(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 15 , 2008
Against Petro Hike
As we go to press, the Left parties call for a powerful countrywide week long protest movement against the steep hike in petrol, diesel and cooking gas prices evoked good response across the country with millions of people taking part in the protest.
THOUSANDS of workers of CPI(M), CPI, RSP and AIFB staged a protest demonstration at Parliament street in New Delhi on June 11, 2008 to lodge their opposition to recent hike in prices of petrol, diesel and gas by the UPA government. They were demanding withdrawal of this hike. The procession began from Mandi House circle and marched through Barakhamba Road and Tolstoy Marg to proceed towards Parliament Street. The procession culminated in a public meeting at Parliament street. The prominent among those who addressed the meeting included Sitaram Yechury, D Raja, Aboni Roy, Devarajan, Amarjeet Kaur, Jogendra Sharma, Vijendra Sharma, Dharmendra Verma and others. This protest was a part of the Left parties call for observing June 5-11 as protest week against price hike all over India.
The Left parties have been already in agitation from April 16 against the price rise of essential commodities specially the food grains, pulses, edible oil etc., seeking for improvement of public distribution system, its universalisation and reduction of prices of ration items in the interest of poor and needy masses. The Left parties have been warning the UPA government not to raise the petrol, diesel and gas prices as it would have all round cascading effect on the price-rise situation but the government, instead of listening to this constructive suggestion, has gone ahead with its anti-people decision of increasing the prices of these items. Left parties had given alternate suggestions to raise resources to meet the losses due to pressure of the international market. The government should reduce taxes and excise duty, it should raise taxes on private players who are minting huge profits in the oil sector in the international market. It should curtail the huge subsidies and concessions to corporate sector which was more than one and a half lakh in the recent budget 2008-09.
Due to this hike, the burden on transportation, manufacturing sector, service sector and agriculture sector would be too much for the common man to bear. They demanded that the UPA government respond to the people's protest and withdraw the recent hike in the prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas.
THE people were very much agitated over the reported news doing rounds in the air for more than a fortnight in end May 2008 over the contemplated rise in the price of the petroleum products. When the price rise was announced, there were spontaneous demonstrations on June 5, 2008 itself. Mostly led by CPI(M) and all mass organisations, the demonstrations took place in 14 districts the same day the prices were raised.
The leaders of the Left parties in the state immediately sat together to work out a strategy for a common protest action. The meeting that took place in the office of the CPI, was participated by N Varadarajan state secretary, K Varadarajan, Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M), D Raja, national secretary, D Pandian, state secretary of the CPI and a representative from the Forward Bloc, Tamilnadu unit. The leaders have decided to call for a general strike on June 7, 2008 to protest against the unprecedented hike in the oil and prices. A press conference was held on the same day which was given wide publicity.
Preparing for the general strike, on June 6, 2008 there were powerful demonstrations in almost all districts of the state organised by the district committees of the CPI(M). AIDWA, DYFI and CITU cadres had conducted separate demonstrations on June 5-6 throughout the state. In Cuddalore, Tuticorin and Kanyakumari districts, the CPI(M) cadres had resorted to road blockades and picketing. In the process, thousands of them were arrested and later released.
On the day of the general strike, the people of Tamilnadu led by the Left leaders had participated in a rail roko programme throughout the state. It must be noted that a substantial number of the protesters were women. Except in metro areas and big towns, almost all small towns and district centers observed a complete bandh. In cities like Chennai, though there was movement of private vehicles and two wheelers on the road, the public transport workers went on mass leave and hence the roads were deserted. Autos and taxis were off the road. Train services stood disrupted.
Industrial workers at the call of CITU and AITUC took part in the general strike resulting in closure of factories and mills. In certain towns the cinema halls too downed their shutters in solidarity with the strike. In Kancheepuram, Madurai, Rajapalayam, Erode and Karur, both handloom and powerloom workers stopped the work joining in the protest.
The total participation in the general strike far surpassed the real numerical strength and following of the Left parties in the state. While the partners of the UPA- the DMK and PMK justified the hike and while the other parties like AIADMK, MDMK, DMDK etc., were not ready to organise any meaningful movement against the government's policies that led to the price hike, it had fallen on the shoulders of the Left parties to organise the people to rise in protest against the government's move. The magnitude of the success of the general strike indicates the deep felt anger of the masses not only on the issue of the prices but also on the policies of the government that is going to have wider repercussions in an election year.
STEEP hike in prices of petroleum products announced by UPA government has evoked wide spread resentment among every section of the people in Bihar who are already reeling under the unprecedented rise in prices of food materials and other essential commodities.
As the news of price hike of petroleum products reached Bihar, CPI(M) took the lead and on June 4 itself effigies of prime minister Manmohan Singh were burnt in 17 districts including Patna.
On the same day at the conclusion of month long campaign launched by Kisan Sabha in Kosi region, a massive peasant meeting took place at Supaul which was addressed by the All India president of Kisan Sabha S Ramchandran Pillai. Lambasting the central government for its anti-people policies, he warned that the central government will have to pay the price if it does not roll back the hiked prices of petroleum products. He called upon the peasants gathered on the occasion to fight for their demands and also join the nation wide movement launched by the CPI(M) and Left parties against back breaking soaring prices of all the essential commodities.
On June 5, a joint meeting of Left parties - CPI(M), CPI, RSP, Forward Bloc, People's forward Bloc and CPI(ML) took place in CPI state headquarters. Veteran CPI(M) leader Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi presided over the meeting. Vijay Kant Thakur, Sarvodaya Sharma participated in the meeting from state CPI(M). The meeting decided to observe bandh on June 10. Since then a big campaign has been launched all over state to make June 10, “Bihar Bandh” a great success.
On June 8, hundreds of women under the banner of AIDWA marched through main thoroughfares of Patna and gathered at Patna Junction carrying the effigy of prime minister Manmohan singh and chanting slogans against soaring prices of essential commodities and the recent steep hike in prices of petroleum products. Later on, the effigy of prime minister was burnt and the gathering was addressed by all India AIDWA president Subhashini Ali Sahgal. Attacking the central government for its anti-people policies, she appealed to the women to join the nation wide movement launched by the Left parties against the growing price of edible stuff and all the essential commodities.
Later on speaking to the media persons in CITU state office, she elaborated upon the suggestions made by the Left parties regarding meeting the crisis due to the spiralling prices of crude oil in international market. She blamed the central government that it has ignored the suggestions made by the Left parties and has instead put heavy burdens on the common man who are not able to feed themselves. She appealed to the common masses of Bihar to make Bihar Bandh a complete success and carry on the struggle till the central government is forced to roll back the price hike of petroleum products.
Protesting against illogical price rise of petrol, diesel and cooking gas, the Left parties of Orissa - CPI(M), CPI and Forward Bloc observed hartal throughout the state on June 6, 2008. Due to people's positive response to hartal, rail and road communications were totally paralysed. School and colleges were closed. Markets were closed. Insurance and commercial banks were closed in most of the places. Even state government offices starting from block, tehsil and collectorate were affected by hartal. Post offices in many places were closed. Towns like Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Berhampur, Balasore, Baripada, Bhadrak, Barbil, Puri, Nayagarh wore a deserted look. In some places a bandh like picture developed. More than two thousand cadres and volunteers of CPI(M) were arrested by police while picketing in various places. State secretariat members like Sivaji Patnaik, Jagannath Mishra, Sisir Hui, Subhash Singh, Duysmanta Das and state committee members like Tapasi Praharaj, Suresh Pnaigarahi, Puspa Das, Abbiram Behera, Biswanath Mohapatra, Naba Patnaik, Banamali Dhupal, Rebati Ballav Mohapatra, Rajednra Panda, Umesh Singh etc., were arrested at various places.
The Punjab state committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) gave a call for rail roko to protest against the price rise of petroleum products. The call was successful all over the state. Reports collected from various districts show that trains throughout the state were blocked for two to three hours. The action took place at 17 places in which major actions were held at Rajpura, Patiala, Dhuri, Dhandari kalan, Phillour, Mukerian, Garhshankar, Hoshiarpur,Taran Taran, Mansa, Moga and Ropar. The call was also implemented in Kotkapura, Nakodar, Chandigarh, Batala and Hambran. Prof Balwant Singh, state secretary of CPI(M), Raghunath Singh, Rachhpal Singh, Gurmit Singh Dhadda, Gurmesh Singh, Bant Singh Namol, Bhup Chand, Darshan Mattu all the state secretariat members of CPI(M), Ranvir Virk, Baldev Singh Pota, Darshan Mattu, Ram Singh Nurpuri, Balvir Jadla, Vijay Misra, Gurdial Dher, Gurdarshan Khaspur, Tarlochan Singh, Jatinder Pal Singh, Sukhwinder Sekhon, Major Singh Punnawal, Rajinder Chohka, Ram Singh Sohian, Albel Singh, Asha Nand, H S Minhas, Subhash Choudhari, Sohan Singh Kooner all the state committee members of CPI(M), Mohinder Kumar Badhowan, Mahan Singh Rouri, com. Surinder Khiwa, com. Sucha Singh, com. Kulwinder Udat, Sher Singh, Roop Basant, Davinderjit Dhillon, Major Singh and many others addressed the protestors at various places.
Addressing the protesters at Rajpura, Balwant Singh said that UPA government has imposed the burden of price on the common man dishonestly, because the alternative was there, that was suggested by the CPI(M) and other Left parties. He said that it is only the Left who is protesting for the betterment of the common man. This is proved by the Left led state governments by reducing sales tax on petroleum products in the respective states, to reduce the burden on the common man. He said that BJP and its allies are fighting only for power, not for the betterment of the common man. This is the reason for non-reduction in the sales tax on petroleum products by the NDA led state governments. He said that it is the fact that price of petrol was raised from Rs 17 to Rs 37 during the BJP led NDA government at the centre. He said that the withdrawal of support from the UPA at centre is not the solution of the present situation.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), Jharkhand state committee greeted the people of Jharkhand for the success of the state bandh on June 10, 2008 to register protest against price increase of petroleum products and demanding cut in excise duties, for imposing windfall profit tax on private oil companies and to roll back the increased prices.
1016 Party members and supporters were arrested during bandh in different parts of the state at Ranchi, Bundu, Sonahatu, Barhagora, Jamshedpur, Adityapur, Bokaro Thermal, Latehar, Nirsa and Jamtara. Arrested persons include state secretary J S Majumdar, secretariat members D D Ramanadan, Prakash Viplay, Sudhir Das, Rajendra Singh Munda, Kisan Sabha state secretary Praful Linda, DYFI state president Sukhnath Lohra and others.
Rail blockade was held at Silli, Tori and Bokaro Thermal. National Highways, - NH 33 and NH 6(Kolkata-Mumbai) were blocked at Barhagora; NH 33 at Bundu and Hazaribagh and GT Road at Nirsa.
Long distance buses were off the road, coal transportation of stone quarries was affected at most of the places, offices were closed and shops downed the shutters.
BJP tried to sabotage the movement by creating confusion. But people of Jharkhand foiled their attempt.