ML Update | No. 46 | 2014

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 17 | No. 46 | 11 – 17 NOV 2014

Modi’s Cabinet:

Green Signal to Crime, Corruption, and Communal Hate-Speech

Narendra Modi’s latest expansion of his Cabinet brings the total strength of Ministers to 66. The compulsions of accommodating leaders from a variety of states, castes and allied parties triumphed over the initial claims of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’.

What is most striking about the Cabinet expansion is the unashamed accommodation of leaders tainted by serious crimes and corruption: the very question on which Modi Sarkar had promised to mark a break from the UPA Cabinet. Seven of the new Ministers have serious criminal charges against them, including those of murder, rioting and rape. In all, a study has shown that 20 (31%) out of entire strength of 64 Ministers, have serious criminal charges against them. Modi apologists have tried to label the charges as ‘flimsy’ – but such defences do not hold much water.

Moreover, one of the new Ministers, JP Nadda, is implicated in getting whistleblower Sanjeev Chaturvedi removed from his post as AIIMS CVO. Allegedly, Nadda pressurised the then Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to remove Chaturvedi, who was investigating an officer close to Nadda for corrupt deals to the tune of crores of rupees.

Then, there is the case of the Suresh Prabhu, who shifted allegiance from Shiv Sena to BJP on the eve of his induction into the Cabinet. Prabhu, former Environment Minister in the Vajpayee Government, ironically has a flat in the Adarsh Society in Maharashtra, notorious for violating a host of environmental laws and regulations. Prabhu’s flat is also larger that the area to which he is legally entitled. The Adarsh Society scam was a serious black mark on the Congress-NCP Government in the State, but Opposition political leaders including Prabhu are alleged to be beneficiaries of the scam. With Prabhu finding a berth in Modi’s Cabinet, the issue of corruption has come full circle – showing the essential continuity between the UPA and NDA regimes on this issue.

The inclusion of Jayant Sinha (son of BJP leader Yashwant Sinha) in the Cabinet is also noteworthy – pointing to the close overlapping of corporate and government interests, and the consequent conflict of these interests with those of the country and its citizens. Jayant Sinha is a former head of the Omidyar Network in India – known to be run by the eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar. Sinha quit Omidyar to join Modi’s election campaign as an advisor. Soon after, Modi publicly endorsed the opening of India’s e-commerce market to FDI – a move that would massively benefit Omidyar who represents one of the foremost global corporate interests in e-commerce.

Cabinet apart, Modi’s chosen Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, too has a record of being a blatant advocate of US corporate interests. As late as March 2013, he had advised US Congress on the “challenges” posed by India’s domestic “protectionism” to US business interests. Why is Modi’s hand-picked Economic Advisor a man with an IMF background, who believes India should stop protecting the interests of its people in order to benefit US businesses?

The inclusion of Giriraj Singh – the BJP MP from Nawada in Bihar – is yet another instance of Modi’s wink to corruption. A few months ago, a huge stash of cash – Rs 1.14 crore – was recovered from a thief who had stolen the amount from Singh’s house. Singh had only reported a theft of Rs 50,000. A red-faced Singh had offered the truly flimsy explanation that the cash belonged to his ‘cousin’ – a real estate builder with interests in Nagpur. But Giriraj Singh’s inclusion as Modi’s Cabinet Minister is significant for other reasons too. The BJP has, till now, claimed to distance the party and the Prime Minister from the poisonous communal and casteist utterances of various figures associated with the Sangh Parivar and BJP. While the ‘love jehad’ lie was a central vehicle of the BJP campaign in Uttar Pradesh, with MP Adityanath making especially vile speeches provoking violence on this pretext, the BJP claimed that Adityanath did not have the party’s and Modi’s approval. But Giriraj Singh’s elevation to Cabinet Minister gives the lie to BJP’s claims.

Giriraj Singh had, during the Lok Sabha election campaign counselled Modi’s critics, especially Muslims, to ‘go to Pakistan’. His statement openly mocked at democratic norms of the space for dissent, and displayed his vision of Modi’s rule as an authoritarian Hindu Nation with no room for minorities and dissenters. Giriraj Singh also openly defended Adityanath’s hate-speech and amplified it, endorsing the ‘love jehad’ lie quite openly. And Giriraj Singh is also notorious for having equated the Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh, who had the blood of massacres of dalit landless poor on his hands, with Gandhi. If Singh’s inclusion in Modi’s cabinet shows the communal-casteist-undemocratic face behind the ‘development’ mask, the inclusion of Nadda, Prabhu and Jayant Sinha reveal that ‘development’ in the Modi regime, as in the UPA regime that it replaced, will continue to mean corporate plunder, corruption and flagrant disregard for the environment and the country’s precious resources.

All India Kisan Mahasabha’s Bihar State Conference Held

Over the past month, district-level conferences of All India Kisan Mahasabha had been held in several districts of Bihar – and the 7th Bihar State Conference of the Kisan Mahasabha was held on 1-2 Nov 2014 in Vaishali district of Bihar. The conference began by paying tributes to all martyred comrades and flag hoisting at the Shaheed Smarak by Com. Ramashish Singh. Inaugurating the conference, Kisan Mahasabha General Secretary Com. Rajaram Singh critiqued the Modi government’s policies related to land and the agricultural sector – the concessions to foreign corporate companies investing in India, the field trials of GM seeds which will gravely endanger food crops, the proposed pro-corporate and anti-farmer reforms in the land acquisition Bill and the dilution of environmental standards. He pointed out that the phenomenon of sharecropping is on the rise in Bihar, but instead of helping the smaller sharecropper by encouraging public investment, the central and state governments are making all sorts of cuts in farmer subsidies. As a result of the government’s policies in the agricultural sector, farming outlays are getting costlier through privatisation of farming material, even as the government refuses to give sharecroppers the status of “farmer” and the benefits which go with it.

Kisan Mahasabha National President Com. Ruldu Singh also highlighted the deteriorating socio-economic conditions of farmers due to the rising cost of farming inputs. He pointed out that farmers in the so-called rich agricultural belt of Punjab were inveigled and trapped in the debt syndrome and weighed down by loans to the tune of thousands of crores. More than half of the debts were owed to private moneylenders and usurers, leading small farmers to commit suicides in large numbers. National secretary Purushottam Sharma from Uttarakhand said that the uncontrolled industrialization and indiscriminate tourism development in that State was destroying the villages of poor farmers. CPI(ML) leader Com. Rajaram Singh said that recently the Party had conducted a survey of 2 lakh farmers in Bihar, especially sharecroppers, and studied their problems. In the coming days the Party would be taking up steps to organize poor farmers and sharecroppers and initiate struggles.

Focusing on the need to raise sharecroppers’ issues effectively, Bihar State secretary Birendra Gupta pointed out that as a good portion of farm labour is engaged in sharecropping, there are increased possibilities for a united struggle. Vice President of the Bihar State Kisan Sabha (affiliated to the CPI) Com. Ramchandra Mahto and State secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha (affiliated to the CPI(M)) Com. Awadhesh underlined the need to develop a united farmers’ struggle to combat the impact of neoliberal policies. Com. Surendra Singh and Com. Rambali Prasad also spoke of the devastation caused by neoliberal policies, stating that not only were farmers being deprived of economic rights, their right to organized struggle was also in jeopardy.

Samkaleen joint editor Pradeep Jha pointed out that agriculture was gradually moving from a feudal sharecropping system to a corporate sharecropping system, even as the farmer has not been able to get ownership rights to his crop. He stressed the need to find new ways to strengthen small farmers and to fight the ruling class attempts to wedge a divide between farmers and sharecroppers in Bihar. He appealed for widespread dissemination of the D. Bandopadhyay commission recommendations relating to sharecroppers and for a concerted effort to build an effective farmers’ and sharecroppers’ movement.

The delegate session was held in the evening of 1 November. Reports of the earlier work of the mahasabha were presented, in which issues such as the dilapidated condition of canals, ahars, and government hand pumps, black marketing of seeds and fertilizers, corruption in PACS (primary agricultural cooperative societies) elections and crop purchase centres, shelving of the D Bandopadhyay recommendations, and forceful land acquisition were discussed. In particular, the denial of sharecroppers’ rights was highlighted. Struggles of the Kisan Mahasabha in the last 4-5 years for sharecroppers’ rights and crop purchase, and for sugar cane farmers’ issues were detailed. The intervention of the Mahasabha in farmers’ protest against land acquisition was also discussed. A 17-point list of responsibilities was presented, for widening the organizational strength of the Mahasabha.

32 representatives participated in the discussion. They discussed issues such as the economic oppression of workers in dairy farms, water logging problems in several districts, false electricity bills and extreme shortage of electricity, problems of fruit and vegetable growers due to lack of local mandis, common farmers being deprived of PACS membership, the need to fix the sugar cane purchase price before the sugar mills start working and to include representation of sugar cane farmers in the process of price fixing, failure of the government to buy the crops at the appropriate time, extreme delay in payment, and lack of proper compensation for destroyed crops.

On 2 November, the presiding board declared the inclusion of the issues raised by the representatives in the agenda of the Kisan Mahasabha. Com. Shivsagar Sharma and Com. Krishna Dev Yadav stressed the need for strong intervention on farmers’ issues, especially sharecroppers’ issues. The report was then passed unanimously. In the final organizational session, National Secretary Com. Ishwari Prasad Kushwaha oversaw the election of new office bearers. 76 comrades were elected to the 81-member council, while 5 places remain vacant. A 33-member executive was elected from among the council members. Com. Vishveshwar Prasad was elected State President and Com. Sudama Prasad State secretary. 8 Vice Presidents and 8 joint secretaries were also elected. Finally, a 12-point political resolution was passed. It was resolved to observe the week from 28 November to 4 December as a state-wide “Demand Week” to demand sharecroppers’ rights through organized dharnas in all blocks. The conference ended by paying tributes to Com. Shah Chand, news of whose sad demise reached just as the conference was coming to an end. Prior to this state conference, at the district-level conferences of the Bihar Kisan Mahasabha had been held in Bhojpur, Rohtas, Siwan, Gopalganj, Muzaffarpur, Jamui and Begusarai.

Movement for Peoples’ Rights in Ramgarh

During the past month, CPI(ML) has been leading several struggles in Ramgarh, Jharkhand. 17-year old Kamlesh Munda died of hunger in September, and since then CPI(ML) has been demanding justice for his family. After his death, an 8-member enquiry team led by Com. Devki Nandan Bediya and Vigendra Thakur visited Kamlesh Munda’s village, Betul Khurd. The team met the villagers as well as the victim’s brother Sunil Munda and enquired into the incident. The villagers informed the CPI(ML) team that Kamlesh Munda’s father died of hunger in 2003, when Kamlesh and his brother Sunil were just 6 and 5 years old respectively. At that time, the State government had undertaken to pay for the care and education of both the children and had admitted them to the Adivasi school in Mandu. Last year, both boys failed the Matric exam and returned to the village to live with their grandfather in a dilapidated 2-room Indira Awas home. Kamlesh Munda, already suffering from epilepsy, could no longer get medicine due to lack of money. Without money to buy food on the ration card, Sunil started working at the Kaku hotel in Hemantpur. Sometimes they had money for rations, and sometimes the villagers helped them. The BDO was kept informed about this situation. Panchayat sewak Ramji Mahto sometimes visited the village on behalf of the government, but he could not render any help to Kamlesh. Finally the 17-year old Kamlesh died on 25 September. The villagers informed the BDO, who in turn sent the panchayat sewak to the village. The BDO and SDO visited the village in the evening, gave 10,000 as compensation, and suspended the panchayat sewak in an attempt to absolve the government from accountability. CPI(ML) organized a dharna and nukkad sabha to protest against Kamlesh’s death and to demand a high level enquiry, action against the guilty as well as and proper care, medical and educational expenses for Sunil Munda.

On 14-15 October, a CPI(ML) team led by Com. Devki Nandan Bediya visited the areas in Gola block of Ramgarh district affected by the Hudhud cyclone. The DC, SP, BDO, CO and other officials visited only 2 of the affected villages and of all the hundreds of affected homes, gave 2.5 to 5 kg rice, 1.5 kg chiwda, 1.5 kg jiggery, 2 bottles of water, some biscuits, and some assurances in just 35 homes. CPI(ML) organized a rally of over 300 people and a public meeting in Gola block on 17 October to demand compensation for the affected villages and to raise other peoples’ issues. Comrades Devki Nandan Bediya, Bigendra Thakur, Tejpal Mahto, Gobind Kushwaha, Shankar Munda, Aloki Devi as well as Akli Devi, condemned the government’s gross neglect. The villagers described their problems, and submitted a 19-point charter of demands.

A rally was organized in Mandu block on 17 October to protest looting of land by the land mafia, destruction of crops by poisonous emissions from sponge iron factories, and to demand minimum wages for workers. A rally was also organized in Patratu block to protest against removal of 400 names of poor people from the BPL list, against bribery and corruption in ration distribution and in issuing land deeds for farmers, against the gair-majruwa land scam and land acquisition by the Jindal corporate house. A memorandum was submitted on these issues. A dharna was also held in Dulmi block to demand subsidies in seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides for farmers, and to protest against the scams in construction of toilets in rural areas and corruption in the Indira Awas schemes. A memorandum on these issues was submitted.

‘Vishwasghat Virodhi’ March In Ranchi

A ‘Vishwasghat Virodhi’ march was held in Ranchi on 20 October, to protest against the steady betrayals of peoples’ aspirations by the Hemant Soren government in Jharkhand and the Modi government at the Centre. This rally, called by the Ranchi town committee, began from the Party State office in Ranchi, and culminated in a protest gathering at the Albert Ekka chowk. The march was led by CPI(ML)’s central control commission board member Com. Sukhdev Prasad, Ranchi district secretary Bhuvaneshwar Kevat and Sudama Khalko. Speakers at the rally pointed out that the JMM and BJP had held power in Jharkhand for the longest period, and therefore need to be held responsible for the corporate loot, corruption, forced migration and human trafficking in Jharkhand. The rally was addressed by Pratap Choudhary, Bhim Sahu, Maqsood Alam, Tulsi Singh, Shanti Sen, Meena Lakra, Inamul Haque and others.

Left Parties Press Release

A meeting of six Left parties – Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party, All India Forward Bloc, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)-Liberation and Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist) was held on 3 November at New Delhi. They have issued the following statement:

With the advent of the Modi government in power there is a concerted rightwing offensive fueled by the corporate-Hindutva forces. There is a growing onslaught on the people through the imposition of neo-liberal policies which is going to adversely impact the livelihood of the people. There is no respite for the people from price rise, unemployment and corruption.

The Hindutva forces are resorting to aggressive communal activities. The Modi government’s patronage of the RSS and its outfits is aimed at communalising the educational, social and cultural institutions. There is rise in communal tensions in different parts of the country.

The Left parties decided to conduct a week long protest campaign between December 8 to 14, 2014 on the following issues:

(i) Against steps to curtail and dilute the MNREGA

(ii) Curb price rise; control exorbitant price of medicines and drugs

(iii) No increased FDI in insurance.

(iv) Take firm action to unearth black money

(v) Stop infiltration of the RSS and Hindutva ideology in education, public broadcasting media and other institutions of the State.

(vi) Stop the “love jihad” hate campaign and other forms of communal propaganda

(vii) Stop attacks on minorities and their rights

(viii) Fight violence against women and all forms of gender oppression

(ix) Fight against atrocities on dalits and caste oppression

Those who attended the meeting were: Debabrata Biswas (AIFB); Kshiti Goswami & Manoj Bhattacharya (RSP); Swapan Mukherjee & Kavita Krishnan (CPI(ML)-Liberation); Manik Mukherjee & Ranjit Dhar (SUCI(C)), A.B. Bardhan & D Raja (CPI) and Prakash Karat & S Ramachandran Pillai (CPI(M)).

Workshop for Working Women in Bengal

An encouraging workshop of working women was organised by AIPWA and AICCTU on 9 November at Chinsura, Hooghly. More than 100 working class women from different sectors participated, expressed their trials and tribulations and shared their experiences with others. Women workers of Asha, anganwadi and midday meal schemes as well as domestic workers and even agricultural labourers actively took part in the discussion. Chaitali Sen (Secretary AIPWA, West
Bengal) initiated the discussion and explained the necessity of the workshop. Atanu Chakravarty, President, AICCTU, West Bengal gave an introductory speech, stressing particularly on sexual harassment of women at workplaces, and mentioning some crucial points from the existing Act against sexual violence and harassment. He explained that workplace also means ‘world of
work’, which ILO uses to include the broader place of economic activity, i.e., on public transportation going to work, or returning back home after a night shift or selling products in the street. The concept of ‘world of work’ helps capture paid productive work that does not take place within the traditional “public sphere” such as a factory or office. He also mentioned that the 45th session of Indian Labour Conference held in May 2013 concluded that all women working in Asha, MDM and Anganwadi schemes should be treated as workers – they should be paid minimum wage and should get all social security benefits such as pension, gratuity, and maternity benefits. It was also mentioned that domestic workers are explicitly included in the Unorganized workers (social security) Act, 2008 and have come under the coverage of Rashtriya Swasth Bima Yogana.

Representatives and leaders from different sectors expressed their experiences and humiliation which they face from employers and even from government officials such as school authorities and health personnel. Com. Chaitali summed up the discussion and informed the gathering that a similar workshop would take place on 16 Nov at a state level. Prabir Haldar, President AICCTU Hooghly district committee, assured the participants of all active help and cooperation and reiterated the need to break the narrow confines of various sectors in order to assert as a fighting class against all forms of patriarchy and class oppression. Com. Sobha Banerjee, President AIPWA Hoogly, presided over the proceedings.

Obituary

A Tribute to Minakshi Sen, progressive litterateur

Noted progressive littérateur and academician Minskshi Sen passed away on 24 October 2014 in Agartala. Always deeply sympathetic to the revolutionary communist movement, she had been associated with a variety of peoples’ movements, starting with her involvement in the 1970s when she was a college student at City College Kolkata. She joined the Naxalite movement and was arrested in the year 1973 and subsequently released from jail in the year 1977. Her experiences in jail found a reflection in her legendry works such as “jeler bhetor jel”. She worked extensively to build the academic discourse around media, gender, conflict and reconciliation, language, music and literature of the North Eastern region. After completion of her post graduation, she came to Tripura and started her profession as a college teacher. Within very short period, she became a popular teacher. Till her death, she maintained a good relation with CPI(ML). Not long before her demise, when the party’s state leaders met her, she gave her consent to join the All India Peoples’ Forum. Her passing is an immeasurable loss for revolutionary literature and the progressive democratic movement.

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