Towards all-India Conference of AIALA

A Report from South India

Preparations towards the Third all-India Conference of AIALA to be held at Uttar Pradesh in November, have begun with a resolve to recruit lakhs of members in South, particularly in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Karnataka and to make south an important areas of struggles in the country. In spite of relatively more capitalist development in agriculture in South, given the prevailing semi-feudal conditions in agrarian relations, the plight of agrarian and rural labour is no less comparable to any other relatively less-developed and backward regions in the state. Even the so-called ‘relatively higher growth’ is a misnomer as for as agrarian and rural labourers in the region are concerned.

It is in such a relatively higher growth region of Tamil Nadu, we have seen walls being erected to prevent dalits from entering upper caste habitations. ‘Rettanai’, the name of a village in Tamil Nadu has become a symbol of utter failure of the so-called ‘progressive’ scheme of NREGA and the resultant turbulence in rural society. Social boycott of dalits and poor for the crime of rightfully claiming occupation of land allotted to them in Ittikkal Agaram village of Krishnagiri district is a latest controversy that got highlighted in the press. DMK government is thoroughly exposed through its much trumpeted but completely unfulfilled promise of issuing two acres of lands to all landless people. Land struggles have assumed a new momentum in Tamil Nadu, apart from intensification of struggles on the issue of NREGA, BPL and housing sites.

In this backdrop, recent meetings, conventions and public hearings in three states formed part of political intervention in rural society by AIALA. The recent visit of Comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya, PBM of the party and Vice President of AIALA to these states was part of such a political intervention and gave a boost to the preparations towards Third all-India Conference of AIALA.


On September 2, 24th martyrdom anniversary of TN party comrades Comrades Chandrakumar and Chandrasekar, a public hearing on NREGA was held at Kumbakonam, organised by AIALA and AIPWA. Com. T. Kanniyan State Committee member of CPIML paid tributes to martyred comrades and the gathering observed 2 minutes silence in memory of the martyrs. Around 500 panchayat level AIALA and AIPWA activist from 70 panchayats participated, representing 12 districts. A jury panel comprised of Geethalayan, a noted advocate, Revathi, journalist and filmmaker, Papri, journalist and Deiva Rani, President Orakkadu Panchayat heard the depositions while leaders of AICCTU, AIALA, AIPWA and CPI(ML) conducted the hearing. One of the Jury and SCM of CPI ML explained the objective and perspective of the hearing.

The village activists presented their reports on the implementation of NREGA in their respective panchayats, based on a questionnaire circulated earlier. The jury panel found that starting from registration, issuance of job cards, and preparation of muster rolls, provision of employment and on the question of wage distribution there were gross irregularities, and corruption was rampant. In the past 2 years, nobody was given 100 days employment. In the name of rotation system workers were made to wait 6 weeks. They were underpaid and faced severe harassment by a nexus of panchyat presidents, project officers and influential political bigwigs who design and implement the scheme according to their whim in violation of the democratic process laid out in law. In the initial phase, women were discouraged on the plea that they could not do such hard work. Now the situation is upside down. More than 83% women workers were employed and no basic provisions as stipulated in the Act were provided for them; also, they were underpaid and had to face harassment. Wherever AIALA and women workers waged struggles, they won wage hikes; but even in these cases lack of vigilance on part of workers allowed the vested interests to take away the raised wage.

In one particular case in Pali village of Villupuram District, the AIALA village unit could expose the bogus muster roll – even then the district collector did not take any action. In the same district in one village panchayat of Thirunavalur block, Rs 9, 60,000 was swindled through bogus muster roll. In neighbouring Cuddalore district, AIALA panchayat unit relentlessly fought for the implementation of the scheme. The Project Officer of Kammapuram Union who claimed that there was no such law itself, was ultimately forced to accept when AIALA activists produced law and rules and ensured implementation in the panchayat. The success generated jubilation among workers and as news spread to the neighbouring panchayats, workers demanded implementation of the scheme in their villages. In the same district in Kattumaannarkudi Block one village president employed the workers in his own paddy field and paid the wage from the NREGA scheme! The Panchayat President of Radhanallur, Kattumannarkoil block managed to loot Rs 5.,00,00 and spent it for his daughter's marriage.

In Madurai, the minimum wages were not paid and the wages vary according to the fighting spirit of the workers. In Andipatti, wages went down to less than 45 and the AIALA workers organized a village meeting and declared a sit-in on the road. The administration paid Rs 72 and asked workers not to join AIALA! In another village Seminipatti, the AIALA organizer’s life was threatened by the Clerk of the Panchayat and Block office clerk, if he continued to propagate rights of the workers. AIALA hit back with a poster campaign and lodged a police complaint. Comrade Saroja of Katcahikatty narrated her experience with officials. One lady officer used to ill-treat women workers and reprimand them as ‘lazy’. Most of the women workers were aged and could not complete the tasks. Our Comrade Muthamma caught hold of the lady officer and told her to respect workers otherwise she would not be spared. The official was shocked; learning from others that Muthamma is an CPI(ML) activist she backed down and apologised.

One of the deponents from Pudukottai Comrade Thangaraj narrated that in his village Veeradipatti, successful mobilization of the workers forced the President to agree to distribute minimum wages of Rs 80, but he back tracked. Again workers gheraoed the village panchayat office. Angered by the repeated agitations he stopped the work. The local AIALA unit organized workers and started work of their own. The Zonal Project Officer had to come to the work site, acknowledge and register the execution of work and reprimand the President for violating the rules.

In Thugili Panchayat of Tanjore district, JCB machines were engaged for NREGA work. Local activists of AIALA objected and snatched the keys of the machines. After the intervention of police and officials, workers got an assurance that the machines would not be engaged anymore.

In Salem district due to the effect of the AIALA membership campaign, the village President on his own raised the wage from Rs 45 to Rs 80.

In Nerkundram Panchayat of Thiruvallur District, one women worker, member of AIALA died at the work site during working hours. The local administration dismissed the case as a natural death and denied the need for compensation according to the act. But AIALA took up the case and forced the district administration to recommend that the government pay compensation.

Comrades from Nagapttinam, Tuticorin, Dharmapuri and other districts too narrated their experiences and struggles.

The jury members Geethalayan and Revathi spoke on behalf of the panel. Geethalayan castigated the state government and called for intensification of workers’ struggles. Revathi congratulated the agricultural labourers on their struggles, and called for greater sensitivity to issues of gender in the course of struggles.

The public hearing strongly indicted the state and central governments and demanded that the DMK accept responsibilities for the dismal implementation of the scheme. Strongly criticizing the Government for the unprovoked lathi charge and firing on Rettanni women workers for demanding minimum wage, the Hearing demanded immediate dismissal of the police and revenue officials, and also demanded 200 days work and Rs. 200 wage per day and employment for 2 in a family. It strongly condemned the Rural Development Minister M.K. Stalin for his anti worker remarks.

Comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya, called upon the workers to resist the corrupt feudal nexus and hailed the fighting spirit of AIALA activists. He charged the DMK Govt for its political populism, at the cost of basic questions of the people.

CPIML state secretary, Comrade Balasundaram appealed to the gathered workers to contribute and collect funds for the Bihar flood relief funds. The gathering responded to the call and contributed enthusiastically. AICCTU leader N K Natarajan, AIALA state Executive Member Janarthanan, AIPWA leaders Thenmozhi and Usha and AIALA state president N Gunasegaran were present and S. Janakiraman, AIALA General Secretary, conducted the proceedings.
The first State Council meeting held on the subsequent day decided to raise the level of struggles on NREGA, particularly at grassroots. Panchayat and block level conferences and a campaign in September preceding all-India conference was also planned.


Puducherry is a state where rural labour constitutes around 10% of the total population while the share of agriculture in the state GDP is less than 5 percent. But, Karaikal, part of Puducherry which is closer to rural areas of Tamil Nadu and was the worst affected by tsunami is still dominated by issues of rural labour. Issues related to implementation of NREGA are so grave that not a single day passes without any protest. Job cards are not issued to all rural labourers, neither is employment provided for more than eight days. Wages are not paid in full even to those who managed to get some days of work.

With the decreasing share agricultural income, the government is planning to build an airport in an area of 700 acres of cultivable land. The project is expected to displace hundreds of small and marginal farmers covering three villages, who will also lose cattle-grazing land. A much greater number of agrarian and rural labourers will also lose their livelihood.

In this backdrop, a Convention on airport-related issues and its effects on rural labour was held at Karaikal on 4th September. Comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya came down heavily on the anti-poor policies of the Congress government and the convention was presided by R Alagappan.

Comrades Balasundaram, State Secretary of TN, Balasubramanian, State Secretary of Puducherry, E Jayapal, Karaikal District Secretary and P Sankaran, President of Action Committee of Airport Project, among others, also addressed the convention.


A convention on “Rights of Livelihood of Agrarian Labourers” was held at Gangavati, one of the backward taluks of Northern Karnataka region. The Convention was preceded by an impressive rally of hundreds of activists wearing symbolic red shawls. The convention highlighted the real issues of agrarian labour in the state where the ‘Red Shawl’ Movement of agrarian labourers was gaining ground against the hitherto dominant ‘Green Shawls’ Movement led by rich farmers and kulaks represented by Raitha Sanghas. AIALA is the possibly the only organization in the State that is trying to give a shape to the aspirations of agrarian labourers, small and marginal peasants as a class while almost all other organizations are only exploiting this most oppressed class.

Comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya called upon agrarian labourers to give a fitting reply to the anti-farmer, anti-poor BJP government in the state and pointed out the failure of ‘secularism’ of the JD(S) and Congress variety that failed to check the growth of communal forces in the state. He also criticized the growing domination of mining and real estate mafia in state politics, particularly in the BJP government.

Comrade Ramappa, state secretary of CPI(ML) called upon agrarian labourers to recreate the anti-imperialist tradition of Kittur Rani Chennamma and Sangoli Rayan against the growing stranglehold of multinational and corporate houses in agriculture in the state. He also urged them to develop a new wave of Left movement of agrarian labourers in the state against the compromises of Raitha Sanghas and opportunist politics in the state. Comrade Bharadwaj presided over the convention.

The subsequent Cadre Meeting was very lively and encouraging. The kind of issues that were discussed by activists displayed increasing ties with grassroots and indicated the process of internalization of AIALA in rural society of Karnataka. The meeting resolved to increase membership and to intensify struggles on NREGA related issues apart from raising issues of ‘Bagairhukum’ lands, BPL cards, housing sites and ‘Ashraya Mane.’ 


Lucknow Convention

On September 17, a State-level Cadre Convention was held at Lucknow on 'The Present Situation and Our Tasks'. The Convention was attended by some 300 district- and block-level Party activists and key organizers on different mass fronts. It was inaugurated by Politburo member and UP incharge Ramji Rai, following which State Secretary Sudhakar Yadav placed a comprehensive action plan to make the forthcoming 3rd national Conference of AIALA scheduled to be held at Ballia on 7-8 November a resounding success. Representatives of different district units and mass fronts endorsed the action plan and resolved to use the occasion to galvanise the entire mass base of the Party and reach out to agricultural labourers and poor and middle peasants in large numbers in a monthlong statewide Mazdur-Kisan Adhikar Abhiyan (campaign for worker-peasant rights).

The campaign will focus on the pressing demands of the rural poor and the aggrieved peasantry concerning NREGA, BPL, land and forest rights, opposition to state-sponsored corporate land-grab, loan waiver for peasants and payment of sugarcane dues and the larger issues of communalism and suppression of democracy. The month-long campaign will culminate in a big worker-peasant rally in Ballia on November 7 preceding the actual proceedings of the conference. Party General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya delivered the concluding address at the convention and called upon the entire Party organization in the state to rise to the occasion and take the Party’s work on the agricultural labour and peasant front as the key to expanding and asserting the party’s political role in the state.

The convention was presided over by a five-member presidium comprising CCM and AIALA National Secretary Krishna Adhikari, UP Kisan Sabha Convenor Ishwari Prasad Kushwaha, AIALA State Secretary Sriram Choudhury and Party State Committee members Sunil Yadav and Ram Darash.

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