People's Democracy

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


No. 20

May 16, 2010


April 27 National Hartal Evokes Good Response



THE countrywide hartal organised by 13 parties, including the Left parties, received wide response and in many states it took the form of a bandh. In Kerala too, the hartal turned into a complete bandh. Responding to the hartal call, industrial units and other establishments remained closed due to the workers’ and employees’ strike; employees in many government offices refused to work. Public transport came to a halt; rail and road traffic stood blocked; shops and commercial establishments downed their shutters. The people of Kerala thus gave vent to their widespread anger against the UPA government’s policies that have caused misery to the common people, jeopardising their life and livelihood. Tens of thousands of people in Kerala including women were arrested while picketing the trains in numerous centres. Most of the trains came in the state to a grinding halt since early morning; many of them could not move from the starting point itself. As a result, railway authorities had to cancel many trains or reschedule the trip of some of them. No vehicles, including private ones, came out. The whole of the state came to a standstill.

All the constituents of the Left and Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala actively participated in the strike. On April 26, torchlight processions were taken out to bugle the hartal call. All the class and mass organisations effectively organised a strike as part of the nationwide hartal. Even the unorganised sector workers refrained from work. Schools and colleges remained closed. General public from all walks of life wholeheartedly supported the hartal and no incident of violence was reported in its connection. While observing the hartal, strong protest demonstrations were organised in thousands of centres with huge participation.         

The fact is that the union government has badly alienated the people within a short period and is facing severe opposition from its own allies. In the 2009 general elections the Congress party alone won 206 seats out of the UPA’s 262, and it was for the first time in two decades that the leading party in a coalition won more than 200 seats in Lok Sabha. But the Congress led UPA government then began to vigorously implement pro-rich policies and Dr Manmohan Singh is still playing his fiddle when the whole country is burning in the flames of excruciating price rises. Nay, it did not hesitate to add fuel to the fire by hiking the fuel and fertiliser prices, while doling out numerous packages, concessions and tax exemptions to the corporate houses.

Undoubtedly the LDF government in Kerala has initiated numerous steps to curb the price rise, like distribution of food grains and other essential commodities through various outlets of the Civil Supplies Corporation, Consumer Fed and Cooperative Stores, and has thus made   significant impacts on the market situation. But, within the existing constitutional and political set-up, this intervention could not adequately bring down the prices. In such a situation, as part of the all-India call for agitations against the UPA government, the Kerala unit of the CPI(M) organised massive day-long picketing before selected central government offices continuously for five days. This picketing commenced on March 8 and continued till March 12, the very day the Left parties organised a huge march to the parliament in the national capital. When the Left parties gave a call to organise a countrywide jail bharo struggle in order to reinforce the movement, militant agitation was accordingly organised in Kerala in all the 140 assembly constituencies. More than six lakhs of people participated in it.

However, even after such resounding protest actions the UPA government has miserably failed to appreciate the common people’s resentment. The chief ministers’ meeting on price rise, convened by the centre, was nothing but eyewash. The centre’s hypocrisy is that it formed a committee of ten chief ministers to suggest steps to curb price rise, convened its meeting after two months and. without taking any concrete decision, it formed three sub-committees. In such a situation there was no other way but to intensify the struggle.

The agitation unleashed by the Left parties against the government’s policies gained momentum after nine non-Congress secular parties, viz the AIADMK, BJD, SP, RJD, TDP, RLD, LJP, JD(S) and INLD, joined the movement. Even some UPA allies criticised the government’s insensitive attitude to the unprecedented price rise. Even though the government dubiously managed to defeat the opposition’s cut motions, the Congress and the government were once again exposed as a result of the Left parties’ struggle inside as well as outside the parliament. It is clear that the government’s erroneous policies can be resisted only by building up a massive upsurge against these policies and it is the Left parties’ endeavour to gear up the struggle and compel the government to be sensitive to people’s concerns.

(K K Ragesh)



IN Puducherry (Pondicherry), the national level call for a hartal received uncommon success.

The week before the action witnessed widespread and vigorous campaigning by all the Left parties and the AIADMK. The Confederation of State Government Employees of Pondicherry, together with the Pondicherry unit of School Teachers Federation of India (STFI), staged a demonstration in support of the bandh on the eve of the action before the Head Post Office. The demonstration evinced participation from various shades of people irrespective of political orientation. The reach of the campaign was visible on the day of the bandh when even the Villianur area, which is generally immune to every kind of public protest, remained devoid of activities. All shops and business centres remained closed, transport was minimal and public mobility scarce. In Karaikal also, the bandh was observed in totality. The highlight of the bandh was that the public sympathised with its cause and accepted as reasonable the inconvenience that they had to face. The issue of price rise has pricked all strata of the society and by taking up the issue the organisers of the hartal have struck the right chord. This bandh was a kind of red alert to the central and state governments.

There was a massive procession, taken out by the members and sympathisers of the Left parties --- raising thundering slogans, waving red flags and displaying placards. Towards the end of the rally, the police stopped the protesters and brutally lathicharged them. Leaders and activists of the Left parties courted arrested. Exploiting this opportunity for a revenge, the police attacked some leading persons and chargesheeted them.

The bandh has several implications for the political parties in Puducherry. The people have clearly expressed their disaffection with the anti-people policies of the UPA government. They came to see how ruthlessly the government counters the protests of the people, even if for a genuine cause. Political climate in the region has acquired a momentum. Issue based politics is striking roots and this is a positive development for the Left parties, giving them an opportunity to strengthen their support and political base.

(Rasa Jayaraman)



IN response to the all-India call of a hartal on April 27, the CPI(M) unit in Bhavnagar (Gujarat) organised a bandh which evoked good response from the people. All the bazaars in M G Road, Pirchhalla, Vora Bazaar and Haluria area, as also in Kumbharwada, Kalanala, Mochi Bazaar, Vadvanera and Vadva Talavdi remained by and large closed. About 30,000 diamond workers, 2,000 plastic workers and port workers stayed away from work. Customer care, security jobs, vegetable market, labour court and civil courts remained closed. Distant areas like Khedutvas, Karchaliapara and Vidyanagar also observed complete bandh. More than five hundred CPI(M) workers as well as members of the AIDWA, DYFI, SFI and CITU went round the city, urging the people to observe a bandh. The police arrested 430 activists. The ETV, TV-9, Doordarshan and other media organisations publicised the action, showing the city people well responding and the red flags fluttering. What was more spectacular was the voluntary participation of the commuters in the protest; buses and rails were found empty as daily passengers did not chose to travel on the day. Also, it was the first time that many traders’ associations supported the bandh. In certain areas, women spontaneously formed groups and canvassed for the bandh.

It may be noted that the bandh was preceded by a week long campaign through small group meetings, area and chowk meetings and padayatras. Twenty thousand leaflets were distributed. The CITU, DYFI, SFI, AIDWA and the Jhopad Patti organisation remained vigilant and their members worked day and night.

At Rajkot, whole district committee of the CPI(M) was arrested. Earlier, they went through the main bazaars, canvassing for protest. The people responded spontaneously. Ultimately the police arrested them after a scuffle.

There was positive response in Ahmedabad city and in Amraivadi area of Ahmedabad district. The police tried to prevent the CPI(M) and CPI workers from canvassing for action, and arrested them after a clash.

At Himmatnagar, the call got partial response. A demonstration was held here.

At Junagadh also, it was a partial bandh and a demonstration was held.

There were padayatras and other programmes in Sabarkantha, Surat, Dahod, Panchmahal and Amreli.

Prior to April 27, a meeting of CPI(M), CPI, Lok Janshakti Party, Republican Party, Janata Dal (Secular) and RJD was held at the CPI(M) state office, from where a bandh appeal was issued and a jatha programme from April 24 to 26 was decided.