September-October 2008

Table of Contents

1) Bihar Floods: Criminal Negligence, Not Divine Deluge

2) Bihar Floods: Relief Fund

3) Petition on Bihar Floods

4) Sangh Parivar Sets Orissa on Fire Again

5) Onslaught on Adivasis’ Land and Livelihood in Navin’s Orissa

6) CPI (ML) Condemns Crackdown on Protestors in Kashmir

7) Jammu and Kashmir: Urgent Need to Discard the Distorting Lens of Chauvinism

8) Jail Bharo (Fill the Jails) on August 20th, 2008

9) Mukhamukam ( Face to Face) with People’s Health in Caracas, Venezuela

10) AICCTU’s Seventh National Conference at Chennai

11) Greetings to Comrade Prachanda on Becoming Prime Minister of Nepal

12) Guest Workers in Australia: Are they Modern Day Slaves?

Politics in India

Bihar Floods: Criminal Negligence, Not Divine Deluge

– ML Update, 2-8 September, 2008.

The Nitish Kumar regime’s boasts of ‘Bihar Shining’ are now submerged by the cries of Bihar Drowning. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s claims of ‘good governance’ have proved a washout in the face of the floods, and now the Chief Minister is trying to paint the floods as a ‘natural’ calamity or divine ‘Deluge’ (‘Pralay’). Nothing could be further from the truth. The flood devastation was highly preventable – and is a direct result of callous negligence of basic flood-prevention strategies by Governments both at Patna and Delhi. Despite the fact that every year breaches in embankments cause floods in the State, maintenance and repair of embankments were rampantly neglected. It took the Bihar Chief Minister two weeks after the first breach appeared in the Kosi embankment to begin the most primary initiatives for evacuation, rescue and relief. As the Kosi changed its course and flood waters covered entire villages, affecting over 25 lakh (250, 000) people in nearly 12 districts of the State, the desperate pleas for help were ignored by the State Government. Even today – in all the flood-affected areas, there is an acute shortage of rescue motorboats and boats, as well as food, drinking water, polythene sheets and other emergency essentials. At the Centre too, the Prime Minister apparently woke up late to the magnitude of the calamity. And United Progressive Alliance (UPA) leader and Rail Minister Laloo Yadav (whose home constituency Madhepura is one of the worst-affected areas) has been fiddling as the floods swallow Bihar. His gesture of donating his ‘earnings’ at a TV reality show Paanchvi Pass mocks at the misery of the flood-affected people. Of course, that’s nothing new. When Laloo Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) ruled Bihar, he is the one who made the remark (worthy of Marie Antoinette) that floods are good for the poor because that’s when fish from the ponds of the rich swim into the homes of the poor.

In the mirror of the Bihar’s flood waters every year, the rot in Bihar’s polity and society can be seen starkly: its nexus of corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, and middlemen for whom the floods are a bonanza; criminalised goons governing and monopolising the structures of rescue and relief; and state repression on protesting people. Even last year, there were instances of police firing on protesting flood victims. A few years back, Time Magazine had lionised a young Bihar District Magistrate Gautam Goswami for his sterling work in flood relief – later it came out that he, along with thugs backed by ruling politicians, had siphoned off crores of funds meant for flood victims. This year too – the same story is unfolding. Recent reports in papers indicate that thugs are cornering rescue boats for themselves and are snatching and hoarding relief materials.

In the same mirror, we can also see clearly the sordid reality behind the Central Government’s boasts of ‘9% growth’, of India being a ‘rising Asian superpower’, and 61 years of planning and development in independent India. Chronic hunger and starvation in India, we know, is not due to ‘natural’ drought and famine but due to deliberate institutional callousness and skewed priorities. The same is the case with floods too – plans for flood control on the Kosi river have been shelved and sidelined year after year for half a century. In 1951, the people of eastern Bihar had faced the fury of the Kosi’s floods – and as a result, comprehensive plans had been chalked out to tame the floods. In keeping with these plans, a treaty was signed with Nepal in 1954 and the foundation laid for the Kosi Barrage in 1959. But subsequently the other dimensions of the Kosi Project were forgotten and neglected by successive Governments at Bihar and the Centre. Under the bilateral agreement with Nepal in 1954, maintenance and repair of embankments on the Kosi were the Bihar government’s responsibility. Today, in order to explain away its neglect of that responsibility, Governments of India and Bihar are seeking to shift blame for the floods onto Nepal.

Hurricane Katrina exposed the underbelly of the superpower USA – the mightiest Army in the world failed to protect its people; racist callousness of the Government towards the (largely Black) poor of Louisiana was on display; and the myth of corporate ‘efficiency’ was exploded. In contrast, Cuba (David to the US’ Goliath) did a far more creditable job of protecting its people when the same hurricane hit its shores. The episode proved that in dealing with such crises, it is the priorities of nations and administrations that are more decisive that actual affluence or wealth. It is concern for and participation of common people which is actually effective and ‘efficient’, while corporatized governance displays efficiency only in greed and loot. The floods in Bihar prove the same.

As the people of Bihar battle the floods, the first priority must of course be rescue, relief and humanitarian helping hands. But our concern also demands that we take Governments at Patna and Delhi to task for their apathy and negligence, so that the yearly recurrence of the tragedy can be prevented. Activists of our party and mass organisations in the affected districts of Bihar are at the forefront of rescue and relief activities. Apart from rescue, relief and rehabilitation as well as compensation for the flood-affected, we are also demanding that a time-bound judicial enquiry be set up to investigate the many instances of negligence by Governments in the matter of flood-control.

Appeal for Relief Funds

Bihar Floods

Dear Friends,

Some 12 districts of Bihar – Muzaffarapur, Supaul, Saharsa, Madhepura, Katihar, Araria, West Champaran, Khagaria, Sitamarhi, Patna and Nalanda are reeling under the worst flooding of the Kosi in the last half century. Millions are affected and many lives lost.

The Bihar Government launched rescue and relief operations a full week after the first breach in the Kosi embankment – and even today, affected people remain stranded due to an acute shortage of rescue boats, and starved of basic emergency necessities like food, polythene sheets, medicine and medical care. Activists of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation [CPI (ML)] and the All India Agricultural Labourers Association (AIALA) on the ground, particularly in some of the worst-affected areas of Supaul, Araria and Madhepura, as well as in all other affected districts in Bihar, are at the forefront of organising rescue and relief operations. They are organising volunteers, and are guiding Government agencies and getting them to heed the voices and needs of the affected.

Contributions are urgently called for, ideally in the form of cash to procure food, polythene sheets and medicine. We are conducting a nationwide campaign for flood relief in Bihar. We appeal to you to make your contributions by cheque/draft in favour of “CPIML”. Also indicate that the donation is for “Bihar Flood Relief”.

Please mail your donations to:

U-90, Shakarpur

Delhi 110 092, India.

It is also important that we realise that the present tragedy, as well as the yearly devastation of floods in Bihar, are not a divinely decreed ‘Deluge,’ as Bihar’s ruling political class has tended to declare. It is a man-made tragedy, caused by callous negligence in basics like maintenance and repair of embankments, and also in the failure of successive Governments in Bihar and Delhi to implement comprehensive plans for flood-management. These Governments must indeed answer why the flood-management plans made for the Kosi river right since India’s independence and even discussed on the floor of Parliament, are yet to be implemented 61 years later – when rural poor are forced to bear the cruel brunt of this neglect year after year.

CPIML (Liberation)

Petition on Bihar Floods

In addition to contributing towards the relief effort, please sign the online petition to the President of India. The petition demands a judicial enquiry into the deep-seated and long-standing institutional apathy and criminal negligence of governments in both Patna and Delhi towards the floods which wreak havoc in Bihar every year. The URL is:


Politics in India

Sangh Parivar Sets Orissa on Fire Again

– ML Update, 26 August – 1 September, 2008.

The burning alive of Graham Staines and his little sons is being relived in Orissa again – with an orphanage being set on fire and a Christian woman being burnt alive by Sangh Parivar brigades. The ostensible pretext for this fresh reign of terror is the recent murder of 5 VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) leaders recently, including Swami Lakhanananda who had led a terror campaign against Christians – torching their homes and establishments and chasing entire villages out – in December 2007. More than 3000 people were forced to flee to refugee camps – and most of them remain there even today.

It was clear too all observers that the murder of the VHP leaders would be seen as a Godhra-like golden opportunity for the Sangh Parivar to revive communal violence against the Christian community. In spite of this, the BJD (Biju Janata Dal) – BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) Government did nothing to protect the poor Christians of Kandhamal, and to preventively arrest the makers of communal mayhem. The Navin Patnaik’s Government is guilty of tacitly allowing the saffron goons to wreak communal terror – and therefore has no moral authority to continue in Government.

In fact, the failure and refusal of the BJD-BJP Government to arrest and prosecute Swami Lakhanananda and his cohorts after the violence in December 2007, and its failure to ensure safe return for the Christian villagers who had been chased out, had given the message that communal killers enjoyed impunity in Orissa and the government would turn a blind eye to ethnic cleansing. It is this situation that was responsible for the killings of the VHP leaders. Instead of facing up to facts, the Navin Government is raising the ‘Maoist’ bogey while the VHP is baselessly blaming and targeting the entire Christian community. We can recall the Navin Government had tried to blame the December 2007 communal violence, too, on ‘Maoists’!

The Sangh Parivar is doing its best to turn Orissa into another laboratory for Hindu majoritarian fascism, even as the ruling class parties share a consensus on robbing Orissa’s people of their mineral and environmental wealth and land for corporate greed. Police firing and lathis on poor tribals protecting their land is routine – while communal forces can indulge in murder and mayhem with impunity. Democratic and secular forces in Orissa must unite to demand stern action against all those guilty of violence against the Christian community.

Struggles in India

Onslaught on Adivasis’ Land and Livelihood in Navin’s Orissa

– D P Buxi, Liberation, September, 2008.

Recently, the Supreme Court gave a ‘green signal’ to the Multi-National Corporation (MNC) Vedanta (a subsidiary of Sterlite industries (India) Ltd. owned by non-resident Indian (NRI) Anil Agarwal) to launch bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri hills, where the adivasi (tribal) population has been resisting eviction from their forest land and livelihood. It is another matter that the Supreme Court is not authorized to give such a green signal, since it would blatantly violate the Forest Rights Act – which protects the rights of Dongaria Kondh adivasi people of Niyamgiri – forest-dwelling tribal peoples – to the forest land and resources on which their lives depend.

After the massacre of adivasis at Kalinganager to oblige Tata; the bloody clash with “would-be” evicted farmers to make way for Korean major Pohang Iron and Steel Company’s (POSCO) steel plant-cum-port near Paradip in Jagatsinghpur, a potential confrontation is building up with the adivasis of Niyamgiri hills in the region bordering Kalahandi-Rayagada district, where the Navin Patnaik Government of Orissa has decided to allow bauxite mining to ensure supplies for a big alumina refinery of Vedanta in Lanjigada.

An agreement had been signed between the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) Limited, a Government of Orissa undertaking and Vedanta on 5 October 2004. As per the agreement, a joint venture company (JVC) would be launched as a private limited company with 26% share holding with OMC and the rest 74% with Vedanta. The shares would be allotted to OMC without any payment in consideration of the services rendered by it for operating the mines. The 6 directors of the JVC would comprise of two representatives from OMC and the rest four from Vedanta. The chairman and MD would be chosen from Vedanta nominees. OMC as part of JVM would mine three million tons of bauxite annually from the Niyamgiri hills for Vedanta for which Vedanta would pay OMC. In turn OMC would assist the JVC in obtaining required approvals from different government agencies.

723.343 hectares in Lanjigada for the alumina refinery and 721.323 hectares for bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills is required. Of these lands, 58.943 and 672.018 hectares respectively are forest lands; the remaining government revenue land and private land also contain thick forests and eligible for classification as ‘forest’ as per the Supreme Court order dated 12/12/96.

Manipulations of Vedanta

a) Vedanta deliberately concealed the involvement of the forest land in the alumina refinery project despite the fact the acquisition notice dated 6-6-02 issued DC Kalahandi clearly mentioned the inclusion of 118 acres of forest land for the project.

b) To escape the Forest Conservation (FC) Act guidelines the project had been split into alumina refinery and bauxite mining even though bauxite mining is an integral part of the refinery project.

c) The construction work of the alumina refinery started on the project site much before the environmental clearance accorded on 22 September 2004. This will be clear from annual report of the project which claimed that 45% of work had been completed by 31 March 2005 and 29 million US $ had been spent (which would mean that within 6 months of getting clearance such work was done.)

d) The above mentioned forest area extends over a number of patches distributed in 7 villages. The villages that seem unaffected on paper are bound to face eviction in practice.

e) Despite the knowledge of State Government officials about the forest land involved in the project, the forest offence report, issue of notice to the company etc. for breaking/ encroachment of forest land was initiated by the Forest/Revenue department as late as 18 December 2004.

f) In the guideline no. 2-1/2003- FC dated 20-10-2003 by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) it has been specifically stated that the maintenance of good forest cover is essential for sustaining the livelihood of tribal population and that in tribal areas only infrastructure development project (other than commercial) should be encouraged.

The manufacture of alumina is a commercial project which will only benefit the promoter company and cannot be considered an infrastructure development project. So, MOEF in this case has not followed its own guidelines.

Further the project has clearly violated provisions of the Orissa Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property (By ST Regulation) Act, 1956 and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. On the basis of a writ petition lodged by a group of social activists, Supreme Court installed a Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to look into the matter.

After detailed study and investigations and after hearing the views of the different parties, CEC proposed the following recommendations:

Use of forest land in an ecologically sensitive area like Niyamgiri hills should not be permitted;

The casual and hasty manner with which the environmental clearance for the alumina project has been issued smacks of undue favour and does not inspire confidence that the state Government and MOEF will deal with the matter in keeping with national and public interest;

Had a proper study of the environmental and human costs been conducted before embarking on such a project, the site would probably have been rejected.

The CEC recommended that the Court may considered revoking the environmental clearance dated 22-09-04 granted by MOEF for setting of alumina refinery plant by Vedanta and directing them to stop further work of the project. This project may only be reconsidered after an alternative bauxite site is identified. The Supreme Court, however, ignored these strong recommendations and went ahead to give the project a go-ahead!

Environmental Dimensions

The Niyamgiri forests are historically recognised for their dense population of endangered wild life: elephant, sambhar deer, leopards, tigers, barking deer, and various species of birds and other endangered species of wild life. More than 75% of the hills are covered by thick forest with an average density of 0.6. Wild relatives of sugarcane plants are available here which are valuable genetic sources of future hybrids and therefore need preservation to maintain a pure gene bank. It has more than 300 species plants and trees, including 50 species of medical plants. 6 of the species are listed in IUCN Red Data Bank and yet to be surveyed properly for their floral and faunal wealth. Many perennial streams originate from the Niyamgiri hilltop. It is a permanent source of water to the entire area including the Kalahandi and Rayagada districts.

22 water-harvesting structures are located in the foot hills which provide year-long water supply. Vamshadhara and Nagvalli are two major rivers of south Orissa which emanate from the hill. Lakhs of people of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh depend for drinking water and irrigation on these rivers.

Bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri Hills would destroy the dense forests and rare flora and fauna; evict indigenous tribes who are the traditional custodians and protectors of the forest; would destroy the water-recharging capacity of the perennial streams; by-products of bauxite mining would not only destroy the fertility of land on the hill slopes but also affect the land downhill during rain; and would also pollute natural water resources.

Most importantly, the project will rob the tribal forest-dwellers of their land, livelihood and traditional right on natural resources. These adivasis are completely dependent on the forests for their survival – and no means of ‘rehabilitation’ could give them livelihood, let alone ensuring any measure of dignity and self-confidence. All glib talk of ‘alternate employment’ apart, the fact is that they will be condemned to extreme exploitation as semi-bonded or contract rural labourers.

A meaningful campaign must take up the issue of the Dongaria Kondhs’ socio-cultural identity, and environmental devastation within the framework of the crucial battle of poor tribal people for land, traditional rights, dignity and democracy.

Towards a Powerful Resistance

In developing resistance against land grab, political mobilisation and motivation of the directly-affected people is most important, supported by an effective solidarity campaign. The Nandigram experience was a lesson that unleashing the creative initiatives of the affected people plays a decisive role in the agitation.

During the construction of the alumina refinery plant by Vedanta at Lanjigada, some protest and resistance were built up along with a crucial legal battle. Still, the aspect of the ‘solidarity’ by different social movements predominated in the campaign, which could not sustain for long.

Now at Niyamgiri, the challenge is to mobilize the Dongaria adivasi people. In this context the CPI (ML), which represents a powerful land struggle led by the rural poor and has a wide support base among poor adivasis along with a strong network of adivasi party leaders and activists, can intervene meaningfully. The CPI (ML)’s influence among the Dongaria hill people is growing and they have started to participate in the party’s political campaigns regularly. No doubt, Vedanta too realizes this; two years ago, the Vedanta management threw in their money power and control over administration in aid of feudal forces to crush the land struggle led by CPI (ML) in the adjacent area of Bissam Cuttack. In this crackdown fifty activists of the land struggle were booked in attempt to murder cases; and houses of poor tribal people were demolished and burnt. CPI (ML) is planning more concerted efforts to intervene in the struggle against corporate grab of forest land by Vedanta and the Orissa Government.

Politics in India

CPI (ML) Condemns Crackdown on Protestors in Kashmir

– Liberation, September, 2008.

The lakhs (1 lakh = 100, 000) of people protesting on the streets of Kashmir has been met, time and again, with brutal firing and killing by police and paramilitary. There was wanton firing even in hospitals and ambulances. Now, curfew has been imposed, and Kashmiri leaders arrested. CPI (ML) condemns this crackdown on the mass protest. The fact the Kashmiri struggle had taken the form of mass protest by lakhs of people, rather than armed militancy, is a positive and welcome sign – one that the Indian State can ignore only at its own cost. To continue to brand this enormous mass of common Kashmiris as ‘terrorists’ to justify the state-sponsored police firing is unforgivable on part of the Indian Government. In contrast, the violent protests in Jammu, including destruction of government facilities, has been handled with kid gloves – on the dubious claim that the protestors are ‘nationalists’! The CPI (ML) demands that the Central Government release the leaders of the mass movement in Kashmir without further delay, and initiate sustained dialogue without any preconditions.

Politics in India

Jammu and Kashmir:

Urgent Need to Discard the Distorting Lens of Chauvinism

– Kavita Krishnan, Liberation, September, 2008.

A Kashmiri student recently attended a popular TV debate show on Jammu and Kashmir, where the majority of the panellists were chauvinistic ‘hawks’ and there was a lone Kashmiri leader on the panel. During a brief break, one military gentleman on the panel came up to the anchor and said, casually and openly, that she should ‘Let an Indian (not the only Kashmiri panellist), conclude the show’! The very same people, who raise the war cry that Kashmir is an ‘indivisible’ part of the Indian body politic, routinely treat Kashmiris as foreign and subject people.

In independent India, for all mainstream political forces, Kashmir has always been a convenient political touchstone for chauvinism. It was always viewed through a prism of passions and prejudices that always excluded the history, rights, and aspirations of the Kashmiris. Right from the time of accession itself, the veneer of civil “democratic” rule has been enforced through military jackboots spawning more than fifty years now; killing, maiming, “disappearing” thousands of Kashmiris.

Mutual Game of Congress Repression and BJP Communalism

The Congress has had a long record of treachery, broken promises, and authoritarian and repressive approach to Kashmir. On the other hand, the communal fascist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has periodically used their points men in various positions, including the seat of the Governor (if it was Jagmohan earlier, it was S.K. Sinha more recently), for whipping up communal frenzy in Kashmir and also in the rest of the country and used Kashmir as permanent fodder for communal mobilisation in the rest of the country. It is not a coincidence that militancy heightened during Jagmohan’s tenure as Kashmir Governor during the late 80s. Today Kashmir and Jammu are suffering the fallout of the last Governor S K Sinha’s dubious role.

The hypocrisy of the Prime Minister’s rhetoric of ‘peace’ (on 15 August) is evident from the reverberating shots fired by police and paramilitary – fired indiscriminately on streets and even on ambulances and in hospitals, claiming many lives including many popular leaders of Kashmir.

The recent flare up across the state owes its genesis to the transfer of forest land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) and the subsequent reversal of the same. This bears an uncanny resemblance to another horrific communally motivated campaign which engulfed the sub-continent in recent times. One cannot but miss how in the Babri Masjid episode, the idols of Rama were illegally installed in 1949 in the Babri Masjid. The local Collector, a Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) sympathizer, stalled the removal of the idols, sowing the seeds of the problem which finally led to demolition of Babri mosque, giving flesh, blood and political power to the BJP over a period of time.

Politics Of The Amarnath Issue

In the last ten years or so, successive governments in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) have intervened deliberately to change the secular character of the Amarnath shrine to suit their communal and jingoistic agenda in Kashmir. Since 1996, the relatively less publicized and peaceful Amarnath Yatra began to be promoted as a ‘Hindu’ ‘patriotic’ counter to the ‘Muslim’ insurgency in Kashmir. In 2003, S K Sinha (who happens to be an ex-Army man) became Governor – and as Chairman of the SASB began aggressively promoting the Shrine and the pilgrimage as a form of ‘cultural nationalist’ answer to the Kashmiri sentiment. The very same S K Sinha recently recommended changes in the demography and “culture” of the region as a “solution” to the Kashmir “problem”, and this was like a spark to the pent-up resentment in the Valley. One cannot forget that the racist fascist Israel Foreign minister Shimon Perez advised L.K. Advani for changing the demographic profile of the valley!

As a result of government aggressive promotion, the number of pilgrims to the Amarnath yatra increased from 12,000 in 1989 to over 400,000 in 2007 and the period of the yatra from fifteen days to two and half months. It is illuminating that the first fortnight is meant for families of service personnel! Over the years, the Indian government has also projected the yatra as a nationalist project. The official news portal of Indian government, Press Information Bureau, reads: “yearning for moksha (salvation) can move the devotees to the challenging heights of Kashmir and will be a fitting gesture of solidarity with our valiant soldiers who have been fighting the enemy to defend our borders”. Thus, what is otherwise a religious pilgrimage of the Shaivite Hindus has been elevated to represent a patriotic enterprise – against the ‘enemy’ (tacitly read as Muslim Kashmiris and Islam).

In this sensitive and politically volatile region, where Kashmiris as it is experience alienation and fear of an eclipse of their identity, the effects of the Indian Government promoting a Hindu pilgrimage as a patriotic duty are deeply divisive and disastrous. The agenda behind the aggressive promotion of the yatra is made all the more clear by the fact that communal fascist parties like the BJP have limited the number of pilgrims to Gangotri and Goumukh to 150 persons per day on environmental grounds, while pushing for a continuous increase in the period and the number of pilgrims at the Amarnath yatra: an obvious case of double standards. The recent flare-up, which is a direct result of the carefully crafted communalisation of the Amarnath yatra, has continued for several weeks.

Stereotyping Jammu and Kashmir

If Kashmir is being portrayed as the hub of ‘anti-national’ elements, Jammu has also been given a communal stereotype albeit of the “nationalist” Hindu colour. The emigration of Kashmir pundits from the valley has been grossly misrepresented and communalized and used by the Sangh Parivar to the hilt to create a communal atmosphere. The deep-seated sense of neglect in Jammu, and repression and alienation in Kashmir has not been addressed by successive Governments and political forces. Instead communal polarization is being sharpened by the mainstream political parties who are trying to project the grievances of the Jammu residents as having a Hindu and therefore ‘nationalist’ character (protests being organized with the tricolour in hand) while the alienation of the people of Kashmir is being portrayed as ‘Muslim’, ‘anti-national’ and specifically, ‘Pakistani’. The BJP’s all-out communal build-up has received fodder from the opportunisms of the Congress and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). So much so, that Ghulam Nabi Azad recently claimed that “protests against the land transfer in the Kashmir valley had been funded by Islamic countries”.

The National Conference, despite Omar Abdullah’s brave declarations of secularism in Parliament, has done its share to promote the BJP’s communal agenda in the State. All in all, the mainstream political parties in the State seem all set to push the situation dangerously towards the trifurcation of the State on communal lines – an agenda openly avowed by the BJP in the past and proposed by various think-tanks of the United States of America like the Kashmir Study Group.

With the opportunist creation and handling of the Amarnath controversy and the firing on Kashmiri protestors, the Valley once again reverberates with slogans of azaadi, while Jammu wants to break free from the perceived “domination” of the valley. The Congress and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government appear completely clueless while the BJP sees the unrest in Jammu as a promising passport to a political revival of the Hindutva brigade in the region as well as in the larger national arena. True to its tradition and character, the Congress has gifted the BJP a communally potent agenda on a platter, in the process doing far-reaching harm to the sensitive region of Jammu and Kashmir.

It is high time that we speak out against such unmitigated communally motivated state terror and economic strangulation against the people of Kashmir with the devious ploy to quell their democratic aspirations, rights, lives and livelihoods!

Workers’ Struggle in India

Jail Bharo (Fill the Jails) on August 20th, 2008

– Liberation and ML Update, September, 2008.

In support of the All-India General Strike called by the Sponsoring Committee of Central Trade Unions on August 20th, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [CPI (ML)] held a ‘Jail Bharo’ (Fill the Jails) all over the country.

In Delhi, hundreds of activists converged at Parliament Street, shouting slogans and raising banners and placards such as “Be it Noida or Nandigram –Stop Corporate Land Grab and Massacre of Peasants”, “Price Rise = Death for the Poor, Profits for Corporates!”, “Manmohan Singh: Betraying Aaam Aadmi (Ordinary Person), Obeying Ambani and America!”, “Congress-UPA, Have Shame: Stop Shooting Kashmiris in Hospitals and Streets!”

Around 500 activists, including those from Delhi as well as from Bijnaur in Uttar Pradesh (UP), led by CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar, marched towards Parliament, broke the barricades and were taken into custody in the Parliament street thana (police station). Inside the thana, a mass meeting was held, which was addressed by CPI (ML) activists. On the same day, the All India Students Association (AISA) conducted a widespread campaign for a students strike in Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), mainly focusing against the Nuke Deal.

In Delhi, apart from the central programme, All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) and CPI (ML) activists actively participated in the General Strike in the new industrial estate of Bhorgarh near Narela, along with workers of other Central Trade Union organizations.

In Bihar, about sixty thousand people courted arrest all over the State, with protests and arrests of CPI (ML) supporters and members taking place in most districts and blocks of the State.

At Jharkhand, more than ten thousand people courted arrest all over the State, including Ranchi, Giridih, Bokaro, Dhanbad, Jamtara, Devghar, and Bagodar. At Dhanbad, the strike was very effective all over the coal belt including Dhanbad town. The strike was observed in all sectors – coal, steel, bank, LIC (Life Insurance Corporation), postal, Bharat State Nigam Limited (BSNL) and railways, in spite of the opposition of Congress-led unions.

300-400 workers, mostly coal workers, demonstrated at Maithon. At Dhanbad, workers, 60% of whom were coal workers from the organised sector struck work, marched from station to the district collector’s office and blockaded the road where they held a meeting. They then courted arrest under the leadership of AICCTU General Secretary Swapan Mukherjee.

At Chhattisgarh, around 150 workers, mostly contract workers, marched via the Labour Commissioner’s office (where they raised slogans and submitted a memorandum) to the District Collector’s office, where they joined a dharna (march) jointly organized by Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha and AICCTU. AICCTU also had held a dharna at Boria Gate (Bhilai) where more than 100 contract workers participated.

In Tamil Nadu, at 30 places, around 6000 organized and unorganized workers, agrarian labourers, students and women participated in the Jail Bharo (Fill the Jails). Defying the efforts of the management to prevent the Pricol workers from participating in the general strike and the jail bharao, around 1200 Pricol workers blocked the road for half an hour in Thudiyalur of Coimbatore.

Comrade S Kumaraswamy, Polit Bureau Member (PBM) courted arrest with 350 construction and unorganized workers of Kanyakumari. Comrade Balasundaram, was arrested along with the rural poor and agrarian workers of Nagai and Thanjavur districts in Kumbakonam. He called for the rural poor to join the demonstration to be held in Chennai on August 23 against the police attack on the agrarian workers of Rettanai of Villupuram district who demanded Rs. 80 for NREGA work. Around 200 rural poor and agrarian workers participated in the Jail Bharo here.

In Tiruvallore District, more than 600 rural poor participated in the Jail Bharo which was led by Comrade Janakiraman, state committee member (SCM). Here, the local police was not prepared to arrest the workers who blocked the main road in the market. The arrested workers were first taken to one hall and they were then shifted to another hall. They were transported in police vehicles through the crowded market with the participants waving red flags and raising slogans against the central and state governments.

At two places in Tirunelveli, more than 300 beedi, construction and other unorganized workers courted arrest. In Villupuram, roads were blocked in 4 points. Around 330 rural poor and agrarian workers joined the protest. In Namakkal district, around 120 power loom workers were arrested. In Krishnagiri, around 150 workers blocked the road and courted arrest.

At Karnataka, the July 23 – August 20 campaign began with panchayat level demonstrations in Davanagere and Koppal districts of Karnataka. Demonstrations were organized on issues such as National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA) and land. At Harapanahalli taluk in Davanagere district, many panchayat level demonstrations were organized including Mathihalli and Uchangi Durga panchayats.

In Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, the scene was different. While most of the unions decided to undertake high profile programs in the city, our union decided to march on the streets of high profile Information Park in the city. An impressive rally led by Comrade Shankar went through the streets of ITPL (Information Technology Park Limited) reverberating slogans against anti-people policies of the central government.

At Andhra Pradesh, the Jail Bharo programmes were held at four places. At Orissa, a four-week-long campaign culminated on 20 August when over 2500 activists (900 at Rayagada, 800 at Puri, 100 at Kendrapada, 100 at Kalahandi, 150 at Khurda, Bolangir and Bhubaneswar, 150 at Keonjhar) courted arrest.

The All India Strike and Jail Bharo were successful in different places of Assam including Guwahati. In the Dibrugarh the bandh was total at 10 tea estates and partial in others. In Nagaon more than 100 activists took out a procession and got arrested. The Strike and Jail Bharo was successful at Jorhat, Tinsukia and Silchar. AISA’s students’ strike was successful at Nagaon and Jorhat, where the bandh was total.

[This is abridged version of the report – Ed.]


Mukhamukam ( Face to Face) with People’s Health in Caracas, Venezuela

– Padma.

Comrade Surya and I were in Venezuela in December 2005 when we were inspired by the inroads the Bolivarian revolutionary process was making in the areas of health, education and workers rights. At that time we were unable to obtain a first hand experience of the remarkable free public health care system (Barrio Adentro). Mission Barrio Adentro also called Inside the Neighbourhood programme was founded in 2003 by the government headed by Hugo Chavez with the help of Cuban health care professionals. In May 2008, we were able to get permission and help from Ministry of the Popular Power of Health and National Direction of Indigenous Health in Caracas, Venezuela. They arranged an extensive tour for us of the Barrio Adentro levels 2 and 3 over a period of 3 days.

Brief History of Health Care in Venezuela before Barrio Adentro

After the Second World War, Latin American countries in general used government interventions and protection to promote national development and industrialization. Welfare state policies were developed throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Venezuela in particular with its large petroleum and gas reserves helped to develop a decent health care system. The health expenditure which accounted for 13.3% of the national budget in 1970 fell to 9.3% in 1990 and a mere 7.8% in 1996. Decreased oil revenues in the 1980s contributed to the socioeconomic crisis (1). In 1989 figures indicate close to 54% of Venezuelans living in extreme poverty. Health care reforms dictated by World Bank and Inter American Development Bank in the 1990s led to expansion of the private health care sector and erosion of public health services. 50 new public health facilities were established in the 1980s and 1990s in contrast to 400 private clinics. A 1985 study revealed that in the capital city Caracas, inspite of the large number of doctors practising there, people had difficulty accessing medical care. In rural communities medical care was being provided by inexperienced doctors.

Barrio Adentro Programme – Inception and Results

After the victory of Hugo Chavez in the 1998 elections which was fought on an anti neo liberal platform, a new Bolivarian constitution was drafted by a special constituent assembly. Article 83 views health as a fundamental human right that the state is obligated to guarantee. Articles 84 and 85 expand on the duty of the state to create and manage a universal public health system providing free services and financed through taxes and oil revenues.

The concept of Barrio Adentro emerged in 1999 when torrential rains caused havoc in the state of Vargas. Poor people living in crowded barrios (neighbourhoods located in the hilly peripheries of urban centers) were affected. Several thousand people were killed by mud slides, 8000 homes were destroyed and up to 100,000 people displaced. The Cuban government responded in its usual humanitarian fashion by sending 454 Cuban health care workers. Based on this experience, the government in Caracas requested the help of the Venezuelan medical community to work with the underserved poor in the barrios. Little more than 50 Venezuelan doctors responded to the advertisement. The Venezuelan Medical Association has been a vociferous adversary of the free health care system enshrined in the Bolivarian constitution, not surprising as the vast majority of its doctors are from the elite and upper middle class families.

In April 2003, 58 Cuban doctors specialising in integrated family medicine started to see patients in various barrios in Caracas and its periphery (2). Within 2 months of launching the program named Mission Barrio Adentro by President Hugo Chavez, 1000 Cuban doctors were working in the working class neighbourhoods. 4 months later in 2003 their numbers doubled and Cuban health professionals were going into areas in Venezuela which had not sighted medicos for decades. By the end of 2003, more than 10,000 health care professionals were dispensing free health care all over Venezuela. So began the heart warming relationship between Cuba and Venezuela based on solidarity and human needs.

Barrio Adentro I provides basic primary and preventive health care. There were 4,800 health clinics in Venezuela in 1998. 6,569 new basic health clinics have been set up since then through the Barrio Adentro I programme. The clinics in the barrios have a characteristic hexagonal structure, the patients are seen below and the doctor and the nurse have living quarters upstairs. Health care committees have formed in the barrios with women largely heading the committees and they work hand in hand with the health professionals.

Barrio Adentro II was launched in 2005 to provide more sophisticated care. The Barrio Adentro II programme which consists of Integral Diagnostic Centers (CDI), Integral Rehabilitation Centers (SRI), and High Technology Centers (CAT) now has a total of 1,235 installations in the whole country which give free medical treatment to all Venezuelans. CDIs provide emergency services, intensive care treatment, diagnostic and laboratory procedures including cat scans, ECG and endoscopy. The CDIs and the SRIs represent four components of health care- prevention, promotion, treatment and rehabilitation.

Barrio Adentro III was launched in 2005 initially to upgrade 42 existing hospitals in the country which has now included 90 hospitals. The goal would be to upgrade all the existing 300 or so hospitals in the country. Barrio Adentro IV will involve construction of new hospitals in the country.

The facts are there for everyone to see. In 1998 there were 1628 primary care physicians for a population of 23.4 million, now there are 19,571 for a population of 27 million. In the Barrio Adentro program, per the statistics released by the Ministry of Health in 2007, there are 12,272 Cuban doctors and 1,935 Venezuelan doctors. With the other personnel included there are a total of 25,561 Cubans and 10,614 Venezuelans working for the health of the population. In 1998, the life expectancy was 71 years, now it is 73. The infant mortality rate has dropped from 21 to 13 per 1000 live births. The maternal mortality rate has dropped from 67 per 1000 to less than half that number.

The SUMED (Distribution of Medicine) programme works with the Barrio Adentro wherein subsidized prescription drugs are sold to patients. The community clinics offer 129 essential drugs and treat over 97% of the common illnesses (3).

Mukhamukham with the Barrio Adentro Programme

We spent three busy and memorable days observing and talking to health care professionals in Barrio Adentro levels II and III. The first day we were taken to a busy clinic in the neighbourhood of Catia which has a population of about 300,000 people and mostly working class. (Of note during the military coup in April 2003 when Chavez was illegally held as a prisoner many young people from Catia organized and surrounded the presidential palace). I interviewed a nurse and the doctor who were on duty at the clinic. The doctor and the nurse were both from Venezuela, they were happy to be able to deliver care to patients completely free of charge. I was informed that the clinic treated about 200 patients a day for various ailments that ranged from trauma to patients with diabetes, hypertension and related complications like heart attacks and cerebrovascular events. In addition, the clinic treated patients with gynaecological problems and also had a paediatric unit to treat children. The clinic was spotlessly clean and provided x-rays, electrocardiography and other radiology services. It provided 24 hour services, which were accessible to everyone and was in keeping with articles 83-85 of the Bolivarian constitution that enshrine free and quality health care to all citizens. There was a textile cooperative run by women located next to the clinic in the sprawling grounds. It had 103 women working in a spirit of togetherness sharing the profits made from sewing T shirts, uniforms for schools and the military. There was also a playground and a crèche in the same area.

The second day we were taken to a CDI and SRI in a middle class neighbourhood called Los Dos Caminos in Caracas. The CDI and SRI have Cuban professionals from doctors and nurses to podiatrists, occupational therapists and speech therapists. The CDI had a well stocked emergency room, an ICU with 4 beds, a general ward with several beds to treat illnesses from pneumonia to diabetic emergencies. I interviewed a patient a truck driver with diabetes and cellulitis (skin infection) who was touched by the loving and dedicated care he had received. He said it was fortunate to have Barrio Adentro to help poor patients like him who cannot afford treatment in private clinics. Patients were booked for endoscopic procedures on a routine basis. There are state of the art interventions available to treat patients with conditions like heart attacks, sepsis, asthma and heart failure.

I talked to the physician in charge whose responsibilities included seeing patients, teaching and some administration. She arrived with the first group of Cuban professionals in 2003 and has seen the growth of the Barrio Adentro programme. She said the Barrio Adentro program was saving lives and promoting health care to communities which previously had very little access. However, she was equally honest about the need to fight infectious diseases like dengue, malaria and diarrheal illnesses in Venezuela. Cuba of note has eradicated malaria since 1968, there have been no cases of diphtheria since 1971 and there are very few cases of gastroenteritis. Every Cuban professional that I met, exuded compassion and a passion to help their fellow human beings regardless of their colour, nationality or political affiliation. They felt that serving the health care needs of people was of utmost importance and they would stay as long as they were needed. However, there was general optimism that Venezuela under the Bolivarian process is training enough medical professionals whose presence in the Barrio Adentro program will be increasingly seen in the future. After a three year program of studies, 1,013 Venezuelan doctors graduated in General Integral Medicine in 2007 in the Cuban-developed system of preventative health care.

I was able to meet with a team of highly dedicated health care professionals mostly women in the Barrio Adentro III programme. The director was a woman nephrologist who heads the programme that oversees buying state of the art equipment and upgrading facilities in the hospitals in the country. I was able to meet the Director of the University Hospital in Caracas, a very well known doctor, who has trained medical students for more than 3 decades. The University hospital which is a beneficiary of the Barrio Adentro III programme is a famed centre for cardiac by pass and valve surgeries and also for cardiac transplants and kidney transplants. The medical community in the hospitals is highly polarised politically with some supporting the Bolivarian revolutionary process and others violently opposed to the changes and the involvement of the Cuban doctors. However, the director reassured me that the doctors are trying to put politics aside and work toward the common goal of providing optimal treatment to patients. Many hospitals in the country now have peoples’ committees to protect the new equipment purchased under the Barrio Adentro III programme from sabotage by those antagonistic to the new changes.

Cuba-Venezuela partnership-Putting People First

The solidarity and friendship that we witnessed between the Cuban and Venezuelan health professionals was an inspiring and moving experience. While the Venezuelan Barrio Adentro program is being compared to the celebrated Cuban health care system, there are differences in addition to the similarities. Cuba after the triumph of the revolution in 1959 expropriated land and private property and within a year nationalised all U.S and foreign property. The revolutionary government in Cuba believed that a band aid approach will not eliminate disease either real or metaphorical. Along with health care agrarian reform, housing, employment and education were instituted. The Bolivarian process has to be credited for investing money and resources on social programs like health care, education and subsidized food (Mission Mercal); 90% of PDVSA’s (government owned oil company) contributions last year went to Barrio Adentro programs and the subsidized food market. Having said that, in Venezuela, there has not been a rupture with the bourgeois state and the old structures are still in place. Private national and foreign banks earned over 30% rate of returns in 2005-2007. Some of the key industries such as media, communications, and food are still in private hands. Less than 1% of the landed estates have been appropriated and turned over to the landless. There is overcrowding in cities, areas with indigenous peoples are underdeveloped and there are many infectious diseases that need to be controlled and eradicated.

In conclusion, the creation of the free quality peoples’ health care system by the Bolivarian process indeed is a progressive measure and is a cause for celebration but it cannot reach its full potential until the community councils, the working class movement and the fight against imperialism get strengthened in Venezuela.


1. World Health Organization

2. Venezuela’s Barrio Adentro: An alternative to Neoliberalism in Health Care: International Journal of Health Services, Volume 36, Number 4, Pages 803-811, 2006

3. Ministry of Popular Power for Health. “There is medicine for HIV patients.” 14 March 2007.

Acknowledgement: I would like to thank for providing a lot of useful information.

Struggles in India

AICCTU’s Seventh National Conference at Chennai

– Liberation, September, 2008.

The 7th National Conference of All India Council of Central Trade Union (AICCTU) was held at Chennai from the 2 to 4 August. Nearly 400 delegates from 18 cities and 3 Union Territories participated in the conference. A cross-section of workers of unorganized and informal sectors, representatives of coal, steel, oil, power, private security, telecom, textiles, power-loom, automobiles, transport, brick-kilns, leather, hawkers, tea gardens, building construction, railways and corporate big industries like Pricol, Ashok Leyland, Hyundai, as well as State Government employees were present at the Conference.

Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [CPI(ML)] General Secretary Comrade Dipankar inaugurated a poster-exhibition highlighting the first political strike of Indian workers and the history of the working class movement, which drew a lot of appreciation.

The opening session of the Conference was addressed by Comrade Dipankar, CPI (ML) Polit Bureau member Comrade D P Buxi, and others. Kalpana Wilson of the London-based South Asia Solidarity Group (SASG), Zubran Ali Jewel, Convenor of Bangladesh textile workers association , All India trade Union Congress (AITUC) Deputy General Secretary Comrade Mahadevan, Center of Indian trade Unions (CITU) Vice President Comrade Varadarajan were some of the guest speakers. Messages of greetings and solidarity from WFTU General Secretary George Marvarikos, John Percy, National General Secretary of Australia’s Revolutionary Socialist Party, Mashaharu Takei, President of the Japan Confederation of Railway Workers’ Unions (JRU) were presented at the session.

In the delegate session which began on 2nd August, AICCTU General Secretary Swapan Mukherjee presented the draft document for discussion. August 3 began with a special session on ‘Unorganised workers in the Organised Sector’, where Comrade Subhash Sen placed the political perspective. On 4 August, All India Agricultural Workers Association (AIALA) Vice President Comrade Pawan Sharma addressed the Conference and spoke about the struggles of agricultural labourers. On August 4, a special session was organised on government employees, 72 delegates participated in the discussion of the draft document. Since the last national conference at Guwahati, AICCTU’s membership along with its rural proletariat membership has crossed the one million mark.

The AICCTU launched a Steel Workers Federation at a two-day Convention at Rourkela and held the founding conference of an All-India Federation of Construction Workers at Patna on the basis of 75,000 plus membership. Prior to this conference AICCTU extended its work to two important states – Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, where organized trade union work has been initiated and state units of AICCTU elected through state conferences.

The Chennai State Conference was marked by the warm and enthusiastic participation of a range of fraternal organisations which are working closely with AICCTU on a variety of unity initiatives. Among these were 3 unions of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (CMM), working in the industrial belts of Bhilai, Raipur, and Rajnandgaon, which affiliated themselves to AICCTU. Leaders of the Lal Nishan Party Leninist-led Maharashtra Rajya Sarva Shramik Mahasangh, participated in the Conference, in Maharashtra, they have formed a State-level Federation and plan to affiliate it to AICCTU after securing registration.

Comrade Ray of the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) led Darjeeling Terai Dooars Chiakaman Mazdoor Union also participated in the Conference. In Thiruvattur, Tamilnadu, workers affiliated with various unions, working in Hyundai and other MNCs have come together under the banner of Solidarity Forum; AICCTU plays a leading role in these initiatives.

The conference elected a 179-member council, a 65-member working committee and Comrade S Kumarasami was re-elected President and Comrade Swapan Mukherjee General Secretary.

South Asia

Greetings to Comrade Prachanda on Becoming Prime Minister of Nepal


Comrade Pushpa Kamal Dahal

Hon’ble Prime Minister,

Republic of Nepal

Dear Comrade,

On behalf of the entire membership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (Liberation) and the progressive and democratic people of India, I extend hearty congratulations to you on being elected Prime Minister of Nepal. This is a decisive victory for the CPN (M) and other left and republican forces. We also welcome the encouraging fact that the Left in Nepal, CPN (UML) and CPN (M), could forge this unity at this crucial juncture to make this victory possible.

We wish you all success in leading Nepal towards a modern democratic people’s republic, and assure you of heartfelt solidarity and determined support against any intervention or big-brotherly move on part of imperialist forces or the Indian ruling class.

With warm greetings of proletarian internationalism,

Comradely yours,

Dipankar Bhattacharya,

General Secretary

CPI(ML) (Liberation)


Guest Workers in Australia: Are they Modern Day Slaves?

– Lionel Bopage.

The current Labour government has introduced a pilot seasonal worker program for the horticultural industry. Up to 2500 visas will be available over three years for workers from Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea to work in selected locations in Australia. The National Farmers Federation pushed for this visa category claiming a chronic Australia-wide shortage of seasonal horticultural workers. They allege there is a massive amount of fresh produce being left to perish. Some analysts have already labelled this as a labour captivity program. There have been previous reports of workers brought to Australia under similar schemes and subjected to super-exploitation.

The Australian Minister for Immigration refuted a U.S. claim that that the labour conditions imposed on temporary guest workers from India, China and South Korea in a previous program similar to this one amounted to debt bondage and involuntary servitude. The Minister added that the U.S State Department was ill informed about this issue and there will be tough responses if there are any violations of the conditions of the new visa scheme. These violations should be reported to the Workplace Ombudsman. Yet employers seem to demand that these workers: should repay their large replacement fees; are not allowed to contact any unions; and should accept sub-standard living conditions.

A large part of Victoria’s fruit pickers seem to be ‘undocumented workers’ and may include some who do not have rights to work in Australia. Most of these workers are casual, non unionised travellers. The union movement has pointed out that some employers pay their agricultural and fruit picking workers wages as low as $3 per hour for their physically demanding and repetitive work. While agricultural workers are the lowest paid in the nation, fruit pickers are among the lowest paid agricultural workers. The allegations against the employers in agriculture also include superannuation rip-offs and devious contractual arrangements.

The union movement disputes the claims of a chronic labour shortage in Australia. They have pointed out that while unemployment rates are relatively low in Australia, the unemployment rate and under employment amongst the young and indigenous people in regional areas are particularly high. There is a shortage of workers because the amount paid is a mere pittance and the work only lasts for a few months per annum, not near enough to make ends meet. Employers who pay reasonable and competitive rates and provide adequate facilities have still been able to attract workers for agricultural work.

The reluctance of the government to increase permanent migration to address the skills shortage in Australia can be explained by the fact that migrant workers with their full legal entitlements would be asking for the best wages and conditions available in the Australian labour market. To draw workers to the agricultural sector means the employers would need to pay substantially more, provide permanency of work and provide access to basic amenities. This pilot program seems to be designed to help employers avoid these legal requirements by forcing migrant workers ‘to work only in a specific region and industry for a single employer for seven months a year’. If they seek alternative employment or are dismissed from work, they will be deported back home.

This so-called guest worker scheme will generate a subservient semi-bonded class of workers, as has happened before under the 457 visa program. In New Zealand an investigation of a similar program on seasonal migrant workers has found widespread abuses of workers’ rights. Some employers, unions and NGOs in Australia have stated that they will only support a well-regulated program that prevents exploitation. However well-regulated the scheme is, it is still bonded labour. It has enough loopholes that will allow for the super-exploitation of migrant workers


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