A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol.20 | No. 2 | 3-9 January 2017
Modi’s 50 Day Promise Broken
Relief From Neither Corruption Nor Note Ban Disaster
Prime Minister Modi’s New Year’s Eve speech was significant for side-stepping all the issues raised by the Note Ban. Soon after his 8 November Note Ban announcement plunged the country into chaos and distress, the PM had appealed to the people of the country to “bear the pain for just 50 days.” If the troubles continued after December 30, he had said, he was “willing to face any punishment at any crossroads in the country.”
In his 31 December speech, however, the PM made no mention of the 50-day deadline. He was silent on how far the self-proclaimed objectives of the Note Ban had been achieved. Exactly what percentage of the demonetized notes had proved to be ‘black money’ or ‘counterfeit money’ and destroyed? How many black money holders identified and punished? How come corruption seems to be flourishing just as much as ever, with new notes making their way in lakhs into the hands of the corrupt? How come, contrary to the PM’s claims, terror strikes continued unabated even after the Note Ban?
Above all, the PM remained silent on exactly how long the cash shortage would last, and when exactly withdrawal limits from banks would be lifted. He failed even to acknowledge the enormous economic slowdown, wholesale destruction of jobs and devastation of agriculture caused by demonetization – let alone announce any sort of relief and compensation measures for this Note Ban disaster. Instead he announced several sops better suited to a routine Budget speech rather than specifically address the demonetization-induced crisis of livelihood and survival. Instead of waiving farm loans in view of the acute agricultural crisis, the PM merely announced the pitifully inadequate measure that farmers would not have to pay interests for 60 days on loans taken for the Rabi crop from District Cooperative Central Banks and Primary Societies.
The PM also tried to pass off old and existing schemes as fresh ones. For instance, he announced a scheme of Maternity Entitlements of Rs 6000 for pregnant women. He avoided mentioning that the National Food Security Act 2013 had already mandated universalization of the maternity entitlements of Rs 6000 – but the Modi Government since 2014 had failed to allocate the budgetary provisions for it!
The provision for farmers to get RuPay cards or other debit cards against Kisan Credit Cards has also existed since 2012; in fact, journalists have pointed out that a government reply in the Lok Sabha said that 56.60 lakh RuPay cards were issued against KCCs in 2013-14.
The PM announced the doubling of loans given through the MUDRA Yojana, prioritizing Dalits, Tribals, Backward Classes and women. A fact-check shows however that only a small percentage of MUDRA loans are in fact ‘new loans’ given to first-time and hitherto excluded borrowers.
Most importantly, none of the measures announced by the PM are of sufficient magnitude and significance to justify the enormous hardship and economic crisis thrust on India’s people and economy by demonetization. So these announcements could just as well have been routinely made in a Budget speech, even if demonetization had never been done.
With demonetization having dismally failed to achieve the objectives initially claimed for it, the PM is instead seeking to shift the discourse to the supposed benefits of a “cashless” or “less cash” economy. In doing so, his 31 December speech the misleading and absurd claims that “cash” implied corruption and that India’s economy therefore needed to be “cleaned” of “excess cash.” Facts show that cash has no correlation with corruption, and “less cash” likewise has no correlation either with less corruption or with more development and modernization. Sweden and Nigeria have a similarly low proportion of cash in their economies – but Sweden is one of the least corrupt countries of the world while Nigeria is one of most corrupt countries. Japan has a considerably greater proportion (20.7%) of cash in its economy than India (11.8%) – and yet it is the world’s third largest economy and ranks 18th on the corruption index while India ranks 76th.
The PM’s speech made another equally false suggestion – that most of the demonetized notes had been circulating in the corrupt “parallel economy” and had now been brought to the “mainstream.” The PM is thus implying that the informal sector is the “parallel” black economy. In fact, the informal sector is the “mainstream” in India, employing 80% of India’s workforce, including the small and medium industries, small retail, and service sector and accounting for 45% of India’s GDP. By devastating the informal sector, demonetization has struck a crippling blow at the very spine of India’s economy and the lifeline of people’s survival and livelihood.
The PM in his speech implied that the “excess of cash” had been fuelling inflation. This is patently ridiculous. The reduced inflation witnessed after demonetization is due partly to the artificial fall in demand due to the forced shrinking of spending power. Some fall in food prices, likewise, is due to the demonetization-induced distress sale of crops. Meanwhile the New Year has arrived with yet another hike in petrol and diesel prices which is bound to push up prices of essential commodities.
The PM declared that never before had banks “received such a large amount of money, in such a short time.” In other words, bad debts worth Rs 11 lakh crore will not be recovered from rich corporate defaulters. But banks have been recapitalized by forced deposits of the hard-earned savings of the poor, which the latter are prevented from withdrawing according to their needs but which banks can use to extend more loans to the defaulters!
The PM made some banal noises about transparency in political funding – but avoided announcing the much-needed concrete measures to clean up political funding!
The PM is seeking to avoid being held accountable for the failure to deliver on his tall claims for demonetization, or for the massive human and economic costs of demonetization. But the country will certainly hold him singularly responsible for the Note Ban disaster that has crippled people’s livelihood and the country’s economy while sparing and even benefiting the corrupt and super-rich.
Two CPI(ML) Leaders Killed in Bihar
Attack on Mahadalits in Araria
Goons enjoying political protection of the ruling government and the RJD party launched a murderous attack on the poor belonging to Musahar Dalit community in Rahariya village, Bhargama block in Araria district, killing two CPI (ML) leaders, Comrade Satyanarayan Prasad (Araria district secretary) and Comrade Kamleshwari Rishidev. Several people have been gravely injured and 3 comrades are still missing.
A Seemanchal Bandh is being held at the call of the CPI(ML) on 4 January 2017 to protest this atrocity.
The JDU-RJD government that claims to stand for “social justice” continues to facilitate assaults on Dalits and the oppressed. Perpetrators of the murderous attack on Mahadalits in Rahariya belong to the nearby village of Belsara and are known to be close to the RJD. The attack in Araria is no isolatd incident - a series of attacks on Mahalit colonies to evict them from homesteads and land have taken place in Bihar in the past year – at Bhagalpur, Nalanda, and also in Saharsa just a few days ago.
For the last 40 years Rahariya village has had about 35-40 houses of people of the Mahadalit Musahar community. They received the parcha (papers) for this land in 1975 itself, under land ceiling provisions. Of the nearly 100 acres of land, they live in about 3 acres, do farming in 7 acres and the remaining land is fallow. Next to it is another 1000 acres of ceiling surplus land for which the poor have received papers but not been allowed to take possession. In collusion with landlords, local dominant caste managed to get the land ‘registered’ in their own name illegally. They then forcibly harvested the crops from the 7 acre farm holdings – and are now trying to displace the Musahar people from the 3 acre residential area also. The Musahars were holding a meeting in this regard, which Comrades Satyanarayan Prasad and Kamleshwari Rishidev had gone to attend when they faced the murderous assault and were killed.
The Bhargama police station in-charge was present a few feet away from the spot where the attack took place but did nothing to stop it. This fact points to the collusion of the police in the attack. Following protests, the Bhargama police station in-charge has been suspended.
Eyewitnesses have named Dayanand Yadav as the main organizer of the attack – he is known to be close to RJD MLA Anil Yadav. Other accused include Manish Yadav, Rama Yadav, Bauaa Yadav, Manoj Rai and Sakal Deo Yadav - only the last has been arrested till now.
Attack on Mahadalits in Saharsa, Bihar
A settlement of mahadalits and other extremely oppressed castes in Purushottampur village, Sattar Kataiya block, Saharsa district was attacked by BJP-supported dominant caste forces on 25 December in order to grab their land. Chano Ram was killed in the attack and his brother Vakil Ram is battling for life at the PMCH. This attack was carried out under police protection. Four others are also seriously injured. CPI (ML) and AIARLA leaders visited the site of the incident and met the critically injured Ajay Ram, Mukesh Ram, Mithun Ram, and Shivendra Ram. CPI (ML) PB member Com. Amar and AIARLA National General Secretary Com. Dhirendra Jha met the injured Vakil Ram at PMCH.
Earlier, on 14 September 2016 also these same feudal forces had attacked Mahadalits. The victims had then tried to register a case against the perpetrators but their efforts went unheeded. This boosted the morale of criminal landlords Brahmadev Mukhiya, Sanjeev Singh and Rajeev Singh who attacked the village on 25 December and murdered Chano Ram. This attack was done with the aim of forcibly grabbing Bihar government land – which is rightfully allotted to the poor and dalits. The CPI (ML) team has demanded immediate action on the Saharsa SC-ST thana in-charge and the Bitra thanedar. They have demanded the immediate arrest of the accused, proper treatment for the injured, compensation and employment for the family of the dead victim, and distribution of bhoodan, ceiling and other government land among the poor.
Koderma Thermal Power Plant Workers’ Strike
Contract workers have been agitating since October 2016 for a 14 point charter of demands under the leadership of the Koderma (Banjhodih)Thermal Power Plant committee of the Jharkhand General Mazdoor Union. Over 500 contract workers are working in this plant. All of them are members of the contract workers’ union and have been active in the ongoing agitation.
On 26 October and 4 November 2016 notices relating to the hartal were given to the management, after which talks took place on 22 November between the KTPP management and the union. But the management refused to fulfill any of the demands of the workers. Finally, the workers gave formal notice and went on an indefinite strike from 26 December 2016. Chief among their 14 demands are: DVC should implement the 42% increase in minimum wages as fixed by the Government of India; as per the Supreme Court verdict of 26 October 2016 contract workers of Banjhodih Power Plant should get basic salary and other facilities on par with permanent workers of DVC; contract workers doing maintenance work for more than 2 years should be given promotion; workers regularly working at heights should be paid height allowance with arrears; sanitation workers in the plant should be made at par with maintenance workers; contract workers engaged in maintenance work should be given CL/medical leave/night allowance/transport allowance/ESI and other facilities on par with other workers; canteen facility should be made available in the plant premises; contractors should not be released from their contracts until they make full payment to their workers; maintenance workers should get free treatment in the plant health centre; contract workers’ gate passes should be renewed every 6 months.
Addressing a meeting of the striking workers on 27 December CPI (ML) MLA Com. Rajkumar Yadav said that the demands of the workers are legitimate especially in these times of demonetization when lakhs of workers are being deprived of their livelihood. The issues of the workers will be raised in the January 2017 Jharkhand Assembly session. Talks were held on 28 December between the Assistant Labour Commissioner, Hazaribagh, DVC and union representatives. The management was willing only to give height allowance with arrears. The Union did not agree for this, and the strike is continuing. On the morning of 29 December all 3 factory gates were fully blocked.
Construction Workers' International Meet in Kerala
The 10th Asia Pacific Regional meeting of the Trade Union of International Workers in the Building, Wood Building, Material and Allied Industries (UITBB) was held in Kerala on 10 December 2016. Representatives of construction workers from countries including Japan, Cypress, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia and (through video conferencing) Pakistan attended the meeting, while many more were denied visas to attend by the Modi government. Representatives from the All India Construction Workers’ Federation affiliated to AICCTU and CWFI affiliated to CITU participated in the regional meeting and the executive committee meeting. The meeting focused on 3 main issues:
1. Health, safety and environment of construction and other workers
2. Increasing problems faced by migrant workers
3. Oppression and gender bias against women at the workplace
Workers Killed In Mine Accident in Jharkhand
On 29 December at 7.10 pm, an open cast Rajmahal mining project in the Lal Matia coal mine of the Eastern Coalfields Ltd in Godda, Jharkhand, caved in, burying alive more than 100 mine workers 300 feet below the ground. At least 18 workers are reported killed and a large number continued to be trapped, feared killed.
Just four days ago, this mine had been closed when workers had raised safety concerns. But two days later the CMD RR Mishra came and surveyed the mine and ordered that mining be resumed and the mine work even be expanded. So the project management intensified the mining work. A Director General of Mines Safety officer Rajiv Guha from the ECL’s Kolkata Headquarters visited the mine. He also gave a green signal to the mining work.
On the day of the accident also, a worker had warned at 2 pm itself that there were signs that the mine might cave in. But the Project Manager Pramod Kumar Singh just took an hour for a token safety inspection and then ordered the mining work resumed at 4 pm. News reports also state that workers again raised the alarm at 6 pm but to no avail.
The mining is outsourced to three companies, of which the main one is the Mahalakshmi Company which is notorious for employing only migrant labour, not local labour, and for violating safety regulations. Migrant labour is preferred by them because they are more insecure and it is therefore more difficult to unionise them and organise struggles.
Thanks to the efforts of CPI(ML), other Left parties and JMM, an FIR has been lodged against the Project management as well as 4 ECL officers.
A team of CPI(ML) and Coal Mine Workers Union (CMWU) activists visited the accident site on 31 December. CMWU held a protest march and Sankalp Sabha at Lal Matia on 4 January 2017. A protest is planned for 9 January at the ECL HQ demanding that ECL and Mahalakshmi officers be booked for manslaughter an end to outsourcing of coal production. ECL must take over coal production and be directly responsible for safety.
Anti-Demonetization Protests on it's 50th day
CPI (ML), AICCTU and Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha jointly organized a dharna protest at the Durg Manas Bhavan on 30 December on the completion of 50 days of the disastrous demonetization and submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister through the Durg DM on the travails faced by people due to demonetization.
Jansunwai in Darbhanga
A people’s hearing on demonetization was held at Laheriyaserai in Darbhanga under the joint banners of the CPI (ML) AIARLA, Kisan Mahasabha, AICCTU, AIPWA, AISA, RYA, and Insaf Manch.
At the Jan Sunwai, Sheela, who works as a midwife in the hospital, said that she is finding it very difficult to run her household due to the demonetization distress. Kisan leader Pravin Yadav said that whereas earlier he used to sow crops in 5 bighas, this year he could barely sow crops in 1 bigha; farmers and sharecroppers are severely affected; seeds and fertilizers are unobtainable, paddy is not getting sold, and transport is affected due to lack of diesel. Sonu Yadav, a young man who sells fried snacks at Darbhanga Tower, said that his sales have been reduced to 30% after the demonetization disaster. SBI retired managed Akhilesh Kumar Choudhury said that a 56” chest is a requirement for a soldier, not for a Prime Minister. He pointed out that dishonouring a bank cheque is an offence under Section 301 and 321, and further said that demonetization has been done to repay the huge corporate funds Modi had taken for his election campaign. Instead of punishing black money hoarders the Modi government is luring them with offers. Construction worker Mohd. Imtiaz said that he had got only 8 days’ work in the last 43 days and his family is on the brink of starvation.
The jury members included Prof Sarojini Singh of Mithila University, Dr Ajit Kumar Choudhury of the Darbhanga Medical College, Prof Rahat Ali, Mohd Ladlay and CPI (ML) Politburo member Com. Dhirendra Jha.
The 5 member jury announced the following 8 resolutions after hearing the people’s views:
1. We condemn the demonetization step which is equal to economic emergency and demand that PM Modi take steps to relieve the cash shortage.
2. PM should apologize to the country for the Note Ban disaster and for attacking the autonomy of the RBI which has the constitutional right to determine fiscal policy.
3. Arriving at a 50% offer compromise with black money hoarders is treachery against the country. The government must confiscate all back money and bring back the urban land ceiling law, “Only one property in a city and not more than two properties in the country.”
4. Political parties must come under the ambit of public scrutiny and must put their funds and sources on a public website. An independent agency must enquire into the land purchase scams of the BJP.
5. The worst affected by demonetization are farmers and workers. All farmers’ loans must be waived and all poor and rural workers must be paid Rs 1 lakh each as subsistence allowance. Properties of industrialists – whose unpaid debts to Government banks amount to more than 11 lakh crores - must be confiscated and the loans must be recovered. Details of loans given to farmers and workers and capitalists every year must be made transparent. The administration must make special arrangements for making seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and diesel to farmers.
6. Enquiry should be conducted into the black money and income tax theft by people who have registered land purchase of more than 5 kattas and 25 lakh rupees in the past 10 years. A special committee should probe the assets of MPs, MLAs, MLCs and other rich people in Darbhanga district.
7. The government must limit the number of Rs.2000 notes and increase the number of 100, 500, and 1,000 rupee notes, and must stop forcing the people to go “cashless” at the behest of big companies.
8. Bihar is the worst affected State due to demonetization. Migrant workers have been forced to return home. Paddy purchase is at a standstill. Farmers are ruined. Construction work is obstructed. Guardians are unable to pay children’s education fees. In these conditions, Nitish Kumar’s support to demonetization is an insult to the people of Bihar. The Jansunwai strongly condemns this step by Nitish Kumar.
Protests in Guwahati
On 30 December, as part of the national campaign of CPI (ML), a protest dharna was held at Dighalipukhuri Park, Guwahati, against the Note Ban disaster. Hundreds of people participated in this protest.
Pol Khol Halla Bol Protest at Lalkuan
The CPI (ML) Uttarakhand unit held a protest on 30 December at Lalkuan as part of the countrywide campaign to expose the demonetization disaster, ‘Pol Khol Halla Bol, Note Bin 50 Din, Achhe Din Kahan Gaye’.
The protest march started from Shaheed Smarak, went through Lalkuan main bazaar and culminated in a meeting at the railway station.
Pol Khol Halla Bol Campaign in Delhi
The 2nd phase of CPI (ML) Delhi unit’s Pol Khol Halla Bol campaign against Demonetization ended on 28th in East Delhi, with strong resolve of intensifying the struggle against anti-people Demonetization in coming days.
The campaign started from Kondli More. Many comrades from AICCTU and AISA marched the entire stretch from Kalyanpuri to Khoda and distributed pamphlets. Street meetings were organized at Kalyanpuri Terminal, Kondli More, New Ashok Nagar and Khoda.
A middle aged woman in Kalyanpuri said,"With every passing day we feel like going back to our village. But I don't even have money to travel in train." Another man who read the pamphlet said "I can't even pay my monthly house rent as I have no work. The campaign ended with a film screening in Khoda Colony, which was attended by many people.
Protests In UP
A Protest March and public meeting against the Note Ban disaster were held at Lucknow on 30 December. On the same day, a Jansunwai was held at Chandauli. Protest and effigy burning of the PM were also held at Ghazipur, Mirzapur, Deoria, Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Puranpur (Pilibhit), Varanasi, Allahabad, Gorakhpur, Kanpur, Faizabad, Mau, Jalaun, Sonbhadra, Bhadohi, Bareilly, and Banda.
On 30 December, the district committee of CPI(ML) along with AICCTU, AICWF, and AIARLA held a mass contact drive against demonetisation, distributing leaflets and addressing street corner meetings.
Protests were also held in several other places across the country on 30 December. A JanSunwai was held in Bagodar which was addressed by former MLA from the party. Com. Vinod Singh. In Agartala, a protest demonstration was staged outside the local RBI office. In Andhra Pradesh, protests were held in Kakinada and Annavaram.
On 1st January, a Jan Sunwai was held in Ahmedabad. Hundreds of protestors – including adivasi women and men from Valsad, youth and workers from Ahmedabad and other parts of Gujarat marched in Ahmedabad and raised the slogans of “NoteBandhi dhoka hai, Modi ne desh ko loot hai” (Demonetization is a fraud, Modi has looted the country.) Participants included CPI(ML) Politburo members Prabhat Kumar and Kavita Krishnan, CPI(ML)’s Gujarat in-charge Comrade Ranjan Ganguly, senior advocate and CPI(ML) leader Comrade Laxmanbhai Patanwadia, Comrade Laxman C Waria, Comrade Tushar Parmar, journalist Sanjeev Mathur as well as Amit Patanwadia.
A protest march against Note Ban was also held in Pilibhit on 28 December culminating in a people’s convention on the current political situation and the question of women’s freedom. The March was led by CPI(ML) PB Member Kavita Krishnan, CCM Krishna Adhikari, as well as CPI(ML) leaders Debashish Rai, Afroz Alam and others.
Left Parties To Jointly Fight Assembly Elections in Uttarakhand
Three Left parties—CPI, CPI(M) and CPI(ML) will jointly fight the coming Uttarakhand Assembly elections and will also run the election campaign jointly. The Left parties have declared that they will contest 25 Assembly seats. CPI will field candidates at Gangotri, Rudraprayag, Badrinath, Kotadwar, Dehradun Cantt., Mussoorie, Haridwar and Kashipur. CPI(M) will field candidates at Tharali, Kedarnath, Srinagar, Tehri, Ranipur, Sahaspur, Rajpur, Raipur, Sitarganj, Nankamata and Almora. CPI(ML) will field candidates at Lalkuan, Karnaprayag, Dharchula, Rudrapur and Ranikhet.
Left parties will organize people’s conferences across the State in order to build a people’s alternative against the anti-people policies of the BJP and the Congress. These joint Left conferences will be held at Haldwani (13 January), Dehradun (16 January), Haridwar (17 January), Tehri (18 January), Rudraprayag (21 January), and Gopeshwar (22 January).