Letter from Bihar
Nitish’s Vikas Yatra’ Gimmick
While CM Nitish Kumar has been on a ‘Vikas Yatra’ (Development Yatra) with an eye to the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, people of Bihar have been calling his bluff.
The ‘Vikas Yatra,’ conducted in the style of a ‘Raja (King) mingling with the ranks,’ started from Bagaha, Champaran, the place from where he launched ‘Nyay Yatra’ in 2005 before his enthronement in Patna. (The analogy of ‘raja’ is not coined by us: the media, fed artfully by the CM’s entourage, made repeated use of this term.) He made a promise of a bridge at Gandak river which has devastated the West Champaran and Gopalganj districts and displaced thousands of poor in last year’s floods. 22 families of flood victims living in make-shift jhuggis on the roadside were, ironically, evicted to make way for the ‘Raja’s’ mass meeting. CPI(ML) leader RN Singh was arrested and jailed when he opposed the eviction.
Then Nitish Kumar distributed pattas to 400 displaced families of Bagaha-1, though there are 715 displaced families on record. And these pattas are for homestead land only and that too at a far place in Bagaha-2 in a land which remains inundated for months. This facelift exercise of his administration couldn’t see more than 5000 families now living on railway lands in Bagaha-2 who are facing eviction threat from Laloo’s rail administration. Not only this, people temporarily living on a five km road stretch in Lauria were evicted. Nearly 150 mushar and mehtar families living here for generations have been given eviction notices owing to construction of a sugar mill in the area.
Nitish had declared in 2006 to start a pilot project in Tharuhat region but he gave a ‘package’ of Rs. 125 crores instead, which is nothing but money allocated to already ongoing schemes in the area. Rights over the land and forests is a major issue for the Tharu people here. Nitish could not dare to touch the lands of Shikarpur estate spread over more than 25 kilometers. CPI(ML) investigated the land pattas given to two poor persons here; one tract of land was located right on the road and other one inside the river! Champaran is home to the ‘top ten’ landlords of Bihar, according to the Bandopadhyay Committee. Nitish dare not take land from their ‘estates’ for development projects: it is the Tharu people’s land which will be grabbed. Moreover, Tharus here have not been given ST status yet. Nitish is silent on this question. Closure of stone quarries in this area during the Laloo regime had brought thousands of families to the brink of starvation. This region lacks basic education facilities. Though there are promises unfulfilled for new schools, 45 schools started long back are being run by only 130 teachers! During Nitish’s visit, many young people were implicated under false cases when protesting against the anomalies in appointment of teachers. RYA and AISA held a protest demanding withdrawal of cases on these youths.
Nitish never tires of boasting that he has rid the state of crime. At Champaran, known as the ‘university’ of crime, the surrender of Bhagand Yadav and Basudev Yadav, responsible for killings hundreds of people, is supposed to be a feather in Nitish’s cap. But Champaran’s SP, comparing these notorious criminals to ‘Valmiki muni’, has gifted them with gun licenses. These goons, by their crimes, have grabbed land to create estates. Instead of confiscating their land to redistribute among the landless, they are being treated like heroes. There are reports that Basudev Yadav’s son may contest from Nitish’s JD(U). So much for the tall claims of ending crime!
Protests on these and other issues met Nitish at every step of his Yatra in Champaran – and dogged his steps beyond too.
The second phase of the CM’s Yatra, at Mithilanchal coincided with a horrific incident of a dalit settlement (including 87 homes) being burnt to a cinder – even goats were burnt alive, people brutally thrashed and grains and money burnt up. This occurred at Lagma village in Darbhanga district. The same evening, the CM held a public meeting just 15 kms from the spot – a meeting attended by the very same people responsible for torching the dalit basti! Our comrades raised the issue at the mass meeting – but were told that questions would not be entertained. When they raised slogans, they were removed by force, far away from the village.
Wherever Nitish went he was dogged and gheraoed by various sections of protesting people: anganwadi women workers, flood victims, striking karamcharis, students and youth, etc… Issues of corruption in NREGA and BPL schemes were raised universally. Nitish made stupendous promises: some estimates of the funds for schemes announced by him during the Yatra amount to some 90, 000 crore: this when Bihar’s budget itself is around Rs. 13, 000 crore! Such laughable promises added salt to the wounds of people’s betrayal in Bihar.
Employees Strike in Bihar
The employees strike in Bihar (see Liberation February 2009), came to an end after 34 days following intervention by the Patna High Court. Acting on a PIL filed by the Government, the Court heard out the appeals of the striking karmacharis and the Government, and gave a verdict on 9 February recommending an ‘agreement’ among both parties. According to the Court, the strike would end on 10 February; by 16 February the Government would initiate talks with an ‘open mind’ with the employees’ organizations regarding the latter’s blueprint for implementing the 6th Pay Commission; and the Government must inform the Court on measures taken to resolve the issues of the strike, though a notification by 31 March. Further, the Court held that the Government must not take disciplinary action against any employee only for participating in the strike. The Government and striking organizations accepted this verdict.
Prior to this resolution, the employees strike in its latter phase had displayed a great militancy, defying the crude muscle-flexing and threats of the Nitish Government. The Government had threatened the employees with dismissal, preparing and publishing long lists of employees to be dismissed. Even this had no effect on the strike – rather the employees, infuriated, organized militant gherao programmes of the CM, Deputy CM, and various ministers. Even Nitish during this Vikas Yatra met with fierce gheraos by thousands of employees – at Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, Samastipur, and Begusarai. At Samastipur, 1000 eployees were taken into custody during the gherao and released later. At Begusarai, the situation became tense. In Rohtas, panchayat rozgar sevaks lay down in front of the car of Rural Development Minister Shribhagvan Singh, after which he shamelessly assaulted them and announced their dismissal. In reaction, rozgar sevaks all over the state reached patna and blockaded the R Block for several days. Deputy CM Sushil Modi too was gheraoed everywhere he went.
The support extended to the strike by the Left forces of Bihar during the Bihar bandh also lent strength and political orientation to the strike.
At Gopalganj on 4 February, local feudal forces close to the JD(U) and BJP whipped up communal violence. People were mobilized to ‘teach Muslims a lesson’ and Muslim homes and property were attacked – leading to incidents of counter-violence too. At the end of the day, poor people of both communities suffered bad losses. The violence took place in broad daylight, and in the presence of the Dm and SP who did nothing to stop it. A CPI(ML) fact-finding team found that the main perpetrator – Jalalpur Mukhia Ramashankar Sharma, is a special friend of JD(U) District President Manjit Singh.
The riots have been followed by severe police repression – where innocents from poor families of both communities are being arrested, harassed and tortured. The CPI(ML) has demanded the arrest of Ramashankar Sharma, and the release of the falsely implicated innocents.
The CPI(ML) launched an intensive padyatra in the neighbouring areas led by CPI(ML) MLA Satyadev Ram. On 18 February, a very well-attended protest meeting was held, addressed by Comrades Dhirendra Jha, Amar Yadav and Satyadev Ram.
Kosi Sangharsh Yatra of Flood Victims
The AIKSS has organized a Kosi Sangharsh Yatra covering the areas that suffered devastation in the Kosi floods. The Yatra started on February 15 at Kusaha where the embankment breached this time and will culminate at Dhamdaha on 24 February. En route, the Yatra will cover more than 50 villages in the entire flood-affected belt. The Yatra is led by KD Yadav, State President of the Kisan Sabha, Bisheshwar Yadav, Kisan Sabha State Secretary, Rajen Patel, Kisan Sabha office secretary, Jay Narain Yadav, AIALA Secretary of Supaul district, Akshay Lal Mehta, District President of AIALA in Supaul, Bharat Bhushan, AIALA State Committee member and active at Madhepura, Pankaj Singh, AIALA State Secretariat member and Madhavi Sarkar, AIALA National VP.
20 sabhas have been held till date which have been very well-attended. During the Yatra everywhere, it was apparent that people’s fury in the Kosi belt has only increased anger because of the hollow claims of relief and rehabilitation. People declared that after the first instalment of rations, they never got a second one! And relief donated by international and national humanitarian agencies and individuals continue to rot in jail.
Not only that, claims of having repaired the embankment at Kusaha also proved false. Rather, the apprehension of danger has grown. The river’s course has not fully changed. The embankment height now touches the water. So, a sudden flood in the Kosi can again breech the embankment causing the tragedy to repeat.
Left parties’ Dharna and Bihar Bandh
CPI(ML), CPI and CPI(M) held a massive joint dharna at R-Block crossing in Patna on 28th January intensifying the united Left opposition against the anti-people and autocratic Nitish Govt. of Bihar and called for a Bihar bandh on 4th February on burning issues of the people and in support of the striking State Govt. employees.
The dharna was attended by thousands of members of the three parties and was jointly addressed by the State secretaries of CPI(ML), CPI and CPI(M) - Comrades Nandkishore Prasad, Badrinarayan Lal and Vijaykant Thakur respectively. Many other senior leaders of these parties also addressed the dharna. The speakers exposed the glaring lies and failures of the Nitish Govt. and lambasted his attempt to mislead the people of Bihar with his “Vikas Yatra”.
Through the dharna the three Left parties asked to hold dialogue with the striking employees and settle the issues in dignified way; punishment for the accused in the Bathe massacre and withdrawal of the charges from innocent poor people; round the year employment and Rs.200/- daily wage to all poor under NREGA; providing all BPL families grains at Rs.2/kg and Kerosene oil at Rs.2/litre; formulating a comprehensive plan for the progress and development of poor Muslims and implementing the Sachar Commission report; and ensuring the rehabilitation of Kosi flood victims.
The Bihar bandh of 4 February called by the CPI(ML), CPI and CPI(M) received a overwhelming response from the people of the State. More than five thousand bandh supporters across the State were arrested and dozens of CPI(ML) leaders including State Secretary Nand Kishore Prasad, Ramjatan Sharma, Rameshwar Prasad, Krishnadeo Yadav, Saroj Chaubey, Dhirendra Jha, R.N. Thakur, Kamlesh Sharma, Pradip Jha, Murtaza Ali, Anita Sinha, Tota Chaudhary and others too were arrested in Patna while leading rallies. Huge rallies were held in all the Dist. headquarters of Bihar.
The bandh was called against the anti-people, pro-feudal and dictatorial Nitish Kumar Government and in support of the striking State employees. During the bundh huge rallies were held in Patna and major cities of Bihar led by senior CPI(ML) leaders, rail and road traffic were obstructed leading to arrests. At Sasaram and in Nalanda district the police lathi-charged bandh supporters injuring dozens of people. In Patna at least four different rallies was taken out from different points traveling through different routes. Each of these processions comprised of hundreds of people was led by various leaders of the Party and its mass organizations.
In Siwan more than 2000 bandh supporters were arrested when they had stopped all traffic on rail lines. Here the bandh was led by Party MLA Com. Satyadev Ram. Participants in the bandh weer arrested at Panchrukhi in Siwan, Dinara and Sasaram in Rohtash Dist., Bhagalpur, Purnia, Rupauli, Chandi in Nalanda, Biharsharif, Maner, Naubatpur, Nawada and Gopalgunj where people ranging from 50-500 were arrested while taking out marches. q
Jharkhand Employees Paralysed Govt. Work
Under the leadership of Jharkhand State Non-Gazetted Employees Confederation the employees of Jharkhand have organised one of the massive rallies in recent months for pressing their demands. The protest march of 10th December 2008 saw about 90 percent of the employees marching to Ranchi consequently paralysing all Govt. functioning and work. When, even after one month of that protest there was no Govt. initiative to hold dialogues the employees proceeded on indefinite strike since 13th January, 2009. Prior to this the defeat of Shibu Soren was also contributed by the angry employees.
There have been few rounds of meeting after 14th January with the Govt. officials and the leaders of the employees but there was no decisive action on part of the Govt. till 25th January. In protest the striking employees sat on a day’s hunger strike on Republic day-26th January at the Albert Ekka Chowk in capital Ranchi. After this there was response from the Governor and after a final decision was taken on 29th January, the strike was called off. However, there was attempt from some sections of a few employees union to weaken and sabotage the strike and resulting demands which has been rebuffed completely by the employees of Jharkhand.