A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 13, No. 12, 16 – 22 MARCH 2010
No Going Back on 33% Reservation for Women in Assemblies and Parliament
On March 8, 2010 when the whole world observed the centenary of the International Women’s Day, the UPA government tabled the Women’s Reservation Bill (WRB) in the upper house of Indian Parliament. It was a classic case of killing two birds with one stone. Only a week ago the government had presented the annual budget leaving the whole country fuming with rage over soaring prices. The budget had not only added fuel to the inflationary fire, it had refused to extend any relief to the common man while pampering the rich with all kinds of sops. At one stroke, the women’s bill shifted the spotlight away from the post-budget protests and split the emerging unity in the opposition camp down the middle. At the same time there could be no better way for the Sonia-led Congress to try and project itself as the most vocal champion of the women’s cause on the occasion of the IWD centenary!
Even as the likes of Lalu Prasad, Mulayam Singh and Sharad Yadav raved and ranted against the WRB, Sonia said the Congress was ready to take every risk to change the society! But only a couple of days after the bill had been rushed through the Rajya Sabha, the UPA managers declared that the bill would be presented in the Lok Sabha only on the basis of a consensus. Meanwhile, there are renewed talks of a smaller quota of only 20%. It has taken not even 100 hours for the much-trumpeted Congress readiness for risk-taking to evaporate, and in the name of building consensus, the Congress is now back to its old game of dilly-dallying and putting the bill back into cold storage!
The heated debates over women’s reservation bill have of course helped unmask many political faces. Lalu Prasad has let the cat out of the bag by coming out unabashedly as a desperate defender of male domination in society. Warning the Congress and the BJP that women’s reservation would not secure them the votes of women, he said women would vote only according to the wishes of male members in their families! Hukumdev Narayan Yadav, BJP MP from Bihar, described the WRB as a death warrant he would never sign. Similar views have been attributed, albeit anonymously, to many other BJP and Congress MPs as well. Ironically enough, parties like BSP and TMC which are led by powerful women leaders, also avoided supporting the bill.
While most parties opposing the bill exposed their unmistakably patriarchal political streak, it is no less important to recognize and remember the true face of parties like the BJP and the Congress which would like to be seen as great advocates and promoters of women’s empowerment. The BJP not only has the most conservative and retrograde views on most issues concerning women’s rights and social progress, the Sangh brigade is infamous for perpetrating and justifying the most brutal kind of communal and feudal violence against women. As the oldest ruling party in the country, the Congress too must be held squarely responsible for the historical marginalization of Indian women, which has been further aggravated under the pro-corporate pro-imperialist policy regime promoted by the Congress.
The opponents of women’s reservation have found it convenient to repeatedly stall the bill by pitting caste and community against gender. The progressive women’s movement can call their bluff by incorporating specific provisions for women of backward castes and minority communities within the overall ambit of 33% reservation. The panchayats have long had 33% reservation for women and Parliament has now rightly raised it to 50%. Let there now be no excuse for thwarting or truncating the idea of one-third reservation for women in Assemblies and Parliament. The UPA government must not be allowed to backtrack from 33% reservation for women on any pretext.
Hundred years ago, the communist and progressive forces within the international women’s movement took the lead to launch the International Women’s Day, and over the last hundred years, it is these forces that have pushed forward the battle for women’s liberation and equality of sexes in the face of every obstacle. In India, it was the progressive women’s movement which had raised the demand for women’s reservation in legislative bodies as a means to promote women’s participation in politics as well as to sensitise the process of legislation to the needs and aspirations of women. It was again the women’s movement which sustained the campaign for women’s reservation over the last two decades in the face of crude patriarchal resistance and clever political ploys of ruling class parties.
Today in the centenary year of the International Women’s Day it is ironically the Congress which seeks to paint itself as the pioneer of women’s reservation even as it colludes with the opponents of the bill to once again put it on the back-burner. The progressive women’s movement must again wrest the initiative, push the bill through to the end, and carry forward the larger battle of women’s liberation towards bigger victories.
Condemn Israel's Decision to Approve Construction of Hundreds of New Housing Units in the West Bank
(Statement issued by International Department of the CPI(ML)Liberation)
New Delhi, 13 March 2010: Even as US Vice President Joe Biden is in Israel to launch a much-touted four-month long peace accord between Palestine and Israel, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior has announced a decision to approve construction of 1600 new housing units in Palestine's West Bank. This decision, underlining Israel's occupation of Palestine and its arrogant assertion of a policy of apartheid, exposes the US-brokered peace process as a farce.
It is instructive to recall that the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict headed by Justice Richard Goldstone had in 2009 noted that Israel's 22-day war in Gaza between December 2008 and January 2009 amounted to a war crime, and that the military operations were preceded and followed by several measures to "further deepen Israel’s control over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem" including "increased land expropriation, house demolitions, demolition orders and permits to build homes in settlements, greater and more formalized access and movement restrictions on Palestinians, new and stricter procedures for residents of the Gaza Strip to change their residency to the West Bank." According to the Goldstone Report, measures like expansion of Israeli settlements and demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank "point to a convergence of objectives with the Gaza military operations." The Goldstone Report had called for an end to the impunity hitherto enjoyed by Israel and had recommended a punitive process for the "collective punishment" imposed by Israel on the people of Gaza. The Report and its recommendations were rejected by the Obama Administration and used its veto power to block a vote on the question in the UN Security Council.
Israel's decision to approve construction of 1600 new housing units in Palestine's West Bank is nothing but a brazen assertion of the "impunity" (conferred by US patronage) for the "collective punishment" it continues to impose on the people of Gaza – not just through outright war but by daily measures that deepen Israel's control over the West Bank.
CPI(ML) condemns the decision by Israel to construct new housing units in the West Bank. Any genuine peace process in Palestine can only begin with an acknowledgement of the crimes of war and occupation committed by Israel and a process of justice for the same.
More Reports of IWD Centenary Events
Reports of protests and demonstrations by AIPWA and other organisations in various states on the centenary of International Women’s day appeared in the previous issue of ML Update. Following are more reports of similar programmes on IWD.
HD Kote, Mysore: As part of the Centenary International Women’s Day celebrations, a Women’s Struggle Day was observed by All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) and Samata Vedike on 14 March. A district level convention on “Agrarian Women Labourers and Gender Awareness” was held at Ambedkar Bhavan in HD Kote taluk of Mysore dist. More than 300 women from Sogalli, Uyyamballi, Sathigehundi, Nanjanathapura and other villages took part. The programme was flagged off with revolutionary songs by Mallamma and team from Uyamballi, and Samata members.
Senior Samata leader Meera Nayak spoke about the relevance of International Women's Day for the rural toiling women. A gender awareness programme in the form of the game of musical chair with each participant holding a placard on a women’s issue – dowry, child marriage, sexual abuse, trafficking, female foeticide, domestic violence and so on, was co-ordinated by Dr Shanthi and Dr Roopa Rao. Nearly 30 women sportively took part in this game from various villages. After the game, Dr Shanthi and Prof Roopa Rao discussed about sexual harassment at workplace.
Dr Rati Rao, VP of AIPWA, initiated an interactive session on 'NREGA- Experiences of Women’ highlighting their struggles for job cards, wages, projects and so on. Many women from AIPWA and All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association (AIALA) shared their experiences of struggles related to NREGA. Women from Sathigehundi shared their struggles for opening a fair price shop and the subsequent struggles against corruption and irregular supply of rations. Mallige, Gowri and Nandini from ‘Mahila Horaata Okkuta’ also participated in the programme and rendered revolutionary songs.
Com. Javaraiah, District Secretary of CPI(ML) spoke on the need for enhancing the political edge of the women’s movement and called upon the women to join the struggle against the communal BJP government in the state. The convention concluded with a revolutionary song by Samata team.
The convention was preceded by preparatory meetings at Uyyamballi on Feb 27 with 80 women, at Sathigehundi on March 3 with 50 women, in which Dr Shanthi and Dr Rati Rao addressed the gathering. Comrades PA Kumar and Kemparaju and panchayat members also actively participated.
Bangalore: Mahila Horaata Okkuta, an umbrella organization of more than 25 women’s organizations in Bangalore, has taken shape to carry out joint programmes during Centenary Women’s Day. As part of the Okkuta, AIPWA, led by Com. Gandhimathi, State Secretary of AIPWA, took part in a convention on unorganized women workers in NGO Hall, Bangalore, on 7 March and a cultural evening at Samsa Bayalu Mandira in Ravindra Kalakshetra on March 8. Okkuta will hold more than ten programmes in the month of March.
Uttar Pradesh: Thousands of women in Lucknow, Varanasi, Allahabad, Gorakhpur and Moradabad marched on the 8th against price rise and spiralling violence against women, and for immediate passing of the Women’s Reservation Bill.
In Lucknow 500 women members of AIPWA marched with their banners, flags and placards from City Station to Shahid Smarak challenging the anti-women forces and shouting slogans also against the Mayawati’s rule under which attacks on women has increased. The AIPWA leaders held Mayawati’s Administration officials responsible for the large number of deaths of women and children in the stampede at an Ashram at Mangarh in Pratapgarh. This march was led by AIPWA’s national VP and UP’s Convenor of Tehrik-e-Niswan Com. Tahira Hasan, CPI(ML)’s CC member Com. Krishna Adhikari and AIPWA’s State President Com. Vidya Rajwar. Women resolved to uphold and take forward the legacy of a century of women’s emancipation struggles.
AIPWA’s State Secretary Com. Premlata Pandey led the 700 strong march in Gorakhpur. Comrades Kusum and Kripa Verma led the march of 350 women in Varanasi, Namrata Tiwari and Shubhra led the march of 400 women in Allahabad and Anita Rajput led the march of 350 women at Moradabad.
In Assam, an AIPWA Rally was held at Guwahati with 1500 women from different districts of Assam. The procession marched through the city and culminated in a mass meeting addressed by AIPWA Assam leaders and leaders from tribal (Missing and Tiwa) women's organisations and CPI(ML) Politburo member Rubul Sarma. A seminar was then held at Guwahati Press Club on 'Globalisation and Women’s Movement' organised by Jonaki Bat (the AIPWA publication).
In Andhra Pradesh, a human chain was organized in Anantpur, West Godavari, and in Vijaywada R Nagmani held a meeting with 50 ASHA workers. Women's Day protests were also held against price hike, violence on women and state terror at 8 mandals of East Godavari.
On the eve of IWD a convention was held at Mylavaram on 7th March participated by 150 women.
Construction Workers' March to Parliament
On 15 March 2010, under the banner of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU)-affiliated All India Construction Workers’ Federation (AICWF), hundreds of construction workers from different states held a March to Parliament against hike in fuel rates, price rise and to demand implementation of the Central Construction Workers’ Act 1996 throughout the country.
The procession was led by AICCTU General Secretary Swapan Mukherjee, the General Secretary of the Federation RN Thakur, President of the Federation S Balasubramanian, V.President SK Sharma, Dashrath Sinhali from Gujarat, Harkesh Bugalia from Rajasthan, several construction workers’ leaders from Bihar, AICCTU Delhi State Secretary Santosh Roy, President NM Thomas, AICWF leaders like VKS Gautam, Ardhendu Roy from Delhi and Anthonymutthu and Iraniappan from Tamilnadu and AIPWA Secretary Kavita Krishnan.
While the Construction Labour Act has not been implemented throughout the country even 14 years after its enactment, the pro-corporate Acts like SEZ are implemented promptly even at gunpoint. Six crore workers of the flourishing construction industry do not even get a living wage and any protection from skyrocketing price rise. As the majority of these construction workers are migrant workers, they face attacks at the hands of regional chauvinistic forces. The March to Parliament gave a call for an all-out protest against the budget 2010 and intensification of movement of unorganized workers including construction workers.
The March also demanded Rs.200/- as national level minimum wage with inclusion of VDA for all unorganized workers, provision of Inter-state I-cards to migrant workers, enacting the Food Security Act, BPL cards to all construction workers, equal wages for women workers and other demands. A 15-point Charter of demands was submitted to Labour Secretary, Govt. of India by a four-member delegation.
More Protests against Price Rise
Tirunelveli: A well attended street corner meeting orgainsed by the Party was held in Suthamalli of Tirunelveli in Tamilnadu against price rise on March 13. At Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh a protest meeting led by Com. Vinod Rawat burnt an effigy of UPA Govt. on 6th March.
Puducherry: A massive demonstration against hike in fuel prices and price rise was organised at Puducherry on 11 March by the AICCTU and the Movement for Protection of the Houseless. It was led by Comrade Udakar, VP of the LPG Cylinders and Distributive Workers' Union (AICCTU). Demands raised by the protestors included: Supply of 50 kg rice/wheat at Rs.2/kg and 5 litres of kerosene at Rs.2/litre to all PDS card holders; Monthly rent subsidy of Rs.1000 to all families who do not own RCC houses or who live in rented houses; Monthly minimum wages of Rs. 11,000 to all trade/industry workers and provision of 14 essential items in PDS shops. Women participated in large numbers in the demonstration.
The demonstration was addressed by Com. Balasubramanium, State Secretary of the CPI(ML) who demanded a corpus of Rs 10,000 crore rupees instead of Rs.1000 crore in the National Commission of Unorganised Workers for their Social Security and CS Sagaraj, President of the Movement for the Protection of the Houseless.
5th March: TUs Protest in Puducherry and Karaikal
As part of nation-wide protest call by central trade unions, on five points charter, namely against price rise, strict implementation of labor laws, against disinvestments of public sectors units, amendments in the unorganized workers social security Act 2009 etc., AICCTU, AITUC CITU, UTUC volunteers blockaded roads in front of post offices and banks at nearly ten places in Puducherry and Karaikal regions on 5th March 2010. Nearly two thousand workers including women, youth, and agricultural labourers courted arrest.
AICCTU Beedi Workers Workshop at Tirunelveli
As a part of the membership drive among beedi workers some macro and micro investigations were taken up and with the findings of these preliminary investigations a workshop was held in Tirunelveli on March 14. A paper was presented which narrated the socio-economic and working conditions of the beedi workers. 65 comrades including 37 women participated. Comrades Kumarasami, NK Natarajan, and KG Desikan attended the workshop.
The following demands were raised in the workshop, and these demands will be highlighted in a campaign in the villages among beedi workers 15 days from April 1 onwards: Include all beedi workers in the BPL list; Scrap loans of beedi workers upto Rs.20,000 per worker; Construct 10,000 houses per year out of the cess fund; Increase salary to Rs 150 per day; Amend Beedi Cigar Working Conditions Act and Tamilnadu Rules suitably at the earliest so that they encompass millions of home workers instead of a few thousand industrial workers; Lakhs of beedi workers are not covered by welfare legislations– conduct a census of beedi workers immediately; Stop spending 65% of cess fund on administrative expenses, let the government bear these expenses; 12 inspectors for 6 lakh workers is a travesty of justice; appoint at least 60 inspectors and implement labour laws strictly and improve sanitation and health conditions in beedi neighbourhoods.
AIALA Demo in Tamilnadu
All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association (AIALA) organized a panchayat-level demonstration in Tamil Nadu (March 5-15) demanding inclusion in BPL list, work under MGNREGA, Rs.200 daily wages under MGNREGA, homestead land and patta. A Signature campaign on these demands was taken up and the signatures were submitted to the authorities through demonstration. These campaigns were held all over TN in 36 panchayats of 15 blocks. 12433 signatures were obtained and 9375 rural poor were mobilized in the demonstrations. In all about 10400 memoranda were submitted by them in Pudukottai (10 panchayats in 4 blocks), Cuddalore (1 panchayat), Villupuram (8 panchayats in 3 blocks), Tanjore (3 panchayats), Nagai and Tiruvallore (4 panchayats in 2 blocks each) and Madurai (4 panchayats).
Demonstrations were organized in front of four Panchayat Offices in Madurai District on March 10. At Ramaiyan Patti Panchayat, more than 200 women assembled in front of the Panchayat Office with empty pots. The village President, a Dalit woman, had sanctioned more private connections (reportedly in exchange for bribes) to high caste people and they were diverting water from the supply line with their motorized connections, causing water scarcity to all the poor people. Protestors demanded immediate disconnection of all motorized connections. The protest followed a week-long campaign on this issue. The powerful households responded by warning the President with dire consequences if she dared to disconnect. Under pressure, the President fled from her office on the evening of 10 March. The protesters demanded that the President personally appear and receive the petition, but she remained adamant. Protestors led by Comrade Usha decided to march to the house of the president, but the police denied permission and warned of severe action. When the protestors declared their intention to violate police orders, the police had no option but to instruct the President to appear in person. The President then came and received the petitions and promised disconnection of all illegal connections; she also demanded that the Party should defend her actions. With assurance from both sides the struggle came to an end.
In Kattakulam more than 100 protestors assembled demanding disclosure of the BPL list and details of NREGA. The protestors demanded that names of the BPL beneficiaries listed should be made available for public scrutiny so that the list commands credibility. The officials agreed to provide a copy of the list within a week.
In Kutaladampatti more than 300 assembled after completing NREGA work. The President of the Panchayat escaped the scene. In Andipatty nearly 100 assembled in the evening in front of the Panchayat Office. The Panchayat President and Clerk met the people and promised to provide the present BPL list and also agreed to provide BPL certificate to the people who apply for any welfare scheme.
IIMS Launched in Kerala
Indian Institute of Marxist Studies (IIMS) launched its Kerala Chapter on 14 March through a meeting at Trivandrum. The meeting also elected Com. KM Venugopalan as the convenor of the Kerala Chapter with a core group to coordinate its activities.
Marxism, a universal philosophy having enough potential to enrich itself through practice is under attack from various quarters as it is generally being viewed through the prism of so-called 'Marxist' party in Kerala- CPI(M), which has made Marxism a dogma to suit its own convenience. Internationally also, many variants of social democracy and revisionism are being peddled in the name of Marxism. In such a backdrop, the meeting felt the need to retrieve the revolutionary essence of Marxism in today's context.
The meeting also felt the need to have a forum for healthy debates and exchange of ideas that can explore Marxism from a revolutionary point of view against the prevalent revisionist and social-democratic viewpoint in the state. The forum will have no pre-conceived notions and will act as a forum for interaction of various revolutionary Marxist and progressive ideas on various fundamental and burning issues of the day. It will also try to interact with all like-minded Left individuals, organisations and the people who want to interact with Marxism.
Annual GBM of RYA at Puducherry
The annual General Body Meeting of the Puducherry unit of Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) was held on 21 February 2010 at Comrade Bhagat Singh Nagar (Muthialpet) in Com. Chandrashekhar Hall. Puducherry and especially the Muthialpet area were decorated with wall writing, banners, festoons and flags. The Hall was decorated with photographs and quotations of communist leaders.
The meeting was inaugurated and addressed by Com. S Balasubramanium, State Sectetary, CPI(ML), who called upon youth to unite with the struggles of the oppressed and defend the country against imperialist policies. Com. P Ravikumar presented the draft document. Youths from all areas of Puducherry and Karaikal regions took part in the GBM and actively participated in the lively discussion.
The GBM unanimously elected a 15-member State Committee and 9 office bearers with P Ravikumar as Secretary and A Alagappan as President. A 20-point resolution was adopted by the house. It was decided to recruit 2000 members organised in 20 branches by the year 2011. A convention will be held on March 23 (Bhagat Singh martyrdom day) with the demand: "Replace the imperialist symbol of the Dupleix statue with one of Bhagat Singh). A signature campaign will be launched on this issue.
AISA-RYA Protest March in Giridih against Greenhunt
On 11 March, AISA and RYA held a Protest March in Giridih, Jharkhand, from Jhanda Maidan to Tower Chowk, where a mass meeting was held. The March raised the slogan – "We want an end to Greenhunt, Corruption and Corporate Loot – We want Education and Employment.' The meeting was addressed by AISA's National Vice President Aslam, AISA's Jharkhand Convenor Hemlal Mahto, RYAState VP Rameshwar Chowdhury and CPI(ML) leaders such as Rajesh Yadav and Parameshwar Mahto and others.
ML UPDATE 12 - 2010.pdf