People's Democracy

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


No. 10

March 07, 2010

On To March 12 Rally

Prakash Karat


THE Left parties, the CPI(M), CPI, AIFB and RSP are holding a massive rally at New Delhi on March 12. This will be the first all India rally by the Left parties in the capital in nearly two decades. There have been big joint rallies organised by the trade unions and other mass organisations in Delhi in recent years, but a rally by the Left parties involving an all India mobilisation is being held after a long time.

The March 12 rally is taking place after a series of state-level conventions and rallies by the Left parties which were held from September 2009 to January this year. Through these actions, people were mobilised in large numbers against the price rise of essential commodities, for strengthening of the public distribution system and food security.

The March 12 rally has been called to focus on four major issues. Three of them concern price rise, land and employment which are the acute problems affecting the people. The fourth is the violence against the CPI(M) and the Left in West Bengal. With food inflation hovering around 20 per cent, the relentless rise in prices of food items is causing misery for the people particularly the poorer sections. The government�s callous attitude and refusal to take steps to curb price rise is leading to growing discontent among the people. After putting forth specious arguments that the price rise is due to the farmers getting better prices for their crops, or, the high international prices of commodities and blaming the state governments for the failure to curb price rise, the Congress-led government has now taken steps to fuel the price rise further. The hike in petrol and diesel prices by nearly Rs 3 per litre by increasing the taxation on petroleum products and the increase in the prices of urea fertiliser by 10 per cent � show how the government is determined to pursue policies at the expense of the people.

The March 12 rally will highlight the demands to curb price rise which include a ban on futures trading in all food items; provision of a universal public distribution system and a crackdown on hoarders and blackmarketers.

The issue of land assumes key importance given the trend of reversing or diluting the existing land reform legislations. Out of the estimated 500 lakh acres of surplus land in the country, only 73 lakh acres were taken over by the various governments. Of these only 53 lakh acres were actually distributed. West Bengal alone has distributed 20 per cent of all land distributed in the country. In many areas, the peasants and the tribal people are being deprived of their land utilising the draconian clauses of the 1894 Land Acquisition Act. House sites in both urban and rural areas have become an urgent need.

The path of economic growth chosen by the government is not resulting in growth of employment. Government figures show that in the total organised sector, employment which was 267.33 lakhs in 1991 stood at 269.93 lakhs in 2006, an increase of only 2.6 lakh jobs in 15 years. Whatever employment is available is in the informal sector where workers are subjected to naked exploitation. The rally will demand the enactment of an urban employment guarantee Act, an end to the retrenchment of workers and the removal of the existing ban on recruitment in the government services and the public sector.

West Bengal, the bastion of the Left movement, is witnessing a vicious and concerted attack against the CPI(M) and the Left. This violence is being perpetrated by the TMC and their Maoist collaborators. Around 170 cadres and supporters of the CPI(M) and the Left parties have been killed in Bengal since the Lok Sabha elections. This attack is calculated to weaken the Left and seeks to thwart the Left�s consistent fight against the neo-liberal polices and collaboration with US imperialism. The rally will demand an end to the violence and the defence of democratic norms in West Bengal.

The March 12 rally will be politically significant as this will be the first all India mobilisation by the Left since the Lok Sabha elections. The setback suffered by the Left in the election was cited to write off the Left�s politics and its relevance. The platform of demands (given alongside) raised in the campaign for the March 12 rally shows that the Left stands for policies which alone can provide an alternative to the pro-big business-pro-imperialist policies of the government. The left is championing a programme which alone can provide immediate relief to the people from the attacks  on the livelihood fro price rise, protect their land and provide jobs.

The March 12 rally will give a call for conducting an all India movement  on the four major issues focused by the rally. The last time the Left parties gave a countrywide call for a major movement was the civil disobedience movement against the economic policies of the Narashima Rao government in 1994. At that time, the call went out for ten lakh volunteers to court arrest and participate in the movement in August-September 1994. More than that, 11.5 lakh people courted arrest. This time the call emanating from the March 12 rally is sure to lead to a mobilisation which will involve lakhs and lakhs of people.