The series of Jandavedari rallies being organized in 14 Lok Sabha constituencies of Bihar began on 8 February in Samastipur with the biggest people’s mobilization ever seen at Patel Maidan. Huge rallies also took place on 9 February at Muzaffarpur, 10 February at Narkatiyaganj (Valmikinagar LS constituency), 11 February at Gopalganj, and 12 February at Siwan.
Party General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya and other senior Party leaders are addressing these rallies with a call to make the issues raised by the people at last month’s Jansamwad Yatra into the agenda for the upcoming elections. At Samastipur, Politburo member Com. Dhirendra Jha, and at the Siwan-Gopalganj and Narkatiyaganj rallies CC member Com. Nand Kishore Prasad were present with Com. Dipankar. AIPWA Gen Secretary Com. Meena Tiwari, Samkaleen Lokyudh editor-in-chief Braj Bihari Pandey also participated in the rallies at Muzaffarpur and Narkatiyaganj.
The participation of the landless poor, workers, women, minorities, and various sections of society at these District level rallies is noteworthy. At some places, forces of movements struggling for local issues joined the rallies and raised their voices in unison with the landless poor and workers. There was a huge mobilization of sugar cane farmers, displaced persons, and youth at Narkatiyaganj. On 9 Feb at Muzaffarpur, the Mukherjee Seminary Maidan saw a huge mobilization of people from the struggling sections of both urban and rural backgrounds, Muslim youth targeted in the name of terrorism, and people struggling against the danger of displacement due to the Bagmati Project. Noting the presence of leaders and activists from the Insaaf Manch and the Bagmati Project Displaced People’s Association, Com. Dipankar said that these are clear indications that the unity of ground level struggling forces is going to pave the way for the formation of a new Front which is welcome. Similarly, on 10 Feb at Narkatiyaganj (West Champaran) a huge rally resolved to take the struggle against the State and Central governments to the highest level for their criminal neglect of the rightful demands of sugar cane farmers. Taking this movement forward, the CPI-ML has called for a Champaran bandh on 20 Feb.
It may be recalled that the Party had organized a Jansamwad Yatra throughout Bihar in January, during which 3000 village sabhas were held and dialogue established with 3 lakh people, and questions and issues of the people were identified. The Party had put out a call to make February a “month of movements” on these issues. The Jansamwad Yatra brought to the fore the anger of the people against the governments in Patna and Delhi and against the local MLAs and MPs. The last 5 years brought many troubles but not once did the people’s representatives come to enquire about their problems. These rallies are being organized to call for a strong agitation on people’s issues and problems at district as well as state level, and to make people’s issues like the BJP’s communal conspiracy, Nitish Kumar’s failures, and the pro-corporate policies of the governments, the central agenda for the LS elections.
Two questions chiefly arising throughout Bihar are the issues of electricity and liquor promotion by the Government. Nitish had promised electricity for every village and every home. However, it has not happened anywhere. On the other hand, people are getting false bills – even where electricity lines have yet to be installed - and consumers are being arrested and jailed. Facilities such as drinking water and toilets have not materialized, but liquor has been arranged and is easily available at shops in every Panchayat. People in large numbers are submitting copies of false bills and petitions for cancelling liquor licences. Their demand is that the privatization of electricity should be revoked and every town, village, and home should get 24 hour electricity at affordable rates. Important issues raised include complete electrification of the “tolas” of the poor, 100 units free electricity for the poor, taking back of false bills, clean drinking water, and toilet arrangements in all homes, and an end to the state’s promotion of liquor.
People complained of huge loot in schemes for the poor. The MNREGA scheme exists, but there is either no work or if there is work, there is no payment. BPL and job card holders get neither minimum wages nor 100 days’ work. People are starving to death, and the Central government is claiming to have passed the Food Security Bill through which 75% of the poor will get food grains. Nitish goes a step further to say that 85% will get the benefits. But the Public Distribution System has totally collapsed and the ongoing socio-economic census is a complete conspiracy to show the number of poor as much lower than they actually are. Reports are coming from several places of instances where people without even a roof over their heads are recorded as owners of double-storied houses, thus conspiring to deny the all benefits. People’s issues in the forefront are demands for a stop to the displacement of urban poor without arrangements for alternate housing, total implementation of Food Security, guarantee of women’s freedom and dignity and an end to the government’s policy of hounding Muslim youth in the name of terrorism. People are flocking to the rallies to protest against the government’s treachery against educated youth, farmers, ASHA-Anganwadi workers, cooks, and midday meal workers on the issue of permanent employment, and conveying to the ruling Parties that this time the election will be not about “neta” (leaders) but “neeti” (policy). The Party slogan “Badlo Neeti Badlo Raj, Sansad mein Janta ki Awaz” is reverberating throughout Bihar.
On 12 February, the rally at Siwan saw a veritable sea of people. More than 20,000 flocked to Gandhi Maidan holding the red flag aloft. On that day it seemed all roads in town led to Gandhi Maidan, and walking anywhere through the crowded streets was not an easy matter.
The huge gathering at the Siwan rally was addressed, apart from senior Party leaders, by former MLA Amarnath Yadav, Siwan District Secretary Com. Indrajit Chourasiya, and State Committee member Com. Naeemuddin Ansari. Recalling the martyrdom of Com. Chandrashekhar, Party leaders said that just before elections attempts are being made at the instigation of the BJP to intimidate State Committee member and RYA National President Amarjeet Kushwaha and former MLA Satyadev Ram by foisting false cases against them, thus trying to put obstacles in the Party’s election campaign. They stressed that such attempts will get a fitting reply from the people and demanded that the false cases against the 2 leaders should be immediately taken back.
Addressing the rallies, Party General Secretary Com. Dipankar raised all the above issues and pointed out that the country was steeped in corruption and price rise, but the BJP can see no issue other than its PM candidate. The BJP says Manmohan Singh is silent, but on the other hand their own PM candidate suffers from the malaise of speaking too much and never ceases to praise himself and his “Gujarat model”, whereas in Gujarat a person who earns Rs. 10.80 is not counted as “poor”. He said that the “hand” of the Congress is not with the common man, and the Bihar CM enjoyed power for 17 years with the BJP, and when it came to the question of PM candidate he opposed Modi and broke with the NDA asking for Advani to be declared the leader instead, whereas he was silent in 2002 when the brutal massacres were being carried out in Gujarat.
Com. Dipankar said that the Delhi elections have shown that the people are taking forward their issues, therefore the LS elections will be fought not around leaders like Rahul-Modi but around policies and principles. Commenting on the ‘Third Front’ he said that there is definitely a need for a Third Front to combat the Congress-BJP but the forces currently attempting to form such a front lack credibility and can go into the pockets of the Congress or the BJP at any time. He called upon Left forces to unite on a single platform.
The rally at Samastipur was addressed, along with senior Party leaders, by District secretary Prof. Umesh Rai, Phool Babu Singh, Vandana Singh, Shankar Singh, Surendra Suman, Sukhlal Yadav, and other speakers. The Muzaffarpur rally was presided over by Com. Rambalak Sahni and addressed by Shatrughan Sahni, Sharda Devi, Manoj Kumar Yadav, Ramnandan Paswan, Iftekhar Alam of the Insaaf Manch, Mohd. Shoaib of the National Human Rights Association, Jitendra Yadav and other leaders. Some resolutions relating to significant issues were passed by the rally, including guarantee of rehabilitation and compensation for families displaced by the Bagmati Project, erosion, road widening, and embankments. The rally demanded that the Bagmati Dam Project should be suspended and a special review committee should be constituted with specialists and activists as members. The issues relating to benefits of minority welfare schemes, fishermen’s welfare programmes, and urban development schemes reaching the rightful beneficiaries, were also raised. After the rally Com. Dipankar spoke with over 100 people from the minority communities at a meeting organized by the Insaaf Manch.
A programme for agitation against exploitation of sugar cane farmers by the government and sugar mill owners was organized In Valmikinagar LS constituency and a resolution was passed for a Champaran bandh to be held on 20 Feb. Party leaders Virendra Prasad Gupta, Com. Vishnudev, Badruddin Doja and others participated in the Narkatiyaganj rally. The Gopalganj rally was addressed by District Committee member Com. Subhash Patel, AIPWA leader Reena Sharma, KHEMAS District President Ramnaresh Ram, RYA District President Jitendra Paswan, Alam Khan and others. The BJP MLA’s residence was gheraoed during the Gopalganj rally on the question of electricity. The rally was well attended by the public including intellectuals, teachers, workers, lawyers, and others.
A huge rally was organized on 13 Feb 2014 at the Polo Maidan, Lehriya sarai, in Darbhanga. The rally was addressed by Party General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya, Politburo member Com. Dhirendra Jha, AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari, Bihar State Secretary Shashi Yadav, senior leader RK Sahni, District Party Secretary Com. Baidnath Yadav, Laxmi Paswan, Qayamuddin Ansari, Neyaz Ahmad, Retd. Col. Laxmeshwar Mishra, and others. Addressing the rally Com. Dipankar said that the present system and policies have brought ruin to the country and the people. The hand which Lalu is holding today is the hand which has pushed the country into a dismal abyss and now that national and multi-national corporate houses are greedy for even more gains than they have got from the Congress, they are preparing to install Modi in the PM’s seat. Now the US is also looking to woo Modi. In reality there is no difference between the Congress and the BJP on the question of economic and foreign policies. Therefore the coming elections are not going to be a fight between faces or personalities but a fight to change policies.
Terming the Bihar CM arrogant and bureaucratic he raised various people’s issues such as irregularities in socio-economic census, false electricity bills, rising prices of fertilizers and diesel, loots and scams, opening of liquor shops in villages and the hypocrisy of CM Nitish Kumar in proclaiming his commitment to making villages free of narcotics and liquor, and called for a strong agitation on these issues.
On 14 Feb a Jan Davedari rally was organized at Purnea. In spite of incessant rain large numbers from remote areas converged to attend the rally which was addressed by Com. Dipankar, AIPWA State President Saroj Choube, District Party Secretary Pankaj Singh, and others.
On 15 Feb a Jan Davedari rally was organized at the Bazar Maidan in Vikramganj (Karakat LS constituency). The meeting was addressed by Com. Dipankar, ABKMS General Secretary Com. Rajaram and former MLA Arun Singh, and conducted by Rohtas Party Secretary Sanjay Singh. A Jan Davedari rally was organized on 16 Feb at Dawoodnagar, Aurangabad District (Karakat LS constituency). This rally was conducted by senior kisan leader Com. Janardan Singh. After a programme presented by the local cultural team the meeting was addressed by Com. Dipankar, Com. Rajaram Singh, Inqalabi Muslim Conference Convenor Anwar Hussain, and Dr. Arvind Sharma. In spite of threatening rain clouds at both Bikramganj and Dawoodnagar about 5000 people participated in the rallies at both places, most of whom had come from the rural regions. Bikramganj also had a significant urban participation. At both places Com. Rajaram read out details of the complaints of the false electricity bills which had come up during the Jansamwad yatra.
It is known that the Bihar government has announced a steep rise in electricity rates from 1 April onwards. In truth, the difficulties of the consumers have been increasing ever since the privatization of electricity. Earlier, the electricity rate was divided into 4 slabs, so that the lower the consumption, the lesser the bill. But now the government has unified all 4 slabs into a single slab. According to this unified slab, the electricity which now costs Rs. 2.85 per unit will cost, after the proposed hike, Rs. 6.85 per unit for domestic consumers and Rs. 7.75 per unit for commercial consumers. Whereas in other States including Delhi there have been subsidies and reductions in electricity rates, Bihar is about to be slapped with this outrageous anti-people price hike. With the result, any domestic consumer will have to pay a minimum electricity bill of Rs. 980 per month instead of the current minimum rate of Rs. 120 per month, and the minimum bill for the commercial consumer will be Rs. 1562. Consumers without meters will have to pay Rs 350 per month instead of the present Rs. 160 per month. Whether or not one consumes electricity it will be mandatory to pay this minimum electricity bill.
The CPI-ML has called for a Bihar bandh on 23 Feb 2014 to demand roll back of this proposed hike in electricity rates and closing of liquor shops throughout Bihar. The Party has demanded that the government should provide 100 units free electricity to the poor and waive half of the electricity bills. At the same time, liquor shops at panchayat levels should be closed down and small farmers should be given free electricity for agricultural purposes. Agitations will be held on 21-22 February all across Bihar including the capital Patna to ensure the success of the bandh.
On 16 February, a huge Jan Davedar rally was held at Vir Kunwar Maidan in Ara town of Ara LS constituency. Com. Dipankar called upon the people to come on the streets in large numbers during the Bihar bandh on 23 Feb and make the bandh a success. The Rally was presided over by Com. Sudama Prasad and welcomed by District Secretary Com. Jawahar Lal Singh. Sudhir Suman presented the 15 point political resolution based on the issues that had come to the fore during the Jansamwad yatra. The Jan Davedari Rally was addressed by CC member Com. KD Yadav, AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari, CPI-ML candidate and youth leader from Ara LS constituency Com. Raju Yadav, Com. Chandradeep Singh, Siddhnath Ram, Qayamuddin, Dilraj Pritam, Ajit Kushwaha, and others. The process of announcing the Party candidates for the coming Lok Sabha election has begun from the Jan Davedari rally at Bhojpur.