People's Democracy

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


No. 40

October 12, 2008


All India Conference of SFI calls for Consolidation and Expansion

Ritabrata Banerjee

THE 13th all India conference of Students’ Federation of India was organised at Salt Lake of North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal from 27-30 September 2008. 750 delegates and observers representing 43,29,999 students from all over the country participated in this conference. The central slogan of the conference was “Equitable access to quality education”. Along with this slogan, two other slogans namely, “Defend sovereignty” and “Uphold secularism” also were part of the conference. The conference manch was named after Comrade Ajay Prasad and Comrade Debabrata Pramanik. Comrade Ajay Prasad, SFI activist of Kollam district in Kerala was murdered by RSS goons while Comrade Debabrata Pramanik was brutally killed by the Trinamul Congress in Coochbihar district of West Bengal. The nagar was named after Shaheed Khudiram Bose. This year is the 100th martyrdom year of Shaheed Khudiram.

The conference began with the open rally on September 27. On 28th morning, a motorbike rally started from Mall Road in Dum Dum, the place where the preparatory meeting for the formation of SFI was held way back in 1970. R Arun Kumar, outgoing all India president of SFI hoisted the flag of organisation and paid tributes to the martyrs. The presidium, comprising R Arun Kumar, P Biju, Sayandeep Mitra, Rama Devi, Ranjan Dev Burma, Shikha Chauhan and Abid Hussain, was formed. R Arun Kumar moved the condolence resolution. Amitava Nandy, general secretary of the Reception committee and local MP, welcomed the delegates. The delegate session was inaugurated by Professor Amiya Bagchi, eminent economist and director of Institute of Developmental Studies, Kolkata. Professor Bagchi in his inaugural speech said that the framers of the constitution of India defined the country as a sovereign, secular, democratic and a socialist republic. He also enumerated the principles of Indian constitution which propounded justice for every citizen, liberty, equality and fraternity. Setting the characteristic of fraternity as enshrined in the constitution, he said, the fraternity meant dignity and respect for each member of the society. The other important principles are unity and integrity that needs to be preserved in our dealing with other human beings.

Attacking feudalism, which still exists in this country in various forms, he said that it was only the Left ruled states like Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura, which have successfully implemented the process of land reform. The absence of reform in other parts of the country has not made it possible to create an egalitarian society and therefore even today the masses are exploited and a large population of this country live in abject poverty. The exploitation in the society also exists in the form of division on the lines of castes and sub castes.

The major crisis which this country is today facing emanates from the inequities of the system arising from capitalism. This present capitalism, the emergence of finance capital, has targeted the country in every sphere for predatory interest. The tax laws have been blatantly changed for those who operate in the stock market, providing for huge concession in the incidence of tax, on the earnings made from transactions.

He pointed out that the commanding public sector which formed the pillar of the country’s economy is now being dismantled and is clandestinely sold to capitalists at throw away prices. Public sector banks which regularly catered loans at soft rate to farmers have now stopped, with the change in the policy of government. These agricultural loans are now diverted to Agro Processing Units- those which are run by corporate houses, whereas the cultivators, who are starving of funds are now borrowing heavily from the money lenders at exorbitant interest rates. Around two lakh farmers have committed suicide because of being entangled in debt trap and poverty. BT Cotton seeds, which are ruining the future of the cultivators, are being encouraged by the government and its agencies in order to appease transnational corporations.

Professor Bagchi talking on the prevailing democracy in the country claimed that democracy does not mean just the right to vote. He explained when people are engaged in work for 10-14 hours a day, has no time to think for him or the country and has thus no role to play in formulating the policies of the people. Democracy can only be successful when society can ensure employment, education, healthcare and social security.

He mentioned that the impairments in the basic provision of life have paved the way for religious fundamentalism. People in abysmal poverty involve in bigotry and religious prejudices. Instead of curing the malady, the ruling class exploits the situation through forming organisations based on fascist lines. Thus the principle of secularism is in great danger.

Citing the recent example of Indo-US nuclear deal, he explained how the sovereignty of this country is being hijacked at the behest of the Congress led government. Nuclear deal, he stated, would henceforth stall all independent experiments carried out by Indian scientists and the power generations would lose all autonomy. Out of the total electricity to be produced by 2020, it is estimated that only 8 percent will account from nuclear power stations. For this little supply the government has decided to spend more than Rs 4.8 lakh crore towards purchase of reactors from the US corporations for producing 10,000 MW of electricity. He said that for signing the nuclear agreement, the government of India has agreed to compromise its potential diplomatic relationship with many countries through toeing US line in every forum. Thus the long standing relationship with Iraq and Iran are being skewed for US interest.

He said that the US financial corporations have lost around $ 1.6 trillion in the sub-prime lending causing huge concern for the entire world. The present US government is on the run to bail out these corporations not in the interest of the general public, but to uphold the causes of the capitalist shareholders.

Professor Bagchi categorically pointed out that the education policy as pursued by the present government is in a precarious state. The central government and the media have unleashed a campaign to push forth privatisation in education. As the government is encouraging private capital in education, many colleges and deemed universities have mushroomed. Most of these colleges have inadequate faculties and infrastructure and the quality of education offered is abysmally poor. In comparison, even today, education in European countries and US, is mostly state funded. Along with this abundant scholarships are also available.

He said that some teachers lack sincerity in their duty and have turned the institutes into happy hunting grounds for private tuitions. He pointed at the necessity of appropriating the science of Marxism and applying it. He was confidant that armed with the ideology of Marxism, students can counter the evil influence of capitalism. He wished the conference all success.

Sitaram Yechury, former all India president of SFI, Nilotpal Basu, former general secretary of SFI, Md Amin, CITU all India general secretary, Amitava Nandy, general secretary of the Reception committee and local MP, Tapas Sinha, DYFI general secretary along with the student leaders were present on the dais in the inaugural session. Sitaram in his speech, pointed out that along with the enhancement of the organisational strength, the challenges before the student movement have also increased manyfolds. He opined that the student movement has to play its part in shaping up the political alternative in the country. Md Amin said that he is confidant that the activists of the student movement will join the movement of the working class and the peasantry in times to come. All India joint secretary of AIKS, Suryakanta Mishra talked on the growing crisis of Indian agriculture. Tapas Sinha, Shyamali Gupta, working president of AIDWA also congratulated the conference.

Outgoing all India general secretary of SFI, K K Ragesh introduced the draft political organisational report. He pointed out that the present time is a very crucial one. He mentioned that on one hand we are witnessing rapid strides in the field of science and technology and also an explosion of knowledge. On the other hand it is also witnessed that the benefit of these advances are not really reaching the vast majority of the students. Ragesh pointed out that our world is a world of stark contrasts and as a progressive student organization, SFI has to not only understand the reasons behind this contrast, but also work towards the elimination of these inequities in our society. He said that the conference had to understand the changes, identify the reasons and accordingly plan the future actions. 40 delegates from 23 states participated in the discussion for 315 minutes.

Draft resolution on education was moved by R Arun Kumar. He said that the 13th conference of SFI is being organised at a time when there is a concerted attack on the lives and livelihoods of the common people because of the implementation of the neo-liberal policies by the government. He pointed out that the attack on life invariably means an attack on education too, as it is considered as a necessary and integral part of human life. He noted that the resolution on education is intended to understand the changes that have taken place in the education sector on the basis of the ideological understanding of SFI. 24 delegates deliberated on the educational resolution.

A session with the leaders of other Left student organisations namely AISF, AISB and AIPSU was organised.

A special session was organised on September 28 evening in which eleven former all India presidents and general secretaries participated. The former leadership was felicitated in that special session. Along with the founder all India president, C Bhaskaran, Sitaram Yechury, A Vijayaraghavan, Y V Rao, K N Balagopal, all former presidents and Subhash Chakrabarty, Nepaldeb Bhattacharya, Nilotpal Basu, Sujan Charkabarty, Samik Lahiri, Kallol Roy, all former general secretaries were present in this session. The delegates were excited with the presence of the former leadership. The former leadership too was emotionally touched. Bhaskaran said that the 38-year long journey which recorded a growth from one lakh membership to more than 43 lakhs is really praiseworthy. Subhash Chakrabarty said that he did not have words to express his feelings. Nepaldeb Bhattacharya went back to the days of 1979 when they were bestowed with the responsibility of running the all India centre from Delhi. The SFI central office was then located in the verandah of the bungalow of Comrade EMS Namboodiripad. From there itself the publication of Student Struggle and other organisational activities were executed. Nilotpal Basu said that there has been a considerable growth in the membership of SFI, but still it is to be kept in mind that 97 per cent of the eligible students(who can be our members) of our country are outside the organisational network of SFI. He pointed out that the SFI has to discharge the historic responsibility of bringing these vast numbers of students within the fold of the organisation. Sitaram Yechury pointed out that when he was elected as the all India joint secretary at the third all India conference at Patna in 1979, only two delegates had camera with them. Today most of the delegates not only have cameras but majority of them have it in their mobile phones. He said that the advancement of the organisation and also of technology has been witnessed in this period. He mentioned that along with the challenges before the organization, the expectations and responsibility have also increased manifolds. He urged the student comrades to live up to the expectations and challenges. He also inaugurated the website of the organisation ( A Vijayraghavan, Sujan Charkabarty, Y V Rao, K N Balagopal, Samik Lahiri and Kallol Roy also spoke in this session. Hannan Mollah, founder all India general secretary of DYFI, also greeted the conference.

Biman Basu, founder all India general secretary of SFI addressed the delegates on September 29 morning. He said that the various divisive and communal forces are trying to separate people on lines of caste, creed and religion. He mentioned that even after sixty years of independence, the people from the tribals and the dalit sections are victims of social discrimination and various forms of exploitation. Biman Basu stressed upon the necessity of social reform movements. He urged the students to be an integral part of these movements. He also mentioned the tremendous difficulties faced during the early seventies when they were trying to shape and expand the organisation in the country. He congratulated the present day students who amidst the complex situation are building up struggles and movements. Biman Basu also published the special conference issue of Student Struggle. He handed the first copy to Subhash Chakrabarty, the second all India general secretary of SFI.

K K Ragesh replied to the discussions on the draft political organisational report, while Arun replied to the discussions on the resolution on education. Seven resolutions were placed. The draft political organisational report, resolution on education and the other resolutions were unanimously adopted.

The total number of delegates and observers participating in the conference was 775. The number of delegates was 682 including 138 girls. The numbers of observers and CEC members were 41 and 52 respectively. 711 comrades submitted their credential forms. 376 delegates were from the age group 21 to 25 years. The number of comrades in the age group of 26 to 30 was 216. Sital Davis (15 years) of Kerala was the youngest delegate. Sanjay Madhav, Debshankar Roy Chowdhury (outgoing central secretariat members) and Rajesh Awasthi (CEC member from Chattisgarh) were the oldest delegates. All of them are 38 years old. 403 delegates are presently studying either in school, college or at university level. Number of delegates from school was seven. 152 delegates wanted to be whole timers. The maximum number of delegates (211) have joined the organisation in between 2000-2003. 258 delegates had been arrested or put behind the bars. Kaluram Thori (outgoing CEC member from Rajasthan) had the longest jail-life (95 days). All India joint secretary A N Shamseer spent 93 days behind the bars. Delegates pointed out that the struggle against Indo-US nuclear deal has been the greatest event in the last three years. Red happens to be the favourite colour of maximum delegates (309).

Sitaram Yechury in his speech in the delegates session categorically mentioned that the movements against imperialism and the movements on the issues of education have to be linked up. He said, in order to tackle the ongoing economic crisis of capitalism imperialism is trying to establish economic colonies in the countries of the third world. Today’s globalisation is practically imperialist aggression and the sector of education cannot be outside the purview of it. And that is the very reason for which today’s student movement has to keep in mind the importance of linking up movements concerning education with struggles against the empire. Yechury reminded the students that they have to strive for shaping up the alternate policies. He once again mentioned that the only alternative to capitalism is socialism. Sitaram also told the delegates that in West Bengal, the opposition under the leadership of Trinamool Congress is trying its best to put up a barrier against the process of industrialisation. And in this process, the extreme right and the extreme left have joined hands. The real purposes of these forces are not at all land or agriculture. He also mentioned that there are times in history when ‘Holy Alliance’ is formed against the communists. For the past four years, the Left in the country has not allowed the disinvestment of any profit making PSUs. The imperialist forces, the multinationals and the country's monopoly capital knows very well that without the weakening of the Left forces their purpose cannot be served. All efforts have been started to weaken the Left. He said that the 61 Left MPs after the last Lok Sabha polls have ensured that no communal force can be left without challenge. Uninterrupted and uncompromising fight against communalism is also the need of the hour. He also spoke at length about the process of industrialisation taken up by the Left Front government in West Bengal.

The conference unanimously elected an 83 member central executive committee where nine places have been kept vacant. The new CEC elected an 18 member secretariat. P K Biju was elected as the new president while Ritabrata Banerjee was elected as the new general secretary. Sindhu Joy (Kerala), Sayandeep Mitra (West Bengal), P Biju (Kerala) and Nirmal Biswas (Tripura) were elected as the vice presidents. V Sivadasan (centre), G Selva (centre), Kaustav Chatterjee (West Bengal), A N Shamseer (Kerala) and Bhaskar (Andhra Pradesh) were elected as the joint secretaries. Rohit (Delhi), Indrani Lahiri (West Bengal), Mahender Singh Rana (Himachal Pradesh), K S Kanagraj (Tamilnadu), Koya Chandramohan (Andhra Pradesh) and Gautam Damor (Rajasthan) were elected as the secretariat members.

The conference decided to organise struggles at the institutional level on the local charter of demands and link them with the neo liberal policies pursued by the government and also to prioritise work at all levels and make the plans accordingly. The conference has put forward the task of taking up the socio economic issues of the students from the most deprived sections of the society. It has decided to intensify the ongoing struggles against imperialism and communalism. There has been a decision to build united movements involving students from other student organisations and also with other sections of the academic community. The conference has resolved to concentrate on the university centres and build the movement in all the university centres and expand the organisation to those centres where we are absent.

The 13th all India conference of SFI concluded with ‘We shall over come’ and the clarion call of consolidating our strength and expanding our bases.