Feature - Towards May Day

Workers Gear up for CPI(ML) Assembly Gherao in TN

Tamilnadu CM Karunanidhi recently went to Sriperumbudur to inaugurate the second plant of Hyundai Motors India Ltd, a South Korean international. Around 800 Hyundai workers were arrested when they sought to submit a petition to him regarding the vindictive attitude of the Hyundai management, and were released only after the CM’s departure. This management backed by the state government, thrice broke the flag masts of the union. This union’s CITU State leader was arrested when he went to hoist the flag of the union. This factory is manufacturing ten lakhs cars every year and the average price is Rs. 8 lakhs per car.

Ironically, even as a CPI(M) leader was arrested for trying to hoist the union’s flag at Hyundai, another CPI(M) leader (the State Secretary) presided over a function where the Hyundai Chairman handed over the keys of a Hyundai car to two youths from the CPI going on a world tour on the issue of global warming!

At the Hyundai function Karunanidhi declared that Hyundai cars and Korean multinationals like LG, Samsung and Hyundai have a place in the hearts of Indian people. But for the rural and urban proletariat of Tamil Nadu, it is land, homestead pattas, dignity and democracy that have a place in their hearts, not any exploitative MNCs. Karunanidhi came to power promising 65 lakh acres of land for 27.5 lakh agrarian labourers and rural poor at the rate of 2 acres each. Now he says there is no land to distribute, and he has also backtracked from the promise to distribute homestead plots to the poor. Yet he has created a land bank of thousands of acres of land for the specific purpose of handing it over to big corporate houses! Millions of acres of government land are under illegal occupation of dominant sections, temples and mutts. Ceiling surplus land and panjami land vested to dalits (during British regime) is alienated and is in the hands of vested interests.

At the same time workers in TN are also on the warpath. More than 1200 workers of Pricol affiliated to the AICCTU including 400 women stormed Coimbatore on 24 February 2008 and collected nearly 65,000 signatures for Amendment of the Trade Union Recognition Act on the lines of West Bengal. CPI(M) is holding its all-India Congress in Coimbatore by the end of March 2008, and CITU and CPI(M), following our efforts, have said they too will demand for amendments in the Trade Union Recognition Act inside and outside the Tamil Nadu Assembly. CPI(ML) is planning an Assembly gherao on March 27 on these basic issues of land and livelihood.

The Solidarity Forum of Tiruvottiyur along with AICCTU held a convention on March 20 on the amendments to the Trade Union Recognition Act. Leaders of the WPC and United Labour Front attended the convention and extended their support for the signature campaign being taken up by AICCTU and for the CPI(ML)’s forthcoming Assembly Gherao. Workers and leaders of unions of Ashok Leyland, MRF, Carborundum, Eveready, TI Diamond Chains, Hyundai, and Balmer Lawrie attended and addressed the convention.

Successful Strike by Bokaro Steel Plant Contract Workers

Braving all terror tactics and disruptive ploys of the Plant management, the powerful strike by contract workers of the Bokaro Steel Plant was a grand success, thanks to the unity of the workers and crucial support of the local people facing displacement at the hands of the management.
Thanks to the liberalized policies of the BSP, contract workers numbering 12-15000 bear the burden of the work, doing the toughest and most insecure jobs, but denied legal securities and rights. The Centre of Steel Workers (CSW) affiliated to AICCTU, which was active amongst permanent workers, has concentrated on organizing the contract workers over the past two years. Since July last year, this campaign was intensified, with a signature campaign, a Convention in August, successful membership campaign, and a Strike on 31 January 2008. The leadership of the Strike actions and protests has been shared with the AITUC-affiliated union, the leadership of which has a tendency to vacillate.       
After months of propaganda, workers were determined to settle scores with the management. On the eve of March 10, a day before the strike was to commence, the management started deploying all sorts of forces viz. STF, JAP (Jharkhand Armed Force), CISF, Jharkhand Police, Rapid Action Force along with water cannons etc. and a horde of police officers to foil the strike. There was patrolling by the police force in vans which are usually used in anti-naxalite operations. An atmosphere of terror was created. The management even succeeded in mobilizing some trade unions against the strike. The official group of INTUC, CITU, HMS Union, and a local union linked with Shibu Soren, in joint as well as separate press conferences appealed to the workers not to go on strike, particularly advising them not to do same in the month of March! The Union affiliated with the PCC CPI(ML) also persuaded them not to go on strike. However, unimpressed by all this, the contract workers went ahead with their strike call.
With red flags in their hands, on March 11, the workers started converging at the Plant gate raising slogans in support of their demands. Not a single contract worker went on duty despite the management’s allurement for an additional 100 rupees plus 50 rupees for food. The permanent employees of the plant too stood in moral support of the contract workers and they refused to do any job which used to be done by the contract workers. And thus the scope of the strike was widened.
Crucial support for the strike came from the local populace fighting against land acquisition by the management for the expansion plan of the Plant. On March 6, police resorted to brutal lathi-charge and tear-gas shelling on the agitationists. CPI(ML) declared support to the movement and came out actively in support of the Bokaro bandh on March 7 called by Visthapit Sangharsh Samiti. On March 8, AICCTU General Secretary Swapan Mukerjee visited the area and addressing a gate meeting at the Plant gate, declaring support for the struggling people on behalf of CPI(ML) and AICCTU. He sought their support for the 3 day strike of contract workers.
On March 9, the Visthapit Sangharsh Morcha declared support to the contract workers strike. Since a large section of the contract workers comes from the local villages, this support of the local agitating people against the management provided a fresh impetus to the contract workers strike. Under this pressure, the vacillation of the AITUC was also checked to an extent, and the strike was a great success. All contract workers joined this strike and their strength is around 15000.
Ultimately the management bowed down and accepted most of the demands: Rs. 105 per day as minimum wages for all workers, attendance cards for all workers and computerized online attendance arrangement within a month, payment on bank account, action against those who threaten to snatch gate-pass, pay-slip, providing annual record of PF cuts, free health centre apart from ESI, baby crèche for women workers within plant, arrangement for education to the children. Though there was no written agreement, departmental directives have been issued.
 The success of the strike has enthused the workers and generated a great sense of unity among them.

- D S Diwakar   

Joint Protest by Manipuri Students and Migrant Workers against Killings in Manipur

On 21 March, the Manipuri Students’ Association Delhi (MSAD) called for a dharna against the serial killing of Hindi-speaking labourers in Manipur. This dharna was joined by various democratic organisations in Delhi, including students from AISA and the JNUSU, as well as migrant labourers under the banner of CPI(ML). The MSAD leaders who addressed the dharna expressed deep concern at the killings of unarmed wage labourers, and saw these killings as an outcome of the ongoing conflict and denial of rights of the people of Manipur. They charged the Government of India for “relying on military tactics and intensifying the conflict situation,” and called for unity between the struggling people of Manipur and the people of other communities.
CPI(ML) State Committee members Uma Gupta and V K S Gautam, and AISA General Secretary Ravi Rai said that the Congress Government in Manipur headed by Ibobi Singh was already responsible for brutal suppression of the democratic rights and aspirations of the Manipuri people, and now, like its counterpart the Gogoi Government in Assam, was allowing innocent workers from Bihar and other Hindi-speaking states to fall victim to chauvinistic violence. JNUSU Councillor Sucheta De pointed out that in the Congress-ruled national capital of Delhi, women from Manipur and other parts of the North East were at the receiving end of sexual violence, and migrants from the North East faced discrimination even at the hands of the Delhi Police, but neither State nor Central Government were taking any corrective measures. V K S Gautam added that the plight of migrant labourers from Bihar and UP even in Delhi was a shame, where they were systematically denied their rights, basic security and dignity.        

The CPI(ML) also burnt the effigy of Ibobi Singh in Patna and other parts of Bihar, and called upon the people of Hindi-speaking states as well as the people of Manipur and the North East to forge a unity and rebuff the divisive forces.

CPI(ML) Condemnation of the Attack on CPI(M)’s Offices 

(Issued by the Party in New Delhi)

he CPI(ML) strongly condemns the attack by Hindu Maha Sabha, BJP and RSS workers, led by senior BJP leaders, on the Central Office of the CPI(M) in Delhi, as well as the subsequent attack on Sunderayya Bhavan in Hyderabad and the home of the CPI(M) State Secretary of Karnataka. The fascist goons and their leaders must immediately be arrested and given exemplary punishment. Such act of hooliganism against a political party office bears a dangerous signal that the Sangh Parivar and BJP can go to any extent against its political opponent. The Party has also condemned the fact that no proper security arrangements were made in spite of the prior information of Hindu Maha Sabha’s programme. The CPI(ML) calls upon all democratic parties, organizations and individuals to stand firmly against such acts.

Tripura Elections

The Left Front registered a victory in the Assembly Polls in Tripura for a fourth consecutive time. A significant feature in the polls was the improved LF performance in the tribal seats (the LF won all the seven SC seats and 19 out of 20 ST seats). The LF regained its grip on the tribal seats at the cost of the Congress-INPT.

The Forward Bloc which broke away from the LF and contested independently polled a total of 2900 votes from 12 seats. CPI(ML) contested 14 seats, polling 5261 votes in all. In the last Assembly polls, we polled 2800 votes from 8 seats (an average of 350 votes), and this time around we maintained roughly the same average. The fact that we were able to contest a total of 14 seats is encouraging, and on 3 seats we were able to poll above 600 votes while in one we polled 450 votes.

CPI(ML) Attends Forward Bloc’s Anti-Imperialist Convention

The All India Forward Bloc invited the CPI(ML) to attend an anti-imperialist convention at Jabalpur on March 11, 2008. In a letter to the Forward Bloc General Secretary Comrade Debabrata Biswas accepting the invitation on behalf of the Party, CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar wrote, “The spirit of uncompromising struggle against imperialism demands immediate separation of the Left’s political agenda and identity from the policy direction of the Congress and the UPA government. The people of India have time and again come out on the streets to express their wholehearted disapproval of the UPA government’s policies. It is our duty to lead this growing mass resentment and resistance towards a powerful anti-imperialist national awakening of the Indian people. The CPI(ML) looks forward to closer political cooperation with the Forward Bloc and other Left, democratic and patriotic forces in united mass action against imperialism and pro-imperialist policies of the Indian ruling classes.” 

Speakers included Rajaram Singh, CCM, CPI(ML), Uday Pratap Singh, MP and leader of Samajwadi Party, Arvind Shrivastava of the CPI, Mohd Salim, CPI(M) MP, Abani Roy, MP and General Secretary of the RSP, Shri Surendra Mohan, veteran socialist leader, Dr Sunilam, MLA in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, and Prakash Rao of the CGPI, as well as representatives from the Communist Party of Vietnam, the Communist Party of Cuba, Workers Party of Korea, Communist Party of Nepal (UML), Janatha Vimukti Perumana (JVP- Peoples Liberation Front) from Sri Lanka, Communist Party of Bangladesh, Workers Party of Bangladesh and the National League of Democracy of Myanmar also attended the Convention. 

AIPWA Celebrates International Women’s Day 

This year in India, 8 March was as usual the platform for Governments to announce all sorts of formal announcements of largesse for women. AIPWA asserted the revolutionary legacy of 8 March, with its history of militant working women’s movements for wages, political participation and dignity, and challenged the Governments at the Centre and States to fulfil the rights of women.

In Delhi AIPWA held a Dharna at Parliament Street, protesting against the UPA Government’s failure to deliver on its promises to women. Hundreds of women, mostly toiling women from Delhi’s slum clusters and unauthorised colonies, participated in the dharna, holding placards and raising slogans demanding tabling of the 33% Reservation Bill in the Budget Session of Parliament, and protesting against price hikes and the denial of basic rights like civic amenities, water, education and safety to the working women of the national capital. The Dharna was addressed by AIPWA National General Secretary Kumudini Pati, Delhi AIPWA Convenor Uma Gupta, office bearers of the JNU Students’ Union Shephalika Shekhar and Pallavi Deka, and many women activists who gave an account of their lives and struggles. 

At Lucknow, AIPWA held a dharna in front of the Vidhan Sabha, in which women from all over Uttar Pradesh participated - from Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Kanpur, Varanasi, Deoria, Mirzapur, Ghazipur, Moradabad and other districts. AIPWA National President Srilata Swaminathan presided over the dharna and mass meeting. Comrade Srilata spoke of the ways in which globalisation had intensified women’s exploitation and insecurity. National Vice President of AIPWA Tahira Hasan spoke of the manifold increase in atrocities on Muslim and dalit women since Mayawati came to power – the atrocities at Shravasti and Bhadohi are the latest examples. The Dharna was also addressed by AIPWA State Secretary Vidya Rajwar, Kisan Sabha leader Krishna Adhikari, Jasodhara Dasgupth from Sahyog, Shahnaz Sitrat from Bazm-e- khawatin, AIPWA leaders Premlata and Gita, Sarita, Ranjana, Meena, Shalini and many others. A memorandum was submitted to the UP Governor.

The West Bengal unit of AIPWA organised a march to Nandigram on 8 March 2008, where since last year women have led the struggle against land grab and borne the brunt of the CPI(M) cadre violence and state terror. Carrying colourful banners and posters, comrades paid floral tributes at the martyr’s columns -- very recently constructed by the struggling masses to commemorate the first anniversary of the great resistance struggle and massacre of 14 March 2007 -- in Gokulnagar-Adhikaripara and Sonachura market.  At the latter place, a street-corner meeting was also held.  Speakers including AIPWA state president Gita Das, State Secretary Chaitali Sen and CPI (ML) State leader Mina Pal addressed the gathering. Local women and men participated in the programmes with great enthusiasm.

In Jharkhand Women's Day was celebrated at 17 places including Ranchi, Bundu, Tamar, Hazaribagh, Ramgarh, Giridih, Saria, Bagodar, Rajdhanwar, Birni, Dhanbad, Bokaro, Devghar, Dumka, Lohardaga and Gumla. Protest demonstrations, dharnas, sit-ins, and mass meetings were held with the day being observed as Dhikkar Diwas for the incapability of the Madhu Koda Govt. in guaranteeing employment for women under NREGS.

In Tirunelveli, the AICCTU and Workers’ Rights Forum organized a demonstration on March 8. The demonstration condemned the lockout of Damodar Beedi Company as a measure of victimizing beedi workers for fighting under the banner of AICCTU; a lockout that affected 4000 beedi workers’ families. The demonstration sought immediate Government intervention on the issue.

In Pallipalayam of Namakkal Dist, AICCTU and Workers Rights Forum held an Open Air Convention. Comrade Thenmozhi of Working Women’s Rights Forum led the convention. Comrade N K Natarajan, State GS of AICCTU and Comrade Bhuvana, State Secretary, AICCTU, and Comrade Rajeswari of AIPWA addressed the convention.

The Convention demanded that the ‘Mangal Sutra’ Scheme in the textile industry must be abolished and Model Standing Orders Act must be amended to reduce the trainee period to 6 months and treat those who are employed in direct production as permanent workers.

In Chennai, Workers’ Right Forum and AIPWA held a convention which was led by Comrade Devaki of AIPWA. In all these meetings, demands such as 5 cent homestead patta for unorganized workers, Rs. 2000 pension for unorganized workers, amending TU Act to provide for TU recognition etc. were raised. These meetings called for women of TN to mobilize in large numbers in CPI(ML)’s Assembly Gherao to be held on March 27.

On 8th March a convention was held at Vijaywada on ‘Violence on Women - Failure of Governments - Role of Women’, which was attended by nearly 300 women from East and West Krishna and Ananthapur districts. AIPWA State Secretary Comrade Nagamani presided over the convention. Speakers included Jaladi Vijaya (a prominent poet), Aruna, Gayathri, Ratna Kumari, Manga, and Parvathi. On the eve of Women’s Day, dharnas on various women’s issues were held at Mandal HQs of Yeleswaram, Jaggampeta, Prathipadu and Peethapuram.

In Mansa, Punjab, AIPWA held a Women’s Conference in which more than 300 women took part. The Conference raised the issues of privatisation of government schools, hospitals, water projects, and the electricity board, price rise, as well as the practise of female infanticide that the Government was doing nothing to stop. The Conference was preceded by a series of campaign meetings in villages and towns in the district. Comrade Jasbir Kaur presided over the Conference.