People's Democracy

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


No. 27

July 04, 2010


Resounding Protests All Over the Country

THE Left and Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala had called for a dawn-to-dusk (6 am to 6 pm) hartal on June 26, 2010 to protest the cruel hike in prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas. The hartal call was extensively accepted and evoked massive response in the state with people spontaneously venting their anger against the UPA-II government’s anti-people move in numerous protest demonstrations. Responding to the hartal call, industrial units and factories also closed since workers’ and employees refused to work. Most of the government offices remained closed as very few employees came to offices; the public transport was totally halted while  shops and commercial establishments remained closed. There were hardly any private vehicles plying on the roads. Prime minister Manmohan Singh’s effigy was burnt in many places reflecting the wrath of the people.

Immediately after the news about the decision of the central government to effect a steep hike in the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and LPG was flashed in the news channels, people in large numbers spontaneously rallied in the massive protest programmes organised by various class and mass organisations. The hike also sparked off protests in sectors such as fishing, road transport in a big way. In view of the response from the people, the hartal in Kerala ultimately turned to be a total bandh.

Just four months back, the UPA-II government imposed a burden of around Rs 26,000 crore on the common people by increasing the excise and customs duties on petrol and diesel in its budget, which resulted in a huge hike in petroleum prices. In the same budget, the government provided around Rs 80,000 crore tax concessions to the corporate houses and the rich. And now in the midst of unprecedented price rise in essential commodities, the government has delivered this cruel blow of yet another hike in petro products. This is the seventh hike in petro products effected by the UPA governments since it assumed power in 2004. In terms of rupees, it has so far increased the price of petrol by around Rs 20 per litre, diesel by Rs 15 and LPG by Rs 90 since 2004, which is more than 60 per cent increase!

Despite the fact that the government ridiculously tries to justify its atrocious decision with the rhetoric of ending the“subsidy culture” and mitigating the “under-recovery burden”, it conveniently hides the exorbitant taxes imposed on the fuel price. The taxes comprise around around 50 – 57  of the price! In fact, the subsidy provided for fuel is a paltry amount compared to the excise and customs duties imposed on the petroleum products. Further, more deregulation of petroleum prices and leaving it to market forces will only worsen the situation in the coming days. When the petroleum prices are decided on the basis of volatility in the international crude prices, it will lead to hoarding and black-marketeering of petro products also.

The government's decision of hiking the petro prices immediately lifted the shares of the private corporate players in the oil sector such as Essar Oil and Reliance Industries (RIL) in the stock market. It may be recalled these corporate houses were not in a position to operate their retail outlets because of the subsidy given to the state-owned oil companies. It is irrefutable that the decision to abandon fuel subsidy and deregulating fuel prices are aimed to cater to the concerns of such corporate houses. The central government is furthering the privatisation of oil sector, an area of strategic importance to the nation’s economy. Previously only PSUs were allowed in the oil sector. As part of the neo-liberal policies private sector was allowed first in the lucrative oil refining sector and later even in retail sector and hence corporate houses such as Essar Oil and Reliance Industries have today a big enough hold in the oil sector. The central government is keen in providing scores of concessions to the corporate houses, including huge tax exemptions. The decision to deregulate fuel prices undoubtedly is part of the UPA-II government’s game plan to divest the public sector oil companies in future and to pave way for the companies like Reliance to snatch the entire oil industry. 

The magnitude of the cruel burden being imposed on the people of the country by the central government can be gauged from the fact that it gets around Rs 1200 crore from the people of Kerala alone. In Kerala, around 100 crore litres of petrol and 200 crore litres of diesel are sold every year. The people of Kerala have to pay an additional sum of Rs 350 and Rs 400 crore respectively on petrol and diesel alone to the central government. Apart from the burden of the raised fuel prices, its repercussion in a state like Kerala will be most negative and far reaching.

Consumer states like Kerala will be the worst sufferers of the fuel price hike. Kerala has to depend on other states for its food requirements given the fact that the state produces only 15 per cent of the requirement. Agricultural production in Kerala is mainly concentrated on cash crops. Most of essential commodities are brought from other states. And hence any increase in prices of the petroleum products will immediately reflect in the prices of essential commodities due to the increased freight charges. Immediately after the petroleum price hike, lorry owners and bus operators demand for an increase in bus and freight charges. Four months before, when the central government increased the excise and customs duties on petrol and diesel, the state had to increase all such charges including the bus, taxi, and auto fares and freight charges and had to make immense effort to control the prices of essential commodities. Even after all such attempts by intervening in the market, by strengthening the PDS etc to curb the price rise, negative trend still exists as a result of the increased fuel charges. The recent hike would certainly sabotage the family budget of all sections of people, particularly the fixed income groups.

The prime minister on the one hand fraudulently laments about the alarming price rise situation and on the other hand implements policies that further add fuel to the situation. The Congress-led UPA government is trying to unleash neo-liberal policies vigorously after it got an opportunity to retain power with out the support of the Left parties. The government had already decided to sell up to 10 per cent of the shares of the profit making PSUs under the fraudulent pretext of ensuring ‘people’s participation’ in the public sector. In order to safeguard the interests of US companies, the Manmohan Singh government did not hesitate to introduce the Nuclear Liability Bill in parliament which is patently detrimental to the interest of our nation. In continuation of such anti-people and pro-corporate attitude of the government, it has effected such a cruel hike in petro prices at a time when the people are reeling under the impact of the alarming price rise situation.

As a matter of fact, one cannot undermine the class character of the UPA-II government led by the Congress party. Being a coalition that serves the ruling class capitalist interests, the Left parties have no illusion that the UPA-II government would willingly make any substantial shift in its policies. The Left parties had to mount tremendous pressures on the UPA -I government while supporting it from outside to bring about some relief to the people. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act etc. were the outcome of such interventions by the Left. The UPA-I government was not hesitant to implement pro-rich policies by even violating the provisions in the NCMP. Its attempt to dismantle even profit-making PSUs, introduction of the Seeds Bill to serve corporate interests in agriculture, Patents (Amendment) Ordinance in compliance with the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) etc were either halted or amended as a result of rigorous resistance of the Left. This underlines the fact that the UPA–II government’s anti-people policies can be resisted only by building massive people's struggles against such policies by synchronizing the movement both inside and outside parliament. The Left parties' have called for such a struggle in order to compell the UPA-II government to be sensitive regarding people’s concerns. No doubt, there is scope for a fabulous wide-ranging movement in the future days to come.
K K Ragesh

SHARING the nationwide anger against the recent hike in prices of petroleum products, the people of Tripura observed a 12-hour general strike throughout the state on June 28, 2010 at the call of the Tripura Left Front committee. All offices, both public and private remained closed. No students nor any teaching staff turned out in Schools, colleges or any educational institutions. Shops and markets and commercial centres remained stand still during the day. Roads and streets in urban and rural areas presented a deserted look because all types of vehicular traffic remained off the road from dawn to dusk.  The protest was so spontaneous that nowhere it was necessary to conduct picketing in favour of the strike.

All the Left parties, including the CPI(M) and mass organisations, instantly started protest demonstrations all over the state immediately after news about the hike of the petroleum product and cooking gas by the UPA government was flashed. The Left Front called a 12-hour general strike on June 28 protesting against this hike which has a fleecing effect on the common people. It is very much a fact, particularly for the North East states like Tripura, because most of the essential commodities are to be transported into the state by roadways from other states. The Tripura Left Front committee hailed the people of the state for their spontaneous response  to the call of strike and expected similar support in a bigger movement in the days to come. 

The people of Andhra Pradesh vented their anger against both the central and state governments' cruel attacks on their already burdened lives. Nine Left parties in the state – CPI(M), CPI, CPI (ML) SUCI(C), MCPI(U), ML Committee, RSP, Forward Bloc and CPI(ML-Ramanna Goud) –  jointly gave a call for statewide demonstrations on June 28, 2010 against the recently announced petro price hike by the centre, the general increase in prices and against the ongoing cuts in welfare schemes by the state government. 

Responding to this call, thousands of people participated in the protest actions. Dharnas were held, collectorate offices were gheraoed across the state and effigies of the governments were symbolically burnt by the protestors venting their anger. Most of the protest actions were accompanied by cultural troupes decrying the insensitive nature of the governments through songs and plays.

In Hyderabad, top leaders of the nine Left parties participated in the joint dharna held at Indira Park. Addressing the protestors, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and state secretary B V Raghavulu called for intensifying and widening the ongoing agitation against price rise and the cruel measure of hiking petro products as both the governments are being grossly insensitive to the sufferings of the people. “The common people are already unable to carry on their lives with the unprecedented rise in the prices of foodgrains and essential commodities. At such a juncture the centre has imposed the recent hike in petro prices that is set to worsen the plight of the poor”, said the CPI(M) leader. The central government has effected a total of 12 hikes in the prices of petroleum products so far and with the decontrol happening there would be many more hikes, he felt.

Debunking the justification being offered for the price rise – that people are eating more due to their higher purchasing power – Raghavulu asked if that is true then how come lakhs of tonnes of foodgrains are lying in the godowns. The reasons could only   be that vast majority of people are not in a position to buy the grains and another reason could be that traders and blackmarketeers are hoarding the foodgrains with the connivance of governments.  Referring to the petroleum minister's statement about the burden of subsidy on kerosene and LPG, the CPI(M) leader said that it is clear that the prices of these commodities are set to rise further. He asserted that both the central and state governments have to be forced to retract their anti-people measures through mass agitations. He appealed to the people to join in big numbers the proposed nationwide agitation plans being chalked out by the Left parties. The Left parties will be in the forefront of this agitation which would be further intensified, he said.

CPI state secretary K Narayana lambasted the state government ministers for their irresponsible statements about rising incomes of people of the state. It is not people's incomes that are rising, it is only the incomes of such corrupt ministers that is rising, he said sarcastically. He demanded the state government to remove the excise duty on petroleum products if its own party's government at the centre does not rescind its decision of hiking the prices.

Leaders of other Left parties spoke in the meeting which was presided over by the Hyderabad city secretaries of CPI(M) and CPI.

THE CPI(M), CPI, PWP and other secular parties organised immediate demonstrations all over Maharashtra from June 26-30 to denounce the Congress-led UPA central government for its savage hike of diesel, petrol, kerosene and cooking gas prices. This step was condemned as rubbing salt into the wounds of the people who were already groaning under the impact of steep price rise of food grains and all other essential commodities for the last few months.

On June 30, the Republican Left Democratic Front (RLDF) held an urgent state-level meeting and press conference in Mumbai where it declared its full and active support to the nationwide hartal on July 5. It called for an intense mass campaign amongst the people against the UPA regime and for large processions, rasta roko and rail roko actions on the hartal day. The meeting and press conference was attended by Ramdas Athavale (RPI), Dr Ashok Dhawale, K L Bajaj and Mahendra Singh (CPI-M), Narayan Ghagare and Prakash Reddy (CPI), Vasant Shirali (JD-S), Kuber Maurya and Farooq Ghosi (SP), S V Jadhav (PWP), Sanjeev Sane (SJP) and others.

The largest protest action took place on June 28 at Solapur, when over 1200 people led by the CPI(M) stormed the district collectorate by breaking three lines of police cordons. The police resorted to a lathicharge in which 18 CPI(M) activists were injured and 58 were arrested.

In Mumbai, over 200 activists of the CPI(M) and CPI broke ban orders and held a protest action in pouring rain at the Churchgate railway terminus in south Mumbai. At Talasari in Thane district, over 500 people led by the CPI(M) held a protest demonstration. The CPI(M) held another action at Uran in Raigad district. All the above three districts come in the Konkan region.

In North Maharashtra, over 200 people led by the Left parties held protests in three parts of Nashik city and burnt effigies of the UPA regime. In Nandurbar district, 150 protested in Nandurbar, 139 in Shahada, 67 in Prakasha and 50 in Taloda in actions led by the CPI(M). All the demonstrators were arrested and later released.

In  Western Maharashtra, similar protest demonstrations were held by the CPI(M) along with other Left parties at Kolhapur, Ichalkaranji, Sangli, Satara, Ahmednagar, Akole and elsewhere.

In Vidarbha, the CPI(M), CPI and Forward Block held a protest action at Nagpur. Another demonstration took place at Ramtek. Actions also took place in Wardha, Amravati, Yavatmal, Buldana and other districts.

In Marathwada, an immediate demonstration was held by the CPI(M) and CPI at Aurangabad. Independent and joint protest actions were held in Parbhani, Nanded, Jalna, Beed and Latur districts.

Among those who led all the above actions were state secretariat and state and district committee members of the CPI(M). Hectic preparations are now on throughout Maharashtra to make the July 5 all India hartal against the UPA regime a great success. 
                                                                                                                                             (Ashok Dhawale)

Activists of the CPI(M) organised processions, road blocks and effigy burning at several places in Delhi, Ghaziabad and Noida on June 28, 2010 to protest against the increase in prices of petrol, diesel, LPG and kerosene announced by the central government. This is a sequel to the joint demonstration of Left parties held on June 26. In Mangolpuri, CPI(M) activists organised a procession and blocked the Outer Ring Road at the Mangolpuri fly over for over 30 minutes. An effigy of prime minister Manmohan Singh was also burnt on the occasion. CPI(M) state secretariat member, Rampal led this protest. In Dwarka, Party workers and sympathisers organised a procession that was followed by blocking traffic on the Dwarka-Dabri main road for 30 minutes and here also an effigy of the prime minister was burnt. Party and mass organisation activists, including large number of women, blocked traffic at Jehangirpuri  traffic signal for over 30 minutes and burnt an effigy of Dr Manmohan Singh. The protest here was led by CPI(M) state committee members, Asha Sharma and Sidheshwar Shukla.

In Old Delhi, Party and trade union activists, led by state committee member, Jagdish Manocha organised a procession followed by a demonstration and effigy burning at Ajmeri Gate Chowk. The CPI(M) and RLD activists organised a protest demonstration and effigy burning at Mithapur Chowk in Badarpur. Traffic was stopped here for nearly 45 minutes. The protestors were led by CPI(M) state committee member, Jagdish Chand Sharma and RLD state vice-president, Kalyan Singh Mann. In Ghaziabad over 500 CPI(M) and CITU activists blocked Link Road at Vasundhara Chowk for over one hour. Here an effigy of union petroleum minister Murli Deora was burnt. Delhi CPI(M) secretariat member, K M Tiwari and its Sahibabad committee secretary, Brijesh Singh led the protestors. The CPI(M) and CITU activists under leadership of the Party’s Noida secretary, Gangeshwar Dutt, blocked traffic at Sector 8-9 main crossing in Noida for half an hour and burnt an effigy of the prime minister.

The CPI(M) Delhi state committee has called upon the people of Delhi to continue their protests against the anti-people increase in prices of petrol, diesel, LPG and kerosene.

CPI(M) activists staged protest demonstrations at various district centres all over the state of Haryana against the hefty increase in the prices of petroleum products and the act of decontrolling these products by the UPA-II government. These protest demonstrationswere accompanied by burning of effiges of UPA government and of the prime minister in Rohtak, Hisar, Fatehabad, Sirsa, Bhiwani, Panipat, Jind, Faridabad and Panipat.

In Rohtak, CPI(M) workers took out a protest march raising slogans againt the UPA government and the Congress party. They demanded immediate roll back of fuel prices. An effigy of the government was burnt at Chhotu Ram chowk where Party state secretary Inderjit Singh addressed the protestors, among whom included large number of women. The CPI(M) leader accused the UPA government of betraying the same aam admi in whose name it garnered votes. He described the act of decontroling fuel prices as disastrous and grossly anti-people. He called upon political parties, mass organisations, trade unions and common people to launch a broadbased movement against the treacherous conduct of the UPA government.  Ram Chander Siwach of the Party also addressed the gathering.

Immediately after knowing about the decision of petro hike, the Haryana state committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) issued a statement strongly criticising the steep rise in the prices of petroleum products and their decontrol. Describing the act as cruelty towards people because they were already reeling under the impact of unabated inflation, the CPI(M) stated that it was a totally unjustified measure. It reminded that the prices of petrol and diesel were increased only three months before in the union budget. The decision to decontrol petroleum products was taken being done at the instance of private companies who would now be totally free to increase the prices for their super profits and render the people to the mercy of reckless market forces. The state committee called upon all its units to organise protests along with other organisations and consumers demanding the rollback of enhanced prices. (INN)

CITU activists led by its senior leader and vice president M K Pandhe held a protest demonstration and burned the effigy of the UPA-II government at the busy ITO centre in New Delhi protesting against the steep increase in the prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas and not even sparing kerosene. Several office bearers of CITU including Swadesh Dev Roye, Dipankar Mukherjee, Hemalata, Kashmir Singh Thakur, Sudha Bhaskar and S Punyavathi, working committee members including A R Sindhu, Amitava Guha and large number of CITU members from Delhi participated in the demonstration.

Addressing the gathering, Pandhe severely condemned the insensitive attitude of the UPA-II government towards the sufferings of the common people. Instead of controlling the rising prices, the UPA-II government has increased the prices of petrol, diesel, LPG and kerosene which would further increase the prices of essential commodities. He also criticised the decision of the government to link the prices of petroleum prices to international prices. He warned that this would further result in price rise. Pandhe demanded the government to immediately withdraw the hike and also rescind the decision to link the prices of petroleum products to international prices. He warned that if the government did not withdraw its decision, CITU, along with all the other trade unions and mass organisations would intensify the struggle in the coming days.

The CITU secretariat in its meeting held on June 25, 2010 strongly denounced the government’s moves to increase prices of petroleum product as part of its efforts to deregulate the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and LPG to please the private refineries like Reliance and Essar.

CITU has called upon all its state committees to stage protest rallies and demonstrations all over the country and send telegrams to the prime minister protesting against the price hike.