A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 18 | No. 19 | 05 - 11 MAY 2015
Nepal's Pain Becomes Fodder for Indian Media's Jingoism
Nepal is slowly limping to recovery from the earthquake that has claimed over 10,000 lives and destroyed vast areas of that country. In the immediate aftermath of the quake, India's prompt rescue and relief efforts were warmly appreciated by Nepal's people. But the appreciation has turned into hurt and anger, as India's relief efforts were turned into an insensitive, self-congratulatory spectacle on Indian media and social media.
Nepal's people took to social to express their anger, with over 100,000 tweets using the #GoHomeIndianMedia hashtag. While it was the Indian media that was the direct target of Nepalese resentment, the Indian Government too could not remain insulated from the anger.
One trigger for the anger was the crass, sensational, and insensitive nature of the coverage. Nepal's people expressed outrage at Indian journalists asking survivors 'how they felt' at the loss of loved ones. Another issue was the fact that some Indian army rescue helicopters were arriving in remote areas, with precious space occupied by Indian media persons rather than relief materials. Also, the Indian media was barely mentioning the rescue efforts of Nepal's own personnel and common people.
But above all, what was apparent that much of the Indian media was turning their coverage of the disaster and the relief efforts into a giant, over-the-top PR exercise for the Indian Government and Indian Prime Minister. From #ThankYouPM hashtags for Modi on social media, to some channels using Modi's image with self-aggrandising captions in the foreground while relegating images of devastated Nepal to the background, there were many such instances that turned a story about Nepal's pain, into one about India's PM. Modi himself added to this impression with his tweet praising the Indian media.
On social media and media, the Indian relief effort had also become a pretext to grind various political axes. Right-wingers on social media were openly crowing praise for Modi and the RSS, implying that previous Governments and other political forces had never launched relief on a comparable scale. They were also openly indulging in competitive comparisons of the Modi Government's efforts with those of Pakistan, China and other countries.
This is not the first time that disaster relief coverage was used by the Indian media and political parties as a pretext for jingoism and political propaganda. Following the Uttarakhand floods, the BJP and sections of the media had peddled exaggerated claims about the rescue and relief efforts by Modi, then the Gujarat Chief Minister. With Lok Sabha elections then in the offing, the Uttarakhand disaster was used to try and cast Modi in the role of a super-hero.
Following the Kashmir floods, sections of the media had tried to use the Army's rescue and relief efforts as an occasion to justify the Army presence in Kashmir and the AFSPA. When Kashmiris expressed anger against this propaganda (much as Nepalese people are now doing), they were branded as ungrateful and anti-national.
Nepal's people have warned the Indian Prime Minister as well as Indian media not to forget or undermine Nepal's sovereignty and self-respect. In fact, the competition among Indian media and political groups to claim credit for aid to Nepal, has made India lose respect internationally. Like Modi's attempt to use the Obama visit to boost his domestic political image, the attempt to turn Indian aid to Nepal into a political scoring point for the Modi Government has backfired. Thanks to jingoistic propagandists on media and social media, India's gestures of extending relief to Nepal have come across as over-bearing, self-aggrandising and self-serving rather than gracious and humble.
As Nepal rebuilds itself with remarkable courage in the face of unimaginable devastation, its people continue to hope for solidarity and support from the Indian people. We must do all we can to help the people of Nepal, and resist every attempt by the Indian media or political forces to exploit Nepal's pain as fodder for Indian politics and propaganda.
Moga Molestation and Murder
Bring the Badals Within the Orbit of the Law!
A 13-year-old Dalit girl was molested and flung to her death from a bus in Punjab, along with her mother who survived with grievous injuries. The molestation, which took place in broad daylight, has rekindled memories of the December 16th 2012 gangrape and murder on a bus in Delhi.
The Congress Government of Delhi headed by Sheila Dixit had rightly been held responsible for the failure to provide safe public transport for women. The Akali-BJP Government of Punjab bears an even more direct responsibility for the Moga crime, since the molestation and murder were committed by the staff of the Orbit fleet of buses, owned by the Badals who head the Punjab Government and the ruling Akali Dal party.
The Orbit buses enjoy a monopoly on many routes in Punjab. The bus service is part of Orbit Aviation Pvt Ltd, which in turn is part of the vast business empire of Punjab's ruling family. The staff of the buses are well known to be goons, intoxicated with the impunity that comes from Badal patronage. In particular, Punjab's poor and dalits bear the brunt of the arbitrary violence by the Orbit staff.
The bus in question had tinted glasses and curtains, in defiance of the law. The staff molested the girl and her mother, and when they protested, flung them from the speeding bus. Even before this incident, CCTV footage shows the bus swerving dangerously from one lane to another, in total disregard for road rules.
Answering a question in Parliament, the Akali Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal initially pleaded ignorance of who owned the Orbit transport company. This soon proved to be a lie, since her own affidavit to the election commission in the last elections, revealed her stake in the company which is co-owned by her husband, Punjab's Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal.
The Punjab police has till date refused to even question the Badals over the Moga incident, let alone book them in the FIR. This is in stark contrast to the precedents in the Uber or Fabindia cases, where owners were questioned for acts of sexual violence that were committed by their employees in services provided by their company.
The Central Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Home Secretary RK Singh of the BJP had been quick to seek bans and even criminal prosecution of Uber following the rape in one of its cabs. They are significantly silent on the atrocity committed in the bus owned by leaders of the BJP's powerful political ally and partner, the Akali Dal!
The Punjab Government that failed to provide safe public transport for women, was prompt to provide protection to the Orbit buses! Following massive protests in Punjab, however, the Badals have had to withdraw the Orbit buses from the roads. Sukhbir Badal has said that the service will be resumed after Orbit employees complete an 'orientation course'. This excuse for reinstating the Orbit buses must be resisted. Safe, accountable, public-sector bus services must replace the lawless monopoly of Orbit. The Government cannot be allowed to promote the transport business owned by the Chief Minister's family, at the cost of the lives and safety of Punjab's poor citizens.
It is also outrageous that the Badal Government has chosen to pay the father of the victim Rs 20 lakhs as compensation, from the public exchequer rather than make the Badals' own Orbit company pay.
Adding insult to injury, the Punjab Education Minister Surjit Singh Rakhra trivialized the molestation and murder as an "accident" that was "God's will" and "nature's will" that none could prevent. An Akali Dal MLA Joginder Pal Singh also echoed the same outrageous argument that the victim's death was God-ordained!
The Moga incident also underlines the stark social and economic divide in Punjab: where the crony corporations and the nexus of big business and politics is protected and promoted, but the lives and dignity of the poor and dalits are considered cheap.
Justice for the Moga victim must mean an end to the cruel rule of crony businesses over the lives of Punjab's poor. Sukhbir Badal, the owner of the Orbit company, must be booked for his role in permitting, promoting, and protecting the criminal conduct of his employees. The Government whose leaders are callously calling the brutal murder of a little girl to be 'God's will,' needs to be taught a lesson about people's will!
Visit to Storm-Affected Purnea District
On 21 April, a storm of 180 to 250 km per hour devastated north-eastern Bihar and took the lives of 41 people in Purnea district alone. The death toll was greatest in Dagrua block at 19. 7 were killed in K. Nagar, 9 in Purnea Sadar, 2 in Banmankhi, and 1 each in Dhamdaha, Badhara Kothi, Shrinagar, and Vayasi. A team of CPI (ML) and Kisan Mahasabha leaders visited the affected blocks, consoled the families of the dead, and took stock of the governmental relief works. Comrades Rajaram Singh, Visheshvar Prasad Yadav, Shivsagar Sharma, Md. Islamuddin, Avinash Kumar, Pankaj Kumar Singh and others were part of the team.
The team found that 90% of tin and mud houses, and 98% of crops were destroyed. People were forced to live and sleep in the open and there was little to eat. However, the government has done nothing other than handing a cheque of 4 lakhs each to the kin of the dead. No relief has been distributed and the affected have been left to starve. Thousands of poor gheraoed Dhamdaha, K. Nagar, Purnea Sadar, and other blocks under the banner of CPI (ML) and the Kisan Mahasabha and submitted memorandums to the BDOs demanding -immediate relief camps in the villages with ration and tarpaulin distribution, cash for vessels, continuation of relief till the next crop, declaring the zone as special disaster zone, giving housing land parchas to all the poor, making arrangements for pucca quake/storm resistant housing, provisions for toilets, and drinking water, 50,000 per acre compensation for loss of mango, wheat, maize and other crops, waiving of agricultural loans up to 1 lakh to farmers as well as sharecroppers, capital for next crop to farmers an sharecroppers, and putting an end to the demands of bribes and partiality being done by officials while surveying the loss.
The organization conducted a survey of the loss and will conduct further such surveys. Preparations for a big agitation are afoot. On returning from their visit, the leaders pointed out that the government which is giving huge tax reliefs to the corporate houses is completely ignoring the disaster-affected farmers and poor who are in dire need of relief. They promised that the struggle on this issue would be strengthened and continued.
ASHA Workers Demonstrate in Front of Chief Minister in Bihar
Thousands of ASHA workers from various parts of Bihar marched together under the banner of the Bihar State ASHA Workers' Association (Gope group) on 21 April in Patna, from Gandhi Maidan through Fraser Road, Dak Bangala Chowk, Patna junction, and GPO to R- block, shouting slogans. Their demands included declaration of ASHA workers as government workers and minimum honorarium of 15,000 among several other demands. The demonstration was led by the ASHA Association State President Shashi Yadav, Bihar State non-gazetted workers Association (Gope group) leader Rambali Prasad, General Secretary Prem Chand, AHA Association honorary President Suresh Prasad, Jehanabad Secretary Suneela Devi, Madhubani district Secretary Poonam Devi, Shyama Devi, Muzaffarpur district Secretary Anita Devi, Munger district President Julie Devi, Secretary Madhu Devi, and Siwan AIPWA leaders, Sohila Gupta and Malati Ram, Navada AIPWA leader Savitri Devi and others.
Addressing the meeting at R-block, leaders of both the organizations said that the situation of women working under contractual, honorarium and incentive systems is extremely pathetic. ASHA workers do not even get an honorarium. They get Rs 600 per delivery, with no accident, health, insurance, or pension benefits. They spend the whole night in hospitals, but do not get any place to sit, and receive derogatory treatment from officials. If they protest, they are threatened with removal from the job. They are made to do several other kinds of jobs, with no payment. They get no leave, not even maternity leave. Their work with child delivery entails late hours and they have often been victims of rape and molestation.
The speakers expressed astonishment that the government announced a women's policy on the occasion of Bihar Day, but not a word was said about honorarium to these women. They pointed out that the Modi governments at the Centre, as well as the Nitish government in the State, are both neglecting the rights of working women. They vowed that if the Bihar government did not take steps to fulfill the demands of the ASHA workers, a statewide agitation would be launched.
First AIPF Convention in Mumbai
The Mumbai unit of the All India People's Front held its first convention on 25 April 2015 on the topic "Protection of Livelihoods and Democracy". The convention, attended by about 250 people, discussed livelihoods, land acquisition, workers' rights, democracy and the right to religious belief. The convention was chaired by Com. Uday Bhat of the Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) and was conducted by Vijay Kulkarni.
The convention began with a programme by Lokayat activists from Pune. Following this, addressing the meeting, CPI (ML) PB member Com. Swapan Mukherjee pointed out the need for a platform like the AIPF in the current political scenario. Other speakers including Gautam Modi and Milind Ranade of NTUI, Com. Bhimrao Bansod of Lal Nishan Party (Leninist), and Usha Mahajan of the Sarvahara Jan Andolan spoke of issues such as workers' rights, land rights, beef ban in Maharashtra, spread of communal hatred, and suppression of dissent.
The convention concluded with a proposal in which it was resolved to continue the fight for people's rights and to raise the voice for right to livelihood and protection of democracy.
CPI (ML) Dharna and Protest Meeting at Ghazipur
The CPI (ML) started an indefinite dharna at Jamaniya tehsil in Ghazipur on 31 March. The main demands of the dharna were as follows: (i) make medicines available at government hospitals, (ii) vacate dominant/powerful forces from land belonging to villages, society and banjaras, (iii) give residential lease to dalits and poor, (iv) include all poor in food security scheme after house to souse survey, (v) give work in MNREGA, otherwise give allowance, benefit of Lohiya awaas scheme to all landless poor.
A lock-out of the tehsil was announced in support of the demands on 4 April. About 700-800 men and women with lathis and arrows gathered at the protest. The administration gave assurance that a list would be prepared for food security, revenue teams would be constituted in every village for housing lease and irregularities in social pensions would be ended. Conceding to the party's demand, the CO announced that the Goonda Act has been slapped on Sanjay Singh and Badar district has been asked to take action. He said that life saving drugs have arrived at district government hospitals in Jamaniya, Bhadora, Revatipur, and Dildarnagar. The dharna was called off after these announcements.
On 8 April a march was called at Tiyari village against the police-goonda nexus in which 400-500 Party workers along with many villagers participated in spite of the police refusing permission for the march. Speakers at the meeting pointed out that feudal attack on the poor have escalated after the Modi government came to power. If the Jamaniya police had registered a case and sent the feudal goondas to jail, this march would not have taken place. They promised that if justice is not done, the agitation will be taken further. With powerful slogans demanding the rights of the poor, it was announced that after a 100 day campaign, the poor and the working class would be mobilized for a massive protest.
AICCTU Solidarity Rally with Municipal Workers in Delhi
AICCTU and the Delhi State Valmiki Mazdoor Sangh held an Ekta rally on 11 April in support of the ongoing hartal for demands of- (i) payment of past 4 months' arrears to Delhi municipal workers, (ii) ending of the contractual system, and (iii) all temporary workers to be regularized. The rally started at Vijay Chowk in Narela and culminated in a dharna and a meeting at the Delhi Municipal Corporation regional office at Narela.
Addressing the rally, AICCTU leader Com. Satbir Shramik said that privatization and corruption are the chief reasons for the dire plight of the Delhi municipal corporation workers. The dharna was also addressed by Com. Rohtas Bharti and Shri Pradhan, President of the Delhi Jal Board Sewer Workers' Union.
Condemning the BJP's anti-worker policy, Raj Singh Sathi (General Secretary, Delhi state Valmiki Mazdoor Sangh) who has been sitting on a dharna for the past one week, called for the fight against this injustice to continue till the end, and appreciated the solidarity shown by AICCTU with the sanitation workers
May Day Convention of Working Women organised by AIPWA in Hoogly
On the 1st of May, All India Progressive Women's Association, Hoogly unit, organized a discussion session, cultural programme and documentary screening at All India Postal Employees Union hall in Chuchurah. Women workers from various fields including ASHA workers, midday meal, anganwadi field and domestic workers, joined the programme. The programme started by observing one minute's silence in memory of those who had lost their lives in the Nepal earthquake. This was followed by a speech by Com. Choitali Sen (Secretary) on the relevance of historic May day. ASHA workers and midday meal workers discussed about their work permanence, salary hike and other problems. In the second half of the programme tribal girls from Polba village, Hoogly presented a dance performance. Towards the concluding part of the programme 'Nam Poribortito (Identity Undisclosed), a film by Mitali Biswas based on rape and rape culture in India especially in the context of West Bengal was screened. The programme ended with a post film spontaneous discussion on rape culture and participating women pledging to strengthen the struggle to put an end to it
Bindukhatta Movement Continues
As per their earlier declaration, thousands of farmers gheraoed the Lalkuan tehsil of Nainital district in Uttarakhand on 25 April under the banner of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha, in a continuation of the 3 ½ month old agitation against making Bindukhatta a municipality and the indifferent attitude adopted by the State government.
Bindukhatta is settled entirely on forest land and its 60,000 population is dependent on farming and animal husbandry. In the 70s and 80s landless hill people and scheduled tribes settled on 11 thousand acres of forest land. The government attempted several times to displace the settlement but was foiled by the efforts of the CPI (ML) and the people. Finally Bindukhatta started getting all basic civic amenities. All political parties promised to make Bindukhatta a revenue village in accordance with the people's wishes but now they are determined to make it a municipality to please the land mafia. Disregarding the people's objections, an ordinance has been issued making Bindukhatta a municipality. The CPI (ML) and Kisan Mahasabha have been leading a series of agitations against this- a 2000 strong farmers' march at the tehsil HQ on 25 March, a collective hunger strike on 26 March, a mashal juloos by youth on 29 March, gherao of the tehsil by farmers on 1 April and the latest being a huge protest by hundreds of farmers in front of the Vidhan Sabha at Dehradun challenging the making of Bindukhatta municipality in the High Court. The HC has accepted the appeal and asked the State government to reply within 3 weeks. Leaders speaking at the gherao meeting exposed the government –mafia nexus and the role played by local MLA and Labour Minister Harish Durgpal. They also exposed BJP leader and ex-CM Koshiyari's lie that his government had sent a proposal for making Bindukhatta a revenue village which was rejected by the UPA government at the centre, pointing out that during Koshiyari's tenure the Vajpayee government was in power at the centre.
Seeing the support for the Kisan Mahasabha's movement against making Bindukhatta a municipality, other parties like BJP, Shiv Sena and AAP have also opposed this, but their opposition remains symbolic
District Conference of Midday Meal Workers in Patna
The founding conference of the Patna district unit of the Bihar State School Midday Meal Workers Association concluded on 19 April in Comrade Siyamani Devi auditorium. Nearly 250 midday meal workers' representatives from 8 blocks and several AIPWA leaders participated in the conference. The conference was inaugurated by state APIWA secretary Com. Shashi Yadav. Com. Saroj Chaubey, state AIPWA President was also present as the chief speaker. Several representatives actively participated in the discussions on the work report. A resolution was also passed in the conference to ensure the success of the strike called from 17 to 22 April and organize a Juloos on 21 April outside the block headquarters. Towards the end of the conference, a 31 member district committee was constituted with AICCTU leader Com. Kamlesh Kumar as honorary President, Com. Damyanti Sinha as president and Com. Sona Devi as the secretary
Militant Gherao of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited Administrative Office in Bangalore
A series of gate meetings at various divisions of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., in Bangalore culminated in a militant gherao of the administrative office of the HAL. The workers were agitated seeing the adamant attitude of the HAL management regarding the Charter of Demands of the contract workers. While on one hand the management refused with the contract workers on the Charter of Demands, on the other hand, it continued to try and talk to regular employees association, who had not been authorised by contract workers to speak for them. The workers also staged a 'Raasta roko' (block the road) and finally the police had to intervene to avoid law and order problem.
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