People's Democracy

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


No. 46

November 13, 2011



Towards A New Alternative


Muralidharan from Moga


THE newly-launched ‘Sanjha Morcha’ (United Front) kicked off its election campaign with an impressive rally at Dhudike in Moga district on November 6. The four-party front comprising the Peoples’ Party of Punjab (PPP), the CPI, the CPI(M) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) are seeking to provide an alternative as opposed to the SAD-BJP and the Congress.


That the people of Punjab, fed up with both fronts consisting of the SAD-BJP combine and the Congress are looking for an alternative was evident from the huge turn out at the rally. Arrangements went haywire as over a lakh people congregated at the venue, far surpassing the estimates of the organisers. A sizeable section of the people could not find place inside the huge pandal erected for the purpose and had to brave the sun for hours together.


The choice of Dhudike as the venue is significant. It is the birth place of Lala Lajpat Rai, who was killed after lathis were rained on him by the British police while leading a protest march against the Simon Commission in 1928.


Speaking on the occasion, CPI(M) general secretary, Prakash Karat said that a change is going to come in Punjab with the formation of the United Front. He underlined that the Sanja Morcha is strong because it is a front of kisans, of the workers, of women, youth, students and the common people. “Today we are presenting an alternative before the people to take Punjab forward”, he said.


He called upon the people of Punjab to emulate the example of their counterparts in Tamilnadu who had ousted the corrupt DMK government from office. The Badal government in Punjab is utilising the government machinery to loot the people.  The SAD-BJP government has gone back on its promises. Corruption and nepotism are proliferating under the family raj of the Badals. During the last four and a half years, over 500 peasants have committed suicide; 45 lakh youth are unemployed; workers are not getting wages enough for a living, he said.


“The Congress cannot be an alternative” as the UPA government led by it has “established a record in corruption”. Since the 2009 elections, one scam after the other is being exposed. If the Congress thinks it will win the next elections in Punjab they are “day dreaming” he observed.


CPI general secretary, A B Bardhan underscored that the Morcha was not formed to fight elections alone. “Elections will come and go”, he said. He observed that the Congress-led UPA government at the centre was committing suicide by repeatedly hiking fuel prices. This is having a cascading effect. Already inflation has touched a high of 12.2 per cent and the current increase in the prices of petrol would only accentuate this. Ridiculing the BJP and the yatra undertaken by Advani, Bardhan pointed out that the BJP was no different from the Congress. “As far as corruption is concerned”, he said, it is “equally steeped deep in corruption”. The Karnataka chief minister had to resign in the face of an indictment by the Lokayukta and is currently in jail, he added.


The CMP of the Sanjha Morcha released on the occasion lays down a concrete roadmap for reviving the economy of the state and its development.


Manpreet Singh Badal, president of the PPP said it was time that the people “revolted against the misrule” by the SAD-BJP combine and the Congress if the “honour of Punjab” was to be salvaged. “We need to preserve the dignity of the poor,” he said. He lashed out at the SAD-BJP combine and the Congress for ignoring the real issues concerning the masses. He expressed concern at the increasing role of muscle and money power in politics.


Announcing some of the promises made in the CMP, the PPP chief and also the chairman of the Sanja Morcha said that if the Front comes to power, they would launch a Bhagat Singh Rojgar Yojana and create one lakh jobs per year. As a measure to arrest the trend of declining male-female ratio, the day a girl child is born Rs 5000 would be deposited in her name. On maturity the girl would be able to get Rs 50,000. The CMP also promises to open 25 new colleges and hospitals in the first year, besides the establishment of a Babasaheb Ambedkar Awas Yojana for providing housing to the socially and economically backward sections.


Speaker after speaker dwelt on the rampant corruption during the rule of the Badals which has surpassed earlier records. It is estimated that  chief minister Badal and his family have grabbed about Rs 5,000 crore through their monopoly in sand mining, cable business and the private transport companies at the cost of public exchequer during the four and half years of their rule.


Castigating the Badal government, CPI(M) Punjab state secretary, Charan Singh Virdhi said that “The four and half year rule of the SAD-BJP combine has contributed to the worsening financial crisis in the state. The state owes around Rs 78,000 crores to the centre. The government has to borrow even for payment of salaries to its employees.”


The deepening crisis in the agrarian sector is reflected in the number of suicides during the last four and a half years. Nearly 500 peasants and agricultural workers have committed suicide owing to indebtedness. Roughly 80 per cent of the peasantry in Punjab is poor. Escalating prices of fertilisers and other inputs combined with non-remunerative prices is making agriculture unviable. Denied easy access to institutional credit, they have to rely on loans from arthiyas (moneylenders) which come at exorbitant rates of interest ranging from 18 to 24 per cent. The total debt of the peasantry is estimated to be around Rs 35,000 crores.


Another problem plaguing the state is the increasing incidence of cancer, especially in the three districts of Sangrur, Mansa and Bhatinda (also known as the “cotton belt”) in the Malwa region. Unrestricted use of pesticides, including endosulfan and their residue seeping into ground water is believed to be behind this. There is no specialised hospital to treat cancer in the entire region forcing patients to travel long distances. Even facilities available at Chandigarh are private and costly forcing people to travel to Bikaner in Rajasthan for less costlier treatment. Trains from Bhatinda to Bikaner carry scores of patients each day, so much so that one of them has earned the epithet of “Cancer Express”.


The plight of the agricultural workers is even worse. They get hardly eighty days of employment per year. Unemployment is on the rise with 45 per cent of the youth remaining without jobs currently. These frustrated youth are getting addicted to drugs, which has reached alarming proportions with even the government admitting that seven out of ten youth is addicted to one kind of drug or the other.


Among the others who spoke on the occasion were former governor and chief minister, Surjit Singh Barnala who is also the president of the SAD (Longowal), CPI state secretary Nirmal Singh and a host of PPP leaders.