Wednesday, September 23, 2015

ML Update | No. 39 18 | 2015

ML Update

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol.  18 | No. 39 18 | 22 - 28 SEP 2015

Delhi's Dengue Deaths:
India's Public Health System In Crisis

Delhi's annual dengue epidemic  is taking a deadly toll – in the process making a mockery of the tall claims of 'Swacch Bharat,' good governance and development by Central and State Governments that govern India's capital city. While the Delhi Government admits to 15 deaths, the actual count is likely to be higher, while several thousands are affected by dengue.

Compounding the crisis was the callousness of privatized health care. Tragically, two small children Avinash Rout and Aman Sharma died of dengue after being denied admissions in a series of private hospitals. Avinash's parents, traumatized by the loss of their son, committed suicide. Their suicide and the deaths of Avinash and Aman finally triggered a response from the hitherto apathetic Delhi Government, that ordered some belated measures.

It is well known that dengue cases peak during the monsoon months in Delhi. In spite of being forewarned, the Government, MCD and NDMC took no adequate measures to prevent, contain and cope with the epidemic.

Dengue epidemics are primarily an urban phenomenon; poorly planned urban growth, unregulated construction sites, poor drainage, congested colonies with poor civic amenities create ample breeding grounds for the Aedes mosquito. Contractualisation and casualization of the MCD services has meant that an abject failure to check homes and colonies to get rid of stagnant fresh water breeding grounds. The strength of the MCD staff responsible for inspecting and treating dengue and malaria breeding grounds is far short of what is needed. These workers are overworked, often denied salaries for months on end, denied gas masks, ear plugs or uniforms to protect them from mosquitoes and during fogging operations, and forced to handle poisonous substances like temefos granules and liquid, BTI, methylene, pyrethrum and malathion with bare hands.

Much is being made of the shortage of hospital beds. In reality, a network of local health centres equipped with laboratory facilities to monitor platelet counts could have coped ably with the bulk of the cases, requiring hospitalization only in the worse cases and averting the crisis entirely. In the absence of such basic facilities, hospitals overflow with patients. Public hospitals are eroded and emaciated by privatization, and their services are stretched to their limits. Private hospitals greedy for profits subvert their obligation to admit poor patients in EWS beds, while sucking other patients needlessly into the system with unnecessary tests and hospitalization. Private laboratories blatantly charge exorbitantly for tests.    

One of the key promises of AAP Government of Delhi was to ensure access to health services for all Delhi's citizens. But in health as in other public services, the AAP Government is unwilling to challenge or change the privatized system of health care. In fact the Government has slashed allocation for municipality-level health care. The share of allocations in the Delhi Government's 2015-16 health budget to counter vector-borne diseases was nearly halved (from 9% to 4.8%  of the total health budget) from 2012-13. Not only that, the Delhi Government reduced its demand for funds from the Centre from 260 crore in 2012-13 to 42 crore this year. Not to be outdone in callousness, the Modi Government allocated just 17 crore this year to Delhi from 50 crore in 2012-13.    

The apathy and callousness of Governments and policies of privatization have needlessly cost lives of people due to a disease which is both preventable and curable. The Delhi Government must urgently ensure that private hospitals comply with obligations to give free beds and treatment to EWS patients, and to ensure free sample collection and testing for suspected dengue cases.

Above all, it is imperative that the lessons of this year's dengue epidemic be learnt well to ensure that the crisis is not repeated against next year. Central and State Governments must ensure a network of well-equipped health centres across the city; and in fact all over the country. The two-tier system of health care (steeply-priced private health care for the rich and poor public health facilities for the poor) must be dismantled, and the Governments must invest to strengthen public health care systems, including not only hospitals and health centres but robust mechanisms to prevent and control epidemics.        

No more Avinashs and Amans must be left to the mercy of cruel profit-driven health care systems.
Left Parties' Joint People's Political Convention in Bihar:
Call of the Left – Employment and Land Reforms for All

Six Left parties organized a joint political convention in Patna, underlining their main aim of defeating the feudal, communal, pro-corporate alliance under the BJP as well as the opportunistic and deceitful JD (U)-RJD-Congress alliance. Over 5,000 activists from CPI, CPI(M), CPI-ML, SUCI, Forward Bloc and RSP from districts across Bihar attended this historic convention on 7 September 2015. Great enthusiasm and energy was witnessed, especially among the younger participants, as this was the first joint programme of its kind.

The convention began with revolutionary songs sung by Jan Sanskriti Manch and Hirawal. A 6-member board was constituted to chair the convention, consisting of CPI State secretary Satyanarayan Singh, CPI-ML State secretary Kunal, CPM State secretary Awdhesh Kumar, SUCI State committee member Arun Kumar, AIFB State Vice President Ashok Prasad, and RSP State secretary Mahesh Prasad Sinha. Senior Left party leaders A B Bardhan, Sitaram Yechury, Dipankar Bhattacharya, Chhaya Mukherjee, Devavrat Biswas, Avani Roy, and other leaders were present on the dais. These Left parties had prepared 'a joint Left appeal to the voters of Bihar and an alternative agenda for the pro-people development of Bihar', which was presented at the convention by Com. Dhirendra Jha. Com. Dhirendra pointed out that credit for societal change through agitations by the working class, poor, youth, students, teachers, goes to Left forces, and the Left must unite to conduct people's struggles so that this new agenda can become a reality. Com. Sarvoday Sharma and Ram Babu Kumar endorsed this view, and the 'appeal' was passed unanimously.

Addressing the convention, CPI leader Com. A B Bardhan called for the defeat of the two unholy alliances, the NDA alliance as well as the JD (U)-RJD-Congress alliance. The people of Bihar have seen through the Nitish and Lalu regimes of misrule as well as the anti-people, pro-rich Modi govt at the centre, he pointed out. He stressed that a united Left was the way to defeat these opportunistic and dangerous alliances. CPI(M) General Secretary Com. Sitaram Yechury  said that with this new Left unity, a three-cornered contest has been provided in the State: the first is the politics of communalism/feudalism  led by Modi and his false promises of 'achhe din'; the second is the 'throne' politics of power led by the so-called 'grand alliance' which has destroyed Bihar economically and socially over the past 25 years; and the third is the politics of 'people's rule' led by the Left which aspires to fulfill the needs of the people. He stressed that it is time to deny the pro-rich policies of these ruling class governments and choose the Left which aims to establish true 'people's rule'.

CPI-ML General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya said that this welcome Left unity has come after a wait of many years and for the first time all Left parties will fight together, not just on separate issues but on a joint platform. He pointed out that 2014 was a year of 'jumlebaaji' and false promises, when Modi got a full majority on the strength of these false promises. With his coming to power the corporate houses thought that they would get full license to exploit the poor with amendments in the labour laws and the Land grab ordinance. However, neither of these could be implemented in the face of people's protests. The Land ordinance was forced to lapse, and the 2 September 2015 labour strike was a unique success in which even the RSS-affiliated BMS was obliged to join in certain places. It is time to defeat the saffron forces, but the JD (U)-RJD-Congress cannot do this as they are anti-poor and anti-dalit and are protecting perpetrators of carnages like the Ranveer Sena. The Nitish government dissolved the Amir Das commission to shield the Ranveer Sena-politician nexus, but the Cobrapost sting has exposed this nexus. The land reforms recommended by the Bandopadhyay commission have been put in cold storage by the Lalu and Nitish governments, as both pander to feudal and corporate interests. Modi and Nitish are both indulging in a fraudulent 'package war' but the basic rights of the farmers, workers, ASHA, midday meal workers and contractual workers are being denied. The Left must enter into these elections not to bargain for a few seats but to ensure a life of dignity for the people of Bihar.

The convention was also addressed by comrades Meena Tiwari, Rajaram Singh, Chhaya Mukherjee, Devavrat Biswas, Avani Roy, Satyanarayan Singh, Vijaykant Thakur, Arun Kumar, Amresh Kumar Singh, Akhilesh Kumar, Arun Kumar Mishra and others. 

Protest against Sexual Harassment

The students of Patna Women's College (PWC), AISA and AIPWA have been organising a spirited and sustained campaign against sexual harassment and victim blaming. In a recent incident, a student of the PWC complained against harassment by a faculty member. Shamefully, the college administration as well as the Principal, instead of addressing her complaint, launched into a full-fledged campaign of intimidation, victim blaming and character assassination. The complainant, as well as all those who chose to support her, were villified and openly threatened by the Principal, who said: "if you wear such clothes and wear your dupattas in such a style, [men's] attention will obviously go there. It is not their fault at all, it is all your fault. If I want, I can remove all of you in one moment, and not one person will know. I can completely ruin your reputations, and all you will be able to do is watch."

On 18th September, a massive protest was held at the PWC. The protesting girls blocked the Bailey Road for two hours. Yet, the Principal refused to meet the protesters, and various faculty members try their level best to break the protest and intimidate the protesters. Later, an AIPWA/AISA delegation led by AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari met the Principal as well as representatives of the PWC. The delegation articulated the demands of the ongoing protests, and argued that democracy and women's freedom should be defended by the college administration. The following demands were made: an impartial enquiry should be instituted against the accused faculty member; a democratic atmosphere must be ensured in the college campus so that women feel free to express their grievances; a committee against sexual harassment should be instituted consisting of faculty members as well as students from all academic streams in the college; the rustication of the complainant should be immediately revoked and the campaign of intimidation and victim blaming against her should be immediately stopped; the accused faculty member should be suspended pending enquiry, and the notice of the same should be made public within the college. The college administration assured the delegation that these demands would be looked into. There are also protests in Darbhanga, Ara and other districts in solidarity with the students of the PWC.

Midday Meal Workers' Dharna

The Bihar State Vidyalaya Rasoiya Sangh and AIPWA staged a dharna on 26 August 2015, in front of the Collectorate in Gaya, to press for various demands.  A six point charter of demands was submitted to the Collector. The following demands were put forward: to increase the midday meal workers' honorarium from Rs 1,250 to Rs 15,000; to pay honorarium for all 12 months; to pay without delay arrears of 5-6 months pending in schools in the district; to regularize their employment; to guarantee safety and rehabilitation of rape victims; to start speedy trial of accused; to constitute an SIT to go into the incident of a daughter's molestation by her father in Fatehpur Neemi, and other demands. The dharna was led by AIPWA district secretary Rita Varnwal, Sheela Verma, Varti Chowdhury, Rasoiya Sangh leaders Vima Bharti, Mira Devi, Renu Devi, and others.

Initiatives have also been taken to organize the Rasoiya Sangh in Dobhi, Sherghati, and Tikari blocks in Gaya district. In Dobhi, a protest was held on 15 August and a memorandum submitted to the BDO. Over 300 midday meal workers participated in the protest. On 20 August a protest was organized in Sherghati in which about 350 rasoiyas participated. These protests were led by leaders from the CPI(ML), AIPWA, and Rasoiya Sangh. A meeting of women midday meal workers was held on 9 September in Tikari led by the Party and AIPWA. After the announcement of elections, women midday meal workers of Dobhi and Sherghati took the initiative and organized meetings. They welcomed the Party's fielding women candidates in the election and pledged full support to the CPI(ML) candidates.

Agitation by Para-Teachers in Jharkhand

The para teachers of Jharkhand started a "Ghera dalo Dera dalo" agitation at Mohrabadi Maidan near the Chief Minister's residence on 22 August 2015. Their main demands were the following: better and regular wage scales; employment guarantee till the age of 60; regularization and honorarium similar to that in Chhattisgarh; direct recruitment (without test) of TET qualified para teachers; promotion of 750 para teachers to the post of teacher. About 20,000 para teachers participated in the agitation led by General Secretary Vikrant Jyoti, Virendra Dubey, Sintu Singh and others. Thousands of para teachers remained at Mohrabadi Maidan throughout the night also. On 23 August (Sunday), many more para teachers joined the protest. Women para teachers also joined in large numbers and family members of para teachers were also present at the venue. The protesters remained at the venue throughout the next day and night.

The para teachers' agitation became a topic for discussion amongst political circles in the capital. On 24 August, this agitation led to the issue of para teachers and their demands being discussed inside the Jharkhand Assembly. CPI(ML) MLA Rajkumar Yadav played a major role in uniting the Opposition on the issue of para teachers and putting pressure on the government. JMM leader Hemant Soren tried to bring an adjournment motion till the para teachers' demands were fulfilled, but did not succeed. The Speaker and the BJP government did not show seriousness on the issue of para teachers. However, at Mohrabadi Maidan, the para teachers became more determined, and their numbers grew larger. On 24 and 25 August, CPI(ML) MLA Rajkumar Yadav held public meetings at Mohrabadi Maidan in support of the para teachers, after which the agitation gained in momentum. On that day also the Assembly echoed with voices which pointed out that governments changed, but the demands of the para teachers have never got fulfilled.

On 25 August, the para teachers' agitation at Mohrabadi Maidan was addressed by by 5 MLAs including Hemant Soren and Jaiprakash Verma. On 26 August another section of para Teachers led by Vinod Bihari Mahto staged a dharna at Birsa chowk. Now the Mohrabadi Maidan as well as Birsa chowk have become strongholds of the agitation in Ranchi. The Vinod Bihari section announced that they would wear black badges from 28 to 31 August, take out a mashal juloos on 31 August, and go on indefinite strike from 1 September. Scared of these announcements, the government was forced to bow down and on the evening of 26 August Education Minister Neera Yadav and Secretary Aradhana Patnaik held talks with a delegation led by Vikrant Jyoti. The Education Minister attempted to evade the issue of pay scales by citing the benefits of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana and the Atal Pension Yojana but the para teachers refused to be fobbed off by these claims. Finally the Minister promised an immediate wage increase of 25% and a 10% increment every year from the year 2016. However, no agreement was reached on the issues of retirement at the age of 60, PF, pension, and eligibility-based honorarium. The Minister spoke of raising these issues later, and finally no written agreement was reached.

Therefore, the para teachers took back the "Ghera dalo, Dera dalo" agitation on 27 August and went on an indefinite strike from 28 August. Talks were again held with the Education Minister on 31 August. This time, there was a written agreement announcing an immediate 25% wage increase and 10% increment every year from 2016. As a scheme for recruitment of teachers is in process currently, the agitation was called off. However, as the Modi-Raghubar governments are clearly bent on encouraging privatization in education, a huge teachers' agitation in the future remains a distinct possibility.

Dharna for Housing and Toilets

Hundreds of women led by the CPI(ML) and AIPWA a gheraoed the municipal commissioner's office in Gorakhpur on 9 September 2015, to demand housing, toilets, and clean drinking water for the poor in the Gorakhpur city area. The protesters marched to the commissioner's office shouting slogans of "Stop the hypocrisy of Swachhata Abhiyan", "Housing, Toilets, and Drinking Water for All Poor", and sat on a dharna in front of the commissioner. A meeting was held at the venue which lasted till 3 p.m. The meeting was addressed by CPI(ML) district Secretary Rajesh Sahni, Sugreev Nishad, Nandu Prasad, Shyam Rathi Chouhan, Mira Sharma, Maryadi, and others. The speakers pointed out that in most of the wards of the city area, the poor are deprived of housing, toilets, and drinking water. The Swachhata Abhiyan has been reduced to a hypocritical posturing. There is a lot of talk but no work at the ground level. The municipality does not give a hearing to the voices of the poor.

As a result of the dharna, the commissioner held talks with protestors and gave an assurance that a survey would be conducted and all eligible people would be given housing and would be provided amenities of toilets and clean drinking water.

Meeting in Memory of Comrade Satish Yadav

The CPI-ML held a 'sankalp sabha' at Agiaon in Bhojpur in memory of martyred Comrade Satish Yadav. Addressing the meeting, Party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya said that the politics of killing those who fought for the rights of the poor and oppressed has been going on in Bhojpur for the last 40-50 years. CPI-ML leaders have regularly been targeted – from comrades Manju, Bhaiyaram Yadav and Budhram Paswan, to the recent martyrdom of Comrade Satish Yadav. Even after 15 days of Comrade Satish's killing, no one has been arrested. On the other hand, the administration is very quick to slap false cases on CPI-ML leaders. Comrade Dipankar pointed out that the Cobrapost sting showed the perpetrators of carnages proudly owning their crimes, and also exposed the protection given to them by the BJP. After this, Prime Minister Modi came to Ara on 19 August 2015 and on 20 August 2015 Satish Yadav was killed. Clearly Modi and the BJP are morale boosters for killer feudal forces.

Comrade Dipankar said that the elections in Bhojpur would not be fought on Modi's 'package' or on Lalu's humorous anecdotes, but on issues of the farmers such as paddy price, seeds, irrigation and fertilizers. The BJP MP from Ara, BJP MLAs from Sandesh and Agiaon and the MLA from Tarari have never done anything for the poor. The CPI-ML flag must fly in the panchayats, PACS, and Vidhan Sabha in order to wrest dignity and rights for the poor from the feudal forces. He said that Modi had to face defeat in the matter of the Land grab ordinance, which he had to revoke in the face of stiff opposition from the people. The 2 September 2015 workers' strike was a unique success and showed the power of the working class, which would never allow the Modi to implement the anti-worker amendments to the labour law.

Bihar is at present going through a phase of struggles. Teachers, Midday meal workers, ASHA workers, contract workers, and even students have had to agitate for their rights. Land, electricity, education, paddy price, and sharecropping will be the issues in these elections. Comrade Dipankar pointed out that jandavedari sabhas are being held to determine the issues of each Vidhan Sabha constituency. On this basis, a manifesto will be announced for each constituency. It is while returning from one such jandavedari sabha that Satish Yadav was killed by the person against whom he was fighting to secure paddy payment for farmers. Comrade Dipankar said that in Satish Yadav we have lost a warrior who fought several battles for people's rights. We have to carry forward our comrade's fight and convert our anger and grief into agitation and victory for the people. One the one hand is the path of lies, loot, betrayal and anti-poor policies; on the other hand is the path of Comrade Ramnaresh Ram which is for truth, justice, and people's rights. By choosing this road we can pay fitting tribute to the martyrs who fought for the people.

The sankalp sabha was also addressed by Comrade Satish's wife Usha who pledged to carry forward her husband's fight. RYA President Comrade Raju Yadav, Manoj Manzil, Chandradeep Singh, Sudama Prasad, Raghuvar Paswan, Upendra Yadav, Indu Devi, Kamta Prasad Singh, Sidhnath Ram, Shah Shad, Vimal Yadav and other leaders also addressed the meeting. A huge public gathering attended the meeting, showing their love and honour for martyred Comrade Satish Yadav.

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