A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 17 No. 08 19-25 FEB 2014
Corruption and Price Rise
Cannot Be Combated
Pro-Corporate Policies of Privatisation
If the Jan Lokpal Bill united the Congress and BJP in opposition to it, recent statements by AAP leaders while addressing corporate houses have squarely placed the AAP in the same camp as the Congress and BJP on the question of neoliberal economic policies. In fact, in the tussle over the Jan Lokpal Bill, the most crucial aspect of the debate was rendered invisible. Both the Lokpal law enacted by Parliament and the Delhi Government’s Janlokpal draft are silent on the question of bringing corporate corruption under the ambit of the Lokpal legislation. Given that the most massive scams in the past two decades have benefited corporations above all, this omission is quite glaring.
The question of gas pricing illustrates the point amply. The gas pricing scam, after all, is not only one of blackmail and arbitrary raising of gas prices. The scam originates from the policy of handing over precious natural resources for private profit and plunder. It was the NDA regime that signed the contract with RIL in 2000, allowing it access to the precious KG Basin gas reserves. Since then, NDA and UPA both have colluded time and again with RIL to benefit the latter, in the process increasing the subsidy burden on the Government and the burden of higher fertiliser and power costs on farmers. The Radia tapes showed how even in Parliament in 2009, Mukesh Ambani could ensure that the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee would propose a tax exemption to benefit RIL alone, and could ensure that BJP leaders would not oppose it! The tapes showed that Ambani could ensure that the Government appointed pliant Petroleum Ministers and sacked less pliant ones; and that the main Opposition party would field pliant leaders to speak on issues relating to gas pricing in Parliament!
The gas pricing scam illustrates graphically how price rise and corruption are Siamese twins, born to the policy regime of pro-corporate privatisation. Governance and democracy are held in the stranglehold of corporations, thanks to this policy regime. Corporations have had a free hand to plunder natural resources and extort profits from basic services that ought to be publicly available people’s rights. Not only have the worst scams occurred in this backdrop, the worst state repression in the country’s poorest forest areas, too has taken place in defence of this policy regime of plunder. While tax waivers and handover of precious natural resources to the tune of several lakhs of crores are not termed ‘subsidies’, the neoliberal regime has sought to curtail entitlements like food rations on the pretext that subsidies to the poor are a burden on the exchequer!
With this being the case, how can corporations – the biggest beneficiaries of such scams – be left out of the ambit of the Lokpal? How can price rise or corruption be tackled without reversing the policy regime that creates it? How can one usher in democracy without ensuring that people, rather than corporations, have control over natural resources?
The Congress and the BJP have, time and again, demonstrated their unbreakable loyalty to the policy regime of liberatisation and corporate loot. AAP’s symbolic gestures – such as the FIR against Mukesh Ambani in the gas pricing case - have raised hopes that they will actually challenge this regime of loot. But the pronouncements of AAP leaders on economic policies are not in tune with this symbolism.
Speaking to the CII, Arvind Kejriwal declared that the Government had no business to be in business, and that business should be left to private players; creating jobs was not the job of the Government but of industry; and the Government should restrict itself to providing a security and rule of law, infrastructure, and corruption-free governance. This is unadulterated neoliberal doctrine. To say ‘the Government has no business to be in business’ begs the question: why should land, minerals, water, education, health and other natural resources and public services be a ‘business’ at all? And moreover, all over the world, capitalists have functioned only with the full blessings and proactive backing of the Governments!
Speaking at an investor conference in Mumbai and to a TV channel, Yogendra Yadav said that “Food subsidies should not be provided. Giving food directly to the person concerned is the most inefficient and expensive manner of serving the poor...The way to service the disadvantaged is not to even out poverty, social justice is about uplifting everyone by unleashing growth, encouraging manufacturing, good business practices and catching hold of the corrupt.” The idea that poverty is caused by a paucity of skills, that unleashing ‘growth’ or curbing corruption can be the answer to poverty, and that food rations or other forms of redistributive justice are ‘expensive’ or ‘inefficient’ is again, standard neoliberal doctrine. Manmohan Singh and Modi would both agree. Modi has in fact contrasted subsidies with ‘skills’, saying subsidies keep people dependent and he is instead committed to providing skills so that people can provide for themselves.
Kejriwal declared that his party was not against capitalism, only against crony capitalism. This is a disingenuous statement. Crony capitalism in India has been the creation of the liberalisation era, a product of the policy regime that mandates Governments to be mere facilitators of primitive accumulation of natural resources by corporations. Kejriwal specifically distanced the party’s stance from that of AAP leader Prashant Bhushan’s, where he had said that “mines and minerals, oil and natural gas, land, spectrum and other natural resources would be vested with the public sector, and airports and power would be nationalised.” Yogendra Yadav too termed nationalisation of resources and services to be ‘ridiculous,’ saying that AAP is only opposed to ‘private monopolies.’ Again the model of co-existence and competition of private and public together, and of PPPs is nothing but disguised promotion of private players at public cost. The real point is that public resources and services should not be handed over to private profit-seekers; and public resources like land, water, forests and minerals should be under the control of the people.
Price rise, corruption, state repression, and corporate stranglehold over democracy, have their roots in the policy regime of liberalisation and corporate plunder. If the 2014 elections are not to be about personalities but policies, the question of reversal of this policy regime of plunder must be the foremost priority for democratic forces.
Jandavedari Rallies In Bihar
The series of Jandavedari rallies being organized in 14 Lok Sabha constituencies of Bihar began on 8 February in Samastipur with the biggest people’s mobilization ever seen at Patel Maidan. Huge rallies also took place on 9 February at Muzaffarpur, 10 February at Narkatiyaganj (Valmikinagar LS constituency), 11 February at Gopalganj, and 12 February at Siwan.
Party General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya and other senior Party leaders are addressing these rallies with a call to make the issues raised by the people at last month’s Jansamwad Yatra into the agenda for the upcoming elections. At Samastipur, Politburo member Com. Dhirendra Jha, and at the Siwan-Gopalganj and Narkatiyaganj rallies CC member Com. Nand Kishore Prasad were present with Com. Dipankar. AIPWA Gen Secretary Com. Meena Tiwari, Samkaleen Lokyudh editor-in-chief Braj Bihari Pandey also participated in the rallies at Muzaffarpur and Narkatiyaganj.
The participation of the landless poor, workers, women, minorities, and various sections of society at these District level rallies is noteworthy. At some places, forces of movements struggling for local issues joined the rallies and raised their voices in unison with the landless poor and workers. There was a huge mobilization of sugar cane farmers, displaced persons, and youth at Narkatiyaganj. On 9 Feb at Muzaffarpur, the Mukherjee Seminary Maidan saw a huge mobilization of people from the struggling sections of both urban and rural backgrounds, Muslim youth targeted in the name of terrorism, and people struggling against the danger of displacement due to the Bagmati Project. Noting the presence of leaders and activists from the Insaaf Manch and the Bagmati Project Displaced People’s Association, Com. Dipankar said that these are clear indications that the unity of ground level struggling forces is going to pave the way for the formation of a new Front which is welcome. Similarly, on 10 Feb at Narkatiyaganj (West Champaran) a huge rally resolved to take the struggle against the State and Central governments to the highest level for their criminal neglect of the rightful demands of sugar cane farmers. Taking this movement forward, the CPI-ML has called for a Champaran bandh on 20 Feb.
On 12 Feb, the rally at Siwan saw a veritable sea of people. More than 20,000 flocked to Gandhi Maidan holding the red flag aloft. On that day it seemed all roads in town led to Gandhi Maidan, and walking anywhere through the crowded streets was not an easy matter.
It may be recalled that the Party had organized a Jansamwad Yatra throughout Bihar in January, during which 3000 village sabhas were held and dialogue established with 3 lakh people, and questions and issues of the people were identified. The Party had put out a call to make February a “month of movements” on these issues. The Jansamwad Yatra brought to the fore the anger of the people against the governments in Patna and Delhi and against the local MLAs and MPs. The last 5 years brought many troubles but not once did the people’s representatives come to enquire about their problems. These rallies are being organized to call for a strong agitation on people’s issues and problems at district as well as state level, and to make people’s issues like the BJP’s communal conspiracy, Nitish Kumar’s failures, and the pro-corporate policies of the governments, the central agenda for the LS elections.
Two questions chiefly arising throughout Bihar are the issues of electricity and liquor promotion by the Government. Nitish had promised electricity for every village and every home. However, it has not happened anywhere. On the other hand, people are getting false bills – even where electricity lines have yet to be installed - and consumers are being arrested and jailed. Facilities such as drinking water and toilets have not materialized, but liquor has been arranged and is easily available at shops in every Panchayat. People in large numbers are submitting copies of false bills and petitions for cancelling liquor licences. Their demand is that the privatization of electricity should be revoked and every town, village, and home should get 24 hour electricity at affordable rates. Important issues raised include complete electrification of the “tolas” of the poor, 100 units free electricity for the poor, taking back of false bills, clean drinking water, and toilet arrangements in all homes, and an end to the state’s promotion of liquor.
People complained of huge loot in schemes for the poor. The MNREGA scheme exists, but there is either no work or if there is work, there is no payment. BPL and job card holders get neither minimum wages nor 100 days’ work. People are starving to death, and the Central government is claiming to have passed the Food Security Bill through which 75% of the poor will get food grains. Nitish goes a step further to say that 85% will get the benefits. But the Public Distribution System has totally collapsed and the ongoing socio-economic census is a complete conspiracy to show the number of poor as much lower than they actually are. Reports are coming from several places of instances where people without even a roof over their heads are recorded as owners of double-storied houses, thus conspiring to deny the all benefits. People’s issues in the forefront are demands for a stop to the displacement of urban poor without arrangements for alternate housing, total implementation of Food Security, guarantee of women’s freedom and dignity and an end to the government’s policy of hounding Muslim youth in the name of terrorism. People are flocking to the rallies to protest against the government’s treachery against educated youth, farmers, ASHA-Anganwadi workers, cooks, and midday meal workers on the issue of permanent employment, and conveying to the ruling Parties that this time the election will be not about “neta” (leaders) but “neeti” (policy). The Party slogan “Badlo Neeti Badlo Raj, Sansad mein Janta ki Awaz” is reverberating throughout Bihar.
The huge gathering at the Siwan rally was addressed, apart from senior Party leaders, by former MLA Amarnath Yadav, Siwan District Secretary Com. Indrajit Chourasiya, and State Committee member Com. Naeemuddin Ansari. Recalling the martyrdom of Com. Chandrashekhar, Party leaders said that just before elections attempts are being made at the instigation of the BJP to intimidate State Committee member and RYA National President Amarjeet Kushwaha and former MLA Satyadev Ram by foisting false cases against them, thus trying to put obstacles in the Party’s election campaign. They stressed that such attempts will get a fitting reply from the people and demanded that the false cases against the 2 leaders should be immediately taken back.
Addressing the rallies, Party General Secretary Com. Dipankar raised all the above issues and pointed out that the country was steeped in corruption and price rise, but the BJP can see no issue other than its PM candidate. The BJP says Manmohan Singh is silent, but on the other hand their own PM candidate suffers from the malaise of speaking too much and never ceases to praise himself and his “Gujarat model”, whereas in Gujarat a person who earns Rs. 10.80 is not counted as “poor”. He said that the “hand” of the Congress is not with the common man, and the Bihar CM enjoyed power for 17 years with the BJP, and when it came to the question of PM candidate he opposed Modi and broke with the NDA asking for Advani to be declared the leader instead, whereas he was silent in 2002 when the brutal massacres were being carried out in Gujarat.
Com. Dipankar said that the Delhi elections have shown that the people are taking forward their issues, therefore the LS elections will be fought not around leaders like Rahul-Modi but around policies and principles. Commenting on the ‘Third Front’ he said that there is definitely a need for a Third Front to combat the Congress-BJP but the forces currently attempting to form such a front lack credibility and can go into the pockets of the Congress or the BJP at any time. He called upon Left forces to unite on a single platform.
The rally at Samastipur was addressed, along with senior Party leaders, by District secretary Prof. Umesh Rai, Phool Babu Singh, Vandana Singh, Shankar Singh, Surendra Suman, Sukhlal Yadav, and other speakers. The Muzaffarpur rally was presided over by Com. Rambalak Sahni and addressed by Shatrughan Sahni, Sharda Devi, Manoj Kumar Yadav, Ramnandan Paswan, Iftekhar Alam of the Insaaf Manch, Mohd. Shoaib of the National Human Rights Association, Jitendra Yadav and other leaders. Some resolutions relating to significant issues were passed by the rally, including guarantee of rehabilitation and compensation for families displaced by the Bagmati Project, erosion, road widening, and embankments. The rally demanded that the Bagmati Dam Project should be suspended and a special review committee should be constituted with specialists and activists as members. The issues relating to benefits of minority welfare schemes, fishermen’s welfare programmes, and urban development schemes reaching the rightful beneficiaries, were also raised. After the rally Com. Dipankar spoke with over 100 people from the minority communities at a meeting organized by the Insaaf Manch.
A programme for agitation against exploitation of sugar cane farmers by the government and sugar mill owners was organized In Valmikinagar LS constituency and a resolution was passed for a Champaran bandh to be held on 20 Feb. Party leaders Virendra Prasad Gupta, Com. Vishnudev, Badruddin Doja and others participated in the Narkatiyaganj rally. The Gopalganj rally was addressed by District Committee member Com. Subhash Patel, AIPWA leader Reena Sharma, KHEMAS District President Ramnaresh Ram, RYA District President Jitendra Paswan, Alam Khan and others. The BJP MLA’s residence was gheraoed during the Gopalganj rally on the question of electricity. The rally was well attended by the public including intellectuals, teachers, workers, lawyers, and others.
Jan Vikalp Rally in Jharkhand Against Communal Forces
On 6 Feb the Jharkhand CPI-ML Ramgarh-Hazaribagh District Committee organized a Jan Vikalp rally at Prakhand Maidan in Ramgarh to protest against corporate fascism, loot and corruption, and for development, employment, and prosperity. The rally was flagged off from Mines Rescue Bhavan, Nai Sarai and was attended by the poor, workers, farmers, and women from remote villages in large numbers. The rally marched on foot for 3 km on NH 33 shouting slogans of “Kheti, khanij aur rojgar, Ladkar lenge har adhikar”, “Kare ghotala aur jansamhar, Woh hai PM ka davedar”, and “Mahangayi aur bhrashtachar, Congress Bhajapa dono jimmewar” to the accompaniment of drum beats, and reached Prakhand Maidan, where the meeting was presided over by District committee member Com. Sohrai Kisku and conducted by Raigarh District Secretary Com. Bhuneshwar Bediya.
A day before the rally, there had been an attempt by communal forces to incite riots and reap electoral benefits. Ramgarh had been converted into a police camp and the whole town was under section 144. Fascist forces, police and administration tried to put a spoke in the wheel of the CPI-ML rally but the people defied section 144 and made the rally a huge success, after which the situation in Ramgarh returned to normal. The rally was led by District Committee Secretary Bhuneshwar Bediya, JKMS member Devkinandan Bediya, AICCTU leader Baijnath Mistry, District member Sarju Munda, RYA leader Amal Ghosal, journalist Javed Islam, and other leaders. The march was also addressed by Party General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya, Bagodar MLA Com. Vinod Singh, State Secretary Com. Janardan Prasad, and CC member Anant Prasad Gupta.
Addressing the meeting, Com. Dipankar congratulated the gathering for their presence which had defeated the forces trying to spread communal passions in Jharkhand, and said that today the people have emphatically told communal forces all over India, through the Jan Vikalp rally, that they will never be allowed to succeed. Riots were engineered in Muzaffarnagar only for electoral gains; we must remain alert. Narendra Modi had recently come to Jharkhand and sneered at the State’s poverty, saying, “Give BJP a chance, we will bring prosperity to Jharkhand. “ He had conveniently forgotten that the first government in Jharkhand was a BJP government and they ruled for 9 years but could not bring any prosperity to the State. On 7 Feb, Rahul Gandhi would be coming to Jharkhand to do a road show. At many places hoardings are to be seen boasting, “We have implemented the Land Acquisition Bill.” But this Land Acquisition Bill is not for the farmers, it is for the big and powerful corporate families! If not, why was there firing on the farmers in Keredarai?
On Hemant Soren’s watch as CM, the Keredarai firing took place; under Babulal Marandi’s watch the Doranda firing had taken place. Com. Dipankar stressed that we need to change the policies, we must reverse the pro-rich policies. The country needs new policies in place of the old policies which only encourage price rise and corruption, and benefit corporate families.
Com. Dipankar pointed out that the mood of the nation was changing. The Congress says there has been development; metros are running in Delhi. Earlier, votes were sought on this development plank but this time water, electricity, and regularising contract workers became the issues. It is on these issues that a new Party came to power. The 2014 election will be for the protection of coal and mineral wealth, for saving Jal-Jangal-Jameen (water, forest, land) from the present loot. In rural Gujarat, people earning Rs. 10.80 are not being counted as “poor”, and the man who is thus playing with the lives of the poor is now projecting himself as PM candidate. That is why we have given the call—“Badlo neeti badlo raj, Sansad mein janta ki awaz” and “Daam bandho kaam do, Kaam ka pura daam do”.
Com. Dipankar said that the corporate houses all over India have united on the issue of Narendra Modi for PM. Earlier it used to be Tata-Birla but now Jindals, Mittals, Ambanis and other corporate houses have established their control over Jal-Jangal-Jameen. Having reaped benefits from Manmohan Singh they now want further benefits from Narendra Modi. The struggle against displacement cannot be suppressed; the united forces of labourers, farmers, and the working classes across the country will give a fitting reply to the capitalists. No doubt, we will not get a ready-made alternative on a platter. An alternative cannot be formed by the discredited leaders and exposed Parties of Bihar, UP and Jharkhand. The alternative will have to be formed by the youth, tribals, working class, and all justice-loving people of the country.
Abolish Death Penalty
The CPI(ML) welcomes the Supreme Court decision to commute the death sentences of the 3 convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The Supreme Court recently upheld the principle that delay in carrying out death sentences is ground for commutation. This ruling has brought relief in the Bhullar case as well as in the case of the 3 convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi case. But the question arises why Afzal Guru was denied the benefit of this principle, and why Guru’s death sentence was not commuted on similar grounds by the Supreme Court. The manner in which the hanging of Afzal Guru was carried out smacks of double standards.
The subjective standards for judging what is ‘rarest of rare’ and the rampant double standards of justice that exist, make it all the more urgent for the draconian death penalty to be abolished in India. More than 2/3rds of the countries of the world have got rid of the death penalty, either in law or in practice. India should declare a moratorium on the death penalty immediately, as a step towards its speedy abolition.
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