A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 17 No. 24 10 - 16 JUN 2014
Bhagana-Badaun-Pune: India Shocked and Shamed, Modi Keeps Mum
A young Muslim IT professional was beaten to death on a Pune street by a Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS) mob wielding hockey sticks and stones. In a case of premeditated communal hate crime, an innocent Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh was targetted for markers of his Muslim identity – beard, skull cap and Pathani suit – as he was on his way back from offering evening prayers at a mosque. Post killing, members of the HRS gang exchanged a gleeful message on their mobile phones that read 'pahili wicket padli' (the first wicket has fallen). Have the saffron senas of the Sangh Parivar interpreted the BJP/NDA victory in Lok Sabha elections as a license to attack and kill people at will?
Prior to Shaikh's murder, and after it, workers of several Hindutva outfits including the HRS, Shiv Sena and the BJP rioted in Pune for several days over some derogatory morphed photographs of Shivaji and ex-Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackerey that were posted by unknown person(s) on Facebook. Buses were burnt, public property and private vehicles damaged, shops shut down and the minority community attacked. Mosques, madrassas, graveyards and Muslim shops and homes were vandalized by mobs on a rampage. The then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's sinister invocation of the so-called action-reaction theory to justify the Gujarat killings of 2002 had a second coming as Anil Shirole, the BJP MP from Pune, justified the violence as 'natural repercussions' that were bound to follow in the wake of the alleged humiliation of Hindutva icons like Shivaji and Thackerey.
The manner in which the Pune violence and killing were incited in the run up to the Assembly elections in Maharashtra has uncanny parallels with the instigation of communal tension in Bangalore (affecting the migrant workforce of the North-East) and Muzaffarnagar. In both cases, fake videos/text messages circulated by 'unknown' persons were used to spread rumours loaded with communal rhetoric, leading to community exodus in the former case and riots in the latter. Harvests of communal polarisation were sought to be reaped in the ensuing elections.
The Maharashtra Police has registered close to two hundred rioting cases and arrested over seven hundred miscreants belonging to various radical Hindu outfits; but questions remain whether those guilty of riots and Mohsin's killing will be punished. The state police's communal bias in the past is well-documented by the Justice Madon and Justice Srikrishna commissions of inquiry. Justice has eluded the victims of '92-'93 Mumbai riots, when most of the accused evaded punishment because witnesses to their crimes, who had earlier given graphic details of riots and lynching of innocents, had later turned hostile in court.
The Pune killing and riots again bring to the fore the role of outfits like the HRS and their regular activities of spreading communal venom and terror. Dhananjay Desai, the HRS chief, had multiple cases registered against him. He had been interrogated in connection with the killing of rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar. His communal hate speeches and writings are all over the internet, defying police 'notices of restraint'. If the morphed Facebook photos were offensive, Desai's activities were crimes under the IPC. Yet, action was not taken against him or his outfit for provoking enmity on religious grounds.
The BJP has predictably sought to distance itself from terror acts by the HRS. In a long tradition of denial dating from Nathuram Godses of yesteryears to the Brahmeswar Singhs, Pragya Singh Thakurs, Pramod Muthaliks and Dhananjan Desais of today, the BJP has always sought to deny its links with saffron flag-wielding, unrecognized 'first cousins' of the Sangh Parivar. But what has come as an early shocker for many who had believed that they had found a vocal and outspoken leader in Narendra Modi is the highly suggestive and deafening silence of the Prime Minister over the Pune killing as also the brutal rapes and murders of the Badaun sisters and the forcible eviction of the Bhagana rape survivors and protestors in Delhi even as he waxes eloquent on sundry subjects.
As the myth of 'clean chits' and the reincarnation of 'Modi 2.0' continue to do their rounds on television and print media, one can recall a highly-publicized, seen-as-reconciliatory election speech where Modi said that he wanted to see the Muslim youth with 'the Quran in one hand and a laptop in the other'. As Shaikh's lynching showed, Muslim youth are being targeted on both pretexts. It's increasingly the educated and computer-savvy Muslim youth who are being framed and hunted as terrorists by the state or lynched by thugs in globalised urban enclaves like Pune.
In the wake of Verdict 2014, there is palpable fear and angst among Muslim youth in the country. As thousands of riot victims wait endlessly for justice, thousands of detainees and undertrials languish and face torture in jails on flimsy/unsubstantiated terror charges, as vicious communal rhetoric begins to shape mainstream political and media discourse with constant mischievous references to 'minority appeasement', 'votebank politics', 'love jihad', 'pink revolution', 'illegal Bangladeshi immigrants' and 'Pakistani terrorists', the Muslim community is in the throes of a threatening and uncertain future. Refuting this mischievous propaganda and vicious attacks, India must reassure the Muslim youth of its fullest right to live and love, to work and worship in their own country. The insecurity of Muslim youth must become a key concern of today's democratic youth movement.
New Government's Pre-Budget Consultation Meeting With Central Trade Unions
The Finance Minister of the newly elected BJP-led NDA government held its First pre-Budget consultation meeting with representatives of central trade unions on 6th June 2014 at North Block, New Delhi. The meeting was held in connection with the forthcoming Union Budget 2014-15.
In this meeting a joint memorandum signed by 11 central trade unions was submitted with Finance Minister which consisted of their collective demands and views regarding the Budget. The representatives of following 11 CTUs took part in the meeting: BMS, INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AICCTU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, UTUC and LPF.
On behalf of AICCTU, Santosh Roy, national secretary participated in the meeting.
While speaking on the various aspects of the memorandum, he stressed upon specific demands like 'equal pay for equal work and regularization' of contract workers and highlighted the privatization of DTC and issues of contract workers employed here apart from uncontrolled privatization of various essential services; giving the status of worker to honorarium workers including social security; and widening the coverage of EPF. He warned the new govt. that it was the peoples' anger and movements against UPA government's policies of price rise, corruption and destruction of livelihood and lives that had given it mandate, and so it is hoped that it stops pursing the same policies, instead of pursuing the same policies more vigorously in the name of solving the ongoing economic crisis as has been clearly indicated in new government's last few days' governance.
The joint memorandum in its 'Proposals' for the forthcoming union budget put forward the demands of working people which, among others, are as follows:
Take effective measures to arrest the spiraling price rise and to contain inflation, Ban speculative forward trading in commodities, Universalize and strengthen the Public Distribution System, Ensure proper check on hoarding, Rationalize, with a view to reduce the burden on people, the tax/duty/cess on petroleum products; Massive public investment in the infrastructure in order to stimulate the economy for job creation, The plan & non-plan expenditure should be increased in the budget to stimulate jobs creation and guarantee consistent income to people; Minimum wage should not be less than Rs.15,000/- p.m. and linked to Consumer Price Index; FDI should not be allowed in crucial sectors like defence production, telecommunications, Railways, financial sector, retail trade, education, health and media; PSUs should be strengthened and expanded. Disinvestment of shares of profit making public sector units should be stopped forthwith. Budgetary support should be given for revival of potentially viable Sick CPSUs; The ban on recruitment in Govt. deptts., PSUs and autonomous institutions (including recent Finance Ministry's instruction to abolish those posts not filled for one year) should be lifted as recommended by 43rd Session of Indian Labour Conference, Condition of surrender of posts in govt. departments and PSUs should be scrapped and new posts be created keeping in view the new work and increased workload; Proper allocation of funds be also made for interim relief and 7th Pay Commission; Under MGNREGA employment for minimum period of 200 days with guaranteed statutory wage be provided, as unanimously recommended by 43rd Session of Indian Labour Conference; The massive workforce engaged in ICDS, Mid-day meal scheme, Vidya volunteers, Guest Teachers, Siksha Mitra, the workers engaged in the Accredited Social Health Activities (ASHA) and other schemes be regularized, No to privatization of centrally funded schemes, Universalization of ICDS be done as per Supreme Court directions by making adequate budgetary allocations; Steps be taken for removal of all restrictive provisions based on poverty line in respect of eligibility coverage of the schemes under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act 2008 and allocation of adequate resources for the National Fund for Unorganised Workers to provide for Social Security to all unorganized workers including the contract/casual and migrant workers in line with the recommendations of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour and also the 43rd Session of Indian Labour Conference; Remunerative Prices should be ensured for the agricultural produce and Govt. investment, public investment in agriculture sector must be substantially augmented as a proportion of GDP and total budgetary expenditure. It should also be ensured that benefits of the increase reach the small, marginal and medium cultivators only; Budgetary provision should be made for providing essential services including housing, public transport, sanitation, water, schools, crèche health care etc. to workers in the new emerging industrial areas, Working women's hostels should be set up where there is a concentration of women workers; Requisite budgetary support for addressing crisis in traditional sectors like Jute, Textiles, Plantation, Handloom, Carpet and Coir etc.; Budgetary provision for elementary education should be increased, particularly in the context of the implementation of the 'Right to Education'; Income Tax exemption ceiling for the salaried persons should be raised to Rs.5 lakh per annum and fringe benefits like housing, medical and educational facilities and running allowances should be exempted from the income tax net in totality; Provision of minimum pension of Rs.3000/- p.m., Govt. and Employers contribution be increased to allow sustainability of Employees Pension Scheme and New Pension Scheme be withdrawn and newly recruited employees of central and state govts. on or after 1.1.2004 be covered under Old Pension Scheme, Threshold limit of 20 employees in EPF Scheme be brought down to 10 as recommended by CBT-EPF, Pension benefits under EPS unilaterally withdrawn by the Govt. should be restored; Demand for Dearness Allowance merger by Central Govt. and PSUs employees be accepted and adequate allocation of fund for this be made in the budget; All interests and social security of the domestic workers to be statutorily protected on the lines of the ILO Convention on domestic workers; The Cess Management of the construction workers is the responsibility of the Finance Ministry under the Act and the several irregularities found in collection of cess be rectified as well as their proper utilization must be ensured.
In regard to 'Resource Mobilization', the memorandum emphasized that; a progressive taxation system should be put in place to ensure taxing the rich and the affluent sections, Increase taxes on luxury goods and reduce indirect taxes on essential commodities; Concrete steps must be taken to recover huge accumulated unpaid tax arrears which has already crossed more than Rs.5 lakh crore on direct and corporate tax account alone; Effective measures should be taken to unearth huge accumulation of black money in the economy including the huge unaccounted money in tax heavens abroad and within the country; Concrete measures be expedited for recovering the NPAs of the banking system from the willfully defaulting corporate and business houses; The rate of wealth tax, corporate tax, gift tax etc. to be expanded and enhanced; ITES, outsourcing sector, Educational Institutions and Health Services etc. run on commercial basis should be brought under Service Tax net.
The memorandum reiterated '10 point Charter' backed by several collective nationwide programmes including several successful general strikes and expressed its expectation that this Govt. will take initiative to discuss these issues with the Central Trade Unions in order to find a solution.
The memorandum also expressed its opposition to the so called Banking Reforms and the New Manufacturing Policy.
Lastly, the memorandum called on the govt. to arrange a post-budget meeting with trade unions also as it holds such meetings with the Corporate Associations/Employers Federations.
Statewide Protest by AIALA in Bihar
AIALA units all over Bihar held protests at block offices for non-distribution of rations, cancellation of BPL cards and non-implementation of Food Security measures in spite of repeated announcements by the state government.
The Bihar government is yet to implement the food security act passed by the Parliament, though Nitish govt. had announced to start this by February last. The existing system of PDS is allowed to collapse gradually as ration cards are being cancelled in huge numbers without any explanation and food-grains are not distributed by ration outlets.
The new Food Security Act effectively excludes large numbers of vulnerable sections of poor, AIALA has demanded guaranteed food security by including every needy household under the purview of this Act.
The lack of transparency in various pro-poor governmental schemes, corruption, Nitish govt.'s betrayal from its own promise of giving 3 decimal land to landless and Land Reforms were also raised in these protests.
Reports from Jharkhand
Dhanbad: Coal Mines Workers Union (CMWU) gheraoed officials of Sudamadih Shaft Mines on June 1 in protest of Coal India Ltd. (CIL) decision for closure of the mine. Situated in Jharia coal belt of Dhanbad district, the management has deliberately removed water pump from the mine so that water will be filled and the mine will automatically be closed. The workers led by CMWU leader Nakuldev Singh held out a militant protest. As a result management abandoned the eviction process and fled from the spot, leaving crores of implements inside the mine including electricity transformers etc.
Ramgarh: A month-long campaign against privatisation of electricity was conducted in district Ramgarh from 23 April to 23 May. The campaign targeted a franchisee company which the government has entrusted for electricity supply in the rural belt of the district. A large number of peasants were mobilised against this privatisation drive forcing the said company to leave. This campaign was concluded in a big mass meeting which was addressed by CPIML leader Bhubaneshwar Bedia. The Revolutionary Youth Organisation (RYA) has now announced a regional level protest on this issue.
RYA also organised an agitation against fare hike by local tracker owners which resulted in Rs. 3 curtailment in the fare from Ramgarh town to Ghutua, which was announced earlier to be at Rs. ten.
Koderma: A protest dharna was organised in Koderma district headquarters on 7 June to highlight problems in water and electricity supply and black-marketing of PDS foodgrains.
Ranchi: Owing to governmental policies leading to unabated exploitation of forests, people of Panch Pargana region are facing attacks of elephants which is being overlooked or undermined by the officials and politicians leading to further escalation of the problem. On 4 June, a party supporter Ravilochan Munda was killed by an elephant while another CPIML cadre Gaur Singh Munda was injured. Angered people gathered in an spontaneous protest and blocked the highway. Only then the officials came to listen to the grievances of the people, where they also announced compensation money for the family of the deceased, people continues to wary of assurances given on the spot. Incidents of elephant attacks also happened in Humta and Gitildih panchayats where many houses of rural folk were raged to the ground. A protest meeting was organised in Humta where people 'arrested' forest officials for four hours till they got assurance for some concrete measures including a special forest dept. team to be engaged in diverting the elephants.
In Chandandih of Silli block people protested against the inaction of administration and police over a worker's death on duty, a road blockade was held and two local politicians who tried to broker a deal with the employer were even beaten up by the public. Ultimately local administration came in action and the blockade was lifted.
Khunti: Jharkhand Construction Workers Union organised a protest rally in Khunti and submitted a 10-point charter to the district labour office. The rally held on this occasion was addressed by Bhuvaneshwar Kewat, Secretary of the Union, Laldhari Manjhi, Gopal Mahto, Poonam Oraon and many other workers.
Struggle for Land in Kanyakumari
On June 2, CPIML's determined and united struggle for the homeless came to fruition, when hundreds of activists came to streets to celebrate the victory of persistent struggle over reclaiming land illegally occupied by land mafia and political bigwigs. The activists unanimously declared that now it is people's land and the task of distributing the land to homeless will be taken up. Addressing the demonstrators CPIML Tamilnadu State Secretary Balasundaram said, at a time when corporates and saffron forces are celebrating the victory of BJP and Modi, we the poor and down-trodden celebrating the victory of our sustained struggle for land. A Govt. with resound mandate might have ascended but only the united and determined struggle of the people has given respite to the people.
This 48.50 acres agricultural land was given to the hang-men (Arachaar) by the erstwhile Trivancore Samasthanam. Although the Nagercoil Sub court ruled that the Arachaar land belongs to TN govt., for the past 22 years no steps were taken up to acquire the land. Land mafia with the connivance of the officials encroached illegally, and to the extent that a plot was registered even in the name of CM Jayalalithaa too! On December 28, a housing patta and house right conference was organized in Nagarcoil. More than 1200 houseless poor attended the conference. Comrades Anthonymuthu, Marystella, Chandramohan and Susila besides several prominent personalities participated in the conference. Comrade Balasundaram inaugurated the conference. The conference decided that the Arachaar land must be reclaimed and distributed among the homeless.
Series of agitations was organized by the party involving several thousand through our mass organisations. On January 18, dharnas were held in eighteen centres. On January 26 a road blockade agitation was held in Nagercoil near the Arachaar land cite at Parvathipuram. This also attracted the support of several CPI(M) supporters. Due to the pressure mounted, the District Collector assured that the demand will be looked into, but case was registered on leaders and general public including Balasundaram, State Secretary of the Party. On Feb 3 a road-block agitation was announced in front of the Collectorate. Police indiscriminately arrested agitators including children. It drew wider condemnation. Then on March 15 more than 1200 women stormed the Arachaar land. The district administration once was forced to give an assurance to the agitators. The issue of this land was also raised in the election Campaign of CPIML. In the midst of the election campaign AIPWA activists staged an agitation right in the Arachaar land, while police brutally attacked the activists and slapped cases on them. Meanwhile on behalf of the party a case was filed in the High Court (Madurai Bench) on the question of this Arachaar land. And a case was registered on the police for their indiscriminate actions against our activists. This has restrained police to some extent.
In the course of the sustained agitations AIPWA district conference was held in the district in which 800 participated. This conference was inaugurated by Comrade Bhuveneswari, CCM of the party. AICCTU also organised its district conference in which around 650 unorganised women and men workers participated. AICCTU State Vice-President G. Ramesh attended the conference as observer. These conferences gave a fillip to the ongoing struggle for land.
Due to our sustained agitations it became an important issue in the district. State and district administration forced to take some steps. The agitational efforts drew support from various quarters. Both the struggles and legal steps forced the administration. On May 26 the district Collector acquired the illegally occupied land worth of several hundred crores and sealed illegal structures erected. The collector also announced that Tamilnadu Slum Clearance Board will build houses for the houseless. Though the administration has announced housing scheme in 11 acres, how the remaining 37 acres will be utilized is not clear. Moreover, without considering more than 3000 petitions submitted to the collector, he announced that 900 people, who were not part of the agitations, will be provided houses in the scheme!
Retrieval of the total extent of land, arrest and prosecution of the culprits and officials who connived with land-mafia, distribution of the land to the houseless as per the govt.'s promise, retrieving the illegally occupied lands throughout the district which is estimated around 5000 acres, and that the state govt. in its upcoming July session must declare to acquire all illegally occupied lands and fulfill AIADMK promise of house-sites are the issues on which this struggle will be taken up into the next phase.
Workers Protest Hindustan Motors Management's Arbitrary 'Suspension of Work' in West Bengal
The management of the Hindustan Motors Ltd. (Hindmotor) plant in Uttarpara, that produced the iconic Ambassador car, hung up a 'suspension of work' notice on the factory gates in the dawn of 24th May, without any prior intimation to 2400 workers who were driven out of jobs. A CPI(ML) delegation met with the workers the next day. It was learnt that the workers had not been paid salaries for the past 6 months and that the biggest Trade Union, the INTTUC, led by the ruling Trinamool Congress leader Dola Sen had been sitting idle even on such gross violation of workers's rights like non-payment of salaries! The delegation met with the sole struggling union, the non-party independent Sangrami Sramik Karmachari Union (SSKU) leadership who alleged that the SSKU rank and file have been under intimidation, threats and harassment to prevent a genuine workers' resistance gather steam at the Hindmotor plant. The Hindmotor-Konnagar local party committee, AICCTU and the Construction Workers' Union affiliated to AICCTU brought out a joint workers' rally in the area in solidarity with Hindmotor workers. The rally demanded scrapping of the arbitrary suspension notice, immediate payment of workers' salary dues and State government taking up the responsibility of lives and livelihoods of the Hindmotor workers. A joint convention of central Trade Unions and federations was held on 3rd June focusing on the ominous scenario of sick and closed factories, with Hindmotor joining a long line of prominent predecessors like Dunlop, Duckback, Jessop, numerous jute mills, textile mills, engineering units and tens of thousands of factories fast disappearing from the industrial landscape of the state. The flawed industrial policy (ironically under the hype of 'industrialization'), labour policy and the Labour and Industrial ministries were put in the dock, and demands raised for the way forward.
Left Parties and Groups Call for Defending Secularism and Democracy
Leaders of the CPI(ML) Liberation, CPI(ML) Red Star, Party of Democratic Secularism, Communist Party of Bharat, and other groups like the Bhasha O Chetana Samiti, DSF (JNU) came together with expelled leaders from the CPI(M) – Rezzak Mollah and Prasenjit Bose, ex-CPI(M) MLA Sumanta Heera and other speakers in a joint meeting held at Esplanade on 1st June. CPI(ML) State Secretary Partha Ghosh represented the Party at the meeting, which underlined immediacies in the political scenario of West Bengal following a TMC/BJP victory at the state/center respectively. What is being projected in the media as a benign-sounding 'post-poll violence' in West Bengal is in reality gross political violence unleashed on a ruthless scale by the ruling Trinamool Congress on grassroots workers and local leaders of the political opposition, emboldened by the 'brute force majority' in numbers attained by the TMC in the hustings. Added to the TMC's heinous assaults on the rural poor in particular, leading to several deaths, is the danger of communal polarization coming out of the woodwork. The BJP's vicious hate speeches during the elections, harping on sieving 'illegal infiltrators' (read Muslim migrants) from 'genuine asylum-seekers' (read Hindu migrants) from Bangladesh and its subsequent poll-gains in the form of an increased vote share has emboldened saffron forces on the prowl. The BJP central team's televised visit to their party supporters under TMC attack at Sandeshkhali was also given a communal colour, mischievously painting it less as a political assault and more as a religious assault of Muslims on lower caste Hindus! Given the context where the poor working people of Bengal are now withstanding a two-pronged attack by authoritarian, corrupt, intolerant and fascist communal forces and the near-total paralysis/surrender of the CPI(M) leadership to stand up to resist the naked assaults, the meeting called for all the left, democratic forces in the state to unite in struggles to reassert the working people's agenda and to defend the values of secularism and democracy at all costs.