ML Update 49 / 2011

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 14, No. 49, 29 NOV – 05 DEC 2011

Resist FDI in Retail:

No to MNC Profits At the Cost of Indian People’s Livelihood!

Delivering a huge blow to crores of small retailers in India, the UPA Government has taken a decision to allow 51% FDI in multi-brand retail. This will mean that the giant MNC retail chains can open outlets in India. The move has been met with widespread opposition – not only from traders’ organisations who have called for a nationwide bandh, and from Opposition parties of all hues, but even from some UPA allies. The TMC and DMK have come out in opposition to the move, while even several Cabinet members are known to have expressed reservations or dissent openly, wary as they are of the price they may have to pay during the next elections. Meanwhile, while so many sections within the Government and the parliament are opposing the move, the US Ambassador has come out in support of the decision!

Faced with widespread countrywide opposition, the UPA Government is resorting to blatant propaganda for the corporates and MNCs. It has brought out full-page ads in papers extolling FDI in retail. Unwittingly, these ads acknowledge people’s concerns of job losses, of kirana store owners being put out of business, of multinationals gaining full access to and control of India’s retail sector, of farmers being exploited – but attempt to dismiss these concerns as ‘myths.’ The UPA Government, as well as corporates and neoliberal ideologues, are telling us that if companies like Walmart (the US MNC, one of the world’s biggest retail chains), Carrefour, Tesco etc are given more space in India’s retail sector, they will create ten million new jobs; ensure low prices for consumers; and a better deal for farmers.

The truth of these claims can be judged by the fact that Walmart has been struggling in vain since 2005 to open an outlet in one of the USA’s most prominent cities – New York City. Local people and unions in NYC are unwilling to allow Walmart into their city because it is notorious for killing jobs; putting mom-and-pop (family-run) stores out of business; destroying communities by driving down wages and driving up real estate prices; disallowing unions; and extremely exploitative working conditions. Now, the UPA Government is inviting Walmart, which is unwelcome in its own home country, to put small stores out of business, kill jobs and employ people in sweatshop conditions in India!

Walmart is run by the Walton family – which is the richest family in the world. Is it fair to force small Indian family stores and street vendors to compete with the richest in the world? It is well known that such MNC giant retailers resort to predatory pricing, squeezing out the smaller retailers by selling at low prices, only to hike prices once they have a monopoly on the market. So, the benefits for consumers are purely illusory and short-lived.

In India, there are around 1.2 crore shops, employing 4 crore people. Most of these are small, self-employed establishments. The retail sector is also the refuge of those unable to find employment elsewhere, allowing them a chance to eke out a living by running small shops, pushing handcarts or selling vegetables on the street. Even if we accept the Govt’s claim that FDI in retail will create a crore jobs, should we not ask how many jobs and means of survival it will jeopardise and destroy in India? Moreover, the quality of jobs in the corporate and MNC retail chains are notorious the world over for being the worst paid and exploitative, with the least workplace democracy.

The much-touted benefits for farmers are equally far-fetched. All around the world, it has been seen how corporate and MNC retail chains squeeze small farmers, forcing them to sell at low prices and laying down arbitrary quality standards which most farmers can’t meet. By allowing FDI in retail, the Government is actually paving the way to cut back on procurement by Government, which will further jeopardise agriculture and food security.

Not long ago, on the Lokpal issue, the Government was preaching Parliamentary supremacy to people protesting on the streets. Now, when it is clear that the majority in Parliament is opposed to FDI in retail, the Government is audacious enough to take such a vital policy decision merely by holding a Cabinet meeting even as Parliament is in session – claiming that the decision needs no Parliamentary debate or approval!

The Government claims to have provided certain checks and safeguards, like restricting foreign retail chains to 51 cities in India and requiring them to source 30% products from the Indian small and medium enterprises (SMEs). But the fact remains that even if the MNC retail chains are initially limited to the bigger Indian cities, it is not difficult to see that they will skim off the cream of the Indian retail market. Also, a token 30% reservation would not save the Indian SMEs from the adverse impact of unequal global competition. We have all witnessed how, with the entry of Pepsi and Coke in the soft drink sector, all Indian companies were swallowed up or pushed out.

The UPA Government, in its full-page ads, ends by making a telling comparison. Manmohan Singh ushered in the Liberalisation-Privatisation-Globalisation two decades ago, they say, and now it’s the turn for a ‘revolution’ in the retail sector. In fact, the LPG policies have wreaked havoc on jobs and livelihood, workers’ rights, agriculture and farmers’ survival. Now, it is the retail sector – and the survival of countless family store owners, street vendors, suppliers and sales workers, shop employees and workers involved in transportation of goods, small-scale producers and small farmers – that is the target! Already, Reliance and other Indian corporates are getting a foothold in the Indian retail market. Now the giant MNC retail chains are being invited in.

Let us join the traders, unions and common people all over the country in forcing the Govt. to back down on FDI in retail! Let’s tell the UPA Govt – we won’t allow Walmarts of the world to rob our people of livelihood and survival!

Farmers Hold “Kisan Sansad” at Parliament Street:

Demand Withdrawal of LARR Bill and FDI in Retail

“In the interests of food security and environment, enact laws to protect agricultural, forest and coastal land from land grab” – Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary, CPI(ML)

New Delhi, November 30 :

Hundreds of famers from all over the country gathered at Parliament Street today to hold a ‘Farmers’ Parliament’ (Kisan Sansad) on policy issues affecting farmers, including the Land Acquisition Bill and FDI in retail. The Kisan Sansad, organized by the All India Kisan Mahasabha (AIKM), was attended by farmers from UP, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Jharkhand, Bengal, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Assam, Odisha and several other states.

Introducing the Kisan Sansad, Rajaram Singh, General Secretary of AIKM, said, “Parliament and Government are pushing through Bills and policies affecting farmers – without even consulting the farmers themselves. This is why we farmers are holding a Farmers’ Parliament – to assert farmers’ own views on laws and policies affecting them.”

The Kisan Sansad was presided by Ruldu Singh, President, AIKM, AIKM Vice Presidents Kartick Pal, Prem Singh Gehlawat, Devendra Singh Chauhan, Rajaram, as well as CPI(ML) CC Member and former Jharkhand MLA Bahadur Oraon.

The assembled farmers debated resolutions on the LARR Bill and the FDI in retail policy. The Kisan Sansad adopted a resolution demanding withdrawal of the UPA Government’s LARR Bill, declaring it to be a blueprint for land grab. Instead they demanded measures to protect agricultural, forest and costal land from land grab.

Addressing the Kisan Sansad, CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said, “Land grab threatens not only the survival of farmers but also the country’s food security and environment. The LARR Bill’s provision allowing acquisition of up to 5 percent of multi-crop irrigated area in a district will jeopardize food security. The Government must withdraw the anti-farmer LARR Bill, and instead enact protection for agricultural, forest and costal land in the interests of food security and environment.” He continued, “Land reform laws mandate that government lands be redistributed among the landless. Violating this principle, the LARR Bill paves the way to hand these over to corporates!” He concluded, “The UPA Govt is trying to hand over India’s agriculture and retailing to MNCs and corporates – but the farmers are holding their own Parliament, and tell the Government and Parliament that they will not allow anti-farmer policies to be pushed through.”

The Kisan Sansad also adopted a resolution condemning the Government’s unilateral decision allowing 51% FDI in multi-brand retail. Rajaram Singh, AIKM General Secretary, said, “The PM is claiming that this measure will benefit farmers. In reality, the experience all over the world has shown that giant MNC retail chains tend to source produce mainly from very large farmers and contract farms. Small farmers inevitably lose out, because they cannot match the arbitrary quality standards of these chains. The MNC retailers also arm-twist farmers into selling cheap. Procurement by MNCs will reduce Government procurement, and will mainly divert the produce towards food processing – jeopardizing food security.” FDI in retail will threaten not only small retailers in India, but also small farmers, agriculture and food security, famers felt.

The Kisan Sansad also passed resolutions demanding withdrawal of the anti-farmer Seed Bill. They also demanded the release of activists Afroz Alam of CPI(ML) in Uttar Pradesh and Abhay Sahoo, the anti-POSCO leader from Odisha, who have been jailed while leading struggles of rural poor and peasantry.

The Kisan Sansad was also addressed by CPI(ML) CCM and AICCTU General Secretary Comrade Swapan Mukherjee and senior journalist Shri Kuldeep Nayyar.

The resolutions passed were submitted to the Lok Sabha Speaker as well as MPs of all parties, demanding that Parliament heed the opinions of the Kisan Sansad.

Rajaram Singh,

General Secretary, AIKM

Support Traders’ Bandh on 1 December

Protest Against 51% FDI in Retail

(Party’s statement)

The CPI(ML) condemns the Cabinet decision to introduce 51% FDI in multi-brand retail. This measure will hand over the Indian consumer market to the big multinational retail corporations like Wal-Mart etc., and will jeopardize the livelihood and survival of innumerable small retailers and shop employees in India.

The CPI(ML) extends support to the countrywide bandh called by the Confederation of Indian Traders on 1 December against the move to introduce 51% FDI in multi-brand retail, and calls upon its units and mass organisations to hold protest actions.

CPI(ML) Central Committee

Protests against The UPA Govt.’s Move to Introduce 51% FDI in Multi-Brand Retail

New Delhi – 30 November: PM’s Effigy Burnt

Unorganised sector workers, street vendors, and people from all walks of life under the banner of CPI(ML) burnt the effigy of Manmohan Singh at Jantar Mantar in protest against the Government’s decision to allow 51% FDI in multi-brand retail. The protestors held placards asking, “When New York can show red light to Walmart, why red carpet for Walmart in India?”; “No to Assault of MNCs on India’s Retail Sector!” and “Shame on Manmohan Singh – Agent of MNCs.” A protest meeting was held, which was addressed by Comrades Sanjay Sharma, Kavita Krishnan (CCMs), Santosh Rai and Shyam Kishore.

Sanjay Sharma, Delhi State Secretary, CPI(ML), expressed the party’s support for the countrywide traders’ bandh called on 1 December against FDI in retail, saying that such an anti-people move that is being supported only by corporate and MNC lobbies and imperialist powers, and is opposed by the vast majority of Indian people must never be allowed.

Tamilnadu – 29 November: CPI(ML) held protests all over the state demanding withdrawal of FDI in retail.

In Coimbatore a public meeting was held in which over 300 workers participated. Comrades N Krishnamurthy, State Secretary of All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) and S Kumarasami, Politburo member of CPI(ML) addressed the meeting.

In Chennai a demonstration was held in which more than 100 workers participated. Com. Munusami, City Committee Member of the Party led the protest. Com. S Sekar, SCM and Com. Bharathi, State President of All India Students’ Association (AISA), spoke in the meeting. Mr. Karunakaran, District President of Tamilnadu Traders’ Association participated in the meeting and warmly welcomed our quick initiative saying that CPI(ML) only is advancing the cause of poor and it has gone to the streets immediately on the issue of FDI in retail. He said that he draws strength from the demonstration to help in implementing the December 1 All India Traders’ Strike forcefully in Chennai.

In Gandarvakottai of Pudukottai a demonstration was held in the market. The demonstration drew the attention of the traders in the market and the local traders’ association representative spoke in the meeting following the demonstration. They said that only after listening to the speakers at this demonstration they came to know about the December 1 All India Traders’ Strike and that they would spare no efforts for its implementation.

In Tirunelveli, a padayatra was held in Suthamalli and demonstrations were held at two centres. Comrade T Sankarapandian addressed the demonstrations. Demonstrations were also held in Kanyakumari, Villupuram and Salem. In Tiruvallore, the police did not let the demonstration take place.

Programmes against AFSPA and in Solidarity with Irom Sharmila

Several organisations in Wardha, University professors, social activists, students, AISA, AIPWA and CPI(ML) leaders and activists from Nagpur city and intellectuals jointly held a procession on 5 November at Wardha in Maharashtra to express solidarity with Irom Sharmila, who has been on hunger fast for last eleven years to press for withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from North East. The march was organised by JanAdhikar Manch.

The procession marched ten kilometres before reaching the District Magistrate’s office where a day-long fast was observed. During the day long hunger strike the students performed various street plays and group songs. The meeting that followed was addressed by AISA’s Maharashtra President- Abhilasha and CPI(ML)’s Harendra Srivastava among others. AISA activists played crucial role in organising this programme.

Varanasi – Film Screening: AIPWA organised a film screening on 5 November at Lanka in Varanasi against the AFSPA and in solidarity with Irom Sharmila. The film – AFSPA 1958 – directed by Haoban Pawan Kumar, is wel known for very closely capturing the harrowing trauma that the people of Manipur and north-east, especially women have been subjected to since the AFSPA was imposed in the region. The impact of the visuals was evident from the moist eyes of the viewers at the film screening. AIPWA dedicated the programme to the steely resolve of Irom Sharmila.

AISA, RYA Hunger Protest against Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project

AISA and Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) held a fast on 26 November in Chennai demanding scrapping of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project. Over 150 students-youth and workers participated in the day long hunger strike. The protestors also demanded from UPA government to withdraw its decision on FDI in retail. Com. Bharathi, State President of AISA led the protest. Com. Venkatachalam, State General Secretary of AISA and Com. Malarvizhi, State Secretary, AISA, addressed the fasting protesters.

AIPWA Demonstration against Hikes in Milk Price and Bus Fare

In Chennai the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) held a demonstration on 24 November demanding immediate withdrawal of milk price rise and bus fare hike which has virtually broken the back of the poor and the working people of Tamilnadu. Dozens of women took part in the demonstration. Com. Devaki, AIPWA State VP led the protest. Com. Thenmozhi, AIPWA State President addressed the gathering.

Earlier, on 7 November, on the anniversary of Russian Revolution, AIPWA’s Chennai unit held a study class on ‘Our Revolution, Our Party and Women’s Movement: Basic Concepts and Our Tasks’. In the class it was also decided to concentrate on membership and the forthcoming AIPWA’s All India Conference. Com. Devaki, AIPWA State Vice President presided over and Com. Thenmozhi, AIPWA State President, spoke about the immediate tasks ahead.

Odisha: Arrest Condemned

The Odisha State Committee of the CPI(ML) condemned the arrest of a leader of the anti-Posco struggle Abhaya Sahoo in false cases like murder and dalit atrocities. Comrade Khitish Biswal, Party’s State Secretary said that due to popular movement and broadest support of people people the Posco has been thwarted in its attempt to displace people and so the Govt is acting like henchman of Posco by slapping false cases and arresting a leader of the popular struggle. CPI(ML) has demanded immediate and unconditional release of Abhaya Sahoo.

Movement against Anti-workers’ Policies in Assam

In Assam, attacks on workers have been on the rise. In a fresh move, Govt of Assam recently passed an order stating to transfer pending cases under Labour Courts and Industrial Tribunals to the respective Session Judges concerned, with immediate effect and subsequently Guwahati High Court passed an order instructing to transfer pending cases to the Sessions Court. It is nothing sort of a conspiracy to abolish 13 different courts such as Labour Courts, Industrial Tribunals, Family courts, Motor Accident Claim Courts, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Courts etc.

A workers convention jointly organized by AICCTU and Struggling Workers Centre in Guwahati on 27th November, discussed the issue and decided to launch movement to resist this anti-workers policy. A presidium comprising of AICCTU state president Com. Biren Kalita, State President of Struggling workers’ Centre Com. Tapas Das and APBE (Assam branch of AIBEA) leader Com. Dilip Sarma conducted the convention and representatives of nearly 20 trade union organizations, including central trade unions AITUC and UTUC, condemned this anti-working class move.

Com. Subhas Sen pointed out different conspiratorial move of Assam Govt against the workers and called upon the working class of Assam to build a movement against this. The convention resolved to start a movement and formed a convening body to resist this anti-worker, anti-people move.

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

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