IN PUNJAB, Mansa and nearby districts have become centres of peasant struggles where BKU(Ekta) is in the leading role. As peasants are indebted heavily due to non-remunerative farming, BKU has declared that no peasant would pay back debt selling land, tractor or immovable property. They also staged demonstrations at several places to get the peasants freed from police custody. In June, four peasants were freed in Sardulgarh, because of a gherao organised by peasants. In Patiala, 4,000 peasants staged a dharna on the demand of electricity required for the total paddy crop. In Budhlada, relay indefinite fast was started by peasants on 26 May on the demand of opening a sugar mill. The movement is still going on. Later, 2,500 peasants staged a demonstration before the DC office at Mansa in support of this demand. On 30 June, the Chief Minister, who had come to visit Mansa had to take the memorandum himself at the helipad. In Mansa, a farmer had sown hybrid cotton seeds in 13 acres, but the seeds did not sprout. The peasants demanded compensation. For 5 days since 28 June, peasants staged dharnas at various places in Mansa city and the whole city came to a standstill. Wholesale dealers too staged dharnas, but ultimately the concerned dealer had to bow down in face of the movement and paid Rs. 50,000 as compensation. BKU has announced that peasants should demand bills for everything they purchased, from pesticides to seed. There are cases where the dealer refused to issue a bill, for instance Ujagar Singh of Kella village had to fight for a bill. Mithu Singh of Mandoha village in Maur block of Bathinda district committed suicide because of debt. BKU has planned to stage a massive dharna at Maur block on the demand of debt relief and institution of a case against the bank manager. As there is 2-phase electricity supply instead of 3-phase, peasants are forced to use shunt capacitors to run their motors. The govt. declared it illegal and arrested a peasant. But the peasants soon got him released and staged a dharna against inadequate supply of electricity that is continuing till date. Apart from the attack on Rajvinder Rana, Ruldu Singh, another BKU(Ekta) leader, was also attacked on 2 July. A procession of 1,500 persons was staged in Mansa on 5 July to protest these attacks.
AROUND 100 workers of Durg and Bhilai brought out a rally under the banner of AICCTU on 20 June in Raipur. The rallyists marched from the railway station to Motibagh, where a memorandum opposing cut in provident fund and corruption in the scheme was handed over to assistant commissioner of provident fund. A meeting was held there which was addressed by Com. Rajaram, Party incharge of Chhattisgarh, Narottam Sharma, convener of state unit of AICCTU, Com. Shambhu Singh, Ashok Miri and others.
OPPOSING THE humiliating wage agreement concluded by a faction of INTUC with the management of Bhilai Steel Plant, the Centre of Steel Workers staged a hunger strike. Workers led by CSW vice president Ashok Miri and Gen. Secy. Shyamlal Chauhan sat on fast for 12 hours at Boria Gate on 3 July. A mass meeting was also held at Boria gate before the hunger strike which was addressed by Shekhar Rao, president of CSW, Com. Rajaram, Com. Shambhu Singh, Shiv Kumar Prasad and others.
ON THE joint initiative of our Party and Bharat Jan Andolan, a “Peasant Convention against Agrarian Crisis due to Globalisation” was held in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, on 26 June. Around 100 delegates from 7 districts of Chhattisgarh came to attend it. A freedom charter was issued by the convention which includes demands of debt relief, right to work and skilled labour status to agriculture. The convention was addressed by Com. Rajaram, Party CC member, BD Sharma, president of Bharat Jan Andolan, CPI state secy. Chittaranjan Buxi, state president of Loktantrik Samajwadi Party Javed Usmani, Sarvoday leader Hariprasad Agrawal, Prof. Som Goswami, Ilena Sen of Rupantar, Gautam Bandopadhyay of Abhayaranya Sangharsh Samiti, Uday Singh Chauhan of Chhattisgarh Swabhiman Sanstha, Shyamlal Nishad of Kisan Mazdoor Sangh, Suresh Sahu of Chhattisgarh Kisan Sangh, president of Raipur district Kisan Sabha Kesri Vishwakarma and State Secy. of CPI(ML) Com. Shambhu Singh. The convention formed an 11-member committee of “People’s Campaign Against Globalisation”. Com. Narottam Sharma was elected its convener and Ramkumar Sahu as co-convener. Several resolutions were adopted at the convention which mainly included peasant demands. It was also decided to launch a mass awakening campaign in Chhattisgarh along with the anti-globalisation campaign and launch Kheti bachao, Azadi bachao (Save Agriculture, Save Freedom) campaign from 9 to 15 August.
ON 8 JULY, various trade unions and mass organisations organised a convention at Sophia College Hall in Ajmer. It was addressed by Srilata Swaminathan, vice president of AICCTU, K Ashok Rao, General Secretary of National Confederation of Public Sector Officers Association and ex-MP Than Singh Jatav. The speakers dealt on the issues related to impact of globalisation and privatisation of PSUs on dalits. Activists from AICCTU, HMS, BMS, AIPWA, PUCL, Sathin union, Ajmer Mahila Samooh, LIC union, HMT Workers’ Union, HMT officers’ Union, Railways, banks, academic field, medical profession, agrarian labourers, and citizens took part. The seminar was presided over by UC Mishra and conducted by AICCTU leader Hari Babu Sharma.
On 9 July, Jantantrik Vichar Manch and People’s Conference Against Globalisation jointly organised a meeting at Rajasthan Krishi Mahavidyalay in Udaipur. It was addressed by renowned economist Prof. BC Mehta, K Ashok Rao and Srilata Swaminathan. Speakers said that globalisation is the greatest danger before national sovereignty and people’s livelihood all over the world including India. They said that all the logic given in favour of globalisation have been proved false by real events. The BJP-led NDA govt., and surrender by Indian ruling classes before imperialism, is responsible for this situation. Grassroots struggles of common people asserting independently against capitalism can check the offensive. Intellectuals, workers, teachers, social workers, students, as well as activists from CPI(ML), AISA, AIPWA, AITUC, CITU, P&T, Bank, etc participated in the seminar. A call was issued to resist privatisation of electricity, Hindustan Zinc Ltd. and Khetri Copper Project.
DEMANDING IMPLEMENTATION of 1996 central law for construction labourers in Bihar, thousands of unorganised labourers staged a demonstration before the residence of the Chief Minister in Patna. A procession was brought out from Gandhi Maidan to Hartali Chowk before the demonstration. It was led by Com. Yogeshwar Gope, President of AICCTU, Shyamlal Prasad, Vice President, RN Thakur, State Secretary, Rambali Prasad and Surendra Singh, among others. The dharna continued till the next day. The main demands were: resumption of the closed industries and allowance of Rs.1000 per month to the workers; minimum wages to be raised above poverty line and its strict implementation to be ensured, and implementation of 1996 central law for construction workers in Bihar.
THE BIHAR unit of AISA organised a seminar on “Globalisation: Education and Employment” on 5 July in Patna University. AISA President Kavita Krishnan elaborated on the essence of globalisation and termed it a conspiracy to smash resistance centres of all the forces of change. Dwelling on the necessity of students’ movement against globalisation, AISA General Secretary, Sunil Yadav said that students must carry the struggle against globalisation to its logical end because only organised revolutionary initiative can solve their problems. Speaking on globalisation and change in syllabus, Pranay Krishna, ex-president of JNUSU said that the objective of saffronisation of education is to prepare students for reinforcing globalisation. Prof. BN Pandey, principal of Commerce College, and Prof Raghunandan Sharma of Sociology Dept. of Patna University also addressed the seminar.
THE STUDNTS of Allahabad University, led by the Allahabad University Students Union, observed a successful Allahabad Bandh on 16 July to protest fivefold fee hike at the time of admission. More than 500 students, including a good number of girls, staged a daylong dharna at the administrative building and stalled the process of admission. Earlier, too, on 10 July, students had called a successful Allahabad Bandh on the same issue. The massive response from the people of Allahabad and the unity of students on this issue have put the administration on defensive. Throughout this movement AISA played an active role and also provided leadership in organising the bandh.
On 18th July, through tripartite agreement between the Government of UP, university administration and some student leaders, it was declared that there would be a 25% decrease in the proposed fee hike. AISA opposed this agreement demanding total withdrawal of the fee hike. On 19th July, when students took to the streets, pressing this demand, the district administration lathicharged the agitators, arresting state secretary of AISA Ajit Singh Yadav, Arvind Singh, Om Prakash, and others. While student leaders of Samajwadi Party were released in the evening, AISA leaders were sent to jail. 19th July was observed as black day on the campus, and on 20th July, an effigy of CM Rajnath Singh was burnt.
On 17th JULY, the lucknow unit of AISA, under the leadership of its president Rakesh Singh burnt an effigy of PM Vajpayee, protesting against introducing astrology and religious rites into the syllabus in an effort to saffronise education.
RECENTLY, THE govt. put up a notice for introducing voluntary separation scheme (VSS) for all the employees in five NTC mills in Kanpur. Under this scheme, the mills will in fact be closed down, and workers will be given a lumpsum amount. And if a worker does not fill VSS form, he will only get retrenchment compensation. Last year, the scheme was introduced in BIC (Lal Imli) Mills, Kanpur, and because of lack of unity and proper resistance, the govt. succeeded in pushing through the scheme.
However, as the NTC workers were on the alert, they launched a struggle against this anti-worker step and an unprecedented unity of textile workers was witnessed in Kanpur. On 3 July, workers burnt effigies of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Chief Minister Rajnath Singh at various places, including Laxmi Ratan Cotton Mill, New Victoria Mill, Atherton Mill, Mure Mill and Swadeshi Cotton Mill. AICCTU took lead first of all in staging demonstrations at CIT crossing, Bakarmandi and Jajmau. At Laxmi Ratan Mill gate, the road was blocked for one hour.
Addressing the workers, AICCTU leader of NTC Com. Hari Singh proclaimed that the workers will not let the anti-worker conspiracy to succeed and the notice has to be withdrawn. Party leader Com. Ram Kumar Vishwakarma, Nitendra Singh Yadav and Niraj Srivastava of RYA led the procession at Barra-2. Slogans opposing privatisation and attack on workers were raised. Shivani Verma of AIPWA led a procession at Bakarmandi and Com. Net Ram at Jajmau. It is notable that in NTC, the staff members, including officers, are opposing VSS and refusing to hand over VSS forms to workers. Ultimately the government had to bow down and the notice was recalled not only from Kanpur but from NTC mills all over UP.
ON JULY 13, the CPI(ML) organised a big mass meeting on the question of land, agricultural wages, employment, democracy and freedom at the district collectorate at Chandauli. More than 2000 people attended. The mass meeting was addressed, among others, by UP State Secretary Comrade Akhilendra Pratap Singh. It was resolves that on 9 August, the Party would organise rail roko at Mughalsarai to press the demand of India’s withdrawal from the WTO agreement.