A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 17 No. 12 19 - 25 MAR 2014
Free Media From the Nexus of Corporations and Political Parties
Once again, on the eve of Lok Sabha polls, questions have arisen about the role and objectivity of the media. These questions call out for an answer, and cannot be dismissed.
Certainly, an objective and independent media is crucial for any democracy. The question is: what defines such ‘independence’? Is it enough for the media to be free from censorship by the state or direct control by the ruling party or the? Are there not less obvious forms of control that are exercised? When big corporations own most media houses, can the print and electronic media possibly remain free of the economic and political priorities and interests of their owners?
The media, the world over, is no longer what its name implies; i.e. it is not a mere ‘medium’ to convey and analyse news; it is a massive industry that manufactures consent. Media wields enormous power to shape political opinion, to decide which issues acquire national importance, and which opinions capture the popular imagination. And we have ample evidence to show that there is very little to keep this power accountable and transparent.
Let us reflect on the so-called objectivity of the media in post-liberalisation India. Before the 1990s in India, the only TV channel was Government controlled, and its lack of objectivity was a standing joke. The fact that DD News in those days gave disproportionate and reverent coverage to the ruling party and Government was widely recognised, and the sarkari channel would certainly never expose scams or investigate Government wrongdoing.
In the era of the liberalised media, with countless private channels vying for TRPs, is the situation really very different? From channel to channel, paper to paper, we often find the same news, the same faces, playing over and over again. Instead of diversity and debate, what we get is monotony and homogeneity, with very little space for dissenting views. Much like in the old DD monopoly days, we find speeches of certain politicians telecast extensively, with very one-sided editorial comment.
Even the print media suffers from the same sickness. Be it coverage of Narendra Modi in the run-up to Lok Sabha polls, or handling of news in the early days of the Nitish Government in Bihar and the Raman Singh Government in Chhattisgarh (to name just a few instances), the loss of objectivity and balance of print and electronic media is quite undeniable.
Bias is apparent on other occasions and issues too. For instance, the Delhi gang rape received non-stop coverage, but the failure to ensure justice in custodial rape cases in Kunan Poshpora (Kashmir) or Manorama’s rape and murder in Manipur, or acquittal of all accused in massacres by the Ranveer Sena in Bihar, barely gets a mention in national media.
In the aggressive response to the AAP’s accusation of biased coverage, some media channels have demanded ‘proof’ of corruption and bias. The Radia tapes had already shown us a glimpse of the insidious ways in which corporations influence media and politicians alike. Today, can there be greater proof of bias, than the colour and character of the election coverage? For many channels, even the coverage of Holi celebrations in Varanasi was a thinly-veiled excuse to propagate Modi.
The Snoopgate tapes revealed evidence that Modi, as Gujarat CM, violated the law and used the police and intelligence machinery to spy on a young woman’s personal life. How come, in election season, no paper or channel or anchor, however aggressive, are asking the Gujarat CM and BJP’s PM candidate to break his silence and tell the country whether or not he violated the law? Surely, such an issue is newsworthy. Yet, even in a climate of cut-throat competition, there is consensus among the media houses to play down this explosive story!
While the dominant media is fond of telling us that this election is a ‘personality-based’ one, it is strange that there have been hardly any interviews of the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate! The only interview of Modi in recent times (the Reuters interview where he made the ‘puppy’ comment in the context of 2002) was conducted by a surprisingly reverent reporter of a news agency, who asked no tough questions. The scam of Reliance’s gas pricing was exposed and raised by Left leaders long back. Yet, most of the media ignored or played down the story. What explains such silences and omissions and blatant biases?
There is widespread evidence of paid news – some intrepid whistleblowers from the media itself, have exposed its widespread tentacles and demanded actions (such as public disclosures of equity shares and contracts/agreements) to ensure greater transparency.
Kejriwal’s remarks about the biased/paid media have come in for some justifiable criticism, however. The problem was not that he brought up the burning issue of paid media. The problem was that his sweeping remarks threatening to jail journalists smacked of high-handedness and also hypocrisy. After all, he seems to be complaining about the media only during elections, when the bias is tilted towards the BJP. He did not express any such criticism when the same channels threw away objectivity and conducted unquestioning 24/7 coverage of the Anna Hazare events at Jantar Mantar, effectively making the channels participants in the event rather than objective commentators.
Moreover, the recent expose of Kejriwal ‘fixing’ the nature of an interview by a senior anchor, showed how he himself colludes with media houses to craft a favourable image of himself, and avoid questions about his stance on economic policies! In that video, Kejriwal can be seen asking the interviewer not to ask him questions about the corporate sector or privatisation since this might ‘turn the middle class against us’. Posed strategically in front of a photo of Bhagat Singh, he asks that the portion of the interview where he makes a comment on Bhagat Singh be highlighted, so as to project him as ‘revolutionary’! Is this really that different from the Radia tapes’ revelations of anchors and columnists taking corporate dictation as to how certain issues are to be covered?
Worldwide, the corrupt and biased nature of corporate media and its role in manufacturing opinion, is now recognised and exposed. The Murdoch scandal in the UK and the Radia tapes in India are landmark moments that exposed the degree of corporate control over the media. The struggle against corruption cannot stop with politicians – it must struggle to free the elected bodies, political parties and elections, as well as media from corporate stranglehold. Meanwhile, the people are learning to be as sceptical of the media as they are of political parties, and to be alert to recognise and expose media bias.
Bihar State Activists Convention
A Bihar State Activists’ Convention was held on 12 March at the Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir in Patna, to prepare for the coming LS elections. Addressing the convention Party General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya said that the true contest this time would be between forces which escalate crisis and forces which seek solutions to the crisis. Narendra Modi is seeking to advance on the support of corporate loot on one hand and communal divide on the other. No Party but the CPI-ML can obstruct this communal frenzy. The public has watched the rat race with Ramvilas Paswan, Upendra Kushwaha and Ram Kripal Yadav rushing to join the BJP and has lost all trust in these people.
Com. Dipankar reminded the meeting that this was not the first attempt of BJP to grab power. The NDA was in power at the Centre from 1999 to 2004. In 2004 they lost the elections due to public anger against the Gujarat carnage and the series of farmer suicides. The fact that today the culprit of the Gujarat carnage Narendra Modi is being aggressively pushed as their PM candidate is an indication of the present crisis. This crisis is a result of the policies of the UPA. In addition to the already economic crisis, people’s lives were made more miserable by price rise and corruption resulting in a political crisis. Thus it is the Congress which has facilitated the rise of the BJP. Both these parties as well as JDU and RJD have cheated and deceived the poor people. In these circumstances, voting for BJP, Congress, JDU or RJD is equal to deepening the political-economic crisis. These are the forces which want to take forward those economic policies which are the cause of the troubles facing the country today.
Com. Dipankar said that students and youth want to follow not Modi but Bhagat Singh. Therefore on 23 March, the martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh, students and youth will march at various places and pledge to keep up the struggle for social change against such forces.
Earlier, the convention began with the presentation of a report by State secretary Kunal, detailing the struggles on people’s issues in Bihar. The constituency in-charges and candidates from the State addressed the meeting. These included Mithilanchal incharge PB member Com. Dhirendra Jha, Com. Rajaram Singh from AIKMS and Karakat, former MP and Patliputra party candidate Com. Rameshwar Prasad, Bhojpur district secretary Com. Jawahar Singh, Arrah candidate Com. Raju Yadav, Siwan secretary Com. Indrajeet and candidate Com. Amar Yadav, Jehanabad incharge Com. Mahanand and candidate Com. Ramadhar Singh, Patna rural party secretary PB member Com. Amar, Darbhanga candidate Com. Lakshmeshwar Mishra, Nalanda candidate Shashi Yadav, Katihar candidate Mahboob Alam and AIPWA general secretary Meena Tiwari. The convention was chaired by Com. KD Yadav, Com. Saroj Chaubey and Com. Rajaram.
Remembering Comrade Saroj Dutta on his Birth Centenary
Comrade Saroj Dutta was born on 14 March 1914 in Narail in Jessore district, East Bengal. He studied at Victoria Collegiate School in Narail and then at the Scottish Church College in Calcutta. While in college he joined the communist movement and was arrested for a while. He graduated in 1936 and got his MA in 1938 from the University of Calcutta. Comrade SD Joined the Amrita Bazar Patrika in 1939. Later he became a political whole-timer, and joined Swadhinata, the organ of the Bengal State Committee of the CPI. He was also the editor of the famous literary journal Parichaye.
During his imprisonment in 1962, SD came in contact with Comrade Charu Majumdar. Both of them joined the CPI (M) after the split in 1964. When the CPI (M) leadership nakedly advocated Khrushchev’s line of class-collaboration, comrades SD, Sushital Roy Choudhuri, Asit Sen and others formed the Marxist-Leninist Institute, a study group targeted against revisionism. Following the Naxalbari upsurge, comrade SD played a leading role in the formation of the AICCR in 1968 and the CPI (M-L) in 1969. He became the editor of Deshabrati, the Bengali organ of the West Bengal State Committee of the CPI (ML). His articles in “Patrikar Duniyaye” (meaning In the World of magazines) in Deshabrati are treated as rare gems in the treasury of Leftist Journalism. He was known as the ideologue of the famous statue breaking movement that rocked the urban life of Bengal in the early seventies.
Comrade SD played an important role in inner-party debates and vigorously fought for the implementation consolidation of the revolutionary line comrade Charu Majumdar. From 1970 onwards, he became one of the most wanted persons in India. The police was always hunting for him like a hungry wolf. Finally, in the early hours of 5th August, 1971, he was secretly eliminated by the state machinery.
Mazdoor Adhikar Rally in Ranchi
More than a thousand workers assembled under the banner of Construction Workers’ Union and CPI(ML) participated in a Mazdoor Adhikar Rally (workers’ rights rally) in Ranchi raising the slogans ‘badlo niti, badlo raaj’ (change policies, change rule), ‘employment guarantee act must be legislated for the urban poor’, fix prices, provide jobs, ensure full wages for the work’. The rally started from Krishna Memorial Park in Doranda and reached Birsa Chowk where the main entrance towards the State Legislative Assemble was blocked and meeting was held. The workers warned the state govt to act within three months time to address the basic issues of the workers or else the Jharkhand workers will lay blockade on the road leading to the vidhan sabha. The gate remained closed for 3 hours. The workers were successful in making their voice heard to the Govt, even if it was the chaos due to the blockade.
Addressing the meeting, CPI(ML) State Secretary Comrade Janardan Prasad called to ensure that communal division of the Jharkhandi society as promoted by the NaMo campaign be resisted. Both the NDA and the UPA, who have ruined the lives of poor and common people, must be taught a fitting lesson. CPI(ML) legislator in the State Assembly, Comrade Vinod Singh said addressing the meeting that the Govt has no agenda for the urban poor and the unorganised workers. The Hemant Soren Govt worries more about the sand and liquor mafias than the urban poor. The upcoming elections are an opportunity to teach a lesson to the Congress, BJP, JMM, AJSU, JVM, parties responsible for the current plight of Jharkhand. The meeting was also addressed by senior Party leader Comrade Bahadur Oraon, GS of CWU Comrade Bhuvaneswar Kewat, Sudama Khalkho, Bhisma Mahto and Mahesh Munda among many others. After the meeting a fifteen point demand letter addressed to the Chief Minister was handed over to the Magistrate.
International Women’s Day
Patna: Patna Unit of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) organised a march raising the slogan ‘half of the humanity is crying out for – security, dignity and freedom’, ‘stop violence against women’, ‘long live IWD’ etc. The rally that started from Station Buddha Park turned into a meeting upon arriving at Kargil Chowk. The meeting was addressed by AIPWA General Secretary Comrade Meena Tiwari who said that the women will not be treated equally until the society respects their freedom. Girls or women have as much right to decide their life as do the men. This awareness needs to be spread more. For a dignified life for women it is crucial that the govt not only takes responsibility for their safety, but also their health, better opportunities of education and employment, etc. National VP of AIPWA and ex-dean of Patna University, Bharti S Kumar, recounting the historical context of the IWD expressed the need to spread the battle of women’s liberation in the context of today to the broadest possible section of women.
Other speakers exposed the anti-women face of the Nitish Govt citing the big time encouragement to booze, one of many regressive steps.
Bhagalpur: AIPWA organised a women’s assertion march in the city from the Railway Station traversing through several prominent place in the town before reaching DC office. Meetings were held before the march and post it. A 8-point memorandum was given to the DC office. Among other demands the memorandum demands setting up of fast track courts for speedy trials in rape cases. The march was led by AIPWA President Comrade Saroj Chaubey, AIPWA’s District Convenor Renu Mandal, co-convenor Kanchan Devi, Manorma Devi, Sumitra Devi and others.
Deoria: Hundreds of women under the banner of AIPWA marched in Deoria on 8th March. Rally was led by AIPWA’s National VP Comrade Premlata Pandey, State Secretary Geeta Pandey, and other AIPWA leaders and activists. Rally started from the AIPWA office and passed through several places of the town. Addressing the meeting Premlata Pandey said that in last five years political parties did a circus in the name of passing Women’s Reservation Bill and it couldn’t become an Act. Regrettably in the coming election too it is not an issue for most of the parties. Geeta Pandey said that no matter what sweet talks SP, BSP, Congress and BJP indulge in, in the name of women’s security, the fact is that crimes against women in UP has risen sharply. Successive governments in the State have not even ensured jobs to rural women under the NREGA.
Mirzapur: About 300 women participated in the IWD march in Lalganj tehsil demanding end of violence and abuse of women. March was led by Jeera Bharti, Shyamkali, Saroja, Suresh Kol, RS Yadav and Dhanraji Devi. 50 women marched in Madihan from main market to tehsil HQ led by AIPWA leader Comrade Shanti.
Lakhimpur: A rally comprising 225 women was held at Lakhimpur town led by Comrade Krishna Adhikari. The march started from the Railway Station and ended at Nasruddin Bhawan. At Nihasan tehsil, the IWD march was held on 7th March. 150 women participated in the march led by Comrade Krishna Adhikari and AIPWA District Secretary Tapeswari Devi. In Palia tehsil a meeting was held. They were raising slogans ‘forward with the struggle for fearless freedom’ and ‘stop the cutting away of land’.
Pilibhit: March started from AIPWA office and went to District HQ led by AIPWA State Joint Secretary Rama Gairola. In Sitapur about 150 women started their marched from AIPWA office led by Comrade Sarojini and Archana.
Bareilly: A seminar was organised by AIPWA. Shalini Bajpai conducted the proceedings.
AICCTU Against Lock-Out
Workers of the company, Stumpp, Schuele & Somappa Springs (SSSS) Pvt Ltd., picketed in front of the company located in central Bangalore, near Forum Mall for the 18th day on 18 March 2014. The management declared illegal Lock-out from 6th March pre-empting any strike action by regular employees in solidarity with contract workers' grievances who were refused employment from 1st March 2014 because of undeclared Lockout by the company.
Workers protested against the illegal action of employing outside workforce and false complaints by the management. Police force was deployed in large numbers.
Stumpp, Schuele & Somappa (SSS) workers, mainly contract workers, are on the war path led by Com. S.Balan, Karnataka State President of AICCTU demanding regularisation, wage rise and reinstatement of a worker dismissed for trade union reasons. In spite of serving strike notice one month back, the workers patiently waited for a positive approach from the management in solving workers' problems. But they were refused employment through an undeclared Lockout from March 1. Even the intervention of higher officials of the labour department of Karnataka did not yield any result as the management was adamant. On 1st March, workers demonstrated in front of the Labour department. The struggle is on and the strike has entered its sixth day as we go to press. The management is adamant in spite of the fact that contract workers are also part of the recognised union of regular employees which has entered into agreements with the company in the past. The management is unable to digest unionisation by contract employees and is adopting all possible illegal methods and spreading rumours to frustrate workers. Workers are determined to struggle to win over their demands and the struggle is on.
Stumpp, Schuele & Somappa (SSS) is the Best spring maker for automotive and other industries in India. But, it is the worst in terms of labour relations. Established in 1960, Stumpp, Schuele and Somappa was the first spring manufacturing unit in the sub continent. But, workers are being paid a pittance. More than 70 percent of highly skilled workforce in the company are cruelly exploited in the name of contract and training.
The struggle on 8th March received support of solidarity by various organisations including Jai Karnataka, Dalit Sangharsh Samiti (DSS), Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI-PFI), Dalit Panthers of India (DPI), PUCL, etc. The demonstrators were addressed by Com. Balan, State President of AICCTU, Shankar, All India Vice President of AICCTU, Appanna, State Secretary, Cliffton, Social Activist and High Court advocate, Narasimha Murthy, PUCL, Mohan, AICCTU DCM from BOSCH, Ravi Kumar, SSS Union General Secretary, Prakash, VP, among others. Suresh Rai of Jai Karnataka, Farooq of SDPI, and representatives of DSS, DPI also addressed the gathering.
The protest is still on.
Citizens’ Rights Conference in East Delhi
A Citizens’ Rights Conference was held by CPI(ML) in Mayur Vihar Phase-I (East Delhi) on 10 March. At the Conference, workers and common people shared their issues about unemployment, denial of minimum wages at work, lack of access to healthcare and education, water and power. The Conference resolved to run a campaign to ask Lok Sabha candidates from Congress, BJP and other parties to answer on their policies towards workers’ rights and privatisation policies.
The Conference participants included Delhi State Secretary of the party Sanjay Sharma, AICCTU Delhi State Secretary Santosh Roy, President VKS Gautam, activists Shivji Singh, party State Committee member Shyam Kishore Yadav, Hare Ram, Ram Swarup, Govind Uniyal and other comrades. The Conference elected a 11-member committee with Shakeel as President and Pramod Yadav as Secretary.
Comrade Lalit Mohan Chokiyal
CPI-ML Garhwal Committee member Com. Lalit Mohan Chokiyal passed away suddenly on 13 March 2014 at the untimely age of 43. He had been associated with the Party since the 1990s.
At an early age Com. Chokiyal started work as a contractor to earn his livelihood but soon left this profession as he found himself a misfit in it because of his own honest nature. He then started selling making and selling fruit juice and sweaters to earn a living. In his long association with the Party Com. Chokiyal always stood by the principles of the Party. Fighting for his principles against all opponents was an inherent part of his persona. In 2003 when the present Badrinath MLA Rajendra Bhandari (who had hopped from the Congress to BJP and back again to Congress) became the district Panchayat President of Chamoli district, Com. Chokiyal had made a construction in his region on behalf of the district Panchayat. When he went to the Panchayat for settlement of dues for the work, he was not paid the dues because he did not pay a “commission”. He wanted to meet the Panchayat President Rajendra Bhandari to complain about the demand for “commission” but he was put off by the excuse that Bhandari was out of the district HQ. However, he happened to meet Bhandari by chance in the Gopeshwar crossroads and the latter justified the demand for a “commission” saying that when even the DM takes 10%, what can be done about it. This argument enraged Com. Chokiyal so much that he lashed out at Bhandari saying, “Are you, as the first citizen of the district, not ashamed of saying that the DM eats “commission” in your district? I will bring your zilla panchayat to book.” Seeing his misdeeds being thus exposed in the middle of the road, Bhandari requested and pleaded with him to drop the matter, and settled his due payment without “commission”. Com. Chokiyal was also the sarpanch of the forest panchayat of his village chowki. Even in the days when there was not much work for the Party in Gauchar, he used to intervene on different platforms as a Party leader.
On 15 March 2014 the CPI-ML Garhwal Committee organized a condolence meeting in memory of Com. Chokiyal attended by Secretary Indresh Maikhuri, members Com. Atul Sati, KP Chandola, Madan Mohan Chamoli, Ashish Kandpal, Kishan Singh Bisht, Vishram Singh Bisht, Rajdeep Nainwal, and others. After the meeting Indresh Maikuri, Atul Sati and KP Chandola went to Com. Chokiyal’s village Chowki and met with his family members to convey their condolences. On 13 March the Gauchar Vyapar Mandal kept the markets closed as a mark of tribute to Com. Chokiyal.
Red salute to Com. Lalit Mohan Chokiyal!
Comrade Pan Singh Jaggi
Senior comrade Pan Singh Jaggi of Bindukhatta in Nainital district passed away due to illness on 12 March 2014. He was 76 years of age. The Party held a condolence meeting at his house on 15 March to pay tribute to him.
The condolence meeting began with a silence of 2 minutes. Throwing light on his life, his younger brother Com. Bahadur Singh Jangi said that in the 60s when the whole country witnessed land struggles Com. Pan Singh took part in the land struggles in Nainital district. In 1967 he was jailed for 6 months for participating in land struggles. Associated with the Left from his early days, he also inspired his younger brother and State committee member Com. Bahadur Singh Jangi to join the Left. He played a leading role in the 1972 land struggles which took place in Bindukhatta. He was first with the CPI and then joined the CPI-ML, after which he had a life long association with the Party and was at the forefront of Bindukhatta’s struggles for ration cards, roads, electricity, water, hospital and revenue village.
Speakers at the condolence meeting said that the best tribute to Com. Pan Singh would be to take forward and strengthen the struggles in Bindukhatta. The meeting was addressed by CC member Raja Bahuguana, State Secretary Rajendra Pratholi, Party candidate for Nainital constituency Kailash Pandey, Bishandatt Joshi, Anand Sijwali, Lalit Matiyali, Lakshman Singh Khati, and Jeevan Singh Jaggi.
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