People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 24, 2008
Struggles, Pragathi Nagar And CPI(M)
PRAGATHI NAGAR, venue of the 22nd state conference of the CPI(M)'s Andhra unit, symbolises in more than one way what the CPI(M) stands for and what it can achieve for the poor, working people. The people of the village know well what the neo-liberal economic policies entail for the poor. They also know how to resist these policies and they are clear about where the CPI(M) stands in this fight.
The village was established in 1991 in this once barren, hilly area on the outskirts of Hyderabad by the employees of the Allwyn factory, a public sector unit manufacturing refrigerators and other cooling products. This factory became one of the first victim of the new economic policies launched by the P V Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh duo in 1991. The factory was privatised and after a few years closed down, resulting in 10,000 workers of the factory losing jobs. These then workers waged a sustained struggle against the privatisation/closure, under the leadership of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
The CITU union in the factory took initiative in 1991 to establish Pragathi Nagar village for the struggling employees of Allwyn factory, with the intention of at least securing a house for the workers facing bleak future. Rupees One hundred and ten (Rs 110) was paid per square yard and, till 1994, the works of laying roads, electrification, drainage system was undertaken - again under the leadership of the union. The workers, who became jobless, carried on living by taking up either other jobs or starting some petty business etc. The house was a source of strength and security for them.
When this became a gram panchayat in 1997, the CPI(M) candidates won the post of sarpanch as also of ward members. Utilising this opportunity, the CPI(M)-run gram panchayat launched massive development works in the village. Cement roads were laid extensively, maximum greenery coverage was given by planting trees on both sides of the roads, parks were developed, a new office for gram panchayat was constructed, and a community hall. A temple for Hindus, a mosque for Muslims and a church for Christians were constructed by the gram panchayat.
When elections took place again in 2002, the people of the village re-elected CPI(M) candidates. The gram panchayat undertook a second phase of development works in an accelerated manner. The needs of people for participating in games, gymnasium, lawn tennis courts, swimming pool etc were also met. The community feeling is nurtured through holding of annual picnic and mass lunch programme. Use of plastic covers and gutka has been banned in the village. The panchayat refused to give permission for opening of a wine shop in the village. A 147-member gram development committee has been formed and it is consulted on all development activity. The level of development was such that Pragathi Nagar became the first gram panchayat in the country to be awarded ISO 9001-2000 standard. Today, the area is no less developed than any of the big name localities like Jubilee Hills or Kukatpally. And this is reflected in the rates of land, which is around Rs 25,000 - 30,000 per square yard on an average.
When elections were held in 2007, the CPI(M) panel scored an emphatic hat-trick victory in the gram panchayat. Apart from bagging the post of sarpanch and MPTC, eight ward members were unanimously elected while another four won in the elections. This repeated reposing of faith in the CPI(M) by the people of this village is not only based on the long association with the Party and CITU but also the kind of goods delivered by the CPI(M)-run panchayat.
After struggling through the adverse effects of neo-liberal economic policies in their initial phase, the people of Pragathi Nagar are feeling proud to host the CPI(M) state conference which by all accounts would finalise details of more militant struggles against the now full-blown neo-liberal policies. This was put on record by the reception committee's working president and Pragathi Nagar former sarpanch, D Dayakar Reddy, in his welcome address to the conference.