People's Democracy

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


No. 16

April  17, 2011



Minimum Wage Hike, Land to Landless Demanded


Dusmanta Das


ON April 4, a group of CPI(M) satyagrahis, led by its Orissa state secretary Janardan Pati, courted arrest in front of the state assembly at Bhubaneswar after breaking police cordon. The court arrest was preceded by a militant and colourful procession that started from Bhubaneswar railway station, demanding a minimum daily wage of Rs 200, land and homestead land to the landless, enforcement of the Forest Rights Act, measures to check the price rise, measures to stop the atrocities on tribal and dalit masses, and supply of essential commodities to all through the public distribution system.


Apart from Janardan Pati, CPI(M) state secretariat member Dusmanta Das, Bhubaneswar district secretary Suresh Panigrahi,  tribal leader Sala Marandi and state AIDWA president Puspa Dash, among others, addressed the demonstration and meeting held in front of the state assembly. According to the speakers, if the state’s legislators could enhance their monthly emoluments three-fold, i.e. up to Rs 60,000 per month, why were the daily-wagers denied a minimum wage of Rs 200?


Even though the CPI(M) had informed the government beforehand about the demands and the action it proposed, the government maintained stoic silence, which only expressed its scant response to the democratic demands of the people. Moreover, while the state government is generously handing over more than 80,000 acres of land to the POSCO, Vedanta, the private universities of Sri Ravi Shankar etc, it is refusing to give to the landless just 4 decimals of house-site or land for agriculture. Also, most of the poor in the state have been denied a BPL card. The public distribution system is in a complete disarray. If the food subsidy is replaced by cash subsidy as proposed in the central budget, the speakers said the poor will be hit hard.


Protesting the lackadaisical attitude of the state government to the plight of the poor of the state and particularly about the demand of enhancement of minimum daily wage to Rs 200 and land to the landless, the satyagrahis courted arrest after the demonstration and were sent to jail. They refused to come out on PR bonds.


While Janardan Pati and 30 other comrades, men and women, were in jail, various district committees of the CPI(M) organised protest demonstrations in various parts of the state against the apathy of state government to the just demands of the people. Bhubaneswar district committee of the party started a continuous dharna in front of the assembly. On these demands, many district level rallies have already been held in Sundargarh, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Nayagarh, Khurdha and Gajapati districts. Protest actions are in the offing in all the districts in order to bring pressure on the state government to get the demands of the people conceded.