People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 15

April 10, 2005



Maharashtra CM Concedes Several Demands


A MASSIVE 25,000-strong statewide rally on the state assembly in Mumbai, organised by the CPI(M) Maharashtra state committee on April 4, 2005, effectively highlighted the burning issues of the people like food, water, land, employment, housing, education and electricity. With workers, peasants, agricultural labourers, women, youth and students mobilised from 30 districts of the state, it was the largest independent CPI(M) demonstration in recent times.


The rally included a large chunk of adivasis, dalits and unorganised workers. The big and enthusiastic participation of women was a prominent feature. Along with impressive mobilisation from Party strongholds like Nashik and Thane districts, the significant feature of this rally was that all other districts from regions like Vidarbha, Marathwada, Khandesh, Western Maharashtra and Konkan (including Mumbai) were also well represented. All the mass organisations had put in special efforts to ensure the rally's resounding success.


Even the media in Mumbai, which has generally ignored the CPI(M) and its activities, was forced to sharply sit up and take notice, and this time most of it gave excellent front page news and photographic coverage to the CPI(M) rally. One of the dailies, describing the truly representative nature of the rally, wrote that what had gathered at the Azad Maidan was "Maharashtra in miniature".


A CPI(M) delegation led by Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury, held an hour and a half long discussion with the chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who was accompanied by several other ministers and officials of the concerned departments. During this discussion, the CM conceded many of the demands made in the CPI(M) memorandum, some details of which are given later.


Seeing the impressive and militant nature of the CPI(M) demonstration, for the first time in several years, the government had to give permission to the Party to take out a procession through the traffic-packed roads of south Mumbai. This further enthused the already vibrant rallyists. The Party had earlier declared that if this permission was not given, it would break the ban orders and take out the procession, regardless of the consequences.


The April 4 Mumbai rally was held as per the clarion call of the 18th state conference of the CPI(M) held last month at Solapur. Thousands of Party and mass organisation cadres had worked day and night for three weeks to ensure its success. Hundreds of meetings were organised in both rural and urban areas, thousands of posters were put up and lakhs of leaflets were distributed.


Earlier, on February 23, 2005, as per the state committee call, over 75,000 people had participated in large demonstrations in several district and tehsil centres throughout the state on questions like ration (PDS) and water. It was these actions that had prepared the ground for the success of the Mumbai rally.


The chief minister, during the discussions with the CPI(M) delegation, issued orders that cooking gas holders and those possessing two wheelers would henceforth be eligible for getting yellow BPL (below poverty line) ration cards. These conditions were being widely used for denying BPL ration cards to the deserving. He also agreed to give priority to domestic workers and unorganised sector labour while issuing such ration cards. He agreed to press the central government to increase the income limit for identification of BPL families from the present Rs 15,000 per annum to Rs 25,000 per annum.


The CM announced that the previous reduction in wage rates on the Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS) had been revoked, and that orders would be issued immediately to constitute the Minimum Wages Committee to revise the wages for the EGS and agricultural workers. Such a revision has not been done in Maharashtra for nearly a decade. As regards the serious issue of non-payment of dues to cotton farmers, he said that this payment has begun and would be completed by the end of April. Similarly, orders would be issued to ensure that the pension to the old and the destitute would be paid in time.


The CM issued orders for the immediate constitution of district level committees for relief to unorganised workers and gave an assurance that he would call a separate meeting to discuss the issue of pension and social security benefits to this section. A scheme for paying an unemployment allowance to retrenched workers of closed mills and factories would be considered, he said.


On the question of tribal malnutrition, the CM informed the delegation that a special plan had been prepared to provide work and food to adivasi families throughout the year for 15,000 tribal villages in Maharashtra. No adivasi family would be evicted from forest land and the state government resolution (GR) dated October 10, 2002 regarding forest encroachment (which was itself a result of the massive 1,50,000-strong statewide land satyagraha organised by the CPI-M) would be resolutely implemented and its time limit extended. After taking into consideration all legal aspects, the government would consider issuing an ordinance to restore their alienated lands to the adivasis.


Irrigation projects would be included on a priority basis in the Tribal Sub Plan. So far as irrigation as a whole was concerned, the CM said that as per the demand in the memorandum, the priorities for irrigation water would be changed so that drinking water came first, water for agriculture would come second and water for industries would be third.


So far as the burning issue of demolition of hutments in Mumbai was concerned, the CM said that the state government would be filing an affidavit in the High Court on April 5 on the question of rehabilitating slum-dwellers residing upto the year 2000. As per the demand of the delegation, he said that the state government was willing that the Maharashtra State Electricity Board run the Enron Dabhol Power Project under a new Power Purchase Agreement.


The delegation that met the chief minister included CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury, central committee members Prabhakar Sanzgiri and Ahilya Rangnekar, state secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale, state secretariat members Krishna Khopkar, K L Bajaj, Mahendra Singh, Kumar Shiralkar, Dr D L Karad, Suryaji Salunkhe, Lahanu Kom, Manohar Muley, control commission chairman V G Padmanabhan, all three MLAs of the Party, Narsayya Adam, J P Gavit and Raja Ozare and state committee members Chandrakant Yadav and Kiran Moghe.


The rally at the Azad Maidan was an impressive spectacle. Red flags, banners, placards filled the area. An artistically prepared backdrop adorned the stage. After revolutionary songs presented by the 'Jaagar' cultural group, the public meeting began. People listened for over two hours, braving the scorching heat, after having walked under the glaring sun for another two hours.


The public meeting was presided over by CPI(M) Mumbai committee secretary Mahendra Singh and was addressed by Sitaram Yechury, Prabhakar Sanzgiri, Dr Ashok Dhawale, Kumar Shiralkar, Dr D L Karad, Suryaji Salunkhe, Narsayya Adam MLA, Raja Ozare MLA, Udayan Sharma, Raju Paranjape, Vijay Gabhane, Mariam Dhawale, Shailendra Kamble and Dr Maharudra Dake.


Lastly, it must be recorded that the CPI(M) Mumbai district committee and several volunteers of the Party and mass organisations in Mumbai had worked day and night to make excellent preparations to ensure the success of this rally. 

 Ashok Dhawale