Make the July 7 All-India Strike of Rural Workers A Great Success!
Rural poor brothers and sisters,
Ruling parties of various hues come to us during every election, and take away our votes after promising a better future. It is the majority votes of India’s rural poor that forms governments, yet as soon as power is grabbed, the very same governments forget us and all our needs and aspirations. In this regard, it is difficult to find any distinction among all governments whether at the centre or in the states. It is as if betrayal is another name for governance.
A majority of the population living in rural India are cursed with landlessness. While land for cultivation is still a distant dream, even 10 cents of land for building a house is not made available to the poor. The share-croppers are not even guaranteed minimal legal protection. It is not as if Central and State governments don’t have laws to work with, there is no dearth of reports either, yet governments have been running away from implementing land reforms in favour of the poor.
At the same time, governments are working overtime to displace tribal people, and poor peasants and appropriate an ever greater share of water, forests, minerals and fertile land for massive corporate loot and plunder.
We the landless and rural poor know that in every village and panchayat , even today there are large tracts of land that are stolen and controlled by the landed gentry. Think again, then why is the government running away from giving land to the poor?
Amidst the loud claims of Shining India and Bharat Nirman, poverty is steadily increasing. Governments’ own reports are forced to admit this fact. Everybody in this country knows who are poor. Agricultural labourers, other rural workers, artisans, small and marginal peasants, and urban unorganised workers and contractual workers are all poor without any exception. Yet governments continue to play games over poverty estimates and BPL lists. Isn’t this a most cruel joke on the poor?
Everywhere, state protected corruption in PDS deprives the poor of essential provisions for their families while PDS items sell in black markets and the poor are subjected to back-breaking food inflation. While pulses and vegetables have disappeared from the plates of the ‘common man’, many have slid into a state of starvation and semi starvation.
Governments shed crocodile tears over rising prices, but they shy away from implementing the minimum wage level of Rs. 200 a day. This is despite the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission and the Supreme Court instructions for minimum wage rate revision. They have mired NREGA in corruption and added Mahatma’s name as a veil, why can’t they at least double the provisions to at least 200 days of assured employment to at least 2 members of every family on minimum daily wages of Rs. 200?
During the last Lok Sabha elections, the Congress had promised to give us a Right to Food Act. No such Act is yet in sight. Why can’t they revise the BPL list and ensure at least 50 kgs of subsidised food grains to every BPL family every month?
The governments complain of lack of funds. Nothing could be a bigger lie. They give away tax exemptions worth billions of rupees in every budget. In this year’s budget they have given concessions worth 57 crore rupees per hour or almost Rs. one crore per minute to the rich. Even if one-fourth of the crores allocated as subsidies to the capitalists are spent in favour of the poor, the problems of food, employment and shelter of the poor can be resolved.
We need to understand this puzzle. India’s 86 crore poor are being fleeced relentlessly even as a rich minority is being pampered with lucrative packages. It is time we got organised and asserted ourselves on a countrywide scale. Let us make a beginning with a countrywide rural workers’ strike on July 7 and tell the rulers that they cannot get away for long with their policies of lies and loot and repression.
Let us give an ultimatum to the ruling classes and their parties and governments. On the day of the strike on behalf of crores of rural workers living in lakhs of villages and panchayats across the country, let us raise our united voice of struggle. Come! Join this call by AIALA for the first ever All India Rural Workers’ Strike and make it a historic success.
All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association
Jose Saramago: Communist Storyteller
José Saramago, the first ever Portuguese writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998, passed away on 18 June. He was 87.
Saramago was born in 1922 into a peasant family in Azinhaga, a village in Ribatejo, northeast of Lisbon. When he was two, they moved to the capital, where his father José, an artilleryman in the first world war, found a job as a traffic policeman and his mother worked as a domestic cleaner. After the 1926 coup d'etat overthrew the republic, António de Salazar rose to power with his fascist militias and PIDE secret police. “Small Memories”, Saramago's memoir, describes his family's sordid living conditions in Lisbon and hints at a coercive submission within the household to the fascist slogan of "God, Fatherland, Family".
Shortly after the family moved to Lisbon, his elder brother Francisco died, aged four. Saramago's efforts to track down his grave some 70 years later, while collecting information for his memoir, fed his novel “All the Names”. Since his family could not afford to keep him at grammar school, he went to vocational school and became an apprentice mechanic in a garage. Yet he read "at random" in public libraries, and worked at a publishing company in the mid-1950s. He translated Tolstoy, Baudelaire and Hegel among others, before becoming a journalist.
His first novel was published when he was 23. Then there were thirty years of silence. Meanwhile, in 1969 he joined the underground Portuguese Communist Party in 1969 - the main opposition to the dictatorship – risking jail and assault. After the Carnation revolution of 1974 toppled Salazar's successor, Marcelo Caetano, Saramago became deputy editor of the revolutionary daily newspaper Diário de Nóticias.
But in 1975, a counter-coup overthrew Portugal’s Communist-led revolution of the previous year, and Mr. Saramago was fired from his job. Overnight, along with other prominent leftists, he became virtually unemployable. “It was the best luck of my life,” he said in a 2007 interview. “It drove me to become a writer.” After working variously as a garage mechanic, a welfare agency bureaucrat, a printing production manager, a proofreader, a translator and a newspaper columnist, he finally became a full-time writer only in his late 50s.
“The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis,” regarded as his masterpiece, is his only novel to deal directly with the dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar. Set in 1936 in a Europe darkened by the ascendancies of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Salazar, the book tells the story of a doctor and poet living in Brazil who returns to fascist Lisbon when he hears of the death of his friend Fernando Pessoa, Portugal’s great modernist poet.
His novel “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ,” in which Jesus on the cross apologizes to mankind for God’s sins, was deemed “corruscatingly blasphemous” by some believers and deeply religious by others. When the Portuguese government, under pressure from the Catholic Church, blocked its entry for a European Literary Prize in 1992, Mr. Saramago chose to go into exile, setting up residence in the Canary Islands, a Spanish possession.
In 1998 the Nobel committee praised his "parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony", and his "modern scepticism" about official truths.
In his later years, Mr. Saramago’s fiction became more starkly allegorical. In novels like “Blindness,” in which an entire city is struck by a plague of sightlessness that reduces most of its citizens to barbarism, readers have found a powerful parable about the fragility of human civilization.
His fable of consumerism and control in a globalised culture, The Cave (2001), shows the focus of life shifting from cathedral to shopping mall. But for Jull Costa, its strength is in his "writing so humanely about ordinary people and their predicaments".
In “Seeing” (2004), set later on in the same country as Blindness, the majority cast blank ballots in a protest that leads to a state of emergency. For Saramago, democracy was in need of regeneration, since economic power determines political power.
In a 2008 interview, Saramago described himself as a "hormonal communist - just as there's a hormone that makes my beard grow every day. I don't make excuses for what communist regimes have done - the church has done a lot of wrong things, burning people at the stake. But I have the right to keep my ideas. I've found nothing better."
In later years, Mr. Saramago used his status as a Nobel laureate to deliver lectures at international congresses around the world, accompanied by his wife, the Spanish journalist Pilar del Rio. He described globalization as the new totalitarianism and lamented contemporary democracy’s failure to stem the increasing powers of multinational corporations.