People's Democracy

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

Vol. XXX

No. 18

April 30, 2006

CPI(M) Statewide Rally:

Call For Mass Struggle On People’s Burning Issues


Ashok Dhawale


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.


The 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.


The 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.    




The issues that were focussed in the rally are the most burning problems faced by the people of Maharashtra today.


These issues are:

1)     Casualness in the PDS

2)     Peasants’ suicides

3)     Neo-liberal agricultural policies

4)     Power supply constraint

5)     Refusal to implement the recommendations made by the National Commission of farmers.


Casualness 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: 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.


Neo-Liberal 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.


Power 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.


Unemployment: The 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.


Despite 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 several decades.


On 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 ordinary citizens. 




These 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.


Sitaram 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.”


Today, 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.”