People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 17, 2006
Massive CITU Rally Held In The Run-Up To Dec 14 Strike
MORE than five lakh workers, employees as well as kisans, youth, women, and students filled up the sprawling Brigade Parade Grounds on December 3 and expressed their strident solidarity behind the all-India strike action to be held on December 14. The rally was certainly the biggest ever organised by CITU.
Almost every section of TUs in a wide variety of trades, callings, and professions were represented, by the time CITU Bengal president, Shyamal Chakraborty mounted the podium the grounds were filled to capacity, the very strong blaze of the early afternoon sun and the accompanying heat notwithstanding.
Shyamal Chakraborty introduced the rally to the 16-point charter of demands based on which the strike call had been given a full four months earlier. The demands covered every section of the society and were pro-people in nature. The period preceding the rally has seen the CITU units down to the factory level roaming across the districts communicating to the people the express need for the strike action, which Shyamal Chakraborty described as a counter-attack against the assaults being brought down on the daily lives of the common people.
Shyamal Chakraborty said that the rallies, meetings, conventions, marches, and jathas that has been held in the run up to the Brigade assemblage covered not just towns and cities but each of the 38,000-odd villages of Bengal. In the rural stretches, the AIKS units led the campaign-movement for the strike action, the CITU leader asserted. He said that the massive assemblage could present itself at the Brigade despite vile attempts having been made by the Trinamul Congress to put up road-blocks and stone incoming marchers in places like Howrah and south Kolkata. Shyamal Chakraborty explained each of the points of demand in the charter before the rally, and then requested long-time CITU leader and former Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu to address the rallyists.
Rising to speak before the rallyists amidst the expected and rousing slogans of welcome, Jyoti Basu began by saying that he felt rather well every time he had occasion to be present during such massive rallies of the working people. Declaring amidst cheering that the pro-people Left Front government brought to office for the seventh time and with increased majority by the people of Bengal would go on the path of development and progress, caring little for the awkward attempts to sabotage its actions.
Delineating how the CPI(M) and the Left had kept reminding the UPA government to implement the promises made in the Common Minimum Programme (CMP), the veteran communist leader pointed out that the union government had repeatedly failed to convert words into action. The strike action was needed to recall to the mind of the union government that it had promises to keep to the people.
Turning to the issue of industrialisation in Bengal, the speaker noted that industries would be built up on a strengthened base of agricultural growth. He added to say that that the anti-people forays being indulged in by the Bengal opposition – cut to half its former size by the electoral verdict of the people of Bengal – would not pose a threat or an impediment to the development of the state, which already faced hurdles over a long period of time from successive Congress-run union governments.
Jyoti Basu stringently criticised the Trinamul Congress for its barbaric ways and said that as a responsible and responsive pro-people organisation, the CITU organised struggles and movements for the cause of the people but without inconveniencing daily lives in any manner.
All-India general secretary of the CITU Chittabrata Majumdar spoke at length on the falsity of the assertions of the union government that it had no funds to implement pro-people promises of the CMP. Chittabrata Majumdar said that the UPA government would not tax the rich, cast a wider net for the realisation of greater amounts of excise duty and service taxes, and ensure that tax evasion especially income tax and sales tax evasion was stringently monitored and put a stop to.
Critical of the union government for ignoring the demands of the unorganised sector of the workers in the country, the CITU leader said that the UPA government had gone back on every pro-people promise made in the CMP.
A votary of imperialist liberalisation, the union government was squeezing out the remnants of the purchasing power of the working people whilst stunting economic development through opening the portals of the economy to the marauding rampages of MNCs.
Chittabrata Majumdar concluded by saying if needed the December 14 strike action should be followed by waves of movements against the anti-people policies of the UPA government thus compelling it to renege on the present drive to bring misery to the common people while endangering the economic sovereignty of the nation itself.
Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee spoke at length on the struggles led by the CITU going on in the state and mentioned the efforts being mounted by the Bengal Left Front government to provide as much relief as possible to the workers, especially the toiling millions in the unorganised sector.
Buddhadeb remarked that pressure mounted by the CPI(M) and the Left parties on the UPA government had forced it to stray from the path of a determined drive to sell off assets like the BHEL and NALCO. He also said that in sharp contrast to the Bengal model of Special Economic Zones, the all-India scenario ensured that the kisans were kept deprived of their hard-earned rights even as land developers were given a free hand.
Describing in some detail how the LF government was always loath to sacrifice a modicum of the agricultural gains made in the state, Buddhadeb said that industry had to be set up on land where crops were being sown because of the land mass in Bengal, 1 per cent of which was completely fallow, 13 per cent had forest cover, and 62 per cent was under agriculture. However, while embarking on the industrialisation drive, needed for economic growth and employment generation, the LF government ensured that the kisans, sharecroppers, and agricultural labourers stood to gain economically through compensation package and participation in the employment being generated.
Denouncing the antics of the Bengal opposition to prevent an automotive factory from coming up at Singur, Buddhadeb commented that the Trinamul Congress and its lackeys had little love lost for the kisans but were determined to sabotage the industrialisation of Bengal. He assured amidst slogans from the rally that the industrialisation drive, innately pro-people in nature, would go on, bringing economic benefits to the mass of the people.
Other CITU leaders who addressed the rally were Mohd Amin (who spoke in Urdu), Kali Ghosh, Arati Dasgupta, Subhas Chakraborty, and Rajdeo Goala (who addressed the gathering in Hindi).