People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 04, 2007
24TH State Conference Of Bengal AIDWA
THE Bengal unit of the AIDWA has strong presence writ large in the annals of the democratic movements in general and the women’s movement in particular. It has grown from strength to strength over the years as the accompanying table shows.
Bengal unit of the AIDWA held its state conference, the 24th in succession, at the Sarat Sadan auditorium (Prabha Devi Manch) in the steel township of Howrah (Kanak Mukherjee Nagar) over December 28-31, 2006.
Inaugurating the conference, all-India general secretary of AIDWA Sudha Sundaraman said that the organisation would tell before the people of the country the alternative way industrialisation progressed in Bengal keeping the interests of the people intact. Sudha Sundaraman said that Singur could be a model at the national level in the field of industrialisation.
In other states, industrialisation is accompanied by forcing land away from the people who own it and till it. No efforts are seen for rehabilitation of and compensation to the land-losers. A point of special interest for the AIDWA leader was the way alternative means of employment was found for women of the area.
Sudha Sundaraman said that struggle had to be waged yet to establish equal rights of women in a patriarchal society. It was seen that the 33 per cent reservation for women could not be yet passed by the parliament. The right has to be established through nationwide struggles, the AIDWA leader said.
Pointing to the evil effects of the sweep of imperialist globalisation on women, the AIDWA general secretary said that over and above the burden of exploitation of women, the instances of crimes committed against women continued to rise in an alarming fashion. The AIDWA would launch countrywide struggles in the days to come on these issues. Struggles would also have to go on against the forces of fundamentalism and communalism. Sudha Sundaraman was critical of the anti-people policy decisions of the UPA government.
In her address, president of the Bengal AIDWA Shyamali Gupta said that Singur was but an excuse and that the opposition was being orchestrated to cause impediments to the path of development initiated by the Bengal Left Front of the state. Shyamali Gupta pointed out citing statistics how imperialist globalisation affected women across the country. The speaker insisted on a concomitant qualitative development of the AIDWA membership as the quantitative changes continued apace. Nirupam Sen, industries minister of the Bengal Left Front government and CITU leader Dipak Dasgupta, among others, addressed the different sessions of the conference.
Placing the secretarial report, Rekha Goswami noted how across the world imperialist aggression continued unabated as inside the country the attacks launched on women and on women’s rights during the BJP-led NDA regime has been followed by measures taken by the UPA government affecting the social security of women. The increasing rate of unemployment and poverty affected women of the country in a very adverse manner as does casualisation and contractualisation of the workforce. At the same time, social and familial violence against women have been rising.
Turning to Bengal, Goswami said that in the 30 years of stay in office of the Bengal Left Front, women’s interests are looked to due sympathy by the Left Front government. The rate of literacy amongst women has increased during the regime while lakhs of joint pattas have been distributed in the rural areas. Around 43 per cent women representatives function at the Panchayat level. Nearly 4 lakh of women’s self-help groups have successfully empowered women economically.
Goswami’s report noted the expansion of the organisational base across Bengal. The state secretariat, the state committee and the state council of AIDWA are very active as are the sub-committees on subjects like health, education, cooperative, minorities, ST/SC, finance, legal aid, culture, etc. District-level units function adequately although some weaknesses need to be dealt with.
Political classes are held in the district and centrally. More wholetimers are needed to run the organisation at different functional levels. Political campaign has been stepped up as a continuous process in the state on such issues as women’s rights, exploitation of women, against communalism, fundamentalism, and separatism, and in support of the Bengal Left Front and the Left Front government. The circulation and readership of the state committee organ Eksathey (‘Together’) have increased.
Reviewing the past three years of movements and struggles, Rekha Goswami’s report noted that the organisation had taken part in three important electoral battles: 2004 Lok Sabha elections, 2005 assembly elections, and the 2005 municipalities and panchayat polls. The organisation also launched movements and struggles against the anti-people policies of the succeeding NDA and UPA union governments.
Movements were conducted in support of the policies of the Bengal Left Front government, the most recent being on the issue of industrialisation. Conventions were held on Muslim women, and on women belonging to the scheduled tribes. The literacy movement was participated in and education camps held.
In his speech at the open session of the AIDWA conference held at the Dumurjala Stadium in Howrah, Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said that the state government was engaged in the task of ensuring that women become financially and economically empowered and stand on their own feet. If the women do not make headway, the country cannot make any progress. To make the women move forward, they must be made self-reliant economically.
Buddhadeb also said that women must organise themselves in defence of their rights as also against such evil practices as dowry, marriage of minor girls, and social exploitation. He said that no legislation on its own could prevent domestic violence. A movement must be built up against such heinous acts and practice. Buddhadeb cited the success story of the women’s self-help groups to underpin his argument that without economic self-dependence, dignity of women would remain a paper concept.
All-India AIDWA president Subhasisni Ali said that the dictates of imperialist liberalisation further impoverished women, and made them more helpless before the imperatives of exploitation. Sudha Sundaraman said that the Bengal AIDWA was a source of inspiration to the women’s movement in the country. Rekha Goswami underlined the importance of carrying forward the women’s movement against the sweep of imperialist liberalisation. Shyamali Gupta pointed out that women must also participate in the anti-imperialist struggles. Minati Ghosh spoke on the need to strengthen the mass base of the Bengal AIDWA further in the days to come.
The state conference identified the tasks ahead:
Increase in booth-based membership
Formation of booth teams
Organisational conventions of the primary units each year
Office premises to be set up at every level
Mass collection to be stepped up further
Political classes to be held
Workers inducted from literacy, self-help, health workers etc for movements
Legal aid centres in every district
Stress on Hindi- and Urdu-speaking organisers and speakers
Against imperialism, liberalisation, privatisation, communalism, and separatism as a continuous process
In support of implementation in full of the CMP
Against evil social practices like dowry, witchcraft, and marriage of minor girls
In support of implementation of the PNDT act
In support of the policies of the Bengal LF government
Organising movement on local issues
Against imperialist-driven culture and for mass culture
Involvement in mass education, mass health, and self-help groups
In support of the demand of women’s employment
Against price rise and for strengthening of the public distribution system
Involvement of women in the state government’s developmental plan for the backward districts
A total of 704 delegates attended the 24th state conference of the AIDWA. The new leadership comprised Shyamali Gupta as the president, Minati Ghosh as the secretary, Banani Biswas as the working president along with a 32-member state secretariat, a 119-member state committee, and a 283 strong state council. The autobiography of departed AIDWA leader Kanak Mukherjee was released in the conference by Sudha Sundaraman.