People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 30, 2006
AROUND 20,000 people waving red flags and hailing from 30 of the 35 districts in Maharashtra held a large rally on the state assembly session in Mumbai on April 4, 2006 on the burning issues of the people of the state, like the breakdown of the public distribution system, the spate of peasant suicides, the massive load-shedding of power and the scourge of unemployment. After the rally, in protest against the callous attitude of the INC-NCP-led state government that was manifested in the discussion with the chief minister, over 2,000 activists broke the police cordon at the Azad Maidan and conducted a Jail Bharo stir.
statewide rally and jail bharo was organised by the CPI(M) Maharashtra state
committee, exactly a year after a similar state rally organised by the Party on
April 4, 2005, on the eve of the 18th Party Congress in New Delhi. It comprised
both unorganised and organised workers, poor and middle peasants, agricultural
labourers, youth, students and especially women in large numbers. Adivasis and
Dalits also participated in good proportions. The Mumbai rally was addressed by
CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury and other state leaders of the Party.
It received prominent coverage in both print and electronic media.
rally gave a three-point call of action. First, a two-week intensive statewide
campaign will be launched by the CPI(M) from May Day (which is also the day that
the state of Maharashtra was formed in 1960) upto May 14 on the above burning
issues. Second, large demonstrations will be organised all over the state to
picket district and tehsil government offices on May 15. Since the results of
the assembly elections in West Bengal, Kerala and other states will be declared
on May 11, the May 15 actions all over Maharashtra will also simultaneously
celebrate the Party’s and the Left’s anticipated victories in these
elections. Third, to condemn the cavalier attitude towards people’s issues
manifested by the state government, the CPI(M) will lead the people to disrupt
the programmes of state ministers at the local level.
issues that were focussed in the rally are the most burning problems faced by
the people of Maharashtra today.
Casualness in the PDS
Neo-liberal agricultural policies
Power supply constraint
Refusal to implement the recommendations made by the National Commission
in the PDS:
The casual approach to PDS of the centre has led to the malnutrition-related
deaths of children in the Adivasi belt. Lakhs of Below Poverty Line (BPL)
families in the state are denied the BPL yellow ration cards for years, because
the Centre refuses to increase the BPL quota and the state government also
remains mum on the issue. Grain and kerosene supply in ration shops is often
conspicuous by its absence and the PDS is riddled with corruption. All this is
the result of the central government callous policy of slashing food subsidy and
its commitment to dismantle the PDS.
Peasant suicides in Maharashtra have assumed grave proportions, with an
estimated 3000 debt-ridden peasants having ended their lives in the last five
years. In the last ten months, more than 400 debt-ridden farmers have committed
suicide in the Vidarbha region alone, and this poisonous crop of peasant
suicides is now spreading to Marathwada and Western Maharashtra regions as well.
Peasant women are also ending their lives in increasing numbers. Peasant anger
was displayed recently when farmers in Nashik district hurled onions at Union
agriculture and food minister Sharad Pawar and disrupted the public function.
Agricultural Policies: It
is the whole gamut of imperialist-dictated neo-liberal agricultural policies of
the central and state government that is squarely responsible for this
unprecedented crisis in agriculture. To add to it, the central government has
refused to accept and implement the recommendations made by the National
Commission of Farmers chaired by Dr M S Swaminathan.
Constraint: The load-shedding of power of upto 12 hours per day in rural areas
and 4-6 hours per day in urban areas has played havoc with agriculture,
industry, education and other spheres.
In the summer that has begun, this load-shedding is causing immense misery to
the people all over the state. The root of the current power crisis, with a
shortfall exceeding 4000 MW, lies in the fact that all the political parties
that ruled the centre and the state during the last 15 years pursued the corrupt
deal rapacious with the American multinational Enron, and during this period
they refused permission to the MSEB to build any power generation plants.
problem of unemployment in both urban and rural areas has reached alarming
proportions. In the recently published Economic
Survey of Maharashtra, the government has admitted that the number of
(mostly urban) registered unemployed in the state has crossed 40 lakhs. If the
estimates of rural unemployment are added, the total number of unemployed in the
state easily crosses the 1 crore mark.
this grim situation, no steps have been taken by the state government to address
the serious question of closed mills and factories, due to which thousands of
workers have been thrown out of work. No move has been made to increase the
workdays and minimum wages of agricultural labourers. In spite of several
assurances, the government has failed to enact a law providing social security
and other benefits to lakhs of unorganised workers and agricultural labourers.
The implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is as yet
unsatisfactory. The question of vesting forest land in the names of the Adivasis
who have been cultivating it for generations continues to hang fire for the last
the other hand, government steps are directed towards ensuring that labour laws
will not apply in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to be set up in the state.
For just one such Reliance-controlled SEZ to be set up in Raigad district
adjoining Mumbai, moves have begun to dispossess farmers of their lands in as
many as 45 villages in Uran, Pen and Panvel tehsils. The Supreme Court, by
overturning the judgement of the Mumbai High Court in the matter of textile mill
lands in Mumbai, has awarded an unprecedented
bonanza to the builders and mill-owners, at the cost of the workers and
were the issues that were highlighted by the various speakers who addressed the
Mumbai rally. The rally was presided over by K L Bajaj and the speakers, along
with Sitaram Yechury, included Dr Ashok Dhawale, Kumar Shiralkar, Mahendra
Singh, Narsayya Adam MLA, J P Gavit MLA, Rajaram Ozare MLA, Dr D L Karad, P B
Chavan, Dr Vithal More, Suryaji Salunkhe, Yashwant Zade, Mariam Dhawale and
Shailendra Kamble. The delegation that met chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh
included some of the above, as well as Prabhakar Sanzgiri, Krishna Khopkar, Ajit
Abhyankar, Lahanu Kom, Uddhav Bhavalkar, Kiran Moghe and Chandrakant Yadav. The
CPI(M) Mumbai Committee and its volunteers had made excellent arrangements for
the rally that was held at Azad Maidan.
Yechury in his speech congratulated all the participants for participating in
this spirited rally. He than said, “Last year on this day you had organised
another impressive rally here around almost the same issues. The chief minister
had then given several assurances, but none of them was fulfilled during the
last one year. This time he did not even bother to give any concrete assurances.
We are in recent months having a similar experience with the UPA government at
the centre. It is refusing to implement several of the assurances that it had
given in the CMP. If the central and state governments continue to follow the
same path in the future, it will not be long before they meet the same fate as
the BJP-led NDA regime.”
said Yechury, “no government at the centre can last without the support of the
Red Flag. We supported this regime from outside to keep the communal forces out
of power, and also to ensure that some justice will be done to the millions of
working people in our country. But of late we have seen that this government
attaches more importance to the interests of the United States and its president
George Bush than to the interests of the toiling millions in India. If such a
course continues, we will also have to seriously consider our course in the
coming days. At the same time, we will have to continue to fight the dark
communal forces, who are now leading Rath Yatras to spew discord and hatred
across the land.”
Talking about the assembly election campaign now in progress, Yechury said, “This and next month are the elections in five states including West Bengal and Kerala. Even our adversaries are forced to admit that in West Bengal, as a result of the achievements of our Left Front government over the last 29 years, the CPI(M)-led Left Front will storm to power for the seventh time in a row, which will be a historic event for the communist movement not only in India but all over the world. In Kerala also, the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) is set to demolish the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and sweep back to power. We are fighting to strengthen such a left and democratic alternative throughout the country. I am sure that you in Maharashtra will also intensify the struggles of the people and will make your contribution to make this objective a reality in the days ahead.”