July-August 2012

Table of Contents

  1. Presidential Poll 2012: Opportunist Realignment in Coalition Politics
  2. The Exit of Brahmeshwar Singh
  3. Comrade TP Chandrashekharan: Embodies the Spirit of the Communist Movement
  4. Convention against Koodankulam Nuke Plant

  5. Who Killed Mohd. Qateel Siddiqi?

  6. Another Milestone In PRICOL Workers’ Struggle: Tripartite Agreement Signed
  7. CPI(ML) General Secretary Visits Bangladesh

  8. Insufferable Saga of Corruption and Economic Disaster

  9. Coalgate Scam: PMO Paves the Way for Corporate Loot of Coal

Politics in India

Presidential Poll 2012:

Opportunist Realignment in Coalition Politics

– ML Update, 27 June – 3 July, 2012.

As an electoral contest, the July 2012 presidential election is no cliff-hanger, even if the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and some regional parties are trying to deny the Congress a walkover. Given the latest political alignment, Pranab Mukherjee seems all set to enter the Rashtrapati Bhavan as Pratibha Patil’s successor. What is of real interest is the curious pattern of the emerging political alignment ahead of the bigger battle scheduled in 2014. Both the leading coalitions, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), stand divided as do the Left Front and for that matter any potential coalition of regional parties.

If Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) is threatening to break ranks with the UPA, Janata Dala (United) [JD(U)] and Shiv Sena have already extended support to the Congress candidate. Having waited for the Congress to declare its candidate, the BJP now complains about not being consulted by the Congress and has chosen to back PA Sangma, the candidate proposed by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Biju Janata Dal (BJD), who had to quit his own party Nataional Congress Party (NCP) to join the Presidential race. The Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the two heavyweight parties from Uttar Pradesh (UP), are both busy in a competitive bargain with the Congress and the Centre. And the Left bloc too has now got divided with the Communist Party of India (CPI) (Marxist) and Forward Bloc supporting Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature even as the CPI and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) have decided to abstain.

The BJP would have loved to use the Presidential poll as an opportunity to attract more allies, yet ironically enough, it finds two of its oldest allies ditching it on this occasion. Why did Nitish Kumar choose this time to oppose the prospect of Narendra Modi as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate to join hands with the Congress and UPA on the presidential poll? This may well be Nitish Kumar’s way of staking his own claim against Modi and a tool for bargaining with the Centre for greater funds for Bihar, but the most pressing reason lies within Bihar where his government is drawing flaks from all quarters for its growing non-performance, failure and betrayal, and Nitish Kumar obviously needs to divert the public attention elsewhere.

The CPI(M)’s support for Pranab Mukherjee has come with the most bankrupt of arguments. Prakash Karat has now joined Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee to argue that the presidential poll should be delinked from the political battle against neo-liberal pro-imperialist policies! ‘Oppose Pranab Mukherjee as Finance Minister but support him as President’ is the AKG Bhavan’s latest doublespeak. Karat also argues that Mukherjee should be supported as he already enjoys ‘the widest acceptance’ and the CPI(M) should therefore play ball and not spoil the party! He has also candidly reminded everybody that it has been his party’s normal practice to support Congress candidates in presidential election, the only exception being the 2002 election when APJ Abdul Kalam was viewed as the BJP’s candidate and hence opposed.

Sixteen years ago, it was the CPI(M) which refrained from participating in the United Front (UF) government at the Centre even as the CPI joined the Union cabinet. Prakash Karat had then famously vetoed Surjeet’s proposal to make Jyoti Basu the Prime Minister of the UF government. The circle has now been completed with Prakash Karat reportedly giving his ‘casting vote’ to prevail over an evenly divided polit bureau and clinch the decision to support Pranab Mukherjee. And ironically, it is now the CPI which has refused to fall in line.

The CPI(M) decision to go with the Congress in the presidential poll has begun to create some ripples within the party with the convenor of the party’s research cell resigning from the party in protest. Coupled with the ongoing crisis in Kerala and Prabhat Patnaik’s salvo against what he calls the ‘feudal-Stalinist’ culture in Kerala CPI(M), the debate over the presidential poll may well herald another ‘July crisis’ for the CPI(M). For all those who had taken the CPI(M)’s Kozhikode Congress call for ‘Left and democratic alternative’ as sign of a ‘leftward restoration and rectification’ within the party, the recent Kerala developments and now the decision to support the Congress nominee in presidential election should serve as important ‘reality checks’.

It is height of opportunist bankruptcy to suggest that the presidential election has nothing to do with the struggle against the anti-people policies of the government. Equally irrelevant in this case is the CPI(M)’s other stock argument of supporting the Congress to keep the BJP out of power. The only principled course for the Left in this presidential election could have been to abstain, and abstain precisely as a statement of opposition to the policy trajectory of the ruling classes and its disastrous outcome which has pushed the country deep into an all-pervasive crisis marked by unbridled corruption and corporate loot, massive pauperisation, growing imperialist interference and systematic assault on democracy. Thus alone could it forcefully register its political independence and use this occasion to assert its basic position for the approaching political battles.

Struggles in India

The Exit of Brahmeshwar Singh

– Liberation, July, 2012.

Brahmeshwar Singh, the founder of the notorious Ranveer Sena and the mastermind behind dozens of massacres perpetrated by the Sena in Shahabad and Magadh regions of Bihar between 1995 and 2000, was gunned down at Ara in the early hours of 1 June. The cremation took place in Patna on the next evening. For two full days, Sena supporters went on a rampage, attacking hostels of dalit students at Ara, setting on fire private or public vehicles parked anywhere on the Ara-Patna route, beating up passers-by and journalists trying to take snaps of their acts of arson and vandalism. Ara on 1st June and Patna on 2nd June wore a deserted look and the state administration virtually disappeared from the scene leaving the people at the mercy of this rampaging contingent of thugs. As we go to press, reports of renewed attempts at whipping up a feudal frenzy are coming in from many corners of the state. So much for the real meaning of good governance and rule of law in the Nitish Kumar dispensation!

Even though the Ranveer Sena was formally banned soon after its inception, the Sena had all the freedom in the world to carry out one massacre after another, usually at night but at times also in broad daylight, killing hundreds of innocent people, sparing neither women nor children or elderly people. The gruesome killings were sought to be justified with the most macabre logic possible – the massacres were the only way to wipe out the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI(ML)]! Women were targeted as they would give birth to Naxalites, children were eliminated as they would otherwise grow into Naxalites! The police were often hand in glove with the killers. While the Sena butchered people at Bathani Tola, the police were present in as many as three camps and one police station within a vicinity of 100 metres to two kilometres and yet not a single bullet was fired. In Ekwari village of Bhojpur, it was the police that raided houses so the Sena could barge in and kill people.

It was only in 2002 when the Sena had been completely exposed and isolated that the Sena chief was finally arrested in what many believed was essentially a case of surrender. The Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Amir Das that was set up in the wake of the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre in December 1997 to probe the politico-administrative links of the Ranveer Sena was never really allowed to take off and soon after he became the Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar officially disbanded the commission much to the relief of many political bigwigs of Bihar. Incidentally, almost all the political leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Janata Dal (United) [(JD(U)], Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress who had been summoned by the Amir Das Commission were conspicuously present in Singh’s funeral.

When the massacre cases finally came up for trial, in a mockery of judicial procedures, in the cases of both Bathani Tola and Bathe, Brahmeswar Singh was declared an absconder even as he was in jail and judgement delivered for the other accused! Singh was eventually let out on bail in 2011 when Nitish Kumar became Chief Minister for the second time.

After the recent Patna High Court verdict acquitting all the 23 persons convicted by the Ara Court in May 2010 for the Bathani Tola massacre, Singh warned the government not to appeal to the Supreme Court against the acquittal. Following his provocative statements and renewed attempts to whip up feudal violence, the CPI(ML) had called upon the Nitish Kumar government to get Singh’s bail cancelled. This was in fact one of the demands on which CPI(ML) leaders had been on an indefinite fast in Patna, Ara and Daudnagar from May 26 onward.

While Singh’s supporters and even sections of the media tried their best to project him as a hero or saviour of the peasantry, the informed democratic opinion in Bihar as well as the rest of the country treated him as one of the most hated symbols of decaying feudal domination in Bihar. The world heard of Brahmeswar Singh not as leader of any kind of peasant movement, but only through the most brutal massacres carried out by the Ranveer Sena. No wonder that few tears were shed after the news of his killing spread and his supporters had to go on a rampage to ‘mourn’ his exit.

The formation of the Ranveer Sena itself was an act of last-ditch feudal desperation to reclaim the decaying feudal hegemony of yesteryear. Far from intimidating the people, the massacres however only steeled the resolve of the rural poor to fight back and the sustained political battle waged by the CPI(ML) had left the Sena thoroughly exposed and isolated. Renewed attempts by Brahmeswar Singh and all the patronage of the JD(U)-BJP government could not put much life back into the once dreaded feudal private army. The question many are asking now is whether the exit of Brahmeswar Singh will once again revive the Ranveer Sena? Initial reports may well indicate an emotional backlash, but one can only hope that saner wisdom will prevail and the folly of Ranveer Sena will not be attempted again.

The exit of Brahmeswar Singh may signify the exit of one of the most notorious symbols of Bihar’s stubborn feudal vestiges, but that by no means should be construed as an automatic weakening of feudal forces in Bihar. Feudal forces still weigh quite heavily on the legislative, judicial and bureaucratic balance in Bihar as can be inferred from signs like the disbanding of the Amir Das Commission, the abandoning of the Report of the Land Reforms Commission and the most recent acquittal of the perpetrators of the Bathani Tola massacre. But even if it signals the end of the feudal private army mode in the twenty-first century, it will mean not a small victory for the people in one of the historic sites of India’s protracted war for social transformation and genuine democracy.

Movement for Justice in Bihar

One year after the barbaric Forbesganj firing (3 June, 2011) which had claimed four innocent Muslim lives, the commission of inquiry set up by the Bihar government is yet to submit its report while the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Araria who had presided over the police atrocity has been promoted to the post of Senior SP and deployed in the sensitive district of Darbhanga where Muslim youth are being increasingly demonized and harassed by the state as ‘perceived terrorists’. On May 2, 2012 Aurangabad witnessed similar kind of police barbarity where the police unleashed a brutal crackdown to stop a popular protest against the murder of a popular mukhiya. Comrade Rajaram Singh, member of the Communits Party of India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI(ML)] Central Committee and two-term MLA (1995-2005) from Obra constituency in the district was brutally beaten up again and again by the SP himself and arrested with 28 other protestors. Despite widespread protests including a highly successful Bihar Bandh on May 10, the autocratic government refuses to release the protestors or initiate any action against the erring SP and DM.

On 15 May a 5-member delegation of CPI(ML) leaders comprising Comrades KD Yadav, Rameswar Prasad, Arun Singh, Anwar Hussein and Shashi Yadav met chief minister Nitish Kumar and asked him to stop this growing injustice, release Comrade Rajaram and his comrades, initiate action against guilty policemen including the SP of Aurangabad, order CBI probe into Forbesganj firing and the recent spate of political murders, cancel bail for Brahmeshwar Singh, and guarantee justice for the victims of Bathani Tola. Six teams went on an intensive Nyay Yatra (March for Justice) addressing hundreds of meetings on this pressing agenda of justice. The Nyay Yatra culminated in a massive Jan Sunwai (public hearing) on 21 May in the state capital where a 7-member jury comprising noted academics, advocates, activists and journalists endorsed the popular demands for justice.

When the state government still failed to heed the growing cry for justice, an indefinite fast was launched by the CPI(ML) simultaneously in three centers on May 26 under the leadership of Comrades Arun Singh (Patna), Sudama Prasad (Ara, Bhojpur) and Anwar Hussein (Daudnagar, Aurangabad).

Following Brahmeshwar Singh’s death, as Ranveer Sena supporters rampaged, the police refused to provide protection to the hunger strike sites. The fast was called off on June 2, but the campaign for justice continued.

The party and its student wing All India Students Association (AISA) protested the attack on dalit hostels in Ara (see report below for details.) When the Nitish Government announced a CBI enquiry into Brahmeshwar’s killing, the party held a state-wide “Dhikkar Diwas” (Condemnation Day) against the Nitish Government’s double standards in unleashing repression and ridicule on protestors demanding Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) enquiry into the Forbesganj Police firing and the political murders of Bhaiyaram Yadav and Chhotu Kushwaha and instead disbanding of the Justice Amir Das Commission and giving nod for CBI enquiry into the murder of the Ranveer Sena chief. The party also protested the Government’s reluctance to file a review petition in the Supreme Court to challenge the Patna High Court’s verdict acquitting all the accused in Bathani Tola massacre.

On 15 June, five Left parties – the CPI(ML), Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party Of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], Forward Bloc and Socialist Unity Center of India (SUCI) – held a joint dharna at Patna, as well as dharnas at district headquarters in Bihar demanding CBI probe into the political connections of Ranveer Sena, police firing in Forbesganj, Amausi case where innocent Musahars have been awarded death sentence, and into the killings of CPI (ML) leader Bhaiyaram Yadav in Rohtas, Chhotu Kushwaha, a popular Mukhiya in Aurangabad, and murders of Surendra Yadav and Yogendra Sao. The dharnas also demanded that the Nitish Government fulfill its announcement of appealing the Bathani verdict in the Supreme Court. The dharna held that the CBI inquiry into the killing of Brahmeshwar Singh was a surrender before feudal forces, and demanded that this probe too should encompass all the mass massacres carried out by the Ranveer Sena and latter’s political connections as well as its funding sources. Similarly, a CBI probe was instituted in the case of killing of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Rajkishore Kesri at Purnia in what came to be known as Rupam Pathak case, but the central investigation agency was not given the task to look into the charges of rape and sexual abuse suffered by the her.

Nitish claimed that the CBI probe had been ordered into Brahmeshwar’s killing because his family members sought it. At the Left parties’ dharna, family members of the victims of Forbesganj firing, and of Mahadalits convicted in the Amausi case; as well as wives of Bhaiyyaram Yadav and Chhotu Mukhiya participated and demanded to know why their appeal for CBI probe were being ignored. They wrote to the Chief Minister (CM) formally asking him to order a CBI probe.

Apart from the double standards in ordering CBI probe, and surrender before feudal forces, the dharna also demanded a high level probe into the scam in the purchase of uninhabitable land to be allotted to Mahadalit families in Araria and Nalanda districts, and dismissal of Health Minister Ashwini Chaubey for his criminal neglect which had resulted in the death of more than 100 children from encephalitis.

The dharnas were also held in all important centres of Bihar including Bhojpur, Siwan, Arwal, Sasaram, Nalanda, Gaya, Bhagalpur, Begusarai, Madhubani, Darbhanga, Shekhpura, Mujaffarpur, Gopalganj, Purnea and Araria.

Struggles in India

Comrade TP Chandrashekharan: Embodies the Spirit of the Communist Movement

– Liberation, July, 2012.

Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ (JNUSU) Union team comprising JNUSU President Sucheta De and JNUSU Councillor Shivani (both elected from All India Students’ Association – AISA) visited the family of martyred comrade TP Chandrashekharan (TPC) on 1 June. They were accompanied by JNU students from Kerala, Lal and Sharad. Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI(ML)] Liberation Central Committee member Kavita Krishnan from Delhi also accompanied the team.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] organ People’s Democracy, denying any role in Comrade TP Chandrashekharan’s brutal murder, maintains that he and others who left CPI(M) to form the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) had displayed “a naked desire for position, parliamentary greed and absence of communist values.”

At Comrade TP Chandrashekharan’s home in Onchiyam (a village in Kozhikode district), we were greeted by his 17-year-old son Abhinandan (Nandu) with a warm ‘Lal Salaam’ (Red Salute). When we met his mother, Rema, we were struck by her simplicity and her courage. Meeting Abhinandan and Rema, we felt a deep conviction that we were in the presence of ‘comrades.’ Comrade Rema told us she and her sister had been state-level leaders of Students Federation of India (SFI), and her father, who met us, is still an area committee member of the CPI(M). In that house of Comrade TPC, among his family members who seemed to embody communist values, Comrade TPC’s spirit seemed to refuse to die. Rema described how her husband used to cook at home, and had, on the very morning of the killing, shown her how to clean fish. All who knew him spoke of how, at marriage functions, he could be seen helping to cook the feast and serve the guests, with all humility.

The town of Kozhikode, not long before Comrade TPC’s murder, had witnessed the lavish spectacle of the CPI(M)’s Party Congress. Crores had reportedly been spent on football matches and other events on the occasion. Comrade TPC left a party which enjoys great power, money, and scope for parliamentary positions. Unlike many others in Kerala, he did not leave the CPI(M) to join the United Democratic Front (UDF) and seek power there. Instead, he took the hard, arduous road of building a revolutionary party from scratch, without any backing of the moneyed or powerful. Was this a sign of ‘naked desire for position’ and ‘parliamentary greed’? Or was it, in fact, the sign of true communist spirit and dedication?

Most people in Kerala have no hesitation in believing the CPI(M) to be behind the gruesome murder. Not just because a series of CPI(M) local leaders have been arrested for their links with the hired killers. But because they know that the CPI(M) had, for the past four years, a history of attacks and threats against RMP comrades. What makes their belief even stronger is CPI(M)’s behaviour towards those who are speaking in support of Comrade TPC. A leading Malayalam writer, C.V. Balakrishnan, recently spoke at a cultural gathering at Payyanur against the murder. Soon after, a poster appeared on the walls of his home, warning that he should “not forget” that he was “leading a peaceful life in the red village due to the courtesy of the Marxists.” All Kerala heard CPI(M)’s Idukki Secretary MM Mani boasting of how his party ‘hacked, stabbed, and shot dead’ political rivals in the past, and warning that the party would continue to thus eliminate those who ‘rebel’ against the party. The humility of Comrade TP Chandrashekharan, his family, and his comrades, is in stark contrast to arrogant threats and sneers of MM Mani and CPI(M)’s State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan.

The next day, we travelled to Kodangallur in Thrissur district to join a memorial meeting for Comrade TPC. On the way, we heard some of the songs composed in memory of the historic 1948 martyrs of Onchiyam. During a raid to locate communists, police had shot dead 8 communists, and two others later died due to custodial torture. Revolutionaries in Kerala still sing about Mandodi Kannan of Onchiyam, who, following brutal custodial torture, used his blood to draw the hammer and sickle on the walls of prison before dying. Who upheld the legacy of the Onchiyam martyrs? Those who plotted to have a young Left leader killed by 51 hacks to his face and body? Or those like Comrade TPC, who were willing to relinquish power and position and risk their lives in order to uphold Left principles?

We arrived rather late at Kodangallur, but, in spite of the fact that night had fallen and it had begun to rain, hundreds of people waited to participate in the meeting. When he addressed the meeting, Comrade Hariharan never raised his voice. But the entire gathering felt the emotional and political impact of his speech. The gathering warmly greeted the speeches of Comrades Sucheta and Kavita too.

From June 2 onwards, Kerala’s papers and media were full of former CPI(M) Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan’s surprise visit to Comrade TPC’s house at Onchiyam. His gesture was clearly in defiance of the official CPI(M) State and Central leadership’s line. But it was equally clear that his visit, during which he offered flowers and a red salute at the spot of Comrade TPC’s cremation, struck a chord with Kerala’s people, especially with all Left sympathisers.

On June 3, the RMP and Left Coordination Committee (LCC) had organised a ‘Communist Convention’ at Nalanda Hall at Kozhikode. Hundreds of comrades – not only from the RMP and LCC but also those who had hitherto been in the ranks of the CPI(M) – gathered at the meeting. They hoisted the red flag at the venue and raised slogans. The prevailing mood was to assert that the communist movement and red flag can have nothing to do with the politics of barbaric murder.

Right at the beginning of the meeting, the video visualisation of a poem by noted exponent of Kerala’s traditional Sopaana Sangeetham, Njeralath Hari Govindan, in memory of Comrade TP Chandrasekharan, was screened. This beautiful poem and its musical visualisation had a great emotional impact on the packed hall.At the Convention, we were honoured to meet communist veteran ‘Berlin’ Kunhananthan Nair, who has the distinction of having attended the CPI’s first Party Congress in 1943. Among others who participated in the Convention were LCC Secretary Comrade KS Hariharan; Comrade TP Chandrashekhar’s son Abhinandan; RMP’s Onchiyam Secretary Comrade N. Venu; well-known writer N. Sugathan; and K.C. Umesh Babu, poet and political activist. The meeting was presided over by LCC President Comrade P Kumaran Kutty. When we addressed the gathering, our words and views were warmly received.

It is clear that the communist movement in Kerala is at a crossroads. Leftists are experiencing deep anguish at Comrade TPC’s murder. In Kerala, it is apparent that for most genuine Left sympathisers, there is no doubt that Chandrashekharan was a true comrade. And they are unconvinced by CPI(M)’s denials, and outraged by the abuse heaped on TPC by the CPI(M) and the CPI(M) leaders’ violent language. At many places, CPI(M) activists and members are joining RMP.

In an editorial, the English daily, The Hindu, had commented that “Political murders are non-events in Kerala, and, in any case, the course of the CPI (M) will not turn on whether Chandrasekharan is seen as a traitor or martyr.” Well, the CPI(M) had once believed that its fate would not rest on whether the peasants of Singur and Nandigram were seen as martyrs or traitors. Comrade TPC’s murder has exposed the CPI(M)’s intolerance, arrogance, and degeneration dramatically.

Struggles in India

Convention against Koodankulam Nuke Plant

– Liberation, July, 2012.

Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI(ML)] held a convention in Tirunelveli in Tamilnadu on May 30 against the Koodankulam nuke project and state repression on the protestors. In Tirunelveli, police and administration are denying permission to any democratic protest against the nuke project and in support of the people of Idinthakarai. This is no doubt a part of a larger design of the Central and State governments’ attempts to stifle any democratic voice against the project. Hundreds of false cases have been booked against the people of villages in and around Idinthakarai who are still participating in the peaceful protest against the largest nuke project of the country which could cause radiation daily and havoc in case of accident or natural disaster. Coordinator of the protest SP Udayakumar and core team member Pushparayan, who are facing sedition charges, are in Idinthakarai, and will be arrested if they step out of Idinthakarai.

In this backdrop, the Party planned an open convention in Tirunelveli. The police denied permission. CPI (ML) filed a writ petition against the refusal of permission. The government cited ‘improvement of power situation’ as a reason to postpone the convention! The Judge was not convinced by this rationale and ordered quashing the refusal of permission, and as a result the convention could take place as planned. The court’s advice for a change of venue was accepted.

On May 30, Comrades Kavita Krishnan (Central Committee member), SM Anthonimuthu, (Kanyakumari District Party Secretary ) and Bhuvana visited Idinthakarai and met SP Udayakumar and Pushparayan and expressed the Party’s support to their struggle. The latter expressed their happiness about our timely intervention. Though they could not attend the convention they organized around 300 people from Idinthakarai and nearby villages to participate in the convention.

The convention was conducted by Comrade T Sankarapandian, and Tirunelveli District Party Secretary. Comrades S Kumarasami, CPI(ML) Politburo member, Balasundaram, Party’s Tamil Nadu (TN) State Secretary, Kavita Krishnan, SM Anthonimuthu, G Ramesh, SCM, Bharathi, and State Convenor of Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA), Sagaya Imida of Idinthakarai and Samuel Aseer Raj, Convenor, Teachers Against Nuke Power addressed the convention.

Comrade S Kumarasami called upon the people of TN to take up vigorous struggles against the killer nuke plant and foil the attempts of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to jeopardize the lives of lakhs of people at the altar of global nuclear corporations. He also called upon the people of TN to fight against the repressive attempts of the Central and State governments. Comrade Balasundaram came down heavily on the repressive measures of the state government and demanded that all false cases against the protestors be withdrawn immediately. Comrade Kavita Krishnan expressed support of the Party for the Koodankulam Protestors and said that the struggle of Idinthakarai people will become victorious in closing down not only Koodankulam nuke project but also similar projects at Haripur and Jaitapur. Comrade Thenmozhi read out the resolutions of the convention which demanded immediate scrapping of the project and withdrawing all false cases against the protestors. Comrades from Kanyakumari, Tuticorin, Virudunagar, Dindigul and Madurai districts also participated in the convention.

Politics in India

Who Killed Mohd. Qateel Siddiqi?

– Liberation, July, 2012.

Mohd. Qateel Siddiqi of Darbhanga had been in jail since November 2011 after being arrested on charges of involvement in several blast cases. On 8 June, inside Yerawada jail in Pune, two gangsters, Sharad Mohol and Alok Bhalerao, are said to have strangled Qateel to death.

It should be noted that the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had failed to file a chargesheet against Qateel in the 7 months from November 2011 till June 2012. We can recall that recently, the Adarsh scam accused got bail because the CBI failed to file a chargesheet within the stipulated 6-month period. If the same norms had applied to terror cases, Qateel should have been free, given the failure of authorities to assemble any proof against him. Yet, he remained in jail, and the ATS kept claiming he was a ‘key Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative.’

The gangsters claim they killed Qateel because he was ‘anti-national’. It is a telling comment on the state of democracy in India, that criminal gangsters can claim to be ‘patriotic’ on the strength of having murdered a young Muslim terror-accused, who they can brand ‘anti-national,’ even without charges being framed, let alone proved in court!

The custodial murder of Qateel raises serious questions about the role of the jail authorities and investigative agencies.

As it is, the intelligence agencies stand deeply discredited in successive high-profile cases including Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, and Samjhauta Express blasts. Muslims jailed and tortured for years were proved innocent, while today, members of Sangh Parivar outfits stand implicated. Increasingly, instances of false framing of innocents are also being exposed. In a recent case, Naqee Ahmad from Darbhanga, an informer for the Delhi Police Special Cell, was overnight transformed into one of the main accused by the Maharashtra ATS in the 13/7 Mumbai blast case, with a public tug-of-war between the two agencies over him.

Rather than risk embarrassment in the case of Qateel being proved innocent, it might well have seemed convenient to investigative agencies to have him eliminated within the jail itself. Had he remained alive, he was likely to disown his ‘confession’ which he had claimed was obtained under torture. Now that he is dead, his ‘confession’ is likely to be used to implicate others.

Qateel’s fate underlines the vulnerability of Muslim youth arrested on terror charges. Another recent instance is that of Bihar-origin engineer Fasih Mahmood, who was picked from his home in Saudi Arabia on 13th May, allegedly on the request of Indian investigative agencies, but who is now missing.

The murder of Qateel also exposes the duplicity and hypocrisy of the Congress. During the UP elections, Salman Khursheed invoked ‘Sonia’s tears’ for the Batla House victims, while Digvijay Singh similarly tried to invoke Batla House in order to garner votes at Azamgarh. But Congress-ruled Governments like Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are foremost, on par with BJP-ruled Gujarat, in the false framing and custodial attacks on Muslim terror-accused.

An impartial enquiry must be ordered at the earliest to establish the truth in the murder of Qateel Siddiqi, and compensation must be given to his family by the Maharashtra Government, in whose jail the murder took place. Above all, there is a need to strongly resist the disturbing trend to make Darbhanga another stage, like Azamgarh, for the communal profiling and witch-hunt of Muslim youth.

Struggles in India

Another Milestone In PRICOL Workers’ Struggle: Tripartite Agreement Signed

– Nilavan, Liberation, July, 2012.

A tripartite agreement at Pricol was signed on 8 June 2012. Struggles and agreements are not new in trade union (TU) movement. In that case, how are the Pricol workers’ struggle and agreement exemplary? The government, labor department, trade unions (TUs) and many including our workers knew for sure that those with CPI-ML (Communist Party of India Marxist Leninist) and All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) can take up any fight against any management vigorously, that they can face any assault and can emerge more powerfully than before. But many had the question as to whether and how we would conclude the struggle.

Does the agreement signed in Chennai on 08.06.2012 before the additional labor commissioner, answer these questions? Why was the MOU signed on 07.02.2012, dragged till 08.06.2012, to become a 12(3) agreement? Has not AICCTU made compromises?

An outsider, close to the Pricol Workers’ Struggle, answers these questions. A recap of the Pricol Workers’ Struggle is necessary here to put the present phase in perspective. Production was squeezed out of the Pricol Workers for a few decades since the company came into being. They were reeling under working conditions marked by low wages, lack of dignity, compulsion to give production with no fixed limits, punishments, victimization, TUs that stood on the side of the management etc. On the other side there was opposition too, which was waiting to explode. These conditions convinced them to introduce a leader from Chennai. In 2007 March, leaders of the Pricol Workers’ TU were transferred to Uttarakhand. This triggered the struggle.

Management went on a victimization spree. There was repression and there was resistance. Workers of Plant 1, 3 and 12 units had to choose the path of struggle. Management raised many a bogey at that time: ‘outsider’, ‘maoists’, ‘danger for industry’, ‘danger for Coimbatore’, ‘danger for industrial peace,’ and so on. Media took sides with the management. Management employed every weapon in its arsenal. Workers had to face partial lock-out, withholding wage increase, denial of agreed salary, break in service, incentive deduction, a few hundred disciplinary actions, suspensions, dismissals, and denial of employment for 740 unit workers, and so on, and the management expected that starvation wages would make the workers fall in line.

The Union took the struggle from the factory to the people. It raised issues of other sections of working people. Pricol Workers’ struggle made its imprint on the issues of Trade Union Recognition Act, job security for trainees, and minimum wages for trainees. Pricol Workers’ did not confine their struggle in Perianaickenpalayam and took it to Coimbatore, Erode, and Chennai. Their cases were fought in High Court and Supreme Court. Government had to pass 10 B orders twice. The Tamil Nadu (TN) Assembly discussed the Pricol Workers’ struggle thrice. Women workers’ gherao of the Labor Commissioner’s office in Chennai and indefinite hunger strike by the vanguards played an important role in ensuring the intervention of the government. The then Labour Minister, though he was against the TU, did not act against the workers. The Labour department acted as per the law. This was possible only in the background of militant struggle of a few thousand workers.

On July 23 2008, Pricol workers observed the centenary of first political struggle of Indian working class. A few workers loyal to the management raised objection to this politicization. General Secretaries of unions of both the plants deserted the unions and the ongoing struggle. In the convention attended by Party General Secretary (GS) Comrade Dipankar on August 9 2009, Comrade S Kumarasami announced that the August 20 General Strike would be implemented at any cost. It was only Pricol workers who implemented that strike in Coimbatore. Threats and lures alike failed to divide the union.

What Workers Have to Say

The office bearers of the union who signed the 12 (3) agreement said that for the first time in Pricol after 35 years they have signed an agreement, after reading it, understanding it, and accepting it. This is the first time in Pricol that workers get an increase in four digits. (The earlier increase of Rs.1040 is for 4 years i.e., Rs.245 for the first year, Rs.255 for the second year, Rs.265 for the third year, Rs.275 for the fourth year). Hiring of 150 employees is unimaginable in these days of casualisation and contractualisation. This is the first time the workers had a role in fixing limits for productivity which had no bounds so far. They said through their struggle they understood, in capitalist society, how difficult it is to secure even the legal rights that are written by capitalists themselves. They said that they will take the message of the 12 (3) agreement to the people also.

Going back to the struggles, there was an unfortunate incident of the death of one of the management in the factory on September 21, 2009. P Chidambaram and Mallikarjun Kharge went on the offensive, and the Superintendent of Police, Dr. Kannan, decided to encircle the union and crush it. The Police department played into the hands of Coimbatore capitalists and foisted false cases on Com. S Kumarasami, 4 women workers and all union office bearers. The union did not disintegrate during the days of incarceration of the leading comrades for more than 100 days. More than thousand workers, their relatives and friends visited them in the Coimbatore prisons. AICCTU national leadership also rushed to the workers’ defense. After being released on bail in 2010 March, a long march from Coimbatore to Chennai was organized by the Pricol workers, defeating the attempts of the Coimbatore police to prevent it. It culminated in the May Day Rally in Chennai which was the biggest May Day Rally in TN in 2010, in which the Party GS participated. On 10 October 2010, they organized Workers’ Family Festival in which thousands of workers participated.

There was a situation in which neither of the parties could win decisively. Two mediators Mr. Hydhari and Mr. Ragupathi, made an attempt the break the impasse. In that process, unions of workers of Plant 1 and 3 were merged, and the Pricol Workers Amalgamated Union was formed. The Management recognized this union in early 2011 as the sole negotiating agency, and negotiations began with Com. S Kumarasami.

After informal talks began, only workers who were facing Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which is related to murder and one suspended worker were dismissed. After the recognition of the Union, 44 dismissed workers of a section were reinstated. The workers who said that we do not want a rupee from the management, all that we want is for the management to negotiate with Com. Kumarasami at least once, stood firmly with the union. But at the same time they also wanted their living conditions to be improved.

Only after two years of formal and informal negotiations, the MOU and 12(3) agreement were signed. But during this stressful period, many efforts were taken to fulfill the revolutionary tasks of democratizing the union and politicizing the workers. Both these tasks strengthened each other and were accomplished simultaneously and only this makes the Pricol Workers’ Struggle exemplary.

Com.S Kumarasami met the workers more than 100 times. He met almost all the workers in the union office or in their living areas a few times. During these five years he stayed in the Coimbatore office and houses of workers for more than 200 days. The sacrificing spirit, hard work and dedication of Comrades Krishnamurthy, Balasubramaniam, Gurusami, Janakiraman and other dismissed workers and the role of women workers are definitely exemplary.

Despite the testing times and the fatigue of a long wait, the workers of Pricol, both men and women organized the spectacular 9th State Party Conference in Coimbatore with the slogan, ‘Comrades of Appu, March to Coimbatore’. The Union told the workers that the 12 (3) agreement that would emerge out of the MOU would only help in shedding the old burden and the real agreement can be drawn only by 01.07.2014.

Following are some of the important features of the 12 (3) agreement:

118 workers who are under suspension, dismissal, second show cause notice for dismissal, disciplinary action for absenteeism, will be reinstated.

Issues of more than 100 workers under suspension and dismissal for other cases will be sorted out through negotiations. On this issue, the decision of a committee which will include the union, will be binding on both parties.

Workers and TUs loyal to the management have been claiming that it is not possible to get even a rupee increase as there is an existing settlement from 01.07.2010. But, in addition to the increase of Rs.1040 for the period 01.07.2010 to 30.06.2014 in the earlier long term settlement agreed by the TUs loyal to the management, the workers will now get another increase of Rs.1000 from 01.01.2012 itself and this agreement will be over by 30.06.2014.

The management has been saying that the unit workers are not Pricol workers. But now the management has agreed to reinstate 150 unit workers in three phases from 01.09.2012. 590 unit workers will get 45 days’ gross salary for every completed year of service and Rs.10,000 in addition to legal dues as compensation.

Signing 12 (3) agreement was delayed as the Union tried to get something more for the unit workers. The management said that the Labour department, police department and government will not allow the Union to move away from the MOU. But as days passed by, the management started imposing newer conditions. On May 1, it said that it cannot give wages for the period 01.01.2012 to 31.05.2012 and wages for only 51 days will be given as the workers did not give production for that period.

The union understood that some mysterious and powerful forces are operating behind this move and gave a letter before the conciliation officer that workers will give the agreed production from 01.06.2012. This letter put the management in a spot and the management was tied down to the MOU. It was agreed that the issue of wages for the period 01.01.2012 to 31.05.2012 will be sorted out in October through negotiations. It was also agreed that additional productivity of 8% will be given by the workers from 15.07.2012. The workers have understood clearly that they have actually drawn a limit for productivity through this, as it was the practice in Pricol that productivity norms would keep on increasing as desired by the management every now and then.

It is more difficult to run the union in times of talks than in times of struggle. But even during the period of talks, class consciousness of the workers must be nurtured so as to keep them in preparedness for any eventuality. An approach of readiness for peace during struggles and struggles during peace is necessary. Pricol workers’ union had to compromise on certain aspects only to strengthen the union and find solutions for certain issues. TU recognition, wage increase, unit workers’ reinstatement and settlement, negotiated settlement on disciplinary actions are four major issues sorted out through the present negotiations. Real wage increase will be taken up through the new settlement from 01.07.2014, with a stronger union.

In Leftwing Communism: an infantile disorder, Lenin discusses compromises: “Every proletarian—as a result of the conditions of the mass struggle and the acute intensification of class antagonisms he lives among—sees the difference between a compromise enforced by objective conditions (such as lack of strike funds, no outside support, starvation and exhaustion)—a compromise which in no way minimises the revolutionary devotion and readiness to carry ooon the struggle on the part of the workers who have agreed to such a compromise—and, on the other hand, a compromise by traitors who try to ascribe to objective causes their self-interest (strike-breakers also enter into “compromises”!), their cowardice, desire to toady to the capitalists, and readiness to yield to intimidation, sometimes to persuasion, sometimes to sops, and sometimes to flattery from the capitalists.” There is compromise in Pricol too. It can be understood easily that it is the first kind of compromise.

South Asia

CPI(ML) General Secretary Visits Bangladesh

– Liberation, July, 2012.

CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya visited Bangladesh on the occasion of the 8th anniversary of the reorganisation of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party of Bangladesh (RWPB). He was accompanied by Comrade Basudev Basu, standing committee member of the Party’s West Bengal State Committee and one of the National Secretaries of AICCTU.

On 13 June, they visited all important national memorials in Dhaka and paid homage to the martyrs of the Bangladesh liberation war and language movement. On the evening of 14 June, they addressed a seminar on imperialist aggression in South Asia and the fight for people’s liberation held in the National Press Club. Comrade Saiful Huq, General Secretary, presented a paper on behalf of RWPB. Other speakers from Bangladesh included economist Anu Muhammad, Secretary of the Committee to Protect Water-oil-gas-power-port, a popular broad-based Left platform of struggle in Bangladesh, and several left leaders and writers. Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya spoke on behalf of the CPI-ML.

The next day a daylong central delegate session of RWPB took place in which the two parties had an intensive exchange of experiences. On the morning of June 15 there was a get-together with Trade Union leaders of Bangladesh and in the evening there was a seminar on capitalism, corporate media and struggle for people’s liberation held in RC Mazumdar Auditorium of Dhaka University. This was organised by the RWPB monthly organ Janoganotantro (People’s Democracy) to mark its 8th anniversary. The Speakers included Prof Sirajul Islam Chaudhury, Emeritus Professor of English and noted Marxist intellectual, Nurul Kabir, editor of the English daily The New Age, Benzin Khan, writer, and Comrades Saiful Huq and Dipankar Bhattacharya. The seminar was chaired by Banhisikha Jamali, editor, Janoganotantro and the proceedings were conducted by Dr. Akhtaruzzaman, CCM RWPB and Professor, Food and Nutrition Science, Dhaka University. On the afternoon of June 17 a discussion session took place with leaders of various Left parties in Bangladesh in which CPB President Comrade Monzurul Ahsan Khan, Marxist writer Samsuzzoha Manik, Jonaid Saki, convenor of People’s Solidarity Movement, leaders of Basad (Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal), and various leaders of Ganotantrik Bam Morcha (Democratic Left Alliance) participated.

Experiences of revolutionary communist movements in both countries were exchanged, and discussion took place on issues of bilateral and regional importance, and it was resolved to intensify united anti-imperialist struggle, sectoral cooperation and people-to-people contact and exchange. India’s growing strategic proximity and partnership with the US, delay in resolving various issues of bilateral concern and lack of time-bound fulfilment of various commitments made by India in bilateral declarations and agreements are matters of serious public concern and anger in Bangladesh.

The visit will help deepen mutual understanding between the CPI-ML and RWPB, strengthen mutual ties and contribute to the coming together of revolutionary Left forces in South Asia.

Politics in India

Insufferable Saga of Corruption and Economic Disaster

  • Liberation, July, 2012.

Even as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government celebrated the third anniversary of its second term with a report card claiming record food grains production and a dramatic decline in poverty, the country was treated to an unprecedented oil shock with the price of petrol shooting up by more than 10 per cent. A litre of petrol now costs around Rs. 75, and with the value of the rupee depreciating almost every passing day in relation to dollar, the price of not only petrol but every imported item threatens to escalate relentlessly in the days to come.

While the price of petrol has been deregulated to enable it to soar freely, subsidies are being reduced across the board leading to a steady increase in the prices of almost all articles of essential mass consumption. An analysis of the ongoing pattern of price rise indicates that primary products, especially food and vegetable, are showing the highest rate of increase. In the eight years of UPA rule, primary articles have become 119% more expensive; fuel and power prices have gone up by 90.4% while there has been a 45% increase in the prices of manufactured products.

This pattern of price rise naturally means the poor have been the worst victims. According to the latest National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) survey on monthly per capita consumption expenditure, food items account for 66% of the monthly expenditure of the poorest 10% as opposed to 38% of that of the richest 10% of rural households. The corresponding figures for urban households are 63% and 25% respectively. Yet in spite of this massive systematic pauperisation, the UPA government goes on claiming the miraculous feat of reduction in poverty by just lowering the poverty lines!

With the rupee undergoing a free fall, India’s import bill has started shooting up, petrol and defence purchases accounting for two major components. With this, the government has once again started warning about an impending balance of payments crisis (import bill being far in excess of export income) – the same pretext that had triggered the policy shift in 1991 to indiscriminate liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation. After two decades of neoliberal reforms the economy is thus almost back to square one, and to cope with this crisis the government is advising the people to go for wholesale austerity measures! It is another matter that relentless rise in prices has already pushed the overwhelming majority of Indians into a state of utter austerity bordering on starvation.

In stark contrast stands the government, epitomising obscene opulence and ostentation. The President of India is reported to have undertaken more than a dozen foreign trips covering 22 countries spanning four continents spending nearly three months and more than Rs. 200 crore (1 crore = 10 million). Not to be left behind is Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar who is credited with 29 foreign trips in 35 months. And then there is Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission who prescribes a little less than Rs. 23 as the ‘poverty line’ daily expenditure for rural Indians, but whose average daily expenditure during his foreign travels works out to Rs. 2.02 lakh (10 lakh = 1 million). And in the last eight years he has undertaken nearly 50 foreign trips, almost half of them to the US!

Corruption, the other hallmark of the Manmohan Singh regime, has also been scaling newer heights. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) final report on ‘coalgate’ has of course lowered the estimated loss to the national exchequer from Rs. 10.67 lakh crore to Rs. 1.80 lakh crore, by taking out public sector and state government entities from the purview of calculation. What the final report therefore concludes is that between 2004 and 2009, private coal block allottees were handed out undue benefit worth Rs. 1.80 lakh crore which is still higher than the highest estimate of the 2G scam.

Cornered over the issue of corruption and black money, the government has finally made a farcical attempt to come out with a white paper on black money claiming a decline in Indian deposits held in Swiss banks from Rs 23,373 crore in 2006 to Rs 9,295 in 2010! This perhaps only signifies the growing preference for other offshore destinations for accumulation of illicit wealth and the ‘white paper’ miserably fails or rather refuses to provide any realistic picture of the huge amounts being stashed abroad. The paper cites the Global Financial Integrity study which estimated the current value of total illicit financial flows from India between 1948 and 2008 at 462 billion dollars (around Rs 25 lakh crore) but suggests no concrete measure to stop such flows or repatriate the massive Indian wealth held abroad.

Meanwhile, there are reports that the prime miniter’s office (PMO) is trying to increase the gas price from the Krishna-Godavari basin to yield additional revenue of $8 billion to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd at the cost of the national exchequer.

It was Manmohan Singh as finance minister who had launched the neo-liberal offensive two decades ago. Today he is the Prime Minister and his government is daily pushing the country deeper into a comprehensive economic disaster. Just as Latin America and Europe are increasingly challenging and rejecting the neo-liberal model of market fundamentalism, in India too we must get ready to dump this notoriously corrupt regime along with its disastrous pack of policies.

Politics in India

Coalgate Scam: PMO Paves the Way for Corporate Loot of Coal

  • Liberation, July, 2012.

A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report (the draft version of which has reached the media) has found that, during a period when the Coal Ministry was directly under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a massive coal allocation scam took place, that allowed a large number of private companies to acquire captive coal blocks at throwaway prices, thereby securing massive “windfall gains” to the tune of Rs. 1.80 lakh crore.

PM Directly Involved

As in the 2G scam, the relatively more objective system of allocation through competitive bidding was repeatedly and deliberately rejected, in order to allow certain selected private companies to acquire control of a precious natural resource. As in the 2G scam case, the Government is again claiming “zero loss” and denying the scam. But in the 2G scam case, the UPA Government could place the blame on A Raja, maintaining that Raja in his personal capacity rejected the policy of auction that the PM and others had advised. In the coal scam, Manmohan Singh cannot shift blame onto anyone else. It is glaringly clear from the series of documents quoted by the CAG, that the PMO – i.e. Manmohan Singh himself – repeatedly rejected the explicit recommendation of the Secretary (Coal) advising a shift to the system of competitive bidding. The Secretary (Coal) had stressed that the prevailing system of selection by a Screening Committee lacked ‘transparency and objectivity’ and highlighted “different kinds of pulls and pressures experienced by the Screening Committee during the decision making process.” This position was supported by several other Ministries. In spite of this, it was the PMO which continued to reject this recommendation time and again; in the meantime allocating captive coal blocks at an unprecedentedly speedy rate.

Undue Benefits

The Secretary (Coal) observed in a note in 2004 itself, that there was a “substantial difference between the price of coal supplied by Coal India Limited (CIL) and the cost of coal produced through captive mining,” resulting in a “windfall gain to the party who was allocated a captive block.”

There is a rationale for allocating ‘captive coal blocks’ to PSUs that supply power to people at subsidised rates. But why similarly allocate captive coal blocks to private companies that sell power at market rates? The CAG does not ask this question. All it says is that allocation of such resources without competitive bidding leaves ample space for corruption and cronyism, and allows private players to secure huge and undue benefits.

The major private corporations that secured huge undue benefits include the Tata Group, Jindal Steel & Power Ltd, Electro Steel Castings Ltd, the Anil Agarwal Group firms, Delhi-based Bhushan Power & Steel Ltd, Jayaswal Neco, Nagpur-based Abhijeet Group, Aditya Birla Group companies, and Essar Group’s power ventures, Adani Group, Arcelor Mittal India, and Lanco Group.

For instance, Jindal Power has been allocated captive coal mines to meet fuel requirement of its 1,000 MW Tanmar power plant in the Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh. While its fuel cost is estimated at just Rs 0.45 a unit, it has been selling power at over Rs 5 a unit in the open market. Assuming the capital costs were Rs 1-1.5 per unit, the plant has earned a return on equity of over 100%!

On the very eve of the notification of the 2009 general election, the UPA-I had rushed through the allocation of captive coal blocks to the Tata-Sasol combine and Jindal Steel and Power (JSPL) for coal-to-liquid projects in Orissa. The CAG estimated windfall gains of Rs 33,060 crore to the Tata-Sasol consortium and Rs 21,226 crore to JSPL.

Reliance Power’s ultra-mega power projects (UMPPs) at Sasan and Tilaiya are dealt with in a separate section, since they were allocated through a tariff-based competitive bidding route. The CAG finds that the government’s decision to allow Reliance Power to divert surplus coal from its Sasan and Tilaiya captive mines violated bid guidelines and resulted in “undue benefits” of Rs 15849 crore.”

PMO’s Specious Arguments

Ever since 2004, the PMO shot down the policy of competitive bidding time and again. In 2004, the PMO’s position prevailed – that since “a number of applicants requested for allocation of blocks based on the current policy, it would not be appropriate to change the allotment policy through competitive bidding in respect of applications received on the basis of existing policy.” The cut off date for considering applications as per the Screening Committee policy was decided to be 28 June 2004.

On 7 March 2005, the Secretary (Coal) reminded that decisions regarding applications received by June 2004 would have been taken by end March. Therefore, he stressed that if the revised procedure (of competitive bidding) was not put in place quickly enough (before the next round of applications), “pressures would again mount on the Government for continuing with the present procedure.” But the “PMO permitted continuance of the extant Screening Committee procedure” till the proposed competitive bidding policy could be legislated. The argument was that the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act 1973 and Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 would have to be amended before the shift to competitive bidding could be done.

But in fact, the Ministry for Law and Justice clearly spelt out in 2006 that, in the words of the CAG report, there was “no legal impediment” to making the shift without amending the laws; the prevailing policy of allocation through Screening Committee had been instituted by an Administrative decision, and a shift to a new policy too could just as easily be made through Administrative decision. Yet, the PMO continued to push for amendment of laws as a precondition for a shift to the competitive bidding policy.

The bill to amend the MMDR Act was introduced in Parliament in October 2008 and passed in August 2010. While Manmohan Singh as PM and Coal Minister personally ensured the delay in shifting to the policy of competitive bidding, allocations took place at an alarmingly high rate. Earlier, the average rate of allocation of captive coal blocks used to be 3-4 per year. But in 2006, 53 coal blocks were allocated, in 2007, 52, in 2008, 24, and in 2009, 16. Significantly, after the MMDR Amendment Act 2010 was passed by both Houses of Parliament, introducing competitive bidding for allocation of mineral resources including captive coal blocks, the rate of allocation went down. In 2010, only one coal block was allocated, and no coal block was allocated in 2011.

The CAG report notes that State Government of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan (BJP-ruled) and even West Bengal (then ruled by CPI(M)), opposed the policy of competitive bidding for captive coal blocks.

The CAG report makes the comparison with the SC observations in the 2G scam case, that the State must act as a “guardian and trustee” of natural resources; and that “natural resources cannot be allocated to private hands without ensuring that the benefit of the low cost of natural resources would be passed on to citizens.”

Clearly, the Prime Minister acted deliberately against national interest, to allow private corporations to enjoy undue benefits from access to captive stores of a precious natural resource. This is among the worst cases of corruption and facilitation of corporate plunder. Certainly those responsible need to be brought to book. As of now, the CBI enquiry into the Coalgate scam does not command much credibility or confidence.

Most importantly, it is important to go beyond the strict parameters of the CAG report. A policy of competitive bidding may reduce the incidence of cronyism, but we need to reject the very rationale of handing over captive mining resources to private profiteering corporations.


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