Sunday, December 23, 2012

Massive Tribal Rally in Kolkata

KOLKATA: 16th December, 2012 - THOUSANDS of tribals rallied in Kolkata on December 16 in a massive demonstration in support of  the 22-point charter of demands. The colourful, militant rally was organised by Paschimbanga Adivasi Adhikar Mancha. Tribals from all parts of the state, from tea gardens to jangal mahal, participated in the rally.  Apart from the tribal leaders, CPI(M) leaders Biman Basu and Surya Kanta Mishra addressed the rally. They stressed on the need for united movement for successful achievement of demands.

Biman Basu said the ruling party is desperately trying to fragment the people’s unity to distract their attention. The chief minister is claiming that 99 per cent of the work, as promised by them, has been accomplished. It is now for the people to judge from their experience. The tribals are peace-loving, calm people in general but one should not forget that they too had taken a leading role in theIndependence struggle. If they are subjected to continuous deprivation, they will not once withstand it.

Surya Kanta Mishra said that when the UPA government in the centre was running with the support of the Left, the Act on ‘Tribal rights in forest areas’ was passed. After that the Left Front took steps towards its implementation but under the new government, work has practically stopped. The forest minister is accusing the Land and Land Revenue department for the delay. The fact is, this department is directly under chief minister Mamata Banerjee. So it is her department that is not acting to expedite the process of distributing ‘pattas’ amongst the tribals. The cooperative formed by the Left Front government for the welfare of the tribals in acquiring “Kendu leaves’ and to offer them the right price for their produce, is not being paid any heed by the present TMC government. It is being said that calm has been restored in jangal mahal region but the fact is the TMC has bought the ‘Maoists’ and now they are their leaders, well protected by the police.

Some of the salient points in the demands raised by PBAAM:

●   The tribals cannot be removed from their land
●   The Forest Protection Rights Act 2006 for the tribals has to be implemented.
●   The socio-economic development for the tribals has to be incorporated according to demographic proportion. Special package has to be announced for the affected tea garden workers of North Bengal along with special package compensation to the families of workers who have died. 


First  State Level Convention of Slum-Dwellers Held in Kolkata
By Sridip Bhattacharya

THE first ever state level convention of slum dwellers (bustee basee) was held in Kolkata on December 9, 2012. From this convention, a state level organisation of slum dwellers, “Paschim Banga Bustee Unnayan Samity” has been formed. There was tremendous enthusiasm among the participants in the convention, which saw delegates from all the districts participating.

Bustee organisation has been in existence in Kolkata for decades. In three to four districts, more than three bustee organisations have been formed during the last one decade. In all the remaining districts, serious efforts were put in for formation of bustee organisations in the last two years. Bustee organisations have been formed in all the districts of the state before this convention. The situation was demanding for the formation of a state level bustee organisation for better coordination of their movements. The emergence of a state level slum dwellers organisation will add a new fillip to the overall democratic movement in West Bengal.

The process of  urbanisation is continuing throughout the world. The proportion of urban people in the entire population is rising fast. Same is true for our country also. In West Bengal, towns and townships are coming up in new areas. The state is experiencing significant growth of urban population.

It is very relevant to add that in capitalist system, this process of urbanisation gathers greater momentum. There was faster growth of urbanisation process centering around industrial centres and simultaneously, there was growth of slums that were the residences of workers and toiling people. Very narrow space, unhealthy atmosphere, not fit to live in a healthy way – these are typically the characteristics of slums. All the terrible and inhuman aspects of capitalist exploitation are being manifested in slums.

In West Bengal, apart from Kolkata, some big towns, and many medium sized and small towns witnessed proliferation of huge number of slums and jhopdis. Lakhs and lakhs of people stay in these slums and their numbers are rising. Due to acute land problem in urban areas, these jhopdis are coming up by the side of railway lines, highways and canals. The number of jhopdis throughout the state are increasing. Jhopdis should be considered as the extension of bustees (slums).

All the districts of the state are having bustees. But they are not of the same type. Most of the bustees in Kolkata and Howrah are on the lands of zamindars. They are termed as thika-bustees. In our state, there are private bustees having land deed, Waqf bustees, Vest-land bustees, government bustees on occupied land etc.

Bustees and jhopdis have multifarious problems like inadequate residence, dirty environment, non availability of drinking water, latrine and drainage problem, absence of education and health infrastructure, lack of sports and cultural facilities etc. This is affecting the lives of the bustee people. Issue of identity card, ration card, inclusion in voter list etc are some of the problems faced by the bustee dwellers. High infant and maternal mortality rates among them is common as also malnutrition and spread of various infectious diseases. They are at the mercy of the police, administration and anti-socials. The fear of eviction always hangs above them like the sword of Damocles.

The central government, guided as it is by neo-liberal policy regime, is trying to shift the slums from the cities/towns to the outskirts and fringe areas. Whatever projects are being taken up, most of the slum dwellers are being deprived of its benefits. Due to the anti-people policies of the central government, there is increase in the number of bustees on the one hand and on the other , the government is again attacking the lives of the slum dwellers in the name of beautification. The TMC government of the state has also initiated attacks on the lives of the bustee people.

During the 34 years of its rule, the Left Front government never succumbed to the tremendous pressure brought on it by the central government to remove the slums. The centre exerted tremendous pressure to restrict the maximum limit of utilisation of land, change of land use and lifting the subsidy on use of drinking water, but the Left Front government refused to oblige in order to protect the interests of the bustee people in cities, towns and suburbs.

Urban  development with slum development was the goal of the Left Front government as also no eviction without rehabilitation. Due to these policies, conspiracies of promoters and other dubious people to evict slum dwellers could not succeed during LF rule. Inculcating a sense of right among the bustee people was one of the remarkable achievements of the Left Front government.

More than eighteen months have elapsed since TMC government came to power. In the case of urban development, it has adopted measures just opposite to those of the Left Front government. Slums are no longer its priority. During this period, there has been no distribution of land patta for bustee people. Actually, the fund allotment for bustee development has been reduced with the plea of paucity of funds. Though this government is spending lot of money for festivals and various other extravagant shows, it is citing lack of funds for slum development.

This government has undemocratically enacted a black Act whereby a huge number of bustee people will be evicted from their living places. Since the inception of TMC government in the state, promoters and land agents have become more aggressive. Bustee people are under pressure from money collectors who are intimidating them all the time. New methods of evictions are being experienced by bustee people, which has pushed an already impoverished people into absolute uncertainty and insecurity.

This state level organisation has been formed for the defense and enlargement of the rights of bustee people. At the same time, all the issues faced by poorer sections and toiling people are to be taken up by this organisation. Price-rise, universal public distribution system are the issues to be taken up by this organisation. Voices of protest have to be raised against various types of anti-social activities in the slum areas. Different linguistic people reside in the slums. Huge number of Bengal people, as well as non-Bengali people are living in these slums. Also, people of various religions are staying in the slums. Harmful activities of communal and fundamentalist groups can also be found in some of the slums. Bustee organisation has to work for strengthening communal harmony.

In West Bengal, the prestige and security of women are under serious attack ever since the TMC came to power. One of the important tasks of the newly formed organisation would be to safeguard the prestige and security of women living in the slums.

Literacy campaign among the bustee dwellers is to be seriously taken up by this organisation because most of the urban illiteracy is concentrated in slums. Along with this, science-awareness, fight against superstitions etc are to be important areas of activity for the organisation.

The number of unorganised workers, both men and women, living in the slums is huge. These working people facing tremendous insecurity throughout the country. So, bustee organisation will have to play its role in drawing this section towards bustee movement on the one hand, as well as towards the mainstream of working class movement on the other.

This bustee people’s movement will help to shift the balance of correlation of forces in favour of toiling people. It will sharpen the class struggle. This movement is developing in the state to organise all the slum dwellers with the slogans of ‘Housing, Harmony and Development’. This organisation will march ahead with the aims of ensuring security of bustee people’s lives and drawing this section towards movement for development. We are sure that the united struggles of bustee and jhopdi people will be able to contribute in strengthening the overall democratic movement in West Bengal.

Condemns Attack on CPI (M) MLAs

New Delhi: 12 December, 2012 - The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) strongly condemns the physical attacks against CPI(M) and Left Front MLAs within the West Bengal Legislative Assembly. As a result of this shocking violence by some Trinamool Congress legislators, two CPI(M) MLAs - Gouranga Chatterjee and Debolina Hembram - were injured and had to be hospitalized.

Instead of taking action against those MLAs of the ruling party who launched an unprovoked assault, three CPI(M) MLAs have been suspended from the House for the rest of the session.

The root cause of the trouble is the TMC’s intolerance towards the functioning of the Opposition in the Assembly. All democratic norms and legislative procedures are violated.

The Polit Bureau protests this assault on democracy. It calls for the revocation of the suspensions of the three MLAs. The rights of the Opposition in the Assembly should be protected and democratic norms observed.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Attack on CPI (M) in West Bengal Assembly

KOLKATA: 11th December, 2012 - THE West Bengal assembly witnessed its worst bedlam when ruling Trinamool Congress members, including ministers attacked Left Front members within the house injuring several members. CPI(M) MLA and former minister Debalina Hembram was severely beaten and kicked by TMC male members also. Another MLA, Gouranga Chatterjee suffered a head injury. Three members were hospitalised in this brutal attack.

This attack started when Left members tried to bring an adjournment motion on the mushrooming of chit funds in the state. Thousands of people are facing dire consequences of cheating by these funds. There are clear allegations that the ruling party leaders are promoting some of the big funds. The reaction of the ruling party members within assembly actually proved that.

Opposition leader Suryakanta Mishra alleged that his adjournment motion on chit funds had been severely edited by the speaker, leading to a round of debate. When the opposition protested, TMC ministers and members rushed menacingly towards them. Some of them lifted Hembram, and threw her into floor, kicking and beating her. Some other members were injured when they tried to rescue her.

In another blatant action, the speaker of the house suspended three Left Front MLAs while remaining silent about the behavior of the ruling party. Left Front members refused to participate in the assembly proceedings after that. They staged ‘Mock Assembly” outside assembly building. There was an all-round criticism of this attack on democracy throughout the state. Rallies and protest meetings followed for two days.

TMC MLA Sikha Mitra has been suspended by her party as she criticised the behavior of her colleagues exposing the ruthless nature of the ruling party in the state. 

WEST BENGAL CITU Calls for Vigorous Struggle

HOWRAH: 12th November, 2012- THE 10th state conference of CITU West Bengal committee has vowed to launch a vigorous struggle to defend the rights of the workers in the state. A programme to mobilise wider sections of workers in defense of the gains that are being attacked now in the state has been formulated from the conference.

The state conference was held at Comrade Jyoti Basu Nagar (Howrah) and Comrade M K Pandhe Manch (Sarat Sadan) during November 8 - 11, 2012.  The conference was  inaugurated by A K Padmanabhan, president of CITU, after hoisting the Red flag and offering floral tributes to the martyrs. 

In his inaugural speech, Padmanabhan said the CITU would, jointly with other trade unions, resist the onslaught on the people launched by the UPA-II government in the name of economic reforms. Referring to the severe attacks against the workers in West Bengal in the changed political situation, the CITU leader expressed confidence that the workers of West Bengal will play their historical role in the present situation like in the earlier days. 

Padmanabhan said the Indian economic policy regime has undergone a right wing shift since the introduction of neo-liberal economic policies. The union government is acting under the dictates of the Word Bank and the chambers of commerce in order to make the labour laws of the country flexible. He warned that the trade unions would strongly resist such an attempt. Already the multinational companies are not implementing the existing labour laws. They are brazenly restricting the workers from participating in the trade unions. Even the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people are being undermined by the big corporate and MNCs. The union government is a mere spectator to these violations. In such a scenario if the labour laws are further diluted, the workers will be subject to maximum exploitation.

Padmanabhan emphasised the necessity of protection of the trade union rights along with ensuring of the social security, control of price hike and universal public distribution system. He said that CITU has always been in favour of the united workers movement from its class outlook. After travelling a long path, all the central trade unions have called for a 48-hour countrywide general strike on the 20th and 21st February 2013. This has happened for the first time in the history of independent India. The trade unions will launch a vigorous campaign to make the general strike successful and informed that a march to parliament will be held on 20th December to highlight the demands of the working class.

Kali Ghosh, secretary of CITU West Bengal state committee placed the report in the conference. While placing the report he said that the workers movement of the state is facing various attacks during the tenure of the Trinamool Congress government. He said the situation is so bad that the chief minister refused to meet their delegation that sought to submit a memorandum about the growing attacks on trade unions in West Bengal.

Tapan Sen, general secretary of CITU, in his speech exposed the anti-people nature of the neo-liberal policies being implemented by the union government and emphasised the need for a united struggle against these policies.

In the context of growing number of unorganised sector workers and contractual workers, the 10th state conference emphasised on their problems and issues in detail and outlined the path of future programmes. Special discussions were held on these two aspects.

The delegates in the conference discussed the issue of the contractual labour in detail, especially the growing attack on the labour laws of the country in the name of labour market flexibility. How the neo liberal globalisation policies are impacting the working class people of West Bengal was also discussed in particular. The organisation has decided to observe 12th December 2012 as the demand day for the contractual workers. The workers shall unitedly hold their protest in front of the offices of the department of labour in all the districts. The delegates also pointed out the lethargy of the state government in implementing the social security and welfare programmes initiated by the earlier Left Front government. The delegates exchanged their experiences of the struggle against the terror attacks against the trade union movement by the Trinamool backed hooligans. The delegates expressed confidence of taking on this challenge in the wake of the historic success in the state of the 28th February all India general strike called by the central trade unions. The delegates underlined the importance of consolidating various streams of worker movements in order to achieve the political goals.

The 10th state conference elected the new CITU West Bengal state committee. Shaymal Chakraborty has been re-elected as the president and Dipak Dasgupta has been elected as the secretary.

On the concluding day of the conference, on 11th November, the  rally was held at Dumurjala in Howrah. The rally turned out to be a mammoth one. Addressing the rally, former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said a desperate situation is prevailing in the state in which farmers are unable to sell produce and industrialists are shying away from investing in the state. “The government failed to attract a single fresh investment. IT majors Wipro and Infosys, who came here during the Left rule, are now thinking of leaving the state,” said Bhattacharjee.

Slamming the government for taking the state towards an industrial disaster in absence of a clear policy, Bhattacharjee referred to how Singur has now become a desert. “Had the car manufacturing factory come up there, about 5000 to 6000 people would have got jobs. Hooghly’s profile would have been different by now, if our plan to bring industry to Singur was not thwarted. At Haldia, one cargo-handling agency was driven out to give way to a company run by a Trinamool Congress MP. This state is gradually moving towards industrial doomsday.”

Bhattacharjee said that the transport workers and the whole transport sector of the state are in a deplorable condition. Most private transport vehicles are lying idle as the agencies are becoming incapable of managing the cost of the business. Transport workers are not getting salaries, pensions, and are compelled to resort to suicides. This is the crude reality of the state where the salaries of ministers in the TMC-led government had gone up from Rs 7000 during the Left Front rule to Rs 27,000 now. And the government is acting as a sleeping beauty, he criticised.

Bhattacharjee also highlighted the farmers’ misery saying they are finding it difficult to sell their crop as the “price they are getting is uneconomical”. Explaining the current labour scenario of the country. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee sharply criticised the Manmohan Singh government for incessantly taking anti-people decisions that have severely affected the working population of the country.