ML Update 51 / 2012

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 15 No. 51 11-17 DEC 2012

FDI in Retail:

Entering India through a US-inspired Concocted Majority in Parliament

The debate and vote in Parliament on FDI in retail concluded with a dubious victory for the Government, reminiscent of the Nuke Deal vote. While the debate made it clear that the majority opinion in the house was against the policy of introducing FDI in multi-brand retail, opportunism at the time of voting carried the day.

The arguments peddled by the Government in favour of FDI in retail are entirely unconvincing and false. The claim that FDI in retail will benefit farmers and consumers has proven to be false country after country. Just last week, a leading American newspaper reported that American onion farmers are suffering at the hands of Walmart which is selling onions at nine times the purchase price. Walmart and other chain stores also dictated arbitrary size standards as a result of which huge amounts of crops that failed to meet those standards were left to rot.

Globally, MNC retail giants are not known to have ensured higher prices for producers or lower prices for consumers – if anything, the opposite. Far from ‘eliminating middlemen’ as the UPA Government claims, the MNC retail giants will in fact emerge as foreign middlemen, immensely more powerful than any domestic producer – whether farmers or manufacturers – and will therefore be able to play with prices and eventually enjoy a veritable monopoly.

Another shocking pro-FDI argument is that FDI in retail is necessary to usher in superior technology – specifically, cold chains to prevent wastage. Why should foreign investment be needed for something as basic as cold storage? As we have seen above, preventing wastage is hardly a concern for the MNC retail giants. Not only is produce that fails to meet arbitrary size standards rejected and left to waste, the global food industry controlled by the MNC retailers is known to waste almost half the food it procures.

Even as the debate was underway in Indian Parliament, it was known that an enquiry is underway in the US into allegations of bribery by Walmart in several countries including Mexico, India, China and Brazil. There are indications that Walmart and its subsidiaries paid bribes in order to expand its network of stores in those countries. Further, the Enforcement Directorate in India is probing an allegation that Walmart secretly and illegally invested 100 million dollars in its wholesale partner Bharti Enterprises, way back in 2010 when foreign players were barred from entry into India’s retail business.

At the same time, Walmart itself has disclosed that it spent Rs 125 crore since 2008 on lobbying US senators on various issues, including “enhanced market access for investment in India.” How exactly was the money spent on ‘lobbying’ for entry into India? Who are the alleged recipients of bribes by Walmart in India, according to the ongoing enquiry? These unanswered questions indicate that the process by which the FDI in retail policy has been adopted is murky.

It is ironic that the Indian Government is bulldozing the FDI in retail policy pushed aggressively by the US at a time when the retail giants are facing protests in the US for putting small stores out of business and underpaying employees. US President Obama, just recently, has taken his daughters for Christmas shopping to a small bookstore, to be seen promoting a scheme called ‘Small Business Saturday’ intended to support small ‘mom-and-pop’ stores.

In the Lok Sabha, the SP and BSP chose to walk out of the house after having opposed the FDI in retail policy, thereby ensuring safe passage for the policy. In the Rajya Sabha, the BSP voted for FDI in retail, ensuring a comfortable victory for the Government. Several MPs strategically stayed away from Parliament on the day of the vote, in order to facilitate the Government while avoiding being seen voting in favour of FDI in retail. In the Lok Sabha, the absentees included JMM chief Shibu Soren as well as JVM chief Babulal Marandi, while JMM MP Kameshwar Baitha voted in favour of FDI in retail! In the Rajya Sabha, the sole JMM MP walked out of the house at the time of voting.

The claim by the SP and BSP that they did not vote against FDI in retail so as not to benefit the communal BJP is laughable; the BSP is known to have shared power with the BJP in UP, while the SP is known to have done business with Kalyan Singh, the man who as Chief Minister of UP from the BJP, had presided over the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

The FDI vote outcome is a travesty of the will of the people. It reflects nothing but an opportunistically concocted majority, cobbled together through behind-the-scene deals and under American pressure. It is appalling but altogether unsurprising that the UPA Government now seeks to discredit popular protests against FDI in retail by deeming such protests to be ‘defiance of Parliament and of the law of the land.’ It is the vote in Parliament which has mocked the spirit of democracy and political ethics. And it is the people of India, who by resisting tooth and nail the suicidal policy of FDI in retail, the policy that threatens the livelihood and interests of millions, will uphold the true spirit of democracy.

40 Years of Martyrdom of
Comrades Jagdish Master and Ramayan Ram

Inauguration of Martyrs’ Memorial at Ekwari

December 10th, 2012, was the 40th anniversary of the martyrdom of Comrades Jagdish Master and Ramayan Ram. They were martyred at Bihiya in Bhojpur district on 10 December 1972.

Jagdish Master was born in 1935, 10th December, at Ekwari village under Sahar block where feudal oppression and violence dominated everyday life. The non-landed class, poor peasants and the minorities did not have any freedom, not allowed to improve their living conditions, not even to conduct their daily personal affairs in their own way. Growing up in such a suffocating social environment, Master Jagdish was witness to social discrimination and repression towards dalits, poor and lower castes, routine humiliation and undignified conduct of feudal class towards women. Battling such a social setup and overcoming severe odds Master Jagdish was successful in education and getting a socially honoured profession of a teacher, in Bihar then. He was employed as a science teacher in Arrah’s Jain School. He was loved by his pupils. However, he could not be satisfied with his position, he was constantly troubled at heart due to the incidents of repression and exploitation of poor and toiling class. In Arrah town, he organised the dalits to defend their dignity and rights. Initially, he along with other revolutionary activists, held a large rally in Arrah for demanding “Harijan-istan”. Soon, the Naxalbari revolt happened and they were attracted to it, also realising that this was the way to transform a feudal society into democratic one. He deliberately travelled without ticket to get arrested and meet naxal leaders in jail.

In the 1967 Assembly elections he chose to be the electoral agent for Comrade Ram Naresh Ram, a daring task in itself. He was attacked brutally when he opposed bogus voting against his candidate. Since then he quit his job as teacher and became a full time activist. The struggles that he waged along with Comrades Ram Naresh Ram and Rameshwar Ahir from here on, attracted the attention of the world. People’s poet Baba Nagarjun hailed these as heroes of oppressed people of Bhojpur as Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh. He succeeded in driving out fear from the hearts of poor and toiling people as the poor of Bhojpur stopped being afraid of the feudal forces.

In a tribute befitting such a hero, the memorial for Master Jagdish and Ramayan Ram was unveiled on 10th December 2012 at Bihiya. People had tried constructing a memorial earlier too but the police were successful in forestalling the move. The land for the memorial, which is now highly priced, was given by Dinesh Musahar. The memorial stands at the very place where they were martyred. 40 years back, when Master Jagdish and Ramayan Ram were returning after ending the life of a cruel and repressive land lord Thana Singh (who used to assault women, play with the lives of poor and controlled the police and administration), the agents of feudal forces raised hue and cry accusing them to be dacoits and thieves and following an attack from the adjacent hamlet of Musahars, they died. They did not use their firearms, which could have saved them, as it was against Party’s rule to open fire on poor and toiling people. Ramayan Ram asked Jagdish Master to scoot, but he would not leave his comrade behind.

Later when the Musahar community learnt who died at their hands they slumped into deep grief. On the 40th martyrdom anniversary, Dinesh Musahar and rest of the community had a sense of pride that the memorial of the people’s heroes stood on land donated by them. At the time of martyrdom Comrade Jagdish was CPI(ML)’s State Committee member. The memorial was inaugurated by Party’s Politburo member and veteran communist Comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya. He said that since his martyrdom many governments came to power in Bihar all in the name of the poor. But all have pushed the poor further towards hunger and death. To those whom Nitish Kumar termed mahadalits and lured them with the promise of land, were serviced with poisonous alcohol, land being a hollow promise. The number of deaths of poor is on the rise in Arrah due to alcohol that according to Nitish will bring him excise tax. The people who are dying are poor people for whom Master Jagdish sacrificed his life, and towards whom the rulers are ruthless to date. People who want change therefore must walk the path taken by Master Jagdish. His life has also inspired work of art by pro-people intellectuals. Mahashweta Devi’s “Master Saab” and Madhukar Singh’s “Arjun Jinda Hai” centres around his struggles and life.

The red flag at the smarak (memorial) at Ekwari Village was hoisted by Dinesh Musahar. A public meeting was held at Arrah town bus stand next to where the Smriti Bhavan’s foundation stone was laid. It was addressed by senior Party leaders including Comrade Swadesh.

Punish The Perpetrators of Fake Encounters and Fabricated Cases

The NHRC has informed the Supreme Court that in the past 5 years, no less than 191 fake encounters have taken place in the country. This disclosure came in the course of a hearing in the SC over a petition to appoint a Special Investigation team (SIT) to probe the 1500 alleged fake encounters in Manipur in the past three decades. Another petition seeking withdrawal of AFSPA in Maniour is also under hearing.

Needless to say, the NHRC’s estimate is a conservative one, since it only counts those killings that the NHRC considers to be fake. The Batla House killings of 2008, for instance, were not considered fake by the NHRC in spite of its many suspicious aspects.

The NHRC also commented on the non-cooperation of state governments in probes into such killings, and on the failure to comply with recommendations for compensation in case an ‘encounter’ is found to be fake. For instance, in the case of the rape and killing of Thangjan Manorama Chanu in Manipur in 2004, the NHRC recommended payment of Rs 10 lakh as compensation to the victims’s kin, but the Defence Ministry is yet to comply.

Shocked by the revelations, the Supreme Court bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana P Desai asked, “Is there a war going on within?” The SC noted that “There is more than meets the eye” in the ‘encounters’ in Manipur, and recommended the setting up of an SIT to probe the cases, although the Central Government and the NHRC opposed this. Commenting on the fact that a 12-year-old boy was killed as a ‘militant’ in one such ‘encounter’, the SC bench asked, “How can a 12-year old boy be a terrorist?”

What is shocking is that in this ‘war,’ the state machinery enjoys a virtual licence to kill. There is a culture of impunity, whereby the men in uniform who perpetrate fake encounters and fabricate cases against innocents are very rarely brought to book.

It is not fake encounters alone, but fake cases, fabricated to frame innocents, too, which are on the rise. Recently, the Delhi HC acquitted two young Kashmiri men who had been sentenced to death by the sessions court in the 1996 Lajpat Nagar blasts case. The High Court pointed to the “highly defective” police investigation, and the “grave prosecution lapses” that raised “a question mark on the nature and truthfulness of the evidence produced.” The HC concluded that the case fell below the “minimum proof required in a criminal trial.” How, then, did evidence that fell below the threshold of ‘minimum proof’ result in the maximum sentence for two young boys, also costing them 16 years in jail for a crime they did not commit?

The HC noted that “It has been repeatedly cautioned by the Supreme Court that while dealing with a case of grave nature – like the present one, there is always a danger that conjectures and suspicion may take the place of legal truth.” It held that “In matters of liberty, the weakness of the State surely cannot be an excuse for lowering time tested standards, especially in serious crimes, where the accused stand to forfeit their life, or at best, the most part of it.”

The brother of one of these youths was also acquitted two years earlier in the same case, having spent 14 years in jail. Appallingly, it is reported that the two recently acquitted Kashmiri youths face re-arrest in another blast case.

An investigative report by a journalist of a leading English daily recently exposed that instances of blatant fabrication of cases against alleged members of ‘SIMI,’ said to be a banned terrorist outfit. What was clear from his report is that these were not cases of ‘lapses’ or honest ‘mistakes.’ They were cases of deliberate fabrication, no less. In 6 different cases spanning 5 cities and 2 years, the Madhya Pradesh police had produced the same copy of a magazine as ‘evidence,’ claiming in every case to have seized this supposedly banned magazine from the accused. Clearly, in every case, the same copy of the magazine had been planted on the accused after the arrest! Others had been arrested and spent long periods in jail in Maharashtra and MP on evidence as flimsy as newspapers, Urdu poetry and a children’s magazine. In other cases, Muslims had been arrested under the UAPA on charges of terrorism – for the crime of ‘shouting slogans.’ In none of the cases have the police personnel faced punishment for their obvious fabrication of cases.

The Lok Sabha has recently passed amendments to the UAPA that make it even more draconian that it already it. Draconian laws like UAPA are being used as instruments to arrest and intimidate minorities, adivasis, the poor, as well as political dissenters. The Binayak Sen case, with its obvious fabrications and falsehoods, had shocked people’s conscience. It’s time it was recognised that such outright fabrications, arrests and custodial torture and killings are the norm rather than the exception.

What is needed is a tribunal to probe all cases of terror suspects, and to ensure public acknowledgement and apology as well as compensation and rehabilitation for the victims of fabricated arrests and families of fake encounter victims. But above all, what is needed is severe punishment for the personnel (in police or armed forces) who perpetrate extra-judicial killings and fabricate cases, and repeal of all draconian laws.

Protests Against Liquor Deaths in Bihar

The Bihar Government’s policy of promoting the sale of liquor for revenue is taking a deadly toll in the state. Between 7th and 9th December, around 35 people (possibly more) were killed after drinking poisonous liquor in Ara. Since then, there have been similar deaths in Gaya and Patna too. The CPI(ML) and AIPWA have responded with spirited protests demanding arrest and prosecution on murder charges of those responsible for the deaths; compensation for the victims’ families; and an immediate stop to the Government’s policy of promoting the sale of liquor.

On 8th December, the CPI(ML) called for an Ara bandh. On 9th, the AIPWA held a protest demonstration in Patna. On the same day, CPI(ML) PB member Swadesh Bhattacharya met the victims’ families in Ara, while on the 10th December, Bihar state secretary Comrade Kunal visited Ara and met the victims’ families.

The AIPWA held protest marches in Siwan and Gaya on 10 December. And on 11 December, the AIPWA led a militant protest by women at the DM’s office at Ara. Women, led by AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari and Ara leaders Comrades Indu and Shobha Mandal, spiritedly resisted the police and entered the DM’s office premises, raising slogans and addressing protestors on the mike, although the use of mikes is banned there. The DM had been claiming that there was no provision for compensation of victims of hooch deaths, and only BPL beneficiaries could be compensated. Under pressure from the women’s protests, the DM was forced to add the names of 5 non-BPL victims to the list of those entitled to compensation.

Recently, a veteran socialist leader Hind Kesri Yadav had been brutally beaten up by liquor mafia in full presence of the police, on the DM office premises, when he led a protest against illegal hooch sale in Muzaffarpur. The CM has shamefully gone to the extent of saying that funds for empowering girls can be generated only by revenue from liquor sales! Women in Bihar are protesting against the fact that liquor vends are coming up in every village, and addiction that is being promoted by the Government, is resulting in intensified domestic violence for women and distress for the families.

The party has called for a Bihar Bandh on the issue on 15 December.

Tea Workers’ demonstration at Guwahati

Asom Sangrami Chah Sramik Sangha (ASCSS) affiliated to AICCTU, staged a satyagraha at Guwahati on 3 December 2012 demanding immediate solution of some burning problems of tea workers of the state. Tea companies of the state violating Bonus Act, 1965, have been depriving tea workers from their due bonus. It is compulsory to add the ration as their income while fixating the bonus. But this procedure is not followed and hence tea workers do not get their due bonus. After a series of protests, Labour Commissioner of Assam had served a notice to the tea companies in July 2012, but, ironically, the same was withdrawn later. ASCSS demands proper implementation of Bonus Act, 1965, to stop violation of Labour laws in tea gardens, to punish the responsible officials, and to stop collection of high electricity charges from the workers residing in garden quarters. Hundreds of tea workers from various districts of the state took out an impressive protest procession upto the Deputy Commissioner’s office and sent a memorandum to the Governor of Assam seeking his prompt intervention on their demands. Leaders of AICCTU and CPI(ML) participated in the procession. ASCSS warned the Govt. of intensifying the movement.

Protests on 20th Anniversary of Babri Masjid Demolition to Demand an Effective Law Against Communal Violence

The CPI(ML) held a dharna on 6 December 2012 New Delhi to mark the 20th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The dharna demanded punishment for the guilty of the Babri demolition; and demanded that Parliament enact a law to prevent and punish the perpetrators and political masterminds of communal violence.

Addressing the dharna, Kavita Krishnan, Central Committee member of the Party, said that 20 years after the Babri Masjid demolition, Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and other BJP leaders are yet to be prosecuted for the Babri Masjid demolition. Similarly, the Srikrishna Commission indicted Bal Thackeray for the communal pogrom of Bombay 1992-93, yet Thackeray went scot-free. After his death recently, he was given a state funeral, as Government and media tried to whitewash Thackeray’s role in instigating communal hatred and violence. This December, elections to the Gujarat Assembly are due to take place, and Narendra Modi, mastermind of the communal pogrom of Gujarat 2002, is once again aiming to be Chief Minister. The political masterminds of the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984 were never brought to justice.

In almost all instances of communal violence against minorities, the police has colluded with the perpetrators, acted as an extension of the communal mob, and betrayed their duty towards protecting the vulnerable minorities. When the UPA-I Government came to power, they promised to pass a law against Communal Violence. However, the UPA-I and UPA-II have failed to draft and enact a law that will truly prove capable to protecting minorities from communal violence. The Government has succumbed to pressure from communal forces led by the BJP, who are virulently opposed to such a law.

The activists said that the UPA Govt and Parliament must draft and pass a law that will hold governments, police and administrative machinery accountable to preventing communal and targeted violence, will provide for justice to the victims and survivors of communal and targeted violence, and will have provisions for justice for the victims of sexual violence that takes place as part of communal and targeted violence.The speakers condemned the deliberate incidents of fabricated cases against innocent Muslims and demanded punishment for the police officials. Recently, a Delhi High Court found that two Kashmiri youth, jailed for 16 years as terrorists, had been falsely convicted and were innocent.

The dharna was also addressed by Prabhat Kumar, Sanjay Sharma, VKS Gautam, Santosh Roy, Anmol, Ravi Rai, Ums Gupta of LDTF, Aslam Khan, and many others. Girija Pathak conducted the programme

A protest dharna on same day was also held at Gohana district headquarters in Haryana. The activists led by Party’s Haryana Incharge Prem Singh Gahlawat demanded an effective anti-communal violence Act that can set precedent for rioters and their political conspirators. Such an Act must fix accountability of police and administration as well as responsible politicians in incidents of communal violence. The dharna was also addressed by Jagjiwan Ram, Jay Narayan Singh, Gulab Bhagat and Dipak Dahiya.

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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