A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 16, No. 10, 26 FEB – 04 MARCH 2013
The Message of Feb 20-21General strike:
Heed the People's Voice or Quit Office
Even as the Parliament in India began its annual budget session, millions of Indians went on strike across the country calling for urgent policy changes. The general strike called by 11 central trade unions and large numbers of sector-based federations and independent trade unions evoked massive response across the country. This was the 15th general strike called by Trade unions in the last two decades when liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation became the religion of India's ruling elite. But this was the first time when trade unions called for a two-day strike and stuck to it despite the government trying to mislead the unions with empty last-minute gestures. And this was one trade union strike that truly became general with broader social support and all-out involvement of the CPI(ML) and other parties of the Left and a section of the non-Congress non-BJP opposition.
The powerful pan-union strike reflected a growing unity and assertion of the Indian working class. The unity one sees above in the form of all trade union centres including the INTUC and BMS – the trade union wings of the Congress and the BJP, the two parties that must share the biggest responsibility for the pro-corporate pro-imperialist policies that have been proved ruinous for the working people – coming together for a pan-union strike reflects a much more powerful united resolve of the working class at the factory/office/occupation/sector level. It is the growing assertion of the unorganised/contract/honorarium-based workers, of young men and women, who now constitute the overwhelming majority of the Indian working class which has forced all trade unions to join hands even though unions in the railways once again hesitated to join the strike.
The demands raised by the strike reflected the common interests of all sections of workers, of workers as a class cutting across sectors and categories. The strike was as much against privatisation as for regularisation of contract/honorarium-based workers, social security for unorganised workers and a minimum monthly wage of Rs 10,000 for all workers. It is equally significant that workers have come out loud and clear against the government's decision to open up the lucrative retail sector with an estimated annual volume of 450 billion dollars and the crucial pension fund for the global retail and financial giants, reflecting the common concern of small traders, shop employees, small peasants, low-income consumers and pensioners. And then there has been the most burning issue of rising prices that are making big holes in every pocket.
In the Delhi-NCR region, especially in NOIDA, the Strike has been followed by a massive crackdown and the imposition of a virtual emergency on the entire working class. An instance of arson and looting by miscreants in the wake of the Strike has been used as a pretext for wholesale witch-hunt and framing of falsified charges against Trade Union activists and ordinary workers alike, for imposition of Section 144, and for deployment of paramilitary forces in the industrial and working class localities.
The strike has sent out a message of warning from the people to the country's rulers. The people have made it clear that they want the government to act fast and show results, and not deliver empty rhetoric. The aam aadmi wants prices to be checked and all essential goods and services made adequately available and affordable to the common people. The decision to allow FDI in retail sector and pension fund must be scrapped. The land acquisition bill must be discarded and law made to protect agricultural land. And the government will also have to act on the two big issues that have been rocking the whole country – corruption and assault on women. Let the government just take three immediate steps – terminate the chopper contract, blacklist Finmeccanica and Wal-Mart for paying bribes and implement the recommendations of Justice Verma Committee in letter and spirit.
The popular resolve reflected in the strike must now be carried forward towards a greater assertion and awakening of the people. As the Lok Sabha election approaches, let the whole world know that 2014 will not be about making a certain Modi or a certain Gandhi the next PM of this country, but about changing the course of the Indian economy and Indian politics, and saving India from corporate plunder and American domination.
First-ever Two-Day Nationwide General Strike
The strike called by 11 central trade unions including AICCTU against the pro-corporate and anti workers' policies was unprecedented throughout the country affecting all vital sectors bringing the life to a standstill. The banking system collapsed. The transport sector has responded magnificently in most of the States. The strike was observed in oil, telecom, mining- coal & non-coal, defence, power, port & dock, insurance, State Government employees. Post offices were on strike; income tax offices have largely been hit by the strike. Industrial workers all over the country have shut down the production. Public and private industrial centres have been heavily affected. The industrial area of Gurgaon and Dharuhera at Haryana remained virtually closed on 21st. In many states trains were stopped and highways were blocked for several hours.
There was unprecedented participation of unorganised labour including largest sections like agriculture, construction apart from other rural and urban workers. Significantly Contract workers have joined the strike in a magnificent way.
The impact of the strike has been considerable in all the States. Several states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Puduchery and Kerala observed complete Bandh. The strike was magnificent in Assam, Orissa, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, U.P. and W. Bengal.
Many areas have reported the incidents of attack on workers, lathi-charge and indiscriminate arrest. In Noida, there was a brutal lathi-charge on a peaceful demonstration causing serious injuries to a number of workers and death of one worker. Trade Union leaders including 17 AICCTU activists have been indiscriminately arrested, picked up from their offices and homes. A leader of Haryana Transport Corporation union was even killed in Ambala Transport Depot by class enemies.
In Bihar, complete Bandh was observed. At various stations trains were stopped and different highways were blocked. At Patna, the march to ensure a successful bandh was led by Party Gen Sec, Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya. At Dak Bangla crossing he addressed the gathering and met the leaders of unions of bank, insurance, etc. and also addressed them.
Jharkhand observed total Bandh in response to the call of CPI(ML). Thousands of workers led by Party and AICCTU came out on streets to make the Bandh successful in every district. AICCTU played a leading role in organizing the strike in coal belt in Jharkhand. CCL Ramgarh (Hazaribagh), ECL Mugma area and ECL in W Bengal were in total strike. In Mugma area in Nirsa 100 activists were arrested. At Jarangdih and Swang of Kathara area the activists of AICCTU, CITU and AITUC were arrested. At Bokaro, steel contract workers went on strike in leadership of AICCTU.
In Delhi, there was a massive and spontaneous response of industrial and unorganized workers to the strike call. In Wazirpur industrial area, which was in total strike around 20,000 workers gathered and held a rally on 21st February. Many workers were also arrested here. In Okhla industrial area too, around 10,000 workers gathered and held a rally. Construction workers led by AICCTU held demonstration and rallies.
In Tamil Nadu, joint demonstrations were held in Chennai city, Ambattur, Chennai, Tiruvellore district collectrate, Kanjipuram, Tirunelveli, Alankulam, Karur, Kumarapalayam, Dindigul, Tiruchi Collectorate in which thousands of workers from both unorganized and organized sectors with state leaders of AICCTU participated. Also there was a massive demonstration at Karanodai which went for more than 1 ½ hours and was addressed by comrades A S Kumar, Janaki Raman (General secretary of state AIALA) and others. In rural areas of this district, NRGEA work was stopped in 6 panchayats by AIALA vangaurds. In Namakkal cadres of AICCTU implemented strike in powerloom sector, while other unions abstained from enforcing strike. In Tiruchi, public sector BHEL and Ordnance factory came to a standstill. In BHEL, the trade union wing of AIADMK also joined the strike.
Coimbatore: AICCTU affiliated unions at Pricol and Suba plastic firmly went for successful two day strike in spite of pressure from all quarters to reduce it to one day strike. In Tirupur district, Loadmen of AICCTU union in public distribution system almost closed 17 godowns to give a clear message to Govts of state and Centre of their precarious living conditions.
In Pudukottai district, Kandarvakottai Taluk, NRGEA work was completely stopped because of AIALA's strong propaganda among rural poor about the importance of joining this strike.
In Salem, on AICCTU's initiative on both days more than 3000 workers took part in the strike. More than 100 workers of AICCTU union took part in Mettur thermal power station.
People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy participated in the strike with AICCTU. On 21st, a joint demo with AICCTU at Idinthakarai of Koodankulam was addressed by PMANE leader Dr. S P Udayakumar.
In West Bengal, despite the Chief Minister's intimidation and threats, overwhelming working people of the State gave a befitting reply to the autocratic State Govt by actively taking part in the 48 hour all India Strike. Workers of the entire industrial belt, from jute, engineering, hosiery, port, coalfields, brick kiln in south to tea gardens in north Bengal along with thousands of unorganised sector workers took part in this strike. 16 brick fields participated in this strike defying the terror of TMC hooligans at the initiative of AICCTU at Shibdaspur, 24PGS(N). Transport Workers of Bongoan of the same district also took part in the strike and as a result all export business along Indo-Bangladesh border was stopped. AICCTU workers organised Rail roko at Chandpara 24PGS (N). The construction workers of Konnagar Hoogly, organised a militant rally which was attacked by the TMC hooligans but was valiantly resisted by the workers. Rallies were organised at Budge Budge, 24PGS(S), Nadia, Bardawan, Kolkata and in different dists.
Apart from joint TU programme, AICCTU along with CPI(ML) took independent initiatives all over the state, organised processions, meetings and dharnas at different factory gates. The Transport Workers under the banner of AICCTU organised meetings at different Depots and defying the oppressive steps of the state transport dept. took part in the strike.
CITU of West Bengal deviated from the central decision and proposed industrial strike on 21st February exempting transport on the pretext of international mother language day which all other striking TUs opposed. Ultimately, CITU decided to observe 21st as general strike exempting the transport. The TUs belonging to the left front supported this position of CITU but AICCTU opposed it.
In Karnataka, AICCTU had an impressive participation at 5 centres, with hundreds joining the demonstrations, holding road blockade, rallies and enforcing strike. These centres are Bangalore, areas Surrounding ITPL, areas Surrounding Electronic City, Koppal district, Tumkur, Mangalore, Mysore and Davangere districts. In Mangalore an impressive rally was held.
In Puducherry, a total Bandh was observed on 21st February. During picketing 200 activists of AICCTU were arrested at 3 places. In Maharashtra, in Thane district 2 impressive rallies were held at Palghar and Dahanu tehsils by AICCTU. In Nagpur 300 workers under AICCTU banner joined the meeting at Reserve Bank Chowk.
In U.P., a massive strike of unorganized and industrial workers was held in Kanpur. The highway was blocked at Dadar Nagar industrial area. Tanneries were closed. In Lakhimpur a big rally was held. In Deoria, an impressive rally of scheme workers like Anganbadi etc. was held under the banner of AICCTU.
In Rajasthan, hundreds of construction workers under the banner of AICCTU participated in rallies and demonstration in Pratapgarh, Salumbar, Udaipur, Jhunjhunu, Ajmer, Bhabri and Jaipur. In Gujarat, AICCTU activists organized successful strike in sectors like Forest, Water supply and public works.
In Guwahati, trains were stopped.AICCTU leader Bibek Das and several others were arrested. Under the banner of AICCTU construction, contract and ASHA workers participated in the strike throughout the state and held programmes. In Dibrugarh women workers under the banner of AICCTU were arrested while organizing road block. In Guwahati Oil refinery, loading and unloading workers affiliated to AICCTU and others held strike. In Tea gardens also, affiliated union of AICCTU organized strike in several tea gardens. On 21st trains were stopped for several hours at Dibrugagarh and Tinsukia stations by workers led by AICCTU.
In PGI, Chandigarh, the contract workers led by AICCTU were on total strike on the issues of implementation of agreement of same wage for same work and provision of housing. An impressive rally of 700 workers and road blockade was organized at the crossing of sector16-17- one of the most important centres in Chandigarh.
Mansa witnessed a total Bandh in the leadership of CPI(ML) and AICCTU. In Batala, NH-1A was blocked for several hours. In several other disticts like Sangrur, Gurdaspur and others, AICCTU took leading role in organizing strike.
AICCTU activists protested at different places in Odisha including the capital Bhubaneswar, and 700 of them were arrested at different places in Odisha. AICCTU led the bandh protests at Rayagada, Bhadrak, Puri, Bhubaneswar, Kendrapara, Pipili, Gajapati, Lanjigarh and Bhabanipatna, Rourkela, Jharsuguda and Khordha. Led by Radhakant Sethi, a procession in Bhubaneshwar marched from Nagbhushan Bhavan to Rajmahal. 100 activists including Mahendra Parida, AICCTU Secretary, Seema Sethi, Janaki Rao, Bharat Ghadei, and Ajit Nayak were arrested. In Bhadrak, 100 activists were arrested. In Rayagada Tirupati Gamango and 200 other workers arrested; in Gajapati 300 construction workers were arrested when they demonstrated at distt. head quarters. In Puri, workers were arrested when blockading trains. At Balugan, 100 were arrested when they halted trains, after which the procession moved to Balugan NAC areas.
On the second day too, several were arrested while blockading important trains. The East Coast Sweepers and Contractual Workers Union, Rajdhani Rickshaw pullers' Union, NIRTAR sanitation and contractual workers union, Konark cylinder workers union, Maa Kalijayee Motorboat workers union, Odisha construction workers federation, Laxmi Health Care Pvt. products workers union, and BMC Asthai workers union participated in this bandh in different parts of Odisha.
People's Watch Over Parliament
Are Our Lawmakers Ready to Listen to the Voice of the Movement Against Sexual Violence?
On February 21st, the first day of the Budget Session of Parliament, hundreds of protesters, on the call of the Bekhauf Azadi campaign, held a massive Peoples' Watch Over Parliament to demand that parliament enact an effective law against sexual violence based on Justice Verma Commettee recommendations, and to reject the government's ordinance as an eyewash.
Several student groups performed songs and plays. The Manzil Mystic Band performed several songs; women students of Maitreyee College performed a play on the theme of the ongoing movement, Nimisha of Maitreyee College performed a Bharatnatyam dance against gender violence; Manipuri students of the Artists Creative Theatre performed several powerful protest songs; Hirawal from Patna, which had performed the street play Bekhauf Azadi several times in Delhi in the campaign towards the People's Watch, rendered several songs. Asmita Theater Group enacted a street play; Mandala Circle performed a play based on poetry. Women activists of Saheli and Jagori and many others introduced the protesters to time-honoured protest songs and got all the protesters to join in. And at the end of the day of protest, when the sun set, Maya Krishna Rao's dynamic Reclaim the Night dance performance made the darkness come alive with the spirit of women's autonomy, rebellion, and determination to win freedom and defeat fear. Beautiful poetry posters by Anupam, Sagar, Bablu and other artists were on display.
The day-long gathering was addressed by Annie Raja of NFIW, Kavita Krishnan of AIPWA and the Bekhauf Azadi campaign, Ranjana Kumari, Binalakshmi Nepram from Manipur, lawyer-activists Karuna Nundy and Madhu Mehra, activist and educator Gautam Bhan, Kamal Chenoy from JNU, Ruchira of Apne Aap, and many others. Vrinda Grover, Farah Naqvi, Pamela Phillipose, Nilanjana Roy, Rahul Roy, Mukul Manglik, Anuradha Chenoy, and several other lawyers, activists, journalists, writers, filmmakers, university teachers and many others participated in the protest.
Actor Shabana Azami came in support of freedom without fear campaign and condemned the dilution of JVC recomendations. Much to the enthusiasm of the protesters, she also sang two poems for women's and people's freedom by Faiz Ahmad Faiz ('Bol') and Kaifi Azami (Uth Meri Jaan). The programme was conducted by women students - including Sucheta De, Shivani Nag, and Raj Rani. The protestors demanded resignation of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson PJ Kurien as well.
Post Script: Far from heeding the people's voices, Parliament is preparing now to follow up the ordinance with a Bill amending sexual violence laws - in the wrong direction, by making women the accused in rape and sexual assault! The Delhi gang-rape braveheart suffered unimaginable brutality and lost her life - and sparked off a remarkable movement with her spirit. Now, insulting her spirit, the Government is preparing a rape law (that will replace the ordinance) that says rape and sexual violence are gender-neutral. The whole country asked for better laws to protect women from violence by men. The Govt is giving us a law that can be used against women, whereby women can be accused in rape cases. So now, not only will women have to fight against accusations that they 'asked for' or 'provoked' sexual violence, they will also have to be accused of being the perpetrators of sexual violence rather than its victims. According to the Govt, rape and sexual violence are crimes that women commit against men just as much as men commit against women. So, according to the Government, rape is no more a crime of male power - it is a mere sexual crime that women, too, can be accused of by men. Shame to the Delhi braveheart's memory that the Govt can use her to introduce a law that is openly, blatantly, anti-women. To say that rape is a crime committed BY women rather than AGAINST women is simply a blatant lie and an insult to women! We must of course continue to protest for progressive changes in the sexual violence laws - but now above all, we have to fight tooth and nail against these anti-women changes in the law.
Protest Against Land Grab
CPI(ML) Liberation, SUCI (Communist), CPI(ML) ND, and CPI(ML) held a protest dharna in front of the Odisha Assembly on 25th March to demand a stop to the acquisition of fertile agriculture land in the interests of corporates. In Odisha around 2 lakh hectares of agricultural land have already been handed over to corporates. The protest demonstration against corporate plunder of fertile land was addressed by Prof Nilamani Shaoo, Prof Birendra Naik and Prof LP Singh as well as Left leaders including Comrades Radhakanta Sethi, Sivaram and Bhalal Chandra Sadangi.
Resolutions Adopted by AILC Meeting February 24-25, 2013, Delhi
1) The AILC hails the working class for the successful and historic two-day All-India Strike of February 20-21, which is a fitting rebuff to the anti-people, anti-worker policies being imposed by the UPA Government at the behest of corporations and imperialist forces. The AILC cals upon the UPA government to fulfil the key demands of the strike in the budget session, roll back price hikes and enact food security legislation to provide 50 kg of subsidised foodgrains per month for every poor family. The AILC salutes the martyrdom of Narendra Singh, a striking worker of the Haryana Roadways who was crushed to death in Ambala, Haryana, on the first day of the strike, and condemns the crackdown on the working class in the Delhi-NCR region, especially NOIDA, Okhla, and Wazirpur, and the attempts to falsely frame trade union leaders and ordinary workers for the arson and looting that took place during the Strike. The AILC demands the unconditional release of all the arrested TU leaders and workers, and withdrawal of cases that have been booked against them.
2) The AILC condemns in the strongest terms the heinous bomb blasts that took place on February 21st evening in Hyderabad, and expresses condolences to the families of the blast victims. Whosoever be the perpetrator of the blasts, the timing – on the heels of a successful 2-day All-India Strike and the beginning of the Budget Session of Parliament – has served to fan divisiveness and deflect attention from the burning issues – price rise and rights of the working people; corruption; and sexual violence - that face the country. The AILC calls for a thoroughgoing, professional enquiry to identify and punish the culprits of the blasts, and cautions against any repeat of the trend of false framing of innocents in terror cases while the real perpetrators escaped.
3) The AILC condemns the statements of the Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde which amount to a virtual clean chit to the communal RSS and related outfits in terrorism cases. Mr. Shinde's original statement was irresponsible in so much as it linked terrorism to particular religions. But Mr. Shinde's subsequent clean chit to the communal outfits whose role in terrorism has been indicated several times but is yet to be thoroughly probed, is highly unfortunate and is a case of capitulation to the saffron fascist brigade. Such capitulation and collusion on the part of the Congress is bound to strengthen the pro-Modi clamour launched by communal forces and endorsed by big corporate houses and imperialist powers. The AILC calls upon all secular democratic forces to strengthen their vigil against communal fascist forces.
4) The AILC hails the powerful and sustained people's movement against sexual violence following the December 16 Delhi gang-rape, that demanded justice, freedom, and equality for women. The AILC rejects the ordinance introduced by the Government, as a deliberate attempt to dilute and subvert the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee. The AILC demands effective changes in the sexual violence laws based on the Justice Verma recommendations, that respect the autonomy of women, ensure accountability of the police and other authorities, and end the impunity of the powerful in cases of sexual violence.
5) The AW-101 chopper scam has brought to light yet another shocking case of high level corruption in defence purchases. Indications are that kickbacks were received to induce the purchase of a dozen VVIP choppers at needlessly exorbitant prices. The AILC demands immediate termination of the chopper contract, blacklisting of the Italian company Finmeccanica that paid bribes, and a thorough, time-bound and independent investigation to identify all those in the Indian Government, defence establishment and political and business circles who were complicit with this scam. The chopper scam highlights the need for a thorough scrutiny of India's exorbitantly high defence budget and massive arms import bill. The national exchequer cannot be defrauded in the name of national security to facilitate such scams even as priority social sector expenditure remains starved of funds.
6) The AILC calls for an immediate halt to the Delhi-Mumbai corridor project which entails massive acquisition of agricultural land and displacement and dispossession of large numbers of families along the Delhi-Mumbai route.
7) Building on the spirit of united action generated by the February 20-21 strike, the AILC will launch a countrywide mass campaign from 1 May against the UPA government and various state governments which are pursuing pro-corporate anti-people policies resulting in relentless price hikes and mega corruption. The forthcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections must become major platforms of anti-corporate anti-corruption mass resistance and the powers that be must be forced to discard the present set of policies and reorient the economic policies of the country in the interest of public welfare and national self-reliance.
8) The AILC reiterates the demand that the UPA Government heed the popular demand for a separate state of Telangana and Gorkhaland, and cease the vacillating and delaying tactics on this score.
9) The recent revelations that indicate the alleged custodial killing by the Sri Lankan Army of the young son of LTTE leader Prabhakaran once again underlines the genocidal nature of the war on the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. The AILC demands an independent tribunal to probe the entire extent of the war crimes in Sri Lanka, and severe punishment for all those guilty. Only punishment and justice, rather than cover-up, impunity, and continued subjugation of the Tamil people, can be the grounds for any reconciliation or peace in Sri Lanka.
10) The AILC hails the ongoing popular movement of youth in Bangladesh demanding punishment for those guilty of the war crimes committed during the Bangladesh Liberation war of 1971, and representing a powerful cry for justice and democracy, and a blow to the fundamentalist and right-wing forces.
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