A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 19, No. 25, 14 – 20 JUNE 2016
Nitish versus Nitish and Toppersgate: Time for Students to Rise and Reassert in Bihar
The suicide attempt by Nitish Kumar, a young bright student of the reputed Patna College of Arts and Crafts, has rekindled memories of the Rohith Vemula episode. There is much that is similar between what happened in Hyderabad and what is happening in Patna. Like Rohith, Nitish too is a dalit student victimized by the college and university administration and like Rohith, Nitish too is a committed fighter for justice for all his fellow students. Students of the Arts College have not only been suspended but also arrested under false charges, and Nitish is fighting against this ongoing repression on the students. The ironical difference is that in Hyderabad, Rohith and his fellow students were being persecuted by a nexus that began with local ABVP activists and the University administration on the ground and went right up to key BJP ministers at the Centre, and in Patna, the nexus revolves around the Nitish Kumar government which claims to champion social justice and good governance and received a massive mandate precisely against the BJP and on the very plank of social justice, secularism and democracy.
Nitish and his friends in the Patna College of Arts and Crafts have been fighting against the college Principal Chandrabhooshan Shrivastava who has earned tremendous notoriety among students during his 'stopgap' tenure since October 2012 for his rank casteist and sexist conduct and thuggish way of running a college which promises 'a participative and creative environment'. A petition signed by more than 130 students demanding removal of and action against the Principal lies before the VC as well as the Chief Minister and Chairpersons of the Women's Commission, SC/ST Commission, and Human Rights Commission. Since late April, students have also been agitating for the revocation of wrongful suspension of students who have been victimized for raising their voice against the sordid state of affairs in the college. Students allege that despite all their complaints, the Principal continues to stay in office because of his close proximity to the Principal Secretary of the Chief Minister.
The appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman of FTII, Pune and Pahlaj Nihalani as the head of the Central Board of Film Certification in India came as rude shocks to the creative community across the country. The protests against these appointments have been triggered not just by the democratic concern to save institutions from the design of saffron subversion but more by the shock caused by the arrogant disdain for these institutions writ large in these appointments. If loyalty or proximity to the ruling dispensation becomes the biggest criterion of choice in key posts in institutions meant to promote creativity then it sounds the death knell for creative freedom and excellence. The Patna Arts College case is no less shocking. A Principal governing a creative institution in an atmosphere of fear and dictatorship with shocking overtones of casteism and sexism is an affront to the creative community and an assault on the present and future of the students, and when such a person continues to enjoy political patronage and backing of the higher authorities despite repeated complaints by students it is a clear case of arrogance and abuse of power that must be opposed by everyone who cherishes democracy.
The Arts College episode is no isolated case, it only symbolizes the deeper and growing rot in Bihar's education system. The sensational 'Toppers scam' is another shocking case in point. Modi's alleged degree in 'entire political science' may have caused ripples of laughter, but when the topper in the Arts stream in this year's plus-two board examinations said she learned 'cooking skills' in political science, it raised millions of eyebrows in Bihar. The chief of the Bihar School Examination Board, Mr. Lalkeshwar Prasad Singh, reportedly a Nitish Kumar acolyte, (whose wife, a former JDU MLA from Hilsa in Nalanda district, has now also been exposed to have made dubious degree claims in her election affidavit), has resigned and gone underground to evade investigation. Bachcha Rai, the reported kingpin of the toppersgate scam, who runs the Bishun Rai College in Vaishali named after his father and produces dubious Toppers, has finally been arrested and his close ties with leaders of JDU, RJD as well as BJP are now hogging the headlines in Bihar. If properly investigated, the Toppers Scam may well turn out to be Bihar's equivalent to the Vyapam scam in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh. Soon after becoming the Chief Minister of Bihar in 2005, Nitish Kumar had set up the Muchkund Dube commission with the stated aim of overhauling the education system in the state, but now the emerging facts tell us that while the common school system recommended by the committee was consigned to oblivion, a systematic subversion of education went on with high level political blessings and administrative backing. A high level judicial enquiry must be set up immediately to get to the bottom of this rot and punish all the guilty.
Bihar has historically been a cradle of powerful student movements. Leaders like Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad owe their political rise to the famous 1974 students' movement. Radical student activists from the 1970s and subsequent generations are an important pillar of the revolutionary communist movement in the state. Beginning with Chandrashekhar to the current generation of Kanhaiya Kumar, Ashutosh and Chintu, student activists from Bihar have played a leading role in shaping the progressive student discourse in JNU and other campuses in the country. Today, when student activists in Patna University are being dubbed terrorists and subjected to all sorts of victimization and persecution, it is time for the progressive student movement to reassert in Bihar, stand by Nitish and other fighting students of Patna Arts College and Patna University and rise with all might against the ongoing mockery and betrayal with the youth in Bihar on the twin fronts of education and employment.
Anganwadi Workers Protest in Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand Anganwadi Workers Union affiliated to AICCTU held a state-wide protest on 10 June during which effigies of Women and Child Minister Maneka Gandhi were burnt in Champawat, Barakot, Pati, Tanakpur, Pithoragarh, Didihaat, Gangolihaat, Almora, Bhikyasain and other places. Speakers addressing the protestors at these places criticised the governments for grossly neglecting the rights of women workers. Apart from the work fixed for them, Anganwadi workers are made to perform several duties such as survey and census work, but in spite of doing so many extra tasks and even after so many years of working, they are deprived of even the minimum wages fixed by the government and the regularization of their job is still a far cry. The tasks of the Anganwadi workers are constantly being increased; skilled work is extracted from them but in return they do not even receive the minimum wages due to unskilled workers.
The Anganwadi workers said that drastic cuts have been made by the Modi government in the Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS). The Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi also has shamelessly and explicitly denied any increase in the honorarium for Anganwadi workers.
Through the protests on 10 June the Union raised the following demands:
1. Rs 15,000 monthly salary for Anganwadi workers should be ensured.
2. The proposal for domicile for Anganwadi workers should be speedily passed by the State cabinet and sent to the Central government.
3. Newspapers recently carried news of the government announcing summer and winter vacations, but GO (government orders) in this matter have not yet arrived, which should be issued without delay.
4. It should be ensured that all children below 6 years of age should be sent to Anganwadi centres and Anganwadi certificates should be made mandatory for admission to Class 1 in government as well as private schools.
5. Mini Anganwadi workers are being forced to run the centres without assistants. Posts of assistant workers should be created in all Mini Anganwadi centres in the State. Mini Anganwadi centres should be given the status of full Anganwadi centres and the Mini Anganwadi workers should get honorarium equal to that of the Anganwadi workers, in keeping with the 'equal pay for equal work' principle.
6. The criminals who attacked AICCTU State General Secretary and labour leader KK Bora in Rudrapur on 20 May should be arrested without delay.
Protest Dharna In Nainital Against Failure To Arrest Com. K. K. Bora's Attackers
A one-day dharna was held at the Kumaon Commissioner's office in response to AICCTU's call to protest against the fact that even though 20 days have passed since the attack on AICCTU State General Secretary KK Bora, the attackers have not yet been arrested. Various unions, organizations, and parties participated in the dharna and unanimously demanded from the Chief Minister that the named accused and other attackers should be arrested without delay.
Addressing the dharna, AICCTU national Vice President Raja Bahuguna said that the union leader was brutally and openly attacked in broad daylight and the attackers attempted to abduct him but even after 20 days the attackers are roaming free. He added that under the Harish Rawat government it is not the rule of law but 'jungle raj'. He further said that the fact that one day before the attack the police tried to forcibly arrest him shows that the police-administration of Rudrapur is in connivance with the MINDA management for oppression of workers. He said that the struggle of AICCTU and workers in SIDCUL is against that government policy which does not give minimum wages, does not allow formation of unions, and does not give any rights to workers. Workers are fighting against this policy of the government and the capitalists and the fight shall continue.
CPI(ML) State Secretary Rajendra Pratholi said that by attacking the workers' leader the capitalists have tried to break the spirit of the workers but the workers have shown through their unity that their spirit and will-power are high and far from broken. He pointed out that the calculated negligence of Harish Rawat in this matter shows that he is no less than Modi in the matter of workers' oppression. Eminent theatre personality Zahoor Alam said that the manner in which workers' democratic rights are being murdered in the State is a matter of great concern and all democratic forces must oppose this.
President of the Uttarakhand Bank Employees' Union Praveen Shah said that the Bank Union condemns the attack on the labour leader, expresses solidarity with the workers, and demands that the attackers should be immediately arrested and enforcement of labour laws should be ensured in SIDCUL.
Comrade KK Bora addressed the protester and said that oppression by the rulers cannot break us and the workers' struggle will continue till the last breath.
Former MLA Narayan Singh Jantwal strongly condemned the attack on the democratic rights of workers and demanded the immediate arrest of the attackers. He said that al democratic forces must come together to fight against such attacks.
Uttarakhand Parivartan Party President PC Tiwari said that the attacks which are taking place from Nainisar to SIDCUL are well-planned and calculated; they must be opposed strongly. Several other representatives from various organisations and individuals from progressive sections also shared their solidarity.
Protests in Jharkhand Against the Increasing Attacks on Working Class
A protest march and meeting were held on 23 May 2016 at Randhir Verma chowk in Dhanbad by the CPI(ML) and AICCTU district committees to protest against the attack on Uttarakhand State General Secretary KK Bora and the painful death of an electricity worker in Govindpur, Dhanbad district, due to administrative negligence. The protest was joined by people associated with the Dalit Vikas Manch and Haadi Jati Vikas Manch with slogans of "Jai Bheem".
On 17 May, Santosh Mahto, a daily wage worker was sent to work on a transformer after an electricity wire broke due to the falling of a tree during a storm in Kurchi village of Govindpur block. While he was working on the line, someone turned on the power and Santosh suffered a painful death, after which people spontaneously gheraoed the electricity office. The management tried to put pressure on acceptance of Rs 2.5 lakhs as compensation. Meanwhile CPI(ML) leader Com. Kartik Kumar arrived on the spot and pointed out that as this was a case of accidental death during duty, it is mandatory to pay Rs 5 lakh as compensation, employment for one family member, and a case under 302 against the guilty officer. The talks failed, with the police resorting to lathi charge and taking away the body of the victim. The next day a case of damaging state property, stoning a police jeep, and blocking the road was registered against CPI(ML) leaders and other people.
The protest march and meeting echoed with protests against these attacks on the working class—the attack on workers' leader KK Bora and the 'managerial' murder of worker Santosh Mahto. A memorandum was submitted to the DC demanding immediate arrest of KK Bora's attackers, strict action against the police personnel who tried to forcibly arrest him, and fulfillment of workers' demand. The demands also included action under 302 against the officers responsible for Santosh Mahto's death, 5 lakhs compensation and employment for one family member, and immediate revoking of all false cases against ML leaders and other people. The DC of Dhanbad gave an assurance that the false cases would be revoked.
On 30 May a dharna was held at the Govindpur block HQ with the above demands and also protesting the scams and irregularities in ration cards. A protest meeting was held in Ranchi demanding action in the corruption in compensation for the displaced people affected by the construction of the Ranchi-Tata national highway into a 4 lane road, corruption in MNREGA, and arrest and punishment of the guilty in the KK Bora attack.
Protests were also held in Argadda, Ramgarh, and Bokaro for rights of steel workers and punishment for the attackers of KK Bora.
Protest Against Loot in Food Security Ration in Giridih
Loot and black marketing has been rampant in food security rations since the beginning of 2016. Rations for the last 3 months have been "lapsed". Many people have not been issued ration cards and even those issued have several mistakes and anomalies. A majority of those who used to earlier have red cards have no ration cards today. Many of the really poor are not listed in the BPL list.
Between the 3rd week of May and 31 May, block level mass mobilizations were done in most blocks in Giridih and Koderma on the above food security related issues. Three months' ration in the entire district of Giridih has disappeared under the euphemism of 'ration lapse', and this was the main issue in the agitation. At a time when drought relief is supposed to be arranged, rations are instead being looted, causing great public anger. The air reverberated with the slogan, 'Teen mahina ration gol, Bhajapa ki khul gayi pol' (For three months ration is missing, BJP stands exposed) and other similar slogans as nearly 1500 people gheraoed the block HQ in Bagodar. Speakers at the gherao strongly condemned the corruption in food grain distribution and warned of a big agitation unless ration and kerosene were made available speedily.
On the same day massive protests that witnessed large scale participation by people were also held in Birni. On 27 May protests were held in Sariya, Khori Mahua (Rajdhanwar), Jamua, Devri, Bengabad, and Giridih Sadar. On 30 May protests were held in Markachho (Koderma district).
'Jugad' Drivers Protest in Bhagalpur
Hundreds of jugad drivers under the banner of the Jugad Gadi Chalak Sangh (affiliated to AICCTU) staged a dharna protest in front of the district officer on 1 June 2016 to protest against the ban imposed on the plying of jugad (locally manufactured) vehicles. The dharna was presided over by AICCTU State President, Com. Mukesh Mukt.
Speakers addressing the dharna said that rural and urban poor and workers have made arrangements for their livelihood using local know-how techniques without any help from the government or the administration. It is condemnable that the Nitish government and its administrative machinery which have failed to curb large-scale migration from the State due to lack of employment are attacking resources of self-employment.
The speakers pointed out that these jugad vehicles play an important role in taking agricultural produce from the villages to the markets and bringing essential goods for the farmers and villagers from the cities to the villages. In Bhagalpur district alone jugad vehicles provide livelihood for about 50,000 people among the families of 10,000 jugad drivers. Banning this not only deprives thousands of workers and their families of livelihood, it also exposes the hollow claims of "development with justice" made by the Nitish government.
The dharna protest was addressed by AICCTU National Vice President Com. SK Sharma, Jugad Gadi Chalak Sangh State convener Subhash Kumar, and several Jugad chalak workers. About 700 jugad workers were present in the dharna. A 5-member delegation led by Com. Mukesh Mukt submitted a memorandum to the district officer with the following demands: plying of jugad vehicles should continue as before; jugad vehicles should be regularized and all jugad drivers should be given licensed permits. The dharna culminated with the declaration by the jugad workers that on no account will the plying of jugad vehicles be stopped, and the workers would fight for guarantee of livelihood and safety till the last breath.
Earlier, in protest against the ban on jugad vehicles in Bhagalpur, AICCTU had started mobilizing jugad workers. Plans for the movement were discussed and finalized at a meeting on 22 May 2016 attended by about 200 jugad workers. A meeting was held on 29 May at the local Jaiprakash garden attended by 500 jugad workers. Leaders from AICCTU, Asangathit Kamgar Sangh, and Jugad Gadi Chalak Sangh, along with AICCTU State General Secretary Com. RN Thakur addressed the meeting.
Protests in North Bengal Against Fascist Attacks and Trinamool's Terror
CPI(ML) took out a peace march on 17 May 2016 at Raiganj in North Dinajpur to protest against the fascist attacks on Jadavpur University by the Sangh parivar, and to demand an end to the post-election terror unleashed by Trinamool goons. The rally went through the town from the local Siliguri crossing to the municipal bus stand. The appeal to all the participants of the rally to maintain peace and harmony received a good response. The march was led by district Secretary Com. Brajen Sarcar and other leaders.
Earlier, on 16 May a protest rally was organized at Siliguri, starting from Kanchanjanga stadium and culminating in a meeting at Hashimichak. The meeting was addressed by State committee member Com. Basudev Bose. The rally was attended by CC member and Darjeeling district Secretary Com. Abhijit Mazumdar, State committee members Comrades Pavitra Singh and Gauri De and other district leaders.
As part of the state-wide protests against the above two issues, a meeting was also held at the Chowringhee crossing in Mynagarh (Jalpaiguri) on 17 May. The demand was made at the meeting that BJP State President Dileep Ghosh be arrested and action taken against him for his derogatory remarks against women. The meeting also called for people from all sections to stand up against the terror being unleashed by the ruling Trinamool Congress in the State. The murder of a student at Diamond Harbour was strongly condemned at the meeting which was addressed by Comrades Basudev Bose, Shyamal Bhowmik and Mukul Chakravorty.
Red Salute to Com. Sohrai Oraon
Com. Sohrai Oraon came from an extremely poor family in Sirkander village (Patratu block). After combating ill-health for 4 - 5 years, he passed away at the age of 45 on 21 March 2016. He had been taking part in Party work from early school days. He was part of the Liberation Front which later merged into the CPI (ML). Com. Sohrai always very ably discharged the responsibilities given to him by the Party and worked for the Party in Patratu and Mandu blocks. The Party is even today extending itself on the basis of the foundation laid by him for the party organization. He worked with great dedication for organizing the rural poor under the Party ideology and familiarizing them with Communist ideology. His family also took part in Party activities. He leaves behind his wife and two children. Hundreds of Party workers and were present for funeral. He was buried in his ancestral village and tributes were also paid to him at the Ramgarh Party office. Red salute to Com. Sohrai Oraon!