Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Mon, 2010-08-23 14:07

True to his credentials as an obsessively US-friendly Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh presided over his Cabinet on August 20 and approved the final draft of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill 2010, with substantial modifications and additions to allow the US nuclear reactor suppliers a liability-free regime for their Indian sales and operations. In doing this, the Cabinet ignored the saner recommendations of national experts, given through their depositions before the Parliamentary Committee on Science & Technology, to help formulate an India-centric liability legislation.

Cabinet’s action in clearing such a highly supplier-biased draft legislation amounts to nothing less than an abject surrender to the US and Indian commercial interests. Through the changes and additions made, the PM and his colleagues have also ensured that the final legislation will strictly conform to the Annex of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC). This is an essential requirement to fulfil the 2008 written promise given by the then foreign secretary to the US State Department, on the PM’s directive, that India shall take all steps necessary to adhere to the CSC.

When the discussions in the S&T Committee were winding up, BJP leaders took a vehement stand against the Bill, asserting that there was no need for a two-part or capped compensation, that under no circumstances will they allow the suppliers to escape their due responsibility to the victims of an accident, etc. But, after a 45-minute discussion with the Union finance minister on August 17, the top leaders of the BJP stated that all their problems with the Bill have been sorted out and that their party would have no difficulty in supporting the Bill.

On the same day that BJP expressed satisfaction, members of the Left parties in the S&T Committee had given a dissent note, pointing out serious lacunae in the Bill. CPI(M) MP Saman Pathak’s note clearly pointed out the still existing infirmities in the Bill, including the now infamous ‘and’ which was introduced at the end of Clause 17(a) of the Bill to block any realistic possibility of pursuing the operator’s right of recourse against the foreign supplier. This modified version of Clause 17(a) along with a moderately strengthened Clause 17(b) appeared in the Report of the Parliamentary Committee on S&T which was submitted to both houses on August 18.


When the CPI(M) objections were highlighted by the media as extremely valid, the BJP leadership once again started protesting. The government finally appeased them by assuring that the ‘and’ would be removed from the end of Clause 17(a) before the amendments are moved in Parliament after the Cabinet approval. But, now it turns out that the government was not being honest with the BJP about their real intent.

The Cabinet has indeed misled the BJP and the nation by acceding to the demands of the CPI(M) and BJP to drop the ‘and’ from the end of Clause 17(a), but at the same time entirely re-writing Clause 17(b) to provide a water-tight immunity to the foreign suppliers against any possibility of successful litigation by the Indian operators for right of recourse. In doing so, the PM and his Cabinet have blatantly supported US interests and demands, and have over-ruled the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee based on the opinion of national experts who deposed before them. More seriously, the PM and his Cabinet have at the same time deliberately blocked any chance of potential Indian nuclear accident victims to get compensation from foreign suppliers, even in cases where it can be reasonably proven beyond doubt that an accident occurred due to the supply of defective equipment and systems, negligent or faulty design and manufacture, use of substandard materials, or wrong execution of support services provided by them.

Section 17(b) as recommended in the Parliamentary Committee Report reads: “The operator of a nuclear installation shall have a right of recourse where the nuclear incident has resulted as a consequence of latent or patent defect, supply of sub-standard material, defective equipment or services or from the gross negligence on the part of the supplier of the material, equipment or services”. It took depositions made by many experts before the committee and some valid arguments from the opposition members within the committee to get this consensus statement agreed upon.


But, the PM and his Cabinet found Clause 17(b) recommended by the Parliamentary Committee to be not at all compatible with what the US State Department and the nuclear business lobbies in India and the US want. The inclusion of this clause in our National Liability Law also runs counter to the requirements of the CSC Annex which requires no one other than the operator shall be liable under the law. Ever since the committee recommended this revised Clause 17(b) to the Cabinet, it would appear that extreme pressure has been brought on the PM by the US government and the Indian and US business companies and their federations, to modify this clause.

Succumbing to their demands, the PM and his Cabinet have modified Clause 17(b) to read: “The operator of a nuclear installation shall have a right of recourse where the nuclear accident has resulted as a consequence of an act of supplier or his employees, done with the intent to cause nuclear damage, and such act includes supply of equipment or material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services”.

By framing this modified clause, the Cabinet is requiring that future accident victims have to prove (through the operator) that a supplier has given defective supplies ‘with the intent to cause nuclear damage’, before they can get any compensation! Almost always, such sub-standard supplies result from gross negligence, lack of knowledge or expertise, poor quality control at various stages, wrong design, selection of materials, manufacture, and assembly, etc. And, unless the Cabinet feels that some of the reputed foreign suppliers could also be at times latent international terrorists, out to harm Indians through their intentionally made sub-standard or defective nuclear supplies, there is no basis for framing an absurd clause like this.

Under these circumstances, Parliament must restore the Parliamentary Committee’s recommended version of Clause 17(b) cited above, and reject the Cabinet’s version. If the Cabinet’s version somehow gets through Parliament and becomes part of the liability law, it must then be vehemently challenged in the highest courts of the country.


The operator’s right of recourse against the suppliers will not be meaningful unless the operator’s liability for compensation is raised to a realistic and adequate level, commensurate with a nuclear accident. The Cabinet has only approved a measly sum of `1,500 crore as compensation for accidents in reactors having a power level above 10 MW, `300 crore for spent-fuel reprocessing plants, and `100 crore for research reactors with power up to 10 MW, other fuel cycle facilities, and transportation of nuclear materials. These amounts have been grossly underestimated and intentionally kept low by the government to help a government company (with up to 49 per cent private share-holding, as now allowed under the Atomic Energy Act 1962) and/or a private sector company in the future (with major share-holding, after a subsequent modification of the Atomic Energy Act) to derive profits by operating nuclear plants, without having much of a financial burden towards annual charges for securing financial security to cover their liability through insurance or bank guarantees.

The very low operator’s liability, however, tends to relax the operator’s diligence in ensuring a high level of nuclear safety in his plant, allows him to get only up to the same limited judicial compensation under any right of recourse litigation against suppliers, and will allow the operator to transfer a bulk of his responsibility for compensation liability to the tax-payers. Parliament must, therefore, pay serious heed to amendments which will be put forward to enhance operator liability limits.


In the Cabinet’s revision of the Bill, they took care to define under a revised Clause 2(l) the ‘operator’ of a nuclear installation as the central government or any authority or corporation established by it or a government company who has been granted a licence pursuant to the Atomic Energy Act 1962 for the operation of that installation. The Cabinet has also introduced a fresh Clause 3(A) which says that “(this law) applies only to the nuclear installations owned or controlled by the central government either by itself or through any authority or corporation established by it or a government company”. It is further explained that a government company means a company in which not less than 51 per cent of the paid-up share capital is held by the central government.

In addition, the Cabinet decided to add a sentence at the end of Clause 7(1) which reads: “Provided that the central government may, by notification, assume full liability for a nuclear installation not operated by it, if it is of the opinion that it is necessary in public interest”.

It is interesting that new Clauses 2(l), 3(A) and the additional sentence added to Clause 7(1) are all creations only at the level of the PM and the Cabinet at the last minute. Therefore, the real purpose of these three deliberate insertions by the Cabinet at the last stage is worth examining. This could most likely signal the government’s intention to have private sector-controlled and owned nuclear installations at a later stage, after making suitable amendments to the Atomic Energy Act 1962. In any case, the opposition parties must ask the UPA government why they made these additions, especially the sentence added to Clause 7(1).

Dr. A Gopalakrishnan is a former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board of the Government of India


Courtesy: Dr. D.Mukherjee


Fri, 2010-08-27 07:38

As the Government of India cancels the environmental clearances to the Vedanta project in the Niyamgiri hills, the role of corporate politics in the country is becoming the focus of the debate. However illegal mining is not a new feature, but its growing extent only underlines the extent to which the penetration of corporate capitalism has taken place in the exploitation of natural resources. Accompanying this is also the fact that the liberalisation of environmental policies in the post 2005 period has only helped the corporates to make use of the loopholes that are prevalant. Thus the increasing presence of illegal mines has only exposed the real intentions of the government in making way, both formally and informally for the corporate sector in the resource rich areas. Thus the rampant presence of illegal mining and big corporates as its harbingers is reflective of the weak structure of the environmental governance that has been created by successive neo-liberal regimes and the withdrawal of the state from the mining sector.

Further it should also be noted that the state of Andhra Pradesh has preceded the Government of India in this regard. It was the first to introduce third party agreements in joint forest management regimes by making the ITC a third party in agency area of Vishakhaptnam in the early 1990s. This in fact showed how corporates could enter the fifth schedule areas without infact flouting the provisions protecting tribal lands in these schedules. At the same time the acceptance of the World Bank’s Community Forestry Programme that weakened the writ of the state forest department in the country. It is therefore not surprising that domination of private mining interests over the forest bureaucracy in Andhra Pradesh has been very prevalent in this century. Thus in 2002 when private players were being granted prospecting licenses, covering an area of over 90 thousand square kilometer and reconnaissance permits covering an area of over 155000 square kilometers, Andhra and Karnataka were the leaders. The number of permits granted in 2002-2003 were Andhra Pradesh (32), Karnataka (33), Rajasthan (21), Chattisgarh (15), Madhya Pradesh (8),Orissa (6), Uttar Pradesh (2), Jharkhand (1) and Haryana (1).

Similarly the Annual Report of the Ministry of Mines, 2009-2010 shows that recorded cases of illegal mines for the year 2009 till September 2009 (that is state wise recorded cases of 9 months) were 30551 for which 1255 FIRs were registered and 3306 cases filed showing an abysmal rate of action taken against these mines. Of these 28055 cases were recorded for minor minerals like the rat hole iron ore mines and 638 FIRs registered and 3174 cases filed. Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka accounted for about half these cases. There were 3178 illegal mines in Rajasthan, 8370 in Maharashtra, 7570 in Andhra, 1687 in Karnataka and 2654 in Gujarat and 1068 cases in Chhattisgarh (against whom no action has been taken). This shows that the states ruled by major political parties like the Congress and the BJP had major mining interests which dominated all Central bourgeosie parties and of which the Bellary case is the most reflective.
Illegality of mines occurs if corporate interests are able to arm twist the state.

Further, there is a thin dividing line between what ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ mines. Those corporate houses who have ‘legal’ mines can also do ‘illegal’ operations. For example in the case of Obulapuram Mining Company, it has 187 hectares of ‘legal’ mines and 647 hectares of ‘illegal’ mines which are a result of various violations in the state of Andhra Pradesh. In the case of the Bellary mines, the transport department of Karnataka it self has reported to have lost about Rs. 1.2 Crore because of illegal transportation of minerals by the Bellary mafia to Andhra ports. Further, every time a lease of a mine is over, the mine owner has to apply for an extension within a specific period of time. If they make such an application their leases are ‘deemed to be extended’ and their mining operations continue. At present the Ministry reports 521 such cases as of 2009-2010. Some of these clearances have not been granted for more than 20 years thus providing a loophole for illegal mining. Thus even mines that were once legal, are now illegal especially after the enactment of Forest Rights Act and even the new Enivronment Impact Assessment Rules, 2006.

The developments in Andhra and Karnataka have to be seen in this contest. “Illegality” of mining leases refers not merely to the existance of mines without clearences, but also to the operation of mines that may have ‘leases’ but thereafter contravene several environmental and forest laws. They are able to do this because of weak environmental and forest management regimes and the withdrawal of the state from these sectors. This is a direct result of the domination of state institutions by corporate interests. Hence we do not need to merely fight the nexus between the mining mafia and the politicians, but the neo-liberal corporate penetration of state structures and ruling classes as a whole. Illegal mining is merely a symptom and a consequence of this process.


Courtesy: Dr. D.Mukherjee


'The Hindu' (25 Aug 2010)

Iron and steel, petrochemicals, information technology and food processing sectors have major share of investments.

West Bengal has witnessed a surge in investment for industry despite the effects of the global economic downturn and the negative reputation it acquired in the aftermath of the developments at Nandigram and Singur which resulted in the calling off of the projects proposed for those areas.

“In 2009, the State has attracted over Rs. 8,400 crore investments in various industries,” Chief Minster Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee recently said.

The major share of the investment of Rs. 8,400 crore, the highest in the last 20 years, was in the Iron and Steel, Petrochemicals, Information Technology and Food Processing sectors.

West Bengal Governor M. K. Narayanan, in his address to the State Assembly earlier this year said that the Commerce and Industries Department continues “to pursue the pro-active policy of industrialisation to combat the negative impact of global recession.” Mr. Bhattacharjee and State Industries Minster Nirupam Sen have on several occasions reiterated that despite negative perceptions, West Bengal is an attractive destination for investment.

The major impediment in the industrialisation of the State has been the availability of land. The State government had introduced two initiatives to ensure the planned utilisation of land for industry — land mapping and the setting up of a land bank. The Land and Land Reforms Department is overseeing both the efforts and the data for five districts — Paschim Medinipur, Purulia, Bankura, Birbhum and Bardhaman — has been made available.

The State government is now emphasising on the setting up of industries in areas that are considered backward and have uncultivable land and the setting up of industrial clusters that can use common infrastructure. At the same time, certain parts of the State have been identified as Industrial Growth Zones where large-scale manufacturing units can be set up. Based on the availability of non-agricultural land, presence of industry and infrastructure, six industrial zones have been identified by the State government.

In order to improve the industrial infrastructure in the State, the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) has initiated the setting up of several sector specific industrial parks most prominent of which are the Raghunathpur Industrial Park in Purulia district, the Vidyasagar Industrial Park and the Panagarh Industrial Estate in Paschim Medinipur district.

The Raghunathpur Industrial Park is a 6,000-acre project that includes anchor investments from three iron and steel companies — the Jai Balaji Industries, the Adhunik Steel and the Shyam Steel Industries Ltd. High accessibility with a railway line in the near vicinity and proximity to the upcoming Damadar Valley Corporation power plant are being cited as the main advantages of the complex.

The Panagarh Industrial Estate has been planned over a 2,500-acre area near Durgapur. The main investor in the project is the Matix Fertilisers and Chemicals Ltd. that will build and operate a greenfield fertiliser complex there.

The Vidyasagar Industrial Park is to be set up on a 1,150-acre area near Kharagpur, where Telcon will set up a earth moving equipment plant.

Industrial parks in the Food Processing, Biotechnology, Rubber, Polymer, Garments, Gems and Jewellery, Engineering products and Foundry have also been planned.

The WBIDC and the Bengal Aerotropolis Project Ltd. have also entered an agreement to set up a greenfield airport at Andal in Bardhaman district. An industrial, urban and social infrastructure complex will be built around the airport which is a joint-venture between the two companies.

The State Government has recognised the importance of the private and joint sectors in ensuring accelerated growth and in improvement and up gradation of industrial as well as social infrastructure. Keeping in mind the recent surge in entrepreneurs' interest to set up industry in the State, the government provides incentives to them and the WBIDC is the agency for disbursement of incentives under various schemes.

In the financial year 2009-10 the WBIDC disbursed Rs. 122.24 crore under various incentive schemes including the West Bengal Incentive Scheme 2000, the West Bengal Incentive Scheme 2004 and the West Bengal Incentive to Power Industries Scheme 2005.

It will initiate disbursements under the West Bengal State Support for Industries Scheme 2008.

The West Bengal State Support for Industries Scheme 2008 stands out from the previous incentive schemes of the State government as it will lay emphasis on industries that generate more employment at the local level.
Additionally, the scheme specifies the time frame within which the benefits can be availed of to ensure that the industrial units are commissioned and production commences on time.

The State government has also decided that to encourage the setting up of industries in the northern and western parts of the State, as well as in the Sunderbans region by providing additional incentives for capital investment, electricity duty exemption and employment generation for setting up industries in these parts.


The Information Technology sector has witnessed a rapid growth in West Bengal in the last decade thanks to the State government's persistence and perseverance in its approach to leading IT companies for setting up offices in the State.

The venture has generated over 90,000 jobs for the skilled youth of the State and its success is evident from its eight per cent growth rate in the year 2009-10, even as the world economy as well as India's economy was undergoing a negative phase due to the economic downturn during the period.

Recently quoting a NASSCOM report, Debesh Das, the State's Minister for Information and Technology, said that the local IT industry recorded positive growth in the export sector during the economic downturn even as cyber cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad posted negative growth.

Employment in the IT sector in West Bengal has increased 2.5 times in comparison to what it was in 2006 and the IT Department expects a 20 to 25 per cent growth in employment opportunities in the sector in the near future.

More than 500 IT and ITeS companies are working in the State currently with almost all major companies like TCS, IBM, Wipro, Cognizant, HSBC, Capegimini, HTMT, PWC, Atos Origin, Siemens, Lexmark, Usha Communications, Reliance, ICICI Onesource and Tech Mahindra.

The Azim Premji-controlled Wipro Limited will invest around Rs. 1000 crore in its second campus near Kolkata that will employ 20,000 skilled personnel. With construction of the second Wipro campus scheduled to start within 18 months, it is expected to be operational by 2012.

The West Bengal IT Department has invited bids for a Rs. 200 crore project in Salt Lake Sector V requesting proposals for development and operation of a twin tower IT Park in Sector V.

To be built on a three-acre land owned by Software Technology Parks of India (STPI), it will work together with Webel in this initiative under public-private-partnership (PPP) model.

While the Department previously had 171 acres of land allotted to IT and IT infrastructure companies at Sector V of Salt Lake and 10 acres for DLF at Rajarhat township, it currently has about 300 acres at Rajarhat New Town already allotted to IT and IT infrastructure companies, which include TCS, Unitech, DLF, RMZ and Shapporji Paloonji.

Though the sector was initially started by the State government with a single IT infrastructure building named SDF at Sector V, similar SDF buildings are now being built at Durgapur in Bardhaman district and Siliguri in Darjeeling district in an attempt to develop these places as future IT hubs.

With the IT Department aware that in order to have a sustainable growth of the IT sector in the State, it needs to focus on hardware manufacturing, a number of initiatives have been taken to attract investments in high-end technologies and software development in the fields of VLSI as well as IT hardware and chip-designing sector. Plans are on to set up an Advanced IT Park at Kharagpur in Paschim Medinipur district and an India Design Centre — a unique first-of-its-kind project to house important semi-conductor players for the purpose.

Establishing Incubation Centres in various parts of the State like Sector V, Taratolla, Durgapur and Siliguri under the West Bengal Electronics Industry Development Corporation is under way.

Initiation of the Finishing School Programme that trains qualified engineers in order to make them industry-ready has also received encouraging support from the industry.

With an increasing focus on the IT and the IT-enable education among the learning community of West Bengal, the State Government in partnership with the Centre has started a programme for the Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe children by way of leveraging information and communication technology (ICT) tools for dissemination of core-curricular concepts through digital content.

The IT Department has also come forward for enabling physically and mentally challenged people to yield the benefits of the technological revolution.

A computerised Braille Transcription System in Indian languages, including text to Braille conversion software — Braille to Text Software and Automatic Braille Embosser — have been developed and successfully implemented at 37 blind schools and two government libraries in the State.

Courtesy: Dr. D.Mukherjee


26AUGUST, 2010

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) has expressed concern over reports of sexual exploitation of a woman cadre at the hands of Maoist leaders.

In a statement issued here on Wednesday, the AIDWA quoted a newspaper report, where the victim expressed her desire to flee from the situation forced upon her, and mentioned that there were others like her being subjected to sexual violence, who would be willing to surrender, if an opportunity is provided to them.

“Her allegations must be investigated and steps taken to help the victims. Rape and sexual exploitation of women is totally unacceptable to any democratic society, and women's organisations like the AIDWA have always fought for the rights of women in this regard,” the statement said.

The victim should be given adequate protection. The road for rehabilitation of those wishing to escape from such a perilous situation must be made accessible and gender friendly.

The West Bengal government had announced a package for the Maoists who wished to abjure violence. The Centre should hold consultations with the State governments and assist in the endeavour to give women Maoist cadre an opportunity to return to the mainstream, it said.

Courtesy: Dr. D.Mukherjee


24TH. AUGUST, 2010
Rakhi Chakrabarty, TNN, Aug 24, 2010, 01.02am IST

There's a wide gulf between what Naxals practice and preach, says Uma. (TOI Photo)

Somewhere On The Bengal-Jharkhand Border: The eerie calm in the dense sal forest is deafening. Walking along a snaking dirt track, a clear patch appears. Sitting on a rock, hidden by thick, emerald green foliage, is the diminutive figure of a woman, a gamchha (thin towel) covering her head. Her blue salwar-kameez meld with the surroundings. Her eyes dart around at the slightest hint of sound. Shobha Mandi, alias Uma, alias Shikha, gives a searching look and then smiles. The 23-year-old CPI-Maoist Jhargram area commander says she was expecting us.
From commanding 25-30 armed Maoist squad members, Uma turned a fugitive four months ago. She fled her command post on the plea of seeing a doctor. She hid with her aunt for a short while; and now she says she wants the world to know her story. She wants to surrender and is likely to give up Naxalism on August 26.
Why did she decide to shed her battle fatigues seven years after she joined the Naxals? "They committed injustices against which they claimed they were fighting," said Uma. "As a recruit, I protested against the habits of some leaders in the presence of Kishanji. Nobody liked it. The leaders instructed the squad members not to speak to me. I was isolated and warned of dire consequences if I protested," she said.
What didn't she like about the leaders? "They rape," she shot back, eyes flashing with rage. "After about a year of joining Naxals, I was put on night-long sentry duty at a forest camp in Jharkhand. Suddenly, out of the dark, Bikash (now, head of the state military commission) came up and asked me for water. As I turned to fetch it, he grabbed me and tried to do 'kharap kaaj' (indecent acts)." When she objected, Bikash threatened to strangle her. After forcing her into submission, Bikash raped her, she said. She was 17 then.
"He warned me against telling anyone about this. But, I told Akash (Kishanji's confidant and a state committee member). He said he would look into it but did nothing. In fact, Akash's wife, Anu, lives with Kishanji," Uma said.
Most women recruits are exploited by senior Maoists. Senior women leaders, too, have multiple sexual partners, Uma said. "If a member gets pregnant, she has no choice but to abort: A child is seen as a burden that hampers the agility of guerrillas."
Uma has heard tales of brutalization of other women Naxals, too. "Seema (then a recruit) told me that Akash raped her as well. Rahul (alias Ranjit Pal) raped Belpahari squad commander Madan Mahato's wife, Jaba. In this case, the party punished Rahul, who is a key weapons trainer at Maoist camps. He was removed from the regional committee for three months," said Uma.
State committee secretary Sudip Chongdar, alias Goutam, was also punished for similar acts, she said, and transferred to Jharkhand's West Singbhum district. Maoists divide time between forest camps and hideouts in villages. Villagers can't refuse shelter to gun-toting Maoists. Also, they must keep all night vigil to alert them against police raids. "When Sudip took shelter in villages, he raped women in their homes. They were too scared to protest," said Uma.
Many of her senior leaders exploited her sexually. One day, says Uma, Kamal Maity, who is a Bengal-Jharkhand-Orissa regional committee member, came to her rescue. At a meeting attended by Kishanji and other top Maoists, Kamal proposed a relationship with Uma. The leaders agreed. "After Jaba's incident, I learnt that a woman cadre is protected against sexual exploitation only if she is with a senior leader," she said. That was a turning point and she rose steadily in Naxal ranks.
Uma is on the police's most wanted list. She is suspected to have planned and executed a series of attacks, including the massacre of 24 EFR jawans in Silda (February 2010); a raid on Sankrail police station in which two policemen were killed and an officer abducted (October 2009). She is also one of the suspects in Jharkhand MP Sunil Mahato's murder in 2007.
She mentored PCPA members, including Bapi Mahato who is in jail for the Jnaneswari train sabotage. Last year, when the joint central and state forces advanced into Lalgarh to break an eight-month siege, she along with other Maoists fired at the police. In Jhargram, she is known as didi. According to a source, Uma single-handedly built up the PCPA at Jhargram.
Uma joined the rebels in 2003. CPI-Maoist hadn't been formed then. "I joined the People's War ( PW) which later merged with MCC in 2004 to form CPI-Maoist," she said. She was given a new name, Uma. "I was plump. Anu (Akash's wife; Kishanji's companion) said I looked like Uma Bharti. So, she named me Uma."
Maoist leaders spotted her organizational skills. She was asked to mobilize tribals women at Jamboni and Dahijuri in West Midnapore. She also underwent three-month arms training at Jharkhand's Gorabandha forest. "First, we are taught with dummy weapons using tree branches. All recruits have to fire three bullets in their first session. Those who hit the target are picked for armed squads," she said.
In spite of guns and guerrilla warfare, the woman in her sometimes longs for simple pleasures like painting her nails or wearing earrings. But, she says, "We were not permitted to use even fragrant soaps, lest we get detected. Only Lifebuoy is used by cadres."
Did she join the rebels of her own free will? Circumstances, she said. Uma is second of four siblings. Along with their parents, they worked as wage earners on farms or collected sal leaves, mahua and red ants (kurkut) to sell. "I was good in studies but weak in math. I worked all day and studied at night," the girl from Khayerpahari village in West Bengal's Bankura district recounted. "I couldn't pass the Class X board."
This was in 2002. Younger brother Sanjay, who was in Class VIII, was already taken away by the extremists. He became a Lalgarh squad member and is in jail now. "My father, Jamadar Mandi, was an alcoholic suffering from tuberculosis. There was no money to buy him medicines. We sold our land and also borrowed money," Uma said.
While the family struggled, some "party" members offered help. "They gave my father some money and told me to join them. They said I could leave if I didn't like working with them," said Uma. The prospect of a job spurred her.
But only after she signed up did she realize she could never go home. "Whoever comes here, never returns," a senior leader told her. She wanted freedom from poverty but found herself chained to an ideology she couldn't understand. After seven years of witnessing bloodletting, she has no fear of death. She now hopes the state she has fought against will rehabilitate her. "There are many in the Maoist ranks who would flee given half a chance," she said.

Courtesy: Dr. D.Mukherjee

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Once in a while a film is made which does not try to sell you a dream but rather shows you the inner contradictions of the society that we live in. (This review contains spoilers).

Once in a while a film is made which does not try to sell you a dream but rather shows you the inner contradictions of the society that we live in. Peepli Live undoubtedly falls into this category. Over the last two decades we have become habituated with Bollywood films depicting the paraphernalia of the super rich, where the poor are conspicuous by their absence. This essentially reflected the amnesia of India's elites about the poor and downtrodden. Even when there have been films depicting the poor, like Swades, the rich and the elites were projected as the messiah of the poor. Peepli Live is a welcome break from both of these trends. It is a story about the helpless farmer with the camera and the director situated firmly in a rural setting, while the rich and the elites (including the politicians) are nothing but outsiders and intruders.

It is a story about an indebted farmer household who are desperate to save their land from being taken over by the bank. The younger brother Natha, under instigation from the elder, decides to commit suicide. This is because the government, while doing nothing for the farmers, have declared a scheme for compensating the families of those who commit suicides. In his resolve to commit suicide Natha is not alone.
There were at least 16,196 farmers’ suicides in India in 2008, bringing the total since 1997 to 199,132, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. The utter poverty of Natha and his helplessness is essentially a story of a large part of rural India.

The resolve of Natha to commit suicide is leaked by a rural reporter to the press and it becomes a major news item. The entire media contingent of the TV channels, from the upstart lady of the English channel to the sensationalizing Hindi TV reporter descends on Natha's house and the village. The sheer heartlessness of the mainstream media is shown in the movie with great details. The complete unconcern of the media with either the plight of Natha or the neighbouring villagers, the complete insensitivity of the media-persons is shown in a black comedy style. It is a nature of the Indian media to convert every issue of any importance into a spectacle. Without a spectacle, there is no news, since essentially they are not covering news but they are covering a 'story'. Since Natha's proclaimed suicide is a story, they have to capture it with foremost zeal. Therefore, they chase Natha even when he is going to the field to relieve himself. We, as audience, identify with this intrusion of the media. Every now and then we find them with their mike sticks running after grief stricken families asking the most stupid and audacious questions. In this media circus, the plight of Natha is pushed to the background. He loses control even of his daily chores and becomes a prisoner in his own house.

The other species in the film, apparently concerned about Natha's plight are the politicians and the bureaucrats. Again, it depicts the usual story of utter indifference to the plight of the poor farmers. Every politician uses Natha for his own advantage, with the Agriculture Minister of the country deciding to do nothing other than announce a scheme under Natha's name, which is sure to fail even according to the Minister. On the other hand, the Chief Minister of the state, on the face of an election, announces some monetary relief for Natha which is cancelled by the Election Commission. Even after many scrutiny the District Magistrate does not find a suitable scheme for Natha, since all the schemes are either for the unemployed, or for the BPL or for people without a house. This is the story of targeting social sector benefits in our country. Be it PDS, or Employment schemes or Housing schemes, the criteria for selecting the poor is so strict that hardly anybody can avail of these schemes. The neo-liberal ideology in the name of targeting essentially excludes the poor. Budhia, Natha's elder brother, therefore laments in the film that one needs a card to be designated as poor while we are struggling to meet ends.

Within this overall media circus and the political game, Natha becomes increasingly disillusioned with everything including the idea of suicide. In the meantime he is kidnapped by the local corporator and used as a tool for political bargaining. Again, the local reporter cracks the secret of Natha's hideout and a commotion ensues at the dead of night involving the entire media crew and an accidental fire kills a person, which everyone believes to be Natha.

With the supposed death of Natha, every media-person leaves the village leaving his family where they were, in utter poverty and indebtedness. The media war on TRP ratings benefits a section of the media, the politicians see to their own benefit but the poor farmer gets nothing and is only left with a tube-well (gifted by the government), in an arid dry area. The tragedy of Natha and his family is palpable and so is the irony of the politcal-economic situation of India.

The director of the movie deserves kudos for bringing to life the conditions of the farmers in our country, which we have read in the reports of P. Sainath and other persons. She does not try to intrude into the reality of suffering of Natha and his family and bring in a messiah to save them. Instead she remains true to real India and its people.

The master-stroke however comes at the end of the film. We see that Natha is not dead but he is working as a construction worker in Delhi, with all the sadness of the world depicted in his face. The bubble of real-estate boom is fueled by the induction of poor migrant workers from the villages who live and work under abysmal conditions. We look at the grand buildings and pat our backs on the 'development' of the country. But behind the glitter of these buildings are the exploitation and suffering of the poor and the marginalized. Particularly, for the poor farmers, on the face of agrarian crisis and complete apathy from the government, there are but two options-first is to commit suicide or second to leave farming and join the ranks of unorganized migrant workers. The closing credits in the film reminds us that 8 million farmers have left farming in India between 1991 and 2001. As a dialogue in the film says, “Natha marega, lekin Natha zinda rahega”. Truly, Natha the farmer dies, while Natha the migrant unorganized worker survives.
Courtesy: Dr. D.Mukherjee


Courtesy: Dr.D.Mukherjee


Courtesy: Dr.D.Mukherjee


Courtesy: Dr. D.Mukherjee


Courtesy: Dr. D.Mukherjee

DANGEROUS REPEAT OF HISTORY - Prabir Purkayastha, Newsclick

History is repeating itself in West Bengal, with Maoists, the Trinamool and the Congress doing what they had done in the late 60's and early 70's. And it will not be history repeating itself, first time as a tragedy, the second time as a farce. This time around, it will be a much bigger tragedy.

The modus is identical to the pattern set 40 years back. Use the ultra-left to attack the left, giving all political cover and implicit state support. The Congress then, and its splinter Trinamool now has combined forces at the ground level. And the game is to physically liquidate the CPI (M) cadre so that what this combine cannot do ideologically, they can try and do physically.

For me personally, it is a sense of complete deja vu. I remember my student days, when we were personally targeted for “liquidation” as “class enemies”. Killing class enemies was supposed to be the “festival” for the Maoists. And anybody that did not share their views and was active in politics, especially in the CPI (M), was a class enemy.

The pattern of killings are exactly what they are now – you could be killed any time any place. People are killed at tea shops, dragged out of their houses and “executed”, with their bodies left on the road. Local activists, area level leaders, party sympathisers, it did not matter then and it does not matter now. They “target”, track and kill, preferably under cover of darkness and while the “target is alone. Specifically choose soft targets – they are easier to kill. With this terror, the Maoists hope that the bulk of CPI (M) supporters will leave the area, making this CPI (M) free.

How can people who claim that they are making the revolution, target individual activists for assassination? This can be done only if you first de-humanise your opponents. So all CPI (M) activists are “agents” by definition. After that, joining hands with Trinamool or Congress to fight the CPI (M) is simple. Old slogans of enemies' enemy can then be pulled out for this purpose. But all this requires forgetting the fundamental tenets of marxism, which opposes individual terrorism and calls for mass action and mass politics. This mindless glorification of violence – individual and anonymous violence, this killing of CPI (M) activists and others, is what it always been – a hall mark of lumpen politics.

What Mamata Bannerjee has done through her rally in Lalgarh is to cloak this politics of individual assassination with central protection. The areas where the Maoists had been beaten back by the people, saw the police escorting the leaders and the supporters of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) into the rally. The hope was that through this, they would “recapture” these areas and drive the CPI (M) out. The rally was ostensibly called by “apolitical” forum called Santras Birodhi Mancha (Anti-Atrocities Platform), which allowed Mamta and Trinamool to claim that they were not in league with the Maoists. Unfortunately for them, the Maoist and PCPA banners far outnumbered the Trinamool flags, making clear that this was a rally of the Maoists held under the protection of Trinamool and therefore the UPA Government.

The UPA Government is quite happy to condemn Maoists for their violence and run with Mamata and her politics of murder. Mr. Chidambaram had informed the Rajya Sabha that the inquiry by the CBI into the Jnaneswari Express derailment killing more than 150, had revealed that the railway track was damaged by the PCPA, the frontal organisation of the Maoists and the main support for Lalgarh rally. It is symbolic of the Mamata brand of poltics that she can be the Rail Minister and yet consort with those who derail trains. Manoj Mahato and Asit Mahato – both wanted for the derailment of Jnaneswari Express, were openly mobilising for Mamata's so-called “apolitical” rally. And if there was any doubt left of the meaning of the rally, it became quite clear from the speeches – it was a meeting geared for next year's elections. The call from the podium was defeat the CPI (M) –from Medha Patkar to Mamata.

Medha Patkar and Agnivesh are of course “apolitical”. We have to grant that they are truly apolitical and do not know what it means to be “apolitical” and simultaneously ask for the ouster of the CPI (M) in Bengal. More than 250 CPI (M) cadre have been killed in the last 6 months alone. If there are any doubts where this section of “civil” society is going, it has become crystal clear now. They will be with fascist forces in Bengal in the coming period. They and the human rights “intellectuals” from Kolkata are clear – any method to get rid of the CPI (M) in Bengal is OK: human rights obviously do not apply to the CPI (M) cadre.

The violence of Naxalites combined with murderous gangs of the Congress was the hall-mark of the early 70's. The Congress used the state machinery and its lumpen cadre after the Naxalites first did their job. This was in clearing large parts of urban areas of CPI (M)'s cadre. Individual killings led to people vacating different areas to seek shelter somewhere else. Getting people to leave their homes under threat of liquidation was the first step. Once this was done, the Congress stepped in with its lumpen cadre drawn largely from the underworld. This was the Youth Congress and the Chatra Parishad – the youth and student wing of the Congress. Lest we forget, Mamata Bannerjee was a youth leader then and very much a part of these murderous attacks. The Naxalite groups were liquidated by the Congress, once their utility was over. This was the period of semi-fascist terror , which ended with the Congress finally being thrown out of the centre and Bengal, post-emergency.

It is important to note how the CPI (M) handled the post-emergency scenario. There were no reprisals. All police cases, even those including the murders of CPI (M) cadre were also dropped as a part of a general amnesty. This was well before South Africa's experiment with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Effectively, the CPI (M) carried out what it felt was needed – to break the cycle of violence by not using state power even to prosecute those who had killed its cadre.

What is the game plan of Mamata and the Congress? Mamata's game plan is clear and has been so for quite some time. She stands for physical liquidation of the CPI (M) and allying with any force who agrees to this game plan. Not surprising that the Maoists and Mamata/Trinamool are on the same side. They have the same objective and the same methods. Except one is openly fascist, the other calls itself “revolutionary”.

Why is a section of the civil society so happy to go along with these forces? Here again, there are different reasons for different people. For some, they would like to be identified with the “polemic” of revolution. If the current model of development is leaving the major sections of the people out, the middle class expresses its own alienation through calls for revolution. Others have always been wary of the organised left – for them joining hands with the Left during BJP rule -- was very much against their grain. Currently, their deep anti-CPI (M) antipathy is ruling their political direction. Co-existing with Trinamool, giving her a “radical” cover, all of it hide their real feelings – deep hatred of the CPI (M).

The Congress is playing the most devious game in Bengal. Their agenda is to use Trinamool and the Maoists to physically eliminate the CPI (M) from large parts of Bengal. Once this happens, they calculate Mamata will self-destruct within a short-time. It is then that the Congress will enter and pick up the pieces in Bengal.

The problem in all this is to believe that West Bengal is an island unto itself and all this will not have any impact in the rest of the country. That we can have a Railway Minister who is hand in gloves with forces who kill innocent people and derail trains. That we can have semi fascist forces in collusion with Maoists who do not recognise the writ of the state. Who have attacked all development activities in areas they control while levying “taxes” on the illegal mining Mafia, for example in Jahrakhand and Chattisgarh. That this will not spill over to other areas under the patronage of the Trinamool and the UPA Government. All this is gambling with the future of our country.

For Mamata, the issue is clear, she wants to rule in Bengal, even if for a short duration. Her limited aim is to liquidate CPI (M), she could not care less for its implications for the larger polity. It is the Congress, which claims to have a larger and longer term agenda which will have to answer for what happens to the country and the people in West Bengal.

Those who believe that CPI (M) can be liquidated in Bengal are living in a fool's paradise. The Semi-fascist terror of the 70's did not finish the CPI (M), nor will their progenies today. Politics of assassination and individual violence has a limited shelf life. Let us see how long this combine lasts. Meanwhile let us hope that they will not do irreparable damage to the country.

Courtesy: Dr. D.Mukherjee

Friday, August 13, 2010


In her eagerness to mobilise every dissenting section and use every available weapon against the Left Front government in West Bengal, Trinamool Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee is playing a dangerous game fraught with major, long-term implications for the internal security of the country. First, Monday's rally in Lalgarh was a joint Trinamool-Maoist enterprise, with the latter dominant in the mobilisation. Ms Banerjee not only called for the resumption of negotiations with the Maoists, but also pressed for withdrawal of security operations in the Jangalmahal region (though this time she set a condition: the extremists should declare a ceasefire). This is in direct opposition to the stance of the central government, which is struggling to meet the Maoist armed threat in West Bengal and other parts of the country. Although the Railways under her charge have been repeatedly targeted by the Maoists, the Trinamool chief spoke up for the Maoist front, the ‘People's Committee Against Police Atrocities,' whose members are known to take the law into their own hands. Ms Banerjee also managed to enlist the support of ‘social activists' Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar in this politically loaded endeavour. Both extended vocal support to the Trinamool Congress and the Maoists in the name of protecting the rights of Adivasis — speciously asking the ultra-left outfit to abjure violence and take to the democratic path. In such a situation, arms-wielding Maoists have seamlessly merged with Trinamool cadre in West Bengal, posing a serious threat to public order in the region.

Political India knows Ms Banerjee to be a law unto herself, and her politics to be irresponsible. But this cannot be a rationalisation for the United Progressive Alliance government to allow one of its important constituents and a senior Minister to publicly support, and collaborate on the ground with, armed extremism that does not have any compunction in unleashing terror against political opponents as well as civilians. The Congress, which heads the UPA, is itself mired in contradictions on this vital issue. Although Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Naxalites as the “greatest internal security threat to our country,” his party extended moral support to the rally. Not surprisingly, the issue has rocked Parliament with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties questioning the commitment of the government in tackling the Maoist violence when one of its constituents is deeply enmeshed with Naxalite groups. With Assembly elections in West Bengal due in less than a year, political opportunism has given short shrift to internal security considerations. There will be a huge price to pay if the central government continues to look the other way as Ms Banerjee pursues her akratic course for power at any cost.

Thursday, August 12, 2010



Rejecting Trinamool Congress' claim of a conspiracy to target its leader, Ms Mamata Banerjee, after an accident involving a truck and a car in her convoy, the CPI (M) on Thursday said it was ready for a probe by any agency into the incident. "We have heard this so often. If her health is in jeopardy, we wish her well. But don't use it as a political excuse. She uses such excuses to get out of tight situations," CPM leader, Mr Sitaram Yechuri, told reporters outside Parliament House. He was asked to comment on Trinamool Congress' demand for a probe into the accident in Kolkata two days ago after which Ms Banerjee had been advised rest due to "breathing problems".

"There have been attempts earlier to kill her. She can be eliminated bodily from politics," party leader, Mr Sudip Bandopadhyay, said during Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha. Asked about the demand for an enquiry, the Left leader said, "yes, we also want an enquiry. Let there be a probe. We do not have any problems as to who conducts the enquiry — CBI or any other agencies". Raising doubts about whether the TC would demand a CBI enquiry, Mr Yechury said Ms Banerjee and her party had sought a CBI probe into the Jnaneswari Express accident and "the CBI pointed to the PCPA. Now they are not demanding a CBI probe". The CPI (M) has been accusing the Trinamool of having links with Maoists-backed People's Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA). To a question about Banerjee alleging that the CPI (M) has created suicide squad to eliminate her, he said, "we have been hearing these things for two decades. If we are spreading violence, how come our people are being killed on a daily basis in Bengal? "250 of CPI (M) supporters have been killed," he claimed, adding most of them were landless labourers or tribals and "the Maoists claim to be supporting these sections of society


New Delhi/ Kolkata, Aug. 10: The Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mr Arun Jaitley, said that the PM on several occasions has called the Maoists the single largest threat to internal peace. “He is the Leader of the House and no member can disagree with him,” he said referring to Ms Banerjee’s reported expression of grief over Maoist leader Azad’s killing.

Mr Jaitley added, “A minister is saying that the killing of Azad was staged. Only the PM can clear the air on the issue.” He added, “The principle of collective responsibility has been breached.”

He also alleged the involvement of several top Maoist leaders in the Lalgarh rally. “The underground Maoist leader Kishenji says people must go and participate. Manoj Mahto, an underground leader, was there carrying the flag of a political party,” Mr Jaitley said, adding: “The top police officer there says Ashish Mahto, who is responsible for the attack on the Gyaneshwari Express, was also there.”

In the LS, Leader of the House, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, was finally forced to intervene in the din being created by Trinamul MPs as the BJP’s deputy leader of the House, Mr Gopinath Munde, lashed out at Ms Banerjee for hobnobbing with the Maoists.

He said, “We will ascertain the position from the minister. I can’t say anything beyond that.”


Mamata Banerjee's controversial rally at Lalgarh again figured in the Rajya Sabha today with a BJP member asking home minister P Chidambaram if it was proper to give publicity to Maoists.

"Whether is it right to give publicity to Maoists or their ideology, as recently done by a cabinet minister," BJP member Ramdas Agarwal asked during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha.

Though his party colleagues welcomed the poser, Chidambaram said, "The question has been framed in a general manner, therefore I would generally like to say that no one should support Maoists and the government will not encourage anybody who does so."

Agarwal urged chairman Hamid Ansari to allow a half-an-hour discussion on the matter.

Banerjee's rally at Lalgarh on Monday had rocked Parliament yesterday with an aggressive BJP and the Left joining hands to target the Trinamool Congress and seeking to embarrass the Centre over the railway minister's alleged hobnobbing with Maoists.


New Delhi, Aug 10: Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee's rally at Lalgarh in West Bengal rocked Parliament today when an aggressive BJP forced an adjournment of Rajya Sabha where they later also staged a walk-out demanding statement by Prime Minister on the Railway Minister's alleged hobnobbing with Maoists.

Heated exchanges between members of the ruling Congress and Opposition BJP over Mamata Banerjee describing the killing of Maoist leader Cherukuri Rajkumar 'Azad' by
security forces in an encounter as ''murder'' led to adjournment of the Upper House for an hour till 1200 hours, washing out the question hour.In Lok Sabha, BJP Deputy Leader Gopinath Munde asked why the Prime Minister is silent on Didi's remarks at the Lalgarh rally. He asked if the Centre will continue operations against Maoists after the Railway Minister's statement questioning the encounter death of Azad and dubbing it as murder. ''Will the Centre conduct a CBI probe into the death which has been questioned,'' asked Mr Munde. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in Lok Sabha that the government would ascertain the position from the Railway Minister before saying anything. The correct position about the remarks made by her at the rally would only be known after speaking to her, he told Lok Sabha.In Rajya Sabha, BJP staged a walk-out not satisfied with the reply given by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan who said the government would collect and ascertain facts accurately and get back to the House. Demanding that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must give a reply on the serious issue, slogan-shouting saffron members walked out when their demand was not met.Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley led the attack on the government saying "what we find today is that the principle of collective responsibility is being breached and there is a disagreement on the policy of the government" towards Maoists. He said the Prime Minister on several occasions has described Naxalism as the biggest threat to the unity and integrity of the country but the Railway Minister by attending the rally organised by a front organisation of Maoists has breached the concept of collective responsibility of the Union Cabinet.Stating that it indicated that there was disagreement within the Government over its anti-Naxal policy, Mr Jaitley wanted the government to explain its position on the issue. Pointing out that the Prime Minister has remained silent on a number of issues like Kashmir, Commonwealth Games, he said that instead of using silence as a weapon of convenience, Dr Singh must break this silence of conspiracy and explain the government policy on the Minister attending Maoists rally.Refuting Trinamool Congress claim that the rally was not organised by Maoists, he said that the organisers were the People's Committee for action against police atrocities which is a front organisation of the banned CPI(Maoists). Underground leader Kishenji had given a call to the people to be present in the rally to make it successful, while Maoists spokesman Manoj Mahto who is wanted by the police and Ashish Mahto who was involved in the Gyaneshwari train accident were present in the rally, according to Police Superintendent of Lalgarh.Moreover, the Railway Minister claimed at the rally that the Azad was not killed in police encounter but was murdered. This stand of the Minister was contrary to the stand of the Union Home Ministry and the Andhra Pradesh government which said that it was an encounter. This was a clear violation of the collective responsibility.Defending his party chief, Trinamool leader in Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhyay said Ms Banerjee took the message of peace and harmony to the rally and added that she was "totally opposed to violence and killings." "All political parties including the government should extend support to Banerjee so that the Maoist problem can be solved. She has given a new line which can resolve the Naxal problem," he said. He justified the Railway Minister's visit to the Maoist-affected Lalgarh, saying Home Minister P Chidambaram too had visited the place last month. Pointing out that since Ms Banerjee's statement on Azad encounter was at variance with the statement of Mr Chidambaram, Mr Munde, in Lok Sabha, demanded that either the Prime Minister or Leader of Lok Sabha clarify government's position on the encounter.This agitated the Trinamool members who rushed to well of the House but returned to their seats when asked by Speaker Meira Kumar. Mr Bandyopadhayay said Ms Banerjee had taken a new initiative by asking the Maoists to abjure violence to bring peace and tranquility to the Lalgarh area. He said she was in a position to bring about peace to the area and thus the entire House and the government need to support her move. He said while Mr Chidambaram had visited Lalgarh to make an assessment of the situation, Ms Banerjee addressed the Lalgarh meeting as president of the party that stands for development, peace and harmony. Mr P Gopal Chowdhury of CPI(M), without naming Mamata Banerjee, said a Central Minister addressed a rally, which was regrettable. In Rajya Sabha, Trinamool leader and Minister of State for Health Dinesh Trivedi vehemently protested Mr Jaitley's remarks and said the rally was not organised by the Maoists. CPI(M) member Prashant Chatterjee and CPI leader D Raja also demanded a statement from the Prime Minister but they did not join the BJP's walk-out.


Two days after Mamata Banerjee’s Lalgarh rally, PCAPA secretary Manoj Mahato has slammed her for “staging a drama” and not taking up the cause of the tribals in the state Assembly and Parliament. The PCAPA leadership is reportedly angry with Mamata for ignoring the members of the organisation and failing to felicitate the relatives of Sidhu Soren and Lalmohan Tudu, founder members of the outfit killed in security operations, at the rally.

“We had a lot of expectations since the meeting was declared ‘apolitical’. We were told that the meeting would be held to establish peace in Junglemahal. But both the meeting and Mamata left us disappointed. She held a political meeting. There were no words of assurance for us. Mamata did not even recognise our movement. It was a ‘drama’ organised by the TMC,” said Mahato.

“More than 80 per cent of the crowd was mobilised by the PCAPA. I spent more than Rs 30,000 for the rally and mobilised people from Kalsibhanga, Dherua, Salboni, Madhupur, Goaltore and Lalgarh. We hired more than 80 buses to ferry people. The villagers marched with our flags. But we did not get any recognition. We were never under any political organisation and we will never tie up with this kind of a political organisation,” he added.



The states of West Bengal and Kerala along with Tripura are the outposts of the Left and democratic movement in the country. Prolonged political struggles and people’s movements in West Bengal and Kerala led by the Communists, going back to the pre-independence period and during India’s struggle for freedom, have laid strong foundations for the growth and consolidation of the Communist-led Left movements in these states.

The strong Communist movements in West Bengal and Kerala along with Andhra Pradesh and others during the course of the freedom movement itself, had brought on to the agenda of the people’s struggle important issues like land reforms, linguistic reorganization of states, reforms against various expressions of social oppression, the defence of the rights of the working class and the people at large including their civil liberties etc.

It was on the strength of such powerful movements that the Communist Party won a majority in the Kerala Assembly elections in 1957. This was the first instance of Communists winning the elections to head a state government in a bourgeois parliamentary system anywhere in the world. The pioneering steps of this government for land reforms; minimum wages and welfare measures for the working people; democratization of the education system; decentralisation of powers etc was naturally not palatable for the ruling classes which led to its dismissal under Article 356 of the Constitution. Again, when the CPI (M)-led front won the elections in 1967, this government was toppled in 1969.

In West Bengal, the strength of powerful popular movements led to the formation of United Front governments in 1967 and 1969. On both occasions, though the CPI (M) was the larger partner of the coalition, CPI (M) had allowed others to head the government in order to maintain and strengthen the United Front. The fillip these governments gave to the democratic movement and to the land struggles was, again, intolerable for the ruling classes, that saw their dismissal under Article 356. The semi-fascist terror unleashed against the Party, with the massive rigging of the 1972 Assembly elections, that lasted till the defeat of Emergency in 1977, was aimed at seeking to decimate the Communist-led popular movements in the state. Over 1,400 comrades were martyred and 22,000 Party families had to be relocated during the successful resistance defeating this semi-fascist terror. Contrary to the hopes and machinations of the ruling classes, the people of West Bengal had not only reposed faith in the CPI(M)-led Left Front in the 1977 elections but continued to repose, in an unprecedented manner not found elsewhere in the country, such faith in the seven consecutive elections that followed till date.

This had been possible because of the unparalleled manner in which the Left Front government tackled the people’s issues. The implementation of land reforms is one of its most important achievements. Nearly 1.3 million acres of illegally held land was acquired and distributed among over 3 million landless and marginal cultivator households. The registration of over 1.5 million bargadars (share croppers) brought 1.1 million acres of land under their control through operation barga. As of 2007, West Bengal whose population is 8 per cent of the country’s, having only 3.5 per cent of our country’s agricultural land, accounted for 22 per cent of the total ceiling surplus land distributed in the country. Contrary to all adverse and hostile propaganda that the CPI (M) is against the peasantry, a further 16,700 acres of land were distributed to landless families between 2007 and 2010. Agricultural productivity and output have made remarkable strides. From a chronic rice deficit state, West Bengal today produces the largest quantity of rice. The Left Front government today supplies rice at Rs. 2 per kilo to 2.64 crore BPL population.

The financial assistance provided by the Left Front government in West Bengal to the workers of closed factories and tea gardens has now been enhanced to Rs. 1,500. Likewise, pension for widows, the disabled, old-age, artisans, handloom weavers, farmers and fishermen have now been increased to Rs. 1,000. 17 lakh unorganized sector workers have enrolled in the Provident Fund Scheme. West Bengal encourages the growth of labour intensive micro, small and medium industries. The state has the country’s largest number of functioning small-scale units (27 lakhs) and largest number of employment (58 lakhs).

In spite of functioning under the limitations of the Constitution, the Left-led state governments in West Bengal and Kerala have taken measures to reduce poverty, create new welfare measures and improve living conditions. Even the World Bank admits that the record of West Bengal in terms of poverty reduction is the best amongst all states in India. The infant mortality rate measured per 1,000 live births in 2006 was 38 in West Bengal and 15 in Kerala which has the best record in the country. The all India rate is 57. As far as life expectancy is concerned, it has improved considerably in West Bengal to 64.5 years for males and 67.2 for females. Kerala has life expectancy of 70.7 for males and 75 for females. The all India average is 61 for males and 62.5 for females. As against the all India average (7.4), the death rate in Kerala is 6.3 and West Bengal is 6.2. West Bengal has a literacy rate of 72 per cent and Kerala 90.09 per cent. The all-India average is 63.4. In West Bengal, nearly 100 per cent of all girls and boys of age six are enrolled in schools. In Kerala, 98 per cent of eligible boys and girls are in class X, indicating nil or very low dropouts. It is noteworthy that such achievements are recorded at a time when, due to the pursuit of neo-liberal policies by the ruling classes, the livelihood conditions of the people have deteriorated in large parts of the country.

The LDF government in Kerala has taken forward its welfare legacy currently having the largest number of welfare schemes amongst all states of India. The pensions to the workers in the unorganized sector have been raised from Rs. 100 to Rs. 300. The women workers of the unorganised sector are being offered one month’s pre-maternity leave. Half the population of the state are being covered by Rs. 2 per kg rice scheme and free health insurance, including for chronic diseases. Besides the PDS, a wide network of fair price shops are set-up where the prices of 13 essential commodities have been maintained at the same level for the last four years. When the half a million houses proposed under the EMS housing scheme are completed, there would be no family in Kerala without a house. In stark contrast to the Central government’s privatization offensive, the rehabilitation of the sick Public Sector Units has resulted in reversal of annual loss of Rs. 96 crores in 2005-06 to annual profit of 240 crores of rupees in 2009-10. This surplus is being reinvested in the expansion of the existing public sector and the establishment of eight new ones. In the agriculture sector the measures adopted by the state government has been successful in putting an end to the suicides of farmers.

Another major initiative taken by the Left-led governments in both the states has been on the question of decentralization of power and deepening of democracy to the grassroots through the establishment and efficient functioning of democratic institutions of local self governments. The three tier system of democratically elected bodies established by the Left Front in West Bengal has achieved successes in a manner that is unprecedented elsewhere in the country. It was a full seventeen years after this initiative by the Left Front in West Bengal that the panchayati raj system was adopted for the country through the 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments. The system of decentralization in Kerala initiated by the 1957 government was further developed into the People’s Plan that delivered far-reaching benefits to the people. Both West Bengal and Kerala are in the process of implementing 50 per cent reservation for women. Both the governments of West Bengal and Kerala have extended the central scheme of Rural Employment Guarantee to the urban poor while the Central government refuses to do so.

The hallmark of the Left-led democratic movements and the governments in both West Bengal and Kerala have been their steadfast defence of secularism and communal harmony. It is often perceived that the protection of the interests of the minorities is the litmus test of democracy which, otherwise, is de facto majority rule. The Left Front government in West Bengal has recently decided to implement the recommendations of the Ranganath Mishra Commission Report to grant 10 per cent reservations in jobs for Muslims belonging to OBCs.

The Left-led governments in West Bengal and Kerala backed by the powerful Communist-led popular movements have been in the forefront of championing the rights of the people and their livelihood standards from being gravely eroded by the pursuit of neo-liberal economic policies by the Central government. The consistent anti-imperialist positions and the interests of the Indian people and the country taken by the CPI(M) continues to expose the Indian ruling classes who seek a strategic partnership with imperialism. Further, the pro-people measures undertaken by the Left-led governments, as listed above, also expose the exploitative character of the Indian ruling classes by demonstrating that even within the existing system, greater relief can be provided to the people. For a combination of all these factors, the Indian ruling classes have mounted a concerted offensive against the CPI (M), in its strongest bastions, in order to weaken the resistance to their unbridled loot through the neo-liberal economic trajectory.

In West Bengal, an alliance of all reactionary forces led by the Trinamul Congress is sought to be forged to defeat the Left Front in the coming Assembly elections in May 2011. All rightwing forces, including the communal and fundamentalist elements, foreign funded NGOs and corporate media have joined the Maoist-backed TMC in this effort. Since the 15th Lok Sabha election, 247 members of the CPI (M) and eight members of other Left parties have been killed by the TMC-Maoist gangs. The Maoists primarily target the poorest of the poor amongst the peasantry and the tribals. Yet, sections of so-called intelligentsia continue to express sympathy. The unleashing of such large-scale violence, killings and arson by this reactionary combination is to seek the defeat of the Left Front through the most anti-democratic fascistic methods. The success of these forces seeks to completely negate the advances made by the democratic movement that we have noted above and pave the way for the restoration of the earlier forms of exploitative order. Already there are reports of former landlords attempting, in some areas, to recapture their formerly illegally held land that was acquired and distributed to the landless. In the name of `change’, what is being offered is patently anti-democratic and anti-development. Communalism that has been kept at bay by the Left movement will be enabled to stage a come back harming the interests of the minorities. The TMC had, on earlier occasions, openly aligned and shared power with BJP at the Centre.

In Kerala, the Congress-led UDF is trying to consolidate all the communal and caste forces around it. Sections of the Church are openly interfering in political affairs by conducting an anti-Communist campaign. Muslim and Hindu extremist forces are bracing themselves to disturb communal harmony in order to create political polarization. The campaigns launched by the CPI(M) and the LDF against such activities are being met by a vilification campaign launched by a section of the media. Despite the nefarious activities of the extremists and communal forces, the state continues to maintain its excellent record of communal harmony.
These reactionary offensives against the CPI (M) and the powerful Left and democratic movements in West Bengal and Kerala will have to be met squarely in order to defend the rights of the people and to improve their livelihood. There have been occasions in the past when semi-fascist terror was unleashed against the CPI (M) in West Bengal. That challenge was met and won. In the following seven consecutive elections, no effort was spared by the reactionary forces to defeat the Left Front. The present challenge will also be met like the earlier ones have been. The Left Front is determined to reforge links with the people who have moved away due to certain shortcomings that have been identified and are in the process of being corrected.

The CPI (M) as a whole, across the country, will redouble its efforts to fight back this concerted anti-Communist and anti-Left offensive. Today the Indian people need deliverance from the groaning burdens being mounted by the neo-liberal economic policies. The Indian people today need to strengthen our secular democratic foundations to ensure that the energies of our country are not wasted in communal and fratricidal conflicts. The Indian people require an alternative policy trajectory that can allow India to realize its potential which it is being denied by neo-liberalism and communalism. All efforts of spreading violence and anarchy against the Left movement like the Maoists are today indulging in, essentially only strengthens the reactionary forces in their efforts to prevent the Indian people from being liberated from their growing miseries.

The assembly elections in May 2011 in West Bengal and Kerala will be a major battle between the forces representing the interests of the working people, social justice, secularism and our country’s sovereignty and the forces which are representing the interest of the big capitalists, landlords, the rich and the vested interests that seek a strategic alliance with imperialism and who use communalism, ultra-Left anarchy and divisive politics to achieve their objectives.

The CPI (M) calls upon all progressive sections of the people to join this battle and ensure the success of the Left Front in West Bengal and the LDF in Kerala and, thus, advance further the efforts to create a better India for its people.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


3 August 2010

A delegation of Left parties MPs met the Chief Election Commissioner and submitted the following memorandum today. The delegation consisted of Sitaram Yechury (leader, CPI(M) in Rajya Sabha), Basudev Acharia (leader, CPI(M), Lok Sabha) Prabodh Panda (Communist Party of India), Narahari Mahato (All India Forward Bloc) and Prasanta Majumdar (Revolutionary Socialist Party).

Dear Sir,

Sub - Ongoing illegal inclusion of Photo Identity Cards in West Bengal through illegal affidavits

This is to inform you that on behalf of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), a delegation met Chief Electoral Officer, West Bengal on July 10, 2010. They drew his attention regarding the illegal inclusion of fictitious names in voter's lists.

Because of the delay and large-scale mistakes in printing photo identity cards, some interested quarters are flouting the Election Commission's rules illegally by attaching affidavit in Form 6 for the inclusion of fictitious names in voter's lists. The CPI (M) delegation had also submitted some copies of affidavits. The Chief Electoral Officer assured the delegation that BLO cannot accept those affidavits and will be prevented from enlisting fictitious names in the voters' lists. The delegation also informed him that some BLOs are accepting forms in large-scale violation of rules of Election Commission.

The CPI (M) delegation drew the attention of the CEO about the difficulties being faced by the people in hill areas of Darjeeling, flood-affected areas in North Bengal, areas under river-banks erosion, terror affected areas of West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura districts and the people who have been evicted from their houses in East Midnapur, Khajuri, Nandigram, Moogbaria and other areas and urged upon him to ensure their names are enrolled in the voter's lists.

The CEO is fully aware of these issues and assured the delegation that necessary instructions will be sent and steps would be urgently taken. But there was no instruction given from the Chief Electoral Officer with regard to affidavits. In the meantime, thousands of fictitious and illegal affidavits are being prepared and people from outside are being forcibly deposited in the office of electoral officers who are unfortunately resorting to mass-scale acceptance of those illegal affidavits.

We, therefore, urge upon you to cancel those illegal affidavits and take steps against the electoral officials who accepted those affidavits and initiate legal action against the parties who are resorting to such fraudulent inclusion of fictitious voters directly or indirectly. Necessary steps need to be taken against such activities in the legal proceedings, so that no names could be included without proper enquiries at the time of hearings.

Sitaram Yechury (Leader, CPI (M), Rajya Sabha)
Basudev Acharia (Leader, CPI (M), Lok Sabha
Prabodh Panda (CPI)
Narahari Mahato (AIFB)
Prasanta Majumdar (RSP)


Shantimoy Bhattacharjee

The extended meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) pays homage to the memory of Comrade Shantimoy Bhattacharjee, member of the West Bengal State Committee of the Party and Secretary of its South Parganas district Committee.

Comrade Bhattacharjee joined the undivided Communist Party in 1951. Later on, he joined the CPI (M) when it was formed in 1964. He became a member of the undivided 24 Parganas district in 1972. When the district was divided into North and South, he became a member of the South Parganas District Committee in 1986. He became secretary of the District Committee and a member of the West Bengal State committee in 2002, positions he held till his death.

A dedicated and committed communist, Shantimoy Bhattacharjee led a very simple life. He was jailed several times and remained underground for a long period.

This extended meeting of the Central Committee pays tributes to his memory.


This Extended Meeting of Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) salutes the 255 martyrs who have been killed by the anti-Left forces in various parts of West Bengal since the last Lok Sabha elections. They have fallen victim to the depredations of the Maoists, the Trinamul Congress and the Congress party.

This extended meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) salutes the memory of the martyrs from all over the country who have laid down their life in defence of the cause of the Party and the working class movement.

These brave martyrs laid down their lives holding high the red banner of the Party and its cause. This Extended Meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) dips its red banner in salute to these martyrs. The Extended Meeting of the Central Committee is confident that the ultimate sacrifice of these comrades will not go in vain.


We have gathered here in the city of Vijayawada for the extended meeting of the Central Committee of Communist Party of India (Marxist). Vijayawada has a special place in the history of the Communist movement of our country. The city has hosted two Party Congresses – the 6th Congress in 1961 which was the last Party Congress of the united party and the 11th Congress of the CPI (M) in 1982.

These were in recognition of the city and the region, which became a centre of the Communist movement which had its origin in the late 1930s. Vijayawada was the focal centre of an area which covered the old Krishna, Guntur and Nellore districts of the Madras province which saw the birth of the Communist movement in Andhra Pradesh. Various struggles against zamindari landlordism took place here in the 1936-38 period such as the struggles against the Challapalli, Munagala and Kalipatnam zamindars. `Bezwada’, as Vijayawada was known in the pre-independence days, was also saw the fledgling working class movement with railway workers, press workers and others forming trade unions. The earliest agricultural workers organizations were also formed in this region. P. Sundarayya set-up the first Agricultural Workers Association in 1934 in Alaganipadu village in Nellore district.

During the Telangana struggle and the repression launched on the Communist Party in the 1948-50 period, scores of Communist leaders and cadres were shot down by the police in this region. Some of the topmost national leaders of the Communist movement and the CPI (M) hailed from this region – P. Sundarayya, M. Basavapunnaiah, C. Rajeswara Rao, N. Prasada Rao, M. Hanumantha Rao, L. B. Gangadhara Rao, Koratala Satyanarayana and many others.

The Central Committee of the CPI(M) has convened this extended meeting to take stock of the political situation in the country and to chalk out a political line which can help us to tackle the current situation and meet the various challenges that we are facing.

Ever rising prices of food and essential commodities burden the people; millions of people go hungry everyday. The inequalities in income and wealth grow sharper and India has the dubious distinction of having some of richest people in the world along with a substantial number of the poorest people in the world.

The Congress-led UPA government boasts about the high growth rate achieved. The GDP growth rate is taken as the reliable index of progress and development for the people. But this is not true. What the neo-liberal policies have led to is the primitive accumulation of capital, the enormous growth of the capital and assets in the hands of a narrow strata. The number of dollar billionaires in India has grown from 9 in 2004 to 49 this year. There has been growth, certainly – for the super-rich.

The government’s policies are designed to help big business make super profits and to enable the transfer of resources to the rich and powerful. The fiscal and taxation policies of the Congress-led government illustrate this fact starkly.

The UPA-II government in the past one and a quarter years since coming to office is pushing for more neo-liberal policies. The government wants to disinvest shares in all profitable public sector units. Earlier, the Left parties had ensured that shares would not be sold of the `navaratna’ companies. Now everything is up for sale.

Agriculture, which employs half the workforce in the country, is in crisis. Agriculture grew by only 0.2 per cent in 2009-10. Foodgrains’ production fell by 7.5 per cent the same year. Suicides by farmers have not abated. Land reforms are being reversed. In agriculture, corporatisation is being promoted alongside the withdrawal of State support for the peasantry.

The government proposes to bring in multinational companies into retail trade. The government seeks to push through legislation to FDI in banking and insurance sectors. The working class is under increased attack with labour laws not being implemented and more and more sections being pushed into contract, casual work and into jobs in the informal sector.

The agenda for all these anti-people policies is being propelled by the Indo-US CEO Forum. What the chieftains of big business in US and India proposes, the Manmohan Singh government accepts and implements.

How the government policy is injurious for the people’s interests is glaringly illustrated by the relentless price rise of food and other essential commodities. Government policies are directly responsible for the ever-rising prices. Repeated increases in the prices of petroleum products is one major reason. Forward trading in foodgrains and other essential commodities is another major factor. The government has weakened and curtailed the Public Distribution System through a targeted system which excludes much of the poor. Yet, the government callously and arrogantly refuses to take responsibility.

The Congress leadership and the government speak hypocritically about “inclusive growth” when the policies they pursue are designed to exclude the vast majority of the people from access to food, education, jobs and social security. India presents the shameful spectatcle of having the world’s largest number of hungry and malnutritioned people. The FCI godowns have 60 million tonnes of foodgrains. Stocks are overflowing and allowed to rot. This government no more talks about provision of 6 per cent of the GDP for education and 3 per cent for health. This goal cited in the erstwhile Common Minimum Programme seems more distant than ever.

The forces of majority communalism work on the basis of the Hindutva ideology and outlook which is injurious for the country and people’s unity. The BJP-run state governments – whether it be in Gujarat, Karnataka or Madhya Pradesh – are targeting the minorities, both Muslims and Christians, and seek to deprive them of their rights as citizens. The recent exposures of how the police and State machinery in Gujarat have been used to cover-up the pogroms and stage encounter killings are a chilling reminder of what is in store for the country if such forces come to power.

We are meeting at a time when some parts of the country are in great turmoil. For the past two months, the Kashmir valley has been convulsed by protests and violence. Distressingly, scores of young men and women have died due to police firing and actions. This has brought out the intensity of alienation among the young people against the Indian State in the valley. There has to be a stop to this endless cycle of confrontations and killings. The Central government has to immediately initiate the process of dialogue with all sections in the valley. A solution can be found only if there is recognition that the problem of Kashmir cannot be resolved through conventional means. The people of Kashmir have to be assured that their identity and special status is expressed through a new political framework in which maximum autonomy is the bedrock.

At the other end of the country, in the North East, we have seen the ill-effects of the continuous blockade of the highways to Manipur. Even now essential drugs and commodities are not available for the people who are suffering great hardships. The problems of national unity cannot be solved by the overcentralised approach of the ruling class parties. What is required is the creation of a federal system which accommodates the diverse aspirations of the people of the various regions and nationalities.

The neo-liberal policies are not only affecting the economic sphere. This is an outlook and philosophy which worships the market and promotes greed and rapacity. Every institution of the State and every pore of our society is getting polluted and corrupted. The nexus between big business and politics is now out in the open. Public policy making is suborned to serve the interests of a rich and powerful strata. The mining mafia of the Bellary brothers dictates politics in the BJP-ruled Karnataka and also commands influence in the politics of our host state, Andhra Pradesh. Whether it is the IPL or the telecom scam, there is no line demarcating public policy and personal enrichment. Corruption, through the siphoning off of the public funds, preys on the common people who find their rations and other entitlements vanishing into the pockets of a corrupt and greedy nexus of bureaucrats-politicians-contractors. The corporate media has become the cheer leader for neo-liberal policies.

Such an atmosphere has begun to corrode the parliamentary democratic system itself. The people’s right to assemble, to organize and to protest is being severely restricted by administrative and judicial actions. Trade unions are not allowed to function in Special Economic Zones and many other enterprises; peasants face police repression if they protests against the lands being taken away; and student unions and organizations are banned in many educational institutions.

This is the path the ruling classes have adopted which is in alignment with their alliance with the United States of America. For the Manmohan Singh government (and earlier, the BJP-led government too), there are two essential friends for India – the USA and Israel. There are no second thoughts on compromising national sovereignty and even the lives and safety of the people in order to fructify this alliance. As part of the commitment made in the Indo-US nuclear deal, the government has brought a legislation in Parliament which embodies this subservience. After the worst industrial accident in the history of the world in Bhopal, in which the victims got no justice and the perpetrator of the crime – the American multinational – was let off, the government now proposes a law which will make any American company which supplies nuclear reactors to India not liable for even one rupee if there is a nuclear accident.

The firm stand adopted by the CPI(M) and its consistent opposition to the neo-liberal policies and the strategic tie-up with US imperialism have drawn the ire of the ruling classes and imperialism. That attack is concentrated on the CPI(M) and the Left Front government of West Bengal. For the rightwing forces, for those who draw their sustenance from imperialism and for the corporate media, the bloody violence against the CPI(M) and the Left Front in West Bengal is of no concern. More than 250 members and the supporters of the CPI(M) have been killed by the TMC-Maoist gangs. The TMC is part of the Central government. Such violence and attacks on democratic rights in West Bengal presage an authoritarian trend which bodes ill for the whole country.

The Maoists have exposed their vicious and anti-democratic character through their murderous spree targeting the CPI(M). They do not stop at this but attack innocent people, as seen in the dastardly Gnaneswari Express sabotage. Such actions should dispel the illusion some sections of the intelligentsia have about the Maoists.

The three Left-led governments of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura have always striven to put in place pro-people policies. It is these three governments which have implemented land reform to the maximum in the country. It is these three governments which have sought to expand the areas of relief and welfare for the unemployed and the poor. All three governments have introduced urban employment guarantee schemes within the constraints of resources. It is these three governments which have adhered firmly to the secular principle and given no quarter to the communal forces. The defence of the Left-led governments is an important task for all the Left and democratic forces in the country.

In the last Lok Sabha elections, the CPI(M) suffered reverses in both West Bengal and Kerala. Our Party has carefully looked into why this has happened and identified the steps to be taken to remedy the situation. We should do our utmost so that the people of West Bengal and Kerala renew their faith in the Party and the Left-led alliances there.

In the present dismal scene in the country, only the CPI(M) and the Left present a real alternative – an alternative in terms of the path of development and in terms of policies.

On the economic front, the first and foremost task is to tackle the agrarian crisis. Instead of moving towards corporatisation of agriculture, the farmers are to be assured of inputs at reasonable prices, so that agriculture can be sustainable. The goal of ensuring food security requires that farmers be given sufficient incentives to produce more.

There has to be a universal Public Distribution System with adequate procurement to ensure that hunger and malnutrition are eliminated. The public sector should play a key role in the strategic sectors of the economy including the financial sector. Labour intensive industries should be encouraged, so that more employment is created.

Speculative capital flows must be regulated and profits from such foreign institutional investment taxed. Steps should be taken to recover the illegal money kept in tax havens and secret bank accounts. The corporates and the affluent should pay more taxes.

It is with the increased tax revenues that there can be increased public expenditure on education, health and social welfare.

The Left stands for firm adherence to secularism. This requires that the governments, both at the Central and state level, make no concessions to the communal forces. Terrorist violence emanating from whichever source should be put down firmly.

The Left stands for an end to caste and gender oppression. At present, the priority should be for the passing of the Bill for women’s reservation in the Lok Sabha; the implementation of the Ranganath Mishra Commission report for reservation for the minorities in education and jobs and stringent steps to end all forms of caste discrimination particularly untouchability. The rights of the tribal people over their own lands must be ensured by the implementation of the Forest Rights Act and protection of their rights by stopping large-scale, indiscriminate and illegal mining. The scourge of corruption in public life and in State institutions must be tackled by starting at the top.

India, as a major developing country, has to play an important role in countering hegemonic designs and promoting multipolarity in the world. This would be possible only if there is a genuinely independent foreign policy. India should not have military alliances with powers which are responsible for aggression and occupation around the world. On global warming and the steps to protect the world environment, India has to take a firm stand to ensure that the advanced countries discharge their responsibilities to cut emissions and to help the developing countries adopt environmental friendly technologies.

This is the charter for political and social change in India which the CPI(M) and the Left advocates. The extended meeting of the Central Committee being held in Vijayawada will discuss how to carry forward such a programme by strengthening Left unity and widening the support for the Left and democratic alternative.

7 August 2010