Thursday, March 25, 2010

ML UPDATE 13 / 2010

ML Update

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 13, No. 13, 23 – 29 MARCH 2010

In Lieu of Ediorial
Bihar Economic Survey 2010: Balance-Sheet of Growth Hype

The mystery shrouding the 11% growth miracle claimed by the Nitish Kumar government of Bihar is getting deeper and deeper. When the government of Bihar first claimed to have averaged more than 11% annual economic growth over the period 2004-2009, observers of the Bihar economic scene had valid reasons to take the government’s claim with a pinch of salt. For one, based on figures cited in the 2008-09 Economic Survey presented by the Government of Bihar in February 2009, the average annual growth rate for the same period (at 1999-00 constant prices) stood at 7.34%. The 11% claim surpassed the 2008-09 survey figures by as much as 3.7%! The claim also exceeded Bihar government’s own 2006 vision of achieving a growth rate of 8.5% for the 11th Plan period, and that too when actual private investment inflow in Bihar remains abysmally low.

It was hoped that the 2009-10 economic survey would throw some light on the growth riddle. But far from resolving the growth riddle, the survey has only added a few more layers to it. Ironically enough, in an unprecedented departure from the convention of pre-budget presentation of economic survey, the 2009-10 economic survey was tabled after the 2010-11 budget had already been presented, and the word “March” was clearly pasted on the cover in place of “February”. In another significant departure, the 2009-10 survey restricts itself to figures for only 2008-09, without providing any statistical assessment of the performance of the economy and the government for the period 2009-10! And the most revealing thing is of course large-scale retrospective revision of figures so much so that the average growth rate for the period 2004-2009 which stood at 7.34% on the basis of figures cited in last year’s economic survey now stands upgraded to suit the government claim of 11%!

The discrepancy between the two survey figures is quite high as can be seen from the following table:

Annual growth rate of GSDP at constant prices (1999-00)
Source 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09

2008-09 Economic Survey 11.31 2.79 20.27 -0.07 2.41
2009-10 Economic Survey 12.17 1.49 22.00 8.04 11.44

Clearly, it is the retrospective increase in the figures for last two years that has been instrumental in pushing the annual growth rate from 7.34% to 11.03%. The contrast is particularly striking in the matter of agricultural growth rate. Going by last year’s economic survey, the agricultural growth rate figures for the years 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09 were 27.94%, -12.18% and -6.70% respectively. In the latest survey, the figures for the same years show a huge upward mobility: 34.23%, -10.17% and 13.33% respectively!

The figures cited in the last survey for these years of course carried tags like “provisional”, “quick estimates” and “advance estimates” – but 27.94% jumping after three years to 34.23%, or -6.70% turning into 13.33% are nothing short of a stunning statistical surgery for which the government of Bihar owes an explanation to the people of Bihar as well as the academic world studying the Bihar economy.

The survey of course admits that the main growth sectors have been construction, communication and trade/hotels/restaurants. The annual growth rate for these high-growth sectors was 35.80%, 17.68% and 17.71% respectively, way above the overall average rate of 11%. By contrast, the growth rates in agriculture (5.58%) and manufacturing (7.98%) were significantly below the overall rate. No wonder, the share of construction and trade/hotels/restaurants in Bihar’s GSDP has gone up remarkably, from 3.31% and 14.94% respectively in 2000-01 to 12.15% and 25.24% respectively in 2008-09. By contrast, the share of agriculture went down during the same period from 35.83% to 23.58%. The contribution of manufacturing too recorded a further drop, declining from 5.67% in 2001-02 to 4.69% in 2008-09.

The main reason behind the steady decline of agriculture lies in chronic lack of investment and the preponderance of archaic and unregulated agrarian relations with real producers having little security or access to input subsidies or necessary farm credit. To take one key example, the figure of total irrigated area remains virtually stagnant – increasing from 44.6 lakh hectares in 2000-01 to 49.1 lakh hectares in 2008-09. Actually, the figure had reached 48.9 lakh hectares in 2003-04 itself, recording an additional increase of only 0.2 lakh hectares over the next six years! Even this modest increase is supported increasingly by the peasants’ own initiative – private tubewells run primarily on diesel (functional state tubewells are a rarity in Bihar) account for 55.40% of total irrigated area while the share of canal irrigation has gone down to 33.77%.

The issue of irrigation also gives us a glimpse of how agriculture continues to suffer from Bihar’s undemocratic agrarian relations. In the name of easing the escalating agricultural cost burden, the government of Bihar had announced a ‘diesel subsidy’ for farmers. The latest economic survey even showed a figure of more than Rs.400 crore on this account. When CPI(ML)-led panchayats started extending this benefit to tenant-farmers who lease in land for cultivation, there was a furore in the Assembly and the opposition RJD and the Congress joined the ruling BJP and JD(U) to insist that subsidy be restricted only to landowners, and the government succumbed to this chorus. A special note was issued by the state agriculture department restricting subsidy to only landowners.

This not only runs counter to any sense of logic and natural justice, it also specifically violates the government’s own “Road Map for Agriculture” released two years ago amidst a lot of fanfare. The Road Map had bravely declared: “The focus of this road map is on farmers rather than farms. A farmer is defined on the same lines as National Commission on Farmers, that is “Farmers will refer to both men and women and include landless agricultural labourers, sharecroppers, tenants, small, marginal and sub-marginal cultivators, farmers with larger holdings…”” Yet tenant farmers are being denied diesel subsidy to appease the feudal lobby.

Manufacturing, we have already noted, accounts for less than 5% of Bihar’s GSDP. The growth rate has fallen to 4.69%, with registered units growing by only 0.71% and unregistered units accounting for 3.98%. Large and medium enterprises are of course known to be very few in post-Jharkhand Bihar, but the survey this year reveals a serious decline in the SSI sector as well as tiny/micro enterprises and artisan sector. The combined growth rate of these sectors has fallen from 4.41% in 2007-08 to 3.61% in 2008-09 and only 1.14% up to October 2009. Sugar is the largest agro-based industry in the state and only 9 out of the state’s 28 mills are functional. All the 15 closed mills of Bihar Sugar Corporation are yet to be revived and reopened. The State Investment Promotion Board claims to have approved 245 proposals till November 2009 involving investment worth Rs. 133841 crore, but actual investment till Nov 2009 remained a trifle Rs. 1044.37 crore, which is less than 1% of the approved investment quantum! This is the real picture of the World Bank ‘certified’ business-friendly environment in Bihar.

Power is one of the most key requirements for industrial investment and per capita power consumption remains the lowest in Bihar (76 units compared to 612 units for all-India (2005 figure)). Only 10.3% houses are electrified in Bihar as against the national proportion of 55.8%.

For an assessment of the situation on the social sector front, let us just take two examples: NREGS and the PDS. The government claims to have issued job cards to 118.5 lakh households till October 2009, but only 20.9% got employment and only 1.22% of those who got work got 100 days employment. These figures of course cover only seven months of 2009-10, but even if we look at the corresponding figures for the whole of the previous year (2008-09), the figures stand at only 37.3% and 2.62% respectively. The government of course claims that only as many families demanded employment. This is perhaps partly explained by the continuing phenomenon of large-scale outmigration from Bihar and exposes the utter inefficacy of NREGS in stopping migration. But more than that, there is clearly the basic issue of an unresponsive and corruption-ridden panchayat system resisting and killing the very demand for work by diverse means. And whatever is happening to the provision for paying unemployment allowance?

On the PDS front, the survey tells us that in 2008-09, the Bihar government too made significant allocations for all the three PDS schemes – BPL, Antyodaya and Annapurna. But then the survey admits that the percentage of grains lifted by PDS dealers fell far short of the allocations. The survey gives us percentage figures for PDS lifting only in relation to allocation by the Centre. If the allocation made by the state government is also factored in, the percentage figures will be as under – Annapurna (the scheme that provides for 6 kgs of wheat and 4 kgs of rice free of cost for homeless senior citizens): rice 42.44%, wheat 43.54%; Antyodaya (the scheme that provides 21 kgs of rice at Rs. 2.00 per kg and 14 kgs of wheat at Rs. 3.00 per kg to extremely poor households): rice 37.44%, wheat 39.23%; BPL (25 kgs of rice and 10 kgs of wheat per month for BPL families): rice 16.77%, wheat 20.47%!

When the issue came up for a heated debate in the Assembly during this year’s budget session, the state agriculture minister had this explanation for the pathetically poor percentage of lifting by PDS dealers: she attributed it to heightened road construction activity in the state! Apparently, because of the ongoing road building spree, “no entry” signs have been put up near foodgrains godowns which in turn has adversely affected the movement of trucks for PDS supply!

As the Nitish Government continues to bank on statistical cosmetic surgery to sustain tall claims of growth, people's struggles in Bihar will resolutely expose these myths and demand substantial growth, based on land reforms, increased public investment in agriculture, real industrial revival and generation of jobs that alone can check outmigration and provide a better deal for the poor.

Statement on Park Street Fire

The blaze at a building in Park Street Kolkata has tragically taken several lives and injured many. CPI(ML) extends condolences to the families of those affected in this tragic incident. It is also a matter of deep concern that the incident displayed the complete absence of any disaster management machinery. Delays and mistakes in the rescue operations cost unnecessary lives. The ordinary citizens who came forward to play a heroic role in the rescue of trapped people, risking their own lives in the process, deserve the highest tribute. The party stands by the victims' families in their hour of grief.

CPI(ML) Condoles the Tragic Death of Kanu Sanyal

On 23 March, Kanu Sanyal, one of a senior founding leaders of the CPI(ML) movement, met a tragic and painful end.

Kanu Sanyal was a key organiser of the Naxalbari movement, and it was he who made the first public announcement of the formation of CPI(ML) at the historic mass meeting in Kolkata on May 1, 1969. He was jailed for several years for his involvement in the movement.

His political opinions underwent a change after the massive crackdown by the State and the subsequent setback suffered by the movement. He went on to denounce the very formation of the CPI(ML) as well as leaders like Charu Majumdar. Onwards from the late 70s, he launched several groups on the lines of organising committees of communist revolutionaries in an attempt to unite various groups. Eventually he also launched a new CPI(ML) – the party that he had denounced.

He remained active till the end of his years in the Darjeeling district, especially in struggles of tea garden workers against closure and hunger deaths. He lived a very simple life and never gave up political activism.

CPI(ML) Liberation condoles the tragic death of Kanu Sanyal.

Red Salute to Comrade Ajaib Singh Siddhu!

Comrade Ajaib Singh Siddhu, Vice President of the Delhi Unit of AICCTU, passed away on 19 March, following a long bout with kidney failure. A bus conductor in the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC), he had been a party member since 1980.

He played a leading role in building a revolutionary movement among DTC workers in those years when the party was underground, in spite of being a government employee and in the face of family resistance. He was dismissed from his job twice, suspended four times and jailed once for his political activism. Initially he helped found the DTC Mazdoor Chetna Manch which was banned by the Government. Later he helped form the DTC Workers' Unity Centre, which in his leadership became established as a revolutionary workers' stream among DTC workers, enjoying widespread recognition and respect among workers.

He was a Delhi State Committee member of the Indian People's Front (IPF) and was President of the DTC Workers' Unity Centre for 15 years. Till two years ago he was also a member of the DTC Sector Committee.

Comrade Ajaib Singh's loss is deeply felt by his family (his wife, two daughters and son) and by the entire Party. His commitment to the Party, unaffected by repeated threats to his job, and his contribution to the working class movement and building the party among workers will be remembered as an inspiration by younger generations of party comrades.

AISA Team Visits Azamgarh

A three member team from AISA Jamia and Allahabad University including Aslam Khan (National Vice President, AISA) and Ramayan Ram (State Secretary, UP AISA) visited Azamgarh on 16th and 17th March 2010 in order to ascertain the facts behind the recent spate of arrests of alleged members of Indian Mujahideen.

The team met with a wide cross-section of people in Azamgarh (including Khalispur and Sanjarpur), including university teachers, lawyers, friends and relatives of the arrested youth. They also visited the homes of the arrested youth.

Strongly condemned Congress propaganda that a judicial probe was not desirable, AISA reiterated the demand for a judicial enquiry into the Batla House 'encounter' in the light of recently released post mortem reports.

The team made the following demands:
(1) Judicial enquiry into the Batla House ‘encounter’, (2) Clubbing of all blasts cases and fast tracking of the trials, (3) All police officers guilty of framing innocent Muslim youth in terror charges must be punished, (4) Protection must be provided to lawyers defending terror accused. An enquiry must be ordered into Shahid Azmi’s murder

Bareilly Riots: CPI(ML) Fact-finding Team Investigates

(On 2 March, communal riots broke out in Bareilly, centre of Rohilkhand and known for communal harmony. A five-member CPI(ML) team comprising CC Member Krishna Adhikari, State Standing Committee member Afroz Alam, State Committee member Rohitas Rajput, People's Union for Human Rights (PUHR) member and advocate Kishan Lal, and the party in-charge for Bareilly Atri Kumar Rishi visited Bareilly on 16 March where they spent two days visiting the riot-affected areas, speaking to local people and seeking out the facts in the midst of the political and media propaganda. Below is their report.

Dodging efforts by local administration to arrest members of the team and prevent entry, the team conducted its investigation and released the findings at a press conference in a tourism department hotel in Bareilly on 17 March. The team visited the riot-affected areas of Chahvai, Guddadbag, Koharapeer, Dariyavalan, Subhash Nagar, Badayun Road and Sanjay Nagar. The findings challenged the dominant media version that the riots had been sparked off by the change in route of the Juloos-e-Mohammadi (the procession to mark the birth of Prophet Mohammad) on 2 March as a result, instead finding that the BJP and Sangh Parivar are implicated in a conspiracy to foment the riots, and its leaders had led the incidents of arson and loot. The CPI(ML) team demanded a judicial probe into the riots, compensation for the riot-affected families and punishment for the politicians, PAC and police personnel responsible for the riots.

Draconian Laws against CPI(ML) Activists in Ghazipur

Activists who organise the rural poor are being branded 'gangsters' and goondas' and booked under the draconian 'Gangster Act' and 'Goonda Act' in Mayawati's UP.

On 15 February 2010, some criminals attacked the Bhadaura Primary Health Centre (PHC) in Gahmar PS of Ghazipur district, killing one person. Sanjay Singh, son of a doctor Surendra Singh who had retired from the PHC, and who has several criminal cases against him, was the main accused in this incident. But the police came under pressure of powerful forces and released Sanjay Singh, and instead falsely implicated and jailed poor tribals for this incident.

On 25 February, the CPI(ML) held a dharna outside the Bhadaura PHC to demand the arrest of the real criminals and protest against the framing of the innocent tribals, and also to raise the issues of widespread corruption in the PHC.

In the presence of the Deputy CMO (Chief Medical Officer) who had come to accept the memorandum, Sanjay Singh came and threatened to shoot dead the Ghazipur District President of AIALA Shrikrishna Maurya who was among those leading the dharna. Subsequently Sanjay Singh was again taken into custody by the police – but under pressure from above he was promptly released.

When CPI(ML) activist Ramchandra Maurya (of Pachauri village, Gahmar PS) was returning from the dharna that night, he was attacked and beaten till bloody with hockey sticks. The next day (26 February), when CPI(ML) and AIALA leaders went to the Gahmar Police Station to file an FIR against the assault, the SO arrested them, and booked them on a range of false charges filed by the criminals themselves. Later, other more serious charges were added, including the Goonda Act and Gangster Act.

On 10 March, CPI(ML) began an indefinite dharna at the district HQs demanding that the false cases against innocent tribals and CPI(ML) activists be withdrawn, the role of the police and local administration in this intimidation campaign be investigated and action taken against them, and also action against the criminal elements responsible for attacks on local people and activists.

On Panchayat Day in Assam, AIALA-AIPWA Gheraos Panchayat Offices

Various campaigns and agitations were organised by our mass organisations in Assam in the month of February and March. Besides State-level programme in the form of Raj Bhawan march participated by five thousand rural and urban poor that was jointly organised by Sadou Asom Gramin Sabha (All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association- AIALA’s Assam unit) and Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Kishan Shramik Sabha, various district and panchayat level programmes demanding job card, 100 days’ work, unemployment allowance, ration card, BPL and APL card and opposing widespread corruption in implementing various schemes of the blocks and panchayats, were held.

Of the various recent initiatives, two programmes need special mention- one was the gherao of Laiputi panchayat office on 4th February, solely on the initiative of the Tinsukia District Committee of Sadou Asom Pragatisheel Nari Santha (State unit of All India Progressive Women’s Association- AIPWA) in which more than 400 women- most of them tea garden workers- participated. The 4th February is usually observed as panchayat day in Tinsukia Dist. The gherao and the mass meeting that followed was addressed among others by Comrades Shikha Das, Tinsukia Dist. Secretary of AIPWA, Ganga Ram Koal, State Committee member of CPI(ML) and President of the Central Committee of Asom Sangrami Chah Shramik Sangha and Subhash Sen, the State Secretary of AICCTU and Party’s State Committee member.

A March to the Tinsukia DC Court was the other programme held on 19th February as a culmination of the various programmes taken at grass-root level and to unite the rallying forces of rural poor and workers at the Dist. level. The Tinsukia DC court campaign also saw the participation of more than one thousand rural poor and tea garden workers under CPI(ML) banner. A memorandum was submitted to the Deputy Commissioner demanding immediate inquiry into the cases of corruption. The DC accepted the demands and passed an order to investigate the matters of corruption as mentioned in the memorandum and has deputed one officer – the Sadar SDO to investigate and report to the DC. Through the same programme another memorandum on behalf of the Dist. Committee of Sadou Asom Gramin Shramik Santha (SAGGS) was submitted to the Asst. Director of Supply (ADS) citing various new cases of irregularities and corruption. The ADS has given an assurance to hold a tripartite meeting of the SAGSS representatives, (corrupt)agents and the ADS himself and the date for the meeting was fixed for 5/03/10. The programme was addressed by Com. Subhash Sen and Com. Ganga Ram Koal.

Dharna Held for Autonomous Statehood

On 12 march, CPI(ML), ASDC (P), KSA and KNCA held a dharna at Dispur Last Gate demanding Autonomous Statehood for Karbi Anglong and NC Hills, and also demanding that the Assam Government drop all seven Cabinet Ministers who are implicated in the Rs 1000 crore North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC) scam. The seven Ministers, a Congress MP and MLA and a former Governor have been named in a National Investigation Agency report on the scam. The protestors also demanded a CBI probe into the suspected role of Minister Khorsing Engti who is implicated in a nexus of politicians with terrorists and who, as CEM of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council in April 2004, entered into a controversial deal with a militant outfit that was in a ceasefire agreement. The shady deal triggered bloody clashes though it allowed Biren Engti to score an electoral victory. The protestors demanded a CBI probe into this deal, and also that allegations of large scale corruption in the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council be handed over to the CBI as has been done in the case of NC Hills.

Struggle for Drinking Water in Panchayat in Madurai

Kachakatti is a village in Madurai district where drinking water scarcity is a major issue. One of the reasons for the scarcity is the illegal connections enjoyed by the 'big people' of the village. In response to CPI(ML) protests demanding 'food and jobs', the Kachakatti panchayat declared Rs.100/day wage if the NREGA workers stayed at the work site till 5 in the evening. When they rushed home after 5 in the evening, running water would be over in the taps.

The party organized a series of village level meetings and met the people in their homes and NREGA sites to mobilise against water scarcity. On 19 March around 150 women gathered in the village common place with empty pots and demanded that the Panchayat President should appear in person to address the people. The president is a woman but as usual, her husband is running the show. He addressed the women and assured undisturbed water supply and disconnection of illegal connections within 15 days. He also showed an order of the Collector empowering the president to disconnect illegal connections. Than the crowd swelled to a few hundreds and people started to raise many questions on the various aspects of the actions of the Panchayat. Following the demonstration the disconnection of illegal connections is in full swing and new connections are being created.

A similar protest by 200 women had taken place earlier in other villages in Madurai Dist.

Demonstration at Sriperumbudur

A demonstration was held on March 23 as a part of March 23 - 31 campaign in Sriperumbudur, the undeclared automobile SEZ of TN. The Workers' Solidarity Forum has taken up the cause of trainees and other non-permanent workers in this industrial area where MNCs like Nokia and Hyundai are employing non-permanent workers in direct production in large numbers.

Over 100 permanent workers and terminated trainees of Hyundai, workers of TIDC, Delphi-TVS and SL Lumax participated in the demonstration. Com. Kumarasami addressed the gathering. Comrade Tamil Arimaa, NCM, AICCTU led the demonstration. Comrade Pandiarajan, terminated trainee of Hyundai, Comrade Palanivel, GS, TIDC General Employees Union and Comrade Kumaresh, Chennai AICCTU President also addressed the gathering.

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