ML Update 46 / 2011

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 14 No. 46 8-14 November 2011

Koodankulam Resistance and Kalam’s Propaganda

The Koodankulam struggle, which has gained tremendous momentum and support in the past few months, reflects the new awareness and questioning among people – in India and globally – regarding nuclear energy, following the Fukushima disaster. The struggle, if successful, will not just prevent the installation of the Koodankulam Nuclear Plant. The UPA Government well knows that the movement’s success will challenge the entire nuclear expansion programme planned by the UPA Government in the wake of the Indo-US Nuke Deal.

A mass indefinite hunger strike by villagers of coastal districts of Tamilnadu (Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari) had forced Tamilnadu CM Jayalalitha to distance herself from the plant. Jayalalitha, during the NDA regime at the Centre had herself supported the project. Now, she has sensed that such support might take a large political toll – and has chosen to let the UPA Government at the Centre bear the political burden alone.

The UPA Government, prevented by the villagers from proceeding with the installation which was scheduled to take place in October, set up an expert panel to look into the safety concerns being raised by the protestors. But this exercise appears to be one of empty placation, which has failed to answer any of the serious issues being raised by local villagers. The ‘expert’ scientists’ assurances having little effect, the NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd) Chairman S K Jain fell back on the absurd and communal accusations of a ‘foreign/missionary hand’ backing the protests! These crude attempts to divide the movement on communal lines and alienate Hindu villagers from the Christian ones has failed entirely, however.

In a desperate attempt to discredit the movement and erode the wider appeal and sympathy it commands across Tamilnadu and the rest of the country, the nuclear establishment and the UPA Government have roped in former President, APJ Abdul Kalam with his image as a technocrat in India’s nuclear establishment. In 2008, too, Kalam had been deployed by the UPA Government in a bid to lend some credibility to the Indo-US Nuke Deal.

Kalam’s plank has been, mainly, an emotive appeal on nationalistic-chauvinistic lines, with a thin veneer of ‘science, technology and development’ rhetoric. He has rubbished the safety concerns raised by protestors in the familiar terms of the sacred goal of ‘development.’ Saying that ‘fear is a disease that kills development,’ he asks if we will allow a tsunami at the Fukushima Daichi plant in Japan to blight India’s future?

In an insult to people’s intelligence, he has chosen to play down the Fukushima disaster that has shaken the world, citing it as an instance of efficient containment of a potential disaster rather than the biggest nuclear disaster in history! His plank is that no lives were lost at Fukushima. What Kalam deliberately plays down is the real significance of Fukushima. Fukushima shook people’s confidence in the safety claims of nuclear plants, worldwide. Kalam tries to tell us the Fukushima plant was based on outdated technology; but it is well known that the people of Japan had been assured several times by the Kalams of their own country, that the Fukushima reactors had the best safety and backup mechanisms capable of dealing with any quake or tsunami. When the tsunami actually hit one of the reactors, the safety and cooling mechanisms broke down and a meltdown was imminent. In desperation the Japanese experts were reduced to using huge amounts of sea water to try and cool the reactor down.

Months later, the leakages continue, and it is absurd to claim that Fukushima is out of danger when the worst is yet to unfold. The problem of safe disposal of the contaminated cooling water and radioactive waste is still an unsolved problem; and it is still not known if the reactor fuel has penetrated the ground. The people of the affected areas are yet to be able to return home.

Kalam even belittles the effects of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombing – wanting us to accept research sponsored by the US (responsible for the bombing!) as ‘impartial’ and ‘scientific’ evidence that the effects of a nuclear disaster remain confined only to one generation!

In the wake of the lessons of Fukushima, countries like Germany and Belgium have already had to announce a phase-out of nuclear energy. All over the world, countries are having to bow to the growing popular opinion against nuclear energy, which has proved to have huge hidden costs and unsurpassed potential for massive human tragedy. Kalam undermines his own credibility by asking Indians to ignore and laugh away the lessons of Fukushima.

Kalam is being projected by the nuclear establishment and captive sections of the media as a voice of ‘science and sanity’, who has branded the protesting villagers were ‘ill-informed and misguided’ and beset with irrational fears. When we see Kalam invoking ‘Tamil pride,’ and belittling nuclear disasters by comparing nuclear plants with historical monuments and nuclear disasters with dam bursts, one wonders who is ill-informed! Amusingly, the ‘scientist’ Kalam has chosen to invoke the bogey of the ‘foreign hand,’ saying he suspects “geo-political and market forces” to be behind the stir! To the naked eye, the only ‘foreign’ and ‘market’ forces in Koodankulam are representatives of the Russian nuclear industry!

As a last resort, Kalam has mooted a 200 crore proposal for local development. It is a tragic irony that hospitals, schools and colleges, and development of agriculture and fisheries, that ought to be a right of the local people, is being proffered only as a bribe in exchange for exposing their lives and livelihood to the dangers of a nuclear disaster!

Far from being ‘ill-informed,’ the Koodankulam protestors know that Russian state agencies have, in a recent report, admitted that the Russian industry’s nuclear plants are especially vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters. They know, that raising the height of the reactors to put them out of the probable reach of a tsunami (as Kalam assures) will only make them more vulnerable in case of a quake. They are unwilling to gamble their lives in a game of chance, being forced to live on the edge of a potential Fukushima. They know that while Kalam moots India’s unique Thorium reserves as a potential source of energy, the prestigious and well-funded nuclear research in independent India is yet to come up with a viable way of harnessing thorium reserves to produce anywhere near the levels of energy that had been projected and promised.

The Koodankulam movement has remained undaunted by the heightened government propaganda against it. A national march to Koodankulam is planned in the coming week. The Indo-US Nuke Deal – ushered in by a dubious and corrupt vote in Parliament – paved the way for nuclear expansion efforts whereby the NPCIL plans to set up 32 imported reactors all over India by 2032. The Nuke Liability Bill protects the nuclear suppliers from bearing the burden of compensation and clean-up in case of a disaster. Now, a success of the people’s movement at Koodankulam offers a ray of hope for the country whose rulers are hell-bent on putting its citizens at the mercy of the global nuclear industry and its huge attendant dangers to humanity itself. Democratic forces must extend all support to the movement and ensure people’s victories at Koodankulam, Jaitapur, Mithi Virdi, Fatehpur and all other sites of resistance.

Protest Day in TN Against Koodankulam Nuclear Plant

On October 30, the CPI(ML) and its mass organizations in TN observed a Protest Day against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant, in solidarity with the ongoing people’s movement against the plant. Demonstrations, mass meeting and conventions were held at Tirunelveli, Coimbatore, Salem, Chennai and Thanjavur.

In Tirunelveli, a militant protest demonstration was held in front of the Railway Station. The demonstration was presided over by T Sankarapandian, district secretary and SCM of the party. District leaders of the party and mass organizations and State Secretary Com. Balasundaram participated in the demo. Immediately after the demonstration a 100 member team comprising leaders and cadres of Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Thoothukudi-Virudhunagar districts proceeded towards Idinthakari-Koodankulam, the struggle site where thousands of people are holding a relay fast and demonstrations for the past three months. The respective district secretaries of Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Tuticorin-Virudhunagar – T Sankarapandian, S M Anthonimuthu and C Ponrasu; State President of AIPWA, Thenmozhi, AICCTU State Vice-President G Ramesh, Mary Stella along with Balasundaram, State Secretary of CPIML led the solidarity delegation.

At the struggle site, hundreds of women, school children and people from all walks of life were protesting. They warmly greeted the CPIML delegation with rousing slogans denouncing the nuclear power plant and Central and State governments. Our leaders, Sankarapandian, Ramesh, Thenmozhi, Anthonimuthu, and Ponrasu addressed the protesters. State secretary of CPIML Balasundaram, concluded the days’ fasting. He greeted the movement, saying that Idinthakarai’s struggle is India’s struggle, and the Koodankulam resistance is a challenge to the pro-imperialist policies of the UPA Government at the Centre.

On the same day, braving a heavy downpour, more than 700 workers of Pricol and other factories assembled in the district conference of AICCTU. Spirited slogans rent the air in support of struggling people of Idinthakarai-Koodankulam. Apart from Krishnamurthy, Pricol Union President; Chandran of LMW; N K Natarajan, State General Secretary of AICCTU; Balasubramanian, the newly elected District Secretary of Coimbatore; and Party’s Politburo member S Kumarasamy addressed the conference.

In Chennai, a spirited demonstration was held in front of the Memorial Hall, where more than 150 protestors – including party activists, migrant workers and worker activists of Hyundai, TIDC, and MRF, CUMI, KKCDH, and AISA-RYA activists – took part in the demonstration. Chennai City Committee Secretary Com. Sekar, AIALA State General Secretary, Com. Janakiraman, State General Secretary of the Democratic Construction Workers’ Association Com. Iraniappan and party SCM Radhakirshnan addressed the protest.

In Salem, Party State Committee members Chandramohan, A Govindaraj (Namakkal district secretary), TNSCC Employees Union’s State President K Govindaraj, AISA State Secretary, Venkatachalam, Ayyanthurai and others addressed the protest. District Secretary of Salem, Mohansundaram presided over the demonstration.

In Thanjavur, AICCTU State Secretary K Rajan presided over the demonstration. The respective district secretaries of Tanjore-Nagai and Pudukkottai districts, Comrades Ilangovan and Asaithambi and State President of AIALA TKS Janarthanan, party SCM Desikan, AIALA Vice-President T Kannaian addressed the protest. Construction workers and activists participated in large number.

AICCTU Protests in Delhi

AICCTU organized area level protests by different unions in Delhi and NCR during the campaign going on for the preparations of the National Conference of AICCTU to be held in Bhilai. While DTC Workers Unity Center held a protest dharna and effigy burning at the DTC Headquarters on 2 November demanding complete stop to backdoor privatization of DTC, protests of unorganized sector workers were held at East Delhi Dy. Commissioner and NOIDA City Magistrate on 3 November demanding issuing of Voter I-cards, BPL cards and many other issues.

Many new recruited casual and contract workers joined the protest at DTC headquarters along with the senior workers. It was demanded to stop Cluster Bus Scheme and handing over of bus depots to TATA which are draining hard earned revenue of DTC to the corporate and is actually a huge scam. They also demanded regularization of all workers, better and humane service conditions, end to managerial oppressive measures. The protest was led by DTCWUC President Santosh Roy, Secretary Shiv Shankaran, and other leaders. AISA leader Sandip Singh also addressed the workers while many students from JNU and Jamia Universities came to participate.

The protest held at NOIDA was participated by large number of domestic women workers and rickshaw pullers who demanded institution of minimum working safety, security and benefits for them. They handed over a memorandum demanding BPL Cards, Voter I cards, end to police and goons’ oppression along with many other demands. This was led by Santosh Roy, Shymakishore Yadav, RYA activist Aslam Khan, while some students from Jamia were also present. The protest in East Delhi was also held on similar demands and it was mainly of construction workers. They handed over the memorandum to the dy. Commissioner, East who assured to forward the demand charter to the government. This was led by VKS Gautam, Ram Abhilash and many others. These protests have generated good enthusiasm among participant workers.

Jail Bharo by Central TUs

In response to an all India joint call by central trade unions (CITU, AITUC, AICCTU, AIUTUC, HMS, INTUC, BMS, UTUC, TUCC, LPF and SEWA), several lakhs of workers all over the country courted arrest in a ‘Jail Bharo’ on November 8. The massive participation in the Jail Bharo reflected workers’ anger against price rise, corruption, privatisation and lay-offs, insecure and casualised work in the unorganised sector, and rampant violation of labour laws and denial of trade union rights.

In the national capital, Delhi, thousands of workers marched to Parliament and courted arrest at Parliament street. Jail Bharo demonstrations, road blockades, blockades of train lines and the like were held in all states. AICCTU notably participated in the joint Jail Bharo initiatives in Jharkhand, Bihar, Tamilnadu, and other states. At West Bengal, the AICCTU held independent protest programmes, since there the CITU had insisted on making ‘TMC-Maoist terror’ its central demand. There, AICCTU held a well-attended protest march and courted arrest at Lal Bazar.

Convention on Workers Rights in Puducherry

As part of the campaign towards the forthcoming eighth National Conference of AICCTU, the Puducherry State Council of AICCTY conducted street corner meetings from 21 October, 2011 all over Puducherry culminating in a Convention on ‘Workers’ Rights’ on 30th October.

200 workers participated in the Seminar; more than half were women workers. The seminar was presided over by the AICCTU Puducherry General Secretary, S Mothilat. Karaikal Organiser E Jeyabal, Democratic Construction Workers’ Union General Secretary M A Akbar, AICCTU Central Working Committee Member and Vice-President P Sankaran, National Secretary and Puducherry President S Balasubramanian and Tamilnadu State Deputy General Secretary A S Kumar addressed the gathering.

The speakers spoke on the prevailing situation of workers in Puducherry including the attitude of the employers, Labour Department and the Government of Puducherry. They also highlighted the role of AICCTU and the achievements in the past and also the necessity of intensifying the struggle mobilising the strength of the workers, especially, unorganised workers. The convention passed several resolutions including a demand for closure of the Koodankulam atomic power station.

Struggle Against Corrupt Ration Dealers in Jharkhand

A people’s struggle has succeeded in challenging the corrupt regime of Panki MLA Videsh Singh of Palamu district. In Simri and Gadhvat villages of Naudiha block, a ration dealer had failed to distribute 4 months’ grain rations and 3 months’ kerosene rations, and instead siphoned them off to the black market. CPI(ML) activists had complained of this to the BDO, but under pressure of the MLA, the BDO took no action. The CPI(ML) activists then organised a dharna at Manatu block headquarters and demanded immediate distribution of grains and kerosene. In spite of this the rations were not distributed.

The party along with the people of the affected villages then announced an indefinite hunger strike at the DC office. On 21 October, 10 activists began the indefinite hunger strike – Mahendra Mahto, Sakaldeep Singh Kherwar, Ramji Mahto, Rudni Kunwar, Nakuma Devi, Nanhuk Mahto, Baleshwar Mahto, Basraj Singh Kherwar, Gulisingh Kherwar, and Janak Singh. The hunger strike continued for 4 days, after which the SDO met the protestors and announced that rations would be distributed on 25 October. On 25 October, the grains and kerosene were distributed among the beneficiaries in the affected villages.

The struggle was led by block secretary Comrade Rajendra Mahto and Panki Area Committee member Brijnandan Singh. The struggle has boosted the morale of the resistance to the high-handedness of the local MLA.

AISA Struggle in Panki College

The Mazdoor Kisan Mahavidyalaya at Panki (Palamu, Jharkhand) is attended by a good number of students from poor households. But the MLA Videsh Singh has been aiming to destroy this college and play with the future of the students here.

Students were not given admit cards on time. The student fund account itself was closed, as a result of which it became impossible for students of BA Part I and II to give the exams to be held on 8 November. AISA took an initiative and called a meeting of students (around 1500 students in this batch were due to give their exams) and their parents. A leaflet was distributed exposing the MLA and his supporters who were responsible for undermining the college. On 22 October, students held a gherao of the Principal of the college. The gherao was led by AISA Convenor Arun Kumar Prajapati, as well as other student-youth leaders including Lalan Kumar, Ganesh Prajapati, Abhishek Kumar, Ranjit Kumar Singh, and CPI(ML) panchayat secretary Kamlesh Prajapati. All 1500 students participated in the gherao. At the gherao it was announced that if the demands were not met, the University Administration would be gheraoed next. Under pressure of the student movement, the SDO released funds for exam forms, and forms were then submitted to the University. The students had a victory and were able to give exams, and the MLA’s ploy was defeated.

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: 22518248, e-mail: mlupdate, website: www.cpiml.org

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