CPI(ML) Calls Nitish’s Bluff

On March 18, tens of thousands of agrarian labourers, peasants and toiling urban poor holding aloft red flags and banners marched into Patna, changed the very colour of the sprawling Gandhi Maidan. The massive CPI(ML) Rally at Gandhi Maidan Patna on March 18 was culmination of month-long, statewide ‘Pol Khol, Halla Bol’ campaign to expose the Nitish Kumer Government’s tall claims.

Bihar recalls March 18 as the day in 1974 when a brutal crackdown on a student protest march in Patna sparked off the nationwide movement for democracy. The CPI(ML) Rally on the anniversary of that momentous event was a reminder that the spirit of 1974 lived on in CPI(ML)-led struggles, while the renegades of 1974 have joined hands with all kinds of retrograde forces and are keeping Bihar in a state of permanent retardation.

The Nitish Government never tiress of trumpeting its claims of ‘good governance and development’ : at the ‘Pol Khol’ rally, the massive gathering of the very same sections of supposed beneficiaries of these policies forcefully exposed the hollowness of these claims by articulating the simmering rural anger across the state. The Rally, coinciding with the budget session of the Assembly, was the people’s platform to challence the government on its performance on BPL, NREGA and land-related issues.

The programme began with the presentation of revolutionary songs. Comrade Shashi Yadav, Member Bihar State Committee, welcomed the toiling masses hailing from all over the state and the guests from other states. Proceedings of the Rally were conducted by Com. Nand Kishor Prasad, Secretary, Bihar State Committee.

The Rally was addressed by Party General Secretary, Dipankar Bhattacharya as the amin speaker. Other prominent speakers were Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) from Jharkhand, Raja Ram Singh, Convener, All India Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Dhirendra Jha, General Secretary, AIALA, Rameshwar Prasad, President, AIALA, CPI(ML) MLAs Arun Singh and Munnaf Alam, AIPWA National Secretary Meena Tiwari, RYA General Secretary kamlesh Sharma and Stayadev Ram, State Secretary AIALA.

Polit Bureau Members Comrades Ram Raresh Ram, Swadesh Bhattacharya, DP Buxi, Ram Jatan Sharma, Ramji Rai, Central Committee Members Comrades K D Yadav, Saroj Choubey and leaders of the Bihar State Committee were also present on the dais.

Addressing the Rally, Comrade Dipankar recalled that Nitish Kumar had promised to reform Bihar in three monts’ time. Now two and half years have passed, but his Government has done nothing except constituting commissions and making declarations. It was telling that the Nitish Goverment had to hold a ‘Global Meet’ to find out the number of poor people in Bihar. Clearly the Nitish Government is trying to play political football with the Centre over the question of measurement of proverty. It tries to attribute the growing rural hunger and starvation deaths to the fact that the Centre is supplying subsidised foodgrains for only 65 lakh families while the State Government puts the number of poor families at 1.13 crore. Comrade Dipankar said that on the score of the size of BPL, we are all for fighting against the Central Government. But who but the State Government can be held responsible for the large-scale BPL irregularities and PDS diversion that had come to light?

Comrade Dipankar also raised the question as to why the State Government is not backing up its own BPL claim by giving job cards to all BPL families. Just the previous day, Rural Development Minister had confessed in Assembly to have distributed job cards to only 67 lakh individuals and jobs to only 25 lakh card-holders. Assuming only two adults in every BPL family, BPL families alone should have got 2.26 crore cards, and if you add other rural job-seekers the number should at least have been 3 crores, given that Bihar is 90% rural.

Comrade Dipankar also reminded that the Nitish Government has constituted the Bandyopadhaya Commission on Land, which was to have submitted its report in one year’s time. Two years later, however, only an interim report has been submitted, which revealed a big scam in Bhoodan land, and had recommended that the Government inquire into the scam and submit a report by March 2008. The month of March is here, but there is no action taken report from the Government! He added that sharecroppers in Bihar had same problems as the land-holding peasants, and demanded that similar facilities like loan, insurance, compensation etc be extended to them.

Alongside the core agenda of land, employment and social dignity, the Rally also raised issues related to education and health as well as infrastructure (electricity, irrigation, roads) and industry. Speakers at the Rally remarked on a report by a Common School System Commission headed by Muchkund Dubey, which recommends employment of some 7.5 lakh teachers over the next five years, and pointed out that the government is only employing a small number of contract teachers. Power supply in Bihar was in such bad shape that barring the posh areas of the capital, the entire state was getting only 4 to 6 hours of electricity a day. With such bad power supply, Nitish Kumar did not take any action against the guilty DM and SP. Comrade Raja Ram Singh pointed out that contrary to Nitish’s claim that no SEZs would be set up in Bihar, the fact is that already 4000 acres of land have been grabbed from farmers, and there have been outbursts from farmers even in Nitish’s home constituency of Nalanda against the SEZ-brand of ‘development’ through land grab.

Speakers at the Rally also question Nitish’s claim to have reined in criminals. While a criminal MLA like Sunil Pandey was patronized, a popular leader of the masses, ex-CPI(ML) MLA Mahboob Alam, was beaten up in Bhagalpur jail. The murder of Sufian in Bhojpur and manhandling of Mahboob Alam inside Bhagalpur Jail exposed the reality behind Nitish’s show of being ‘pro-minority’. Speakers at the Rally, saluting the legacy of the 1974 movement for democracy, exposed the Nithish Government’s ruthless suppression of people’s movements. Atrocities by Special Auxiliary Police are on the rise, with retired army jawans being redeployed, denying jobs to deserving youth, and custodial killing and torture are as rampant as ever.

A significant dimension to the Rally was the presence of LNP(L) leader Uday Bhatt from Maharashtra whose spirited defence of all-India working class unity and solidarity between Maharashtrian and Bihari/North Indian workers was warmly received by the masses as a contrast to the recently displayed MNS-Shiv Sena brand of chauvinism. Comrade Bahadur Oraon agreed with Uday Bhatt’s observation that attacks against migrant workers from Bihar and Jharkhand in Maharashtra, Punjab, Assam, etc were actually poly of capitalists to divide the working class. Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi’s tall talk of ‘awakening the sense of Bihari pride’ stood exposed by the political company they keep – the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra which spewed venom agsainst Bihari migrants! In sharp contrast stood the CPI(ML)’s partnership with LNP(L) Speakers at the Rally, while firmly upholding the right of every Indian to seek livelihood in any part of the country, pointed out that the key question is : why are the policies pursued by Bihar’s rulers designed not to generate jobs within Bihar itself? Nitish wanted people to believe that Mals and Multiplexes spelt development in Bihar, but the fact remained that 90% of Bihar’s population lived in villages.

The impressive Pol Khol Hall Bol Rally proclaimed that Nitish’s own ‘Feel Good’-model of governance would meet the same fate as the ‘Feel Good’ and ‘India Shining’ planks of the NDA in the last general elections.

The Rally ended with the adoption of a 10-point Resolution by the entire rally.

16% Growth Rate?

Economists doubt Bihar’s tall claims

(Based on a news report by IANS, 02/29/2008)

Last year, for the first time in the annals of the Bihar legislature, the state government tabled the status report on the Economic Survey of Bihar. The report stated that Bihar was lagging behind other states on all development indices. The state ranks at the bottom with respect to Human Development Indicator (HDI) with the HDI for Bihar being about 20 percent lower thatn the national HDI. This year’s Economic Survey, however, tells a feel-good tale of 16% growth rate!

The Bihar government’s tall claims of economic achievements have drawn flak from many economists in the state who questioned the very rationale of the state’s Economic Survey for 2006-07. according to the survey, released by Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi Feb 22, the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate is 16 percent, almost double the national average growth rate. Modi, who also holds the finance portfolio, claimed that Bihar – one of the country’s most economically backward states – had striven for “unprecedented economic growth” for the first time in the post-independence era.

However, the government’s claims seem not to have gone down well with economists. “It is absurd, unrealistic and extremely doubtful”, Naval Kishore Choudhary, a professor in Patna University, told IANS regarding the state government’s claims.

Another ecomomist, Bhagwan Prasad Singh, said that it was difficult to digest the government’s arguments about economic growth. “it is far from the truth and reality, how can we accept that Bihar’s GDP growth is twice the figure of the national average. it’s not feasible”, Singh, the head of economics department at Patna University, said. According to Choudhary, the government should review the Economic Survey. “It is high time the state came out with the truth of actual growth rate”, he said.

Much to the embarrassment of the Nitish Kumar government, the economists pointed out that the state’s claims came at a time when Bihar, an agrarian state, recorded a drastic fall of 26.04 percent in its food grain output. Power generation is almost negligible in the state and industrial growth hardly touches 5.5 percent when the national rate is 20.1 percent.
The economists said the survey, an offical document of the state government, was prepared by a Patna-based non-governmental organisation (NGO).

Resolutions Adopted at the Rally

    • 1. The Rally demands that the Central Government that it unequivocally scrap the anti-national Indo-US nuclear deal to protect India’s sovereignty and Independence.

2. The Rally declares this year’s general budget to be an election stunt that is bound to escalate prices even more. The Rally demands waiving of loans of all sorts for all rural poor – including farmers owning up to ten acres in crisis-ridden areas, weavers as well as fishermen. The Rally also expresses people’s anger at the reduction in outlay for the rural poor’ employment programme NREGS and demands that the Central Government makes a budgetary provision equivalent to the Defence budget for NREGS. The Rally also expresses deep concern about the fact that Laloo Yadav’s Rail Budget reflects extreme negligence for passenger amenities and safety by Railways administration.

3. The Rally holds the pro-rich, pro-US economic policies imposed by the Central Government, in equal partnership with the State Government, responsible for sky-rocketing prices, and declares its intention to launch a nationwide campaign with the slogan ‘Roko mehengai bandho daam, nahin to hoga chakka jaam’ (Stop inflation and rein in prices, or else face the music).

4. This Rally demands a complete roll-back of the SEZ policy and advises that both Central as well as State Governments completely halt all land-acquisition without consent of the peasants and alternative job provision. This Rally expresses solidarity with all the struggles of farmers in the Country against SEZs and forced land acquisition.

5. The Rally condemns the pro-rich and anti-people character of the Nitish Government. Behind its corporate-sponsored drama of ‘Global Meet’, ‘Poor Summit’ and ‘Development Runs’ is its failure to provide even the essentials like foodgrain rations and kerosene oil, electricity and water for the people of the State. The Rally calls for intensified resistance to such callousness for the lives and livelihoods of the people of Bihar.

6. This Rally condemns the Nitish regime’s brutal suppression of movements of Shikshamitras (para-teachers), Lok-Shikshaks, ASHA health workers, poor people struggling to get their names included in the BPL list, and people demanding electricity. The custodial murder of Ashok Sah (Sitamarhi), and the political killing of Sufian in Bhojpur, as well as the massacres at Chilranv, Pipra and other places expose the complicity of the police in the nexus of criminals and mafia networks.

7. The Rally demands to know why, in spite of the CM’s tall claims of stopping crime within three months, abductions, extortion and murder continue unabated, and criminal politicians receive patronage while people’s leaders like Mehboob Alam are maltreated in jail.

8. This Rally expresses deep anger at the escalating attacks on Dalits and women, and the terrible incidents of rape of minors, and demands that the State Government constitute special Judicial Enquiries into these incidents; especially into the more than 100 incidents of assaults and killings of Musahars.

9. The Rally demands a CBI enquiry into the swindle to the tune of more than 1000 crores of public money through fake muster rolls of NREGS and demands that the State Government fill up the more than 7.5 lakh jobs lying vacant in the State, and regularize all irregular, contract and casual workers, Forest Department workers, Sarva Shikha Abhiyan workers, para teachers, anganwadi workers and ASHA workers in the State, and institute proper wages for them.

10. The Rally, comprising the struggling peasants and toiling rural labourers of the State, declares its intention of gheraoing the Nitish Government for its backing out from the land reform agenda, evading its promise of granting legal rights to sharecroppers, and putting the Bandhopadhya Land Commission recommendations on the back burner, and doing nothing to ensure the rightful share of land even to those who have received papers for the same. 

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