ML Update | No.10 | 2015


MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 18, No. 10, 03 – 09 MARCH 2015

Budget 2015: Bonanza for the Rich, Bitter Austerity Pill for Others

Whichever way one looks at the first full-fledged budget of the Modi government, three features would stand out in bold relief. The budget has certainly handed out a big bonanza to the corporate sector – may not be as big a bonanza as would make the share market jump in joy, but a substantial bonanza nevertheless. That there are sharp cuts in social spending is another fact that stares everybody in the face. MNREGA may have escaped the kind of cut many had apprehended, but the axe has fallen heavily on every other item. But if the budget has added to the disappointment of one section of the people, it is the section which had voted in a big way for the BJP in the last Lok Sabha elections – the burgeoning Indian middle class. It is the middle class that along with the poor and the deprived will bear the burden of the 2015-16 budget – the 1.5% hike in service tax will pinch the middle class in every step of life.

Let us take a closer look at all these three defining features of the budget. In one fell swoop, the government has done away with wealth tax. The government knows that in a country with such sharp inequality as India, the abolition of the wealth tax cannot be defended as a matter of principle. So we are told the wealth tax is not cost effective, the cost of collecting the tax is higher than the amount of tax collected. In other words, the rich in India have mastered million ways not only to amass massive wealth but also to keep it safe from the taxman. If the government admits to this basic failure of ‘governance’ and wants to use it as a pretext for abolishing the very tax levied on wealth, how on earth does it expect us to take its threats against black money seriously? The 2% surcharge announced on income of above Rs one crore will also suffer on the same count.

The government has of course not stopped with just the abolition of wealth tax. It has also handed out a Rs 200,000 crore tax bonanza over the next four years by promising to lower the corporate tax from 30% to 25%. And this when according to the government’s own calculation, the current tax rate of 30% actually works out to an effective tax rate of only 23%! The exemptions dished out to the corporate houses – in tax as well as customs and excise duties – continue to be staggering, during the first year of Modi government (2014-15), they just increased from Rs 5,500 billion in the last year of the UPA government (2013-14) to Rs 5,890 billion. And with no MAT (minimum alternate tax), inheritance tax or wealth tax, an exemption-laced lowered corporate tax is all that the corporate sector will have to face in the coming years. Add to this the proposed changes in the land acquisition law and labour laws, the disinvestment offerings and the government readiness to bear all risk in PPPs, the size of the corporate cake could not really be any bigger!

Contrast this bonanza to the treatment meted out to the consumers – the service tax has now been raised to a whopping 14% and like every other indirect tax, this too affects the people regardless of their income, making it blatantly disproportionate and regressive. During the Delhi elections, Modi talked of his ‘luck’ that his tenure so far has seen global oil prices crash from $110 per barrel in June 2014 to just about half, $57 per barrel. Far from transferring the benefits to the people, the government has resorted to a steady hike in excise duties on petrol and diesel and now in freight rates in this year’s rail budget, mopping up billions of rupees of extra revenue, and if yet government figures show stagnation on the revenue front, it only shows highlights the dire need to increase taxes on the rich, do away with the sundry exemptions and improve the actual collection of taxes. But the government has chosen the opposite way and the result is an unprecedented squeeze in public spending and that too in the most sensitive social sectors concerning the most deprived sections of the population.

Compared to last year’s budget, total plan expenditure is estimated to decline by a massive Rs 1.1 lakh crore, an unprecedented squeeze of about 20%. The decision to wind up the Planning Commission and replace it with the strange sounding ‘NITI Aayog’ was clearly not just a wordplay, the Modi raj has actually embarked on the dangerous journey of cutting back even whatever little money the government it spends on basic services and people’s welfare. From Sarva Siksha Abhiyan to higher education, mid-day meal to National Health Mission, SC/ST sub plan to women and children welfare, the axe has fallen on virtually every single social expenditure item. Even the allocation for sanitation and drinking water has been reduced, leaving one to wonder if like ‘kala dhan wapsi’ (repatriation of black money), ‘swachchhata’ would also turn out to be just another ‘jumla’ or ‘empty rhetoric’ for the BJP. And contrary to the BJP propaganda of ‘cooperative federalism’, the states do not get any extra resources to make up for the cuts in central expenditure.

Arun Jaitley has advised the middle class to take its own care. What he has not said in so many words is that his government has abandoned the poor. Tax cuts for the rich, spending cuts for the poor and greater cost burden on the working people and middle classes – these are the classic features of a dreadful economic regime that is known as ‘austerity’ to the whole world. Yes, instead of the promised glimpses of ‘achchhe din’, Arun Jaitley’s budget has delivered the first few pills of austerity to the overwhelming majority of Indian people. In the economic realm, the truth of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ has started ringing as ‘minimum responsibility of the government, maximum burden on the people’. The time has come for all sections of the people to rise in unison against this disastrous economic direction.

Reduction in Social Sectors in Budgetary Allocations (BE) of 2014-15 and 2015-16 (BE)

Departments 2014-15 (BE) Rs. Cr. 2015-16 (BE) Rs. Cr. Change
Agriculture (including Agri Research) 28,795 23,323.85 -19%
Drinking Water and sanitation 15,263.15 6,238.87 -59%
Health and family Welfare 34,874.86 29,358.87 -15%
AIDS Control 1,749 1,357 -22%
Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation 5,558.6 5,169.47 -7%
Rural Development 79,999.8 71,593.08 -10%
Women and Child Development 20,900.82 10,084.40 -51%
(In particular ICDS) 18,321 8,471 -53%
School Education 54,8444.18 41,934.50 -23%
Higher Education 27,565.20 26,760.26 -8%

CPI (ML) Statement on Rail Budget

The 2015-16 Rail Budget of the Modi Government is going to hurt the pockets of the citizens, by the back door.

In spite of the fall in international crude oil prices, the Budget has shown no corresponding fall in rail fares. Instead, hikes in freight rates are going to result in hiked prices that will burden various sections of Indian people.

The Budget has hiked freight rates for urea by a whopping 10 per cent – this will undoubtedly put an immense burden of increased fertilizer prices on farmers.

The across-the-board hike in freight prices of groundnut oil, grains and pulses, LPG and kerosene, as well as cement, coal, and iron and steel will have a cascading effect on prices of essential items of household consumption and will also lead to an overall price rise.

This Budget, like previous budgets, has failed to take the safety measures called for to prevent rail accidents, in spite of the fact that 15,000 people die every year in rail-related accidents and fires. The obvious priority measure to prevent accidents would be to fill in the 3 lakh vacant posts in the railways. But instead, the Rail Budget has proposed ‘audio-visual’ warnings to road passengers at unmanned crossings. Why should crossings remain unmanned at all? As long as they remain unmanned, is it really imaginable that mere audio-visual warnings will prevent accidents?

In the name of correcting under-investment in the Railways, the Rail Budget has further opened the doors for private profiteering at the cost of the invaluable public asset that is the Railways.

The move to install surveillance (CCTV) cameras in passenger coaches and ladies’ compartments is extremely troubling. Instead of making women safer, this will in fact increase the vulnerability of women passengers to voyeurism and snooping as well as misuse of the CCTV footage. The CCTVs are also likely to be used to profile and harass women and children from the poorer sections, vendors, transgenders, and other vulnerable sections of the population, for whom the railways are a lifeline but who are at the mercy of corrupt and insensitive rail authorities.

The Modi Government’s Rail Budget has proved once again, that far from the acche din promised, the Government is relentlessly increasing burdens on citizens and offering up public assets for private profit.

Kisan Mahasabha Holds Countrywide Protests against Land Acquisition Ordinance

The Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha organized countrywide protest demonstrations against the Land Acquisition ordinance on 23 February 2015. Thousands of farmers took part in these protests held in about 84 districts across states including UP, Bihar, MP, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Andhra Pradesh. The farmers expressed their outrage and submitted memorandums to the President through the district authorities demanding repeal of this ordinance.

The CPI (ML) and Kisan Mahasabha also resolved to mobilize farmers and rural poor and hold special countrywide gram sabhas between 24 February and 14 March2015, to conduct a signature campaign against the Land Ordinane as well as cuts in MNREGA and Food Security bills. A people’s parliament will be held on 16 March in New Delhi and the memo with the signatures will be submitted to the President and the Lok Sabha speaker, demanding a stop to the anti people attempts of the Modi government.

In Bihar, protests, nukkad sabhas and demonstrations were organized at Gandhi Maidan, Bhagat Singh chowk in Patna city, Nawada, Shekhpura, Ara, Bhagalpur, Jamui, Beguserai, Siwan, Darbhanga, Western Champaran, Buxar, Hajipur in Vaishali. These were very well attended by farmers, rural poor and women. Speakers including Kisan Mahasabha national secretary Rajaram Singh, Rajendra Patel, Pramod Singh, Mahesh Yadav, Manoj Pandey, Jainath Yadav, Vishveshwar Prasad Yadav, and many other leaders pointed out that the 2013 Land Acquisition bill with provisions for 70-80% consent, 4 times compensation social impact assessment, and rehabilitation, etc., was passed after a long struggle by farmers. The Modi government’s 2014 ordinance has thrown out all these provisions in a single blow, increasing food insecurity and displacement, reducing agricultural land, and robbing the farmer of what little relief he had got through the 2013 Bill.

In Uttar Pradesh protests were held in Ghazipur, Balliya Kushinagar,Mhou, Chandauli, Niyamtabad, Saidipur, Sonbhadra, Mirzapur, Kanpur, Bareilly, Lakhimpur, Moradabad, Mathura, Jalaun, Pilibhit, Puranpur, Deoriya, Padrauna, Gorakhpur, and other places. Farmers and leaders who addressed the protest meetings vowed to fight against this draconian ordinance and called upon farmers to unite against this land loot.

In Madhya Pradesh demonstrations and protest rallies were held in Bhind district. Kisan Mahasabha leaders addressed the meeting and pointed out that the central and state governments were conniving together to loot land from the farmers. Earlier, meetings and padyatras (foot marches) were organized at 20 villages. A memorandum was submitted to the President through the district authorities demanding the repeal of the ordinance.

In Andhra Pradesh protests were held in Eastern Godavari and Krishna districts. Protest meetings were held in Karnal in Haryana. In Rajasthan demonstrations and rallies were organized in Jhunjhunu and Salumber block in Udaipur. Farmers protested against land grab of 7000 hectares by Birlas without farmers’ consent, and increase in electricity rates by 18%.

In Punjab protests were held at Faridkot, Kot Kapoora, Mansa, Budhlada, Sangrur, Barnala, Gurdaspur, Bhatinda, Rampura Phool, and other places. Protests and dharnas with the participation of about 1500 farmers were held at Puri in Orissa and also Kalahandi district. A huge protest rally and meeting was held at Haldwani in Nainital district of Uttarakhand.

Farmers and rural poor across the country thus protested against the land grab ordinance and vowed to fight for its repeal.

AICCTU in Joint Demonstration all over Tamil Nadu on 26 February

All 11 central trade unions participated in a joint demonstrations held at Chennai Central railway station . More than 1000 workers took part and Com Jawahar state Honorary President addressed on behalf of AICCTU .Com Sekar and Munusamy were present . In Tiruvellore Joint demo was held at main Bazaar While Com A S Kumar Deputy Gen secretary of AICCTU present, Com Anburaj and Thirunavukkarasu addressed on behalf of AICCTU. Demonstration at Dharmapuri district was addressed by Com Murugan of electricity board union and Com Govindaraj state Gensecretary of Civil supplies corporation union also participated along with workers. In Tanjore, Com Rajan , state secretary , In Karur Com Bal raj, state VP of EB union, In Dindigul, state secretary Com Manivel, In Namakkal Com Subramani district secretary along with Com Govindaraj state secretary, In Erode District Tresurer Com Venkatesan along with Com K R Kumarasamy , In Salem Com Viswanathan of Co-optex union along with comrades Natarajan and Velmurugan , In Madurai, Com Mathivanan, In Tirunelveli State leaders Sankarapandian and Ramesh along with district secretary Com Ganesan and In Kanyakumari, Comrades Mary stella and Suseela took part .Demonstration in Coimbatore district was held at 3 places . In Periyanaickan palayam Com Damodharan state VP addressed .More than 100 workers from AICCTU took part. In Singanallur Com Balamurugan Leader of Shanthi gears union spoke on behalf of AICCTU. In Pollachi, Punch of Civil supplies loadmen participated in a joint demo and Com Durai spoke.Apart from AICCTU Leaders of central trade unions viz CITU, AITUC, AIUTUC,INTUC, BMS and LPF addressed the gathering.Workers from almost all sectors were mobilised by the trade unions .

All CTUs Demonstration in Bangalore

Joint Council of Trade Unions of all central trade unions in Bangalore organized a Dharna Satyagraha on 26 Feb. 2015 as a part of all India call.

Protestors demanded a minimum wage of Rs. 15000, withdrawal of pro-corporate, anti-worker amendments to labour laws, scrapping of contract labor system, same work- same payment, regulation of skyrocketing prices, etc.

Com. Shankar, AICCTU All India Vice President called upon workers to prepare for more militant struggles in the comin days to take on Modi led corporate, communal fascist central government and anti-worker Congress government in Karnataka.VJK Nair, CITU, Ananta Subbarao of AITUC, Radhakrishna of AIUTUC, Shivashankar of TUCC addressed the protestors along with other CTU leaders.
All workers were symbolically arrested and released on the same spot.
JCTU delegation also met the Governor and submitted a petition to be forwarded to the central government.

AIPWA Strongly Condemns the Move to Install CCTVs in Railway Coaches and Public Places

The AIPWA strongly condemns the Rail Budget announcement of the move to install CCTV cameras in railway coaches and women’s coaches in suburban railways. We also oppose the ongoing use of CCTV cameras in Delhi Metro as well as the move to install such cameras in public streets and public transport in various parts of the country.

The Budget Speech says that CCTVs will be installed ‘without compromising privacy’. How is that possible?

Already, there is evidence that CCTVs serious compromise women’s safety rather than promote it.

In the Delhi metro, for instance, CCTV footage of women and couples have been leaked as pornography on the internet. This incident should serve as a warning bell as to how vulnerable CCTVs in public spaces can make women.

International studies have shown that there is no evidence that CCTVs or the fear of being watched has reduced crimes. Instead these studies show that the data from surveillance videos are almost invariably misused. This has included systematic misuse by the State to profile and spy on certain sections of the population as well as on activists; and also misuse by individuals monitoring the footage, for personal snooping, stalking, voyeurism as well as leaking onto the internet.

Moreover, on Indian streets and public transport including the railways, it is women, children and transgenders, as well as men from the poorest sections, the homeless and the destitute, who are the most vulnerable to violence, that goes mostly unreported. Instead, this section of people are profiled as the source of danger and subjected to police harassment and violence, in the name of keeping streets and passengers safe. CCTV surveillance will severely increase the insecurity and vulnerability to harassment and violence of this section of people.

CCTVs in public transport and railways are therefore very ill-advised and strongly condemnable.

Instead, what is needed is to improve the sensitivity and accountability of the RPF as well as appointment of trained staff on all trains and stations, available at the press of a button, specifically to offer support and respond promptly and sensitively to women facing harassment and violence.

It should be noted that women’s movement groups have never sought CCTV surveillance. This is because we know that women from their homes to the streets, are most vulnerable to surveillance, to a sense that Big Brothers of various kinds are watching them, judging them, controlling them. Moral policing in the name of ‘safety’ and sexual stalking/snooping are only two different sides of the same coin for women.

Joint Protest Rally by Khemas and Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Mahasabha in Kolkata

The State committees of Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha and Akhil Bharatiya Khet Mazdoor Sangh organized a massive joint protest rally and public meeting on 4 February 2015 in front of Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee’s office and submitted a charter of demands to the CM. The anti farmer and anti worker policies of the central as well as state government were exposed through the rally. About 5000 people participated in the rally and the meeting was attended by farmers and workers from different districts. The meeting also saw a good participation from women.

The main issues raised in the rally were: repeal of the Land Acquisition Ordinance, guarantee of 100 days’ work through MNREGA with no cuts, strict implementation of the food security bill, stopping cuts in ration distribution through PDS, and to protest against the West Bengal government’s Agricultural Market bill which facilitates corporate entry into the agriculture market and bodes destruction for farmers’ markets. The meeting was jointly chaired by Kisan Mahasabha State President Annada Bhattacharya, Joint Secretary Suvimal Sengupta, and Khemas state President Sajal Pal and Joint Secretary Babloo Bannerjee. The rally was led by Com. Kartik Pal, Com. Partho Ghosh, Com. Tapan Batvyal and Com. Sajal.

Speakers who addressed the meeting stressed on the anti farmer, anti worker and pro-corporate policies of the Modi government; the series of anti-democratic ordinances, and pointed out the need for subsidies on water, agriculture, fertilizers, and food grains. The speakers also pointed out how the West Bengal government was also pursuing pro-corporate and anti farmer policies as a result of which 100 farmers committed suicide in a single year. A resolution was passed calling for protests at all district headquarters as part of the countrywide protests against the Land Acquisition ordinance on 23 February.

Protest Demonstration for Reinstatement of Contractual Workers Laid off in Chhattisgarh

A protest demonstration was held by Centre of Steel Workers on 24 February 2015 in Bhilai, Chhattisgarh to demand immediate reinstatement of laid off contractual workers and raise other workers’ issues. A memorandum was submitted during the demonstration to the CEO, Bhilai Steel Plant and the Executive Director, HSCL, demanding immediate reinstatement of thousands of workers who had been laid off. They also demanded inclusion of a provision in the contracts to ensure that when the contract changed hands, the workers already employed should not be removed. They also demanded strict implementation of labour laws and safety rules, as well as payment of monthly wages by the 10th of each month along with payment slips.

Speakers addressing the meeting said that the “achche din” promised by the Modi government had brought only loss of jobs and employment crisis for thousands of workers. This action by the management has created widespread outrage among the workers. The speakers called upon all contractual workers to put up a united fight against this injustice. The demonstration was led by Brijendra Tiwari and the meeting was addressed by AICCTU leaders Muktanand Sahu, Shiv Kumar Prasad, Vasuki Prasad Unmat, Ashok Miri, JP Nair, and others. The laid off contractual workers numbering 2500 participated in the demonstration. All the workers who have been laid off are directly involved in the production work of the Bhilai Steel Plant.

CPI (ML) condemns the killing of anti-fundamentalist blogger Avijit Roy

CPI (ML) strongly condemns the brutal murder of Bangladesh born American blogger Avijit Roy who was known to speak out against religious fundamentalists. His wife was also brutally injured in the attack. Last year too, another blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider had been hacked to death by religious fundamentalists for speaking against extremism in religion in Bangladesh. The growing attacks on anti-fundamentalist and rational voices all over the world, including India, are a serious reminder regarding the need for progressive forces to join hands against fundamentalism. In the protests that immediately erupted in Dhaka and other parts of Bangladesh denouncing the murder of Avijit Roy and condemning the failure of the state to protect him, concerns regarding upholding of democracy and freedom of expression were also raised. The spontaneity and mass participation in the protests following the murder of Avijit Roy in Dhaka and of Com. Govind Pansare in India, is a sound reminder to the extremist forces that bullets can kill a people but not their ideas and abilities to influence. CPI (ML) extends solidarity to the protestors standing for democratic and secular values in Bangladesh and salutes the courage of Avijit Roy.

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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