A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 14, No. 22, 24 – 30 MAY 2011
POSCO: Glaring Instance of Corporate Loot and Corruption
In spite of ample evidence of rampant violations of laws on part of the Korean company POSCO and the Odisha State Government, the UPA Government's Ministry of Environment and Forest has given POSCO a 'green' signal of forest and environmental clearance. In doing so, the MOEF has ignored the reports of two expert Committees appointed by the Ministry itself, which had concluded that the Odisha Government violated the Forest Rights Act to benefit POSCO.
Following the clearance, forced land acquisition in the Jagatsinghpur area has begun, with heavy police deployment in the area. The villagers who have been bravely resisting land grab are threatened with intensified repression if they challenge the ongoing land grab.
The MOEF has granted clearance to POSCO, accepting the Odisha Government's claim that the resolutions by the Palli Sabhas of Dhinkia and Govindpur in which 65 % of the villagers participated and rejected the proposal to divert land, are false. Ironically, in his order, the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has said, "Faith and trust in what the state government says (is) an essential pillar of cooperative federalism" and "the bona fides of a democratically elected state government cannot always be questioned by the Centre." On what basis does Ramesh conclude that the democratically expressed mandate of the gram sabhas carries less weight than the word of a state government? Does his respect for democratic mandates extend only up to state government – not to the village-level democratic bodies, in which villagers directly express their mandate?
Actually, Ramesh's remark about federalism lets the cat out of the bag: the UPA Government is acting in shameful collusion with the Odisha Government in violating laws to appease corporate interests. In his order Ramesh admits that the "provisions for the export of iron ore" (POSCO will have rights to mine 600 million tonnes of ore over 30 years, of which 60% will be exported to POSCO's Korean steel mills) made him "deeply uncomfortable with this project." He has also admitted that he "could well have waited for the MOU to be renewed and for a final decision of the Supreme Court" before giving clearance. The Supreme Court is hearing an appeal on the Orissa High Court's verdict cancelling the Orissa Government's out of turn allotment to POSCO (jumping a queue of 200 applicants) and huge iron ore mining permits. Ramesh's clearance is all the more legally questionable because they are being granted on the basis of a 2005 MOU, which has lapsed and is yet to be renewed.
Anti-corruption activists have pointed out the similarities between the POSCO case and the 2G scam in which spectrum was handed over cheap to companies in violation of regulations in the 2G scam. In the POSCO case, massive natural resources - iron ore, land, forests, water, and a harbour – are being handed over to a company in violations of law. It should be noted that the captive port for POSCO was hastily cleared in the very last phase of A Raja's tenure as Environment Minister. Raja is now in jail in the 2G case, and the CBI is investigating corruption during his tenure as Telecom Minister as well as his earlier tenure as Environment Minister. Why has Ramesh granted clearance to POSCO without even waiting to see if the CBI finds any evidence of corruption in Raja's role in clearing the captive port for POSCO?
In January this year, Ramesh had remarked on POSCO's "strategic significance for the country" (i.e relations between Korea and India); and now he is citing 'faith and trust' in state governments. These indicate that the clearance for POSCO is not based on whether or not POSCO has the necessary legal basis for clearance, but on political considerations. Not long ago, when the UPA Government had been forced to distance itself from the Vedanta project, Rahul Gandhi had called himself the 'soldier' of the adivasis of Odisha in their battle against land grab. The 'soldier' is silent now as his Government colludes with the Odisha Government to wage war on laws, democracy and people's survival – all to appease huge MNCs.
The POSCO 'scam' – in which laws of the land are violated to allow a private MNC to loot precious natural resources of the country and make profits to the tune of lakhs of crore rupees – at the cost
of livelihood and survival of tribals and poor villagers in one of the poorest states of the country – is the latest shameful instance of corruption and corporate loot, facilitated by the Odisha Government and the UPA Government at the Centre. It calls for cancellation of the project, a thorough investigation and punishment to those guilty of breaking the laws to benefit corporate interest.
The Collapse of the 'Left Front' in West Bengal and the Way Ahead for the Indian Left
- Dipankar Bhattacharya
The inevitable has finally happened. The Left Front government of West Bengal, the longest-serving government in India's parliamentary history, has been trounced quite miserably in the recent Assembly elections. The defeat certainly has not come all of a sudden – all recent elections including the 2008 panchayat elections, 2009 Lok Sabha elections, 2010 municipal elections and several by-elections had clearly revealed that the CPI(M)-led dispensation had been losing ground quite alarmingly. The 2011 Assembly elections marked the culmination of this process of decline of the CPI(M) in West Bengal.
Large sections of the mainstream media, in West Bengal as well as elsewhere, have tended to treat the defeat of the CPI(M) and its allies in West Bengal as a turning point signifying an end of sorts for the Left in India. They also understandably rush to attribute it to the Left's dogmatic opposition to neo-liberal policies and Indo-US strategic partnership. The advice naturally follows that if the Left has to stay relevant it will have to shed its dogma and reduce Left politics to just providing better governance without challenging the policy environment and the politico-economic direction chosen by the ruling elite.
The problem with this analysis is that it has nothing to do with what has actually happened in West Bengal. In fact, the Left Front government of West Bengal had precisely begun to follow this much advised path of ruling class wisdom. A few years ago, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was the greatest darling of the corporate media, much like Chandrababu Naidu in his heyday or Narendra Modi, Naveen Patnaik and Nitish Kumar in their current phases. Some media houses had even enthusiastically elevated him to a new brand of Left politics in India, 'brand Buddha' as they fondly called it. The CPI(M) has not gone down in West Bengal resisting the LPG policies, it has just paid the price for daring to implement those policies by trampling upon the rights and interests of the rural poor and the labouring peasantry.
Let us look at the context and circumstances of the CPI(M)'s ouster in West Bengal. Its government has not been toppled by a hostile Centre. Nor has the ouster been scripted by the Tatas or some major corporate lobbies for being denied entry into West Bengal or being driven out of West Bengal through militant trade unionism. What has cost the CPI(M) its flagship state is not a feudal backlash against the party's much-trumpeted record of land reforms. Nor is it a revolt of an upwardly mobile middle class angered by the non-fulfilment of its consumerist dreams of globalised grandeur. On the contrary, it is essentially a peasant rebellion on the good old plank of land, livelihood and democracy which has gone on to produce this most spectacular electoral drubbing for the CPI(M).
If the dominant media analysis of the CPI(M)'s West Bengal debacle is totally misplaced, and the therapy suggested mischievously motivated, the CPI(M)'s own response is nothing but characteristically evasive and hollow. Ever since the peasant protests started in Singur five years ago, the CPI(M) dismissed them as an anti-industry campaign and accused whoever stood by the protesting peasants of Singur of being a Narodnik or Luddite. When Nandigram happened, the CPI(M) called it an anti-Left conspiracy hatched jointly by the far-right and the ultra-left. When Lalgarh revolted against police atrocities, the CPI(M) made common cause with the Centre to unleash a combined paramilitary campaign. It is only after the drubbing in Lok Sabha elections that the CPI(M) started admitting that something had gone wrong and promised to rectify and bounce back.
But there was never any clear admission of major political mistakes, no sincere apologies tendered for the forcible land acquisition in Singur or the massacres in Nandigram and certainly no attempt at course correction. This is why Nandigram was repeated in Netai and CPI(M) leaders continued to make arrogant boasts and several leaders went on to deliver vulgar sexist speeches, reflecting a feudal-patriarchal mindset, all through the election. The debacle in the Lok Sabha election was reduced to a simple statistical deficit of only 11 lakh votes and words went around that the deficit could easily be neutralized by ensuring a few additional votes in every booth!
Even now CPI(M) leaders talk in terms of bringing back the 'deserters' and regaining the confidence of the people who have been 'alienated'. There is absolutely no recognition of the sense of derailment that all sincere Left activists and well-wishers feel so acutely and of the fact that what the CPI(M) is now confronting is its own increasing isolation and even insulation from the broad masses of working people and large sections of the progressive democratic intelligentsia, and not just the problem of managing a few 'dissidents' or 'deserters'!
Trying to put up a brave face, CPI(M) leaders now present the West Bengal debacle as a mere defeat in one election after seven victories in a row. They would like us to believe that the people of West Bengal had desired change just for the sake of it, perhaps because of some time-induced fatigue and there is nothing more to it. They also tell us that elections are just a part of their overall political activity, and a poor showing in one election has therefore no political implication. But however much they may try to downplay the impact of the Bengal blow, the fact remains that West Bengal is not just any average state for the CPI(M). For three and a half decades now, West Bengal was the biggest bastion of the CPI(M) and what the CPI(M) has just experienced in Bengal is not a normal election defeat as it experiences in Kerala in every alternate elections, but a veritable collapse of its 'impregnable fortress'.
We are reminded time and again by CPI(M) propagandists of their achievement in carrying out land reforms in West Bengal and establishing the panchayati raj in West Bengal. This inspires little conviction today when the CPI(M) is being indicted by the rural poor precisely for reversal of land reforms, eviction of peasants and share-croppers and large-scale denial of routine panchayat benefits to the deserving and the needy. It is quite like the Congress talking of bringing independence and parliamentary democracy at a time when the people experience growing US domination in every sphere and systematic assault on democracy through draconian laws and military campaigns!
Ironically, the West Bengal elections have not only extracted a heavy price from the CPI(M) for its shameless acts of opportunism and renegacy, they have also exposed the utter political bankruptcy of the Maoists. In the wake of the peasant revolt of Nandigram and the adivasi resistance of Lalgarh, Maoists had found a fertile political ground in the forested areas of the western region of West Bengal called Jangalmahal. They flowed with the growing tide in West Bengal, declared their support for Mamata Banerjee as the next CM and got sensational and often sympathetic coverage in the West Bengal media. But they were only interested in their kind of armed actions, indiscriminately targeting CPI(M) leaders and activists and derailing the powerful militant mass upsurge of Lalgarh in the face of heightened state repression. When Chhatradhar Mahato, the main surviving face of the Lalgarh movement decided to contest the Assembly election from Jhargram, the Maoists virtually disowned him and many of them projected it as a diversion that would help the CPI(M) and damage the TMC's prospect! In the event, while the TMC candidate won the seat, Chhatradhar finished third with an impressive support of 20,000 votes.
The Mamata Banerjee-led dispensation has now taken over. As reflected in the thumping win of the TMC-Congress combine, one can clearly see expressions of a massive popular euphoria on the streets of West Bengal. Perhaps such early euphoria is quite understandable at this hour of change and transition, and there is undoubtedly an element of spontaneity in it, but one can also clearly discern the beginning of a very conscious, concerted and comprehensive campaign by the Right to use this euphoria as a veritable licence to launch all kinds of attacks on all streams of Left politics and ideology. An aggressive rightward shift would of course be out of tune with the overwhelming spirit of the West Bengal verdict and revolutionary communists will have to boldly invoke and nurture the popular democratic core of the protest movements of the recent past to challenge and confront the unfolding rightwing agenda.
It remains to be seen how the CPI(M) proposes to reinvent itself as an opposition party in West Bengal. After 34 years of government-centric existence, the implications of the party being forced to go back to the people as an opposition party, and what is more, as a professed party of class and mass struggle, will be quite interesting to watch. For revolutionary communists and all sections of sincere Left forces, the present juncture is surely an hour of profound possibilities and challenges both within West Bengal and on the national political plane. The CPI(M) model of government-centric 'Left unity' has suffered an unprecedented blow and the time has surely come for the fighting Left to regroup and march ahead with the agenda of people's struggles.
In December 2007, the CPI(ML)'s 8th Congress held in Kolkata had issued the clarion call: "People's Resistance, Left Resurgence". There has been no dearth of powerful struggles in the country during the last two decades of neo-liberal offensive, the Left can move forward only by forging stronger ties with the people and organically championing and leading the struggles of the people through to the end. And with the government-centric, CPI(M)-centric image of the Left getting a body blow, it is indeed time that the role of the Left as a consistently democratic and fighting force acquired greater prominence and the revolutionary Left came to the fore as the driving force of the Left camp in India.
UP: Statewide Programmes to Demand Resignation of Mayawati Govt
CPI(ML) Observed 23 May in Uttar Pradesh as demand day to press for the resignation of the Mayawati Govt in the State citing deep involvement of the State Govt in corruption, patronising the criminals, smothering the democratic rights by virtually banning dharna and demonstration and killing of the framers in Bhatta-Parsaul villages recently.
Dharnas and demonstrations were organised at district headquarters and memorandums for the Governor were handed over to the respective dist. magistrate as part of the demand day. CPI(ML)'s State Secretary Comrade Sudhakar Yadav led the dharna and demonstration at Mirzapur dist. HQ. Rallies were taken out in Chandauli, Varanasi, Jalaun and Robertsganj and Ghorawal under Sonbhadra. An impressive march was held in Sitapur followed with dharna at the Dist. HQ. Dharna was also held at Ballia, Mau, Kanpur and Ambedkar Nagar. Demand day was also observed in Lucknow, Gonda, Lakhimpur Khiri and Deoria among other districts.
Protest Rally against POSCO by Left Parties in Bhubaneswar
The callous and unaccountable Naveen government of Odisha showed it's anti-people brutal face again on 20th May when the police force stealthily entered Polang village in Jagatsingpur district of Odisha at wee hours to acquire land for handing over to the POSCO Company. Prior to this game-plan, the State Government had informed the media on 18th May 2011 that there would be no acquisition of land. Now it's confirmed that the state government was lying to the people of the State and create confusion for smooth acquisition and handing over of land to POSCO.
Huge police force is currently camping at Balithutha, the strategic entry point to the proposed villages. It was informed that at around 4 a.m. on 20 May, 4 battalions of police entered Polang village and started destroying the beetle vines. The process is supervised by the district administration of Jagatsingpur and Industrial Development Corporation (IDCO). The administration is planning to destroy the beetle vines, take into control the plantations, prawn cultivation areas, agricultural lands and the homestead land of the people. Four Left Parties – CPI(ML)Liberation, CPI(ML)New Democracy, CPI(ML) and SUCI jointly held a protest rally in front of the State's Legislative Assembly to protest this and demand withdrawal of troops immediately from the area. The rally was participated by seven hundred activists.
Comrades Khitish Biswal (Odisha State Secretary of CPIML-Liberation), Sivram from CPI(ML), Raghunath Padhi of CPIML-New Democracy and Sadasiv Das from SUCI addressed the protest meeting. Com. Mahendra Parida and Com. Ashok Pradhan of Liberation conducted the protest meeting. A memorandum was also handed over to the Governor for immediately stopping the acquisition of land in violation of all laws.
All India Kisan Mahasabha Holds Massive "Chetawani" Rally in Dehradun
Hundreds of poor people from the forests of Uttarakhand (dwellers of forest-villages and forest-settlements), carrying red flags and banners marched on the streets of Dehradun on 18th May raising revolutionary slogans and demanding their just rights from the Govt. The "Chetawani" (warning) rally started from the railway station that culminated into a mass meeting at Gandhi Park.
All India Kisan Mahasabha has been undertaking campaigns for quite some time to highlight the issues of and organise the dwellers of forest-villages and forest-settlements in the foothills of Uttarakhand and the people of hilly origins. It is to be noted that even after 65 years of Independence these people are yet to see even basic civil rights. Panchayatiraj is still a distant dream for them and neither NREGA seems to have been made for them. Even the Forest Rights' Act 2006-07 could not provide concession or relief for the hundreds of thousands of dwellers of these forest villages and settlements. These people hardly ever get even after herculean effort the election photo identity card, ration card, birth and death certificates etc. – which the Govt. holds so necessary. The Forest Dept treats them as if they are its permanent slaves. Forest Dept extracts fees for various livelihood activities by these people. It doesn't even allow them to erect tin-shades to protect them and their cattle from winds and storms. These are only but a few examples of the exploitation and torture by the forest dept.
The AIKM has launched the campaign to end this situation responsible for their horrible living conditions. On 2nd February it had organised a big rally in Haldwani which was one of the biggest demonstrations in Haldwani. That rally had made the Nainital administration to wake up and take note of this.
As part of the preparations for the 18 May rally, activists and comrades campaigned in forest-villages and settlements from Nainital upto Haridwar. They even mobilised people (though the participation was not thick) from those villages which were declared Maoist by the Uttarakhand administration and even meetings were not being allowed by the police in the villages.
The rally was addressed by CPI(ML) Central Committee member Comrade Rajendra Pratholi who emphasised on militant peasant movement to protect the interests of poor peasants today when the governments are hell bent on implementing pro-corporate policies. Various other AIKM and Party leaders – Comrades Raja Bahuguna, Purshottam Sharma, Bahadur Singh Jangi, Mohammad Momin, Kailash Pandey, Man Singh Pal and Anand Negi among many others addressed the rally. A memorandum for the Chief Minister was received by the city magistrate at the meeting venue. The rally also passed several resolutions.
AISA Demo against Corruption and Donations at Davanagere
AISA organized a demonstration at Davanagere on 24 May 2011, in front of the office of the District Commissioner, as a part of an all-India campaign against corruption and also against capitation fee and donations in college admissions. The protestors demanded stringent action against the corrupt and against all-pervading corruption.
The protestors demanded a Monitoring Committee comprising academicians, students and parents with sufficient powers to act upon the institutions and colleges that collect illegal donations from students. They also demanded reduction in entrance fee, free application forms for admissions and return of extra fees collected for revalutaion of II PU exam papers. Com. Prasad, State Convenor and NEC member led the demonstration while NCM Manju, District convenor Prakash, District president Rekha, VP Sushma, secretary Manoj and Ganesh addressed the gathering.
Demonstration Against Suvarna Krishi Bhoomi Scheme at HPHalli
The BJP state government in Karnataka declared a Suvarna Krishi Bhoomi Scheme which is to benefit small farmers who own less than 5 acres of land. The government will provide an assistance of Rs.5000 per acre, limited to a ceiling of Rs.10000 for 2 acres, for each acre of cultivation of particular crops that include arecanut, coconut, oil seeds, pulses, fruits and cotton in a new plot of land and not on the existing one. Paddy and other popular crops are not included that excludes vast majority of farmers from the purview of the scheme. The government has also stipulated so many riders for cultivating inter-crops that finally makes poor farmers ineligible to get any benefit out of the scheme. It has also introduced lottery system to decide beneficiaries.
AIALA and the party organized a demonstration on 23 May 2011 at Harapanahalli demanding an assistance of Rs. 50000 to all small and marginal farmers without any conditions. The protestors also condemned lottery scheme instead of extending benefits to all. The Party State Secretary Ramappa led the demonstration while Chowdappa, AIALA state secretary, Parasuram, district president, Prasad, AISA Convenor addressed the gathering along with others.
Condolence for Mahendra Singh Tikait
The All India Kisan Mahasabha (AIKM) expresses condolences at the passing of farmers' leader Mahendra Singh Tikait. Mahendra Singh Tikait will be remembered as a peasant leader who expressed peasant anger against India's rulers in this era of liberalisation and agrarian crisis, which are causing severe distress and even suicides among the peasantry. AIKM General Secretary Com. Rajaram Singh and Vice President Com. Prem Singh Gehlawat attended the funeral at Sisoli in Uttar Pradesh on 16 May.
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