Jharkhand Panchayat ElectionsOur Initial Achievements and Fresh Challenges
D P Bakshi
After a gap of 32 years, the three-tier Panchayat elections were finally concluded Jharkhand, generating tremendous enthusiasm and participation at the grassroots with more than 70% polling and significant participation of women and youth. It also saw the enthusiastic participation of the backward classes and especially the tribal people in the scheduled regions. The election took place in November-December last year in 5 segments, the last segment of which concluded on 24 December 2011 and all the results were declared by 30 December 2011. CPI (ML) actively intervened and participated in this important political struggle as a fighting communist force in Jharkhand. We registered victories in 20 Zila Parishad seats, 139 seats in the Panchayat Samitis (constituted at the block levels) along with 135 directly elected posts of Mukhiyas and more than 800 wards in the panchayats.
In the Zila Parishads, we won 9 seats in Giridih, 5 in Gumla, 2 in Koderma and 1 each in Latehar, Ramgarh, Hazaribagh and Dhanbad. In Giridih district, besides the 9 seats, we also registered wins in 66 Panchayat committee member posts and 45 mukhiya posts. Similarly in Garhwa, besides the 5 seats in the Zila parishad, we registered wins in 20 Panchayat committee member posts and 18 mukhiya posts.
In terms of the Legislative Assembly segments, we won 3 Zila Parishad seats in the Bagodar Assembly region, 4 seats in Rajdhanwar and 4 seats in Bhavnathpur. From the perspective of Koderma parliamentary seat, we won 11 seats in the Zila Parishads and at least one seat in the Zila Parishads of each of the six assembly areas in this constituency.
In the tribal-dominated scheduled areas, especially, Deoghar, Dumka, Ranchi, Lohardagga, Gumla, we had an organised participation, but could not win any seat in the zila parishad regions, but we finished second in two places. However in these districts too, we did win several posts in the panchayat samitis and wards and also mukhiya posts. In fact, in some panchayats of Ranchi and Dumka districts where we had launched determined struggles against corporate land grab and displacement, our wins are noteworthy. For example, in Haripur Panchayat of Shikaripada block, which is the area of our intense and determined struggle against land grab by the Jindal corporation, we registered wins in all the ward posts, mukhiya posts, and panchayat samiti posts.
During January-February 2011, the next stage of indirect elections of Zila Parishad chairpersons and deputy chairpersons, Panchayat Samiti head and deputy head and deputy head of the Panchayats will be done by the elected representative in the respective bodies. Relying on our independent strength and exploring options for a united front based on our core principles, we will try to intervene positively in this process. On the basis of primary estimates, we will fight for the Zila Parishad chairperson posts in Giridih, Garhwa and Koderma. Other than this, in 4-5 districts, we will try to fight for the post of Panchayat Samiti pramukhs in 10-12 blocks. In these non-party ‘secret-ballot’ elections, there will be a definite play of unrestricted money and corrupt wheeling dealing. Our basic effort will be to fight these corrupt tendencies, consolidate our core base and emerge as an organised political and struggling force in the various structures of the Panchayat system.
On 16 January 2011, the 6th anniversary of Com. Mahendra Singh’s martyrdom, CPI(ML) organised a massive Jansankalp Sabha in Bagodar in Giridih district of Jharkhand to reassert the resolve to carry forward his legacy of people’s struggle. Held in the backdrop of the recently concluded panchayat election in the state, the jansankalp sabha gave a determined call to ‘Give power to panchayats, ensure people’s say over panchayats and bring development to rural Jharkhand’. Thousands of poor peasants, women, youth and people from all walks of life participated in the pledge-taking meeting raising slogans in the memory of Com. Mahendra Singh. The meeting started with two minutes’ silence in memory of Com. Mahendra Singh followed by rendition of revolutionary songs by the Jharkhand Cultural front and Prerna Team.
Addressing the meeting, CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Battacharya reminded of the renewed importance of Com. Mahendra Singh’s legacy of mass mobilisation and struggle against corruption and mafiadom in the present phase of all round scam, loot and corruption by governments of all hues. He reminded that in Jharkhand, it is the state government and the parties controlling it that are the biggest source of corruption and the fight against corruption is therefore a fight against the corrupt political parties as well.
Addressing the meeting, Com. Vinod Singh, MLA of Bagodar from CPI (ML), warned that we will have to snatch more powers for the Panchayats from the corrupt government and bureaucracy. Com. Rajkumar Yadav, senior journalist Faisal Anurag and MLA from Marxwadi Samanvay Samiti, Com. Arup Chatterjee also addressed the public meeting. On this occasion, under the leadership of the state party secretary Com. Janardan Prasad, newly elected members of the Zilla Parishad and panchayats took the oath to “ensure people’s vigilance over the Panchayats, demand greater rights for the Panchayats and also to play the role of an active opposition against the state and the central governments.” The newly elected Zila Parishad members - Taranum Khatoon, Jayant Chaudhary, Sunita Paswan, Reena Gupta, Rajesh Yadav, Vijay Santhali and Baijnath Yadav, and CPI (ML) leaders Com. Kaushalya Devi, Geeta Mandal, Devki Nandan Bediya, Renu Ravani, Poonam Mahato, Usman Ansari and others also expressed their views in the meeting. Prior to the meeting, a brief homage was paid to Mahendra Singh in his village Khambra, by the entire village community, party comrades and several distinguished people. On this day, the Ranchi unit of CPI (ML) took out a Sankalp March and organised a meeting at Albert Ekka Chowk in which several party workers, intellectuals and social activists participated. The meeting was addressed by Shubhendu Sen, member of party’s central committee, Dayamani Barla, leader of the Adivasi-Mulbasi Adhikar Manch, AIPWA leader Sarojini Bisht and social activist George Kujur, Umesh Nazir of IPTA, and other state committee members. The meeting was chaired by CPI (ML)’s city in charge, Bhuvneshwar Kevat.
Convention on Panchayat Rule and People’s Participation
On 17 January, in the backdrop of significant victory of CPI(ML) candidates in the Panchayat elections, party state committee organised a state level convention on ‘Panchayati raj and people’s participation’. Nearly 600 participants including representatives from the state, zila and block committees, heads and other members of the zila and panchayat committees, and ward members of Giridih participated in this convention. The convention was conducted by a 3-member committee comprising of Com. Anant Prasad Gupta, Com. Geeta Mandal and Com. Puran Mahato. Com. Brijbihari Pandey, editor of Samkaaleen Lokyudh and Com. Manoj Bhakt, secretary of the Giridah district Committee were also present.
Inaugurating the convention, the party’s Jharkhand in-charge, Com. D P Bakshi said that the convention had been called with an aim to identify the new tasks, responsibilities and challenges that the success in the panchayat elections has placed before the party and for which we do not have past experience to rely on. Party state secretary Com. Janardan Prasad, presented the concept note on behalf of the party state committee. The in-charges of the district committees and newly elected panchayat representatives at various levels, especially women representatives, presented their views and suggestions on the concept note.
As the main speaker of the convention, party General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya called upon the newly elected representatives and the entire party structure to grasp the enormous possibilities that the victory of more than 1000 CPI(ML) panchayat representatives have created for broadening party’s reach amongst the people at large. He alerted that the governments in Delhi and Ranchi are reaching out to villages to loot them and oppress them further. Our way of participation in panchayats therefore is not so straight. If we work according to the instructions of the governments at the top, we will only end up becoming their rubber stamps. Therefore, our representatives will have to fight as an active opposition for the basic rights of the people not only inside the Panchayat but also outside. The role of all the party leaders and members is to ensure public vigilance and regulation on the panchayats. Even if the programmes are implemented honestly it will not address all the problems of the people as they would be sufficient for a very limited section. Ultimately the entire ruling establishment is anti-people. Therefore our direction in the Panchayats should be towards struggle and towards fighting for people’s issues till the end.
The convention was addressed by CPI (ML) MLA Com. Vinod Singh and the party state committee members Com. Sukhdev, Rajkumar Yadav, Ravindra Ram, Kamlesh Ram, Shivkumar Paswan, Sehdev Prasad Yadav, R. N. Singh, Sukhdev Munda (Ranchi), Lakhmini, Kayuum Ansari, Taranum Khatoon, Shakunti Devi, Meena Das, Sarawasti Devi, Neeta, Sarita Devi, Rajesh Yadav, Gajendra Singh (Gumla), Devkinandan Bediya, Javed Islam, Kavita Singh, AIPWA leader Com. Guni Oraon, Hero Gop, Panchanan Mandal, Chandranand Bhai Patel along with 31 people’s representatives and other comrades in charges.
The convention concluded with the adoption of 5 point political programme of a massive mass campaign leading to Assembly Gherao on 14 March 2011, ensuring vigilance over bureaucracy and uniting the mukhiyas from the block to the state level to launch struggles on people’s issues, organising all the elected women candidates observe the week from 1 to 8 March as women’s davedaari saptah, a campaign in the Chotanagpur-Santhal Pargana belt for strict enforcement of Tenancy Acts, strengthening of the gram sabhas against corporate land grab and campaign from 15 to 28 February centred around the slogans - ‘Jharkhand’s land belongs to the people, not to the Tatas and Mittals’ and ‘Guarantee development of rural Jharkhand’ and organising protest demonstrations between from 1 to 15 February against the UPA-led central government and the state government on the issue of corruption and inflation.
Fisherfolk Resist Mafia in Odisha
n 20 January, 10,000 fisherpeople in 1000 boats entered Chilika under the banner of the Chilika Matsyajibi Mahasangh and demolished 15,000 acres of prawn gherries belonging to the powerful prawn mafias. The prawn mafia’s nexus with local leaders of all ruling parties, financers, corrupt bureaucrats and police enjoys protection and patronage of the Naveen Patnaik Government. This is why, though prawn culture is strictly prohibited in Chilika, as it comes under costal regulatory zone (CRZ) and in spite of Orissa High Court and Supreme Court verdicts banning prawn culture in Chilika, as well as directives of Orissa Bidhan Sabha House Committee, it continues to flourish. Violating all the laws, directives and verdicts, the prawn mafia has spread its prawn culture gherries across the entire Chilika, looting the best of the prawn and becoming crorepatis. On the other hand, 2,70,000 poor traditional fisherpeople of 141 villages in and around Chilika, who are fully dependent on Chilika for their livelihood, are now starving, fenced out of their livelihood by the zero-net prawn gherries (fencings).
The fisherpeople have repeatedly approached the Naveen Patnaik Government, demanding demolition of the prawn gherries as per law; implementation of the ban on prawn culture in Chilika. When the government failed to heed their demands, they decided to defend their livelihood and demolish the prawn gherries themselves – a measure that is in keeping with the CRZ regulations, court verdicts and laws of the land.
Following the first day of demolition, the administration and police asked the fisherpeople to give them four days within which they themselves undertook to clean the Chilika of all the prawn gheries. In response, the Mahasangh has suspended its demolition plans for four days. If within this period the administration and police do not carry out their promises, then the Mastyajibi Mahasangh will continue with its plans to demolish all gherries in the Chilika. In the battle between loot and livelihood, the fisherpeople are determined to win. Khitish Biswal
AILC Announces Agitation
Against the backdrop of deepening economic and political crisis in the country, All India Left Coordination (AILC) held an important political convention at Kozhikode in Kerala on 22 January, 2011. The convention was hosted by the Left Coordination Committee, Kerala.
Before the convention, a 1000-strong spirited rally marched through major streets of Kozhikode. The convention was chaired by an 8-member presidium comprising senior leaders of the four constituents of the AILC. The CPI(ML) was represented in the convention by Comrades Dipankar Bhattacharya, S Kumarasamy, V Shankar from the CC and members of the party’s Kerala leading team including Comrades John K Erumely and Joy Peter and K M Venugopalan, Convener of IIMS in Kerala.
Delivering the inaugural speech, Comrade Mangat Ram Pasla, Secretary of CPM (Punjab) called upon all genuine Left ranks in Kerala to rise to the occasion and intensify the people’s struggle on all fronts against the disastrous policies of the ruling classes. He congratulated the LCC for its spirited rejection of the corrupt and decadent leadership and the opportunist line of the CPI(M) and appealed to all sincere and fighting Left forces in the state to rally around the AILC.
In his address Comrade Dipankar described the AILC as a product of the popular urge for an effective communist answer to the growing crisis of credibility and legitimacy of the ruling classes. Against the CPI(M) line of ‘all for a share in bourgeois state power’ he said the AILC upheld the line of ‘all for communist assertion, all for people’s struggles’. Drawing attention to the burning issues of the day, announced the AILC’s forthcoming plan of action – a month-long countrywide mass campaign against rising prices, growing corruption, unemployment and state repression and assault on democracy from 11 February to culminate in a Parliament March in Delhi on 11 March. Com. Bhimrao Bhansod, General Secretary of Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) spoke about the AILC initiative in Maharashtra in support of the popular struggle against the Jaitapur nuclear power park and ongoing struggles in Maharashtra by adivasis, workers and peasants.
Com. Murali, Left Coordination Committee of Kerala recollected the terror being unleashed against any form of dissent inside CPI(M) and traced the process in which LCC emerged as an alternative Left. He also highlighted the performance of LCC in recent local body elections in which, fighting against both LDF and UDF the LCC won 60 seats on various levels in the recent panchayat and municipal elections in Kerala.
Com. Kumarasamy, PB member of CPI(ML) and the president of AICCTU expressed his hope of LCC emerging as an alternative current in Kerala against the bi-polar domination of the LDF and the UDF. Observing the two-way migration of workers in which people from Kerala were being forced to look for jobs outside the state while more and more people from West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha sought their livelihood in Kerala, he stressed the need for united working class struggles and greater cooperation on the trade union front between the two neighbouring southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Com. TP Chandrasekar, president of LCC shared the experiences of their victory in Onchiyam Panchayat that is otherwise considered to be a traditional stronghold of CPI(M). He also shared the traumatic course of events that included brutal physical attack against LCC activists in the region.
The convention was introduced by Com. Hariharan, Vice-President of LCC while participants were welcomed by Com. Kumaran Kutty, Secretary of LCC. Dr. Azad, Vice-President, LCC, presented the Delhi Declaration of AILC in Malayalam. Comrade Smitha, another Vice-President of the organization, read out the resolutions of the convention while Com. Kunhikaran of the Reception Committee presented vote of thanks.
The Kozhikode convention was preceded by similar political conventions of the AILC in Ranchi (11 August 2010), Kolkata (5 October 2010), Jalandhar (7 November, 2010) and Mumbai (4 December, 2010).
AISA National CampaignIn the backdrop of massive scams and corporate loot, intensified crackdown on movements, state repression, and the conviction of Binayak Sen, AISA organised a nation-wide campaign between 11-19 January 2011. The slogan was "NO to rampant corruption, NO to loot of our national resources, NO to state repression." As part of the campaign, on 11th January, rallies and strikes were organised in various campuses. In Kumbakonam of Thanjavur, Tamilnadu, a total strike was observed in the Government Arts and Science College; and the strike was also observed in another college, with the total participation of more than 2000 students. Rallies were held in Delhi University, a dharna and effigy burning was organised in Dehradun, and a protest poetry writing workshop was held in Jamia Millia Islamia. Well-attended conventions against Binayak Sen's conviction were held in Jadavpur University (on 14 January), Gandhi Park in Dehradun (18 January) and Delhi University (19 January). In both Jadavpur and Delhi University, authorities tried to stop the conventions by withdrawing permission, and in Delhi University ABVP goons physically attacked the convention. However due to massive participation of students, teachers and democratic academics and intelligentsia, both the conventions were a great success. In Jadavpur, the convention was addressed by poet Nabarun Bhattachariya, Sabyasachi Deb, Prof. Samantak Das, Prof. Sanjay Mukhopadhyay, Prof. Kunal Chattopadhyay, Dr. Debashis Mukherjee from Forum for Peoples Health and student representatives from other organizations such as FETSU GS Palash Ghosh, Arka Bhaduri from AIDSO, and Chandan Biswas from USDF. In Delhi University, the convention was addressed by a large number of DU faculty, Prof. Jean Dreze, Nandini Sundar, Shamsul Islam, Neeraj Malik, Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan and poet Viren Dangwal amongst others. On 19 January, students’ strike was successfully observed in Patna and Magadh University and their affiliated colleges, Tilka Majhi University (Bhagalpur), Bir Kunwar Singh University (Ara), Lalit Narayan Mithila University (Darbhanga). In Bhagalpur, students also gheraoed the senate meeting on the same day which was met with severe police repression and several AISA leaders were framed under false charges. Students continued with the protest on the 20 January also. Police reacted with still greater repression and arrested several AISA leaders and booked five of them under Section 307 of IPC. AISA state leadership has resolved to intensify the struggle all across Bihar against this state terror on democratic students protests.