January-February 2012


An update on news and ideas from the revolutionary left in India.

Produced by: Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation international team


Websites: [mlint.wordpress.com] and [www.cpiml.org]

Emails: [cpiml_elo@yahoo.com] and [cpimllib@gmail.com]

Table of Content

  1. The AMRI Disaster: The Killer Fumes of Corporate Greed
  2. Corporate Retail: Government Claims – and the Reality
  3. Guarantee Land Reforms and Land Rights, Extend MNREGA to Agriculture, Stop Rural Loot

  4. CPI(ML) Protests Against FDI in Retail

  5. Let Us Make 2012 A Year of Heightened Struggles and Powerful Initiatives
  6. Hooch Horror in Bengal

  7. CPI(ML) Statement on Mullaperiyar Dispute

Politics in India

The AMRI Disaster: The Killer Fumes of Corporate Greed

– ML Update, 13 – 19 December, 2012.

The morning of December 9 came as a huge shock to Kolkata and the entire country. More than 90 lives – including elderly patients in various stages of treatment and recovery – were lost in a fatal disaster in the AMRI hospital in Dhakuria in south Kolkata on that fateful morning. The disaster was triggered by a major fire that broke out in the basement of the super-speciality hospital in the pre-dawn hours, but it was the toxic fume engulfing the multi-storey building which claimed most of the lives. Every report emanating from the site of the disaster since then has compounded that shock and turned it into utter shame and indignation. The disaster can only be called a huge corporate crime with the state being equally complicit.

Consider these facts. The fire broke out at around 3 AM, but it took the hospital authorities nearly two hours to inform the fire-brigade. The reason behind this inexplicable delay lies apparently in another case of fire which had broken out in the basement of the same building two months ago on October 8 – the security guard who had then promptly informed the fire-station had incurred the wrath of the hospital administration and was suspended for two weeks. So this time round the staff apparently tried to douse the fire themselves before informing the fire-brigade. Valuable time had already been lost and the fire-brigade found itself ill-equipped when it finally reached the spot after negotiating the narrow and overcrowded approach roads in this busy neighbourhood of the city.

The fire-alarm system of the hospital did not work as it was apparently disabled by smokers! It now also turns out that the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH), the apex agency that grants accreditation for hospitals, had refused to renew the hospital’s accreditation because the hospital did not conform to expected safety standards and fire-fighting norms. The basement of the hospital had been turned into a veritable dumping place for all kinds of inflammable materials and radiotherapy instruments. Reports have it that the hospital had been warned by the fire-fighting department during an inspection in the month of July and the hospital authorities had promised to clear the basement in two months. There was never a follow-up to check if the ‘promise’ had been kept. According to the NABH CEO, the hospital also did not have the required safety certification from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board for two new machines it had recently procured for its radiology unit.

Having systematically violated all relevant rules and standards, the AMRI management also exhibited a flagrant disregard for basic human values even in the face of the macabre dance of death. The local people who were the first to rush to the spot and extend a helping hand risking their own lives were not allowed in. Family members of patients who desperately tried to rescue their dear ones were stopped and asked to first clear all dues! While some members of the AMRI staff also died in the tragedy, most top members of the AMRI management were conspicuously absent from the scene, issuing empty condolence statements and trying to silence the angry people by announcing some token compensation for the dead.

How did an irresponsible entity like AMRI that had Advanced Medical Research as a part of its name (probably with a view to claiming more benefits and concessions from the state) but epitomized nothing but corporate greed and arrogance come to be treated as a ‘premier super-speciality healthcare provider’? Indeed, the rise and expansion of AMRI since the middle of 1990s symbolized the changing complexion of the healthcare ‘industry’ in the era of neo-liberalism – where healthcare became an expensive consumer product traded in a thoroughly corporatized and commercialized environment. The site where AMRI made super-profit by fleecing patients earlier housed a state-run polyclinic where the common people could expect quality medicare at affordable rates. In the 1990s, the state-run polyclinic gave way to AMRI – a public-private partnership project in which the state government initially held 51% share.

Over the years, the share of the state came down progressively to less than 2%. Meanwhile the head of one of the private groups owning and controlling the hospital, Mr. Shravan Todi grew very close to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] leadership and the Left Front government, even becoming a formal member of the CPI(M), and AMRI grew into a hospital chain with the state government providing heavily subsidized plots in prime locations. The AMRI is also co-owned by the Emami group of the Goenkas – also known to be close to the (CPIM). The bonhomie between the likes of Shravan Todi and the CPI(M) was of course nothing exceptional – it was of a piece with the kind of cosy ties that had evolved between the CPI(M) leadership and business establishments in different sectors, be it the jute and hosiery barons, private players in the power sector like the Goenkas or tycoons like the Tatas, Ambanis or the infamous Salim group of Indonesia.

The managers of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) dispensation and the dominant media in West Bengal today are pointing fingers at the CPI(M) leadership for the growth of the greedy corporate culture epitomized by the AMRI. But we remember it very well that before Singur and Nandigram, the same media had been busy lauding the CPI(M) rulers for their pro-business attitude, marketing ‘brand Buddha’ as the most wonderful communist model in India! Also, the TMC-led Kolkata Corporation and fire service too can hardly wash their hands off their share of responsibility for the tragedy. And we are also acutely aware of the fact that under neo-liberalism all shades of governments in India have been busy promoting corporatization and commercialization in every sector of the economy and public service. The AMRIs are the norm in this policy environment. It is another matter that when things go horribly wrong, the rulers desperately seek to disown such erstwhile ‘success stories’ and treat them as villainous aberrations!

For the people of Kolkata and the whole of India, the lessons of the AMRI disaster are pretty straightforward. If we want to avoid a second disaster, we must free healthcare services from the killer fumes of corporate greed. The right to health and education must be upheld as fundamental rights of the people and the business-politics nexus must not be allowed to play with these rights.

Struggles in India

Corporate Retail: Government Claims – and the Reality

– Liberation, January, 2012.

In the face of immense opposition to its decision to permit 51% FDI in multi-brand retail, the Government has had to out its plans on hold. However, this is only a temporary setback, and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government is committed to introduce this policy at all costs. In order to do so, it has been peddling many myths about foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail. It has brought out full-page ads in papers extolling FDI in retail. Unwittingly, these ads acknowledge people’s concerns of job losses, of kirana store owners being put out of business, of multinationals gaining full access to and control of India’s retail sector, of farmers being exploited – but attempt to dismiss these concerns as ‘myths.’ The UPA Government, as well as corporates and neoliberal ideologues, are telling us that if companies like Walmart, Carrefour, Tesco etc. are given more space in India’s retail sector, they will create ten million new jobs; ensure low prices for consumers; and a better deal for farmers. Shankar Gopalakrishnan examines these claims, in the light of the international experience and the facts on the ground.

In the flood of official (and media) propaganda in the wake of the government’s (temporarily stalled) move to permit FDI in retail, the actual reality of what this will mean is being lost. For this it is necessary to look at this issue logically, rather on the basis of hype. Commerce Minister Anand Sharma’s letter to political parties offers a good place to start.

He claims corporate retail fuelled by FDI will result in investment in cold chains and therefore in lower prices by eliminating middlemen, corporate retail will not threaten small retailers who find innovative ways to coexist and that it will generate employment. In addition he claims corporate retail will benefit farmers and producers by ensuring a remunerative price. Not one of these claims is justified by the available data.

In the sector that requires cold chain infrastructure most – fruits and vegetables – data from developing countries often shows that prices in supermarkets are generally higher than from existing retailers. Certainly, there is no data that shows consistently lower prices from corporate retailers. Thus in Thailand, they are estimated to be 10% higher. In Argentina, data showed consistently higher prices for fruits and vegetables in supermarkets (the difference being about 14% through the 1990’s), though this difference was falling. In 2000, in Mexican supermarkets, prices of lemons, tomatoes and oranges were significantly higher than in traditional markets, while in all other fruits and vegetables they were identical or slightly higher. In Vietnam, in 2002, it was found that prices in supermarkets across all categories were around 10% higher. The concentration of power in the hands of a few companies by no means leads to lower prices. In the US, supermarkets raised tomato prices by 46% between 1994 and 2004 while real prices paid to producers fell by 25%.

In the Indian experience, the entry of corporate chains into wheat and grain procurement has coincided with increased speculation and increased prices.

The Minister and the government here are playing a simple verbal trick. The fact that some retailers “continue to coexist” does not in any way mean that most small retailers will not be pushed out of business. Indeed, the data is exactly opposite to the claim that there is no evidence of harm to small retailers. In Brazil for example in fruits and vegetables, share of street markets declined by 27.8% between 1987 and 1996, in dairy sales, share of dairy stores fell by 27.8% and open air markets by 53.3%.In Argentina number of small stores dropped by 64,198 between 1984 and 1993 – 30% of the shops in the country, employment in retail sector dropped by 26% in the same period. In Indonesia between 2002 and 2003 – just one year – number of ‘traditional’ grocery stores fell by 154,148 stores, or 9%10

What about the oft-cited example of China? This example is irrelevant because Chinese food retail entirely different. From 1959 till the late 1980s, private retail trade was essentially banned in China’s cities, and all retail was taken over by public state owned enterprise. In 1992 (with the rise of supermarkets just beginning), state-owned large networks accounted for 41.3%, cooperatives/collectives 27.9%, and private enterprises (i.e. small retailers mostly) 20% of market – hence completely incomparable to Indian situation.

In all situations big retailers begin with the rich segment of the population but do not remain confined to them – they always attempt to expand into smaller towns, reaching out to poorer segments. In Latin America, Asia and Africa in general there has been a trend from supermarkets occupying only a small niche in capital cities serving only the rich and middle class to spread well beyond the middle class in order to penetrate deeply into the food markets of the poor.

Most purchase for corporate retailers occurs through contract farming. This actually has negative impacts on most farmers. All studies of contract farming and corporate food retail state that small and marginal farmers are unable to access the supply chain. More than 90% of India’s rural population has less than 2 hectares of land and 79% are either landless or own less than 1 hectare. Practically all of these people will be excluded from corporate supply chain; most of them are net purchasers of food and will be affected by increased volatility of prices. Those left out of sourcing may find themselves competing for a much smaller market and essentially being driven out of existence. Thus, in Argentina, the number of dairy farms fell from 40,000 in 1983 – around the time when corporate transformation of the supply chain began – to 15,000 in 2001.

There is no reason that purchases by a small number of companies is going to lead to higher prices for producers. An Oxfam study shows that real export prices for South African apples fell by 33% from 1994 – 2004, and Florida tomato growers found their real prices falling by 25% over same period – while consumer prices in the US rose by 46% at the same time. Data currently says that four or five companies control 40% of the international trade in several types of produce, including grains, edible oils, coffee, cocoa and bananas. The same study by Oxfam shows that conditions for agricultural workers in supermarket suppliers is very bad, because of the intense pressure placed on farmers to reduce prices, guarantee ‘quality standards’, handle last minute changes in contracts and absorb discounts, promotions, etc. passed on to them.

The growth of corporate retail not only will not address the key problems plaguing India’s economy today – it will greatly exacerbate many of them. In particular, the crisis in agriculture, environmental destruction, declines in land productivity, urban unemployment, price volatility and unequal access to resources would all be worsened by unchecked growth of corporate retail.

Red Light for Walmart in New York – Why Red Carpet in India?!

When the debate over FDI in retail was at its peak, the US Ambassador in India, speaking at a public gathering, chose to contribute to the debate. The fears expressed by Indians were misplaced, he said – FDI in retail was just what the Indian economy needed.

Well, he should perhaps have begun by convincing fellow Americans, before attempting to convince us here in India! After all, Walmart has been struggling in vain since 2005 to open an outlet in one of the USA’s most prominent cities – New York City!

Local people and unions in NYC are unwilling to allow Walmart into their city because it is notorious for killing jobs; putting mom-and-pop (family-run) stores out of business; destroying communities by driving down wages and driving up real estate prices; disallowing unions; and extremely exploitative working conditions.

Yet, the UPA Government is keen to invite Walmart, which is unwelcome in its own home country, to

put small stores out of business, kill jobs and employ people in sweatshop conditions in India!

Do We Want A ‘Walmarting’ of India?

Walmart is run by the Walton family – which is the richest family in the world. Is it fair to force small Indian family stores and street vendors to compete with the richest in the world?

In India, there are around 1.2 crore (12 million) shops, employing 4 crore (40 million) people. Most of these are small, self-employed establishments. The retail sector is also the refuge of those unable to find employment elsewhere, allowing them a chance to eke out a living by running small shops, pushing handcarts or selling vegetables on the street. Even if we accept the government’s claim that FDI in retail will create a crore jobs, should we not ask how many jobs and means of survival it will jeopardise and destroy in India? Moreover, the quality of jobs in the corporate and MNC retail chains are notorious the world over for being the worst paid and exploitative, with the least workplace democracy.

Checks and Balances?

The Government promises to provide certain checks and safeguards, like restricting foreign retail chains to 51 cities in India and requiring them to source 30% products from the Indian small and medium enterprises (SMEs). But the fact remains that even if the MNC retail chains are initially limited to the bigger Indian cities, it is not difficult to see that they will skim off the cream of the Indian retail market.

Also, a token 30% reservation would not save the Indian SMEs from the adverse impact of unequal global competition. We have all witnessed how, with the entry of Pepsi and Coke in the soft drink sector, all Indian companies were swallowed up or pushed out.

Struggles in India

CPI(ML) Protests Against FDI in Retail

– Liberation, January, 2012.

On 29-30 November, the party held countrywide protests, and extended active support to the all-India Strike called by traders’ organisations.

 On 30 November in the national capital, the effigy of the Prime Minister was burnt at Parliament Street. On 1 November, the party and All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) activists participated in the bandh by distributing leaflets in the marketplaces, holding mike meeting and raising slogans against FDI in retail in Narela, Wazirpur, Govindpuri, Mayur Vihar, Shahdara and Mandawali.

On 30 November, a protest march was held at Ara, in which leaflets were distributed exposing the pitfalls of FDI in retail. On 1 November, CPI(ML) and AISA helped to implement the bandh throughout Bhojpur, marching with banners on the streets. Protestors stalled the 512 Down Buxar-Patna passenger at Ara railway station for an hour, till they were arrested and held at GRP thana, where they continued to address the crowds at the railway station.

AICCTU held a protest march and meeting in Gaya on 1 November in support of the bandh. At Patna, the party held a protest march, ensuring closure of shops, and blockading Dak Bangla crossing to hold a protest meeting there.

On 29 November in Tamilnadu, the party held protests all over the state. Notable were protests at Coimbatore; Chennai; Pudukottai; Tirunelveli as well as Kanyakumari; Villupuram and Salem. In Tiruvallore, the police did not let the demonstration take place. A massive protest demonstration was held on 1 December 2011 at Puducherry town.

In Bhilai, Chhattisgarh, CPI(ML) and AICCTU held an effigy burning protest and public meeting at Ghadi Chowk, Supela on 30 November.

Struggles in India

Guarantee Land Reforms and Land Rights,

Extend MNREGA to Agriculture, Stop Rural Loot

– Liberation, January, 2012.

(excerpts from Comrade Dipankar’s concluding address at the 4th National Conference of All India Agricultural Labour Association [AIALA] in Patna on 22 November 2011)

Land Reforms and Land Rights:

As far as land is concerned, the government now only talks of land acquisition and land market. Peasant organizations have rightly rejected this policy and called for protection of agricultural land as well as forest and coastal land from corporate invasion or state-led acquisition of such land in corporate or commercial interest. The agricultural labour movement in the country must also come out boldly against the state-corporate drive for land acquisition and insist on land reforms and land rights.

Today governments of various hues are not only abandoning land reforms but are also systematically trying to rob the rural poor of whatever gains they have made through years of struggle. The new Trinamool Congress (TMC) government of West Bengal has even termed the agricultural labour or poor peasant or tenant a land robber – it calls the rural poor’s hold on land achieved through years of struggle an act of land robbery! We must resist and defeat this eviction drive and move forward to force these governments to carry out land reforms and guarantee the land and shelter rights of the landless rural poor. The fight for homestead land has already started gathering momentum in many states and we must intensify this battle.

Improve MNREGA, Extend it to Agriculture:

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) has been the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s biggest talking point in recent years. Ground reports from almost all states however continue to confirm that the Act has made very little difference to the rural employment scene. Reports of all kinds of irregularities abound and rural labourers are often denied their due wages, and delayed payment of wages has become the normal practice. Now by making the Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) [Who will be the millionaire] winner from Bihar the brand ambassador for MNREGA, the UPA government has also inadvertently revealed the true nature of the Act. The message has gone out that MNREGA too is more a case of chance like the Kaun Banega Crorepati game show where a fortunate few can gain something, and it does not provide effective guarantee of an assured right.

This conference has rightly demanded improved MNREGA terms – more workdays, better wages, prompt payment. A concerted move is underway to truncate and even scuttle the Act. We must resist this move and fight for expansion of MNREGA schemes. It is time MNREGA is also extended to agriculture. At a time when the small and marginal farmers have been hit hard by the agrarian crisis, and agricultural employment and wages are also adversely affected, extension of MNREGA to agriculture could provide some relief to the crisis-ridden peasantry and also bolster agricultural employment and wages.

Rural Labour in the Battle against Rural Loot:

Corruption has emerged as a major concern for the whole country and the rural poor are its worst victims. The mega corporate scams and huge corporate exemptions devour up funds that could be allocated for rural development while the corrupt system entrenched in blocks and panchayats claims the lion’s share of funds flowing through the panchayats. Mega corruption and mass pauperization go hand in hand. This is why the battle against loot and corruption must be treated as a key task for the agricultural labour movement in the country. It is important to force the government to enact strong anti-corruption legislation, but we must carry the anti-corruption battle beyond the limited agenda of Lokpal and Lokayuktas to the point of reversal of pro-corporate policies and overthrow of the anti-people nexus that retards and obstructs any real rural development.

AIALA has now spread to nearly twenty states. It has developed a two million-strong steady membership base. But the real strength of AIALA will always lie in its ability to develop a vibrant organizational network at panchayat level that can subject the panchayats to mass supervision and intervention, and wage determined struggles against the forces of loot and oppression. May this 4th National Conference of AIALA mark an important milestone in this cherished direction.

Struggles in India

Let Us Make 2012 A Year of Heightened Struggles and Powerful Initiatives

– Central Committee, CPI (ML), December, 2012.

As the first year of the second decade of the twenty-first century draws to a close, we can see a welcome upswing in popular struggles across the world. Reeling under economic recession, corporate loot and dictatorial rule, the people have clearly started fighting back across the world. History will remember 2011 as the year of the Arab Spring and also as the year of the ‘Occupy’ movement. The impulses behind the Arab Spring and the ‘Occupy’ movement are still very much alive and so the ongoing battles will surely be carried forward into the coming year. The same holds very much true for our own battle in India against corruption and corporate loot and for securing the rights of the people in various fields of life.

The present crisis of global capitalism is turning out to be quite deep and enduring. It has simultaneously hit both US and Europe, the two biggest centres of global capitalism. And it has hit the financial sector as well as several major manufacturing industries. The dominant capitalist model of neo-liberalism, based on the free-market mantra of deregulation and privatization, seems to have reached a dead-end. The combined effect of growing relocation of industries and outsourcing of labour-intensive production and labour-displacing technological innovation has pushed unemployment levels unbearably high in most advanced capitalist countries.

Global capital is trying to overcome this crisis by grabbing as much natural resources as possible precipitating a mad corporate rush for every conceivable resource – most notably, land, water, forests, minerals, and oil and gas. Together with this drive to grab ever greater share of resources, imperialism is also waging its relentless war on resource-rich countries, ostensibly in the name of combating terrorism and promoting democracy and human rights. After Afghanistan and Iraq, the war is now clearly, though in an undeclared manner, spreading to Iran and Pakistan and also increasingly to Africa as indicated by the US-NATO intervention in Libya. But equally clearly, the war is also running into increasing opposition both in the occupied/invaded countries and also in the heartlands of global capitalism, the US in particular.

Globalisation is thus emerging as a dialectical process. Alongside the globalization of corporate loot and imperialist war, we now also see the other dimension of globalization – globalization of capitalist crisis and globalization of people’s resentment and resistance. The global environment today stands in a refreshing contrast to the kind of situation we faced till recently when the US and other Western powers seemed to be dominating the world on their own terms. For communists and progressive forces the world over, the possibilities of a renewed advance are surely knocking on the doors.

This may sound rather wishful in the Indian context if one goes by recent electoral outcomes. But in a situation of growing systemic crisis and heightened popular activism, it is terribly wrong to try and assess political reality merely in terms of elections. For example, election results may suggest that the CPI(ML) has little base left in Bihar, but then the great success of the November 21 rally in Patna and the response evoked by the series of mass initiatives preceding the rally have clearly shown that the party surely retains its capacity to mobilize the masses and intervene in ongoing political developments. In fact, all through 2011 we could sense the potential of expansion and powerful intervention that we possess not just in Bihar and our major areas of work in other states but also in many developing areas and emerging sectors. In 2012 let us better our efforts to realize this great potential.

The Left movement in India is passing through a challenging phase. For every section of the Left, it is time for some reality check. The CPI (M)’s fabled electoral strength has received a body blow in West Bengal and with it, its stature as the leading Left current has eroded considerably. And this has happened not just because the party had spent too many years in power in West Bengal, but because the party’s line of implementing the neo-liberal agenda in practice while claiming to oppose it in theory has run into a serious crisis.

The Maoists too have suffered a major setback in West Bengal, and it clearly shows that unless they rethink their strategy, they will not be able to break new ground or hold on to their bases merely on the basis of their military strength. After the disastrous experience of Andhra Pradesh a few years ago, the Maoists have suffered a similar debacle in West Bengal. Their theory and practice of political intervention by military means has been exposed quite thoroughly and it is clear that military strength is no substitute for either mass work or independent political initiatives.

The initiative we took to unite various fighting forces of the Left on a common platform is making steady progress. With the CPI(M) and the Maoists both facing major challenges, we must sharpen the ideological-political debate to assert the correctness of our revolutionary communist line even as we intensify our ongoing national campaign against corruption and corporate loot and for democratic rights of the people. Let us make 2012 a year of heightened struggles, greater political initiatives and closer interaction with fighting Left and democratic forces.

2012 will also be the year of preparation for the Party’s next Congress. The Central Committee has decided to hold the 9th Congress in early 2013. Let us make the most of the coming year to prepare the Party in every way for the Ninth Congress. The central committee (CC) has already outlined some key points in this regard with special emphasis on organizational expansion and consolidation and ideological-political mobilization of the entire party. As we prepare for the Ninth Congress, we will also seek and welcome creative ideas and inputs that we can get from our friends and well-wishers.

This December 18 marks the thirteenth anniversary of our beloved leader Comrade Vinod Mishra (VM). Comrade VM had led the Party from its early underground days when the Party was confined to a few pockets to its all-round growth as a revolutionary communist party with an all-India presence and comprehensive practice. He had led the Party in combining serious mass work with vibrant political ideas and initiatives, in waging sustained ideological struggle against sectarian and dogmatic ideas as well as against parliamentary cretinism and all kinds of opportunist ideas and practice, in imparting strategic thrust and national vision to day-to-day grassroot-level work in remote areas. He dreamt of the CPI(ML) emerging as the biggest communist party and leading the communist movement forward to the ultimate victory of revolution.

Today as we begin preparing for the Ninth Congress and the challenging possibilities of “Left resurgence through people’s resistance” knock on our doors, let us learn once again from Comrade VM’s teachings and rededicate ourselves to the realization of his unfulfilled tasks and dreams.

Politics in India

Hooch Horror in Bengal

– ML Update, 20 – 26 December, 2012.

On the heels of the Advanced Medicare and Research Institute (AMRI) fire has come another terrible tragedy – the hooch (illicit liquor) tragedy at Sangrampur of South 24 Parganas, that has claimed 190 lives till date including that of an 8-year-old child, and the death toll continues to mount.

This latest tragedy highlighted the ruling TMC Government’s callousness once again. As the tragedy began to unfold, the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s first response was to disclaim the Government’s responsibility by blaming the deaths on a ‘social evil’! In other words, according to her, the Government had no responsibility to ensure that the lucrative business of bootlegging does not flourish and endanger lives!

Subsequently, as the death toll arose and angry people demolished the illegal hooch ‘theks’ and ransacked the houses of their owners, the Government was forced to change its stance and order an enquiry. However, the Chief Minister is yet even to pay a visit to Sangrampur, even as the appalling state of healthcare contributes to the death toll. This apathy is in stark contrast to Mamata’s show of promptitude in the case of the AMRI fire, and is a measure of how much her Government really cares for the rural poor!

The hooch kingpin running the illicit liquor trade in the area is one ‘Badshah’, known to have enjoyed CPIM patronage in the earlier regime, and having shifted loyalty to the TMC with the change of guard. He is still absconding. In any case, Badshah is only the tip of the iceberg. There are estimated to be 27,000 illicit liquor brewers in the state – a whole illegal industry that thrives with the patronage of power.

The government, doing nothing to ensure even prompt and adequate medical care, has merely announced Rs. 2 lakh compensation for the victims’ families, and even that is yet to materialize.

Politics in India

CPI(ML) Statement on Mullaperiyar Dispute

– ML Update, 20 – 26 December, 2012.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI(ML)] expresses grave concern over the alarming escalation of the controversy over the Mullaperiyar dam. CPI(ML) appeals to the people of Kerala and Tamil Nadu to maintain patience and peace, rebuffing attempts to whip up competitive chauvinism and violence.

The people living in the area downstream from the dam in Kerala are apprehensive that the 116-year-old dam might burst, endangering the habitations in the region. These long-standing safety concerns have been heightened in the wake of recent tremors in the region. On the other hand, people of Tamil Nadu fear the denial or reduction in water supply in case of construction of a new dam at Mullaperiyar and any change in terms and conditions of the 999-year agreement between both states.

Four districts of Tamil Nadu have been traditionally dependent on the water rights they have long enjoyed from the dam, and there is a fear that any change in arrangements might endanger agriculture and the livelihood and survival of lakhs (100, 000s) of peasants and labourers. These concerns assume even greater proportions in the backdrop of the deepening agrarian crisis and shrinkage of cultivable land in Tamilnadu.

Continuity of the existing water rights for the people of Tamil Nadu, and safety for the people of Kerala are both genuine concerns that must be recognised in their full gravity and adequately addressed in a manner that generates confidence among the people.

A large share of responsibility for the present crisis and impasse falls on the Central Government and Central Water Commission, which have failed to act for over four decades, in spite of conflict brewing on this issue since the 1980s. The matter is now subjudice, with the Supreme Court having appointed an Empowered Committee to look into the issue. The Supreme Court must facilitate an expeditious resolution of the dispute.

We call upon the Prime Minister to use his office to facilitate dialogue between both states, generate confidence and allay apprehensions, in order to arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution. We appeal to the Governments of Kerala and Tamil Nadu to abjure any hardening of positions, and work towards a reasoned and mutually favourable solution.

In the meantime, the respective state governments must take urgent steps to ensure the security of Tamilians in Kerala and Keralites in Tamil Nadu. There have been disconcerting reports of chauvinistic attacks on Tamil labourers and Ayyappa devotees in Kerala, and similar targeting of Malayalees and their shops and business establishments in Tamil Nadu. We appeal to common people in both states to resist forces that are fishing in the troubled waters and fuelling discord among people who have a long history of living in harmony.


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