(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 02, 2012
Massive Popular Struggle in Kerala
M A Baby
THE virtual siege of the government secretariat and various district collectorates of Kerala by the people holding the banner of CPI(M) on August 22 became a historically memorable event as it was marked by a heavy surge of anger of the protesting masses. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers belonging to various sections that suffer due to the wrong policies of the central and state governments encircled the centres of power from early hours. Over 5.5 lakh people including large number of women participated in the programme which started around 6 am and continued upto 5 pm.
The people’s participation exceeded all expectations of the organisers and the nerve centres of governance were brought to a grinding halt by the mammoth gathering of common people, who bear the brunt of the anti-people policies of both the UPA and the UDF governments. From the early hours of August 22, people started pouring in to surround the government offices braving the repressive moves of the police that posed threats at every point.
The demands included universal public distribution regardless of APL-BPL distinction, ensuring of 35 kg food grains every month to each family at a rate not exceeding Rs 2 per kg, rejection of the absurd criteria of the Planning Commission regarding poverty line, implementation of Swaminathan Commission recommendations for the well being of the peasants, arrest of the punishing price rise; especially of fertilizer and essential commodities including food stuffs, banning of FDI in retail sales sector, withdrawal of electricity tariff and petrol price hike etc.
The agitating millions also demanded the stopping of commercialisation and communalisation of education sector, police atrocities etc. They also demanded that the move to raise the retirement age should be given up.
The mass movement that virtually took the government by storm added a new chapter in the annals of struggles in Kerala. Pinarayi Vijayan, CPI(M) state secretary warned that more militant struggles would ensue if the government does not mend its ways. He was inaugurating the protest rally in front of the government secretariat. The siege of offices at various district headquarters were inaugurated by Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, V S Achuthanandan, M A Baby and other Central Committee and state secretariat members of the Party.
The agitation was held in the backdrop of the public resentment against the pitiable plight of the people prevailing in all over the country as a whole and in Kerala, in particular. Almost all sections of the people of Kerala are compelled to fight against the policies of both the central and state governments that are detrimental to their day-to-day life. It got reflected in the very positive response to the CPI(M) call.
Sections ranging from coir workers to college teachers were taking out to streets highlighting their demands and seeking redressal of their grievances; Nurses too figure in this struggle, who were not allowed to organise themselves or protest against the over exploitation of them by the private managements. They were silently suffering the ill treatment as well as denial of constitutional right to organise, basically because of the fact that most of such private hospitals and institutions had the protective garb of certain religious or caste connections.
Teachers and government employees were unitedly on strike on August 21 against the move to subvert their pension benefits. The All India strike on February 28 was marked by the all-out participation of workers and employees numbering around 100 million. It turned out to be a historic event. The siege of secretariat and collectorates in Kerala added a new chapter to the above mentioned series of struggles by the people.
On the one hand, right wing political forces, sections of the media and their erstwhile Naxallite collaborators try to mislead the people, highlighting certain inflated non-issues, and the assassination of a regional political leader, and on the other, the UDF government is attacking the living standards of the people through their disastrous policies, deliberately exploiting the media focus against the CPI(M).
On an experimental
basis, the rationing system is being sought to be done away
with, in two taluks of Kerala- Neyyattinkara and
These are not the things that happen naturally; they are the result of the policies of the central and the state governments. This miserable situation could have been avoided, to a great extent had there been a government that pursues an alternative set of policies. The stock of food grains that get damaged and perished in the FCI godowns have not been distributed among the poor, in spite of the directive of the Supreme Court to that effect! The very same government had no reluctance in favouring the corporates with the concessions worth 28 lakh crore rupees in a four years time. It goes without saying that the contrast of hunger induced death at a time of the ruinage of food grains at godowns is the direct impact of anti people policies being pursued by the government, which has scant regard for the precious life of our poverty stricken citizens.
The reasons behind the steep hike in prices of essential commodities are black marketing, forward and speculative trading, anti-people taxation policies, hike in diesel and petrol prices, and failure to take stern measures to prevent hoarding and black marketing.
It is to be noted that the LDF government had resorted to effective market intervention and thus ensured the flawless supply of essential commodities at affordable prices, making use of the public distribution networks. Contrary to that, the UDF government took no sincere steps in the realm of public distribution. Even the pro-UDF newspapers had to write editorials on the linkage between the government policies and the price rise. The High Court of Kerala too had to come out criticising the policies that resulted in petrol price hike. One has to evaluate their observations keeping in mind the decision of the centre to deregulate and decontrol the pricing mechanism, and the hypocrisy of government in passing on the responsibility of fixing petroleum prices to the oil companies. Even the High Court Judges opined that the government cannot “wash off its hands” with regard to petroleum price hike. The then acting Chief Justice C N Ramachandran Nair and Justice P S Gopinath in their open observations on November 3, 2011 which was widely reported in the press also went to the extent of exhorting the people to come out in protest against this “without waiting for political parties to take initiative”. So in a way it can be legitimately argued that the struggle of August 22 has the justification of the Justices of High Court of Kerala.
SEEKING TO SUBVERT
Professor M A
Oommen, the renowned economist has on record said that
`Peoples Planning', which was appreciated by all right
thinking people, is facing a difficult challenge presently.
This is no doubt due to the apathy of the UDF government. This
observation of Prof Oommen on the Oomen Chandy government’s
negative and politically motivated efforts to subvert the
People’s Plan is very meaningful, coming from a scholar who
has deep understanding of and close association with the
People’s Plan movement. The Kudumbasree project, meant for
ensuring the wellbeing and empowerment of women too is sought
to be done away with. The UDF government is bent upon
subverting the widely appreciated land reforms, a result of
protracted struggles, immeasurable sacrifice and radical
legislative foundation laid by the 1957
Kerala topped the list of states that maintained effective law and order during the LDF government. Now it has become a state plagued with unabated criminal violence, an insecure state in the first year of UDF rule itself, with 398 murder cases, 8340 cases of burglary, 14445 cases of atrocities against women, 47 cases of murder of children and 423 rape cases. On the one hand, an MLA belonging to Muslim League who is wanted and is ixth accused in a twin murder case is being protected by the UDF government and efforts are being made to exonerate him from the twin murder case! He enjoys the company of the chief minister and the home minister. On the other hand, leaders of the Left Democratic Front and the CPI(M) are trapped in fabricated cases and put behind the bars, on flimsy grounds. It speaks volumes of the undemocratic, conspiratorial and politically motivated police policy of the UDF government.
The LDF government evolved a school education programme with a perspective of enhancing the educational and all round quality of schools run by the government, Panchayat Raj institutions and government aided institutions. Low performing institutions have been identified and well thought out plans to enhance and improve the student performance, with the help of the teaching community, parent teacher association and local community were made. There was discernible impact of this exemplarary initiative. As against this, a pro-unaided school policy is pursued by the current UDF government, as a result of which a girl student Reshma of Pattambi was forced to commit suicide as she was denied admission for Plus Two course.
The UDF government signed an agreement with the managements of the self finance engineering colleges in such a way that it benefits the private managements to amass 22 crores of rupees by way of enhanced fee structure. In the self financing medical sector, the managements have the benefit of more than Rs Three crores. The agreement contains clauses that deprive 20,000 deserving students of their right to get admission to professional courses on the basis of merit and reservation.
It is quite natural that people who suffer due to the anti-people policies of the government come out in large numbers to defend their right to life which is facing continuous onslaughts.
The bourgeois media of Kerala which always came to the aid of the exploiting classes and their political parties tried to blackout the people’s agitation, not withstanding the unprecedented participation. Many of them chose to relegate the news of this mass upsurge to the inner columns and some of them did not carry even a mention of it. Despite that the mass movement sent a strong message to the government that people cannot be cowed down by any strong arm tactics. They also declared in unequivocal terms that they won’t yield to the authoritarian moves and surrender their rights to the ruling classes.