Party Foundation Day Observed
A pril 22 was observed as Party Foundation
Day by Party Units all over the country. At Bihar , April 22 marked the end of the Nyay Yatra, and the 2-day hunger strike to protest the disbanding of the Amir Das Commission was lifted on this occasion. Cadre Conventions and mass meetings were held at all District HQs and some prominent Block HQs in the State. At Jharkhand, cadre meetings were held at several District and Block HQs. At Bokaro, a big cadre meeting was held a day later, on 23 April, while activists at Ranchi announced that they would burn an effigy of King Gyanendra at Albert Ekka Chowk in Ranchi on 24 April in solidarity with the pro-democracy movement in Nepal .
In Tamilnadu, mass meetings were held to commemorate Party Foundation Day in all the constituencies where we are contesting elections. A Party Class was held at Mansa, Punjab , and a Cadre Convention at Ludhiana , where a Party Leading Team was formed to revive the Party work there. At Gurgaon in Haryana, a gathering was organized at the Kamla Nehru Park to observe Foundation Day.
At Orissa, a massive procession was held at Kendrapara, led by the Party General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya. At Delhi , Party Foundation Day was observed with a two-day Party Class where Party members discussed papers on Mao Thought, the history of the Indian Communist Movement, the Party Programme and some aspects of work among unorganized labourers in Delhi .
Protests for Implementation of NREGA
Ever since the announcement of the implementation of the NREGA in February, AIALA and CPI(ML) have launched a vigorous campaign aimed at monitoring every stage of the NREGA and agitating for its complete implementation. We bring you some reports from Jharkhand, UP and Bihar .
By the end of March, huge ads appeared in local papers advertising the provisions of the NREGA, and District Administrations issued Press statements about the number of job cards issued – but none of this is visible on the ground. Two months after the NREGA was declared to be in force, the bulk of people are yet to get job cards. The Administration's answer is that job cards have already been issued and complaints are being looked into. The standard excuse is that those who do not do manual labour are being denied job cards!
In most districts, anything between Rs. 2 to Rs. 50 was illegally taken for each form; also, photograph facility was not freely available, so labourers spent additional amounts on photos. Decisions about schemes of the NREGA were to be approved by the Gram Sabha – but this norm is being flouted openly. At Palamu, for instance, where water tanks have a poor record of successful storage, a decision to construct 5600 water tanks have got approval!
On 31 March, the Jharkhand Mazdoor Kisan Samiti (JHAMKIS) held dharnas and demonstrations at District HQs in Giridih, Garhwa, Palamu, Hazaribag, Bokaro, Koderma and Latehar. 5000-strong demonstrations were held at the Ramgarh Block of Hazaribagh, Manika Block of Latehar, and Barwadih Block of Palamu. At Garhwa, the Administration confiscated the mikes, but 1000 people warned that work would be stopped at the Block HQs from April 10 onwards, and then the Garhwa DC promised to issue job cards within a week. To protest against the non-implementation of NREGA, the JHAMKIS announced that all work would be stopped at 43 Block HQs of 15 Districts from April 10 onwards.
On 12 April, work was stopped at 32 Blocks of 10 Districts. In Giridih itself, 9 Blocks held successful stop-work campaigns. Officials deserted the offices and left them to the people. At Bagodar, where villagers had submitted 32,000 forms, the Administration claimed that only 16,000 forms had been submitted. JHAMKIS held mass meetings to bring panchayat officials to book for these scams. This stop-work campaign is on all over the state. At some places, Administration's request for a week's time has been granted, after which the campaign takes off again if irregularities in NREGA continue.
At Manjhauli Block HQ of Rohtas, an AIALA demonstration forced the BDO to accept 1000 Registration forms. At Lalganj and Bhagwanpur Blocks of Vaishali, a dharna was held. In Sakarvasa Panchayat of Cheria-Bariar Block of Begusarai, panchayat sevak Lal Babu Singh was acting as Agent and was using local contractors to dig a canal. 300 labourers of AIALA demonstrated and held a mass meeting at the Panchayat Bhavan in protest. This protest inspired labourers at other places too. At Khanjahanpur Panchayat, AIALA held a Jan Panchayat and asked the Mukhia to attend. He sent a letter to the meeting, agreeing to issue job cards. 200 labourers, working in projects at 4 panchayats, were provided job cards. The contractor used to provide Rs. 68 for cutting 110 man of earth; now the Mukhia agreed that labourers would be paid Rs. 68 per day. In order to break labour unity, the Administration had declared that those without job cards would not get work. But the labourers stood united and demanded job cards for all. Eventually, the panchayat sevak was forced to issue job cards to all.
On April 10, dharnas and protest demonstrations were held at Blocks all over Bihar . On April 17, massive dharna-demonstrations were organised at several block HQs all-over the state, in Bihar , as part of the ‘Ensure Justice, Guarantee Jobs' campaign. In these protest programmes, thousands of agricultural labourers participated. At Nasirganj in Rohtas District, 1500 people demonstrated on 17 April, ensuring that 13,000 forms were registered and 900 job cards distributed. At Dehri in Rohtas, 500 people locked up the Block HQs, and ensured that 500 job cards were distributed on the spot. At Rajpur, 300 agrarian labourers gheraoed local officials. At Karakat, 500 people protested and ensured that 5000 job cards were distributed. At Akohi Gola Blovk, 400 blocked the road on 15 April and locked up the Block HQs. The BDO ran away; State Minister Ali Anwar was caught in the road block, and so the DDC from Sasaram came running, and was forced to concede and implement all demands on the spot. At Darbhanga, on 17 April, ‘Ghera Dalo, Dera Dalo' programmes were held at all Blocks. At Bahadurpur and Keuti, the lock-out of the Block HQs lasted till 18 April, and activists sat on a hunger strike for a whole day outside the Block HQs. 1000s of activists participated in this protest. At Patna , too, demonstrations were held at all Block HQs.
Second Phase of Right to Employment Campaign in UP
Beginning the second phase of Right to Employment campaign on April 10, Com. Akhilendra Pratap, State Secretary CPI(ML), addressed several gatherings in Gorakhpur , Deoria and Kushinagar districts. Now, meetings are taking place in various pockets of Lucknow division. During the campaign, all major democratic issues are being raised along with the employment question viz. proper implementation of NREGA, ensuring job cards and BPL cards for the poor, doing away with the ration- cut in BPL scheme, waiving off the loans of the poor peasants, ensuring irrigation for lands, separate reservation quota for MBCs, proportional reservation for dalits, OBCs, Minorities and women as per their ratio in the population. After covering Sitapur, Lakhimpur and Hardoi, this phase will come to an end. The campaign had begun on Feb.23 from Sonbhadra district, which after covering Sonbhadra, Mirzapur and Chandauli districts, was concluded in Varanasi on March 10.
On April 15, against the dillydallying of State Government in the implementation of NREGA, AIALA activists organised demonstrations at block HQs and stopped work there in many districts including Chandauli. The protestors alleged that the scheme, supposed to provide livelihood to the poor, has been sacrificed at the alter of rampant administrative corruption.
In Robertsganj, Sonebhadra road was blocked by 300 agricultural labourers and activists. It was lifted only when the SDM came and accepted the memorandum.
CPI(ML) Team Investigates Aligarh Violence
A CPI(ML) investigation team comprising the Party In-charge for Western UP Comrade Afroz Alam, Party State Committee member Comrade Rohitash Rajput, and youth leader Mohd. Alam, visited Aligarh and found that the recent violence in Aligarh was an unprovoked killing of Muslims by the police and not a communal riot as portrayed by the Administration. The Party has demanded a high-level judicial enquiry into the violence, as well as arrest of the SP of Aligarh City, S K Verma, responsible for the police firing, and stern action against a former BJP MLA responsible for instigating communal violence.
The investigation team found that on April 6, traders led by a former MLA of the BJP, K K Nawaman, marched towards Sabzi Mandi Chauraha in a provocative procession. Agitated Muslims came out in retaliation, and there was brickbatting on both sides. The police and PAC did nothing to control the situation, and later, the SP, City gave written firing orders to PAC havildar Santosh Kumar. Police and PAC opened fire in the direction where the Muslim crowds were gathered, killing four persons.
The Administration imposed curfew in the city for 12 days to cover up its criminal act, causing immense hardship to city dwellers. But the citizens of Aligarh foiled the conspiracy to instigate communal riots.
AICCTU Protests Killer Gas Leak in Sonebhadra Chemicals Factory
On 29 March, a leak in a gas cylinder claimed the lives of 6 workers and injured 23 in Kanodia Chemicals Factory in a major industrial center of UP, Sonebhadra. This factory produces chlorine gas on a big scale, almost 500 tons daily, but workers are not even provided with a gas mask. 2300 workers are employed in the factory, of whom just 300 are permanent employees, and 2000 are contract workers. Yet, this plant has no well-equipped hospital – just a four-bed hospital with one retired doctor on its staff. Jobs requiring skilled labour are done by exploiting unskilled workers, who are paid a mere Rs. 40 as daily wage.
There is no proper maintenance of the cylinders filled with chlorine, which is a dangerous gas that turns into acid when it mixes with water. This factory produces the maximum chemical waste in Sonebhadra District, which pollutes the water and causes deformities in children and destruction of crops.
CPI(ML) and AICCTU have been raising these issues for long. Last year, AICCTU had held a dharna at Pipri for 18 days on precisely these issues of workers' safety. Some local papers had picked up the story and warned that Sonebhadra could turn into Bhopal any day. Despite this, the Governments and Lucknow and Delhi turned a blind eye. Rather, senior officials have been handing this very factory awards for as a leading pollution-free factory!
The gas leak happened in this backdrop. Pocket trade unions, patronized by the management tried to diffuse the agitation of the workers and strike a deal convenient to the management, but workers responded to the prompt intervention of AICCTU leaders and vehemently opposed such attempts. Later, under pressure from the workers' struggle, the District Magistrate summoned the Deputy Labour Officer and in their presence, an agreement was signed, accepting the demands of the workers: including Rs. 4 lakhs for the family of each dead workers; permanent jobs for the dependents of the victims; full cost of the treatment of the injured to be borne by the management, and full salary during their treatment; permanent residence, education and medical care for the dependents of the victims, proper preventive and safety measures in the factory and the assurance that in case of future accidents, this agreement would be the basis of settlements. Also, the Administration booked cases of 304-A against the management, and ordered a Magisterial enquiry.
None of the local political parties – SP, BSP, Congress, BJP – so much as expressed condolence for the dead workers; and no elected representative bothered even to visit them once.