People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 19, 2006
THE jail bharo andolan launched by the Punjab state committee of the CPI(M) on a 13-point charter of demands comprising burning issues of all the sections of people, including industrial workers, agricultural labourers, peasants, youth, women, students and employees and also for the fast pace industrialisation and transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab has concluded successfully. About twenty seven thousand satyagrahi volunteers bearing red CPI(M) bands offered to court arrest in all the districts of the state.
The satyagrahis gathered at public places where the state leadership of the Party, including Balwant Singh, Charan Singh Virdi, Lehmbar Singh Taggar, Rachhpal Singh, Raghunath Singh and Vijay Misra addressed the satyagrahis and handed over the CPI(M) flag to the district leadership of the Party who led the satyagrahis. The satyagrahis carrying banners, flags and dholes, nagaras and bands in the front and led by the district committee leadership marched through the bazaars raising thundering slogans and reached the district courts and presented themselves for arrest. The entire movement inspired the public.
In Sangrur, Ludhiana, Nawan Shehar, Hoshiarpur and Jallandhar districts, the satyagrahis were arrested and released at odd and far-flung places. In other districts, the administration refused to arrest. Around 1200 satyagrahis in Nawan Shehar, 1150 in Bathinda, Mansa, Mukatsar, 850 in Gurdaspur, 2600 in Amritsar, 1500 in Patiala, 1500 in Hoshiarpur, 1200 in Ropar, 1000 in Jallandhar, 4500 in Sangrur and 10,000 in Ludhiana offered to court arrest. Around 10 to 20 per cent of satyagrahis consisted of women.
peacefully protesting satyagrahis in front of the District Collector’s office
in Sangrur were lathicharged by the police in an indiscriminate manner, injuring
several protestors, including Party state committee members Major Singh Punnawal
and Ram Singh Sohian.
a culmination to this phase of agitation, massive action was organised at
Ludhiana where Party state secretary Balwant Singh and state leaders Rachhpal
Singh and Raghunath Singh courted arrest.
The enthusiasm of the satyagrahi volunteers was very high and their actions very militant reflecting the popular discontent among all sections of the people with Amrinder Singh’s Congress government. He broke all the promises made to the people in the assembly elections of February 2002, dismantling public education and government hospitals. There is a feeling among the common people that Amrinder Singh should be taught a lesson in the coming assembly elections which are due in February 2007. The experience of the satyagrahis in all the districts proved that common people feel let down by the main opposition party, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) which did not struggle on any of the issues concerning the people in the last four years and is only banking on anti-incumbency. The common people are looking forward eagerly for a third alternative, a genuine secular, democratic alternative which would take care of their concerns and afford them relief from the anti-people policies along with ensuring good governance, free from corruption.
main demands during this agitation were:
fill up all vacant posts in the government departments
Rs 5000 per month as minimum wages of unskilled workers
indiscriminate privatisation of public sector undertakings
comprehensive legislation for agricultural labourers and supply free
electricity up to 300 units
norms and procedures for old age and widow pensions
off debt of all common peasants and restore quantitative restrictions on
imports to protect the peasantry from crash in prices of farm products
steps be taken for providing water, electricity, transport, education and
health facilities to the people of Kandi, Bet and Border areas
be made cheaper and upgrade the standard of education in the schools,
particularly in rural areas
33 per cent representation to the women in assembly and parliament
rampant corruption and police atrocities on women and weaker sections
small-scale industry by providing tax relief and take concrete steps for
speedy and balanced development and industrialisation of the state
obligatory use of Punjabi language in government offices at all levels
be transferred to Punjab immediately and just distribution of river waters
be done in the frame work of Rajiv-Longowal accord. Overall the centre-state
relations be restructured so as to give more powers to states and for
strengthening federal structure of union of India.
next phase of struggle to force chief minister Amrinder Singh to implement the
13-point demand charter will be launched from March 23, 2006. District jathas consisting of 101 activists and leaders of the Party will
lead these jathas for a week and then
all the jathas will culminate at
Chandigarh for a weeklong squatting in front of the residence of Punjab