A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 13, No. 31, 27 JULY – 02 AUGUST 2010
Corruption and Authoritarianism: Hallmarks of Nitish-Modi Regime
In parliamentary parlance, MLAs or MPs belonging to the government side are often described as comprising the 'treasury benches'. The treasury is obviously quite central to the notion of any government. Highlighting the centrality of the treasury to Nitish Kumar's theory and practice of 'good governance' in poll-bound Bihar is a staggering Rs. 11,412 crore treasury fraud. Successive annual reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) have been pointing to the growing discrepancy in amounts withdrawn from the Bihar treasury and accounts submitted by the Bihar government. Matters came to a head when on July 15 the Patna High Court ordered a CBI probe into this growing hole in Bihar's annual accounts.
The discrepancy detected by the CAG goes back to the year beginning on April 1, 2002 and runs through two successive regimes and the intermediate period of President's Rule to March 31, 2008. While the withdrawals thus began during the last years of Rabri Devi's reign as Chief Minister, the fraudulent withdrawals have grown dramatically in recent years and most of the withdrawals have happened under rural development and employment heads like Indira Awas, MNREGA, mid-day meals etc. Nitish Kumar never tires of telling the people of Bihar how he has 'reversed' the negative trends of the Lalu-Rabri era, but the treasury fraud, more than 11 times as big as the infamous fodder scam, serves as a stark reminder of the cruel continuity between Lalu Prasad's widely condemned misrule and Nitish Kumar's much-trumpeted reign of 'good governance'.
The NDA government of Bihar promptly went back to the High Court describing the CBI probe as a judicial infringement on the rights of the legislature. The High Court, while reserving its verdict on this petition has meanwhile stayed the CBI probe till its next order. But the same government revealed its true attitude to the rights of the legislature when as many as 67 opposition MLAs were suspended and women legislators manhandled in the name of enforcing 'order' in the Assembly. Ironically, while the High Court stayed the CBI probe, the government tabled the 2008-09 CAG report on the last day of the monsoon session in an opposition-free Assembly which exposed many more cases of fraudulent withdrawal.
During the fodder scam Bihar had heard stories of how bulls were supposedly transported on scooters. The latest CAG report reveals a similar storyline of foodgrains weighing more than 3,000 quintals which were meant for Kosi flood victims having been reportedly transported by scooters, motorcycles, jeeps and even non-existent vehicles! In maternity benefit schemes, there are withdrawals attributing five childbirths to the same mother over a period of two months! The government admits that there has been 'delay' in submitting accounts and to set it right the government has now ordered senior district and departmental officials to furnish all pending vouchers within a week! Indeed on July 24, the government told the High Court that bills worth nearly Rs. 5,000 crore had already been submitted! If these bills are now probed, we will surely get to hear many more incredible stories of monetary miracles by the Nitish-Modi duo.
The CAG reports clearly corroborate the public perception and experience of growing bureaucratic domination and 'developmental corruption' under the present government. In fact, the people themselves have unearthed many local-level scams related to MNREGA, PDS, housing and many other rural development schemes. We are also aware of the excise scam indicated by the erstwhile excise minister who was shown the doors for daring to write to the CM asking for a probe into the excise evaded by the growing army of liquor vendors. The CBI or any investigative agency will really have to cast its net pretty wide to get a proper assessment of the actual incidence of frauds in Nitish Kumar's paradigm of development and good governance.
If megabuck corruption is back in a big way, can criminalization – the notorious political cousin of corruption during the later years of RJD rule – be far away? The JD(U) and BJP have of course always been known for patronizing their own set of criminal-politicians. The Sunil Pandeys and Dhumal Singhs have been known to be an integral part of the JD(U) camp. And now with elections round the corner, Nitish Kumar is cosying up to a whole set of notorious mafia dons who had once been central to 'governance' under the RJD. Former central minister and RJD leader Mohammad Taslimuddin, a 'powerful' name in Kishanganj region in Bihar-Bengal border, has recently joined the JD(U). The other day Nitish Kumar visited the ancestral house of Anand Mohan in Panchgachia village in Saharsa district. Reports have it that Anand Mohan's wife Lovely Anand, a former MP, has been offered a senior party post in the JD(U). It is also believed that moves are afoot to induct Hina Sahab, wife of Siwan's notorious former MP Mohammad Shahabuddin, into the JD(U) fold.
Both Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi are products of the historic student-youth movement of 1974 which was directed primarily against corruption and authoritarianism. Today the very combination of corruption and authoritarianism has become the hallmark of the Nitish-Modi regime. Faced with charges of corruption, Nitish Kumar initially sought to dismiss corruption as a grassroot-level problem and now that report after CAG report indicts almost every department of his government for fraudulent withdrawals he is trying to pass it off merely as an issue of 'adjustment of accounts'! The High Court may have 'reserved' its judgment, but the ball is now in the court of the people and the people will surely not brook corruption and authoritarianism in the name of 'development' and 'good governance'!
Time to Encounter Modi's 'Fake Terrorist' Racket
mit Shah, who was Gujarat's Minister of State for Home Affairs as well as Law and Justice, has been charge-sheeted by the CBI for involvement in the fake encounters of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi. The evidence points to an organised racket by the Modi-led BJP Government of Gujarat to stage fake encounters of 'Muslim terrorists' in order to boost the Modi's image as an anti-terrorist hero.
Let us recall the facts. In 2005, the Gujarat police claimed to have killed a Lashkar-e-Taiyyeba terrorist Sohrabuddin Sheikh who had plotted to assassinate Narendra Modi. Sohrabuddin's brother doggedly pursued the truth – and eventually the chilling details emerged. An investigation by the Gujarat CID revealed that Sohrabuddin and his wife Kauser Bi along with close aide Tulsiram Prajapati had been picked up from an AP state transport bus by police personnel of Gujarat, Rajasthan as well as Andhra Pradesh, and taken to Gujarat. There Sohrabuddin had been killed in cold blood and declared a terrorist. The CID investigation found that Kauser Bi too had been killed and her body burnt because she was an eyewitness to Sohrabuddin's abduction and murder. In 2006, when the CID enquiry into Sohrabuddin's death began gaining ground, Tulsiram Prajapati too was shot dead by the Gujarat police. The latter claimed that Prajapati had escaped from jail and was shot in an encounter; but the CID established the encounter to be fake. The Gujarat CID had recommended a CBI enquiry. Since the Gujarat CID was clearly under compulsion and unable to pursue the case, the Supreme Court had handed the case over to the CBI. The CBI enquiry eventually led to the arrest of Gujarat top cops including the notorious DIG Vanzara. CBI's evidence further indicates the direct involvement of Amit Shah and his close aides in threatening as well as 'coaching' witnesses in the case.
The CBI charge-sheet indicates that Sohrabuddin was a small-time criminal who had been used as a pawn in an extortion racket (covering many states) run by senior police officers as well as top functionaries in the Gujarat Government like Amit Shah. When his utility was at end and powerful business interests put out a contract to get Sohrabuddin eliminated, the Gujarat police sought to kill two birds with one stone. Not only would they kill Sohrabuddin to suit various business interests; they would brand him as an 'Islamic terrorist' who was plotting to kill Modi and thereby make political capital out of Sohrabuddin's assassination.
Nor was Sohrabuddin Sheikh the only victim of such staged encounters in Gujarat. Vanzara's team had boasted of 'encountering' at least 10 'terrorists' since 2002 – and every time they claimed that the 'terrorists' were plotting to kill Modi or Pravin Togadia or some other top BJP leader. These include the 'encounter' of college student Ishrat Jehan and Javed – which have been found by a magisterial enquiry to be fake. This series of staged encounters indicates that the killings were not random acts by rogue policemen – rather they were organized to serve the political agenda of whipping up a bogey of 'Muslim terrorists' while boosting the BJP's image of being 'tough on terrorism.'
The BJP has responded to Amit Shah's arrest, predictably, by accusing the Centre of misusing the CBI and claiming that Shah's arrest is to appease 'vote-bank politics.' Further, it has demanded a 'national policy on encounter killings' – in other words, demanding a ban on any probes into encounter killings on the grounds that they will demoralize the police and 'deter police from killing terrorists.' The BJP should answer: was the murder of Sohrabuddin, Ishrat and others not a ploy to create a communal 'vote-bank'? The BJP should also take note of the fact that it was the Gujarat CID and not the CBI that first pointed the needle of suspicion towards Amit Shah. The Gujarat CID report had revealed that Shah had illegally demanded lists of witnesses yet to be probed by the CID, so that the list could be provided to accused police officers to enable them to 'take measures in their defense.' It was the Gujarat CID report that had pointed to "the collusion of [the] State government in the form of Shri Amit Shah, MOS for Home," and the possible "involvement of [the] State government in a major crime," and which had recommended a CBI enquiry in the first place. The CBI has only followed the leads and evidence provided by the Gujarat CID.
A national policy on encounter killings already exists: the NHRC has clearly laid down that each such killing must be impartially probed and an FIR of murder registered in each such case. But this policy is observed only in the breach. The Congress and the UPA Government should rather be asked: if a CBI enquiry in the Sohrabuddin case is revealing so many truths, why has the Central Government refused a CBI enquiry into the Batla House 'encounter'? Also, the question should be raised as to why the CBI has failed to follow up the probe into the role of Andhra Police personnel who provided the Gujarat police with all sorts of illegal services to help them abduct Sohrabuddin and Kauser Bi. Is it because such an enquiry would indicate the involvement of the police of Congress-ruled AP in the fake encounter?
The Modi Government's project of manufacturing 'fake terrorists' who were killed in staged encounters is an extension of its project of communal hate-mongering and genocide. The democratic and secular movement in this country cannot rest till Modi and his men be brought to book for their crimes of communal pogroms and fake encounters.
The history of the Singur movement is well-known. The fundamental issues now are return of the lands taken away forcibly, reclaiming the lands turned waste by the Tatas and establishing the rights of recorded and unrecorded share-croppers. The people of Singur are in no mood to allow these demands to be swept under the carpet of distribution of a few stalls or the proposed railway coach factory. The people knew our party's position independent from both the LF and Trinamul Congress (TMC). Being aggrieved at TMC's betrayal of these issues, the people began keeping themselves aloof from the TMC rallies and mass meetings and a section of them approached us to raise the issues at the state level. This constituted the backdrop of our 15th July Singur March, which started as a procession and culminated in a mass meeting.
The meeting was presided over by Comrade Tapan Batabyal, State Committee member of CPI(ML). Addressing the gathering Comrade Subimal Sengupta – Secretary of the West Bengal Peasant Association – said that the TMC had declared that lands would be returned to the peasants. But after the parliamentary elections they are keeping mum over the issue. The TMC is talking about change in the seat of power in West Bengal, but the panchayats led by the TMC have failed to play any role in changing the conditions of the poor people in the area.
Com. Prabir Halder, Secretary of the District Committee of CPI (ML), told the masses that the movement in Singur has developed on a solid peasant base. The Left Front Government had unleashed repression and taken away lands. But the people of Singur did not pardon them and they will have to exit from the seat of power in West Bengal. The TMC too has betrayed Singur, by shifting the movement to Kolkata. But the people of Singur are eager to build the movement anew. And the CPI(ML) will surely try to build up this movement.
In the midst of the mass meeting, in which about thousand people had gathered, some youths came and spoke about their demands. They said that there is so much talk about development – but when the agrarian crisis has assumed such a huge proportion, why could the panchayat samitis (which are under TMC control) not take any initiative to clean the river Kana and put it to use for irrigation purposes? This could be done through the NREGA work, they asserted.
Addressing the meeting, CPI(ML) State Secretary Comrade Partha Ghosh said that the ruling class parties fear and wish to suppress the peasant movement – in this respect, there is not much of a difference between the CPI(M) and the TMC. He further said that very recently a TMC leader visited Singur and he could sense that the people of Singur were getting aggrieved. Comrade Partha Ghosh told the masses that wherever the TMC controls the panchyats and the zila parishads, there is rampant corruption, party politicking and arrogance. He called upon the people of Singur to build movements once again and on a stronger premise.
CPI(ML) Politbureau member Comrade Kartick Pal observed that as the days of CPI(M)'s exit from power are approaching, the CPI(M) leaders are saying in the assembly that no more land will be taken away from the peasants. And the TMC on the other hand is indulging in empty populism. He further said that it is imperative to realise the essential class character of the TMC and build up movements on the issues on which the people of Singur are aggrieved.
Punjab: Flooded Fields, Callous Government
In the wake of severe floods in Punjab, a CPI(ML) team visited the affected areas. One team comprising the Party's Punjab Secretary Rajwinder Rana, State Secretary of Mazdoor Mukti Morcha Punjab, Bhagwant Singh Samao, President of Punjab Kisan Union Sukhcharan Singh Danevalia and Vice Presidents Ruldu Singh and Meet Singh visited affected villages of Mansa while another team lead by RYA Punjab General Secretary Hasmeet Singh, Cashier Ajaypal Natt, Chandigarh unit head Sawinder Singh, Rajinder Hodla and Amrit Pal Singh visited affected villages of Sangrur district.
While the fields of Punjab are flooded and its farmers and labourers in great distress, Scotch whisky rather than flood waters figure higher on the priorities of the Government and the ruling class parties. Even as Punjab fights the flood, 8 of its MLAs from the ruling Akali Dal and the BJP including the Assembly Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon and one MLA from the opposition Congress made a visit to Scotland to study whisky manufacturing processes there!
Punjab has nearly 12700 villages, of which more than 1200 are under flood water. In other words 10% of Punjab is flooded. Many leaders of SAD, BJP and Congress are making aerial and road visits to some affected villages, merely as a media photo-op. The Government has shown criminal laxity in safeguarding embankments and rushing relief to the flood-affected.
People said there is no arrangement for any vehicle to transport animals and valuables of poor farmers and labourers to safe places. Neither has the relief work for providing food, clean drinking water, animal fodder, medicine etc. being carried out in the affected villages. The MLAs and MPs are just visiting the main road and bridges where media is waiting and then after having themselves photographed they return. Such visits are in turn adding to the misery of affected people as the Government officials working in villages have to leave their work to welcome the VIPs. People also alleged that the administration and police department is biased as they are only saving villages of ruling party leaders and the rest are left to manage on their own. People also reported major corruption and bias in providing relief to the poor as there is no record being kept of all the relief being provided.
The CPI(ML) team demanded that the Punjab Government should immediately pay `20,000 per acre to farmers as compensation for destroyed crops and `10,000 to every labourer's family. Numbers of boats provided are very inadequate and hence more boats should be floated and help in form of tents, foodstuff, water, medicines etc. should immediately be sent to the people gathered at higher safe places. Medical camps should be opened in all the affected villages and free health-care should be provided to all so as to check any break out of an epidemic. Also the government should conduct a survey of loss of pumps, cattle and other assets and relief of `50,000 should be provided to poorer families whose houses have been damaged in floods.
AIPWA Fact-finding into Struggle against Land Grab
A water reservoir is due for construction by the Department of Water Resources of Jharkhand, on the Raisa river at Gitildih village of Humta Panchayat under Bundu block of Ranchi district. The reservoir incorporates a large dam, spillway, outlets, two canals and other structures. According to the information received from Bundu's Divisional Irrigation Officer, the sanctioned amount for the project is Rs. 52,26,80,700. This project requires 11, 16, 000 square metres or 112 hectare of land is to be acquired, of which 75.60 hectares of land will fall in the submergence area. The people of Humta, Gitildih, Hesada, Kajibiru and other villages of the Humta panchayat are furious at such a project that will dislocate them en masse. They apprehend a brutal and forcible eviction from their land – as has been the norm for land acquisition all over Jharkhand.
A four member fact-finding team of activists of All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) comprising Singi Khalkho, Shanti Sen, Sarojini and Soni Tiria visited the project site. The main findings of the team are outlined below.
No attempt was made to generate a general or any consensus among the villagers before starting work on the project. The work has been forcibly started without prior payment of the compensation thereby violating the Rehabilitation and Resettlement policy. The Department of Water Resources is getting the work done through local strong man Phanibhusan Singh Munda (also the Gram Pradhan of Humta). CPI(ML) leader in the region Comrade Rameshwar Munda who has been leading protest against the project was assaulted by Phanibhusan Singh and his hit-man Buti Singh Munda. An FIR was lodged against this incident but police is yet to take any action.
About 1500 poor tribals will be displaced and lose about 150 acre of rayati land. The amount of compensation fixed per acre by the Department of Water Resources is far below the market rate. This project is a serious threat to environment also as it will cause direct deforestation in about three hundred acres of land of which 23 acre is 'khutkatti' jungle. The deforestation will seriously affect the livelihood of many tribal families who are dependent on the forests. Initially more than 300 trees have been felled. The tribals have not yet been compensated for the trees as promised by the Government officials.
Besides, the project is not even practical. According to the Irrigation officer the reservoir will irrigate 7800 acres of land; how can this justify the destruction of hundreds of acres of cultivable land and hundreds of acres of forests for the project?
The team was told by local people that the Maoists are supporting the project in return for a 'levy,' and that they have threatened the villagers opposing the project.
The AIPWA team found that the villagers have been agitating against this project since long. In February the villagers held a protest demonstration and did not let the 'shilanyas' (laying of foundation stone) take place. When the officials came for "bhoomi pujan" on 4 March the protestors forced them to go back. On 6 July they again chased away the officials and contractors who had come to initiate the project. The villagers are suspicious that any time forces can be deployed against them, in order to forcibly start the project construction work. To prevent smuggling in of machines on the site at nights, the women of the village are sleeping under the open sky to maintain a vigil.
Goons and musclemen have been hired to quell the protests. The villagers are quite clear that this project harbours fewer benefits and greater disasters for them. Therefore, AIPWA has demanded that the project be scrapped in the interests of people's lives and livelihood.
Party's Education Camp in Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand unit of the Party organised a two day long (24-25 July) education camp for comrades of Nainital and Udhamsingh Nagar. Apart from the secretaries of Party branches and area committees the leading comrades from mass organisations attended the camp. In total, 22 comrades including two women from the two districts attended the education camp that focused on following topics – How did our Party Evolve, Party Programme, Communist Party and Mass Organisations and fourth was Marxist Philosophy. Comrades Purshottam Sharma, KK Bora and Girija Pathak were the teachers and facilitators for the camp.
The students and teachers in the end stressed the need for constant and rigorous study combined with research and comprehending the revolutionary essence of Marxism if the revolutionary communists are to challenge the currently intensifying predatory onslaught on people by the recession hit capitalist system. Still greater stress was put on the urgent need to educate each Party member in every branch and area committees and assist them in equipping themselves with the Marxist tools for comprehending the developments and apply their skills to build a democratic and socialist India.
Madurai: Rural Workers Strike and After
Rural workers strike of 7 July was a success in Madurai. On 7th July more than 350 rural workers most of them women assembled in front of the BDO office at Vadipatti. Strike was total in two Panchayats and more than thousand workers struck work as per an estimate. While preparations were on we faced sever resistance from the local Panchayats and DMK, the ruling party. The police denied permission for propaganda and gathering. In several Panchayats where workers gathered to catch transport to reach the BDO office for demonstration were threatened by the DMK members and prevented from reaching their destination.
Next day work was denied at Kutladampatti to those who participated in strike, and in few other Panchayats they faced threat of no work coming their way. It was decided to visit a work site along with AIALA to verify our charges of irregularities in rural job guarantee programmes like MNREGA.
Dozens of women workers from two panchayats of Kutaladampatti and Karuppatti gathered on 20th July at the BDO office and entered her chamber demanding job cards. One Panchayat has since then given job cards and work and in the other Panchayat fight is on. Due to our struggle almost all the Panchayats in the block had to release job cards.
On 21st July the APO visited Kutaladampatti Kanmoy (Lake) along with us and met the workers. He found most of the charges made by us were true (no work shelters, un-democratic/feudal approach of the Panchayats, not providing job cards, non issuance of duplicate cards, denial of cards to migrating workers and so on) In our presence an official warning was issued to Panchayats against the irregularities. These initiatives have bolstered people's faith in our Organisation. It was decided to launch a political campaign in the district against the DMK's anti-poor actions on the ground along with launching AIALA's membership cmapaign.
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