A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol.19 | No. 10 | 1-8 March 2016
Rise against the Brazen Lies, Repressive Rule and Anti-people Budgets of the Modi Government
The first week of the Budget Session of Parliament has once again revealed the deep disdain the current ruling dispensation has for the people and their concerns, needs and rights. The session began amidst countrywide protests against the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula and the subsequent police crackdown in JNU, the arrests and interrogation of JNU students on charges of 'sedition' and the concerted RSS-BJP assault on JNU students, teachers and other citizens defending JNU and democracy. But we could trust the Modi government to keep conspicuously silent about all this and the President's inaugural address to the joint session of Parliament has done precisely that.
The arrogance of the government found its most loud melodramatic expression in the speech of HRD minister Smriti Irani. Already in the dock on the Rohith Vemula issue, Smriti Irani could only weave a web of brazen lies in a vain attempt to project herself as a victim of a conspiracy, her lies being quickly nailed by Rohith's mother Radhika Vemula and the doctor who first checked Rohith soon after his death. In a brazen attempt to divert attention from her role in the Hyderabad episode, she started reading out from alleged leaflets circulated in JNU on the mythology of Durga and Mahishasur, trying to project JNU students not only as 'anti-national' but also as anti-Hindu. It did not matter to her that in India's pluralist tradition Mahishasur is also seen as a martyr in many regions and by many groups, especially among adivasis and dalits and her own party MP from Delhi, Udit Raj has been associated with the Mahishasur celebration in JNU.
While the government continued with its paranoid demonization of JNU and declared a virtual war on the JNU community, the Home Minister even trying to discover a Pakistan connection and terrorist links with the JNU incident, in BJP-ruled Haryana the Jat reservation agitation was allowed to go berserk, indulging in indiscriminate acts of arson and even horrific crimes like gang rapes. The government which swooped down on JNU students with astonishing alacrity, remained a mute spectator even as Haryana was ravaged and RSS goons attacked Kanhaiya Kumar and journalists, teachers and activists right in the premises of the Patiala House court. And the Prime Minister only amplified this paranoia by invoking the bogey of destabilisation which has been notoriously used in the past to clamp down Emergency and inflict a blanket suspension of constitutional liberties and rights.
Ever since coming to power with the grand rhetoric of 'achchhe din', the Modi government either claims to be a victim of the past or continues to conjure visions of a rosy future even as the present is overshadowed by a growing all-round crisis. The pattern has been evident once again in this year's railway and general budgets. The government shamelessly claimed credit for not raising fares in the railway budget even as it announced several pre-budget increases in fare, drastically raised the cancellation fee and abolished the fare concession hitherto available to children in the 5-11 age group. And let us not forget that this huge burden has been thrust on passengers amidst a significant drop in global oil prices. The railway ministry remains mired in its elitist obsession with 'bullet trains' and other high-speed train services while ignoring the questions of improving basic amenities for ordinary passengers, ensuring railway safety and expanding railway routes and train services in backward and remote regions.
The general budget presented by Arun Jaitley provided yet another statement of the government's failure and betrayal on the economic front. Having painted the Indian economy in rosy colours in last year's economic survey – the economy was said to have reached a 'sweet spot' where double-digit growth was just round the corner – the government now has to deal with the reality of a falling growth rate and acute crisis in the two crucial sectors of agriculture and banking. In his budget speech, Jaitley blamed 'an unsupportive global environment, adverse weather conditions and obstructive political atmosphere' for the economic decline. BJP propagandists are describing this year's budget as being 'farmer-friendly', but the fact is all that farmers have got in this budget is a vague promise of doubling agricultural income by 2022 and a moderately increased allocation for irrigation without any immediate relief to face the impact of widespread drought, crop failure, credit crunch, unremunerative prices and unresponsive procurement mechanism. If anything, the budget has added a huge insult to India's deeply injured farmers.
The budget said nothing about the non-implementation of the Food Security Act even three years after enactment and made false claims about making the highest allocation for MNREGA even as it fell way short of the 2011-12 level in terms of real prices. The government is now deafeningly silent on its 2014 election claim of repatriation of black money; instead it announced yet another amnesty scheme for people with unaccounted income and wealth. The habitual tax thieves and loan defaulters got a big nod with the announcement of the corporate-friendly dispute resolution mechanism which will effectively abolish all corporate liability for unpaid taxes in lieu of some token payment. Having pushed public sector banks into a huge crisis by forcing them to extend massive loans to corporate houses and then write off the accumulated dues, the government is now pushing for increasing privatisation of the banking sector as has been made apparent by the decision to lower the government's stakes in IDBI from the current level of more than 80 percent to less than 51 percent.
The tax policy in India is among the most regressive in the world with a low tax-to-GDP ratio coupled with a huge reliance on indirect taxes hitting the common people. By further increasing the burden of service tax while leaving corporate taxes unchanged, this year's budget has only reinforced the regressive nature of India's revenue structure. The government has pocketed the lion's share of the gains accruing from the drop in oil prices by increasing duties and now with added across-the-board cess on the purchase of almost all goods and services, the government has passed on the entire burden of its economic failures and the impunity enjoyed by the super rich for its routine violation of almost every law of the land on the shoulders of the poor and the middle classes. It is this vast majority of the people who fund the budget (by paying taxes and duties and also responding to the government's appeal to give up subsidies), yet it is they who bear all the burden and remain permanently at the receiving end.
The budget session began with powerful protests outside Parliament by students and peasants and adivasis. With the government refusing to address the immediate needs and demands of the people, the protests must now get louder against the callous and repressive Modi regime.
A Budget of Betrayal
Arun Jaitley doesn't Address the Burning Issues Facing The Common People and The Indian Economy
The budget presented today by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley does not address the burning issues facing the common people and the Indian economy, while blaming "an unsupportive global environment, adverse weather conditions and an obstructive political atmosphere" for the growing economic hardship.
The budget does not even mention the Food Security Act which is yet to be implemented in full. The only reference to public distribution system is made in the form of proposed 'automation' of three lakh fair price shops. While promising an increased emphasis on irrigation, the government has done little to address the credit crunch and procurement crisis which lie at the heart of the deepening agrarian crisis that continues to drive thousands of Indian farmers to suicide in every month.
The vague promise of setting up a funding agency for higher education with a meagre corpus of Rs 1,000 crore does in no way address, let alone answer, the crisis on the higher education front where students from middle class and poor backgrounds are being systematically priced out. There is no major initiative on the health sector either – the government seems to be only interested in leaving poor patients at the mercy of an increasingly expensive and ever expanding PPP mode.
While as many as 75 lakh middle class households responded to the government's appeal to give up LPG subsidy, the super-rich continue to violate tax laws and default on repayment of bank loans. Yet, the government has extended no benefit to the middle class while continuing to pamper the rich with greater exemptions, tax amnesties and even incentives to violate the laws of the land. The regressive character of India's taxation policy has been further reinforced in this year's budget with the government going for added cess and surcharges on goods and services, leaving corporate tax rates unchanged and announcing only a minor increase of 3% surcharge on annual personal income of more than Rs one crore.
The huge jump in the allocation of the road transportation sector from Rs 28679 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 69,422 in 2015-16 (revised estimate) to 1,03,386 crore in this year's budget clearly shows the government is bearing a growing burden of road construction projects while the private players in PPP mode are walking away with all the benefits.
Indian banking sector is reeling under the burden of huge corporate defaults and the Rs 25,000 crore allocated for recapitalisation of banks will hardly provide any cushion to the public sector banks. The announcement of lowering of government stake in IDBI from more than 80% at present to less than 51% clearly indicates that the government is only interested in using the banking sector crisis as a pretext for privatisation.
CPI(ML) appeals to all to press the government to provide for immediate full implementation of the Food security Act, expansion of MNREGA, availability of greater quantities of easier and cheaper credit for farmers and for people engaged in various livelihood-related projects and small enterprises and increased allocation on health and education fronts.
Countrywide protests in solidarity with JNU continue
Protests continue to be being held across the country to show solidarity with JNU and to oppose the crackdown by the government on the University and the oppression unleashed upon students.
West Bengal and Tripura: In Kolkata the CPI-ML took out a rally on 18 February to stand with JNU students and to condemn the oppression and witch hunt being unleashed upon the campus. In Tripura University the students held a protest demonstration to express solidarity with JNU. In Kolkata AISA also organized a rally and demanded a stop to the witch hunt of JNU students. During a protest held at Jadavpur University, ABVP goons attacked the protesting students and trampled upon posters bearing pictures of Rohith Vemula. This was strongly protested by the students.
Bihar: Protests in support of JNU were held across Bihar. In Patna, a spirited protest was organized in front of the State BJP office during which BJP activist resorted to stone throwing, resulting in injuries to several students and one journalist. The police did nothing to control the violent BJP workers and instead lathi-charged the students. The dharna demanded the immediate release of Kanhaiya Kumar and others, ending the witch hunt of JNU students, and revoking of all false cases of sedition.
On 19 February a 'rail roko' demonstration was held at Rajendra Nagar railway station in Patna during which many trains were stopped. AISA, AISF and other student organizations took part in this protest. On 20 February a human chain was organized from Patna University gate to Darbhanga House, in which about 150 students from various student organizations as well as intellectuals participated shouting slogans of 'Save JNU' and 'Justice for Rohith Vemula'. On 23 February a protest meeting was organized at Patna University in which leaders and activists from CPI-ML, AISA, RYA, Patna University Professors, and various people's organizations participated and Hirawal presented songs.
Protests were also held in Purnea, Bhagalpur, Supoul, and Muzaffarpur.
Jharkhand: In Giridih on 16 February and in Raj Dhanwar and Bagodar on 19 February rallies were taken out under the banner of AISA, RYA and AISF. In Bermo, Bokaro district, a rally was taken out on 16 February where ABVP goons attacked the protesters; an FIR in this matter has been registered at the local thana. Again on 20 February another huge protest rally was taken out to stand with JNU.
AISA and RYA took out a protest march in Ranchi on 12 February. On 17 Febraury the Vidhan Sabha was gheraoed under the banners of AISA, SFI, AISF, RYA, AIYF, and AIDSO, after which a protest meeting was held at Firayalal Chowk. On 18 February a collection of poems 'Pratirodh ke Paksh' was released at Ranchi University during which the Sanghi assault on JNU was condemned. A citizen's march was organized by AIPF, JSM and other cultural organizations.
Maharashtra: In Pune AISA along with Phule Ambedkar Kriti Samiti called for a bandh in Pune University on 12 February; campaigns were conducted in the week leading up to the bandh to call for participation. About 80% University departments remained closed on the day of the bandh and some examinations had to be postponed. A protest meeting was held at the University main building in which the speakers condemned the role of the government, police and administration in JNU as well as the Rohith Vemula case.
A protest was held in Nagpur on 13 February in which CPI-ML, CPI-M, CPI, SUCI, Bolshevik Party and BRP Bahujan Mahasangh participated. A huge protest was held in front of Mumbai University on 15 February in which AISA, SFI, AISF, DYFI, Samta Vidyarthi Aghadi and other organizations participated.
Chhattisgarh: A joint Left protest was held in front of the Durg Collectorate under the banner 'Save JNU, Save Democracy'. Speakers addressing the protest meeting condemned the crackdown on JNU and a memorandum was submitted to the President through the SDM demanding immediate release of JNUSU President Kanhaiya, revoking of sedition charges on all 8 accused students, ending the witch hunt on JNU students, constituting a high level enquiry and punishing the guilty.
Uttar Pradesh: The CPI-ML organized a rally in Gorakhpur in which hundreds of youth, women, and intellectuals participated, starting from the district party office and culminating in a protest meeting at the Town Hall in front of the Gandhi statue. The speakers condemned the anti-people and anti-student actions of the government. They protested the Gorakhpur University VC's becoming a signatory to the BJP's signature campaign and demanded that the UP Governor take action against him as he was acting like an agent of the BJP.
Rajasthan: On 18 Feb in Udaipur, Left activists Saurabh Naruka and Rahul Rot along with 4 other activists went to distribute pamphlets in the Science College where about 30-40 ABVP activists attacked them. They were badly beaten up with wooden stools by the ABVP goons and threatened with death threats. Com. Saurabh Naruka received grave injuries on the hands and shoulders and Com. Rahul Rot's motor cycle was also broken.
The injured Left activists went to the Bhoopalpura thana where their complaint was accepted but till 7 pm no FIR was registered. Due to political pressure, without an FIR, no medical examination of the injured could be done. Later a delegation of Left parties went to the thana, met the thana in-charge and demanded that an FIR should be registered without delay and action should be taken against the guilty.
AICCTU Holds Convention In Bhilai
AICCTU organized a convention on 'Assault on Workers' Rights and Our Responsibility' at the BMG Hall in Bhilai. AICCTU is conducting a countrywide campaign for the release of the 8 Pricol workers unjustly sentenced to double life imprisonment. The AICCTU convention was organized as part of this campaign and reiterated the demand for the release of the Pricol 8 while expressing total solidarity with them.
Through the Convention AICCTU called upon the people to participate in maximum numbers in the All India Virodh Diwas to be observed on 10 March by all Central Trade Unions. This Virodh Diwas is to demand a 12 point charter of demands including- Rs 18000 per month wages, taking back anti-worker amendments to the Labour Law, to oppose privatization and disinvestment, to demand equal pay for equal work for contract workers, and others.
The Convention also demanded the immediate release of the JNUSU President, condemned the witch hunt and persecution of students and demanded that the sedition charges against students be withdrawn.
Lohardaga Block Office Gheraoed
The CPI-ML Lohardaga Block Committee (Jharkhand) gheraoed the Sadar Block for 2 hours on 16 February demanding that government declarations should be implemented without delay and the services of honorarium workers should be made permanent. The protestors also expressed solidarity with JNU. The gherao was led by Party district in-charge Com. Mahesh Kumar Singh. Many activists including Hazari Oraon, Bal Govind Bhagat, Biga Sahu, Manu Thakur, and others participated in the protest. The BDO and CO held talks with a delegation from the Party and gave them a firm assurance that these problems would be resolved.
Protests Demanding Ration Card, 50 Kg Rice For All Poor And Release Innocent Students Of JNU
Protest programmes were organized under the joint banner of CPI-ML and Jharkhand Gramin Mazdoor Sabha at the block offices in Mandu, Patratu, Ramgarh and Gola blocks of Ramgarh district (Jharkhand). Hundreds of people took part in the dharnas at each block office. Speakers addressing the dharnas said that the BJP government in Jharkhand is showing much haste to implement the pro-corporate policies enacted by the Central government and has launched an attack on democracy. The State government has ignored the demand that all poor should be included in the BPL list and should get 50 kg food grains and 5 litres of kerosene; the government has made ration cards for only 20% of the poor and kept out a major portion of the population of poor from the list. Ration card holders have been promised 5 kg rice per person but only 4 kg is being given. 100 days' work for rural workers through MNREGA and payment of minimum wages are being flouted brazenly; corruption is rampant in the issue of dakhal-kharij of lands, caste, residential and income certificates. The protesters shouted slogans on all these issues.
The protests also strongly condemned the arrest of JNUSU President and the witch hunt and suspension of 8 JNU students. The speakers said that this action is part of a calculated drive by the Modi government to crush campus democracy and students' movements. Only recently Rohith Vemula was branded as an anti-national and made the victim of political repression; now in the same way JNU students are being made victims of a planned witch hunt. HCU and JNU are being targeted for opposing the policies of the government and the RSS. The meeting vociferously made the following demands: (1) All poor should get ration cards and 50 kg rice and 5 litres kerosene per person should be issued; (2) Arrested JNU students should be released and false charges against them should be taken back; (3) The 8 Pricol workers should be released; (4) Ramgarh should be freed of pollution from sponge factories and other polluting factories; (5) rural raiyyats who have been displaced due to land acquisition for CCL, Rail, Tata Coal, Patratu Thermal, Jindal Steel, Sponge Factories, India Forbes, Glass Factories and other industries should be given rehabilitation, employment, and long due proper compensation.
Shramik Vichaar Ghosthi in Kanpur
AICCTU organized a symposium of ideas on 21 February at Leela Park, Swarup Nagar, Kanpur and demanded that the unjust sentence of double life imprisonment on the 8 Pricol workers should be revoked and they should be released. Several workers' organizations participated in the symposium which was presided over by Com. Hari Singh and the proceedings were conducted by Com. S.A.M. Zaidi. The speakers condemned the anti-worker policies of the Central and State governments and called upon workers to organize themselves and put up a united fight to oppose these policies.
Anganwadi Workers' Demonstration in Front of Parliament
Thousands of Anganwadi workers marched to Parliament in Delhi on 15 February with the slogan 'Save ICDS'. Coming from all corners of the country, these women protested against the huge cuts in the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) budget by the Modi government and the proposal to hand over this project to private corporate companies. They vociferously demanded the strengthening of this project which is for the future generations of Indian youth, and regularization and wage increase for the women working in this project.
About 27 lakh Anganwadi workers across the country are part of the ICDS project. Around 10 crore children and women are benefited by this project. This is a project meant for alleviating malnutrition in children and pregnant women, giving them proper and timely health care, creating a good pre-school environment for children in the village/tola itself, and creating awareness towards cleanliness in homes and families. Unfortunately, at the current juncture, this project itself has become a victim of serious malnutrition! In the last budget the Modi government made huge cuts in fund allotment to this project and thus weakened it, adversely affecting its quality. A conspiracy is on for large scale closure of Anganwadi centres. Anganwadi workers are not getting timely payment of even their meager honorarium. There has also been no increase in their honorarium since 2011.
The Anganwadi workers' movement is being led by the joint front of the Anganwadi karmachari Federation formed by the initiative of 6 Central trade unions. The protesting women gathered at Jantar Mantar from where the rally comprising of thousands of Anganwadi workers marched towards Parliament. A huge public meeting was organized on Parliament Street, addressed by Com. Shashi Yadav of AICCTU, Dr BB Vijayalaxmi and Com. Amarjeet Kaur of AITUC, Com. SR Sindhu of CITU, Comrades Champa and MA Patil of HMS, and Dharmveer and Lata Yadav of INTUC. The meeting was also addressed by AICCTU leader Com. Uma Netam, CPI leader and Rajya Sabha member Com. D Raja, and CITU leader Com. Tapas Sen.
The meeting gave a call for protests across the country and effigy burning of PM Modi. The meeting also condemned the arrest of JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar. At the conclusion of the meeting a 6member delegation met the Finance Minister and submitted a 4 point charter of demands. The demands were as follows: Rs 36,000 crores should be allocated for ICDS in the coming budget so that the Anganwadi system can be improved and more nutritious food can be provided to women and children; under no circumstances should this project be privatized; Anganwadi sevikas and sahayikas should be declared Class 3 and Class 4 workers respectively; they should get 18,000 as wages apart from other facilities. It was also demanded that 2 other women-centred projects (ASHA and Midday Meal Project) should be given increased funds in the Budget and workers in these projects should get increased honorarium.
The delegation which held talks with the Finance Minister consisted of Comrades D Raja, Tapas Sen, Rajiv Dimri, Shashi Yadav, SR Sindhu, BB Vijayalaxmi, Kamlesh Mahal, and MA Patil.