A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 13, No. 27, 29 JUNE– 05 JULY 2010
'Free Prices' and 'Chain the People': Latest Motto of UPA-II
he UPA government has once again announced a major hike in the prices of petrol, diesel, cooking gas and kerosene oil. This is the third time since February that fuel prices have been raised. While the magnitude of the hike itself is quite major, what is even more significant is that the hike has come as part of a new policy of 'freeing of prices'.
The whole country has been crying for a check on prices and the government too is shedding crocodile tears on the issue of soaring prices, but the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has accepted the recommendations of the Kirit Parikh panel to decontrol the prices of petro-products. The panel had recommended 'freeing' of petrol and diesel prices and hikes of Rs. 100 per LPG cylinder and Rs. 6 per litre of kerosene. The EGoM has freed petrol prices, and announced its readiness to free diesel prices in a phased manner, while agreeing to hikes of Rs. 35 per LPG cylinder and Rs. 3 per litre of kerosene oil.
Henceforth prices of petrol and diesel will vary according to international market fluctuations, and the EGoM says the government will intervene only if there is an exceptional surge in prices. In other words, we will now have a steady, continual rise in petrol and diesel prices. This decision to free petrol and diesel prices will also pave the way for large-scale entry of private players in the business of oil retailing. Till now, public sector companies used to have an almost exclusive control on the oil market, but now that state-run oil marketing companies will no longer have any price advantage, private players can also be expected to enter the oil retailing business in a big way.
The Finance Minister and his chief economic adviser Kaushik Basu both agree that the hikes will have an immediate inflationary impact. They argue that core inflation would rise by about 0.9% - but what about the cascading effect of fuel price hike? Mr. Basu also argues that in six months, the freeing of prices will have a dampening effect on prices. How on earth will this happen? In six months we will most likely see a few more hikes in petrol and diesel prices, making for a relentless upward push in overall prices.
In fact, what Messrs. Pranab Mukherjee, Kaushik Basu and Kirit Parikh all have in mind is that the government will have to deal with a lower deficit even as consumers will directly have to face the burden of enhanced prices. But in the real world of acute income disparities, the poorer the consumer, the heavier will be the burden. Mr. Parikh would like us to believe that "Incomes of rural people have increased since the kerosene price was last revised in 2002" and as a result even at enhanced rate poor consumers will be paying a lesser share for kerosene oil! This is downright mockery. While the multiple car-owning rich may not feel the effect of 'freed' petrol prices, the 77% people living on a daily budget of less than Rs. 20 cannot afford higher prices for kerosene oil or diesel, which is the most important input for irrigation.
Mr. Parikh says he has been taken by pleasant surprise to see the government accept his recommendations so quickly. He congratulates the government for choosing the most 'opportune moment'! For the government, the most opportune moment depends on electoral calculations. Over the next few months, only Bihar is scheduled to go to polls where the Congress does not have much stake. Next in line are states like West Bengal and Kerala where the CPI(M) is in power and the anger of the electorate is all set to be directed against the CPI(M)-led Left. So, the Congress may well find the present juncture most 'opportune' for all its disastrous policy experiments.
It is now for the people to prove these calculations wrong. The July 7 rural strike called by AIALA and supported by All-India Kisan Mahasabha, AICCTU, AISA and AIPWA gives us a great opportunity to vent the rural poor's anger against price rise, especially the hike in the prices of kerosene oil and diesel. Apart from demanding a roll back of the hikes, we must mount pressure on the government for adequate direct subsidies – for subsidized supply of at least 5 litres of kerosene oil per family per month and for effective diesel subsidy for peasants and tenants/share-croppers.
Call to Intensify People's Struggles against Price Rise, Corporate Loot and Assault on Democracy
(statement issued to the press in Pune on 26 June by CPI(ML) leaders Comrades Dipankar Bhattacharya and Swapan Mukherjee and LNP(L) leaders Comrades B Kerkar and Mukta Manohar)
Leaders of CPI(ML) (Liberation) and Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) met in Pune on 25 June to discuss ways to intensify people's struggles on issues of national importance and mass concern. CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya and AICCTU General Secretary Swapan Mukherjee had a daylong discussion on June 25 with members of the LNP(L) state secretariat. The two organizations have decided to unitedly resist the anti-people policies of the UPA government and fight for the rights of the working people.
The two organizations condemned the UPA government's decision to increase the prices of petrol, diesel, cooking gas and kerosene oil. Instead of taking steps to check prices, the government is continually adding fuel to the inflationary fire. The working people and especially the rural poor are the worst victims of the inflationary price spiral, but the government is doing nothing to fulfill its poll promise to enact food security legislation.
The two organizations want the government to amend the existing BPL criteria and ensure automatic inclusion of all agricultural and other rural labourers, small and marginal peasants and unorganized and contract workers in the BPL population. The food security legislation must ensure a monthly supply of at least 50 kgs of subsidised foodgrains and 5 litres of Kerosene oil for all BPL families. The CPI(ML) and LNP(L) have also called for doubling of MNREGA provisions to guarantee at least 200 days of assured employment every year at daily minimum wages of Rs. 200. The all-India coordination of Left forces will also fight for implementation of the recommendations made by the land reform panel set up by the Rural Development ministry of the previous UPA government.
The CPI(ML) and LNP(L) leaders have also rejected the UPA government's new Bhopal package as a belated eyewash. The so-called enhanced compensations have been announced on the basis of ridiculously low figures of the dead and the injured and the government is still protecting Dow Chemicals on the crucial issue of its liability on the issue of clean-up of the contaminated Bhopal site. In this context, the two organizations have appealed to all justice-loving people to reject the nuclear liability bill and resist the proposed nuclear power plant in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra.
The two organizations have described the ongoing Operation Green Hunt as an assault on democracy, much on the same lines as the infamous Emergency clamped down by Indira Gandhi 35 years ago. While democratic forces reject the Maoists' line of action, the government has made it a policy to invoke the bogey of Maoism so as justify brutal state repression on every popular struggle and every voice of dissent. The CPI(ML) and LNP(L) have therefore appealed to all democracy- and justice-loving citizens to rise against this UPA policy of witch hunt and defend democracy in every sphere.
Stop Killing Kashmir's Youth
Withdraw Troops from Kashmir & Scrap AFSPA
The Prime Minister on his recent visit to Kashmir had declared that human rights violations would not be tolerated. As if in mockery of that assurance, the CRPF and security forces in Kashmir have since gone on a killing spree – with fake encounters coming to light and a series of police firings claiming the lives of Kashmiri civilians. The overwhelming majority of lives lost are those of young people, including teenagers and minors, and the latest to succumb to injuries in police firing include a 9 year-old child. In the past fortnight, eight have been killed in firing or tear-gas shelling by CRPF on civilians protesting against fake encounters and firing. Three of the victims have been killed in the past two days.
The UPA Government headed by Omar Abdullah in Kashmir and blessed by the Centre, has presided over ever-intensifying repression in the Valley. Lip service towards 'zero tolerance for human rights violations' and 'human face for AFSPA' will not do – the UPA Government at the Centre must immediately put a stop to the repression, withdraw troops from the Valley and scrap AFSPA.
For Central Committee, CPI(ML) Liberation
Nationwide Protest against Price Rise & Continuing (Undeclared) Emergency
Uttar Pradesh: Price hike of petroleum and LPG was condemned and protested throughout the State by CPI(ML). In Lucknow a dharna was organised at Shaheed Smarak and Manmohan Singh's effigy was burnt. State Secretary Com. Sudhakar Yadav led the protest march against price rise and loot and repression at Pilibhit. A two-day Nyaya (justice) Mahadharna consisting of 500 people was held at Gazipur District Headquarters on 25-26 June. It was led by Com. Ishwari Prasad Kushwaha and Rampyare Ram, both State Standing Committee members. In Mirzapur, hundreds of CPI(ML) members gheraoed and held demonstration at Dist. Collectorate on 25 June. Same day demonstration was also held in Ballia. Many party cadres were injured in police lathicharged at Robertsganj on 26 June while they were holding a protest demonstration. Two cadres have been arrested and jailed. Party has strongly condemned these actions. A large number of Party members marched at Sitapur led by Comrades Krishna Adhikari and Arjunlal.
Apart from these places, marches, demonstrations and meetings were also held in protest at Allahabad, Varanasi, Kanpur, Gorakhpur, Deoria, Azamgarh, Mau, Chandauli, Lakhimpur Khiri, Jalaun, Ambedkar Nagar and many other places in the State. Demand letter was also sent to the Governor demanding for immediate roll-back of the price hike and withdrawal of all false cases against CPI(ML) activists.
Karbi Anglong: CPI(ML), AISA, Karbi Students' Union, AIPWA, KLCA, KANKIS and KNKA – had called for 12 hour Karbi bandh against petroleum and LPG price hike which was significantly successful despite Youth Congress cadres threatening the people against the bandh and trying to force the business establishments to open. The people supported the bandh which was evident from complete shutdown except the emergency services like hospitals and examinations that were kept out of purview of bandh. Local markets, Govt. offices, businesses, transport, everything was closed and no administrative work took place.
Kolkata: Remembering the notorious Emergency day, 26th June, a joint protest march by some of the prime mass organizations of West Bengal, AISA, RYA, AICCTU, AIPWA and Gana Sanskriti Porisad demanded real justice for the thousands of Bhopal Gas Disaster victims. Protestors raised their voice against the shameful verdict and demanded that Warren Anderson be extradited and Dow Chemicals made to pay for cleaning up the polluted sites and for medical care of the victims. They also demanded scrapping of the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill to ensure that the tragedy of Bhopal and its shameful consequences are never repeated on Indian soil. Marchers also raised their voice against the recent oil price rise, deregulation of petrol prise and ongoing state atrocity in Lalgarh. The march started from College Square, Kolkata, and after the march a mass meeting was held at Esplanade Metro channel. Malay Tewary of AISA, Souvik Ghoshal of RYA, Indrani Dutta of AIPWA, Basudev Bose of AICCTU addressed the gathering. Members of Ganasanskriti Porisad sang songs. Amit Das Gupta presided over the meeting.
Protests were also held in Bihar, Jharkhand, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and many other states.
AIPWA Protests Price Rise
The All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) called for nation-wide protests on 29 June against the latest steep hike in prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas and deregulation of fuel prices.
In a statement issued today, AIPWA said, "India already has the shameful notoriety of having more than half of its women anaemic and suffering from malnutrition, while nearly half of its children suffer from malnutrition and India alone accounts for 21% of the deaths of children under the age of five around the globe. Hikes in fuel and cooking gas and deregulation of fuel prices inevitably leads to hikes in food and essential commodities – and can only make women and children even more vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition."
Protests demonstrations and burning of effigies were held under the banner of AIPWA on and around 29 June at district headquarters in several States including Bihar, UP, Andhra Pradesh, W Bengal, Tamilnadu and Assam.
AICCTU Fact-Finding Team Investigates Death of Worker in Chhattisgarh Factory
A fact-finding team of AICCTU visited Siltara-tada in Raipur district to investigate the death of a contract workers Patiram Yadav in the Godavari Steel and Power Ltd and subsequent protest by villagers. The team met villagers, workers and members of the victim's family. The team comprised Comrades Brijendra Tiwari, Ashok Miri, Narayan Banjare and Kanhaiyya Sahu.
The team was told that on 21 June at around 12 noon, the worker Patiram Yadav was sweeping the street inside the factory. A backing truck collided with him and he was killed. Villagers were informed of his death at 5 in the evening. They approached the factory management to discuss compensation but the officials gave no assurance and denied the need for any compensation. Villagers protested, and police arrested 9 of them – of whom two were Std. IX students and two were workers employed in the factory itself. On 22 June, after post mortem was conducted, the body of the dead worker was brought to Tada village and workers protested with the body at the gates of the factory. Only after this did the company give a cheque for Rs 4 lakh and Rs 50000 in cash to the victim's family. The management also assured that a child of the worker would be given a job in the factory and the worker's wife a monthly pension of Rs 5000. They also assured that they would secure the release of the arrested workers immediately and would not pursue any criminal charges against other workers.
The team feels that violation of security regulations led to the death of the worker. There was no cleaner when the truck was being backed. The factory management's highhandedness led to the protest by villagers. Labour laws and security regulations are being blatantly flouted inside the factory. Villagers are also infuriated by the attitude of the police – which turns a blind eye to illegalities by the factory management while targeting workers.
The team demanded Rs 10 lakh compensation for the family of the worker who was killed and implementation of the management's assurances; withdrawal of false cases against the villagers and release of those arrested; strict implementation of labour laws and security regulations; jobs for local people; strict curbs on pollution and prosecution of company officials under Section 304 (culpable homicide) for the worker's death.
Subsequently, an organisation of industrialists met the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh regarding this incident, and the police arrested three more people, including CPI(ML) leader Kanhaiyya Sahu who was among those who led the demonstration at the factory gate with the workers' body. Under pressure of that demonstration, the factory management had then agreed to meet some demands like a job and monthly pension for the victim's survivors – but since then they have backtracked from these assurances. Villagers are angry at this betrayal of the assurances and are determined to continue the struggle.
Call for Furthering Baba Nagarjun's Heritage
Jasam's 3rd Bihar State Conference
3rd Bihar State Conference of Jan Sanskriti Manch (Jasam) – 'dedicated to creation and struggle against the culture of loot and lies' – was successfully held at Samastipur on 25 June. On 26 June the Conference' delegates and guests proceeded to people's poet Nagarjun's village Vitrauni via Darbhanga. A seminar titled 'People's Movement and Poetry' was held at Darbhanga and street plays based on Nagarjun's poetries were performed at Tarauni as part of his birth-centenary celebrations.
Inaugurating the Conference, Jasam's General Secretary Pranay Krishna called for associating ever more cultural activists in preparation of a bigger movement of the peasants and workers against the rulers' culture of loot, lies and repression. He said of Baba Nagarjun's conviction about fundamental transformation not possible without the fundamental class of people and that he showed in his poetries about oppressed workers, about revolutionaries being sent behind bars or being killed in encounters. He said that Nagarjun will be the poet of the new nation true to the aspirations of the toiling masses and working classes. He emphasized the urgency of linking cultural work with ideology and also making it into a political activity, and here we have to learn a lot from Nagarjun.
Jasam's Vice President Ramji Rai hailed Nagarjun as the ruthless critic of Indian democracy whose basic character has been feudal, communal and casteist and which seeks blessings from imperialism. He always opposed the autocracy thrust on people in the name of democracy. For him the role of poetry was in creating a wave of revolution in India. He got involved in peasant movement along with Rahul Sankrityayan and Sahajanad Saraswati. Nagarjun always struggled against the forces that are preventing land reforms today in Bihar. Nagarjun never casually associated with a movement, but with his ideas and conscience.
The Conference was also addressed by Jasam's UP President Prof. Rajendra Kumar, Prof. Vipin Bihari of Progressive Writers' Association (Prales), Shankar Yadav of Democratic Writers' Association (Jales) and critic Ramnihal Gunjan among others. Pranay Krishna also released the first issue of Jasam's Bihar organ Samkalin Chunauti at the inaugural session. This issue is focused on Baba Nagarjun. Well known intellectuals like Namwar Singh, Manager Panday, Vishwanath Tripathi, Kedarnath Singh and Manglesh Dabral have written for the introductory issue. Also released was Kasim Baba's book 'Khusbuon ka Safar'. The inaugural session was conducted by Santosh Jha.
The organisational session specially underlined the possibilities of Jasam's expansion in northern Bihar. 41 member State Council and 15 member State Executive was elected this time. Story writer Suresh Kantak, Dr. Vindheswari, poet Jitendra Kumar, Pramod Yadav, theatre activist Deepak Sinha, Kalyan Bharti and Surendra Prasad Suman were elected State Vice Presidents. The State Executive re-elected Santosh Jha as State Secretary and Ramnihal Gunjan as State President.
Workers' Held Their Ground in Delhi
Ploys to Finish-off the Struggle is Defeated
As reported in the last issue (ML Update, Num.26) workers were continuing their dharna and strike in W.C. Steel Factory in Wazirpur Industrial Area against non-payment of minimum wages and ensuring their basic mandated rights. Perceiving the unrelenting mood of the workers, on 27th June goons were brought in service to attack the workers, chase them away, open the Factory gates and bring in outside workers. However, this (most tried ploy of the factory owners) failed and instead backfired when the workers instead of being feeling threatened got incensed and beat up and chased away the goons. The workers had told the goons not to try to break their strike and do the things they were going to do. The goons being goons took the workers for granted.
Then came the Local BJP Councillor, who is himself a local muscleman. He also tried to end the workers' struggle in favour of the owner. Later police came to arrest union leaders for attacking the goondas and workers entered into an argument with the police who were clearly siding not only with the Owner but also the goons who came to attack the workers. Next day a huge procession was taken out in the industrial area that also included student leaders and students from All India Students' Association (AISA). The procession then proceeded to DCP office and formed a gherao demanding for action even against Factory Owners' Association for their anti-worker stance. DCP was told that the administration is protecting not only the owners but also the goons. This mass action by workers put some pressure on the police who began looking for avenues for talks. The same procession then reached labour commissioner office and gheraoed his office too. He was told that if administration is bent on giving protection to the Owners who are violating all labour laws, instead of protecting the workers basic rights– then workers will intensify their agitation.
The militant mood of the workers who marched through the entire industrial area attracting immediate attention of thousands of workers facing similar exploitation, and gheraoed DCP and Labour Commissioner in quick succession helped to publicise the stark injustice thus creating pressure on all quarters of administration. The Owner's lawer came instead for talks in presence of Labour Inspector, Police officers and workers' leaders Comrades Mathura Paswan, Munna Yadav and RP Singh – where an agreement was made for implementing the minimum wages. Also, in their presence workers entries were registered and legalised plus their attendance was registered.
The Wazirpur Induatrial Area has seen something new- workers' victory in the face of challenge from Owners' Association, goons, bourgeois politicians of BJP etc. and police. The workers of the entire Wazirpur Industrial area are upbeat and it will definitely raise their consciousness for resolute unity and solidarity in similar or worse situations. It is noteworthy that workers of other factories have supported the protracted struggle with funds etc. Still three workers including two leaders have not been taken. However, it is no small victory.
Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication, R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22442790, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.cpiml.org