A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 13, No. 15, 06 – 12 APRIL 2010
Jan Adhikar Rally and After:
Carrying forward the Battle for Land Reforms,
Development and Democracy
On March 30, Patna’s historic Gandhi Maidan was witness to one of the biggest people’s assemblies of recent times. The occasion was the “Jan Adhikar Rally” called by the Bihar State Committee of the CPI(ML). People from different parts of the state started streaming into Patna from the early hours of March 29 itself. And the flow continued till the early afternoon on March 30 when the meeting was already on. Defying the scorching sun, tens of thousands of people listened in rapt attention to the speeches of the leaders, bursting frequently not just into loud applause but roaring chants: “Check Prices, Guarantee Jobs; Carry out Land Reforms” and “Land, Housing and Guaranteed Jobs – People’s Rights, People’s Rights.”
The rally did much more than showcase the mass strength and disciplined organization the CPI(ML) is known for. It reflected the growing mood of the people on the ground under Nitish Kumar’s much-trumpeted reign of ‘good governance’ and ‘development with justice’. It also set the tone for popular unity and mobilization in the battle against feudal reaction and for ending the current impasse to push Bihar forward towards land reforms and real development.
Bihar is currently seeing an encore of sorts of the NDA’s “India shining” campaign at the Centre. The state government is busy congratulating itself for changing the world’s “perception” about Bihar. Certificates from the World Bank, ADB, DFID and India’s own Mumbai-based financial press are brandished at regular intervals in support of this grandiose rhetoric. The government is spending enormous money on advertisements and official celebrations and the advertisement lever also comes in handy to effectively censor the media. Yet the rally made it clear that the common people are simply not amused, and the air in Bihar is in fact thick with popular anger against the government’s non-performance and betrayal.
The rally was preceded by six weeks of intensive campaigning beginning with extensive panchayat level mass contact and block level demonstration on February 20. The demonstrations saw a lot of mass participation with several blocks reporting 1,000-plus or even 2,000-plus mobilization. In Patna and most of the surrounding districts, the February 20 action effectively eclipsed the next day’s official show of Mahadalit unity in Patna. The inflationary and pro-rich provisions of the central and state budgets too peeved the masses no end; and on March 3 there were widespread mass protest actions, the most popular form being burning of effigies of Manmohan Singh and Nitish Kumar.
The two issues that really ignited the mass anger were the ongoing loot in PDS, NREGA and various rural development schemes and the government’s refusal to implement the recommendations of the Land Reforms Commission. Leaders like Nitish Kumar and Rahul Gandhi wax eloquent against the pilferage of development funds and trade charges against each other for non-implementation of development schemes. But the people can very well see and feel the symbiotic relationship between the corrupt nexus on the ground and the so-called ‘clean’ leaders in Patna and Delhi. If more than 80% development expenditure eludes the most deserving beneficiaries, the responsibility for this ‘system failure’ lies squarely on the rulers who command the system from the seats of power.
The growing debate over land reforms has effectively exposed the pro-feudal streak of the Nitish Kumar government. Beginning with the unceremonious termination of the Amir Das commission so as to protect the political patrons of the killer Ranvir Sena to the recent dumping of the report of the Land Reforms Commission, the Nitish Kumar government has been working overtime to appease the feudal interests in Bihar. And cutting across party divides, pro-feudal leaders in Bihar have once again started ganging up to stall any move towards land reforms. Several backward caste leaders of the RJD and BJP-JD(U) combine are also quite vocal against land reforms. Against this backdrop of heightened social polarization, the campaign for the Jan Adhikar Rally successfully reached out to the landless rural poor as well as small peasants and tenants and share-croppers.
The stage is now set for the next phase of the showdown. With elections round the corner, the anti-land reforms lobby is desperate to scuttle the whole issue. This lobby now proposes to hold a pseudo-peasant conference on May 2 with the sole agenda of stalling land reforms. The Jan Adhikar Rally has also sounded the bugle for a national peasant conference in Patna on May 10. The conference will uphold the legacy of radical peasant mobilization in Bihar from the days of 1857 through the Kisan Sabha agitation of Sahajanand Saraswati to the present-day battle for land and liberty, dignity and democracy.
The battlelines have been drawn and progressive democratic forces must now close ranks to defeat the feudal forces and their anti-land reforms scare-mongering.
Following statement was jointly issued by Left and democratic parties
(mentioned at the end) on 25 March at Bhubaneswar
Tata sponsored 'Green Hunt' in Kalinga Nagar to destroy democratic tribal movement
Yesterday the Collector of Jajpur district assured Dabar Kalundia, a tribal leader of Bisthapan Birodhi Jan Manch (BBJM) that he would come to Baligotha village on 28 March for a meeting with the dissenting villagers and find a solution to the prevailing conflict. But within a day the Collector has broken his word as today about 24 platoons of armed policemen have been deployed in Kalinga Nagar to suppress the democratic & non-violent movement of the BBJM. It is feared that there will be bloodshed at a larger scale than 2 Jan 06 when 14 tribal men, women & children were killed in a police shootout. The villagers fear the police will attack tomorrow morning.
For more than 3 months now the resistance villages of Kalinga Nagar have been besieged by police forces who have randomly arrested dozens of villagers who stepped out of their village. People have been framed under false charges. There has been repeated midnight attacks by policemen and Tata goons to annihilate key activists of the BBJM. Hired assassins have also tried to eliminate the tribal leaders of the movement and one such attempt caused the death of Amin Banara of Baligotha village. Recently large number of police forces had been deployed on the pretext of building a road through the villages. Every attempt of the police and administration to quell the dissent of the people has been countered in democratic and non-violent ways by the BBJM.
The BBJM has clarified several times that it is not a Maoist backed organisation and does not want violence. The BBJM has made it clear that it will not accept displacement and mindless industrialisation that is already causing massive pollution in the area leading to widespread disease, crop failure, air, water & sound pollution. The Collector also agreed to the meeting only after the BBJM wrote several letters to him demanding that their concerns be addressed first as the Collector had been announcing in some meetings in the area that the Common Corridor Road would be built at any cost.
Surprisingly the print and electronic media have so far ignored developments in Kalinganagar which itself is a threat to democracy. Mainstream political parties also have reached a consensus with the ruling party which creates concerns among all citizens who understand the implications of mobilization of armed police in kalinganagar villages resisting Tata induced displacement.
We demand that the Govt should stop acting like a hired mercenary of Tata Steel company and withdraw all police forces from the area immediately. If there is any bloodshed the sole responsibility will lie on the Govt. The Govt should also give up the Common Corridor Road project as it will be built on fertile farm land and the community land of the tribals. The Govt should respect the sacrifice of the 14 tribals killed by the police and scrap the Tata project immediately. There should be no further displacement & dispossession of tribal people from their land. The Govt should immediately start working towards restoring peace in the area by assuring the tribals that there will be no attacks on them by the police or Tata goons. A medical team should be sent to the villages immediately as people have not been able to visit doctors for days in fear of arrest.
We appeal to all concerned citizens, progressive groups & media persons to raise their voice against the Fascist tendencies of the Govt and express solidarity with the tribals of Kalinga Nagar.
Prafulla Samnatara (Lok Shakti Abhijan), Lingaraj (Samajvadi Jan Parishad), Radhakant Sethi (CPI-ML Liberation), Prashanta Paikrai (PPSS), Bhalachandra Sadangi (CPI-ML New Democracy), Lingaraj Azad (NSS)
All India Students’ Association (AISA) observed April 1st 2010 as "Black Day"-
in protest of the commercialisation of education by the UPA. In Delhi, students from Jamia, DU and JNU protested at Jantar Mantar against the Right to Education Act in its present form and the proposed Foreign Universities Bill.
Karnataka: Davanagere unit of AISA observed April 1 as Black Day by organising a rally and demonstration in front of Davanagere DC office. A memorandum was also submitted demanding withdrawal of recently passed legislation to institute a Sanskrit University in the state and two private universities, including the one to be owned by Azim Premji, the IT billionaire, along with other all India demands. The rally led by DM Prasad, NEC member of AISA, started from Ambedkar circle and culminated in a demonstration in front of the DC office. Com. Parameshwarappa, District President presided over the demonstration while Manjunath, Taluk President, Raghavendra, NCM and Kumar addressed the gathering. Kottur taluk Convenors Com. Umesh and Rajendra also participated in the protest.
More than 100 students participated in the rally and burnt Kapil Sibal's effigy at the taluk headquarters of Jagalur of Davangere district. The rally was led by Com. Hanumanthappa, one of the state leaders of AISA in Karnataka and the demonstration was led by Nagabhusan, the Taluk President of AISA. Madhusudhan, taluk secretary, taluk committee members Devaraj and Ravikumar were among others who addressed the gathering. A memorandum was also submitted to the tahsildar.
The Black-day was also observed along with similar protests at Banaras and Allahabad in UP, in Maharashtra, many places in Jharkhand, Kolkata in WB, Bihar and Uttarakhand.
Following is the statement issued by AISA on the eve of Black-day
On 1st April, the Right to Education Bill will become a law. In its true sense, a genuine 'Right to Education' should mean that all children upto the age of 14 are entitled to nutrition, healthcare, safety, and education of an equitable standard free of cost. "However, the RTE in its present form is a farce in the name of providing genuine education: it makes only the hollow promise that 25% seats in private schools will be reserved for poor students and the government will supposedly contribute to paying their fees. Moreover, the vouchers promised by the RTE only amount to the fees charged in government schools. This will no way compensate for the exorbitant cost of education in private schools", said Aslam, general secretary, AISA Jamia unit.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill 2010 has been cleared by the Cabinet. "This is a bill with dangerous implications, for it will pave the way for virtually unrestricted entry of foreign private players in higher education, without any controls. Worse still, reservations for SC, ST, and OBC students will not be implemented in these foreign universities", added Aslam. The UPA is in a great hurry to get this bill ratified. It is said to be one of the first files Kapil Sibal requested upon assuming charge in the MHRD.
"Both these bills seek to absolve the government of all its responsibilities towards providing affordable, quality education to the citizens of this country. They seek to hasten the neo-liberal agenda of making education a commodity rather than a fundamental right", said Sucheta De, general secretary, AISA JNU unit.
The corporate media is hailing Kapil Sibal policies with the claim that what Manmohan Singh did to the Indian economy, by instituting the policies of liberalization and globalization, Kapil Sibal is now doing to education by following the dictats of the World Bank and the IMF. "These moves do little to improve the accessibility and quality of education available to people in our country, but instead these policies cater to the upper middle class and elite constituency as if they alone have the right to education", said Sunny, general secretary, AISA DU unit.
On 1st April 2010, the day the Right to Education Bill becomes a law will mark a low-point in the education policy of our country. AISA is therefore observing this day as a 'Black Day' against the Implementation of the RTE and the Cabinet Approval granted to the Foreign Universities Bill.
Week-long Agitations on NREGA at HPHalli
The agitations that began on 30 March is still continuing at Harappanahalli of Davanagere district. It was a sort of festival of struggle for the agricultural labourers of various panchayats of the taluk. Right from 30 March, the agricultural labourers of the taluk under the banner of All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association (AIALA), are marching to the taluk office almost every day, from variuous panchayats, raising various demands - right from issuing job cards, disbursement of wages to suspension of corrupt officials in the panchayats. This agitation at the taluk headquarters was preceded by demonstrations at various panchayats. Forced by the people's continuous and unrelenting agitations, the taluk panchayat officials recommended audit of some selected panchayats through letter to the Zilla Panchayat officials on 2nd April.
A Bangalore team comprising AICCTU comrades advocate Gandhimathi, Somu and Narayanswamy visited the NREGA director's office in Bangalore and represented the issues of agricultural labourers and the continuing agitation at HPHalli. They also insisted on immediate action on corrupt officials. Following pressures from various quarters, corrupt panchayat secretaries of Halavagalu and Punavaghatta were suspended on 5 April. On the same day, Muster rolls were hurriedly prepared by more than five panchayats, including Aduvihalli, Arakanahalu and Mathihalli to disburse the NREGA wages on the following day, that was earlier denied on various pretexts. More than 30 labourers who were hitherto denied job cards were issued the same on the spot.
The continuous struggle that was guided by State leadership of the Party, was something unprecedented in the taluk. The taluk leaders of the Party and AIALA played important roles for the success of the struggle. The agitations are still on.
Kamgar-Karmachari Seminar in Mumbai
On 20 March, the Municipal Kamgar Karmchari Purogami Union organised a seminar in the Municipal Hall at Lower Parel in Mumbai in to expose the lies spread by the established union and also its betrayal on the issue of 6th Pay Commission. The entrance was named Comrade Jayant Ganguly Gate and the venue was named Comrade Ashok Hall. The venue was well decorated with red flags of the union and CPI(ML) and prior to the seminar a one month long campaign was conducted especially in the kamgar colonies. Comrade Swapan Mukherjee, General Secretary of All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) was invited as the main speaker for the seminar.
Comrades of the union spread awareness among workers and employees about the moves of the Maharashtra Govt. to Corporatise the Bombay Municipal Council (BMC) and called upon all the workers who are bound to lose their employment to rally around the radical left union to fight for their rights. Those who spoke included Comrades Uday Bhatt, Dhiraj Rathore, Shyam Gohil, Vijay Kulkarni and Hareshwar Verma. Com. Swapan summed up the recent challenges and experiences from the working class movement going on in India.
Dharna in Chhatisgarh
AICCTU organised a dharna on 18 March in front of the office of the Durg District’s Labour Commissioner to protest the flouting of labour laws and for urgent action to be taken on complaints. 200 contractual workers and sanitary workers participated in the dharna. They also handed over a demand letter.
Mass Protest by Workers across Europe
Greece: In every corner of Greece, popular anger over the government’s latest neoliberal assault on job security, pensions and social services has lead to a series of general strikes involving hundreds of thousands of militant workers.
The Greek government’s attacks are being implemented at the behest of the European Union, which is seeking to make Greek workers carry the burden of debt generated by Greek governments in collusion with major banks such as Goldman Sachs. This is part of a broader international struggle by working people against capital’s drive to make ordinary people pay for the global financial crisis it caused. But Greek strikers have drawn on an indigenous political culture with deep roots — a culture that validates the people’s right to rise collectively as agents of change.
It is a culture that can be traced back over 2500 years. One of the first recorded mass uprisings in human history occurred in Athens in 508-07 BCE. In 508 BCE, Isagoras (who represented the wealthy landowning and commercial elites whereas Cleisthenes drew on the support of the largely disenfranchised though increasingly class-conscious demos) seized power in a military coup with Spartan assistance. Cleisthenes and his most prominent supporters were exiled, and a partially representative assembly (the Council of Four Hundred) was dissolved.
The citizenry of Athens took to the streets in outrage. Rising spontaneously and “of one mind” (according to the near-contemporary historian Herodotus), the people surrounded and besieged the Acropolis, where Isagoras and the Spartans had established their stronghold. It was a genuinely revolutionary moment and a radical departure from anything that had gone before.
On the third day, Isagoras and his backers were forced from the city. Having “taken control of affairs” (as Aristotle later wrote), the demos “sent for Cleisthenes and the other exiles to come back”. In the months that followed, Cleisthenes enacted a new and, Aristotle said, “much more democratic” constitution. It was (for eligible citizens), a genuinely participatory democracy, offering an immediate engagement with the day-to-day administration of government.
Traditionally, historians have tended to ascribe the establishment of Athenian democracy to elite goodwill, but the ancient sources make it clear democratic reform was the outcome of popular struggle. Of course, Athenian democracy was full of glaring contradictions — such as the exclusion of women, foreign-born residents and slaves (the most unfortunate of whom were worked to death by the thousand in the publicly-owned silver mines). However, the popular uprising remains a watershed moment in human affairs, establishing a key principle of history: real change can only occur when the people mobilise. The lesson that popular mobilisation is the driving force for pro-people change remains more relevant than ever. The strikes and protests shaking Greece show the longstanding Hellenic tradition of standing up to unjust rule is alive and well.
Italy: Tens of thousands of people rallied across Italy on March 1 to defend and extend the rights of immigrants, on a day that organisers dubbed “St. Papers”.
In Rome, several thousand immigrants and supporters marched from Porta Maggiore, an area with a high migrant population, to Piazza Vittoria in the centre of the tourist district. Large contingents from a variety of groups marched, representing Romanian, Kurdish and African communities. There were larger marches in other cities, with 20,000 in Naples, a centre for African agricultural workers, and 10,000 in Padua. The St. Papers march was the culmination of a “day without migrants” — a strike by some of the more than 5 million documented and undocumented migrants that make up 10% of the country’s workforce. The strike was mostly symbolic, but featured actual stoppages in some places. More than 50 factories closed in Breschia after the action gained the support of the metalworkers union. Marchers in Rome voiced frustration with the increasing anti-immigrant mood of the country and a determination to resist it. “We work day and night”, said Ion, from Romania, who lived undocumented in the country for years before Romania entered the EU. “We pay taxes every time we buy something.” Others, especially younger participants, stressed their universal rights, with speaker after speaker exhorting the march to “stand up for our humanity”. Much of the rally’s organisation came from a rolling call on Facebook, with “spontaneous committees” arising. Practical arrangements for each rally were handled by local anti-racist coalition committees. The movement stresses the degree to which Italy excludes undocumented people from full citizenship. “We are all migrants” was one key refrain.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi responded to the protest by stating that the left “wanted to flood the country with migrants”. Since 2001, migrants in Italy have been subject to increasing legislative and political persecution. Among other conditions, children born on Italian soil of migrant parents do not gain Italian citizenship.
The St. Papers theme is related to the “St. Precario” campaign, which advances the rights of “precarious” labour — those thrown into part-time and casual work by the roll-back of wages and conditions in the past decade. The rally was part of a growing multi-focused resistance to the Berlusconi government. Two days before the St. Papers rally, thousands rallied in Popolo Square, wearing purple scarves and banners, as part of the “Violet” movement. This aims to unite a broad anti-Berlusconi coalition. Students rallied on the morning of March 1 to protest new laws limiting migrant presence in schools to 30% of total intake.
France: Public-sector strike over ‘reforms’
Nationwide strikes in France on March 22 have hobbled public services from transport to schools as part of a union campaign to put the brakes on right-wing reforms planned by President Nicolas Sarkozy
But new labour minister Eric Woerth vowed to press on with changes to the “extremely fragile” pension system — the most controversial proposal. Unions say Sarkozy’s conservative government hadn’t offered satisfactory plans on jobs, salaries, purchasing power and working conditions. Sarkozy reshuffled his government in response to the electoral defeat, notably replacing labour minister Socialist Party, who was trounced in the voting and was considered to have lost the legitimacy needed to continue the contested reforms. The transport strike caused significant disruption. Fast trains to Britain and Belgium were running normally, but only 65% of rail traffic was guaranteed within France. The education ministry said an estimated 30% of primary school teachers failed to show up for class nationwide. About 18% were out in junior high schools and 11% in high schools.