A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 15 No. 44 23-29 OCT 2012
The Sleight of the Congress Hand
and the BJP's Deafening Silence
Congress ka haath, aam aadmi ke saath, thus went the catch-line of the Congress campaign in 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Everybody however knows that the hand of the Congress has been busy doing anything but giving some succour to the common man, now mockingly rechristened as 'mango people' by the country's most well-connected son-in-law. For the common man, all that Manmohan Singh has is the warning "money does not grow on trees". Yet, Manmohan Singh knows very well that it just takes a casual sleight of the Congress hand to conjure money out of virtually anything. The scams from 2G and CWG to Coalgate have been a testimony to the great magical qualities of the Congress hand. And if we needed to learn more about the diverse magical qualities of the hand, we now have enough revelations on the Vadra-DLF-Congress triangle.
When Robert Vadra had got married to Priyanka Gandhi in 1997, he was known to have a modest family business, dealing essentially in brass handicrafts. In recent years he began diversifying into a whole spectrum of ventures ranging from hospitality to realty and IT, with wonderful names like "Sky Light", "Blue Breeze", "Real Earth", going on a massive property-and-land acquisition spree. In the last four years alone he has bought at least 31 properties and hundreds of acres of land, all in and around Delhi and in areas of tourist/commercial interest like Bikaner in Rajasthan. From just Rs. 7.95 crore in 2008, the declared value of Vadra's fixed assets and investments jumped to Rs 60.53 crore in 2010, and the current market valuation will only be several times higher. Asked about the possibility of Robert Vadra making a political debut in Uttar Pradesh, a beaming Priyanka Gandhi told the press in February 2011 that her successful businessman husband would not like to change his occupation.
What Priyanka Gandhi did not say, and is now anyway known to the whole country thanks to Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan, is that the 'success' of Robert Vadra's business lies precisely in his political connection. If Vadra can get a huge overdraft from a nationalised bank, if a real estate giant like DLF gives him an unsecured loan of Rs 50 crore, it's all because he is Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law and Sonia Gandhi is the UPA chairperson. The Congress attempt to defend Vadra as just 'a private individual' and the Vadra-DLF deal as a transparent transaction between two private entities has already fallen flat. If Mr. Vadra was just a private individual, why did the Congress find it necessary to try and defend him? If the deal was really transparent, why did the Hooda government have to transfer Ashok Khemka, the upright IAS officer who ordered a probe into the Vadra-DLF deal?
The gains that DLF made are obvious. Why should DLF, which borrows money from the market, give interest-free loan to Vadra (on which he has apparently earned some 2.5 crore as interest!) and sell prime DLF properties at throwaway prices? After decades of steady growth and a spectacular boom in the era of liberalisation, DLF had hit a rough patch by 2008 and there are reports that DLF may well be heading the Kingfisher way. An alliance with Vadra helped DLF lay its hands on land that it might have otherwise found difficult to acquire in the post-Singur period of heightened resistance to defend agricultural land. Vadra with his Z-plus security is not frisked like ordinary 'mango people' at Indian airports, he gets similar VVIP treatment in all Congress-ruled states where standard rules and regulations are routinely waived to satisfy the greedy whims of this 'successful businessman' who has set his eyes on everything from 'Sky Light' to 'Real Earth'.
The Vadra-DLF deal and the subsequent Salman Khurshid episode have further damaged an already heavily dented Congress. But the BJP too finds itself faced with any number of questions. One is not talking here of Kejriwal's findings regarding Nitin Gadkari showing how the Congress-NCP government favoured him violating all rules and norms. The revelations have of course forced the voluble Gadkari coin a new euphemism to introduce himself – he now calls himself a 'social entrepreneur'. It is the BJP's deafening silence over the Vadra-DLF deal which actually speaks volumes for the party's anti-corruption credentials. The Vadra-DLF deals were first reported by the Economic Times in March 2011. At that time Sushma Swaraj had said that Arun Jaitley has asked to examine the papers. Didn't Jaitley manage to gather in the last eighteen months as much Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal have now exposed?
Evidently, the entire BJP, the Sonia Maino-bashing Narendra Modi included, preferred to keep silent and let it pass. Why? Is it because Vadra is 'Indian' enough compared to Sonia Gandhi's Italian origin? The reason for the BJP's deliberate silence perhaps has nothing to do with Vadra, it has everything to do with DLF, the 'private entity' at the other end of the deal. The BJP cannot afford to question India's biggest real estate giant. DLF doesn't operate only in Congress-ruled states, it has interests in BJP-rules states as well, Gujarat included. And it is DLF's stocks which have fallen after the revelations, Vadra does not yet have that kind of stocks, and the value of the stocks of the Congress will be known when the people vote for the next Lok Sabha. Indicators are of course already there, Uttarakhand CM's son lost the Tehri by-poll, and Pranab Mukherjee's son won the Jangipur by-poll by a wafer-thin margin.
The BJP is going by the dictum which says people living in glass houses cannot afford to throw stones at others. The BJP has its own share of Vadras, Ranjan Bhattacharya (Vajpayee's foster son-in-law) has not been forgotten (only the other day his name came up in the Radia tapes), and many have already established some sort of equivalence between Vadra and Gadkari himself. But the problem with the BJP is much deeper than that. The BJP is willing to fight against the Congress, but it will not risk antagonising or damaging any big business house in the process. This is why the BJP can fight – one is not talking of the BJP's moral right, only of its political will or ability – the old Bofors-type corruption cases, but it cannot fight against corruption that thrives on business-politics nexus. The BJP needs and represents this nexus as much as the Congress does.
The challenge today is not just to cleanse politics, as Kejriwal seems to suggest, but also to control big business, and end the economics and politics of corporate plunder and business-politics nexus. The battle this time has to be fought on till the ruling political dispensation and policy regime are both overturned.
W Bengal AICCTU Rally
Defying inclement weather, thousands of workers marched through the busy thoroughfare of Kolkata with red flags, festoons and banners at the call of AICCTU's 'March to Writers Building' on 12 October, with rousing slogans. The two rallies, which started from Howrah and Sealdah station culminated at Rani Rashmoni Road, Esplanade, where a mass meeting was held. Workers from different sectors, jute, construction, brick kiln, transport, bidi, hawkers, rickshaw pullers, ASHA and mid-day meal women workers actively participated in this rally. But, above all, thousands of workers, along with their family members from closed mills of Gouripur jute mills, Mohini mills added a new feature to this gathering. Women workers, especially from ASHA, mid-day meal and construction were also present in large numbers.
Under the present regime of TMC government, attack on democratic rights and lumpenisation has become the order of the day. AICCTU formulated a charter of demand on industrial and labour issues and a full-fledged programme for the working class of the state. AICCTU undertook a political campaign on the question of reopening the numerous closed industries, revival of sick industries, disbursal of PF, pension and gratuity to the workers of the closed mills, and demanding financial and social security of these workers. Workers' conventions were held at different districts along with agitations at PF and labour offices.
Before the mass meeting, a 4 member delegation team of AICCTU state leadership met the state Industry and Commerce Minister, Partha
Chatterjee at Writers' Building and handed over the charter of demands. The delegation team included Atanu Chakravarty, President, Basudev Basu, General Secretary of the AICCTU State Committee, Nabendu Dasgupta, President of BCMF and Dibakar Bhattacharya, Secretary. The delegation team had a detailed discussion with the Minister, who assured that the issues raised would be considered and corrupt PF trustee board members booked.
The mass meeting began with inspiring songs from the Agneebina cultural team of Naihaty. Basudev Bose explained the demands placed before the Government and the outcome of the mentioned meet. The mass meeting
was addressed by Subhendu Sen, National Secretary, AICCTU, Partho
Ghosh, Secretary, CPIML W Bengal, Meena Pal, VP, AICCTU and Dibakar Bhattacharya. Atanu Chakravarty presided over the meeting. The entire gathering ended with a firm resolve to carry forward the struggle to a higher phase.
Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting of WFTU
The Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting of WFTU (World Federation of Trade Unions) was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 6th and 7th October 2012. The meeting was attended by representatives of 16 affiliates of WFTU from 7 countries, namely India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. The theme of the meeting was "Neo-liberal Globalization and Role of Trade Unions". On behalf of All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Rajiv Dimri, National Secretary attended the meeting and presented the paper on the theme. The meeting began with Inaugural Session, which was attended by the activists of host trade unions, apart from representatives of above mentioned trade unions.
After two days deliberations, the meeting adopted some resolutions and "Colombo Declaration".
The Resolutions include: full support to the call given by all 11 Central Trade Unions of India for a 2-day National General Strike on 20th and 21st February 2013; grief and outrage over the killing of workers in recent fire accidents in factories in Karachi and Lahore in Pakistan and at Sivakasi in India, and demand for the guilty employers to be brought to the book and strict enforcement of safety and other labour laws in the subcontinent; condemnation of the police firing at Marikana mine, South Africa, demand for the guilty to be brought to books and adequate compensation to the families, and immediate release of all arrested workers, withdrawal of false charges against them of killing these 34 workers; deep concern over blatant violation of trade union rights in Malaysia and union busting by Maybank Bhd, the leading government linked bank in Malaysia, and demand for reinstatement of the two office bearers of National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) arbitrarily dismissed by Bank for exercising their trade union rights; and solidarity to the ongoing struggle in Sri Lanka on Public Sector Education demanding of the government to honour its commitments to enhance funding for education to at least 6% of GDP and protecting and enhancing free Education.
The Colombo Declaration resolved to unite the working class under WFTU affiliates and friendly organizations in Asia Pacific Region to intensify struggle on a 12-point charter of demands decided by the meeting and observe the following days to strengthen unity amongst working class to achieve the above goals: 8th March as International Women day and against violence on women; 1st May as International Workers' Day; 12th June as Child Labour Day; 3rd October as International Action Day as decided by WFTU centre; and 18th December as International day to protect the rights of migrant workers.
The meeting also decided to hold workshops and seminars on burning issues of migrant workers of this region, on women's rights and the role of working women in the Trade Union Movement, and on issues of Garment workers and plantation workers in the region.
Condemn Conviction of
The conviction of and life sentence for peasants' struggle leader Dr. Sunilam, founder-president of the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (KSS) is the latest shameful and glaring instance of injustice and targeting of people's struggles.
Dr. Sunilam has been convicted in a case related to the Multai Police Massacre, where police fired at and killed 24 protesting peasants at Multai, Madhya Pradesh in 1997. The peasants' crime had been that they demanded compensation for crops devastated by storms, and waiver of farm loans. The then Congress Government headed by Digvijay Singh, instead of meeting these just demands, chose to unleash terror and bloodshed which brought the Jallianwala Bagh massacre to mind. Ironically, the police personnel who massacred protesting peasants are yet to be charged, prosecuted, and punished – while the peasants' leader is being persecuted and sentenced to prison after 14 years!
The CPI(ML) demands the release of Dr. Sunilam, withdrawal of all the false cases against him, his acquittal in the Multai case, and prosecution of those responsible for the police firing and massacre of peasants in Multai 1997.
Another recent instance of targeting of a people's movement activist has been the arrest of Jharkhand activist Dayamani Barla in a 2006 case. Barla has been a prominent figure in anti-land-grab struggles, and the arrest is clearly intended to demoralize and intimidate those struggles. The CPI(ML) demands withdrawal of all the cases against Dayamani Barla.
AIPWA Team Visits Haryana
A team of leaders and activists of AIPWA and AISA visited Haryana on 12-13 October, to investigate the alarming spate of rape cases in the state. The team comprised of AIPWA National Secretary Kavita Krishnan, JNU Students' Union Councillor Anubhuti Bara, and AISA activists from Delhi University, Prerna and Saurabh Naruka. The team was accompanied by Comrade Prem Singh Gehlawat, in-charge of the CPI(ML) for Haryana.
Haryana has witnessed a spate of rapes and gang-rapes, many of them targeting women from Dalit and backward communities. There have been 17 such instances in the past one month.
The response of the Government of Haryana, the ruling party, and the main Opposition party, has been shockingly patriarchal and insensitive. Phool Chand Mulana, Chief of Haryana's ruling party, the Congress, declared that the rapes are a conspiracy against the Government. Haryana DGP R S Dalal said parents need to keep an eye on the activities of their children. And Congress spokesperson Dharmveer Goyat said that 90% of rape cases are consensual. Meanwhile, the khap panchayats suggested child marriage would prevent rape – a sentiment echied by former Haryana CM Om Prakash Chautala. In the name of preventing rape, the khaps and their political patrons are actually pushing child marriage to prevent women from exercising their own choice in marriage – something they otherwise achieve by honour crimes and killings.
The team visited Banwasa (Gohana), Sacchakheda (Narwana), and Dabra (Hisar) where dalit women had been gang-raped. They visited the affected women and their families, and enquired on the action being taken by the police and other authorities.
The systematic gender and caste oppression– and the failure of the Government to defend the rights of dalits and women, are major factors in the rise in the instances of rapes and dalit atrocities in in Haryana as well as in the rest of the country.
Protesting Against NCW's Inaction on Custodial Rape
On 10 October, women's groups and progressive forces held a militant protest at the office of the National Commission for Women at Delhi, protesting inaction in the case of custodial sexual violence and humiliation of adivasi schoolteacher Soni Sori in Chhattisgarh jails.
A full year had passed since women's groups brought the matter to the NCW's notice, but in spite of repeated appeals and reminders, the NCW took no action at all, and did not even visit Soni when she was in hospital in Delhi.
Saheli, AIPWA, NFIW, several other women's groups, AISA, as well as a large number of CPI(ML) activists participated in the protest. Representatives of NCW revealed that they had actually closed the case a few days before the protest, without even bothering to inform the petitioners! The protestors agitated until the NCW was forced to reopen the case. Subsequently, the NCW has agreed to send a fact-finding team along with representatives of women's groups to investigate the conditions of women prisoners in jails of Dantewada, Raipur, and Durg, where Soni and many others accused of being Maoists are incarcerated.
Brick Kiln Workers' Protest
Hundreds of brick kiln laborers, under banner of Lal Jhanda Bhatha Mazdoor Union (Affiliated AICCTU) and Bhatta Mazdoor Union, marched to Chandigarh from all over Punjab to protest against Supreme Court decision of implementing Mining Act. Protesting laborers said that this decision of Supreme Court will destroy the Brick Kiln industry and has pushed the lakhs of workers to the verge of starvation. They demanded from Punjab Govt. to immediate call a special session of Vidhan Sabha and should reject this decision to save laborers and industry. And also should immediately release compensation to laborers families who have being unemployed from last four months.
The laborers reached Chandigarh on the protest called by the joint co-ordination committee formed by leaders of both organizations. Addressing the gathering, CPI (ML) Liberation State leader Com Gurmeet Singh Bakhtpura, Lal Jhanda Bhatha Mazdoor Union(AICCTU) Punjab's State President Harbhagwan Bhikhi, State Secretary Gurpreet Singh Rudeke, Bhatha Mazdoor Union's President Gulzar Singh and Sect. Bashir Gill and AICCTU's National Set. Kanwaljit jointly said that the Supreme Court has given the judgment on basis of decision given by Mining Ministry in 2000. This judgment can be implemented for mining of Oil, Coal and minerals but implementing it on Brick Kiln industry and in areas like Punjab is just pushing the poor laborers to further starvation. They said this decision of court has affected nearly 3.5 lakhs Bhatha laborers, 12 lakhs Construction workers and hundreds of small bhatha owners. Also this has led the manifold rise prices of basic construction material and black marketing. They further alleged the hands of corporate behind this decision to monopolize their business of construction.
They gave state government time of one week to reject Supreme Court's decision otherwise they will sharpen their struggle. They also gave call to all labor unions and Brick Kiln Owners Associations to raise a united voice against this decision.
Protest ended after the demand letter was taken by a OSD of Punjab CM.
Dharna by contract workers
On 11 October, hundreds of contract workers from many states of the country under the banner of All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) held a day- long Dharna (sit-in) at Jantar-Mantar, and declared all-out efforts to participate in the 20-21 February 2013 all- India General Strike and observe a "Demand Day" of contract workers on 7th November throughout the country.
They raised their demands including equal pay for same and similar work for contract/temporary workers, an amendment to Section 10 of the CLARA to make contract labour permanent whenever contract labour is abolished in any employment, regularization of contract workers engaged in permanent/perennial jobs, fixing of national minimum wage as Rs. 15,000/- per month for all contract workers along with all unorganized workers and Pension as Rs. 7,500/- per month linked with VDA, including them under PDS and BPL, etc. A 5-member delegation from this Dharna submitted a memorandum with a 15-point charter of demands with Labour Secretary, Govt. of India.
The main speaker at the Dharna was the General Secretary of AICCTU, Swapan Mukherjee who said that Contract labour system is being perpetuated in a systematic manner for attracting MNCs and guaranteeing super profits for corporates. The Dharna was also addressed by AICCTU leaders, namely Santosh Roy, Secretary, Delhi; VKS Gautum, President, Delhi; Kanwaljeet Singh, President, Chandigarh; Jaiprakash Nair, President, Chattisgarh; K.K. Bora, Secretary, Uttarakhand; Ramkishan, Secretary General, All India Health Employees and Workers' Confederation and leaders from U.P. and Assam, apart from the leaders of contract workers' unions from these states. Addressing the Dharna the speakers lambasted the central govt. for non implementation of and making the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act 1970 redundant which was enacted to root out the various abuses in the Contract labour system. Even the tripartite agreements and labour court decisions involving contract labour are not implemented, the striking examples of which are, one the premier institution of country, PGI, Chandigarh, and another Maruti- Suzuki, an auto MNC company.
Further, there are certain loopholes in the Contract Labour Act and the Employers are trying to make use of them. So, we demand that the Govt. of India must pass suitable amendments to plug these loop holes and strengthen the rights of contract workers particularly the right to get permanent.
The participants resolved to further intensify struggles on their issues and to make 20-21 February 2013 all- India General Strike a great success.
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: email@example.com, website: www.cpiml.org