People's Democracy

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


No. 07

February 14, 2010

Huge Rally against Price Rise in Kolkata

UPA Govt Responsible for Galloping Prices


G Mamatha from Kolkata


BRIGADE Parade grounds! The grounds were seaming with people on the February 7. It is a sea of humanity converging with a single agenda and steely resolve. Down with the UPA government that fails to control the prices; let us join the fight against the price rise and bring the government back to ground to face the realities – make it walk the talk – show concern towards aam admi. Tell all those who rattle that “you will not die if you do not eat sugar”: “Honourable sir, sugar might be poison for you, but we need it for our daily cup of tea and an occasional 'mishti', and remember it is not just sugar that has become dear, it is aloo, dal and chawal too, without which we cannot live, that we are talking about”. Alas, we do not eat cake because bread had become costly!

The all round price rise across the country has made the life of the common people increasingly difficult with the eroding real incomes of the working people. Essential commodities are getting out of the reach of the poor. The UPA government is betraying the interests of the people by failing to check the sky-rocketing prices. Complacency of the government on the price front is squarely responsible for the current situation. Brigade, brimming with brigadiers presented such a contrast of personalities, daily wage labourers, NREGA workers, employees, students, unemployed youth, women, peasants, agricultural labourers and even film makers. They came there not to watch a mela or be part of a 'historic, huge human congregation' but to be part of a movement, a chain and a bring the central government to its knees.

Listen to Pushpa Kamila, a daily wage labour and Poorabi Mondal, an agricultural labourer from East Medinapore district; two middle-aged women but ripe with life experiences, bent with burdens running the households and keeping the kitchen fire alight. Price rise of essential commodities, especially that of the food grains for them is “a question of life and death”. “Didi, we forget what a full stomach means”, they said. Yes, true because their income is 'insufficient to eat twice a day'. It is their children about whom they were more concerned. They were forced to drop out of school and work alongside them. “Didi, they should be alive to read, isn't it?” they have asked. A simple fact, but heart wrenching reality. But does it touch the heart of those who were accustomed to see players being bought and sold for millions of dollars? So how do they intend to move the heart of these heartless rulers? They are clear, “the only way out of this grave situation is join the struggle”.

Subhashish Sur, a contract worker from a panchayat of Asansol sub division of Burdwan district too is not happy. “I and other NREGA workers who earn about Rs 100 per day are at a severe loss with the sky-rocketing prices. The public distribution system must be strengthened and made universal and all the essential commodities must be made available through  PDS. In the name of 'targeted' the union government is targeting the poor”, he said recalling the slogan, 'garibon ko hatao' (eliminate the poor not poverty).

Sapon Ghosh, a peasant from Lalgarh presented another picture of the same story. He recalled how through his very hands agricultural produce goes to the market and earns him insufficient income even to meet the production costs. “But when I lay my hands on food items in the market for purchasing, they burn” he said wryly. Agricultural policy of the union government must be made farmer friendly. He talked about the rising prices of diesel, growing menace of middlemen and black-marketeers and commented, “the Congress government is for them not for us”.

Now, listen to some employees who have 'benefited' from pay hikes. Jeetendra Singh from the Jadavpur university employees’ association says the price hike has undone the benefits of the pay hike. He says, “The price of sugar which was Rs 20 in January 2009 is now around Rs 45-50. Same is the case with all the food grains and edible oils. The prices have almost doubled. How can we cope with this? Earlier we used to eat peas daily. Now, we have them only once a week. Likewise, we are cutting on the quantity and quality of many of the things we used to eat earlier.”

Samhita DasGupta, an Arts College student from Ballyganj, Kolkata says with the declining savings of the family due to the price rise, it has become difficult for her to buy materials needed for her course study, nothing much by the way, just books. Expect her to excel in study, without books by placing her right hand on her heart and chant 'all is well'. With a deep sigh she said, “ha, if only life was so easy”!

All this and many more Tarun Majumdar, a film director was watching and hope taking note to present a real picture of the world. But he was present at the rally not just to watch but also express solidarity with the movement against price rise.

Debanjan Chakravarthy, leader of the construction workers’ federation put forth the plight of the workers of the industry he represents. “They are one among the worst affected by the price rise. They have work for about less than 15 days in a month and with the reduction in government works and the private housing; even the current number of working days is getting reduced”. They build the 'modern India', but not for them to live!

The rally demanded that the central government must with immediate effect end forward trading in foodgrains, pulses and other essential food items. It should take urgent measures to strengthen and expand the public distribution system. Firm measures should be taken to check hoarding and profiteering in foodgrains and other essential commodities.

The Brigade! Reverberating with revolutionary songs. A music team from Lalgarh was singing. Inspiring people to fight. Paying tributes to fighters and martyrs. And at this movement none could forget the absence of one fighter among the millions present there. Everybody was conscious of his absence. Missing him, because it is after all the first 'Brigade' without him. Comrade Jyoti Basu. But who says he is not there. He is there in the midst of all. Watching them, guiding them and egging them to carry on the fight. He is there, among the clenched fists and unflinching resolve of the people. And of course there are many who wore those masks of Jyoti Basu.