Displaced Poor Struggle Against Eviction in Patna


Protest dharnas were  held in all thirteen blocks of the Patna Rural district on 12 January 2010 against the forcible eviction by the BJP-JD(U) protected feudal forces. The evicted people demanded immediate rehabilitation, and a district-level protest will now be held on 27 January in Patna. The protests were organised for rehabilitation of 307 displaced families from 7 villages in Patna Rural district, who have been displaced for years thanks to feudal terror and oppression. These people have been forced to live a life of deprivation, deprived of dignity. Till now 57 of them have died of poverty, starvation and lack of medical care. 
There are more than a thousand such displaced families who are living in appalling conditions. Few of them tried to reoccupy their land, thinking that they might be protected by the law under Nitish's rule. Their dreams were however shattered - many poor families have been framed under various false cases, those who have looted their property are roaming free. The police have never attempted to enforce the law and rehabilitate the displaced.
While the Nitish government has been trying to pose itself as the savior of the maha-dalits and backward castes, the composition of these displaced families exposes the reality of Nitish’s claims. Out of these 307 families, 235 families are from Mushar caste, 19 from Ravidas, 2 from Pasi, 3 from Paswan, 13 from Tanti, 31 from Kahar, 3 from Sao and one family from the Kushwaha caste. Feudal forces from the Kurmi caste, associated with JD(U), have displaced 94 families in three villages. Bhumihar feudal elements backed by  the BJP have displaced 203 families in three villages, and Congress-backed Rajputs have displaced 10 families in one village.
Let us try to understand the sorry plight of these displaced families:
Village Lahsuna, in Masaurhi, is known not only for the oppressive feudal forces of the Kurmi caste, but also for the resistance put up by the poor against feudal oppression. Many poor families were evicted in December 2004 for a second time. They all are from Manjhi and Mushar castes. Their hamlet consisted of 70 houses out of which 60 were built under the Indira Aawas Yojana, and remaining ten were thatched. The roofs and walls of all pukka houses were demolished by the feudal goons. Wooden windows and doors with taken away. Even chickens, goats and cattle were looted. Those who resisted were brutally beaten up, and women were abused. The names of all the evicted poor in this village are still enrolled in the BPL list and subsidised food-grains coming in their names are now being collected by the Mukhiya.
The displaced families of Lahsuna village are now taking shelter in other villages of Patna district, including Bansdih (Masaurhi), Ghorhua (Masaurhi), Nuhichak (Punpun), Chanduara (Punpun), Behrawan Chakia (Punpun), Niyamatpur (Bihta), Chhitrauli (Bihta) and Bhojpur district’s Koelwar. They have to face insults and  taunts like ‘Bhagal- Bhagerua’ (run-away renegades) on a routine basis. These displaced people have to live a nomadic life. Families have split and its members have been forced to live separately. Nearly 20 people have died during displacement.
Like Lahsuna, Bhumihar feudal forces associated with the BJP have displaced 110 families of Mushar caste in Mauri village in September. Their houses were broken, and the bricks collected from their houses were used by the upper castes  for building their own houses. Even the iron rods from demolished roofs were used. Hand-pumps, doors and windows were taken away. After Nitish came to power, the displaced people of Mauri went back to their village in the hope of reoccupying their lands under new regime. They however had to return in the face of heavy firing by the feudal forces.  Not just this, police arrested Shrigovind Manjhi and Indal Manjhi on 11 December from Karpi, Arwal district in false cases. Those displaced from Mauri have now taken shelter in nearly 40 villages of Patna, Jahanabad, Arwal and Gaya. 24 people have died during displacement.
Bela and Terari, Naubatpur: In August in 2000, Bhumihar feudal forces close to the BJP attacked these two villages in order to maintain their dominance. Now 67 families with nearly 250 dependent members have taken shelter in more than two dozen villages and are struggling to eke out an existence. Nearly a dozen poor people have died due to hardships of displacement. Many of them come from Kahar caste, which is a most-backward-caste community.
Kandap, Sampatchak: The poor here were displaced in 1998 on the day of the Lok Sabha elections as a punishment for exercising their voting rights. This poor hamlet had to face the ire of the feudal forces. The leader of these poor people Comrade Chandbardai of CPI(ML) was murdered along with three other people. 10 Mushar families remain displaced even today. The perpetrators are Rajput feudal lords associated with the Congress. Now the poor have resolved to take back their own lands and return to their village. A dharna was organised at Sampatchak block headquarters on 12 January to raise this demand.
Gopalpur and Lodipur, Maner. Two dozen poor families were made destitute by the Bhumi Sena of Kurmi feudals in these two villages long back in 1984 when Bihar was ruled by the Congress govt. Even after Laloo Yadav's long rule of 'social justice' in Bihar and Nitish’s government's promises of 'justice' and 'development', these families remain displaced. Now these people, seeing CPI(ML)’s increased initiatives in the area and the movement for rehabilitation of the displaced in Patna district, want to go back to their own lands and villages. There are 13 most backward Tanti families among those displaced.
These facts are based on investigations and now the Party is trying to establish contacts with other displaced families after surveying  several villages. But the feudal forces’ morale is high under the Nitish govt.’s protection, and they are trying to intimidate the displaced poor by creating various hurdles. When a team of CPI(ML) led by MLA Nand Kumar Nanda and Gopal Ravidas visited the area, many displaced people now living in Bansdih have reported intimidation by feudal forces of Lahsuna. In spite of all this the displaced poor are now determined to get their lands back.
The CPI(ML) has demanded following from the Nitish Govt. :-
1.     The displaced families of Lahsuna, Mauri, Bela, Terari, Ladipur – Gopalpur, Kandap villages should be rehabilitated immediately. Three months of food grains and kerosene should be provided to them immediately and a minimum of Rs. 10,000 should be given to reconstruct their houses. All families should be given grants under the Indira Aawas Yojana.
2.     Hand pumps should be installed in all hamlets.
3.     All poor should be included in the BPL list, and be given ration cards.
4.     School/ Anganwadi centre should be opened in all villages.
5.     Rs. Five lakh should be given to the families of those who have died due to displacement
6.     The lands of the poor should be reclaimed from illegal occupation by feudal goons.
7.     The false cases slapped on the displaced poor, including those of Mauri village, should be withdrawn and Shrigovind Manjhi and Indal Manjhi of Mauri village should be released from jail.
8.     All feudal elements and criminals involved in evictions and displacements should be arrested immediately.

LNP(L) observes 1st death anniversary of Comrade Madhukar Katre

The 1st death anniversary of Com. Madhukar Katre, the president of Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) and founder leader of cooperative sugar factory workers was very purposefully observed at Ahmednagar on 16th January, 2010.
On that occasion, the gate of the Shramik Bhavan was named after comrades Madhukar Katre by Comrades Arindam Sen and Rajaram Singh. The meeting held on the occasion in the Shramik Bhavan Compound was attended by over 700 people, who included Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) activists, sugar workers and workers from various industries and services, as also friends and relatives of com. Katre, including Mrs. Saudamini Katre, wife of Late com. Katre and his sons. On the dais were Com. B. R. Bawke, President of Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) and senior party leaders like Com. D. S. Deshpande, Com. B. J. Kerkar, Com. Medha Thatte, Com. Mukta Manohar and others. Com. Subhash Kakuste conducted the meeting on behalf of the President.
After the felicitation of the guests, com. B. R. Bawke in his introductory remarks briefly touched on com. Katre’s illustrious life right from his student days in the cause of working people, and his attempt to solve their problems till his last breath. Com. Bhimrao Bhansod, member of Central Committee of the party traced the life long career of Com. Katre, who apart from being a prominent trade union leader was a great political leader of the masses and also a nice human being, he stressed. Com. Arindam Sen in his brief speech greeted the people on behalf of the Central Committee of CPI (ML) and said that both our parties have emerged in course of internal struggle within the communist movement and that we must unite more closely. Com. Rajaram Singh, convenor of AIKSS the CPI (ML) CC member, said on this occasion; “we must resolve to destroy the exploitative system, which has been playing havoc in the life of the people”. Com. D. S. Deshpande said that the Indian Communists will have to unite and for that they will have to learn to undo the curse of sectarianism, which divided the movement and the masses.
On this occasion two books about Com. Katre, containing articles from various activists and friends and relatives were released and  Com. Baba Paygude, a senior leader of the unorganized workers, was felicitated.
Next day, Com. Rajaram Singh addressed a gathering of Lal Nishan Party (L) activists on the present crisis in Indian agriculture. Citing concrete figures, he said that this crisis in agriculture and other policies of the Government of India have led to large scale starvation deaths and if the current policies are continued, a far more terrible scene of mass scale starvation death may occur. So, we must radically oppose the present system. After a lively exchange of views, the following decisions were taken by the meeting:
(a) to attend the forthcoming preparatory meeting of AIKSS for All India Peasant Conferance; and (b) the Maharashtra Rajya Kashtkari Shetkari Sangh would make all-out efforts to build a peasant movement in Maharashtra to oppose the basic policies of Globlization of agriculture.
(Report sent by Com. B. J. Kerkar of LNP (L), slightly abridged)


Jharkhand Elections and After

As widely expected, the recent elections in Jharkhand once again threw up a hung Assembly. None of the pre-poll combinations could come anywhere near the majority mark, with the Congress-JVM combination securing 25 seats and the BJP-JD(U) combine managing only 20. In terms of seats the NDA thus emerged the biggest loser. In the previous Assembly, the BJP had as many as 30 members while its ally JD(U) had 6. Even in the recent Lok Sabha elections in May 2009, the BJP had won as many as 8 of the 14 LS seats in Jharkhand. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had campaigned quite extensively in Jharkhand, promising Bihar-type ‘development’ and ‘good governance’ in Jharkhand if NDA were voted to power. The electorate of Jharkhand did not obviously show any particular interest in these claims and promises.

CPI(ML) Performance in Jharkhand Assembly Elections
The party had fielded 33 candidates in the Assembly election. The total votes polled by party candidates have been over 240,000 (2.3%). In terms of seats, the party has succeeded in retaining the Bagodar seat in Giridih district for the fifth time in a row while finishing second in two adjacent constituencies (Dhanwar and Jamua (SC) in the district. Party candidates also put up impressive performances in Mandu (3rd, approx. 26,000 votes) in erstwhile Hazaribagh district, Bhavnathpur (3rd, nearly 21,000 votes) in Garhwa district and Gandey (4th, approx. 19,000 votes) in Giridih district. In Giridih district, the party polled 18% votes, ahead of parties like the JMM, BJP and RJD and second only to the Congress-JVM combine which has 27% votes. The party’s performance has also been notable in Garhwa district, with party candidates polling more than 35,000 votes (including, Bhavnathpur apart, Garhwa (nearly 7,000 votes) and Bishrampur (over 7,500 votes) constituencies).
Apart from Giridih, Hazaribagh-Ramgarh and Garhwa-Palamu regions, the party failed to win significant votes in other districts and regions of Jharkhand. In the coming days, the party will have to pay urgent attention to improving its strength in industrial districts like Dhanbad and Bokaro, and in the tribal regions of Gumla, Lohardaga and Singbhum.
Among other Left forces in Jharkhand the Marxist Coordination Committee led by Comrade AK Roy polled more than 100,000 votes (regaining its traditional Nirsa seat in Dhanbad) while the CPI polled nearly 90,000 votes and the CPI(M) close to 50,000.

Yet, the post-poll arithmetic of Jharkhand has yielded an NDA government with a difference. The BJP-JD(U) combine has joined hands with the JMM and AJSU to form a government under Shibu Soren’s stewardship. The AJSU with its six MLAs has gained the most in the process, with six MLAs it has got as many as three ministers in the cabinet including the status of Deputy Chief Minister for its leader Sudesh Mahato. Compare this with the BJP’s share – with 18 MLAs, the BJP has got four ministers, including, of course, another Deputy Chief Minister. This is perhaps the first occasion when there will be as many as two Deputy CMs in a government, that too in a cabinet of 12 in an 81-member State Assembly! Jharkhand
The BJP and the JMM both have demonstrated time and again their ability to excel in political opportunism and there is no reason to believe that they cannot stay together for long in their current experiment. But at the same time, we must also recognize the elements of tension and instability that are built into this coalition for historical, social as well as political reasons. The BJP in Jharkhand is still predominantly perceived as a non-tribal party and is largely identified with traders and money-lenders and other sections of the rich and the powerful in Jharkhand society, and the JMM has been traditionally ranged against precisely such forces. The JMM will also have to contend with the rising graph of the AJSU which has carved out a large support base among the socially powerful Kurmi caste and is quite popular especially among the youth.
Back in power, the BJP would of course like to develop Jharkhand as a laboratory for its divisive communal politics and repressive rule. Even if the ‘Gujarat model’ appears a bit too remote for the BJP to replicate in Jharkhand, neighbouring Chhattisgarh and Orissa,and the BJP’s own past record in Jharkhand give us a clear idea of how the party would like to use its grip over state power – a combination of Salwa Judum type ‘governance’ and Kandhamal-type communal violence. The JMM on the other hand cannot really be completely insensitive to these concerns. Shibu Soren’s offer to talk to the Maoists – most ex-Maoists who contested the Assembly elections did so on the JMM’s ticket and the official Maoists too are reported to have helped the JMM in many areas – seems to have already peeved the BJP.

Mass Rally on Mahendra Singh Martyrdom Day
January 16 2010 marked five years of the martyrdom of Comrade Mahendra Singh.
The chargesheet recently filed by the CBI in the Mahendra Singh murder case fails to mention the key accused who had been named in the FIR: then SP of Giridih district Deepak Varma and then State Industries Minister and BJP MLA Ravindra Ray, whose nexus with the coal mafia and role in several murders and scams was being exposed by Comrade Mahendra Singh.
On the 5th martyrdom day of Comrade Mahendra Singh, a massive rally was held at Bagodar, Giridih. The rally, addressed by CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya. The martyrdom day was also observed at other district headquarters. On that day, a mass signature campaign was launched (see accompanying write-up for details).

During the trust vote debate in the Assembly, the RJD displayed a soft corner for the new government with RJD MLAs walking out before the confidence motion was put to vote. Most of the single-MLA parties also extended support to the government. The opposition space is therefore divided between the Congress-JVM combine at one end and the lone CPI(ML) MLA at the other. The first major challenge before the new government will be to hold the long-pending panchayat elections. As a state with considerable tribal population and large areas governed under the Fifth schedule of the Constitution, panchayat election in Jharkhand should comply with the provisions of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act, 1996. Yet there has been and still continues to be a lot of resistance to the application of PESA from social and political forces entrenched in the non-tribal parts of the state. Indeed, the idea of Jharkhand evoked much less opposition in erstwhile united Bihar than what PESA continues to evoke within Jharkhand.
The CPI(ML) has all along been in favour of holding panchayat elections in the state in accordance with the PESA provisions and the party has already launched a mass signature campaign drive demanding early panchayat elections. The signature campaign drive was launched on 16 January, the fifth anniversary of the martyrdom of Comrade Mahendra Singh and is scheduled to go on till 23 March, the martyrdom day of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh.
Apart from the demand for panchayat elections, the signature campaign is aimed at mobilizing public opinion in favour of five other key demands of the people of Jharkhand, viz., (i) institution of a judicial tribunal for a thorough probe into the issue of corruption, bringing under the judicial scanner all ministers and bureaucrats since the state was formed in November 2000, (ii) cancellation of all MoUs signed by previous governments, nationalization of Jharkhand’s mineral resources and adoption of an industrial policy that will give top priority to Jharkhand’s development and employment needs, (iii) implementation of the BJP’s poll promise of supplying foodgrains at 1 Rupee per Kg, and regularization of the BPL list by including all rural as well as unoorganised sector workers, (v) strict implementation of the Santhal Pargana and Chhattisgarh Tenancy Acts (SPT and CNT Acts) as well as Forest Rights Act, 2006 to stop tribal land alienation and ensure the full land rights of tribal and other traditional forest-dwelling people, and (v) urgent augmentation of irrigation facilities and development of agriculture to free Jharkhand from the permanent spectre of famine.


Pricol Struggle Update:
TN Women’s Commission Shows
Pro-Pricol Bias

Within a span of 6 days, from 24 September to 29 September 2009, Coimbatore police, as part of its systematic campaign to harass Pricol workers in the wake of the death of a management official, had baselessly targeted several women workers. They arrested two women workers of Pricol after 11.30 pm (in violation of regulations about arrests of women) and took them to the police station only the next day morning. These women were asked to identify the houses of other Pricol workers. They were detained in the police station till the police figured out a case under which to remand them. 6 women workers were arrested inside the factory premises and later remanded and sent to jail. The police also detained two other women workers of Pricol for 2 days in the police station in the name of investigation.
TN AIPWA made a complaint to the TN women’s commission on 29 September about the police harassment of Pricol women workers. When AIPWA comrades complained about women being arrested after 6 pm, the Women’s Commission chairperson Ms. Ramathal assured AIPWA comrades that she would take steps in this regard. On that very day 6 women workers were arrested inside the factory premises before 6 pm.
Ms. Ramathal, then, ordered a one-woman enquiry commission to enquire into the complaints made by AIPWA: complains including adverse working conditions resulting in a medical condition requiring removal of uterus, cut in the salary, women workers being monitored for time spent in the toilet, etc.
Ms. Vanitha, IPS, SP Perambalur, was the enquiry officer who went to the factory and conducted the enquiry on a single day. She spoke to 17 workers, 2 management officials, the ED of the company and 3 police officials. She then submitted a one-sided report which has rejected all the complaints made, and has claimed all is well with the factory and with the women workers.
The enquiry officer did not care to speak to the 2 women workers who were arrested around 11.30 pm. Without even talking to them the enquiry officer rejected the compliant about arrests in the night. Her report says that due procedures were followed in arresting women! It is clear that the enquiry officer’s own report has not followed due procedures!
The report says that there is no medical evidence that removal of uterus is a direct effect of working conditions (such as having to stand for hours on end). The enquiry officer has not taken opinion of any medical specialist in this regard and simply adds that in Pricol’s Japanese collaborator Denso also women’s work involves standing for long hours. But surprisingly she adds that she has asked the management to think of some arrangement for the workers so that they can sit and work. If she believes that standing and working for 12 hours a day does not result in removal of uterus, why should she ask the management for an alternative arrangement? The report also fails to cite any medical opinion that removal of uterus is not caused by adverse working conditions.
The report in its conclusions part says that ‘the management never tried to repress the unions.’ The TN Labor Minister himself listed all the illegal steps taken by the management against the workers, on the floor of the Assembly itself. The TN government has issued prosecution show cause notice to the management about its unfair labor practices. Then why does the enquiry officer in her conclusion rush to say that the management is not suppressing the unions?!
The enquiry officer also justifies the cut in the salary and employment of apprentices for a lower wages, which is sub-judice, which is absolutely outside the purview of the enquiry and her capacity.
The enquiry officer goes ahead and recommends to the women commission that ‘this Kumarasami has Marxist Leninist ideology. He is not connected with any industry. He wants to develop his party by using the ignorance of women and creating a base in Pricol. It is recommended that this Kumarasami’s activities are to be monitored.’ Such a recommendation is not only baseless and out of the purview of the enquiry (not even management witnesses have deposed against Comrade Kumarasami till now), it attacks the right of women to political affiliation of their choice. Such remarks in the report only underline the fact that the entire witch-hunt against workers at Pricol was motivated not by any investigation into the incident in which a management official was killed, but by a politically dictated campaign to crush the political mobilization of workers.
Following AICCTU’s initiatives and widespread protest, the Dy.CM of TN was forced to intervene on October 2 and assure an end to the witch-hunt of workers. Subsequently, the indiscriminate arrest of workers stopped. But the intimidation tactics continue in more subtle ways. Now the Women’s Commission has overstepped its limits and is not only giving the Pricol management a clean chit in terms of allegations of unfair labour practices and absolved the police and management of exploitation and harassment of women workers, it has even recommended that Marxist-Leninist views cannot have a place in TN!
AIDWA has also recently raised a demand to remove Ms. Ramathal as the chairperson of the commission, since the Women’sCommission under her leadership is not helping women and is siding only with offenders.
The AIPWA, AICCTU and CPI(ML) have also demanded removal of Ms. Ramathal, scrapping of the biased ‘enquiry’ report and a fresh enquiry into the allegations by women workers.


Protests Against Power Plant

After the November protests against the proposed power plant near Sirkazhi in Nagapattinam district on January 21st, angry agricultural labourers and poor peasants once more held a protest demonstration in front of the Sub-Collectors’ office at Myiladuthurai. The protest was organized by AIALA-CPI(ML) as part of the 'No-Power-Plant’ campaign. The protesters, more than 200 in number, demanded scraping of the proposed power plant, distribution of the land already acquired to the landless and poor peasants under the 2-acre land scheme, and complete withdrawal of false cases against activists protesting the land acquisition. A delegation of the AIALA-CPI(ML) also met the Sub-Collector under the leadership of Com. Ilangovan (National councilor of AIALA and CPI(ML) state committee member).   
The proposed power plant is to have a capacity of 1000 MW. This project will severely affect the fishing community, as well as the agrarian labourers and poor peasants, resulting in a loss of livelihoods. So far, 1,013 acres of agricultural land has been acquired at the cost of Rs. 15 crore. Local leaders of various political parties have helped the land acquisition process. Though the project has been in the pipeline since 2007, the resistance has only gather momentum recently when people understood the adverse impacts of the proposed project.
Recently, another scam has been unearthed by the AIALA-CPI(ML) investigation team, which has increased peoples' anger and strengthened the movement against the power plant. An organisation named Dr. Ambedkar People Society (DAPSI) has been formed to promote and implement the National SC/ST Commission's ‘Land to the Tiller’ scheme. Under the scheme, Dalit tillers are provided loans so that they can buy land from the zamindars and later on repay the loan with some interest. With the help of loans from THADCO (a quasi-governmental organization that aids dalit entrepreneurs in Tamil Nadu), DAPSI purchased 118 acres of agricultural land from a zamindar. But the land records never reached the actual dalit beneficiaries, though they have already paid Rs 40-60,000 as interest on the loans taken to purchase the land. These 118 acres (which were originally purchased at the rate of Rs 18,000-21,000 per acre) have now been sold to the Power Plant at the rate of Rs 1 lakh per acre, without the consent of the beneficiaries. DAPSI has made a lot of money on the deal, since the Tamil Nadu government has waived the THADCO loan to the tune of Rs 83 crores. Once the power plant-DAPSI-district administration nexus came to light, the dalit labourers and poor peasants demanded their lands back, and pledged to stop the land acquisition process for the power plant.
The public hearing for the plant has been convened twice, and both times the meetings have ended abruptly in the face of public opposition. The company then decided to divide the local people to break the movement against land acquisition. On Jan 1st, a group clash between the fisher folk in the village was engineered. The district administration, waiting for a chance, sprung into action. So far, 66 people of Vanagiri village have been implicated under several false cases and 22 of them are in the Trichy Jail. Indira Gandhi, one of the main activists of the movement, has also been sent to jail on false charges.
A CPI(ML)-AIALA team headed by Com. Ilangovan (other members of the team were Subramanian, Veerachelvan and Kalaiarasan) visited the affected villages, and various protest actions have been planned in the coming days. Apart from this project, several other coal-based power plants have been proposed in this 1000 km coastal stretch. Many ports are also in the pipeline to facilitate the operation of these proposed power plants - altogether three major ports and 9 minor ports and few jetties have been proposed. 3000 acres of non-agricultural land has already been acquired by the DMK government and handed over to the Tridem group for one of these projects. These projects will wreak havoc to the fragile local ecology of the area, apart from causing large-scale displacement. The party and AIALA have planned to intensify the ‘no-power-plant campaign’ in the area, in light of these upcoming projects.

Forest Rights Struggle in TN

Following the Forest Land Rights Convention held on Dec 18, 2009, a demonstration was held on Jan 19 2010 in front of the Collector's Gate in Girshnagiri district. Around 200 poor and marginal peasants from 6 panchayats gathered with their claim petitions.  Hundreds of memoranda were submitted to the Collector, and the people gathered condemned the inaction of the DMK administration and demanded immediate implementation of the Forest Act. The peoples' delegation also demanded that the collector address their concerns at the next gram sabha meeting to be held on Jan 26.  The demonstration was led by Comrades Akbar, Vediappan. Govindaraj and Chandramohan. Party state secretary Balasundaram addressed the protesters.
CPI(ML) and AIALA comrades have been taking up initiatives in the newly formed Forest Land Rights Struggle Committee. The Dharmapuri-Girshnagiri party committee has decided to take up the issue of non-implementation of the Forest Rights Act in both the districts and mobilize peasants in larger numbers, specially for the Jan 26th Panchyat gram sabha meeting so that the gram sabha can be forced to act.


Sanitation Workers’ Struggle in Bhilai

Thanks to the sustained struggle of sanitation workers led by AICCTU in Bhilai (Chhattisgarh), 653 sanitation workers working under the CDC company (to which sanitation services have been contracted out the Bhilai municipal corporation) achieved minimum wages. While they were paid Rs. 60-70 earlier in violation of the statutory minimum wage, they forced the contractor to pay wages according the minimum wage rate at Rs 118 per day. These workers are employed in 36 wards, and work from 6 am onwards all day. They come to Bhilai daily from villages as far as 18-36 kilometres away.
On pretext of the Election code of conduct, the CDC contract was extended from October 2009 to March 2010, but workers were laid off without prior notice – clearly to ‘punish’ them for having demanded minimum wages. Further, they were not paid wages for October-November 2009. AICCTU complained to the Assistant Labour Commissioner at Durg as well as the Municipal Commissoner and Mayor, to no avail. A relay hunger strike was then started, and 100s of sanitation workers gathered at gates of the municipality, raising slogans and distributing leaflets. They demanded reinstatement of 653 workers, payment of pending wages, payment according to statutory minimum wages, and 50 kgs of rice to the families of 653 laid-off workers (the workers’ dependents number some 3000).
After 9 days of the relay hunger strike, the CDC paid pending wages according to the minimum wage rates. They tried to employ workers to replace the laid off workers with outside workers as well as minors, but were foiled by workers’ protests. The demand for payment of pending wages according to minimum wage norms was fulfilled. The hunger strike was temporarily postponed on the assurance that not only will pending wages of two months be paid according to minimum wage, 653 workers too will be reinstated. Municipality also employs workers through another contractor - the SHG, Jyotsna Mahila Mandal, run by Geeta Vishvakarma. When workers demanded minimum wages, workers were laid off for 48 hours, two months’ wages were suspended, and outside workers were employed. When they protested, workers were beaten by goons. Leaders were implicated in false cases, and workers’ FIRs were not accepted by the police. Following a sustained struggle, however, pending wages have been paid to these workers too.
The struggle for reinstatement of the 653 workers continues. Recently, leaders of Central Trade Unions and other TUs in Bhilai – including AICCTU, CITU, AITUC, HMS, INTUC, BMS, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha – submitted a memo to the Commissioner of Bhilai Municipal Corporation endorsing the demands of the workers, and demanding that the BMC, as principal employer, must uphold labour laws since, as principal employer, it is responsible to ensure minimum wage payments for workers and prevent harassment.
CPI(ML)-backed candidate wins ward councillor seat in Chhattisgarh

In the recently held Nagar Panchayat elections in Chhattisgarh, a CPI(ML)-backed candidate Seema Banjare, won the seat of ward councilor of Ward No. 14 (Banbarad in Ahiwara Nagar Panchayat -a constituency reserved for women). The CPI(ML)’s had also fielded Dolly Dasgupta for the Mayor’s post in Jagdalpur.
The victory in the Ahiwara seat should be viewed in the context of the impact of the sustained struggle of Bhilai municipality sanitation workers led by CPI(ML). Determined that the trade union struggles to organize the workers around demands for minimum wages and other rights should lead to political assertion too, the party had undertaken party membership drives in several villages from where the sanitation workers hailed – including Beltikri (Gundardehi Assembly constituency), Banbarad (Ahiwara), Sirsakala, Kharedha etc. At Banbarad, the party succeeded in regularising party structures, and initiating mass mobilisation on issues of basic amenities like drinking water etc. Some of these mass struggles had a degree of success, forcing local administration to concede some demands. This is a village from which around 70 sanitation workers working in the Bhilai municipal corporation get up daily at 3 am to make an 18 km trip by bicycle to work. The ward has a population of around 4000 (1068 voters), of which dalits form a substantial section.
Seema Banjare, who formerly was a domestic worker, and whose husband is a sanitation worker, was unanimously chosen as the party’s candidate for ward councilor. BJP has had hold of this seat for the past two years. The BJP and Congress campaigns were marked by lavish expenditure, attempts to entice voters with liquor and cash, as well as attempts at intimidation. In contrast the party’s campaign showed a modest expenditure of a mere Rs. 2000, with the campaign being led from the front by the candidate, and the active participation of women and youth. The CPI(ML) candidate won 312 of the 856 votes polled, with a handsome margin over its main political rivals (Congress-196, BJP-116).
The victory of the CPI(ML) candidate is encouraging – given that candidates of more established left parties like CPI in this part of Chhattisgarh could not win.
The victory has caused ripples amongst the local administration and ruling class parties, and has also been inspiring and encouraging for the working poor in the region. The challenge is to consolidate this modest beginning and intensify struggles and strengthen and expand the party organisation further.  q

Massive AIALA protest in Guwahati: Special Assembly Session Demanded

On 21 January, 2010 a massive protest rally was taken out in Guwahati under the banner of Sadou Asom Gramin Sramik Santha (Assam unit of AIALA) along with the Kisan Sramik Sabha of Karbi Anglong & N C Hills against the massive price rise and anti-people policies of the state government. Around 5000 protesters marched to Rajbhawan and a 11-point memorandum, along with 25,000 signatures, was handed over demanding immediate solution of these problems. The two organizations demanded a special Assam Assembly session to discuss these burning issues of the rural poor of the state.Guwahati AIALA
Prior to this rally, a month long mass signature campaign on these 11 demands was conducted all over the state. During this period, mass meetings were held in different places. Along with the signature collection,  a membership drive of AIALA was also conducted. Different block and panchayat committees were formed.
The memorandum demanded
i) Special Assam Assembly Session to discuss works of Rural Development department,
ii) hold  prices and provide ration card for 25 essential commodities,
iii) provide all rural families with job cards, 100 days work, Rs. 200 as minimum wage, or otherwise provide unemployment allowance,
iv) provide all poor families with BPL cards, IAY house and sanitary latrine,
v) special reservation for tea tribes in panchayat schemes,
vi) settle landless tea workers in ceiling surplus land and build IAY house for them,
vii) ensure land rights for forest dwellers and provide them patta,
viii) immediately scrap anti-people land policy imposed by Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council,
ix) form an autonomous state combining Karbi Anglong and N C Hill by implementing Article 244(A) of the Indian Constitution and adopt a resolution in Assam Assembly,
x) immediately withdraw the proposal of separating Assam Asset from Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC),
xi) stop Sixth Edition of Kaziranga national park project and safegurd the life and livelihood of people living in the riverine stretch.
Protesters warned the government that if proper action is not taken, a fresh movement will be launched next month. A brief meeting was held near Rajbhawan and it was addressed by Com. Arup Kr. Mahanta, Com Rubul Sarma, Bibek Das, Robi Kr. Phangcho, Subhas Sen and Pankaj Kr. Das.

- Naren Borah, Guwahati

Construction Workers’ Maha Dharna to be held at Parliament 

A meeting of All India Construction Workers’ Federation- a federation of unions of construction workers affiliated to AICCTU- was held on 9 January 2010 at Bhagalpur, Bihar. Leaders from states including Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Delhi, W. Bengal participated in the meeting. The meeting decided to hold a Maha Dharna in front of the Parliament in the coming Union Budget session and also to call for a nationwide strike of construction workers later in the year.
The above programmes will raise a 10-point charter of demands including implementation of Construction Workers Act in all states, fixation of at least Rs. 200/day as minimum wage with provision of VDA at national level, provision of Inter-state Identity cards to workers and fixation of pension as half of the amount of monthly minimum wage.

Month-Long Campaign on NREGA 

A month-long campaign on implementation of NREGA and related issues culminated in a 2-day demonstration of hundreds of people in front of Harpanahalli taluk office in Karnataka on 15 and 16 January. The demonstration was preceded by campaign meetings and demonstrations in many panchayats. The campaign came to an end on 16 January but the rallyists fixed a deadline of 28 January to continue the struggle if the remaining demands are not fulfilled. The campaign also focussed on demands like CBI enquiry into the mining business of Bellary brothers, solidarity with the struggling farmers in Davanagere, etc. Demonstrators also resolved to make the State level convention of AIALA to be held at Kottur, Bellary district on 4 February a success. Comrade Ramappa, State Secretary of the party came down heavily on the State government for undue corruption and other irregularities in the implementation of NREGA. He demanded the government to order CBI enquiry into the illegal mining and other irregularities of Reddy brothers in Bellary and adjacent districts in Karnataka and Andhra.