(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 3, 2013
CPI(M) Padayatra Demands Change in Policies
ORGANISED by the Ganjam district committee of the CPI(M) in Odisha, the over 300 kilometres long padayatra started on January 6, 2013 and continued for 20 days, reaching a culmination on January 25, on the eve of the 64 th Republic Day. The CPI(M) has been pointing out that the Republic Day every year reminds us of how the central government has been violating the commitments enshrined in our constitution. It is the duty of the Left and progressive forces to educate and organise the people against the treacherous role of our ruling classes.
In accordance with the plan chalked out by the CPI(M)’s Ganjam district committee, 40 of its cadres marched, with red flags, from village to village. The response was enthusing as hundreds of people everywhere greeted them with garlands, shouting slogans. Moreover, the poorest of the poor, old men and women also narrated their woes in these meetings. They said they had no BPL card, no house, no drinking water. The poor folk were afraid about what they would eat if the subsidised rice system were abolished. That the rice merchants would increase the prices of rice, was the common fear among the poor people. They therefore asked the padayatris to save them. The CPI(M) cadres thus interacted with the people who told them their life experiences.
Along with the padayatri group, a cultural troupe also moved, staging street plays before the meetings. One pilot publicity vehicle was moving ahead of the cultural troupe. Every day four to five street plays and public meetings were thus organised. The padayatra thus covered 250 villages and created a new hope among the people about winning their rights. After one such meeting in the evening, some daily labourers wanted to know why their wages were so low and how could their wages be increased. At another meeting, some peasants wanted to know why the CPI(M) demands an increase in the wages of farm workers. Some class issues thus came during the campaign.
The issues which were raised during the padayatra are the burning issues of the people, like 35 kg of rice per month for every family at two rupees per kilogram; no BPL/APL division in foodgrain distribution, universalisation of the public distribution system, payment to peasants of Rs 2,000 per quintal of paddy, irrigation for all agricultural lands etc. Followers of other parties too listened to the CPI(M) viewpoint with rapt attention.
The party is now preparing for starting a jatha from the Andhra-Odisha border to Odisha-West Bengal border. This would join the proposed main jatha from Kolkata to Delhi in March. More than a thousand people may be participating in the proposed central rally in Delhi.
The padayatra was led by state secretariat member Ali Kishore Pattanaik, state committee members Kailash Sarangi and Aviram Behera, district secretariat members Judhistir Behera, Gopal Panigrahi and Ram Nayak, district committee members Aswini Das and Dilip Chotaray, Laxmana Padhi, Khali Swain, Padma Pradhan and others. Dhararaj Swain, Krishna Sahu, Judhistir Sahu and Kamraj Chatai were, among others, members of the accompanying cultural troupe.
The padayatra culminated in a big public meeting at Berhampur on January 25, where Sitaram Yechury, a CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, greeted the padayatris. After the padayatra, the second phase of the CPI(M) campaign started. Panchayat-wise mass deputations submitted the charter of demands to the administrative authorities. Thus the party focussed on the panchayat level issues and took up the problems of the people at the grassroots.
Addressing the huge rally at Ram Lingeswar Tank Road, Berhampur, on January 25, Sitaram Yechuri lambasted the Congress led UPA government for having destroyed the public distribution system, thus endangering the food security of the country people and throwing three fourths of the poor into the morass of the pauperisation. The rally was organised by the CPI(M)’s Ganjam district committee on culmination of the 20 days long padayatra in the district. Yechury said the much hyped scheme of direct cash transfers by the Congress led government was just a ruse to mislead the people; in fact this trumpeted move would only worsen the plight of the poor with little or no entitlement to foodgrains. He lampooned the prime minister’s contempt for the common men, evident from the latter’s statement that money does not grow on trees while doling out a huge amount of Rs 5.28 lakh crore to corporate houses. According to Yechuri, the money dished out to corporate houses could have been spent for education, health, housing, food security, creation of jobs for the army of unemployed, and infrastructure development. Coming down heavily on the UPA government for its recent decisions like a hike in the fuel prices, cap on the number of subsidised LPG cylinders and increase in the rail fares, Yechuri said these moves are meant to placate the US imperialists. He also dwelt at length on the rapacious propensity of letting FDI loose by the Congress led government, cautioning that the financial sector liberalisation would only strengthen the stranglehold of global finance capital and place the domestic savings its mercy. He wondered why the prime minister was so much obsessed with FDI when the domestic resources and savings were huge enough to match our needs for infrastructure development, job creation and social security measures. He also questioned the PM’s commitment to stamping out corruption when his own cabinet colleagues and bureaucrats were going to jail for huge scams. The sums involved in these scams are so massive that with that amount 35 kg of grains could be provided at Rs 2 per kg to all the APL as well as BPL families every month for two years.
Coming to the people of Odisha, Yechury said the state is rich in precious minerals but still it is one of the poorest states of the country. Minerals are being plundered. Most of the irregularities in the coal block allocation have occurred in Odisha. An end to the loot of mineral resources and their use for development could make Odisha a developed state of the country. He warned that two Hindustans are in the making --- one of the corporate sector, with all the benefits of growth going to them (recent statistics reveal that 62 families control more than one third of the GDP) while the other Hindustan is facing acute deprivation and struggling for bare survival. The economic ‘reforms’ are encouraging the plunder of our national wealth while the common people are being forced out of their land through coercive measures. The speaker urged upon the people to put an end to the ongoing anti-people policies of the government through sustained and grim struggles, and build strong unity of the working people for alternative policies. The latter must be based on food security for all, job creations, housing for homeless, education and health for all. He, however, alerted that the Congress and the BJP advocate the same devastating policies and that the BJP cannot be any alternative to the Congress. A Left and democratic alternative emerging from relentless struggles on the people’s issues is the only answer, he said, and detailed the CPI(M)’s all-India jathas against the disastrous economic policies of the Congress led government; these would culminate in a rally at Delhi on March 19.
CPI(M) state secretariat member Ali Kishore Patnaik, who led the padayatra for 20 days, narrated the harrowing experiences in rural Odisha --- in sharp contrast to the high-decibel campaign of the BJD government in the state that “everything is fine.” Incidentally, he is the writer of the street play “Pratisruti Panire Gara” that was staged in more than 60 places during the padayatra; it was directed by veteran theatre activist Dr N N Mohapatro. The theme of the play was the UPA government’s loud promise of ensuring food security while its actions are creating food insecurity in the country.
Patnaik said at the rally that rural Odisha is bleeding, with farmers reaching distress points due to the refusal of the mandis to procure their produce and racketeering in procurement to benefit the vested interests. He lamented that lack of remunerative work in agriculture and gainful employment elsewhere was driving the youth to desperation; lakhs of them from Ganjam district alone have migrated to other states for temporary manual work Odisha villages are deserted. He asked the people to deepen their struggles against the anti-people policies of the BJD government in the state as well as the UPA government at the centre who have made their life miserable as never before.
CPI(M) state secretary Janardan Pati hailed the 20 days long padayatra to focus attention on the people’s issues and poohpoohed the ruling BJD government’s high voltage propaganda of industrialisation. The state government has entered into scores of MOUs with industrialists, virtually giving them a licence to loot the state’s natural resources with impunity. The contradiction is that despite its huge deposits of best quality natural resources, Odisha continues to suffer the ignominy of having the highest incidence of poverty. He asked the government why its heart throbs and hums for the corporate sector and why it is giving them huge tracts of lands while the homeless are denied even a tiny patch of land for mere existence. Pati accused the state government of apathy towards agriculture. He demanded an increase in the minimum wages of labourers and irrigation facilities for agriculture. He urged upon the party comrades to join the March 19 Delhi rally in large numbers.
The public meeting was presided over by Kailash Sarangi. Others who spoke included Jagannath Mishra, Abiram Behera and Rama Chandra Nayak. Kailsh Sarangi handed over to Sitaram Yechuri the signatures collected during the padayatra, adding that the campaign and struggle would be further intensified in the days to come.