cases when they tried to stop this illegal control and functioning of NREGA employment.
=Poor villagers somehow earn their livelihood by extracting sand from the Chakhni bank of Gandak river. Munna Pandey began with extorting Rs.60 from these poor labourers per vehicle and increased the mount to Rs.500. Despite extorting such obscene amount, he used to beat them up frequently. He also supplied his toxic hooch to distant places under the police protection and in return the police got Rs.30,000 per month. Munna Pandey’s income could be imagined from the fact that in a year he acquired a SUV and illegal firearms. Meanwhile he has murdered quite a few innocent people.
=Lumpens and feudal elements hanging around his poultry farm on the outskirts of the village would everyday pass lewd comments at the school going girls.
When even after 20 days of the FIR the culprits in Suman Sharma case were not arrested the Party decided to hold a Women’s court on 14th February. Munna Pandey, who also has allegiance to crime’s bigger Satish Pandey gang, tried to attack a preparatory meeting in progress at Gurumia Tola in the village. Next day the Party organised thousands of people and completely razed his illegal liquor business. Not only local Police but even the Sub-Divisional Plice, being the patron of this business rushed to the site (poultry farm) to protect Munna Pandey and his illegal business. The irony is that the police slapped false cases of robbery on 18 Party members despite thousands of assembled people demanding from them to arrest the harassers of Suman Sharma. Next day when 25 Party activists set out for people-to-people contact programme, Munna Pandey’s goons opened fire on them. By the time hundreds of CPI(ML) members organised to beat the goons back, they found that the police force had arrived to save its protégé. Despite repeated demands for their arrest and search of their houses for illegal weapons the police always acted contrarily thus openly demonstrating that Nitish Kumar’s police has fully become protector of criminal elements. The long accumulated anger of peasants and labourers against blatant injustice and daily humiliation gradually reached a point where it erupted in severe thrashing of the entire lot on 6th February with Police Station incharge being the main recipient of people’s justice. His personnel, seeing the severe thrashing fired 14 rounds to intimidate people, which only helped in intensifying people’s anger. Party leaders intervened to appeal to the people to spare the Police officer’s (Ugranath Jha) life. Later huge police force arrived along with senior officers- DM and SP, who were quick to sense people mood. They also had to release Prajapati, who was forcibly and illegally arrested earlier.
The immediate catalyst for this heroic action by the people was a sudden and mindless attack by the police led by Ugranath Jha on the villagers of Parsauni on the morning of 6 February. They spared no one- old, children, women, youth, no one. Everyone was beaten black and blue. To terrorise them the police also took away one Premsagar Prajapati with them to the police camp. Soon the word spread and Party mobilized people (who shed their minor differences among them) from several nearby villages and marched to the Police Camp.
Latest reports are that no liquor business or shops are functioning in the area legal or illegal after the razing of Pandey’s business. The extortion amount at the Gandak’s bank from where sand is extracted has also come to an end. The obstacle (large speed breaker, where the school going girls had to get down from their bicycles and suffer the lewd remarks) constructed in front of the poultry farm has been razed too (by the administration) and the police camp has been removed too from the school.
Police officer Ugranath Jha has been suspended, still Babloo and Munna have not been arrested. Party is preparing for a bigger struggle.
Women’s Court: was held as scheduled on 14th February, addressed by All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA’s) National General Secretary Com. Meena Tiwari, who congratulated the assembled women and people and said that people have already given their verdict on 6th February that whether it be criminals, feudals, rapists, police or the Administration and State Governments supporting them, they would also face the same fate as Ugranath Jha if they continue with their blatantly anti-women, anti-people, anti-peasant, anti-worker attitude. She also urged the people to punish those still at large who harassed teenager Suman Sharma. Other women speaker said that women and people should unite to punish the rapists and harassers if police fail to act. In the end the Jury gave a five-point verdict.
AIPWA’s Reports from Gaya
Recently, the AIPWA successfully launched a campaign for the arrest of a rapist in Gaya Dist. of Bihar. One Lalji Yadav, who is local strong man of Manpur area, raped a 20 year old and pregnant Rinku Devi of Village Goga when she had gone out to collect dry woods and twigs for cooking fuel. The victim is from a mahadalit caste. Under public pressure the police lodged an FIR but deliberately delayed the medical test of the victim to help the accused. The victim lay in wounded condition at the Govt. hospital for many days. The AIPWA and CPI(ML) intervened and pressurized the Administration and Dist. Civil Surgeon for a proper and unbiased medical test. In the past several incidents of massacre and rapes has kept the dalit and mahadalit family in terror of further retaliation by feudal forces if they protest such incidents of rapes. This time AIPWA’s initiatives and fact-finding got wider coverage and AIPWA also declared of SP’s gherao and huge demonstration on 5th February if the rapist was not arrested. The rapist Lalji Yadav surrendered one day before the gherao of the SP. However, the demonstration was held with large participation of women from Goga village. The Mukhiya of Goga village, who is herself from mahadalit family, has also expressed her desire to join the Party, while many mahadalit families in and around Goga village are joining the Party. During all this, the local units of JD(U), BJP, RJD and the congress MLA made attempts to scuttle the whole issue and were pressurizing the police for it. However, AIPWA’s militant initiatives have ensured the rapist was sent to the jail.
In another incident a woman in Gaya who had been abandoned by her husband and forced to live in difficulty away from him was rehabilitated by AIPWA in the man’s house. The man had been pretending to be an unmarried single.
AIPWA VP and PUCL VP Dr. Rati Rao Booked Under Charges of ‘Sedition’ and ‘Spreading Rumour’
Dr E Rati Rao, a senior scientist, long-standing activist of the women’s rights movement, Vice-President of PUCL-Karnataka and Vice President of AIPWA has recently been served with a police notice under IPC Sections 124A and 505, and Sections 14 and 15 of Press & Regulations Act by the Mysore police.
Rati Rao was Editor of an in-house PUCL-Karnataka Kannada language bulletin (called PUCL Varthapatra) for private circulation among PUCL members – and the basis for the notice is apparently the fact that a copy of this bulletin was found by the police during a raid on the home of a suspected ‘Maoist’ a couple of years ago.
Rati Rao has been singled out on a weak pretext because she has been active in exposing the atrocities against Dalits in Chitradurga, in mobilising the rural poor women to demand their rights in Karnataka, and has recently participated in a National Convention against sexual violence and state repression in Raipur.
The charge against Dr. Rati Rao is part of a calculated campaign of harassment of civil liberties and democratic activists and crackdown on dissent that has marked the BJP regime in Karnataka and the ‘Operation Greenhunt’ of the central government. Recently, various human rights activists and groups including PUDR, PUCL, APDR have been named and branded as Maoist front outfits in an FIR against Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police.
The sections under which Dr. Rati Rao has been booked are Section 124 A (Sedition), Section 505 (False statement, rumour, etc., circulated with intent to cause mutiny or cause communal discord) and sections of the Press Act that do not apply to the PUCL bulletin since it was only for in-house circulation. It is ironic that the Karnataka police does not book the Sangh outfits for spreading rumours galore of ‘love jehad’ and ‘forced conversion’ etc to target Muslims and Christians nor for violating the Constitution – while people who have devoted their lives to defending constitutional liberties are accused of sedition and activists seeking to bring facts to light are booked for ‘spreading rumour’!
CPI(ML) condemns the trumped up charges against a respected member of the democratic rights and women’s movement and demands that the charges be immediately withdrawn. CPI(ML) also demands that the names of human rights groups and activists be removed from the FIR against Kobad Ghandy.
CPI(ML)’s State-wide Campaign in Bihar to Expose Nitish’ Mahadalit-mockery
CPI(ML) organised a week long State-wide campaign in Bihar “Nitish Kumar’s anti-Poor Betrayal” from 15-20 February asking the Nitish Govt. to stop the political-drama of Mahadalit and EBC love and fulfill the demands of all the poor and Mahadalits of Bihar. On the last day of the campaign militant demonstrations were held at the block and divisional headquarters throughout the State. Rejecting Nitish Kumar’s false promises and political mockery, on 20 February tens of thousands of Mahadalits and other members of rural poor demonstrated in front of block and subdivisional offices of Bihar. Their slogans were: “Check Prices, Give us Jobs – No Escape from Land Reforms” and “We want Land and Housing – Not Crumbs of Deception but Guaranteed Rights.”