ML UPDATE 46

ML Update

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol.  12             No. 46                10 – 16 November 2009

The Koda Scam:

Intimate Link between Corporate Loot and Political Corruption

Even as Jharkhand has just completed nine years since it achieved statehood, investigations by the Enforcement Directorate have revealed former Jharkhand CM Madhu Koda’s role in a massive scam – involving huge commissions for mining contracts, money-laundering on an international scale involving at least 7 other countries, illegal money transfer transactions, and loot of state funds for welfare schemes.

The ED, following raids in 70 locations across the country, and exposing links in 7 countries, has revealed that Koda amassed wealth to the tune of four thousand crores. Three former Ministers in the Koda cabinet – Bhanu Pratap Shahi, Bandhu Tirkey and Kamlesh Singh – have also come under the ED scanner, and Koda’s links with several top politicians of major ruling class parties including Congress and RJD seem indicated. This state of affairs is a comment on how, since Jharkhand achieved statehood, ruling class parties and corrupt and opportunist politicians have used political power for all-round loot to line their pockets – even as Jharkhand’s poor die of starvation and the likes of Turia Munda, denied wages for NREGA work, commit suicide.

On the eve of Assembly Polls in Jharkhand, Congress-UPA, BJP-NDA as well as other ruling class parties like Babulal Marandi’s JVM are eager to disclaim all responsibility for the Koda scam, suggesting that it is only small/regional parties and ‘independent’ MLAs who are responsible for corruption. It must be remembered, however, that Koda has enjoyed plum ministerial posts in every single Government in Jharkhand – including as Panchayati Raj Minister in the BJP Government headed by Marandi; as Minister of Mines and Geology in the BJP Government headed by Arjun Munda and supported by Koda (then an independent MLA); and finally as Chief Minister supported by the Congress and the UPA. In a sense, Koda is the thread of continuity linking every Jharkhand government in the past nine years. Neither Congress and its UPA partners (RJD, JMM) nor BJP-NDA nor Babulal Marandi can therefore shrug off the taint of the Koda scam – they have all colluded in this brazen loot and corruption. The CPI(ML) has demanded a judicial tribunal to investigate all aspects of this scam – bringing all Jharkhand governments and ministers till date under the scanner. 

L’affaire Koda indicates, above all, the deep linkages between corporate loot of resources and politics. If commissions for mining contracts themselves amount to 4000 crore, it is mind-boggling to try and imagine the extent of actual loot of land and resources in the State. Nor is Jharkhand the only recent reminder of links between mining big-money and politics. In Karnataka, the Reddy brothers – BJP legislators of the powerful mining lobby – have held the BJP-led State Government to ransom in protest against a cess proposed (towards flood relief) on transportation of iron ore. The BJP has in the past used the Reddy brothers’ enormous wealth towards wooing legislators from other parties; this time around, the same tactic has boomeranged on the BJP. Events in both Jharkhand and Karnataka have offered a glimpse of the enormous power of mining corporations over politics, throwing some light on the shadowy and sordid linkages between corporate loot and political power. Recently, the possibility of political powers exerting pressure to scuttle corruption cases against a mining MNC has also been raised – with the Enforcement Directorate’s decision to change its counsel midstream in a money laundering case against the Britain-based Vedanta/Sterlite mining MNC, appointing a new standing counsel who has been briefing counsel for Home Minister P Chidambaram when the latter was on Vedanta’s Board of Directors and also a lawyer for mining corporations.          

In the upcoming Jharkhand Assembly polls, the Congress has forged an alliance with Babulal Marandi’s JVM. The latter, who had been making assertions of emerging as a new force in Jharkhand politics, contesting 81 seats, surprised observers by settling for a mere 19 seats. This climb-down has fuelled speculation about what hold (in the wake of the Koda expose) the Congress might possibly have over the JVM. With other UPA partners like the RJD and JMM breaking with the Congress in Jharkhand, the latter is trying to project the JVM as a new-found ‘secular’ ally: seeking to efface Babulal Marandi’s history as a Chief Minister in a BJP-led regime.      

In the polls, the patronage and institutionalisation of corporate loot and corruption by the entire Jharkhand political mainstream is the central issue. If Madhu Koda represents one kind of trajectory – of no-holds-barred corruption in return for facilitating corporate loot of the State’s resources – of a single MLA in 9 years of Jharkhand politics, it is worth recalling that Mahendra Singh represented another, very different trajectory: one in which he was the lone bold voice of opposition in the Assembly, whom the state sought to silence by murder. But the CPI(ML) has continued to uphold that lustrous legacy and the whole of Jharkhand knows that the lone vote against the confidence motion moved by the Koda government had come from the lone CPI(ML) MLA Vinod Singh.

In the forthcoming Jharkhand Assembly Polls, too, the CPI(ML) is determined to give voice to the people’s outrage at the wholesale loot and corruption and aspirations for livelihood and democracy.    

CPN (UML) Delegation Visit

A delegation of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) led by the CPN(UML) General Secretary Comrade Jhalanath Khanal, and comprising Comrade Arun Nepal, CC Member of CPN (UML) and Comrade Uday Pandey of the CPN(UML)’s International Department, visited the CPI(ML) office on 6 November 2009. They held a meeting with Comrades Swapan Mukherjee, Prabhat Kumar and Kavita Krishnan, CCMs of CPI(ML) and Comrade Ganesan of CPI(ML)’s International Department.

The two parties exchanged fraternal greetings, and shared hopes and concerns over the republican process in Nepal. In particular, concerns and hopes were expressed over the need for Left and genuine republican forces in Nepal to unite in the interest of the historical task of writing of a Constitution and ensuring of peace and progress in Nepal. CPI(ML) extended solidarity to the unfinished republican project in Nepal and expressed heartfelt hopes for its successful completion.

AIPWA Unit Inaugurated at Uyyamballi in HDKote

A new unit of AIPWA was inaugurated at Uyyamballi village in HD Kote, Mysore on 3 November with flag hoisting by National Vice President E Rati Rao and unveiling of AIPWA name-board by State Secretary Gandhimathi. This followed the opening of another branch in Sogalli village few months ago. Nearly 250 women, including 40 men, attended the meeting. Com. Rati gave a call for intensifying the struggles for food, shelter and employment, and against all kinds of corruption by the government and bureaucracy. Com. Gandhimathi stressed the need for women to become vanguards of militant struggles in the era of globalization. Presiding the meeting Com. Ranjani said the beacon of struggles should be carried forward to every village to fight the violation of basic rights. AICCTU State Secretary C.Javaraiah gave a call to gherao mandal panchayat offices demanding proper implementation of NREGS.  Comrades Mallamma, Maanikkamma, Jayamma, Devaalamma, Mallaajamma and Nagamma were elected as office-bearers of the branch who organised the colourful programme independently. Karnataka Rajya Kattida Karmikara Sangha (Construction Labour Union) President Basavaraju, Treasurer Nanjunda, and Mallikarjuna, AIALA leaders Nagaraju, Shivalingu, Ningamma, Mallaajjamma, Gopalaiah, Puttamma and Kalyanamma also participated in the programme. Cultural activist Basavaraju and Mallikarjuna sang the songs of noted feminist Vijaya Dabbe and Honnaiah presented revolutionary songs.

Gherao by Garment Women Workers

Leela Scottish Pvt Ltd, in Ambattur Industrial Estate employs 800 workers including 650 women. They are paid only the minimum wages for over 14 years and the senior-most employee gets around Rs. 4400 as gross pay. In all these 14 years, they never thought of forming a union for themselves; the exploitative working conditions in most garment factories apply here too. Women workers, of course, had ‘special treatment’ all these years.

350 workers, 75% of them women, joined AICCTU to safeguard their rights. They hoisted the AICCTU flag on 15 August, when the management was waiting for them to hoist the tricolour. The management as usual refused to recognize their union and there were victimizing measures. But the workers did not give up their struggle.

From 1 Oct, they went on a strike that lasted till 14 October demanding recognition of their union and negotiations for wage revision and bonus. The management accepted their demand for recognition and offered to talk to the union and sort out all their demands.

Meanwhile, the management deducted 9 days wages for the strike period. The workers demanded that an amount equal to the deducted amount be paid as advance. A tripartite talk on this demand was scheduled on 5 November. Around 150 workers, 125 of them women, left for the labour office. As it was lunch time there were no buses. They went the nearest depot, spoke to the depot manager and a got a special trip arranged for them and reached the labour office even before the union office bearers reached there. They gheraoed the labour office and stressed their demand for advance amount. The labour officer advised the management to concede their demand but the management refused. Now from 6 November onwards, they are boycotting production for one hour every day and they planning to intensify their struggle.

TN govt revised minimum wages in 2004 for all trades but did not revise minimum wages for the tailoring industry. AICCTU is planning a struggle for revision of minimum wages for this left-out industry and the Leela Scottish workers, particularly the women workers will play an important role in that struggle.

Joint CTUs’ All India Protest Day Observed on October 28

The All India Protest Day called jointly by all Central Trade Unions on October 28 witnessed workers’ protests all over the country, in which AICCTU participated enthusiastically. 

In Delhi, workers held a march and a mass meeting at ITO, blocking the main road and holding a mass meeting at this central crossing. Participated by around 1500 workers, the mass meeting was addressed by central leaders of CTUs including Comrade Santosh Roy, National Secretary of AICCTU. After the mass meeting an all-CTU delegation, including Comrade NM Thomas, national Vice-President of AICCTU, met with the CM of Delhi, raising issues of all-round violation and denial of workers’ rights in the national capital. 

In Punjab, AICCTU participated in joint demonstrations at Ludhiana, Sangrur, Mansa and Barnala and other districts. In Ludhiana the demo was addressed by Comrade Tarsem Jodha, national Vice President, AICCTU.

In Tamil Nadu, AICCTU took part in demonstrations at 17 points in 14 districts; over 850 workers participated in these protests.  Demonstrations at the ordnance factory in Trichy, Kanyakumari, Ambattur (Chennai), Tiruvallore and Tiruvottiyur, and Tirunelveli were notable (see last week’s issue of ML Update).   

At Puducherry, a massive demonstration was held by all the major central trade unions of Puducherry in front of the head post office at Puducherry town. Employers of central public sectors like BSNL, LIC,and Pondicherry State Government through their unions took part in the demonstration. On behalf of AICCTU, National Secretary Comrade S Balasubramanian addressed the demonstrators. A large number of volunteers from unions affiliated to AICCTU, including women participated in the demonstration. Earlier on the 26 and 27 October street corner meetings were held highlighting the significance of the 5-point charter for important industrial areas of Puducherry.

At Karnataka, AICCTU organized a demo in front of Harappanahalli taluk office. Comrade Ramappa, state secretary of CPI(ML), Chowdappa, Bellary district secretary, Lingaraju, NCM of AICCTU addressed the gathering.

At Bihar, protest programmes were held in various districts including the state capital of Patna. At Patna, more than 500 workers and employees marched in a militant rally from Gandhi Maidan to R Block. The mass meeting was addressed by Com. Shyam Lal on behalf of AICCTU.  

At UP, the joint protest demonstration at Kanpur was addressed by Comrade Hari Singh on behalf of AICCTU, at Allahabad by Comrade Anil Verma and Lucknow by Comrade Raghunath Prasad.

At  Guwahati, the demo was addressed by Comrades Biren Kalita and Pankaj Das on behalf of AICCTU. A protest demo was also held at Silchar.

At Andaman, AICCTU held a March from its office to the Secretariat gate and staged a demonstration in front of the Main Gate. 

At Uttarakhand, a Joint demo in Rudrapur was addressed by Comrade KK Bora from AICCTU.

Joint conventions were held in various states preceding the October 28 programme.

CPI(ML) Protests against Administrative Apathy in Flood-hit Lakhimpur Kheri

Lakhimpur Kheri in UP has been hit by heavy floods twice in the last 2 months. The flooding is caused by water released from Vanbasa dam, and breakage of a dam on the Sharda river. Sampoorna Nagar town and Palia tehsil office are waist deep in water; a mud dam made by villagers through voluntary manual labour was washed away; the Dhaurhara tehsil is also badly flooded; 35 villages have been immersed. People have demanded repair of these dams for long – but this was not heeded in spite of the fact that one of the dams broke thrice. For 15 days, water levels did not recede in Lakhimpur Khiri district – because the Gomti river had been blocked at Behsakund to protect Lucknow city. Palia-Gonda railway line lie unusable due to flooding, and the Mailani-Palia rail line is also blocked due to collapse of two pillars of a 108-year old bridge in the floods. Administration spends tens of crores ostensibly towards repair of this bridge – but the collapse indicates that this is swallowed up by corruption. 38 lives have been lost in flooding in one month, thousands of acres of rice, sugarcane and other crops destroyed, thousands of families left destitute, and river water continues to flood more villages. Roads have vanished in the floods on a large scale.

Since 1992, the Sharda river alone has swallowed lands in 84 villages. Yet the DM dismisses the floods as a normal yearly occurrence. In spite of such devastation, neither the CM nor any senior Minister has bothered to visit the area, though 60% of the affected are dalits. Two Congress MPs merely distributed lunch packets once each as a media event. A SP MLA who has never visited flood affected areas in the last 15 years held a Flood Relief Yatra this time – it is said this is because he plans to contest from Palia Assembly constituency next time.

CPI(ML) has said that the floods are not a natural calamity but are rather caused by administrative apathy. CPI(ML) has held a series of protests with a Charter of Demands –  including pucca embankments on both sides of Sharda, desilting of Sohaili-mohana river and declaration of Lakhimpur Khiri as calamity-affected, distribution of free 50 kgs grain and 5 litres of kerosene for all flood affected, compensation of Rs 5000 per acre and Indira Awas homes for those whose homes were destroyed, land for arable land swallowed by river, dam construction work and cleaning of rivers under NREGA and 20 days of work each month for NREGA workers or unemployment allowance, as well as action against those guilty of loot of flood relief. Protest demonstrations were held on 5 October at Mitauli block HQ, 12 October at the Palia tehsil HQ, 13 October at the Mohmadi tehsil HQ, 14 October at Bijua block, 15 October at Phoolbehad block, and at Lakhimpur district HQ on 9 Oct. At Mohmadi tehsil, the demonstration was militant, and the SDM was gheraoed in a Jan Adalat for over 2 hours. On 26 October, another big gherao was held at Palia tehsil, and a dharna at Gola tehsil on 28 October. Congress, BJP, and SP, are busy spreading irresponsible and mischievous rumours (intended to further their anti-Left and pro-imperialist agenda) of the floods being due to a Nepalese conspiracy to flood the district on Chinese dictation. CPI(ML) has strongly challenged and condemned such rumours. The Khiri DM and CDO of Nepal border area in a joint press conference rubbished the conspiracy theory; since Nepal has no dam in this area, they said, there was no question of Nepal releasing dam waters to cause floods.

CPI(ML) initiatives on the question continue. 

Kisan Sabha initiatives in Uttarakhand

The Terai Bhabhar Kisan Sabha held a Convention at 22 October at Rudrapur on the changing Scenario of agricultural land in Udhampur district and the plight of agricultural labourers and landless peasants. The Convention was addressed by a former member of the Uttarakhand Public Service Commission and former DM of Udhamsinghnagar district Chandra Singh and CPI(ML)’s Uttarakhand In charge Com Raja Bahuguna. Chandra Singh said that the use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purpose was objectionable. He condemned the harassment and victimisation of activists like Bahadur Singh Jangi and held the eviction of landless poor as unconstitutional. He demanded reservation for local Bengali-speaking Namo-shudras. Comrade Raja Bahuguna said that since the new state of Uttarakhand was formed, Congress and BJP governments have protected the illegal land holdings of the land mafia of the Terai area. This is the first state in the country which prohibits land bandobasti. Existing agricultural land is being handed over to industrialists now. Big farms, and public lands are already under big landlords in the state; moreover, govt controlled lands like Pant Nagar Agricultural Farm and Sampoornanand Open Jail farm have also been handed over to corporations. Small peasants are fast being forced to sell land and are becoming landless. He demanded Land Bandobasti to guarantee land redistribution to landless agricultural workers and peasants. Comrade Bahadur Singh Jangi demanded a stop to handover of agricultural land to industrialists. The Convention passed a series of resolutions – demanding cancellation of lease of big farms and govt takeover of such farms; new land Bandobasti laws, implementation of ceiling act in terai region and redistribution of land to the landless.                   

The Convention was conducted by Comrade Girija Pathak. Those who addressed the convention included CPI(M) district secretary Avtar Singh and AIKS’ State Vice President Jagir Singh, also AIALA leader Achinta Mandal and leaders of many other mass organisations.

The Terai Bhabar Kisan Sabha held a demonstration at Lalkuan (Nainital district) on 4 November in protest against state repression and demanding revenue village status for Bindukhatta. The Protest was led by CCM Comrade Rajendra Pratholi, party incharge Raja Bahuguna and Terai Bhabhar Kisan Sabha Convenor Bahadur Singh Jangi. The protest demanded withdrawal of false cases against Bahadur Singh Jangi and Jagat Martoliya, leader of the Porters’ Union in Pithoragharh.

AISA National Protest against UPA’s War on Democracy

Students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia today held a demonstration at Jantar Mantar under the banner of AISA against the UPA Government’s offensive, holding it to be a war on democracy, dissent and people’s movements. The demonstration was part of a nationwide protest day on this issue observed by AISA in campuses and cities across the country. Students demanded an immediate end to the Government’s plans of escalating the military offensive. A protest meeting was held which was addressed by student activists of the various campuses and an effigy of the Home Minister burnt. The protest meeting was addressed by a range of student activists and leaders as well as Comrade Prabhat Kumar, CCM, CPI(ML).

CPI(ML) Releases Manifesto in Jharkhand

On 10 November, the CPI(ML) released its manifesto for the Jharkhand polls, along with a list of 35 candidates at Ranchi. The party’s election campaign is underway already, with election meetings addressed by party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya being held at Dhanwar, Bagodar, Jamua, Gandey, Mandu, Chakradharpur, Bishnupur (Gumla), Panki and Nagar Utari (Bhavnathpur) constituencies. The election meetings have been marked by massive attendance. Of CPI(ML)’s 35 candidates, 12 are from among STs (11 seats are ST seats), 5 are SC seats, and 5 of the candidates are women. Most of the candidates are young, with more than 50% of the candidates being under 40 years of age.

Some resolutions adopted by the CC Meeting (27-29 October, Ranchi)

On India’s China Policy

The CC noted with concern the shrill anti-China campaign in sections of the Indian media. Sections of defence strategists and even senior military and governmental functionaries hold China as India’s greatest security threat, and the recent exchange of acrimonious statements from both sides on the border dispute indicates heightened bilateral tension. Any aggravation of India-China tension will provide the US with greater opportunities to meddle in the region and strengthen its strategic stranglehold over India. Past experiences show that heightened tension or border skirmish with Pakistan or China creates huge financial burden on the country and vitiates the political climate. We must therefore denounce any attempt to whip up tension between India and China and press for peaceful negotiated resolution of all outstanding issues and greater economic and political cooperation between these two big Asian countries in the international arena. Not confrontation but cooperation must be the key strand of India’s China policy.

On Declaration of Assets by Judiciary

Amidst increasing evidence of deep-rooted corruption in the higher judiciary, the demand to ensure transparency and public accountability of the judiciary has grown even more urgent. It is highly unfortunate that the apex court continues to make attempts to prevent judges’ assets from being made public and to keep the apex court out of the ambit of the RTI. By becoming an appellant against a ruling in favour of keeping judges’ assets within the ambit of the RTI by a division bench of the Delhi High Court, the Supreme Court may soon find itself in the position of playing both appellant and judge in its own cause. It is urgent that the Government speedily introduce legislation to ensure that judges are not above the law, making declaration of assets by judges mandatory and bringing such assets within the purview of the RTI. The CPI(ML) expresses solidarity with the ongoing campaign of eminent jurists, lawyers and democratic opinion for transparency and probity in the functioning of the judiciary.     

Against UPA attempts to shift India’s Climate Change Stance

The CPI(ML) expresses deep concern over the indications that the UPA Government is, under US pressure, considering fundamental and far-reaching changes in stance in international negotiations on climate change. By suggesting that India voluntarily agree to binding commitments, the Minister for Environment is proposing a shameful retreat from the ethical, principled position that India along with the rest of the developing countries have been struggling so hard for the past two decades to defend: namely that every human being irrespective of nationality is entitled to an equal share of the global atmosphere; that therefore global negotiations on climate change should be based on per-capita greenhouse emissions, rather than on the total greenhouse gas emissions of a country; that developed countries take responsibility for their historic and continued role in creating the climate change crisis and subsidise the developing countries in the quest to institute cleaner technologies. The Minister has also suggested that India permit “strict external scrutiny” of the mitigation measures it takes at its own cost.  

The proposed shifts in India’s climate change stance are yet another toll taken by the Indo-US partnership. The UPA Government is once again trying to make India submit to commitments which are highly unequal. The CPI(ML) demands that the UPA Government desist from any backdoor attempts to bypass Parliament in order to make shifts in India’s long-standing principled positions on climate change.

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