ML UPDATE 11 / 2010

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 14, No. 11, 08 – 14 MARCH 2011

The CVC Fiasco:

The Appointee Has Lost His Job,

the ‘Masters’ Must also Lose theirs!

Six months after appointing PJ Thomas as the Central vigilance Commissioner, on March 7 Manmohan Singh told the Lok Sabha that the appointment was an error of judgement. The PM’s admission of course came only after the Supreme Court struck down the appointment on 3 March as being illegal and arbitrary. Till that moment the government adamantly defended the appointment in the face of a growing public outcry. The Prime Minister even advised the judiciary to stay within its limits and not intrude into the domains of the legislature or executive. At one stage Home Minister P Chidambaram, one of the three members of the High Power Committee alongside the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, even sought to argue that the government was not aware of Mr. Thomas being chargesheeted in the palmolein scam that had rocked Kerala in the early 1990s.

Evidently, the government has been defeated on the issue of appointment of the CVC and the PM who blames coalition compulsions for every pressing problem now haunting the country – be it soaring prices or unbridled corruption – is now trying to put up a brave face by describing it as ‘an error of judgement’ and taking ‘full responsibility’ for the error. Sushma Swaraj, the vocal BJP leader and the third member of the High Power Committee who had submitted a dissenting note when Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram pushed for Thomas as the CVC, says that the matter should now be over with the PM accepting responsibility. She also says she has the backing of her party president in suggesting this truce. So the BJP, the party that claims to be waging a war on corruption is not interested in pursuing the subject any more. The reason is perhaps not difficult to understand – after all, those living in glass houses must exercise a lot of caution if at all they have to throw a stone or two.

The Congress and the BJP may have their reasons to arrive at a tacit understanding not to push the issue any further, but there are clearly major questions involved that are crying out for an answer. The Central Vigilance Commission is supposed to be the apex anti-corruption agency in the country and when the High Power Committee was dealing with the issue of appointment of the CVC, the question of corruption in high places had already acquired disturbing prominence in public discussion. Against such a backdrop the UPA government could think of appointing nobody as CVC other than PJ Thomas who is a named accused in the Kerala palmolein case pending in the Court of the Special Judge, Thiruvananthapuram, for offences under sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code. As food secretary of the Karunakaran government, in 1992 Thomas had signed the import order for 15,000 tonnes of palm oil from a Singapore-based Malaysian firm at a rate much higher than the prevailing international price.

Quite interestingly, even as Thomas was chargesheeted in 2000, he went on to occupy important positions in the Kerala bureaucracy, becoming Chief Secretary to the Kerala Government in 2007 before being catapulted to the capital, first as secretary to the Parliamentary Affairs ministry in 2009 and then as telecom secretary till he was appointed CVC in September 2010. Karunakaran had successfully obtained a stay order from the Supreme Court to stall the case at the lower court and it is only after Karunakaran’s death that the Supreme Court lifted the stay allowing the case to be resumed. As telecom secretary, Thomas presided over the 3G auction, but quite crucially he also secured a favourable nod from the law ministry to try and stop the CAG investigations into the 2G scam.

The issue is not whether Thomas is personally corrupt – it is his role as a facilitator of corruption that should have made him eminently ineligible for the post of the CVC. Yet the UPA government chose to reward this loyal bureaucrat with the assignment of the country’s Chief Vigilance Commissioner! Given this track record of Mr. Thomas, his appointment as the CVC, defying a dissenting opinion within the HPC, could not possibly have been a simple ‘error of judgement’ as Manmohan Singh would now like us to believe. On the contrary, there is every reason to suspect that it was part of a larger design to have a loyal and suitable CVC to save the government when it finds itself under the cloud of massive scams.

The Thomas episode also shows how institutions are being systematically devalued and subverted in our system. It should be noted that in a judgment issued on 18 December 1997, the Supreme Court had called for making the CVC a statutory body “entrusted with the responsibility of superintendence over the CBI’s functioning”. The Prime Minister’s admission of “an error of judgement” in the appointment of the CVC is therefore a crucial lapse with ramifications for the entire investigative process in the system.

A government caught red-handed while playing with the highest institutions in the country can claim no right to continue in office. Heads must roll. If the CVC has had to go, the government that thrust this illegal appointment on the country must also follow suit. For those who value probity in public life and would like to see a degree of institutional accountability, the present juncture is nothing short of a wake-up call. We must rise and act decisively to banish corruption, and to banish corruption we must challenge the political climate that fosters and rewards corruption.

AIPWA’s March on International Women’s Day Centenary in Delhi

To mark 100 years of International Women’s Day, women workers, students and professionals held a march and Public Meeting at Jantar Mantar (Parliament Street) in New Delhi on 8th March. The march was decorated with colourful banners and placards, and women raised slogans against discrimination, violence and oppression on women.

At the public meeting, women reminded that it was women workers of many countries, under the banner of revolutionary left organisations, who first began celebrating International Women’s Day in 1911, demanding rights and equality at the workplace and the right to vote. In India in 2011, women workers still face severe discrimination, exploitation and insecurity at work.

Addressing the meeting, women sanitation workers from the Lala Ram Sarup TB Hospital said that the Government exploits women workers, forcing each woman to do the work of two. If women raise their voice in protest, employers threaten to throw them out of the job.

Domestic workers said that domestic workers in Delhi are very often denied basic human rights – even the right to use the toilet in the homes and colonies in which they work. They often face immense cruelty, abuse and sexual harassment, yet the Bill on Sexual Harassment at the Workplace being proposed by the Government excludes domestic workers, in the name of the ‘sanctity of the home!’ They pointed out that the rich person’s home is the poor woman’s workplace, and demanded that domestic workers must be recognised as workers and guaranteed proper wages and rights, and justice against sexual harassment.

Sucheta De, AISA Secretary from JNU, said that there has been a sharp increase in violence against women, with many MLAs involved in rape, and many gang rape and blade attacks against women in Delhi. Sexual harassment and cyber crimes against women are also on the rise.

Kavita Krishnan, National Secretary, AIPWA said in spite of all the boasts of ‘8% growth rate’, it is shameful that India is amongst the five countries in the world with the worst maternal mortality rates, and more than half of India’s young women are malnourished and thousands of women die of anaemia. Yet the UPA Government’s Budget, which gives away Rs 5 lakh crores to corporates, claims to have no funds to increase ICDS coverage that can ensure women’s nutrition and health! The meagre increase in the ICDS program Rs 8996.64 cr to Rs 10404.68 cr, will go towards the increase in anganwadi workers’ wages to Rs 3000 – which is still less than minimum wages!

Kavita Krishnan asked why the Govt is dragging its feet on passing the 33% Reservation Bill, and laws against Sexual Harassment at the workplace and Sexual Assault? Why does the Sexual Harassment Bill have discriminatory provisions like a clause against ‘false complaints’? Women all over the country are being killed for the ‘crime’ of choosing their own life-partners, yet why is the UPA Govt. is refusing to pass a law against ‘honour’ crimes? Why are women being subjected to rape and state repression by security forces in Kashmir, the North East, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Lalgarh and many other parts of the country?

The meeting was conducted by AIPWA leader Uma Gupta, and addressed by AIPWA activists Sheela Bharti, Shakuntala, Soni, Ramvati as well as women students from DU, Jamia Millia Islamia and JNU including Shweta and Avalokita. Women students Chintu, Anjali, Raj Rani and Tahiba also performed several songs on the theme of women’s rights and students from DU performed a play on Women’s Day.

Uttar Pradesh: Women across the State were prevented and denied by the police from holding Women’s Day demonstrations under the pretext that Samajwati Party’s agitation was going to create problems and that Sec. 144 has been enforced across the State.

In Pilibhit, when AIPWA members, mainly poor agricultural women labourers tried to hold demonstration they were prevented by the police on pretext of 144 and when they tried to argue it was Women’s day they were mistreated, arrested and taken to police station where mindless charges were slapped against them and heavy bail amounts imposed. They were threatened with jail term also. Elsewhere in the Pilibhit town, CPI(ML) leader Comrade Afroz Alam was picked up by the police, taken to thana and physically assaulted by the police.

In Deoria too, the women were forcefully prevented from holding Women’s Day demonstration. In the backdrop of recent spate of shocking incidents in the State in which dalit and poor women have been brutally assaulted, raped and killed, preventing women from demanding safety and justice on Women’s Day clearly points to authoritarian rule in UP and imposition of Sec. 144 in view of opposition protest and preventing women from holding protest is clearly a draconian measure under Ms. Mayawati’s rule.

AIKM Conference in Uttarakhand

All India Kisan Mahasabha (AIKM) held its first Pithoragarh District Conference on 27-28 February. The Conference elected 35 member District Council and 11 member District Committee. Apart from elected delegates from two development divisions, invited delegates too from other two development divisions participated in the Conference.

AIKM’s Uttarakhand State Convenor and National Secretary Comrade Purushottam Sharma inaugurated the Conference. Main speaker at the Conference was Comrade Raja Bahuguna, CPI(ML)’s incharge for the State. About the growing loot of public resources in the newly formed State, he said that a big peasants movement can bring to halt such plunder and regressive political culture of brokerage. He mentioned of the need in Uttarakhand to form AIKM in every village of the State to uproot anti-peasant and anti-farmer governments of BJP and Congress.

Leaders from AISA, AIPWA, AICCTU, Bhojanmata Union, Aanganwadi Employees Union etc. also addressed the Conference. The Conference has resolved to enroll twenty thousand new members in the District in next two years.

BJP Govt.’s Attack on Aanganwadi Emloyees

Sacrificing the interests of Aanganwadi employess in Uttarakhand, the BJP Govt. has passed an order to fill by outsourcing 282 posts of supervisors and handing over new Aanganwadi centres to NGOs. Following the privatisation and liberalisation policies of Centre the State Govt. has begun privatising the Aanganwadi centres.

Infuriated at this development, Aanganwadi employees under the banner of Uttarakhand Aanganwadi Employees Union (affiliated to AICCTU) held protest demonstrations and sat on dharna on 3rd March at District Magistrate’s offices in Pithoragarh and Champawat districts. Demonstration were also held at tehsil headquarters of Gangoli Haat, Berinag, Didi Haat, Munsyari in Pithoragarh Dist. and Lohaghaat in Champawat Dist.

It is evident that the move to privatise this service will further add to insecurity of the Aanganwadi employees. The Aanganwadi members have decided to intensify their agitation. Leaders of AISA, AIPWA, AICCTU and Kisan Mahasabha also participated in the protests.

AISA’s Demonstration in Mumbai

On 28 February, about four hundred students from Nagpur, Aurangabad, Dhulia, Jalgaon, Khandes, Ahmed Nagar, Kolhapur and Pune along with student-youth associated with Shaheed Bhagat Singh Brigade assembled at Azad Maidan in Mumbai under the banner of All India Students’ Association (AISA) to protest UPA Govt.’s education policies and economic policies that do not generate employment.

Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus was reverberating with revolutionary slogans early morning on 28th February when AISA members from various districts of Maharashtra reached here to march to Azad Maidan later in the day. Despite examinations approaching, 400 students came to Mumbai for protesting UPA’s new education policies. The march was led by AISA leaders Shivaji Pawar (AISA’s Maharashtra President), Jeevan Surude (State Secretary of AISA), Prakash Jadhav (State Vice President of AISA), Sandeep Singh (AISA’s National President) and Abhilasha Srivastava (Secretary of Nagpur) apart from other student leaders. The protest meeting at Azad Maidan was addressed among others by General Secretary of Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) Comrade Bhimrao Bansod, and Comrades Uday Bhatt, Shyam Gohil, Dheeraj Rathore and Harendra Srivastav.

AICCTU’s March in Punjab

All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) Punjab and Chandigarh units have achieved progress in the recent days by initiating many struggles and being successful too in some struggles. In dist. Sangrur the AICCTU’s foothold is mainly in the brick kiln workers. The condition of these workers is that most of the time they are working as kind of bonded labourers as they get some advance payment at the start of the season and then they are forced to accept all the harsh working conditions without any capacity to renegotiate. The old unions associated to CITU and AITUC have only gone so far as organizing strikes and negotiate a few percentage increase in their wages. The issue of maintaining record of workers by the brick kiln owners, registering them with the Provident Fund department, ESI, Group Insurance etc., getting uniforms, fixing of work hours, abolition or regulation of the piece rate payments etc. were always pushed back.

The AICCTU served a demand notice to the brick kiln owners’ union raising all the above basic demands. The owners initiated a conciliatory process and an agreement was finally signed which secured the victory of workers over the PF question apart from an increment of 25% in the wages above the minimum wages and many other demands.

Similarly in dist. Barnala, we secured victory on the above demands after a brief strike and an indefinite dharna in front of the DC office. The victory rallies of these districts were attended by hundreds of workers and the old unions and their TU functioning style were seriously criticized by the workers.

Chandigarh: The main base of AICCTU in Chandigarh are the contract workers working in different govt. hospitals, university hostels, Municipal health and sanitation departments. These workers are denied even the basic rights and there had been a general ban on rallies, dharna and demonstrations. AICCTU is the only union which in the recent months organized a 53 day long dharna in one of the VIP areas in front of the PEC university of technology and won all the demands. Three tools down strikes over the issues of delayed salaries, illegal termination and undue deductions were organized by our Ekta Contract Workers’ Union, GMSH-16, in the month of February. About 300 workers participated in a workers march to Labour Secretary, Chandigarh on February 21. Nearly 500 workers participated enthusiastically in the February 23 Delhi march. AICCTU in Chandigarh has been successful in getting many unions affiliated with it. A dharna was organized despite massive opposition by the police in the city centre at Plaza Sec. 17 on 5th march against UPA’s anti-people budget.

Rise against Soaring Prices and Rampant

Corruption!

Rise against the

Corrupt, Repressive and Treacherous UPA Regime!!

Onward to Delhi,

Onward to the March 14 “People’s March to

Parliament”!!!

Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication, R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22442790, e-mail: mlupdate, website: www.cpiml.org

MLU-14-11.pdf

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