Wednesday, December 23, 2015

ML Update | No. 52 | 2015

-- ML Update

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 18 | No. 52 | 22 ­– 28 DECEMBER 2015

A Government-Made Disaster

The severe rains and subsequent flooding that have devastated Chennai, parts of coastal Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry have now subsided. But the many questions that the floods raised as to the culpability of successive Governments and disastrous policies must not be allowed to subside.

Even when it came to basic rescue and relief work, the callousness of Governments of TN and Puducherry as well as the Centre were in stark contrast to the remarkable display of selfless voluntary efforts by citizens. As many have remarked, the city of Chennai in particular showed its best side in its worst crisis - with people rising above differences of faith to help each other. The Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has issued an appeal on media and social media - an appeal which is an exercise in building up her own image as a 'caring Mother' of the citizens, while her party insisted on putting photos of the CM 'Amma' on relief packages. Such shameful and self-serving advertisements have only rubbed salt into the wounds of people who - so long after the disaster - are still unable to return to their homes and have lost everything.

It is clear by now that the calamities that struck Uttarakhand, Kashmir and now Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, are not mere 'natural disasters' - they are very much a product of the 'development' policies of Governments. Elected Governments are not needed to be 'mothers' (Amma) or 'parents' (mai-baap) to citizens - they are required to take responsibility and be accountable. There is no getting away from the fact that the floods were not an act of God, as claimed by the Chief Minister who declared that "Losses are unavoidable when there's very heavy rain." Rather, the floods were made by successive Governments - and the Government must be held accountable for the losses suffered by people. Compensation in such a disaster cannot then be an act of charity - it must be a penalty on the Government for having left people not only unprotected but more vulnerable than usual.    

It is now widely recognised that the release of excess water from the Chembarambakkam Lake, which supplies water for Chennai, was the main reason for the havoc Chennai faced. The failure of DMK and AIADMK Governments to increase the capacity of the lake to match the needs of growing urbanisation was one of the main reasons for the disaster. Moreover, 'development' and 'modernisation' that has pandered to real estate mafias backed by political rulers, has meant rampant violation of the coastal regulation laws, unchecked construction on environmentally sensitive land, and blocking of natural drainage systems.

Even now, in the name of correcting this mess in the wake of the floods, the Government is refusing to act against the builders and real estate mafia who are responsible for the worst encroachments on environmentally sensitive land. Instead, it is preparing to use the floods as a pretext to evict the shanties of the poor on riverbeds, and, in the name of 'rehabilitation', is preparing to shift vast masses of the urban poor far away from the city centre.         

The Governments and ruling parties in TN and Puducherry are trying to brand any criticism as an insensitive attempt to 'politicise' a natural disaster. But this ploy to deflect criticism is failing badly. Increasingly, people are demanding that the Government take responsibility for having caused the worst of the devastation, failed to provide safe homes for the poor, and failed to rescue, give relief to or rehabilitate those affected. It is increasingly clear that it is the Government of Tamil Nadu that has 'politicised' the very work of relief and rehabilitation, using it not only to project the Chief Minister as a benevolent Mother but also to further attack the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable. 

The Central Government too has not been far behind in its callous and self-serving response. The Prime Minister's own official social media team came in for flak when it photo-shopped an image of the PM viewing the flooded areas from a helicopter. Just as in the case of the Nepal quake, the PM's attempts to turn the TN and Puducherry floods into a PR-exercise to boost his image boomeranged spectacularly. What is inexcusable is that the Centre has refused to declare the floods a national calamity, instead restricting it to a 'disaster of severe nature.' This play of words is actually playing with lives.   

It is time the Centre and State governments are forced to take measures for adequate compensation for all sections of people affected by the floods and for complete rehabilitation assistance. The disaster should be declared a national calamity and a compensation commensurate with the loss should be released.


Sankalp Diwas Observed on the 17th Memorial Day of Comrade VM

December 18, the 17th anniversary of the death of former party General Secretary Comrade Vinod Mishra was observed by CPI(ML) all over the country as Sankalp Diwas (pledge day) to expand the party and strengthen the communist movement. The Call issued by the Central Committee was collectively read. The sankalp sabhas were held in all places across states as comrades gathered to pay tributes to Com. Vinod Mishra and reaffirmed their pledge to carry forward Comrade VM's legacy with powerful advances on every front.


One-day Strike in Bokaro Steel Plant

On 3 December 2015, a successful one-day strike was observed in the Bokaro steel plant. Nearly 3000 workers participated in the strike. Since several days an intense brainstorming had been happening among the workers. Nowadays, in SAIL (Steel Authority of India Limited) a lot of issues are being determined in forums like NJCS (National Joint Committee for Steel). This forum includes CITU, AHMS, INTUC and BMS. Though each of these have been recognized in some or the other unit of SAIL, whenever there is a dialogue with the SAILS administration regarding the questions of the workers, there is always a cutting down in the rights of the workers. This has been happening for the past one year. Hence the credibility of the NJCS has fallen down among the workers. For instance, we can see that earlier there was no sealing on the gratuity of the workers but now the limit has been set at 10 lakhs. More recently even the health facilities have been withdrawn from the dependents who are 25 years of age. Now, when the time for the bonus is near, it is already being spread through the media that since SAILS has suffered loses, there will be no bonus. The NJCS has failed to refute this even though the Bokaro steel plant made a profit of 451 crores last year. As a result of this, the anger of the workers against the NJCS leaders and it is in view of this situation that we decided to form a forum of a non NJCS unions. These include- AICCTU, JMS, Bokaro Mazdoor Samaj, Akhil Jharkhand Shramik Sangh and Jharkhand Krantikaari Mazdoor Union (PCC-CPIML).

This non NJCS front immediately raised four key issues: (i) temporary workers be paid a bonus equivalent to the last year before Dusshehra, (ii) 20% bonus be given to contractual workers, (iii) medical facilities be renewed for the dependents aged 25 years and (iv) an end be put to cut in all the facilities. Since usually NJCS negotiates on these issues, the talks with SAILS management has started in Delhi, but even though the practice is to give bonus before Dusshehra, the entire Dusshehra period went in the talks. During this time the front intensified its campaign and warned the management of a lunching a movement if the justice was not done to the workers. Even NJCS warned the management of strike anytime after 3 November. The SAILS management immediately sent Rs.9000/- to the account of all the workers, however during this period, the workers were able to obtain a copy of a document that had been signed by the NJCS in which there had been an agreement on the ending of medical facilities to the dependents aged 25 years. The front also came to know that the NJCS had been hiding the information that SAILS management had proposed a cut in several facilities provided to the workers. As the anger of the workers increased, NJCS decided to issue a notice of strike on 19 November, and realising the urgency of the situation the front also gave a call for a strike on 19 November. One day before the strike, regional labour commission called unions for a talk. There were also reports in the newspaper about talks on 25 November because of which there is was a situation of confusion. NJCS shifted the date of strike to 3 December, and to ensure that there was no disruption of workers' unity, the front also gave a call for 3 December. However, Krantikari Ispat Mazdoor Sangh (KIMS), which is run under the leadership of local MLA Samresh Singh, only announced a delay in strike without giving the call for strike. In other situations, they tried to create confusion among workers. On the other hand, BMS and INTUC took back the call for the strike.

In such a situation, the front intensified its campaign and even took out a cycle rally in the last phase preceding the strike to mobilize the workers. During this time, the front also came to know that the news about talks on 25 November had only been circulated to delay the strike and there was no such plan. The front exposed the unions that had used this as a pretence to call off the earlier strike and who had ensured the management that there would be no strike. The front had called for a Sabha on 2 December which the Samresh Singh lead KIMS tried to disrupt. However, the front ensured that the massive was sabha was held. The next day, there were attempts to mobilize those against the strike to disrupt the strike, however, the front ensured that the strike was successfully held. The strike held on 3 December 2002 is remembered till date as a historic event in the movement of Bokaro steel plant workers, however, the strike on 3 December 2015 broke all records. It also showed the workers the way for the future. The intensity and enthusiasm that the strike inspired must be sustained and carried forward.


Protest in Begusarai

Under the joint banner of CPI (ML) and AIARLA, agricultural labourers and students and youth took out a march to the Balia subdivision office. The protestors carried several flags and placards and held an angry demonstration outside the subdivision office, handing memorandum to the officials. The demands contained in the memorandum included-  (i) to ensure land to 132 parcha holders in the Meeralipur, Maksudanpur and Shahpur areas of Balia zone, (ii) legal action on anti-social elements who displaced parcha holders from their lands in violation of the law, (iii) implementation of the recommendations of the land reform commission, (iv) guarantee 3-3 dismal land for accommodation and employment for the poor landless and investigation and action on the ration scam that took place under the food security scheme, (v) improvement of health and education situation, (iv) correction in electricity bills, (vii) registration of sharecroppers and issuing them identity cards whereby they can benefit from government grants, and several other demands. Addressing the protestors, CPI (ML) district secretary, Com. Diwakar Kumar said it was the result of consistent movements that the district official was forced to issue an order rejecting the false claims of anit-social and feudal elements and in support of the parcha holders, in case of 120.68 acre lands. The protests were led by CPI (ML) block secretary Com. Noor Alam and AIARLA, district secretary, Com. Chandradev Verma, along with other leaders.


AISA Organizes People's Vigil on WTO Meet

In view of the Indian Government's participation in the 10th Ministerial Conference of WTO which was scheduled from 15th to 18th at Nairobi, Kenya and the promise made 10 years back during Doha Round of WTO on Higher Education according to which the Indian Higher Education will become a tradable service in the global market leaving it open for plunder by private and global capital, AISA organised a people's vigil from 15 to 18 December 2015. The purpose of the vigil was to send a clear and a loud message to the government that the students and youth of this country were resolutely against the sell out of higher education. In a press statement issued prior to the vigil, Delhi State Secretary of AISA, Com. Ashutosh Kumar said, "We will not let the Government of India to silently sell out education, future and sovereign decision making power of our country to WTO. We are going to hold mass public demonstrations during 15th to 18th December when the WTO Ministerial Conference is held at Nairobi."

As a part of this campaign that had earlier seen huge mobilizations in Delhi on 8th and 9th, the following programmes took place from 15th to 18th December.

On 15 December 2015, AISA appealed all to join the Bhumi Adhikar Andolan's 'Chetvani Rally' against corporate takeover of our land, forest and education at Sansad Marg, Jantar Mantar.  On 17 December 2015, a massive human chain was formed at 2 pm at Central park in Connaught Place. Initially the Delhi Police tried to prevent the human chain from being formed and issued a letter to JNUSU Gen Secretary, Com. Rama Naga that there was no permission. However, the students resolutely asserted their right to protest and ensure the inclusiveness and accessibility of higher education in India and continued their protest and a massive human chain was formed despite all obstacles. On 18 December 2015, which was to be the last day of the WTO negotiations, a protest demonstration was called Ministry of Commerce and Industry (Udyog Bhawan) to stop the commerce minister from committing Higher Education to be converted into tradeable service for profit making. During the protest, Com. Sucheta De, National President of AISA said that, "In spite of mass dissent against the India's impending negotiations with WTO, the GoI has not even responded to the protesting students and academicians. Why the public is not being told about India's promises and commitments to WTO? What is there to hide?" Despite heavy barricading by the police, a determined protest was held and the students vowed to continue their agitation against sell out of higher education.


AISA Wins President's Post in Chennai Bharathi Women's College

Bharathi college is a women's college in Chennnai with nearly 4500 students. Com. Seetha of AISA, a student of this college has been in the forefront in taking up issues of students for basic amenities like potable drinking water, canteen and clean toilet facilities. Several campaigns undertaken under the leadership of AISA activists resulted in the administration being forced to undertake some immediate steps for the benefit of the students. AISA continues to struggle for permanent solutions to these basic issues. Com. Seetha has played a crucial leading role in several of these campaigns and initiatives. As per college norms only 3rd year UG students are allowed to contest elections along with various undemocratic stipulations like 90% attendance etc. When Com. Seetha reached 3rd year, she filed her nomination to contest the Presidential post, but her candidature was rejected citing certain stipulations. Challenging this undemocratic move Com. Seetha filed a writ petition in the High court of Madras, which allowed her to contest elections. However, she was able to obtain the order of the judgement only on 19th Aug 2015, a day before the date of election. She still contested despite losing several campaign days. Annoyed by her action, the college management = withheld the results of the post of President. Com. Seetha approached the Court again, which directed the management to announce the results and declare the victory of Com. Seetha for the post for President. The students have reposed their great faith in Com. Seetha of AISA in fighting for campus democracy and these pro-student struggles would be intensified in the days to come.


AIPWA and AISA Statement on Demands for Lowering the Age of Juvenility in Selected Cases of Rape

'Treating Juveniles as Adults Will Not Deter Rape - Ensuring Justice in Every Rape Case Will Deter Rape'

AIPWA and AISA express concern at the outcry to lower the age of juvenility in selected cases of rape. We strongly oppose such moves, which are not in the interests of justice for women. We appeal to all to consider the facts, and to recognise the real issues that confront the struggles for justice in rape cases.

We would like to remind that the Justice Verma Committee rejected both death penalty and sending juveniles into the adult Courts and jails. The Committee, quoting extensively from studies of international experience, and praising the maturity of women's organizations on the issue, noted: "We have heard experts on the question of reduction of the age of a juvenile from 18 to 16 for the purpose of being tried for offences under various laws of the country. We must confess that the degree of maturity displayed by all the women's organisations, the academics and a large body of thinking people have viewed this incident both in the criminological as well as societal perspective humbles us....We are of the view that the material before is sufficient for us to reach the conclusion that the age of 'juveniles' ought not to be reduced to 16 years."

There is a false hype being created that rape by juveniles is 'increasing'. The fact is that juveniles are accused in a very small percentage of total rape cases. And of those cases, a very large proportion comprises of cases of consensual love among teenagers, in which parents of the girl have falsely filed 'rape' charges. Many of such boys tend to be from oppressed castes.

The 'common sense' logic is: 'rape is an adult crime', and if anyone is mature enough to rape, he should be mature enough to be punished. This is a mistaken understanding of the concept of 'maturity'. Sexual impulses, and the ability to commit a murder or a rape, can develop in children as young as 10 years old. But the fact is that this ability does not signify 'maturity.' Based on scientific studies, it is now internationally accepted that in adolescents, the frontal cortex of the brain – called the CEO of the brain – that controls the ability to plan, take decisions, correctly assess risks and set long term goals, is not fully developed. This is why young persons must not be treated as adults.

Sadly, an argument is being constructed that we need a change in the law to allow us to selectively punish juveniles in some cases – i.e the cases which receive media hype and selective outrage. Our stance is that treating some rapes as 'extraordinary' allows us to treat most rapes as 'ordinary'. The same BJP leader Subramanian Swamy who is demanding lowering of the age of juvenility in the December 16th case, is the one who is branding the 16-year old victim of Asaram as a liar!

We teach young boys in our society that 'real' rapes are committed by some 'animals' who deserve brutal punishment. But at the same time, the same young boys learn from adults that rape is no big deal. When police in Bastar rape a 14-year-old girl, they see no media or political outrage. They see the rapists of Dalit girls in Bhagana escape. They see how the rapists of Muzaffarnagar are treated as heroes and openly defended by a Minister (Sanjeev Balyan) in the Modi Government. They see how witnesses in the Asaram rape case are killed – and how thousands of his supporters openly propagate that the rape laws 'break society.' They see how the women who came forward to complain against Tejpal or Pachauri are blamed and shamed while the men they accused remain untouched by the law. So our young boys do not learn that rape is morally wrong and is a crime followed surely by punishment – instead they learn that some rapists are animals who deserve to be punished; while most rape complainants are liars; and most responsibility to prevent rape lies with women not with men. As long as our system and our society teaches these lessons, we cannot deter rape and sexual harassment.

The system has failed to deliver justice for most complainants who came forward to seek justice under the new rape laws. Yet those who rule the system – instead of implementing existing laws and ensuring justice in each case – prefer to divert attention towards yet another new 'severe' law.

Several studies have shown how in the US, sending juveniles in selected cases to the adult courts and jails has not deterred crime. Instead, it has deterred reform and encouraged the juveniles to become criminals. As a result of this experience, between 2005 and 2010, fifteen US states enacted laws to prevent young people from entering the adult criminal justice system.

What is needed is better reform and rehabilitation measures both for juvenile and adult offenders – such measures will make our society safer.

We repeat – do not make regressive changes in juvenile laws in the name of women. Implement existing laws and safeguard women's freedoms.

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