A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 17 | No. 28 | 8 - 14 JUL 2014
Rolling Back Hard-Won Rights, Intensifying Ongoing Assaults
Even as the Parliament session begins and the Budget is soon to be presented, it is clear that the Modi government is intensifying various offensives that the UPA Government had begun; and rolling back various hard-won rights and entitlements.
The UID Aadhaar scheme is a case in point. This is a scheme that the UPA Government had rushed in, without Parliamentary approval and steamrolling various substantial concerns about privacy, surveillance, and corporate access to personal data of citizens. A parliamentary Standing Committee headed by Yashwant Sinha of the BJP had endorsed many of these concerns and had rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill. Now, the Modi Government is rushing through the same Aadhaar scheme. Moreover, though a March 2014 ruling of the Supreme Court said categorically that the Aadhaar card could not be made mandatory for government subsidies, the Modi Government is proposing to make Aadhaar compulsory for allotting cooking gas cylinders. A meeting headed by Narendra Modi himself has reportedly decided to bring back the Aadhaar-based Direct Benefit Transfer DBT scheme, which had to be withdrawn following the March 2014 Supreme Court order.
Following the Rajasthan Government's lead, the Modi Government is now planning to usher in what it is euphemistically calling 'job-oriented labour law reforms'. In essence this is to facilitate hire and fire, make widespread exploitation of contract work legal, and loosen the labour laws in favour of employees.
The Rajasthan Government has also initiated a move to dilute and dismantle MNREGA. The Rajasthan CM has written to the Centre asking why MNREGA needs to be a law, and why it should not be a scheme. Prior to MNREGA, there have already been multiple rural employment guarantee schemes – but these did not imply a legal entitlement. What is new and significant about MNREGA that a reluctant UPA enacted, is that it imposes a legal responsibility on the Government to guarantee employment. The fact is that Governments all over the country and the Centre have resented this legal obligation, and have tried their utmost not to implement it. But the MNREGA has galvanised the rural poor in struggles to claim and avail of their legal entitlement to jobs. Now, the Modi Government proposes to do away with this legal entitlement.
The Land Acquisition Act enacted by the UPA Government itself left many loopholes to allow land grab. But still, the people's movements against land grab did win significant protections to check the untrammelled plunder of land. Now, the Modi Government proposes to dilute the Land Acquisition Act, in particular to change the criteria of consent of farmers required for acquisition to take place.
Meanwhile, the Modi Government is proposing to retain spending capacity of Rs 32 per day as the cut-off for rural poverty, while raising the urban poverty cut-off to Rs 47. Both these rural and urban 'poverty lines' are ridiculous, in that they exclude the vast majority of the obviously poor. The Governments that shamelessly impose steep price hikes on the poor, also refuse to acknowledge the poverty of India's people.
The Modi Government, emboldened by the lack of even a semblance of Parliamentary Opposition, is rushing to do the bidding of corporate, roll back pro-people subsidies, rights and entitlements. But the Parliamentary Opposition, even in earlier times, has done little to safeguard the rights of peasants from land grab or the legal rights of workers, or the interests of the people and the poor. It is the people's opposition on the streets that will have a crucial role to play against the ongoing offensive. The Modi Government that exploited people's aspirations to ride to power, cannot be allowed now to betray those aspirations and impose hardships on people demanding relief and rights. 'Acche din', from being the broken promise of the Modi Government, will become the battle cry of people on the streets against price rise and land grab, demanding the expansion rather than erosion of legally mandates right to employment and labour laws.
CPI(ML) Statement on Rail Budget
New Delhi 8.07.14
The Modi Government's first Rail Budget is a step in the direction of handing over the precious national asset of Indian Railways over to private interests and FDI – at the cost of the common passenger and the health of the Railways in general.
99% of Indian passengers demand safety, amenities, affordability and adequate availability of accommodation. The Modi Government's budget sacrifices all of the above in the name of the fad of a 'bullet train' for a tiny minority.
One of the burning concerns of people has been the spate of Railway accidents. The Rail Budget of the new Government does nothing to address these concerns. The main reason for the repeated accidents has been the failure to fill up 3 lakh vacant posts, leading to a situation where the Railways lack adequate staff to carry out basic safety procedures, and drivers are overworked and forced to work long inhuman hours without sleep. The Kakodkar Committee Report on railway safety in 2012 had estimated that some 15000 people die every year in railway accidents and fires, and had termed this an unconscionable 'massacre'. The Committee had recommended an expenditure of Rs 20000 crore per year on safety measures. The Rail Budget totally fails to allocate such an amount or outline measures to bring down accidents by employing sufficient staff, upgrading maintenance, and shifting to fire-resistant materials in coaches.
In the name of shortage of funds, the Railways are being privatised through the PPP route and by introducing 100% FDI in Railways. The experience of airports has shown that PPP is a gateway for corruption and for facilitating exploitation of a public asset for private profits, inevitably leading to greater cost burden borne by the passenger and no improvement in efficiency, safety or comfort.
The Rail Minister has admitted that only one out of 99 projects sanctioned in the last decade has been completed – but has failed to outline a comprehensive plan to complete these projects.
The Rail Budget has tried to divert attention from its failures in these crucial areas by highlighting the Bullet trains.
Are the Railways short of funds, necessitating privatisation and FDI? On December 31 last year, the Times of India reported that a CAG test audit revealed that iron ore exporters had cheated the Railways of close to Rs 50,000 crore during 2008-12 (as reported by RUPE in its January 2014 Report 'The Truth about the Railways'). The iron ore exporters illegally availed of the subsidised rates offered for those moving iron ore for domestic consumption. The RUPE report had observed "Thus, in order to provide a giant subsidy to firms plundering the country's natural resources, the Government starves Railways of safety and developmental expenditures, in which the travelling public and the Railway workers have a common interest."
Even before the Rail Budget, rail passenger and freight fares were massively hiked. Fares will also go up with every increase in fuel prices, since the Budget links future fare increases with fuel adjustment.
The Rail Budget is a blueprint for privatisation and corporatisation, imposing greater burdens on common people and displaying complete callousness to the existing crisis of passenger safety and rail workers' conditions.
- CPI(ML) Central Committee
Message of Greetings from CPI(ML) CC to the 9th Congress of CPN(UML)
(A CPI(ML) delegation comprising Central Committee member Comrade Rajaram Singh and Bihar State Committee member Comrade Virendra Gupta attended the 9th Congress of the CPN(UML). Comrade Rajaram Singh addressed the inaugural session of the 9th Congress. CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya sent a message of greeting on behalf of the Central Committee, which is reproduced below).
On behalf of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and the progressive and democracy-loving people of India, we send our warm revolutionary greetings to all comrades who have assembled for the 9th Congress of CPN(UML). We also take this opportunity to extend our felicitations to all foreign guests and express our solidarity with the international communist and progressive movement, especially with all our comrades from South Asia.
Communists and democrats in India have been watching with great admiration and joy the victories won by the communists and democrats in Nepal resulting in the historic abolition of the monarchy and the initiation of the process of transition to a constitutional democratic republic. We also share the dismay of the people of Nepal that the First Constituent Assembly of Nepal could not accomplish the task of constitution-making just as we share the hope the current Constituent Assembly will be able to accomplish it to the satisfaction of the people of Nepal in their quest for a democratic republic upholding the rights of the people in diverse spheres of life.
The reckless speculative ways of global finance, the insatiable greed of corporations for super profit and for ever greater control over the resources of the planet and the complete collusion of the ruling classes in most countries with the interests of global capital coupled with the abdication by states of their responsibilities to fulfil even the basic needs of the people – all these trends have contributed to a deep and protracted global economic crisis. The least developed and developing countries of the world are being subjected to great hardship, condemned as they are to bear a heavy burden of this crisis and pay a disproportionately high price in terms of aggravated misery of the people and heightened degradation of the environment.
The global environment is being further vitiated by the dominant global powers' policies of promoting and manipulating various local and regional conflicts, with the threats of war and devastation looming large almost permanently over large parts of the world. Multiple patterns of terrorism, fundamentalism and sectarian violence keep getting reinforced in this situation of conflict, terror and imperialist intervention. Forces of democracy, freedom and progressive social transformation all over the world have to grapple with this complex situation and we in South Asia have more than our fair share of such complexities and challenges.
We in CPI(ML) greatly cherish and value our relationship of mutual trust and cooperation with the CPN(UML) and draw great inspiration from the struggles and victories of our Nepali comrades. We wish your 9th Congress every success and look forward to many more victories in the days and years to come. CPI(ML) will continue to stand by the people of Nepal in their quest for a democratic republic and fulfilment of their aspirations for progressive social transformation.
Long live CPI(ML)-CPN(UML) friendship and cooperation!
Long live Indo-Nepal friendship!
Victory and power to the people of Nepal!
on behalf of
Exhibition of Ashok Bhowmick's Paintings
To Mark Emergency Anniversary
Amidst pouring rain in Kolkata today well-known painter Ashok Bhowmick held an exhibition of 12 of his paintings in the verandah of Vivekananda Hall at Jadhavpur University campus, after which in the afternoon he gave a talk on "Progressive Trends in Indian Painting".
It was the occasion for remembering the Emergency in today's context. During the Emergency Ashok Bhowmick was in Azamgarh town of U.P. Those were the days when he was gaining an understanding of well-known Hindi poet Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh's poem "Andhere Mein". The paintings in the exhibition, inspired by Muktibodh's "Andhere Mein" and other poems, have an impact similar to that of paintings by Goya and also Picasso's "Guernica". All the 12 paintings included in the exhibition were painted in the 1980s.
The exhibition was organized under the joint aegis of the Kolkata chapter of Pratirodh ka Cinema (Cinema of Resistance) and the art group Jan Kala Samooh of the Jan Sanskriti Manch. Introducing Ashok Bhowmick, Pratirodh ka Cinema Kolkata chapter convenor Kasturi said that he is one of those rare artists of today who relate art and politics. Inaugurating the exhibition, lyricist, singer and musician Nitish Roy (associated with Gana Sanskriti Parishad) appreciated the significant contribution of Bhowmick in taking the identity and work of Indian progressive artists to the people and compared his contribution to Hindi literary society to that of Kolkata artist Khaled Choudhury. Speaking on the occasion national convenor of the Pratirodh ka Cinema campaign Sanjay Joshi highlighted the importance of the cultural-political atmosphere nurtured by Bhowmick along with the Progressive Students' Association (now AISA) in Allahabad and credited him as the creator of the poetry-poster movement and the new genre of calligraphy. On this occasion Bhowmick gave the audience a detailed introduction to the context of each of the pictures in the exhibition.
In his talk on "Progressive Trends in Indian Painting" Bhowmick explained to the people the identification of progressive elements in Indian painting and the finer points and politics of painting. His talk was divided into sub-headings and accompanied by slides of examples from world art. In this context he stressed that the responsibility of today's artist is to take art to the common people. He discussed the progressive elements in Indian painting under different sections. In the first s section titled "Modern Indian Painting in Search of its Roots" he said that the emergence of what is called modern poetry must be seen in juxtaposition with the formation of the Indian Society for Oriental Art. In this phase the work of painters such as Avanindranath Thakur, Asit Haldar, Nandlal Bose, Raja Ravi Varma and Hemendra Majumdar show that our early painting was limited to the female body, kings and queens, and the quest for religion. Sister Nivedita's remark on Nandlal Bose's painting "Sati", that "becoming a sati is the ideal of Indian womanhood" is a telling commentary on the early development of Indian painting. Taking a small diversion here Bhowmick analysed the reasons why some paintings triumph over time and death, and mentioned Goya's "Facing the Firing Squad: the 3rd of May 1808" and Picasso's painting (1951) "Massacre in Korea" as two such immortal creations.
Bhowmick then took up the section "Art in Times of Trouble" and spoke about "Gassed", a painting by American artist John Singer Sargent which depicted the heinous use of gas by Germany during the war and which is today counted as a great anti-war painting. In the same section he also spoke about George Clausen's painting "Youth Mourning" and Picasso's "Guernica". Bhowmick considered it very significant that Picasso broke his form and created a new form when he painted "Guernica" in 1936.
Bhowmick then spoke about Indian painting in its new avatar, calling this section "The New Face of Indian Painting". He felt that the post-independence transformation of Delhi into a new art market was significant and was possibly due to the many foreign embassies located in the capital facilitating a new market here. During this phase the old People's Art Group also changed. According to Bhowmick the PAG on the one hand blindly followed Picasso and on the other developed "mechanical" art. Citing the example of Souza he said that unlike Picasso, Souza had no reason to break his form, and therefore his pictures do not have the same significance. In the context of the new avatar of Indian painting he cited near-replicated paintings by G.R. Santosh, Raza and Sohan Kadri to show how they were mechanically replicating ideas and were far removed from new ideas and the people.
In the penultimate section "Metro Art" Bhowmick commented sharply on the outlandish institutes that are coming up in the name of art. Citing Subodh Gupta's work, he explained how art is now being run according to the market rules. He said that art, instead of communicating emotions, has become trapped in the play of glamour and size; that is why we see Subodh Gupta painting "Absolute Vodka" in the shape of a bottle, or shaping a measure with 1 kg gold and calling it art, and Thukral and Tagra coming up with "Gold Flake". Bhowmick regretfully owned that the number of fools inhabiting the world of painting today is greater than that in any other art form. He deemed it unfortunate that one can "buy" painting whereas even today poetry and prose are beyond price.
In the final section Bhowmick focussed on "Paintings of Drought" and showed the audience the true progressive elements in Indian painting. He introduced the audience to the works of Zainul Abedin, (Drought series), Sudhir Khastigar (woodcuts), Ram Kinkar, Gobardhan Ash, Atul Basu, Kamrul Hassan, Gopen Roy, Somnath Hod, and Debabrat Mukhopadhyay. According to him Chitta Prasad was an Indian painter in the true sense, who painted a variety of subjects like the Bengal famine, Tebhaga peasants' revolt, Birsa Munda, Durbhiksh of Kolhapur, and the fighting people of Kashmir. The trend of giving space to the common man in art started by Rabindranath in 1931 continued with K.K. Hebbar, B. Prabha, N.S. Bendre, Sadequain and Kamrul Hassan. It was this awareness and sensitivity which enabled Kamrul Hassan when he went to Dhaka after partition, to disregard dictatorial rule and include training in sculpture as well as enrol girl students in the art college he established. When the time came, he also created the poster "Aise Janwaron ki Hatya Karni Hogi" against a powerful ruler like Yahya Khan.
After the talk Bhowmick had a 45 minute question and answer session with the audience. Answering a question on whether the progressive legacy is still alive post Kamrul Hassan (in this era of Metro Art), Bhowmick replied that there are certainly some young painters who are preventing their paintings from becoming "goods for sale" and whom he would definitely discuss in a future talk.
The programme was conducted by Pratirodh ka Cinema Kolkata chapter convenor Kasturi.
Tapas Pal isn't alone, remember Sanjeev Baliyan and Amit Shah
Tapas Pal's remarks should be treated as distinct from the common or garden variety sexism that politicians regularly spout. This is incitement to rape, riot, and murder, plain and simple. So, 'apology' just isn't enough, and the TMC has no excuse for not expelling him; the police have no excuse not to arrest him; and the Speaker has no excuse not to dismiss him from Parlliament.
It also needs to be said: Tapas Pal isn't the only MP who has incited violence including rape, with toxic hate-speech. We also have Sanjeev Baliyan, a Cabinet Minister, one of those whose inflammatory speeches resulted in the communal violence and rapes in Muzaffarnagar.
Now, the BJP's answer to why Baliyan is a Minister is that the Samajwadi Party Government has apparently not tried very hard to garner evidence to nail Baliyan. So Samajwadi Party and BJP will now furnish each other's excuses and clean chits!
The other man whose inflammatory speeches are captured on camera is Amit Shah, likely to become BJP President after being furnished with his own personal 'clean chit' in fake encounter cases. But what 'chit' can wipe out the footage of him telling a Muzaffarnagar audience in an election meeting that the Muslim community is a community of rapists, and that 'no one likes to riot, but riots happen when a community rapes our mothers and daughters'?
So when BJP spokespersons say 'No BJP leader has ever called for rape', we must remind the country of Baliyan who incited rape and riots and Shah who justified rapes and riots and stoked up more hate for votes.
BJP Leader Promises 'Bihari Brides' for Haryana Men
BJP's Dhankar thinks of women as instruments of production, as a 'commodity' to which men are entitled. He says in acche din, wives from Bihar will be supplied to Haryana men to correct the 'shortage' created by sex selective abortion and female infanticide. Leaders of the same BJP accuse Left women leaders of standing for 'free sex'. The situation is summed up perfectly by the Communist Manifesto quote below:
"But you Communists would introduce community of women, screams the bourgeoisie in chorus.
The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production. He hears that the instruments of production are to be exploited in common, and, naturally, can come to no other conclusion that the lot of being common to all will likewise fall to the women.
He has not even a suspicion that the real point aimed at is to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production."
AIPWA's Bihar unit held protests at various places in Bihar including the state capital Patna, stressing that Dhankar's shocking remark exposed the BJP's humiliating ideas on women, as well as their contempt for Bihar and women of Bihar.