A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 13 No. 23 1 - 7 JUNE 2010
Gyaneshwari Express Tragedy:
Will We Ever Know the Truth?
Close on the heels of the Mangalore air crash, the Gyaneshwari Express accident near Jhargram in West Midnapore district of West Bengal has taken another heavy toll of human lives. Even nearly a week since the tragedy struck, the death toll is still rising and many of the critically injured are battling for their lives. Unlike most accidents, this one is however not attributed to usual factors like 'human error' or 'structural deficiency'. Reports link this tragedy to a suspected act of sabotage. While condoling this huge loss of lives, every justice-loving Indian would want this sabotage unearthed beyond any doubt and stern punishment meted out to the saboteurs.
The timing of the tragedy had its own political resonance. It happened soon after the beginning of a protest week called by Maoists in the five states of Chhattishgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar. In the political context of West Bengal, one could not also miss the fact that it happened just two days before polling was to take place for Kolkata Corporation as well as 81 other municipalities in the state. While the state government was quick to indicate a Maoist hand in the sabotage, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee began talking of high-level political conspiracy and called for a CBI probe into the incident. The Union Home Minister, on his part, has gone public with his observation that the 'needle of suspicion' points to the Maoists.
The Maoists are yet to make any official statement in this regard, but a statement attributed to one Bapi Mahato of the People's Committee against Police Atrocities (the most prominent banner of the Lalgarh agitation) has reportedly regretted the tragedy while owning responsibility for the damage done to the railway track. According to this statement, the PCPA had only wanted to derail a goods train and had not expected the Gyaneshwari Express to bear the brunt. If this statement is true, this is a shocking commentary on the anarchist degeneration of a movement that till recently boasted of a high degree of militant mass involvement. Sabotages and indiscriminate targeting and destruction of human lives cannot be accepted as a means of protest against police atrocities.
For Chidambaram and the UPA government, the Gyaneshwari Express tragedy has come in handy to intensify the ongoing Operation Green Hunt. On the eve of the June 3 meeting of the Cabinet Committee on security, Defence Minister AK Antony has already held a meeting with the three Service chiefs – Air Chief Marshal PV Naik, Admiral Nirmal Verma and General VK Singh – to discuss 'all dimensions' of the security situation. There is a growing clamour for Army involvement in Operation Green Hunt – after air support, there is now talk of pressing a few of the 63 battalions of Rashtriya rifles, the Army's specialized counter-insurgency force now operating in Jammu and Kashmir into the OGH campaign.
Municipal elections over (Mamata Banerjee has already swept the Kolkata Corporation polls and registered major advances in the 81 other municipalities that went to poll on May 30), it remains to be seen how far Mamata Banerjee will insist on her demand for CBI probe. Chidambaram's purpose has also been served, the 'needle of suspicion' is sufficient for him to ask for a 'wider mandate' to intensify Operation Green Hunt. Will we then ever get to know who really was responsible for the Gyaneshwari Express tragedy?
What lends credence to the 'needle of suspicion' theory is the growing list of actual Maoist actions like blowing off of roads, tracks and bridges and targeting of buses, trains and passengers. Such acts have nothing to do with the legacy of Naxalbari and the revolutionary communist trail blazed by this historic peasant rebellion. And this can certainly not be the way to oppose Operation Green Hunt. Even in Nepal, with all their visible mass strength, the Maoists found it difficult to enforce a general strike beyond a few days. Here Maoists are repeatedly calling bandhs without any mass involvement – resorting only to disruptive activities in the name of protest. Such disruptive tactics must be rejected by all forces involved in the battle for justice, democracy and social transformation.
Condemn the Israeli Government's act of terrorism against humanitarian aid workers
Demand International Sanctions on Israel
Demand an immediate end to India-Israel Arms deals
In flagrant violation of all international laws, Israeli commandos attacked a flotilla of aid carrying ships, firing at and killing over 19 unarmed peace activists, leaving dozens others injured. CPI (ML) condemns this blatant act of war crime and a crime against humanity in no uncertain terms. The ships were part of a peaceful humanitarian response by citizens from 50 countries against the continuation of a three-year old unlawful siege which has resulted in great physical and mental distress to the 1.5 million people entrapped within Gaza.
The Israeli government and its propaganda machinery have predictably sought to show the attack as an act of self defence, with the Israeli PM, Binyamin Netanyahu, giving his "full backing" to the Israeli Defence Forces after the raid, and the Defense Minister Ehud Barak blaming the Flotilla organizers for inciting the attack. Outdoing the two, Deputy Defence Minister, Danny Alalon said that the activists aboard the ship were linked to international terrorist organizations and were trying to smuggle in arms, claiming shamelessly that weapons were found on board. Video footage of the assault clearly shows that the Israeli commandos dropped from a helicopter onto the Turkish passenger ship, Mavi Marmara, and began to shoot the moment they landed on the deck at peaceful civilians without provocation. In short, it was premeditated slaughter in cold blood.
The Israeli actions have prompted an avalanche of protests the world over calling for international sanctions and isolation of Israel, with several European countries summoning their Israeli ambassadors for explanation. Closer home, the Ministry of External Affairs has issued an insipid condemnation while choosing to be conveniently silent on the increasing strategic and military intimacy between India and Israel. The words of condemnation will remain hollow and ritualistic until all arms deals with Israel are scrapped.
Since 2008, Israel has gained the status of India's top defence supplier. While these deals, secured in utmost secrecy, remain mired in corruption allegations, the moot issue is that through these deals India actually subsidises Israel's massive war economy and in fact contributes to the killings of Palestinians.
CPI(ML) stands in solidarity with the demand for international sanctions against the state of Israel and demands for an immediate lifting of the blockade in Gaza.
CPI(ML) calls for an urgent scrapping of India's military and strategic ties with Isreal.
CPI(ML) appeals all to protest against this blatant act of war crime and a crime against humanity.
Opportunist Combinations Responsible for Crisis –
CPI(ML) Warns against Misuse of President's Rule
After a month of political uncertainty, Jharkhand has once again been placed under President's Rule with the State Assembly kept in suspended animation. The opportunist BJP-JMM combine could not survive for even six months. Apart from the JMM's increasingly opportunist political role, the desperate political contention between the BJP and the Congress to control the seat of power in Ranchi is also squarely responsible for the current state of affairs in Jharkahnd.
While the Constitution provides for imposition of President's Rule in the absence of any government, there is every apprehension that the interregnum will be used to indulge in horse-trading and manufacture majority through unprincipled deals. In the event of no combination staking claim to form government, the CPI(ML) is opposed to the idea of a prolonged period of President's Rule and would instead favour fresh elections.
The State Standing Committee held an emergency meeting in Ranchi on 1 June in the presence of the Party GS to take stock of the Jharkhand situation. While maintaining political vigilance against any possible misuse of the President's Rule, the CPI(ML) has resolved to intensify mass struggles on the burning issues facing the people of Jharkhand and build a sustained campaign against eviction, mining loot, all-round corruption and state repression.
Support Air India Employees' Struggle for Trade Union Democracy and Workers' Rights
Even as workers from Gurgaon to Coimbatore are rising in struggles for Trade Union recognition, the headlines read 'recongition withdrawn for unions' and 'union offices sealed'.
Are the managements expecting the unions to act according to their wishes? Are the managements trying to send away the union from their premises as they send the non-conforming workers? It is the task of the Trade Unions to fight for the rights of the workers and definitely not dancing to the tunes of the managements.
The era of globalization has seen some Trade Unions convincing the workers about the 'views and worries' of the managements and bringing them in line with what the managements wish. This practice is now taking its toll and the employees of Air India, their Trade Unions have fallen victims. Air Corporation Employees Union and All India Aircraft Engineers Association, Trade Unions of Air India workers are derecognized by the Air India management and the offices of the said Trade Unions all over the country are sealed by the management.
Right from Goldman Sachs of America, through Satyam to BSNL have shown that the managements both in private and public sector seldom worry about the well being of the organization and its work force. Corruption rules the roost and the interests of the organization and the workers are driven to the backstage. We also witness that even Indian Army is no exception. Air India flight crash on May 22 has sent shock waves throughout the country and the black box was found only after 3 days. One will have to wait for the explanations of the American experts to know the cause of the crash.
But, one of the office bearers of the unions told the media that negligence of the management is the main reason behind the tragedy. Everything came to the fore from this point. Citing the gag order of the management that the employees cannot go public on anything that would cause disrepute to the organization, the management took action on the employee for breaking the gag order. Over 20,000 employees all over country resisted this move with their flash strike on May 25. Things came to a standstill and some business interests affected. This is more than enough for the management to go on further victimization. Management went to the court to get the strike declared illegal. Mumbai HC was hesitant to pass such an order, but Delhi HC acted promptly and declared the strike illegal.
The striking workers demanded withdrawal of the gag order. Is it not one of the tasks of the Trade Unions to question the inefficiency or negligence of the management? And more so, when it is a PSU and interests of not only the organization but also that of the public is at stake. Over 100 Air India employees are now dismissed and suspended for discharging their social responsibility!
Air India employees have not got their May salary till the day they began their strike. This is also one of their demands. Employees of Jet Airways were given pink slips last September all of a sudden. Two pilots were dismissed for forming union. They all together went on a strike but this heroic struggle ended with the striking workers agreeing for reduced salary. During this whole period too, the Air India employees were not getting their salary in time.
During last year struggle, the registration of National Aviation Guild, union of the pilots, itself was cancelled. When the union held that the Labor Commissioner cannot cancel registration and went to the Mumbai HC, they were denied justice. Now they are preparing to approach the industrial tribunal and the pilots are saying that they will knock the doors of SC too if necessary. Now, over 2,000 pilots all over the country have formed Airlines Pilots Association of India. Will they ever get any justice from a 'globalised' Supreme Court?
Air India management, which has cancelled the recognition and sealed the offices of the fighting unions which enjoy the support of majority of the employees, has announced that it is negotiating with other unions in the organization. Aviation minister Praful Patel has categorically said that there is no review on the action taken against the striking employees. He also said that the management is free to go on further actions on more employees if necessary. He said that he is concerned only about the interests of the organization. Now, who will punish the minister who ran his ministry in such a way that more than 150 people were charred to death? Is this the way to protect the interests of the organization? Air India employees have announced their next round of struggles against victimization from June 12, though the Delhi HC has banned any strike action till June 13.
Beyond the debates and discussions on how the Air India employees planned and conducted this strike action, and whether the timing of the action was right, the forthcoming struggle of the Air India employees is a struggle for Trade Union democracy and workers' rights. The Trade Union non-recognition ghost created by the private corporates of the land and MNCs has begun to haunt the PSUs too. This must be nipped in the bud. It is the immediate duty of the Indian working class to rise in solidarity with the Air India employees in their struggle for Trade Union democracy and Trade Union rights and the show the ruling class that it is not that easy to crush the Trade Union movement in the country.
AICCTU Protest in Delhi
AICCTU held a protest demonstration in capital at parliament street on 31 May and strongly condemned the series of unprecedented clampdown measures taken against Air India employees and their unions - ACEU and AIAEA.
Addressing the meeting held on this occasion, comrade Swapan Mukharjee, AICCTU General Secretary strongly condemned the unconstitutional actions of Air India Management. He said that in spite of the fact that the unions had withdrawn the strike after the intervention of CLC (central) and High Court orders, the management's crack-down measures clearly smack of utterly vindictive attitude. The civil aviation minister Mr Praful Patel came openly in support of management's unconstitutional, undemocratic and unprofessional actions. How can we forget that this is the same civil aviation minister, two months back, whose daughter diverted an Air India plane for the sake of watching a IPL cricket match!
AICCTU has supported the call of the above unions to go for strike on June 12 against the dictatorial attitude of the management and has demanded immediate withdrawal of all vindictive actions including terminations and suspensions taken against the employees and union office bearers. AICCTU demands of the govt. and management to immediately enter into dialogue with the unions to resolve the issues in the interest of employees, the national carrier and the public.
The protest was led by Santosh Rai, AICCTU Delhi Secretary, VKS Gautam, Construction workers union leader, Jagnarayan, Mathura Paswan, Shyam Kishore and many others.
'Rasta Roko' in Kalahandi
Thousands of CPI(ML) activists organised a 'Rasta Roko' (blockade) in Ulladani in Kalahandi district of Odisha to press for the demand of a bridge construction on Rahul river and land pattas to all tribals as per the 2006 Forest Rights Act.
The protesters also demanded to put a stop to illegal machine works under the MNREG Scheme, atrocities by forest department employees on tribals. The protest blockade resulted in the jam of more than 200 trucks and buses on the highway. This was lifted after the district administration came and assured of fulfilling the demands within two months.
Nilachal Bhattacharya and Ajaya Mandhata State Commitee Members of CPI(ML), Mahendra Parida State Secretary of AICCTU, Litulal, Convener of AISA in Kalahandi and Arjun led this protest. The demonstrators also demanded proper recognition by the state of the Tribal icon of the region Rindo Majhi and that his statue and a memorial be constructed.
New Branch Office at Gangavati
A new branch office of AICCTU was inaugurated by Com. Shankar, CCM, on May 31 at Gangavati in Karnataka. This second office was constructed through contributions from rice mill workers, who are in the path of struggles against illegal closures, demanding ESI benefit, PF and such other issues. There is no semblance of implementation of any labour law in the entire region of rice mills in which more than 10,000 workers are employed. They work in pathetic conditions where not even muster rolls are being maintained.
The workers organised a rally on March 23 demanding action against the management. On 20 May, hundreds of workers gheroed the office of local BJP MLA stressing their demands. Industrial disputes and other legal proceedings are going on. In the meanwhile, workers are exerting pressure on the administration, the MP and MLAs. Workers strongly condemned the pro-management attitude of the political bigwigs and the BJP government against the suffering workers.
The subsequent meeting of hundreds of workers, after inauguration of the office, chaired by J Bharadwaj, State Leading Team member of the party, was organized at a mill premises whose owner has been absconding for more than three months. The entire mill premise has been occupied by workers and is being used for the purpose of workers' meetings and struggles. Rice mill workers have started joining AICCTU rejecting established social democratic unions and their corrupt local leaders for their treachery.
AISA Demo Against Donations at HPHalli
AISA organized a rally and demonstration on 1 June against collection of exorbitant fees and donations for admissions in colleges in Harapnahalli taluk. They forced the college managements to repay excess amounts collected from students. The spirited rally was led by DM Prasad, member, NEC, and the subsequent meeting was addressed by Parameshwar, VP of AISA, Raghavendra, NCM, committee members Kumar and Manju. The meeting was presided over by Santosh, taluk president of AISA. Com. E. Ramappa, State Secretary called upon students to join the struggle for democracy and social transformation rejecting established political parties.
A new team of student leaders and hundreds of members have recently joined AISA in the taluk, deserting SFI due to its hand in glove operations with hostel warden against students. AISA leaders thwarted attempts by the warden for a compromise. Now, the students are being extended all facilities entitled to them, which was so long denied by the warden in connivance with the then student organization.
AIALA gives a call for an all India Rural Strike on 7 July 2010
AIALA has called for an All India Rural Strike on 7 July 2010. The deep agrarian crisis has resulted in the lack of food security, galloping price rise and the impoverishment of the rural poor. While NREGA was implemented by UPA under pressure of peoples' movements, its budgetary allocations still indicate lack of seriousness in ensuring any teeth to the implementation of the Act. The State governments without exception have failed to reach to the needs of livelihood, shelter and resource of the rural poor and have thus endangered their lives.
The All India Rural Strike has been called to demand a separate legislation for agricultural workers, ensure employment, higher wages and homestead land, ensure land reforms, check price rise and provision of work for each willing hand. The strike will be called in all areas of agricultural operations with the slogan 'Dam Bandho Kam Do' or Check Price Rise, Ensure Work.
AIALA has appealed to all democratic, progressive, pro-people peasant, women, student organisations and trade unions to stand in solidarity with the rural poor and ensure the success of the strike.
Hunger Death in Gaya
Ramashray Bhagat, 45, died of hunger on 14 May 2010 in his village Aanti which comes under Konch block of Tikari sub-division in Gaya district. No post-mortem was conducted in spite of the fact that the mukhiya knew the real cause of the death. Many people in the village had earlier demanded from the mukhiya to provide help to the starving family, but he refused to heed. The only help this poor family received from the govt. was after his death, a 'cremation fund' of Rs. 1500 under a govt. scheme through the mukhiya with the instructions of immediately cremating the body. This was meant to hush up the matter so that the world should not know someone died of hunger under Nitish regime. Party refused to accept the administrative 'report' of this death and demanded an action. The CPI(ML) organised a dharna at sub-division headquarter in Tikari on 18 May. The politics in this village is divided among various political trends as usual in Bihar villages. The local leaders of ruling JD(U) 'accused' us of raising this issue, while few families who are said to be supporters of CPI(Maoists) too abstained from this protest! But the general public came openly is support and they themselves collected fund for hiring a vehicle to reach the protest venue in Tikari.
An investigation team led by All India Kisan Mahasabha National General Secretary Rajaram Singh and CPI(ML) District Secretary Niranjan Kumar visited the village on 19 May. Incidentally, a Public Hearing on 'Starvation Deaths and the Question of Food Security' was held on the same day in Gaya town. This was attended by Supreme Court appointed Special Food Commissioner Harsh Mander and many other prominent citizens. Comrade Rajaram Singh also addressed this Public Hearing where he held government policies and intentions for the increasing food insecurity and hunger. He asked why people like Ramashray are deliberately excluded from the BPL lists?