[Marxism] MLIN [March-April 09] | Elections | Sri Lanka | Health Workers | Slumdog | and More

CPI (ML) Intl Liaison Office cpiml_elo at yahoo.com
Sun Mar 8 13:37:08 MDT 2009


ML International Newsletter 

March-April 2009 



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 at yahoo.com]
and [cpimllib at gmail.com] 


Table of Contents 


1)       Forward to a
Vigorous Election Campaign on People’s Issues! 

2)       Budget: No Relief
for Indian Poor Ravaged by Economic Crisis 

3)       CPI (ML) Protests
against the War in Sri Lanka 

4)       Sri Lanka: A Matter of

Crackdown on Health
Employees, Students 

Defending Workers
During Meltdown or Countdown for Elections? 

Participation of
AICCTU in the Indian Labour Conference (ILC) 

Red Flag Hoisted on
Satyam’s Lands 

Film Review:
Slumdog Millionaire 


Indian Elections 


to a Vigorous Election Campaign on People’s Issues! 


- Liberation, March, 2009.  


India is bracing up for Lok Sabha polls under the
dark shadows of a deepening economic crisis that our ruling elite has managed
to import from the United
  States of America . The UPA government's
response to the crisis/recession has been essentially two-pronged. First, they
are shifting the burden onto the shoulders of the common people while pampering
the corporate biggies. Soon after the financial tsunami struck India, the
government announced tax cuts to the tune of some 50,000 crore (1 crore = 10
million) rupees and in the recently held Indian Labour Conference Pranab
Mukherjee suggested wage cuts as a pretext for avoiding job cuts -- this at a
time when corporate honchos are taking astronomical sums -- anywhere between
rupees 20 to 50 crore -- as what is now called compensation! In the name of
stimulus spending the interim budget has left a gap of 5.5 percent of gross
domestic product in the coming fiscal year, way above the three per cent
estimate made earlier. This will further worsen stagflation: the deadly double
curse of price rise combined with economic stagnation and slowdown. The
government says spending to revive the economy is more important now than
worrying about the deficit. This would really make sense if the funds were
utilised for facilitating employment in badly affected segments like textiles,
gems and jewellery, leather, construction, retail trade etc.; for helping
farmers of crops like cotton, rubber and coffee who are facing sharp price
falls; and for expanding the scope of NREGA as well as introducing similar
schemes for the urban poor. But the focus of the interim budget is not on
expanding the home market by augmenting people's purchasing power; it is on
corporate welfare and unproductive sectors. Thus defence expenditure has been
raised by a whopping 35 per cent on top of a 10 per cent increase last year,
the major chunk of which will flow out to arms exporters like the US and Israel
rather than creating effective demand within the country.  


The second
plank of the government’s policy orientation continues to be dependence on and
concessions to footloose foreign capital. To cite one recent example, it is
actively considering a proposal to lift restrictions on foreign investors to
buy up stakes in its domestic airlines. True to tradition dating back to the
early 1990s, the Congress-led government is utilising the crisis for selling
out the country’s residual economic sovereignty to imperialist powers.
Naturally this is accompanied by further erosion of our political independence,
the direct FBI involvement in Mumbai investigations after the terrorist attacks
being a case in point. The real meaning of "strategic partnership"
between India and the US is thus
getting clearer. 


woes and imperialist intervention apart, the pre-poll scene is marked by the
growing menace of communalism. LK Advani in his inaugural election rally at Gorakhpur responded to
the loud chants of “Jai Sri Ram” by saying that this will be realised only
after the Ram temple is built in Ayodhya. Advani’s promises of Mandir and
hanging of Afzal Guru indicate the BJP’s overtly communal plank in the coming
election. Advani was audacious enough even to claim that Muslims were very
happy in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat , where they
reportedly enjoyed the highest per capita income in the country. 


It is
against these and other enemies like draconian laws and the repressive state
that popular resistance must be intensified. A vigorous election campaign of
genuine left and democratic forces focusing on people’s issues can serve as a
very good instrument for this.  


Resist the
ravaging expedition of unbridled capital! 

Uphold the
banner of self-reliance and people’s welfare against the present reign of
elitist and pro-US policies! 

the cause of people’s unity and democracy against the twin threats of communalism
and terrorism! 

forward to raise the people’s voice inside Parliament! 


Indian Budget 


Relief for Indian Poor Ravaged by Economic Crisis, Bailout for Global Arms


- Liberation, March, 2009.  


The interim budget presented
by the Finance Minister – the last in the tenure of the United Progressive Alliance
(UPA) Government – displays a total unconcern for those ravaged by the global
economic crisis. There is no indication of any measures to bring relief to
those lakhs (100, 000s) of people who have lost and are fast losing their jobs
in various sectors – like textiles, garments, gemstones, jewellery etc. No
announcement of an effective and adequate stimulus package was made. No
concrete promise was made of increased public spending in various crisis-ridden
sectors of the Indian economy and society. However, keeping impending elections
in mind, further concessions and bail-out packages for the India Inc. has been
kept off for the post election general budget; there are therefore no changes
in tax rates, exemption limits and the fiscal policy for the time being. 


Even the much-touted increase
in allocation for “flagship” schemes like NREGA is also an eyewash. Actually,
the Plan allocation for the current fiscal is Rs. 30,000 crore (1 crore = 10
million) – revised from the previously declared allocation of Rs. 16,000 crore.
This reflects only what the Government has already spent on NREGA: which is far
below the actual needs of the scheme. The Plan allocation for the next fiscal
year 2009-10 is just Rs. 30,100 crore, a tiny and far from adequate increase indeed.
Further, while the total revised allocation for the Rural Development Ministry
for the current fiscal is Rs. 64,854 crore, for the year 2009-10 the allocation
has actually been slashed by 14.93%. 


Pranab Mukherjee’s excuse is
that the Government has “no mandate,” in its fag end, to introduce any
far-reaching measures. This fact, however, did not stop the UPA Government just
prior to the Budget session from bypassing Parliament to introduce new
investment norms that virtually throw open the entire economy to foreign direct
investment (FDI). According to these changed norms, FDI caps stand nullified,
since investments by companies “owned or controlled” by Indians having
substantial foreign capital are excluded. Even as legislation is pending in
Parliament to raise the FDI cap in insurance, and working-class protests have
prevented caps from being raised further in various other sectors, this piece
of subterfuge allows FDI and foreign players to take control of sensitive
sectors of the Indian economy via the backdoor. The very same forces
responsible for the global economic crisis are being allowed to rampage into India 


The stipulations of the Fiscal
Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act have been thrown to the winds.
As against the original FRBM target of achieving zero Revenue Deficits (RD) by
31st March, 2009, the RD for 2008-09 has zoomed to 4.4% of GDP–1%
higher than the budgeted figure. Similarly, Fiscal Deficit for 2008-09 also
escalates to 6% of GDP as against 2.5% target. The projected corresponding
figures for 2009-10 are 4% and 5.5% of GDP respectively. The government has
already printed 1 lakh crore of paper money to make good the deficit. 


The government is presently
tinkering with the monetary policy to manage the economic slowdown and
liquidity crunch. Government borrowing has jumped to two and a half times the
budget estimates from 1.3 lakh crore to 3.3 lakh crore. 


Unmatched with the fund
crunched exchequer defence outlay has suddenly been increased by 34%. The
pretext of “no mandate” has not caused the UPA Government to have any
hesitation in introducing this massive hike in defence allocations – a whopping
Rs 1,41,703 crore. This, when the Government was unable to utilise Rs. 7000
crore from last year’s allocation. Last year itself, the country’s defence
budget shot past Rs 1 lakh crore for the first time, three times more than the
expenditure on health and education. This time, the Mumbai terror attacks have
provided the pretext for yet another steep hike in defence spending. 


The Defence Ministry has
“assured” the arms industry at the recently held arms expo near Bangalore that defence
spending is “recession proof.” At the expo, it was Israeli and US arms
manufacturers who dominated the show. In the past decade, India has emerged as Israel ’s largest client and also
the largest arms importer among the developing countries. In effect, at a time
of recession, the UPA Government with its hiked defence budget has chosen to
bailout the global arms industry rather than the Indian poor. 


The slowdown in manufacturing
and capital goods sector is not likely to be arrested by this budget. The
Service sector is also to follow suit. The manufacturing may slip down to
recession in the next year. The attrition in white-collar employment in
finance, IT and information technology enabled services (ITES) is sure to go up
in view of the global recession and blue-collar employment in sectors like gems
and jewellery, garments, textiles, construction etc. is already gripped with
huge attrition. The country is already in a state of stagflation and may slip
into a deflationary situation due to acute slump in demand. The US, UK, Euro
Zone and Japan, which account for more than 50% of India’s exports, are in the
grip of nagging recession and hence the exports scenario appears very gloomy.
As a result, both balance of trade and balance of payment position of the
country is likely to deteriorate badly.  


The Interim Rail Budget too is
nothing but populist eyewash. The Rail Minister claims to have reduced fares –
but was silent on the pre-budget hike in freight charges on agricultural
commodities, iron ore and steel. This measure will inevitably further hike the
price of essential commodities and is yet another burden on the shoulders of
the recession-hit aam aadmi (common person). Also, the very day the Interim
Rail Budget was presented; there was a major accident on the Coromandel Express
in Orissa, followed by another in Bihar the
very next day. These accidents point to the total neglect of public spending on
rail safety, something the Rail Minister’s boasts cannot explain away. 


In a budget speech that
shamelessly doubled as election propaganda for the Congress party, Pranab
Mukherjee ended with the claim that “our people will surely recognise the hand…
that alone can help our nation on the road to peace and prosperity”. We can
well say that the people of India 
in the impending elections will surely recognise the hand that gave succour to
the imperialist US when its credibility was lowest and dragged the Indian
people deeper into the abyss of the global recession. 




CPI (ML) Protests against the War in Sri Lanka 


-  ML Update, 17-23 February, 2009. 


The Delhi State Committee of CPI
(ML) held a demonstration outside the Parliament in New
 Delhi on 16 February in protest against the ongoing war on the
Tamils in Sri Lanka .
The protest meeting was addressed by CPI (ML) Delhi State Secretary Sanjay
Sharma, All India Students Association (AISA) State Secretary Rajan Pande,
Delhi State Committee member Santosh Rai, All India Progressive Women’s
Organization (AIPWA) National Secretary Kavita Krishnan and others. Coinciding
with the Delhi demonstration, all over Tamil
Nadu and Puducherry CPI (ML) activists came out on streets demanding the
Manmohan-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to stop all military
aid to Sri Lanka 
and pressurize the Rajapakse government to stop the war massacring the Tamil
minorities in Srilanka immediately and start a political process for a
democratic resolution. Starting from Kanyakumari to Chennai, Sirkazhi
(Nagappattinam dist.) to Coimbatore ,
Party and mass organization leaders and activists assembled on the streets.
Politburo member S. Kumarasamy participated in Pudukottai demonstration.
Balasundaram, State Secretary of the party took part in Ulundurpet (Villupuram
district). Apart from these, demonstrations were held in Salem , Kumarapalayam, Kattu Mannar Koil
(Cuddalore district) and Tirunelveli. In Puducherry, Balasubramanian, State
Secretary and Balasundaram, State secretary of Tamil Nadu, led the
demonstration. Also on February 4th, CPI (ML) State units of Tamil Nadu and
Puduchery observed a state-wide general strike on the same issue. Party cadres
were arrested in Villupuram district for enforcing the strike call. 




  Lanka: A
Matter of Judgment 


- S Sivasegaram. 


In bourgeois democracy, the legislature and the judiciary avoid treading
on each other’s toes. Yet there is the occasion of questioning the legality of
an act of parliament or a controversial verdict of a court of law. Sadly for Sri Lanka ’s
fragile democracy the number of occasions have been a few too many. The most
recent one followed the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on a fundamental rights
petition on a controversial oil hedging deal entered into by the state-owned
Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) that made it liable for around US$ 750
million to five commercial banks; and flared up after a subsequent ruling on
the pricing of petrol.  


On 28th November 2008 the SC issued an interim order to the CPC to
suspend payments to the banks, to which it had already paid US$ 32 million. The
SC also ordered the suspension of the Chairman and the Deputy General Manager
of the CPC and asked for the removal of the minister in charge. The officials
were removed after some hesitation; but not the minister. A succession of
pointing fingers led to much discomfort for the government. A ruling on 17th
December by the SC on the pricing of petrol called for a price reduction from
Rs. 122 per litre to Rs. 100 or less. The CPC, on government instruction,
refused to comply while its only rival, the Lanka Indian Oil Corporation
(LIOC), reduced on the price to 100 rupees on 19th December but reverted to its
earlier price under pressure. The SC rulings infuriated the President as they
undermined the government’s credibility and meant a drop in CPC profits
earmarked for purposes including the bulging defence budget. Open threats were
made about impeaching the Chief Justice (CJ), which, under the constitution,
needs only a simple majority in an impeachment motion in parliament. It was
also unnecessary as the CJ is due for retirement in a few months and until then
would only be a temporary discomfort. The CJ, meantime, in view of
non-compliance by the CPC, cancelled all earlier rulings regarding the CPC
making it once again liable to pay the banks. 


Earlier Issues 

The Supreme Court has intervened earlier in issues of greater
consequence. Its power was not an issue when the rulings suited the government,
like the one in mid-2005 (under the previous President) against the setting up
of a provisional body for tsunami relief in the North-East, the de-merging of
the Northern and Eastern Provinces in 2007, and rulings against strikes. The SC
has embarrassed the government by ruling against proposed changes to school
admission procedure, and against the expulsion of Tamils from Colombo by the police in 2008, which were
resented but complied with. However, judges have continued to be intimidated
from time to time. 


The roots of the present contradiction go back to February 2006, hardly
three months since the President took office, when two senior judges of the
three-member Judicial Service Commission suddenly resigned based on ‘matters of
conscience’, and no other reason. It was an expression of the simmering state
of discontent within the Commission, but the President, as the head of state,
did not ask the judges for details of the ‘matters of conscience’ mentioned in
their resignation letters addressed to him.  


In May 2006, the President bypassed the Constitutional Council (CC),
whose term had lapsed in May 2005, to fill vacancies in the Supreme Court and
the Court of Appeal, without following the constitutional provisions. The
government, despite protests from the opposition parties, the legal profession,
other professional bodies, and public interest organisations, has delayed the
nomination of six new members to the CC from among members of parliament. 


Roots of the Crisis 

The plight of the judiciary begins with the Constitution of 1978 granting
sweeping powers to the executive president. The legal fraternity hailed its
provisions to protect the independence of the judiciary, in the context of
irritating aspects of the earlier Constitution of 1972 which declared Sri Lanka a
republic. Practice proved to be otherwise. The President and the parliament
where his party, the United National Party (UNP) had a massive majority since
election in 1977 systematically undermined the judicial system; and by a
‘referendum’ held in 1983 improperly extended the term of the parliament to


The government disposed of judges it did not like, appointed others, and
gave preferential treatment to some, as part of a process of
"reconstitution" of the courts under the provisions of the
Constitution. Even the favoured ones, including a former Chief Justice who fell
foul of the President, were humiliated. The government went a long way to
ensure that the law of the land did not obstruct its vindictive agenda. On 20th
November 1978 a law was passed with retrospective effect to declare as
"null and void and of no force and effect whatsoever" the judgement
and order of the Court of Appeal in a writ application by former prime minister
Sirima Bandaranaike against a ruling by the Special Presidential Commission of
Inquiry (SPCI), set up for the express purpose of depriving her of civic
rights. Hand-picked members of the judiciary in the SPCI loyally delivered the
goods without further legal hindrance. 


There were attacks and threats against the members of the judiciary for
giving verdicts hostile to the interests of the government. Verdicts had been
spurned. On 8th February 1983 a bench of the SC ruled unanimously that the
seizure by the Superintendent of Police, Gampaha, of pamphlets carrying an
appeal by Pavidi Handa (Voice of C1ergy) to hold the genera1 election due in
1983, was an illegal infringement of the right of expression and publication,
and awarded Rs.10 000 costs and Rs. 2 000 damages to the petitioner. On 2nd
March the Cabinet decided to promote the offending police officer, and to pay
the damages and costs out of state funds. In another instance, the Supreme
Court delivered judgment, again unanimously, on a fundamental rights case
relating to the unlawful arrest of former MP Mrs Vivienne Goonewardene at an
International Women's Day demonstration on 8th June 1983, by a sub-inspector of
police, awarding Rs. 2 000 as damages, and recommending police investigation of
further allegations by her. The next day, an official communiqué from the
Secretary to the Ministry of Defence announced that the work done by the
sub-inspector in dispersing the procession has been gone into and that it has
been decided that he should be given a special promotion. Accordingly the he
was promoted to the rank of Inspector Class II. 


Attempts at Salvation 

It was as a result of such blatant abuse of power by the government that
in 2001, well after the defeat of the UNP government in 1994, the 17th
Amendment to the Constitution was unanimously passed by parliament to stipulate
independent supervision over important appointments in public service and key
commissions. Hailed domestically and regionally as a creditable effort towards
remedying a highly-politicised police and public service in particular, the
Amendment made it necessary for appointments to the commissions and offices
concerned to be approved by an apolitical, 10-member Constitutional Council
(CC). The intervening authority of the CC was to be an external check over the
unrestrained presidential fiat in appointments. Its composition envisaged a
process of consensual decision-making by the constituent political parties in
parliament. It is that very CC that has been prevented from functioning for the
past three and a half years.  


It is not my case that the judiciary has been whiter than white. The
present CJ was himself subject of an impeachment motion for personal
misconduct, proposed by members of the opposition UNP in 2005, which was
abandoned as a part of a shady deal to resurrect the political career of a UNP
leader who was behind bars for contempt of court. The latter part of the deal
was not honoured.  


The prospects for the independence of judiciary seem no better than those
for democracy and human rights in the country, let alone its economy and the
national question. But the situation is not hopeless. The country has had a
tradition of sustained struggles for democratic and human rights which need to
be revived and restructured to encompass a larger number of issues based on an
anti-imperialist, anti-chauvinist democratic agenda. 


Working Class Struggles 


Crackdown on Health Employees, Students: 

Paving the Way for Privatisation of Health and


- Liberation, March, 2009. 


Behind the imposition of Essential Service Maintenance Act (ESMA) and
arrest of leading union activists among health workers in Delhi and the rustication of the Jawaharlal
Nehru University (JNU) Students’ Union leadership and student activists in JNU
lies the covert agenda of privatisation of health and education. 


2.5 lakh (1 lakh = 100, 000) health employee workers across the country,
under the banner of the All India Health Employees and Workers Confederation,
have been struggling for the past several months against the recommendations of
the 6th Pay Commission of contractualisation and outsourcing of health
services. When repeated appeals to the Prime Minister and Health Minister, as
well as a massive demonstration at Parliament and nation-wide protests, failed
to result in any dialogue with the Central Government, health employees and
workers were forced to go on strike on February 23. The Government responded
with threats and imposition of ESMA in Delhi .
Five leaders including Comrade Ramkishan, Convenor of the Confederation were
arrested, homes of at least 30 leaders of the Confederation were raided and
individual letters were issued to all employees threatening termination and
eviction from their homes. Comrade Ramkishan was taken into police custody on
the night of 27 February; charges of violation of ESMA were imposed on him on
28 February and he was sent to Tihar jail (he has now been released on bail).
Following the arrest of the leaders, the agitation intensified in Delhi , and the Delhi
Government eventually conceded some of the major demands of the employees and
workers of hospitals and health services administered by the Delhi Government.
Those of centrally-administered health services like the central government
health services (CGHS) are yet to get any relief, since the Central Government
has done little except issue threats. However, the strike has been called off,
keeping in mind the partial victory achieved vis a vis the Delhi Government,
and also keeping in mind the inconvenience caused to the public by continuance
of the strike – something for which the Central Government showed no concern. 


At the Jawarhalal Nehru University (JNU), students for the past month
have been engaged in a protracted struggle against a whole package of
commercialization measures unleashed by the Administration. Making calculated
use of the Supreme Court stay (based on the Lyngdoh Committee’s
recommendations) on the JNUSU elections, the JNU Administration has bypassed
the JNU Students’ Union [JNUSU] (now led by the AISA) to push through measures
like hiking of the Prospectus fee by 67%, razing down trees and flattening out
the ecologically-sensitive area of Parthasarathy Rock area in order to make it
available for shooting of films and advertisements on a commercial basis,
installing individual meters in hostel rooms with plans to levy ‘user charges’
on students for electricity, and violations of modalities for implementation of
OBC reservations. Literally thousands of students turned out in massive
protests – forcing the administration to withdraw some of the measures like the
renting out of PSR rocks and user charges for electricity. 


But on the issue of hike in the prospectus price, the Administration
remained adamant. However, to maintain the pretence of being ‘pro-poor’, the
JNU Administration proposed a clause that applicants from Below Poverty Line
(BPL) families could avail the prospectus free of cost - a piece of tokenism
that amounts to 100% subsidy for 0% applicants, when it is well known that
availing a BPL certificate is a process fraught with many problems, and there
is no adequate data on the extent to which such families are able to avail
education, let alone enter the realm of higher education and apply for a JNU
prospectus. As a symbolic response to the closing down of dialogue by the
Administration, the JNU students’ union closed down one of the admission
counters. Within a few hours of this symbolic protest, the Administration
responded by rusticating the JNUSU President Sandeep Singh for two years, and
Vice President Shephalika Shekhar and Joint Secretary Mobeen Alam, as well as
two other senior activists for a year each. 9 students have been on hunger
strike for the past five days, accompanied by many others on relay hunger
strike, in protest against this draconian measure. 


The AISA had conducted a national campaign in February against the ‘virtual
emergency’ in campuses, arguing that the crackdown on student union elections
in many campuses including JNU is necessary for governments that intend to
privatise and commercialise education. The events in JNU, happening in the wake
of the stay on the JNUSU elections by the Supreme Court, are proving the point
of the campaign. 


Privatising and commercializing health and education are policies
dictated by the imperialist funding agencies and imposed by India ’s ruling
class. Unions and struggles of workers and students are the biggest hurdle in
the path of such policies – and this is why the promoters of such policies
seize every opportunity to victimize activists leading the movements. But
crackdowns have never deterred movements – and the UPA Government can be sure
that in the impending elections, it will pay for the crackdown on central
government health employees and students of a leading central university. 


Working Class Struggles 


Indian Labour Conference: Defending Workers
During Meltdown or Countdown for Elections? 


- Liberation, March, 2009. 


The 42nd Session of Indian
Labour Conference (ILC) was held recently in Delhi . While at the inaugural session Labour
Minister Oscar Fernandes took the opportunity to extol a range of Congress
leaders down the generations, and to showcase the ‘achievements’ of the UPA
Government, such as NREGA. As workers face a crisis of survival due to the
meltdown, the ILC was being used as a platform for a countdown to elections!
Instead of any review of the sorry record of implementation of schemes like
NREGA, the ILC was instead being used to project these schemes. Finance
Minister Pranab Mukherjee prescribed austerity and ‘wage cuts’ as an
alternative to job cuts. Obviously such ‘austerity’ was not meant by the finance
minister (FM) to apply to rich CEOs who, as recent reports show, continue to
earn obscenely high salaries and indulge in unabated conspicuous consumption
and lavish lifestyles. These latter continue to get huge sops and subsidies
unabated – while the FM preaches ‘wage cuts’ for workers! This, while the
Government’s own Arjun Sengupta Committee revealed that 77% of India ’s
people survive on Rs. 20 a day. 


As a result of the made-in-USA
crisis being imported by the Indian ruling class onto Indian shores, at least
20 lakh workers have been rendered jobless in just a few months. Several
industries face ruin – particularly export-oriented ones like textiles, diamond
etc., as well as automobile, steel, construction; and workers all around face
severe wage cuts and increased workload. For the past several years, lakhs of
farmers have been committing suicide – a haemorrhaging wound refusing to heal
in spite of some band-aids applied by governments time and again. Now, there
are ominous signs of this trend shifting to workers too – seventy-one laid-off
diamond workers have committed suicide in Gujarat :;
the state admiringly hailed as a ‘development model’ by the corporate class. 


Meanwhile there is an
all-pervading contractualisation of jobs in the name of promoting competitiveness
- even in public sector units like steel, coal, oil and government departments
like Railways, and core and perennial jobs too. The Central government, which
used to be termed the ‘model employer’ has emerged as the greatest violator of
contract labour laws. Through the ILC, the Government should have at the very
least promised to implement their own laws regulating contract labour with the
utmost strictness. Instead, for the last five years the Government has been
pushing for amending the labour laws – thereby sending a clear signal to the
employers that it condones their violations of the law of the land, and wants
to turn those violations into policy! 


Even the Government’s
showpieces like the Unorganized Workers’ Act is far from adequate (with no
provision of permanent fund and empowered boards) to address the needs and
aspirations of the unorganized workers: the largest component of workforce. The
crying need of the situation is that the Government must come out with a
declaration to halt retrenchment/lay offs, wage cuts and closure on the pretext
of financial crisis; and take measures to increase the purchasing power of
common people. 


Nothing less than reversing
the disastrous economic policies – that favour corporates at the cost of the labouring
poor – and delinking from the disastrously sinking ship of US imperialism – can
correct the course and benefit the working people of India. No amount of
window-dressing or manipulation of platforms like the ILC can change this fact. 


Working Class Struggles 


Participation of AICCTU in the 42nd Session of
Indian Labour Conference (ILC) 


- Liberation, March, 2009.  


The 42nd Session of Indian
Labour Conference (ILC) was held on 20-21 February 2009 in New Delhi . It was inaugurated by the Minister
of External Affairs, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee and the Presidential address was
delivered by the Minister of State (IC) for Labour & Employment, Mr. Oscar
Fernandes. The representatives of workers, employers and the central &
various state govts./UTs and central ministries/departments participated in the
conference. The agenda of the conference was: 1 (a) All Issues connected with
contractualisation of Labour (b) Issues related to Migrant Workers. 2. Role of
Social Partners in appropriate skill development for employability. 3. Issues
relating to Sales Promotion Employees in India . 4. Global Financial Crisis –
its effects viz., large scale downsizing, layoffs, wage cut and job losses,
etc. On behalf of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU),
General Secretary Com. Swapan Mukherjee addressed the inaugural session. Led by
him three more representatives participated in the different agenda items of
the conference, namely Com. R. N. Thakur on agenda regarding issues related to
contractualization and migrant labour; Com. S. Balasubramanian on global
financial crisis, and Com. Santosh Rai on issues of sales promotion workers in


This is the first time AICCTU
officially participated (as delegates) in the ILC after getting national
recognition (in the last session it participated in observer category). The
participation was organized and effective. Com. Swapan addressing the inaugural
session lambasted the Congress Party for using the ILC as election propaganda
platform while prescribing wage cuts for workers. The delegation submitted its
concrete suggestion on various items with effective participation on discussion
on item nos. 1, 3 and 4. 


Struggles in India 


Red Flag Hoisted on Satyam’s Lands 


- Liberation, March, 2009.  


The Satyam scam has exposed corporate
corruption and greed, protected by governments and even ‘watchdog’
institutions. Among the many aspects of the scam was the aspect of massive
benami land transfers effected by Satyam. It became apparent that thousands of
acres of land were acquired by Satyam – literally by hook or crook.  


Land is a burning issue – in
Andhra Pradesh (AP) as well as all over India . Land ceiling laws and laws
against land grab have been openly violated, and the state has an abysmal track
record of implementing land reforms. Governments, mouthing virtuous slogans of
‘development,’ have justified massive land grab to feed corporate greed. In AP,
too, there have been fierce struggle against SEZs and other kinds of corporate
land grab. Also, AP has seen militant struggles confronting the YSR Reddy
Government on why it failed to keep its promise of house sites for the poor.  


Now, the question arises, why
rural poor are met with bullets (as at Mudigonda, Khammam) when they raise a
legitimate demand for land; why anti-SEZ activists (as at Kakinada) are jailed;
why, when the rural poor wage struggles to occupy ceiling-surplus and other
kinds of land illegally grabbed from the poor, they are branded as
‘terrorists’; yet Ramalinga Raju and Satyam-Maytas were freely allowed to grab
thousands of acres of land illegally – and both the previous NDA Government of
Chandrababu Naidu as well as the present Congress Government of YSR Reddy
turned a blind eye for so many years?  


The CPI (ML), which has been
at the forefront of land struggles in AP, acted promptly to corner the
Government on this question as soon as the Satyam scam came to light. In
Krishna district, the CPI (ML) Liberation and All India Agricultural Labourers’
Association (AIALA) unit of Andhra Pradesh conducted an investigation which
revealed that the Prapurna Estate, an agricultural firm, is a benami company of
Satyam computers located in Kondaparva village 
of Vissannapeta mandal in Krishna district. The Prapurna Estate holds about 375
acres of land out of which 232 acres were purchased from small peasants. 44
acres was purchased illegally from poor Dalits allotted land by the State
government. Moreover hundred acres of revenue bungar lands have been illegally
captured by this firm. An application to the government to lease this land to
develop a medicinal plants farm was rejected by the District Collector a year


CPI (ML) and AIALA activists
decided to mobilise masses of six villages to seize the Prapurna Estate lands
illegally in control of Satyam-Maytas. On February 13, hundreds of people from
Vissannapeta, Kondaparva, Jannardhanavaram and Chatrai village, (led by CPI(ML)
District Secretary Comrade D Harinath and AIALA State President Comrade Pulla
Rao), marched to the lands held by Satyam carrying red flags and entered the
Prapurna Estates. They successfully managed to occupy some 250 acres of lands
illegally acquired by Satyam. Initially the employees of Prapurna Estate tried
to put up a resistance but were soon overwhelmed by the militant mood of the
masses. Attempts by the police to chase away the people were in vain. Prapurna
Estate employees and the police claimed that these lands were legally purchased
by some person of West Godavari district to
develop as an agricultural farm. Revenue officials also said to the media that
these lands are legally purchased but not owned in any way by Satyam. The
police, though hesitant to arrest the activists, has been open in its defence
of the Prapurna Estate.   


The CPI (ML) has demanded that
the State should confiscate the lands from Satyam and redistribute them among
the poor. The struggle brought to the fore the question of Government double
standards over the question of land: its complicity with the bid by the rich
and the corrupt to grab (and literally steal) land over which they have no
right, and its repressive attitude towards the struggles of the poor for land
which legitimately belong to them. 


Film Review 


Slum-lord Aesthetics and the Question of Indian Poverty 


- Nandini Chandra, Liberation,
March, 2009. 


Danny Boyle’s Slumdog
Millionaire (based on Indian diplomat Vikas Swaroop’s novel Q&A) is about a
 Bombay slum boy
with his ample street knowledge who wins a twenty million dollar reality quiz
show and then turns this into a universal tale of love and human destiny. In
the quiz, Jamal is unable to answer questions that test his nationalist
knowledge but is surprisingly comfortable with those that mark his familiarity
with international trivia. For instance, while he knows that Benjamin Franklin
adorns a 100 dollar bill, he has no clue about who adorns the 1000 rupee note.
This is obviously meant to suggest the irrelevance of the nation to its most
marginalized member but less obviously also indicates its supposed redundancy
in a globalized neo-liberal setup.    


The film is on an
awards-winning roll, having won four Golden globes, it has won 8 Oscars this
year, something that surely adds rather than subtracts from its imperial charm.
The centrality of the neo-gothic structure of the Victoria Terminus as the
transformative point in the film thus heralds a Dickensian aura as much as an
imperial vision.  


In contrast, Indians cannot
quite see it in nationalist terms. For one, Amitabh Bachchan’s
blog has officially announced and sanctioned the hurt pride of nationalist
Indians occasioned by the film’s exposure of its dirty underbelly. While one is
unsympathetic to the chauvinist argument that outsiders have no right to depict
the seamier side of native life; the way this hyper-nationalist sentiment has
been refracted in the international press says something about the film’s
motivations. For instance, most reports translate Bachchan’s statement as the
Indian peoples’ inability to take a brutal look at themselves, assuming both
that the so called west has a hotline with the underclass, and that Bachchan
represents ‘the Indian people’.    


Given this intermeshing of an
Indian and global context surrounding the film’s production and reception, it
becomes pertinent to frame the question of the specific nature of Indian
poverty raised in the film. The film is hardly unique in addressing the
spectacle of the Bombay 
poor, their dismal conditions of living and defecating. But what it does
crystallize in very concrete terms is a general consensus achieved in recent
years on the disengagement of labour from questions of poverty and wealth.
Partha Chatterjee’s much talked about essay, Democracy and Economic
Transformation (EPW, 19 April 2008), mobilizes the concept of a “political
society” to merge the realm of peasant detritus and urban poor with
petty-entrepreneurs as well as the more shadowy criminal class. His argument
reads something like this: since this informal and irregular community has not
been and cannot be integrated into the corporate-style capitalist structures,
they not only lose out on the benefits of civil society, their only salvation
lies in being appropriated by governmental structures and schemes. The idea
therefore is to translate the poor’s lack of proletarian consciousness as an
automatic admission into political-governmental terms without adequately
addressing either the question of capital accumulation by forcible
dispossession, through the judicious use of that very government’s repressive
instruments in the first place or how to usefully channel this dispossessed
labour surplus in a direction that will precipitate class struggle.     


While the film in its
neo-liberal optimism contradicts this understanding of the poor, seeing them as
immediately appropriable within the interstices of corporatized service
industries, it participates in the denial of the potential usefulness of the
work they do and its lack of reward. However, like Chatterjee, it also insists
on placing them outside the purview of the juridical civil state, where law and
order do not prevail in the same familiar way, thus surrounding their lives
with a mystique that films like Boyle’s can successfully unravel for a
neo-liberal audience. Having been endowed with humanity and dignity, the poor
cannot be seen through what is perceived as instrumental categories of labour
or class anymore. They are instead seen as denizens of a shadowy, illicit realm
which can be made comprehensible only by integrating it within certain humanist
tropes like love and freedom. It is remarkable that the topography of the
places in which the poor live is seen largely through aerial shots  mountains
of garbage, huge green forests of wasteland, rivers of feces  and the little
boys jumping back and forth through this panoramic natural landscape acquire
the characteristic of blooming lotuses in mud. The goo scene in the beginning
and the scene where a massive bogeyman-type figure gouges out the eyes of
little children with a spoon are of course tightly framed to render the horror
of the other world, which may be packaged for a poverty tour (like the one
where Shantaram took Angelina Jolie by the hand and led her through the giddy
lanes of Dharavi). The slum, the common tank where the mother was felled by one
swoop of the Hindu fundamentalist sword, the brothel, the child labourer, the
exploitative policemen, the curious school master in a dhoti and the mafia
bosses are all stops on this guided tour which is only superficially different
from the commodification of poverty one finds on the sets of more popular
Bollywood fare. In fact, the new Bollywood aesthetics find an echo here in its
severe eschewal of the institutions of state and civil society. But while
Bollywood is equally welcoming of foreign capital, a non-Bollywood production
like Slumdog takes on more immediately imperialist overtones. This is because
the impetus of its rhetoric of good will and benevolence strives to conceal the
conditions of its production, encapsulated by a patchy realism which seems to
suggest that its real commitment is to the true heart of India , rather
than a Bollywood imaginary which it uses merely as the scaffolding for its
conventional plot’s unfolding. 


The direct connectivity with
an international public via tourism, call centres, media and other service
industry networks makes the proximity to foreign capital extremely clear. The
absence of an organized labour force or any political platform makes it
possible to render the terms offered by this capital free of any vested
interest.  For instance, the film is
produced by Celador Films, the very company which originally created the “Who
wants to be a Millionaire” contest, an idea never once mocked throughout the
film. In fact, reality television with big money in rewards encourages the
contestants to alternatively think of themselves as obligated to the jury and
managers and entitled to earn or deserve the disproportionately large sums of
money. At the same time, the ruthlessness with which the contestants are
evicted draws brief attention to the bosses’ less than benign status as
business entrepreneurs, only to deflect it to a professional ethic, which seeks
to dignify its lottery or gambling mode. The dynamics of reality television get
enacted when little Jamal is being propped up to be a singer by the beggar
kingpin Mamman, and the little fellow really thinks his time has come. In true
reality television fashion, he demands a fifty rupee note from him before he
sings his piece, announcing that he is after all a professional.   


The hotel kitchen seems like a
refuge of freedom for the child waiter, who gets plenty of time off even as
Salim complains of the utopian life they have left behind thieving tyres in the
by-lanes of Agra. The tourist industry seems like a utopia of cast-offs and
gullible ‘whities’ waiting to be ripped off by these wily self-appointed
guides. In short, the film tries to show that for those who can think on their
feet, access to wealth is not a problem. Child labour is not really seen as
exploitative, but as enabling the education of these young adults. In fact,
hardly do we perceive their contribution in terms of real labour. They are seen
as gaining rather than giving to the system, sabotaging, picking up the
leftovers, staying in empty hotel rooms, stealing from it. Their labour is
forever in the background. What is in the foreground is the readymade wealth
they are continually grabbing. Wealth is seen not as something created by
labour but as already always there to be accessed like the 20 million to be won
for the answering of 10 odd questions, a clear repudiation of the true dynamics
of labour and class. Moreover, by making the state and civil society evaporate,
the film is interested in showing that real harmony is ultimately produced by a
direct interaction between capital and labour, in a context where capital will
always be benefiting labour and not the other way round. This is probably an
acknowledgement of the fact that under the present phase of free market
enterprise, the state has proven itself such a good accomplice of capital that
it need not even be reckoned with. The police, initially evil, are eventually
reconciled to the market’s impartial dynamics when the Inspector comes round to
Jamal’s story and escorts him to the media room.    


The upper class body language
of its avowedly slum-dwelling protagonists is a serious lapse in realism, as is
the characterization of Anil Kapoor treating the slumdweller in an
exaggeratedly condescending fashion. The use of English could have been
justified by a simple suggestion that the boys picked it up from the streets of
 Agra or even
the call centre. But what irritates the most is the fact that while they make
an attempt to imbue the film with a self-consciously heroic Muslim profile,
they overwrite it with a totally Hindu concept of destiny. Ironically, even the
credit song jai-ho seems to suggest an orchestrated mass- pilgrimage to
Vaishno-devi rather than the triumph of the Muslim underdog.        







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