Workers-Agricultural Labourers Take to Struggle Path

In Tamil Nadu the monsoon had failed and almost the entire state was suffering a serious drought. The problem was further confounded by the Cauvery crisis. It was in this background that our party demanded the state govt. to convene a special assembly session to resolve the issues of drought relief, livelihood and democracy. This campaign started throughout Tamil Nadu from September 2 and culminated in a Worker-Agricultural Labourer Rally at Kumbhakonam on October 3, in which our General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya participated. The campaign was taken up in earnest in the districts of Chennai, Namakkal, Salem, Tiruvellore and Tirunelveli. Other districts also joined in the campaign.

In the meantime the Party and AICCTU were consciously coming out of our narrow confines and started moving around in a larger space. Our protest and opposition to Tamil Nadu ESMA had an edge over other central trade unions. Our filing a writ petition against the ESMA got a wider coverage. Our Co-Optex union raised the issue of handloom workers in a powerful way and during the weavers’ crisis, the state Govt. was forced to concede our demands of bringing back the free dothi-saree scheme, 30% rebate throughout the year for handloom goods, and 20 kg rice per month for the affected families.

Our shops and general workers union in Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation held a convention on public distribution system in which main leaders from CITU, AITUC, Electricity Board employees & government employees participated. This convention called upon the working class to rise in defence of state procurement and to fight against any tampering with the public distribution system, which will affect the rural poor and more particularly the agricultural laborers. It this backdrop we launched the campaign of workers going to the villages. There was conscious planning & systematic efforts to make the vanguards realize their proletarian responsibility of reaching out to the rural proletariat.

Worker vanguards and their leaders decided to go to the villages of Tanjore and Nagai districts. These are two district wherein we are trying to stick on to our work among the rural poor and make a breakthrough in our rural work. In Tanjore, we were facing a lot of police cases against our leading activists and cadres. These were the two districts wherein the party spearheaded a struggle on the issue of equal and minimum wages for women agricultural laborers. The worker vanguards numbering 42 from Chennai stayed in Tanjore district among our rural poor base and covered some 60 villages in their campaign for mobilizing the people for the October 3 Rally. Likewise 13 comrades from Namakkal, Kovai and Neyveli campaigned in the villages of Nagai district. There were 8 women comrades among these worker vanguards. They were divided into 8 teams. These comrades integrated very well with the rural masses and organized political discussions amongst themselves on liberation articles regarding agrarian struggles and the Congress documents. This campaign started on 21 September and ended on 26 September in Sirkazhi with 3 well-attended street corner meetings.

On October 3, thousands of workers and agricultural laborers took out a rally in Kumbakonam. They lashed out at the Jayalalitha govt’s announcement of raising the ration rice price to Rs.6 per kg for the second 10 kg to be supplied to a cardholder. They also condemned the power tariff increase. The mass meeting was presided over by Com. Gunasekaran, Nagai District secretary. Apart from Party general secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya, other speakers included Comrade Balasundaram, Party State Secretary, Comrade Kannaian, Tanjore district secretary and Comrade Mary, AIPWA,

Comrade Dipankar pointed out that the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are playing water politics when both are reeling under severe drought conditions, while vast sections of the population are being denied the right to livelihood. Under the guise of waging a battle against Karnataka and the Centre, Jayalalitha has indeed launched a war against the poor and downtrodden people of Tamil Nadu by raising the price of ration rice and power tariffs by 30% across the board under the dictates of world financial institutions. Comparing with the mythical Kumbhakarna of the Ramayana who slept for six months to wake up for a day he said that the Central and state governments of India were even worse as they slept for five years on the issues of the people and woke up only during elections. He said that there was no separate legislation for the agricultural labourers even though there were so many laws for nearly all sections of society.

He also pointed out the fine tradition of the communist party in mobilizing the urban proletariat to reach out to other sections of society, more particularly to the agricultural labourers and hoped that the efforts taken by the Tamil Nadu worker vanguards would continue. He called upon the rural poor, the agricultural labourers, the unorganized workers, the urban proletariat and all democratic sections of the Tamil Nadu people to march under the banner of the red flag, which alone will pave a new path for Tamil Nadu & India.

Subsequent to the Rally, the state party had planned demonstrations and agitations against the rice price rice in a decentralized way throughout the state. The party is planning to make its struggling-presence felt in its pockets of influence and expand its scope of activities and space.