Thursday, February 11, 2016

ML Update | No. 07 | 2016

ML Update

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 19 | No. 07 | 9-  15 FEB 2016


Salary-starved Municipal Employees Expose the Myth of Urban Governance in Delhi

For the last two weeks, municipal employees of Delhi have been on strike demanding the most basic right of a worker – to get his or her due salary on time. This is not the first time that municipal employees have had to go on strike for this demand. In fact, this is the third such strike in the span of just one year.  The previous two strikes in June and October had ended with the Delhi government releasing some additional funds. But this time round, salaries have not been paid for three months and the 'loan' of Rs 551 crore offered by Arvind Kejriwal in early February after a week's strike has failed to end the deadlock. The Rs. 300 crore promised by the Lt. Governor from the DDA's account has also helped little. 

While supporting the demands of the MCD workers, Arvind Kejriwal has also described the whole development as a political conspiracy by the BJP to precipitate a crisis in Delhi and destabilise the AAP government. Given the continuing confrontation between the Delhi government and the Centre over issues of powers of the former, especially on the question of control over the Delhi Police, there is obviously an element of political contention between the BJP and AAP. Moreover, the three corporations of Delhi are currently held by the BJP and the MCD elections are due next year. The affairs of the Delhi government or the MCD are therefore bound to have the unmistakable context of political rivalry between the BJP, AAP and the Congress. But when thousands of municipal staff – from sanitation workers to teachers and medical personnel – do not get their salary for months on end in the national capital, it is clearly primarily a crisis of urban governance and its policy framework.

In 2007 the municipal corporation of Delhi was trifurcated with the ostensible aim of greater decentralisation of power and better delivery of services. While this has obviously increased the establishment expenditure, there has been no commensurate increase in revenues landing the corporations into increasingly unmanageable deficits. Meanwhile, the share of taxes due to be devolved to the municipal corporations has been reduced from 5.5% to 4%, leaving the rest to a performance-linked Municipal Reform Fund (MRF). The deficit-ridden North and East Delhi corporations reportedly verge around bankruptcy even as the MRF has swelled to more than Rs 1300 crore. The municipal finances are also adversely affected by non-payment of dues like big institutions like the Delhi Development Authority which owes more than Rs 1300 crore by way of unpaid duties and taxes. Municipal revenues are also crippled by corruption and non-enforcement of rules and norms – the East Delhi Corporation for example earned only Rs 12 crore as advertising revenue even as corporate and political propaganda billboards scream from every rooftop and street corner.

Much of Modi's propaganda blitzkrieg with slogans like Make In India, Digital India, Swachh Bharat, Smart Cities and so on and so forth promises a rapidly changing urban landscape. Yet when sanitation employees and other municipal workers right in the national capital have to go on strike to secure their salaries we can easily see the mess that rules in the name of urban governance. It can be seen in the everyday denial of basic civic amenities to a great majority of India's urban population, in the absence of basic rights of the workers who run the basic services and increasingly also in major environmental disasters or health hazards as witnessed recently during the Chennai floods and the Mumbai garbage dump fire. The urban renewal and livelihood missions have not addressed either the infrastructural issues of mass housing and public transport, or guaranteeing basic amenities, not to talk of universal healthcare and education. The smart cities being announced can only make this model of skewed urbanisation even more unequal and unsustainable, centralising a disproportionate amount of resources and facilities for the urban elite and those belonging to the gated communities and effectively subordinating the democratic structure of municipal governance to the processes of privatisation and commercialisation.

AAP is widely appreciated as an innovative urban party with visions of improved urban governance. In its brief tenure so far it has indeed touched some basic urban concerns like electricity and water, school admission and traffic congestion. Yet on a policy level we can hardly see any alternative approach. The 'odd-even' model best illustrates this AAP approach of ad-hocism and superficiality where the whole focus is on easing traffic congestion without addressing the basic question of availability of affordable public transport for the bulk of Delhi's growing population. The promise of regularisation of contract employees in key sectors like municipal and transport services has remained only on paper. While blaming the BJP for financial mismanagement, the AAP does not propose an alternative framework for strengthening the municipal finances of Delhi. If the present policy regime continues, the municipal structure, even if reunified under a single corporation, will get increasingly subverted by the forces of privatisation and the 'aam aadmi' in whose name Arvind Kejriwal runs his party and government will get further marginalised. While insisting on a reliable solution to the demands of Delhi's striking municipal employees, pressure must also be mounted for a reorientation of policies of urban governance in favour of the marginalised 'aam aadmi'.


Yet Another 'Institutional Murder' of Three Girls in Tamil Nadu

Following closely on the heels of the suicide of Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad, a suicide which has correctly been identified as an institutional murder, three young girls in the Villipuram district of Tamil Nadu drowned themselves. 19-year old Sharanya, Priyanga and Monisha were students of the SVS Yoga Medical College, and were driven to desperately take their lives by the exorbitantly high fees charged by the college. 

SVS college has a long history of dubious practices. It was set up in 2008 without fulfilling any of the norms and conditions prescribed. The very first step of procuring land allegedly involved a violation of rights: farmers' lands were encroached upon, and 3 medical colleges were constructed on 12 acres of land. Though the AYUSH Council had granted permission for setting up the college in 2008, the Chennai High Court had subsequently raised objections. Since then, students have been fighting against the management and its multiple irregularities and violations. Instead of addressing and rectifying the gross violations pointed out by the students, the college administration resorted to all-out intimidation of the protesting students. The students however refused to buckle down to this intimidation. They sent petitions and appeals to as many as 14 departments and bodies of the State and Central government. The students also sent urgent messages with their concerns to the Dr. MGR Medical University and to the CM's Office in Chennai. Yet, none of the 14 bodies responded to their concerns. In October 2015, 6 students even tried to self-immolate themselves in protest in front of the Villupuram Collector's office. The Collector, instead of looking into the demands of the students and holding the erring management responsible, abused and scolded the students. She allegedly told them to commit suicide in their homes, rather than protest at the Collector's office!

The entire sequence of events leading to the death of three young students at Villipuram thus clearly shows that it was an institutional murder. All the 3 students came from extremely poor and deprived backgrounds. What is all the more shameful is that despite extracting huge amounts as fees from the students, the SVS college does not provide even the basic facilities required in a Medical college. The owner and chairperson on the SVS college, Vasuki Subramanium, is not a qualified doctor. She, along with her husband (who is a homeopathic doctor), her son and one local henchman effective rule the roost, and run the entire place. There is neither a hospital, nor the required number of doctors, professors and laboratories in the college. The 3 students who committed suicide paid Rs six lakhs each to join the college, apart from the huge fees they had to pay each year. The students who protested and who were unable to pay the money demanded by the college administration were subjected to massive intimidation and repression. Some students were even forced to do construction work in the campus and clean the college toilets.

Both the DMK as well as the AIADMK are implicated in the proliferation of such dubious private education shops masquerading as colleges all over Tamil Nadu. A previous Health Minister from the DMK had given permission to set up the SVS college, and the current Health Minister from the AIADMK had sided with the college administration despite all the complaints and petitions filed by the students. Another minister intervened to help the SVS college ensure that the Medical University acts in their favour. The powers-that-be in Tamil Nadu used every foul means possible to support the SVS administration at each and every step.

CPI(ML) has been at the forefront of the protests against the tragic suicides in Villipuram. Immediately after hearing the horrific news, CPI(ML), AISA and RYA organised protests across Tamil Nadu. On 26 January, AISA and RYA held a protest in Kallakurichi near where the SVS college is situated. Comprehensive and effective protests and campaigns were launched, even on social media. On 4 February, a protest demonstration was held in Chinnasalem town near the SVS college. The protests highlighted that this was an institutional murder, in which several authorities were deeply implicated, including the SVS Chairperson Vasuki, the Villupuram district collector, authorities of the Dr. MGR Medical University and the Tamil Nadu Health Minister. CPI(ML), AISA and RYA demanded that action be taken against all those who have misused their positions of power, leading to three tragic deaths. The situation at the SVS college is no aberration. In several private institutions in Tamil Nadu, similar problems have been highlighted, such as most recently in the Sairam college of Engineering, where students are being subjected to horrific moral policing, harassment and intimidation. CPI(ML), AISA and RYA thus also demanded that such private profiteering educational shops should be closed down, and the government must step in to open state-funded colleges and Universities, since provision of education is the government's responsibility.


Sharecroppers Demand Week Observed by Kisan Mahasabha

Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha observed 'Sharecroppers' Demand Week' all over Bihar from 18 to 24 January 2016 with a 6 point charter of demands, during which they held block level dharnas in various districts, and held chakka jam, rallies, and other programmes. The demands are as follows: (1) Register the sharecroppers and give them the status of farmers as well as all facilities farmers are entitled to; (2) Give a bonus of Rs 500 per quintal in addition to the fixed purchase price on farmers' products, and give a guarantee of paddy purchase from small and medium famers as well as sharecroppers; (3) Give crop-loss compensation to all drought-affected farmers, make all irrigation resources in proper condition, electrify farmers' personal hand pumps and give them free electricity for irrigation purpose; (4) If seeds sold to farmers by the government or other branded companies fail to sprout, give the farmers full compensation, conduct a full enquiry and take action against these seed companies; (5) Give land entitlement rights to Shikmi sharecroppers and farmers who are beneficiaries of bhoodaan; distribute benami and extra lands from gair-majrua bhoodan and ceiling among the poor and landless; (6) Ensure speedy start of Durgawati Reservoir Project and Hamid Nagar Irrigation Project; Take up speedy construction of Indrapuri Reservoir Project.

The decision to observe this Demand Week was taken in the State unit meeting of December 2015. After the Demand Week, a 'Purchase Paddy Fortnight' will next be observed from 1 to 15 February and on 10 March a mahadharna by farmers will be organized in front of the Bihar Assembly.

The Sharecroppers' Demand Week has sent out a strong message of agitation and struggle to sharecroppers and farmers, and has exposed the anti-farmer and anti-sharecropper face of all the ruling class Parties. During the various protests held while observing demand week, a 17 point charter of demands was submitted to the Chief Minister through the BDOs at various block offices, in which important district level demands were included apart from the State level demands. Hundreds of sharecroppers and pattadar farmers participated in these protests.


Protest March against False Cases against Mahadalits

A rally was taken out on 17 January 2016 from the CPI(ML) office in Ballia zone (Beguserai district) which proceeded through Ballia bazaar and culminated in a meeting at station chowk. This rally was in protest against the false cases lodged against the parchadhari mahadalits of Masudanpur. The rally resounded with slogans such as "Take back false cases against mahadalits"; "Arrest the powerful goons under the SC/ST Act"; "End oppression of mahadalits"; "Give administrative protection for tilling on parcha lands"; "Stop goons from going into parcha lands"; and other such slogans.

Addressing the meeting at station chowk, CPI(ML) district Secretary Com. Divakar Kumar said that even though mahadalit women have registered cases against people from powerful dominant sections but no arrests have been made in those cases. On the other hand, mahadalits are being arrested on the basis of false cases registered against them by people from dominant sections and the administration. It is clear that this is a part of the a conspiracy to illegally dispossess them from their parcha lands. The people will not allow this conspiracy to succeed. He demanded that the district administration should without delay take back these false cases against mahadalits, and should arrest the goons who have conspired to dispossess the mahadalits from their parcha lands.

The meeting was presided over by CPI(ML) block Secretary, Com. Noor Alam. Com. Noor Alam said that the grand alliance government which came to power on the strength of the votes of the poor, mahadalits, and minorities, has become a government of dominant sections and criminals. Law and order have collapsed and criminals are flourishing unchecked; the need of the hour is to organize the common people and launch an extensive movement against this.


Contract Sanitation Workers' Struggle for Regularization in Bangalore

AICCTU led contract sanitation workers of BBMP (Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike) rallied more than a thousand and formed a human barricade demanding regularization of all contract sanitation workers on 2nd Dec. 2015. The struggle was led by Comrades Balan, state president, Clifton D' Rozario, state General Secretary and Nirmala, the General Secretary of the contract sanitation workers union (Guttige Powrakarmikara Sangha).

The protest was in response to the state government's move to recruit few thousands of people quite alien to any sanitation work at all. It is a well known fact that it is only Madigas, even among dalits, who are engaged in sanitation work. Still, the government revealed its intention to recruit new people who are totally unrelated to any sanitation activities while more than 18000 existing contract workers under BBMP are left in the lurch. Workers protested vociferously. They demanded regularisation of the existing workforce and then to look for any new recruitment.

The government has not considered the demand for regularization of existing work force in spite of a definite recommendation for its abolition by the sub-committee on contract labour under BBMP constituted under the chairmanship of Com. Balan, all India Vice President of AICCTU. The newly elected Mayor of Bangalore Corporation came to the spot to listen to the grievances of the contract workers and assured that he will bring it to the attention of the state government. The meeting subsequently organized with Mayor and the Commissioner of the Corporation assured to rectify certain immediate issues of minimum wage arrears of few recent years, due to workers and also the issue of holidays, drinking water and rest room facilities, etc. The contract workers struggle for regularization is still on.


Kisan Sabha Dharna in Arwal

A one-day dharna was held at the Arwal block office on 20 January to demand bonus for and paddy purchase from farmers, especially sharecroppers. Addressing the dharna, Kisan Mahasabha State Secretary and Party MLA from Tarari, Com. Sudama Prasad said that the Nitish government has failed on all fronts. This government has betrayed the farmers. Expenses for paddy and other kharif crop production have gone up considerably due to 44% less than average rainfall in the State; production in any district has been limited to between 25% and 50%, yet the State government refuses to pay the Rs 500 per quintal bonus apart from the support price. The Central and State governments which made policies that 33% or more crop loss would entitle compensation is now refusing compensation for 50% to 75% crop loss. Almost all the government hand pumps in the State are closed; the Durgawati reservoir and Hamidnagar irrigation project have not been started; construction has not even begun in the Indrapuri reservoir (Kadvan dam). The government is showing no interest in electrification of farmers' private hand pumps and providing them free electricity for irrigation. Even the government's announcement of diesel subsidy remains confined to the newspapers only.

No policy has been made for the development of sharecroppers and pattadars who are farming on the lands from where the distressed farmers have left. It is only after the series of agitations by CPI (ML) and Kisan Mahasabha that the Central and State Farmers' Commissions have given sharecroppers and pattadars the status of farmer, and yet these sharecroppers who farm more than 70% of agricultural lands are given no facilities by the government. As in the previous years, this year also the Bihar government has placed stringent conditions for purchase of paddy from small and medium farmers and sharecroppers in December-January which is their peak time of need; the farmers will become forced to sell their paddy to traders and middlemen and as before, the conditions for purchase will then be relaxed and the paddy will be purchased from these traders and middlemen.

The commission constituted by the Centre to assess outlay expenses had fixed the average outlay for paddy production as Rs 1,600 per quintal. The government had promised to pay 1 ½ times the outlay expense as support price, but it has fixed the support price as Rs 1,410 per quintal, which is much less even than the outlay expense fixed by the government commission; the government has also decided to cut State investment and grants in agriculture and to open the doors national and foreign capital investment which will only increase agrarian woes. If sharecroppers and farmers are thus neglected, the development of Bihar remains questionable.


People's Protest in Karnal

The CPI (ML) Karnal district unit organized a protest demo in Karnal on 20 January on various burning people's issues and resolved to carry on an agitation on these issues.

Speaking on the occasion, CPI(ML) State in-charge and Kisan Mahasabha National Vice president Prem Singh Gehlawat said that the Khattar government is foisting the condition of 'education' as panchayat election eligibility criteria. Under this law, 72% SC men and 83% General category women can only cast their vote in the panchayat election; they cannot stand for election, whereas the Constitution guarantees that anyone who has the right to vote has the right to stand for election as well. CPI (ML) strongly opposes this undemocratic decision of the Khattar government.

CPI (ML) Karnal district Secretary Com. Mahindra Chopra said that the Khattar government is using issues of blind superstition like cow, Ganga, and Geeta to divert attention from real issues and implement its pro-corporate agenda. Com. Renu Nayak said that incidents of violence against women are becoming rampant in Haryana but the government remains a mute spectator. Liquor contracts have been opened in Haryana villages and illegal liquor is being sold at every nook and corner. It has become difficult for women to venture out and homes are being destroyed, the brunt of which is being borne by the women. She said that efforts would be made to mobilize the women of Haryana to start a big agitation against the government.

AIARLA district convenor Com. Krishna Saini Karnal said that the government machinery is fully involved in the huge corruption going on in MNREGA. RYA in-charge Com. Lalit Saxena said that lakhs of youth in Haryana are unemployed and there are no employment opportunities for them. AISA leader Com. Dinesh said that education is being privatized and commercialized in the State; huge fee hikes are making it veritably impossible for common people to get an education. A resolution was passed unanimously on the occasion that an all-out agitation on these burning issues would be launched.


Workers' March in Ranchi

AICCTU Ranchi city committee took out a protest march on 21 January and burnt the effigy of Union MoS for Labour Bandaru Dattatreya to protest against the 'start-ups' for the benefit of companies, double life imprisonment for 8 Pricol workers, and driving Hyderabad student Rohith Vemula to suicide. Shouting slogans like "the company raj stands exposed", "Remove Union Labour Minister and HRD Minister", "Release the Pricol 8", and "Take back the Start-up scheme", the march proceeded to Albert Ekka chowk where it culminated in a meeting.

The speakers at the protest meeting said that the double standards of the Central government policies have been thoroughly exposed. They are meant to benefit companies and corporate houses rather than workers or common people. 'Start-up' is an attack on workers' rights. Political protection to the mafia and the sentence of double life imprisonment for the 8 Pricol workers is an assault on the working class. AICCTU will continue the struggle against the Modi government which is intent on enriching companies and impoverishing workers.


Students Gherao Delhi Police HQ

Hundreds of students protested on 2 February at the Delhi Police headquarters at AISA's call against Delhi Police and RSS' crackdown on protesting students while they were marching from Ambedkar Bhawan to RSS Head Office on 30th January. The agitated students blocked the ITO road for some time demanding that the police commissioner B S Bassi should take responsibility of the crackdown on students.

Sucheta De, National President of AISA said that the Delhi police is hell bent to crush the ongoing protests demanding justice to Rohit Vemula is a clear case of political victimization. The police is not only siding with the real culprits of Rohit's suicide but leaving no stone unturned to crush the students movement.

"While the BJP government and its ministers are engaged in shamelessly maligning Rohith's background and the protesters and its political machinery like the ABVP and RSS are busy defending culprits of Rohith's institutional murder like the union ministers, the Delhi police which takes order from the central government is time and again coming down violently on us. This is an issue of social justice and discrimination against marginalised communities be it inside campuses or outside of it. Most shamelessly, the Delhi police rather than taking moral responsibility of the violence on protesters is now working as a propaganda machinery for the RSS. The police commissioner is trying to defend police violence and spreading lies about the police violence on 30th" Said, Sandeep Saurav, National Secretary of AISA.


Dharna in Solidarity with Pricol Eight

Gujarat unit of AICCTU organised a day long dharna in solidarity with Pricol Eight on 9 Feb before Regional Labour Commissioner Office at Ahmedabad. This protest was led by comrades Ranjan Ganguly, Dashrath Sinhali, .Ramdash Katara, Jivaji Damor, Bhavan Singh. A memorandum addressed to PMO was handed over to the DLC which demanded to immediately give Justice to 8 convicted PRICOL workers on false charges.

A convention was also organised by AICCTU in association with RYA on 8 Feb. in Ahmedabad to express solidarity with struggling PRICOL Workers. The programe was presided over by veteran TU leader Com. Laxman Bhai Patanvadia. Along with AICCTU leaders RYA activists Amit and Ashmit spoke in the convention. The speakers hailed the spirit of struggling PRICOL workers and pledged to unitedly work for wider propaganda and to gather all kind of support for them.

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