Thursday, June 16, 2011

ML Update 25/2011

ML Update
A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol.  14                          No. 25                                                                                                                           14 - 20 June 2011


UPA Government Illegally Favours Oil Companies:

Yet Another Mega Scam

A draft report of the CAG has exposed yet another "nexus" between the Government and private corporations, in which the UPA Government's Oil Ministry and Director-General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) manipulated rules to favour private oil companies like Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), Britisg Gas (BG) and Cairn India. The CAG has revealed how the Oil Ministry and DGH allowed RIL to gain "undue benefit" by claiming capital expenditure costs inflated to the tune of 117% in the Krishna Godavari Basin. A joint venture of Reliance, BG and ONGC in the Panna-Mukta-Tapti oil fields, has also been accused for similarly inflating development costs at the cost of the Government exchequer. The Oil Ministry therefore facilitated these private companies in robbing the public exchequer to the tune of crores of rupees.

The CAG reveals how RIL bought diesel for its oil-field development activities at a higher price from from its own affiliate Reliance Petro Marketing (RPML), by falsely showing RPML to be the lowest bidder instead of the state-run Indian Oil Corporation. The CAG report also shows how companies like Cairns India were allowed to violate rules by exploring additional areas beyond the block stipulated in its contract in Barmer, Rajasthan. The CAG report also found that the government used a "backdoor method" to allow private operators to conduct oil exploration beyond the period stipulated in the contract.

Nor can the UPA Government claim ignorance of these serious cases of corruption in the oil sector. A former Revenue Secretary, (Mr. E.A.S. Sarma) has, in the wake of the CAG revelations, reminded Manmohan Singh that he repeatedly alerted the PMO to the irregularities in auditing capital costs, pricing and so on in the case of the RIL in the KG Basin and Cairn in Barmer. He has said that the PM turned a "blind eye" to these warnings, giving him the impression that that "the various government agencies including the PMO are apparently trying to hide the facts from the people of this country to benefit the oil companies."

Not only did the private oil companies rob the public exchequer; the inflated costs claimed by them also resulted in an inflated price of gas for customers – especially imposing a further burden on the crisis-ridden farmers who are important consumers of fertilizer and power. 

This latest scam has once again underlined that government complicity in corporate loot of natural resources lies at the heart of corruption in today's liberalized economy. The UPA Government seems all set to deny the evidence of the oil scam – as they once tried to deny the 2G spectrum scam. The Congress has been raising questions about "leakage" of the CAG report to the public. But an awakened public will not allow this scam to be swept under the carpet, and will certainly insist on the concerned government and DGH officials as well as private players being brought to book.  

If corporate plunder is a major concern, the people's struggles at Jagatsinghpur (Odisha) and Gurgaon (Haryana) underline that the policy of corporate appeasement takes a huge toll on democracy too. In spite of the evidence of corruption and multiple instances of violation of laws, and running rough shod over the villagers' rejection of the project expressed democratically through the gram sabha mandates, the UPA Government granted clearance to the POSCO project, and the Odisha Government is pushing ahead with forcible land acquisition, unleashing armed police platoons against the villagers who have formed human barricades to defend their land and crops.

Gurgaon in Congress-ruled Haryana has long been the Mecca of corporate capital, thanks to the free hand to corporations to flout laws and suppress all industrial democracy with fleets of private 'security guards' aided by a pliable police force in their service. The strike of workers at the Maruti factory in Manesar (Gurgaon) has struck at the roots of this 'corporatocracy,' with workers agitating for their legally mandated right to form a union of their own choice. While the factory owners and company managements have long been united all over the country in suppressing this basic component of industrial democracy, workers all over the country are now coming together to support their worker comrades in the Maruti factory. As we go to press, the announcement of a 2-hour 'tools down' strike by 65 unions in Gurgaon, and the clear indications of support from workers in Greater Noida and automobile workers across the country has finally brought the Haryana Government to the negotiating table.

If the CAG revelations of the oil scam remind us that the anti-corruption movement must tackle the question of the Government's policy of enabling corporate loot, the people's struggles against POSCO and for workers' democratic rights at Gurgaon are a reminder that corporate corruption is inseparably linked to the question of democracy. We must do all we can to link the anti-corruption movement with the ongoing movements of peasants, adivasis and workers that are confronting state repression and defending democracy. 

Joint Left Dharna Against Corruption, Price Rise and Authoritarianism


A massive dharna was organised on June 15 at Jantar Mantar (Parliament Street) by over thirty Left political parties including CPI(ML), CPI and CPIM, as well as mass organisations of student, youth, women and workers as well as other and democratic groups and concerned citizens. Through this joint dharna, the Left parties held the central government responsible for rising prices and rampant corruption, and for the assaults on democracy. In particular they challenged the Government's attempts to put Parliament Street out of bounds of protestors.

Kavita Krishnan addressed the dharna on behalf of the CPI(ML). The dharna was conducted by Amarjit Kaur (CPI) and Vijender Sharma (CPI-M) and other speakers included Atul Kumar Anjaan (CPI), as well as representatives of RSP, AIFB, (SUCI-C), Teesra Swadhinta Andolan, PDFI, WPI, CPI-ML-ND), Yuva Bharat, and other groups. A cultural group of the Student-Youth Against Corruption also presented rousing songs on the occasion.

The speakers held that the Lokpal Bill can be just one of the many steps required for a meaningful and effective response to corruption that is eating into the vitals of India, and demanded measures that would strike at corporate plunder which was at the root of corruption. They said that a government desperate to suppress people's outrage and anger against corruption and price rise was resorting to authoritarian tactics to deny civil society and the people of India the right to express their democratic protest. The dharna expressed solidarity with the ongoing agitations against POSCO and the nuke plant at Jaitapur, and also with the Maruti workers' strike.  

Teachers such as Kamal Mitra Chenoy and Subodh Malakar of JNU, Nandita Narain of DU, senior journalists such as Seema Mustafa, and human rights lawyer and anti-corruption activist Prashant Bhushan were among the many concerned citizens who participated in the dharna.  

Struggle Against Rape and Murder of Young Girl in UP 


The horrific rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl inside a police station at Nighasan in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh has once again highlighted the Mayawati's government's criminal complicity in violence on women in the state. 

On 10 June, the 14-year old girl Sonam, a daughter of a Muslim watchman, had, along with her five-year-old brother, been looking for a buffalo that had strayed into the police compound. The girl's brother testified that he had been held at gunpoint while policemen dragged his sister into an adjacent room in the police station. Subsequently, he saw the police drag his sister's body by the dupatta wrapped around her neck, and hang the body from a tree.

The girl's mother later found the body hanging from the tree, and raised the alarm. First, the police tried to dump the body in the girl's home, claiming that it had been recovered from the police station. Later, in a desperate bid to destroy evidence, they even cut down the tree in the police station compound from which the body had been hanging.

The first post mortem attempted to imply that the girl had committed suicide by hanging herself. Growing people's protest and outrage in UP and across the country forced the Mayawati Government to order a CB-CID enquiry and a second post mortem, which admitted murder by strangulation, but denied any evidence of rape. Initially the Government tried to safe the situation by suspending the entire police station staff of 11, but people demanded to know how come they were charged merely with negligence rather than with rape and murder. Later an FIR was filed against the SHO and two constables – but again, this was on charges of 'tampering with evidence' and not that of rape and murder. Only after the second post mortem report were these three booked on charges of murder.             

CPI(ML) district and state units have been active in raising the matter right from the very night that it came to light. The day after (11 June), the party mobilized local people in a chakka jam (road blockade) along with the victim's body, demanding a CPI enquiry into the case, arrest of the accused police officials on charges of rape and murder and compensation of Rs 25 lakh for the victim's family. A dharna was held on 12 June, and on 13 June, the party held a huge protest procession culminating in a dharna. As the procession marched through the local marketplace, shopkeepers downed shutters in spontaneous support. While parties like Congress and SP had also made much hue and cry in an attempt to capitalize on the issue, the CPI(ML) dharna stood out as the only one which was well attended by local people who are the mainstay of the struggle for justice. On 14 June, a team led by the CPI(ML)'s UP State Secretary Sudhakar Yadav and AIPWA State President Vidya Rajwar visited Nighasan.

On 15 June, the CPI(ML) began a hunger strike opposite the Nighasan thana, demanding a third post mortem conducted by doctors from AIIMS, alleging that doctors appointed by the UP Government were trying to cover up evidence of rape. CPI(ML) CCM and national leader of the AIALA Krishna Adhikari, as well as member of the party's State Standing Committee Comrade Kranti are on hunger fast. They said that while the UP Government was now admitting murder (after shameful attempts by the police to suppress and tamper with evidence), it was failing to explain why police officials felt the need to murder a young girl passing by the police station! Clearly the murder and the tampering of evidence were motivated by the need to cover up the rape. The CPI(ML) is demanding a CBI enquiry. It is also demanding that the former district SP, who has been transferred for his complicity in the cover up, be booked for tampering with evidence.                 

On the first day of the CPI(ML) hunger strike, hundreds of local people spontaneously participated. When Tarannum, the victim's mother, addressed the public meeting, revealing that the police had attempted to buy her silence, there was pin-drop silence in the huge gathering, and many eyes were moist. Police tried to break up the gathering by force and intimidation, but the sheer huge support of local people prevented them from being successful.    

As we go to press, the hunger strike and dharna are ongoing and the mood is filled with determination to secure justice for Sonam.  

In Solidarity with Anti-POSCO Movement  


As the Odisha Government went ahead with its plan of forced land grab for the POSCO project, women, children, elders, youth and men of the Dhinkia, Govindpur and other villages of Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha state, in an exemplary display of resistance, lay day after day in the scorching sun face to face with nearly 30 police platoons. Protesting women were beaten up when they tried to prevent police platoons from destroying betel vines. Jagatsinghpur was on the brink of being turned into another Kalinganagar. The movement has now gained a small respite with the Odisha Government putting the land acquisition plans on hold for some days.

The CPI(ML) has held state-wide protest actions such rasta-rokos (road blockades) and processions at many places in the state including the state capital, Bhubaneswar. A team comprising CPI(ML)'s Odisha State Committee member Yudhishthira Mahapatra, AISA National President Sandeep Singh, as well as Comrade Bansidhar Parida of our party, Comrade Balachandra Sarangi of CPI-ML (ND) and Comrade Vishnu Das of SUCI visited the protest site. These three parties in Odisha have announced that if the Government resumes forced land acquisition, they will immediately call for a state-wide bandh.       

In Delhi, student groups and various citizens' groups held a protest at the Odisha Bhavan on 13 June, in support of the "human barricades" by villagers against the impending police crackdown and land grab for the POSCO project. The protest was addressed by Sanjay Sharma, State Secretary of the CPI(ML), Ravi Rai, General Secretary of AISA, as well as activists of Delhi Platform, NAPM, National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (NFFPFW), PSU, JTSA among others. Holding that the Odisha government, with the active support of the UPA, is planning a carnage and bloodbath in Jagatsinghpur, they demanded that the illegal POSCO project and all attempts at forcible land acquisition for it should be scrapped immediately, and the police deployment be withdrawn. 

On 14 June, when the Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik visited Delhi, a delegation comprising representatives of PUCL, PUDR, Campaign for Survival and Dignity, NFFPFW,AISA and POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity submitted a memorandum to him underlining the various illegalities involved in the POSCO project and condemning the brutal attempts by the state to terrorise the people who resist such an illegal and immoral project and defend their land and livelihood as well as the country's environment and natural resources. 

Protest Against Police Atrocity at Forbesganj


On 13 June, coinciding with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar's Delhi visit, various human rights and groups and student organizations held a protest demonstration at Bihar Bhavan against the horrific police atrocity at in Forbesganj in Araria district of Bihar on June 3 in which four people (all of them of the minority community) were killed.   

Protesting groups included AISA, Committee for Justice for Forbesganj Victims, JTSA, NAPM and others. They declared that the police firing, and the naked brutality displayed in the video footage of the incident, exposed the Nitish Government's true face. Behind the 'pro-people' and 'good governance' fa├žade, the Government is full of the most barbaric repressiveness towards people's movements and towards minorities.

The peacefully protesting villagers from Rampur and Bhajanpur villages of Forbesganj block had been protesting against blockade of a road connecting these two villages by the Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA) to facilitate construction of a private factory owned by BJP MLC Ashok Agarwal. The police opened fire on the protestors, chased them to their homes, forced entry into these homes and killed people. Four people were shot at point blank range and killed, including two women and an infant. Police also triumphantly trampled the dead bodies, uttering abuses.

Protestors demanded a judicial inquiry, immediate arrests of the police officers led by the SP who conducted the firing, BJP Councillor Ashok Agarwal and his goons (charging them under IPC 302), and cancelling the lease of the 28 acres land, as well as compensation for the families of the deceased as well as those injured.

Meanwhile the Council of Indian Muslims (CIM) UK wrote an open letter to the Bihar CM from Britain, protesting the incident. In the letter, they said:

"We are sure, by now you will have seen the gruesome pictures of the victims of the "brave" police of Bihar that did not even spare a pregnant woman and an infant…

"Mr Chief Minister, this will be hard to believe that by now you have not watched the footage of a "victorious" and jubilant member of your police force swearing at and and jumping on the face and chest of a fallen man hit by bullets and who later succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. In the clip his colleagues may be heard saying, "ho gaya, ho gaya, badla liya ja chuka" (It's all done. Revenge has been taken) that tells a lot about the mindset of those entrusted with the sacred duty of keeping and maintaining law and order in the state.

"We are sure that you will be aware that these innocent Muslims, six of whom were shot dead and nine were injured, were hunted like animals and included a pregnant woman and an infant child.

"What was the crime of these wretched souls except that they had dared stop a wealthy industrialist who, with the connivance of the administration, was permanently blocking the road that these poor labourers had been using for years for their daily business?"

The letter observed that "the old jagirdars have been replaced by the new business magnates and industrialists who are being cooperated and facilitated by the central and state governments in harassing the poor masses and depriving them of their basic human rights." It demanded action against the perpetrators, compensation for the victims, and also demanded that the road in contention be declared out of bounds for the industrialist and reserved for the poor.  

Mahila Panchayat at Lucknow


Women from all over Uttar Pradesh gathered at the state capital Lucknow in a 'Mahila Panchayat' on 13 June to put the CM Mayawati and her Government in the dock for the spate of atrocities against women in which ruling party Ministers and MLAs as well as police were directly implicated. The Mahila Panchayat was convened by the AIPWA's Uttar Pradesh unit. 

Women – mostly labouring women – from several districts of UP participated in the Panchayat. A jury comprising AIALA leader Krishna Adhikari, AIPWA National Secretary Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA's UP State Secretary Premlata Pandey and State President Vidya Rajwar heard testimonies of women who have survived gender violence or resisted violence faced by others in their family.

Kiran Rawat, a dalit woman of Unnao broke down when she spoke of her 18-year-old daughter Kavita Bharti Rawat, who lost her life after being raped by hospital staff when she was in ICU in a Kanpur hospital following a fall in September last year. "The Kanpur police has been threatening and harassing us to withdraw the case, and because of this pressure our younger daughter too has committed suicide. We are distraught. But we will keep fighting till we get justice for our daughters – or till we ourselves die." Kavita's father Subedar Rawat too attended the women's panchayat. There were few dry eyes left in the hall as Kiran spoke.

Dhandei, a dalit woman from Pilibhit, spoke of her struggle for justice after being gang-raped by forest officials. "The drunken forest officials dragged me off and raped me, and threatened to kill my husband if I complained. Later, when I did dare to complain, they got my husband jailed and even now they keep threatening to jail me too and kill us both."

Parvati, another dalit woman from Pilibhit, spoke about her 21-year-old son Rampal who was killed in police custody for the crime of falling in love with a woman of a different caste. "The police picked up my son and told us that he would be released only after we paid a bribe of Rs. 20,000. My husband somehow put together Rs 6000, but was told to leave. The next morning we were told that our son had left. But I heard him crying and found him semi-conscious. My son died after remaining in coma for a month. An FIR was filed by us but the policemen who took my son's life are yet to be arrested. We have moved court with the help of CPI(ML), and are awaiting justice. I want my son's killers to spend a lifetime in jail."                  

Others who gave testimony included Jharna Mandal whose husband was killed for resisting corruption and illegal liquor trade; Rajrani of Jalaun whose daughter Javitri was abducted and killed by BSP MLA Chhote Singh; Vimla Devi of Pilibhit whose son was killed in an 'honour' crime; and Tirsa Devi of Ghazipur whose daughter Poonam was killed for dowry and who is being pressurized by her daughter's in-laws and the corrupt police to withdraw the case. AIPWA activist Geeta Pande of Devaria spoke of the struggle of mid-day meal cooks for jobs and due wages, and of AIPWA's successful struggle to ensure the arrest of those responsible for a gruesome honour killing of three girls. Maya and Arti, AIPWA activists from Lakhimpur spoke about ongoing AIPWA's struggle for justice in the rape and murder of a minor girl in a police station. AIPWA activists Saroj from Ghazipur and Ahmadi from Mirzapur also shared experiences of struggles.

The jury members also addressed the panchayat at the end, and hailed the courage of the women who gave testimony. On behalf of the entire panchayat, the jury members delivered the verdict. The Mayawati government, they said, was squarely responsible for the atrocities and crimes against women, because in case after case the perpetrators were protected. Police and feudal forced are emboldened to commit terrible crimes against women because they see how a whole series of Ministers and MLAs of the ruling BSP themselves are doing the same and being defended by their party and the government. Mayawati's government has betrayed its promises to the women, especially the dalit women of UP – and does not have the moral right to continue in power for a minute longer. The women of UP are expressing their anger and fighting for justice in the face of all odds – and they demand that Mayawati quit.                      

CPI(ML) State Secretary Sudhakar Yadav also expressed solidarity with the aims of the women gathered in the panchayat. Ghazala Anwar of Bazm-e-urdu recited a poem in support of women's struggles. Arundhati Dhuru of NAPM also spoke to express solidarity. Some other women's groups of Lucknow - Hamsafar, Aali, and Sahyog – also attended the panchayat.

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