Even as Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s much-hyped ‘Seva Yatras’ were proving to be a flop show, thousands of peasants, labourers and other sections of the rural poor turned out in CPI(ML)’s Rally at Gandhi Maidan, Patna on November 21.
The “Bhrastachar Mitao-Loktantra Bachao” (Wipe Out Corruption - Save Democracy) Rally pointed out that corporate loot of land and resources was by far the most pervasive form of corruption. The participation of rural poor in the Rally in large numbers testified to the rejection of the Nitish Government’s claims of fighting corruption or empowering the poor and oppressed. It was widely recognized, even by the media which has largely been cosy with Nitish hitherto, that this was the largest rally in Bihar against the Nitish-led NDA Government.
The rally was addressed by Comrades Dipankar Bhattacharya (General Secretary of the party), Arun Ghatani (CPRM Darjeeling), Mangat Ram Pasla (CPM Punjab), Rajaram Singh (CPIML’s CCM and General Secretary of the All India Kisan Mahasabha), Meena Tiwari (Party’s CCM and General Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association), Rameshwar Prasad (Party’s CCM and President of the All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association), KD Yadav (Party’s CCM and Bihar State President of the AIKM), Arun Singh (member of Party’s State Standing Committee), Mahbub Alam (Party’s State Committee member) and Satyadeo Ram (Party’s SCM and Bihar State President of AIALA). Comrade Rameshwar Prasad conducted the proceedings of the rally and public meeting. Also present on the dais were several senior-most leaders of CPI(ML), including- Comrades Swadesh Bhattacharya, Ramji Rai, DP Bakshi, Kartik Pal, Ram Jatan Sharma, Amar (all Politburo members), Dhirendra Jha (AIALA’s General Secretary and Party’s CCM), Brij Bihari Pandey, Kunal and Saroj Chaubey (Party CCMs). Apart from them State leaders of mass organisations were also present.
Addressing the rally, the CPI(ML) General Secretary called for a powerful movement to ensure a Lokpal Bill that brought everyone from patwari to PM, corporates and judiciary, under its ambit. However, he said, a law, however comprehensive, was far from enough to get rid of corruption. Economic policies responsible for handing over land and resources to corporate control must be reversed to root out corruption. Comrade Dipankar said that the Lokayukta law that the Nitish Government was eyewash, in which selection and investigation would all remain in Government control. Calling for CBI enquiries into AC-DC Bill scam, BIADA land scam and Forbesganj police firing, he said that a empowered, people’s Lokayukta was needed in Bihar and not a sarkari one.
Towards its conclusion the rally passed a seven-point resolution that was proposed by AISA leader Abhyuday. One of the key resolutions called for block-level demonstrations and gheraos on December 15 on burning issues of the rural poor.
The 4th National Conference of AIALA took place at Patna on 22 November 2011, with the central slogan ‘Against Hunger, Corruption, Repression; For Land, Livelihood, Social Security and Dignity!’ The Conference venue was named after Comrade Ram Naresh Ram, and the streets of Patna (rechristened Baba Nagarjun Nagar on the occasion), were decorated with welcome arches and red flags.
The Conference began with the hoisting of the red flag and homage to the martyrs. Hirawal, Comrade Ramashankar Nirmohi and Babuni, and cultural activists from Karnataka presented rousing revolutionary songs. Comrade Rameshwar Prasad, National President of AIALA, gave the welcome address.
On the dais were Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary, CPI(ML), Arun Ghatani of Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM), Rajaram Singh, GS, AIKM, and Meena Tiwari, GS, AIPWA. The Conference was inaugurated by Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya.
Comrade Dhirendra Jha, the outgoing GS of AIALA, presented the Conference report, which was discussed by delegates. 1388 delegates from 15 states – participated in the Conference.
The Conference discussed the issues and challenges before the task of organizing agricultural workers and resolved to intensify the movement of rural poor against corruption, land grab, and for their rights.
The Conference rejected the Draft Food Security Bill proposed by the Government as a mockery, since it is a far cry from guaranteeing food security and in fact proposes replacing rations with cash, and resolved to build a countrywide struggle of rural poor demanding universalisation of PDS and guarantee of 50 kg of food grain as well as pulses, vegetables, milk, oil and other essentials as subsidized rations. The Conference condemned the fact that the Government had yet to withdraw the infamous ‘Rs.26-Rs.32’ poverty line. The Government had merely said that some above this line would also be entitled to food rations. The Conference instead demanded that the vast majority of the population excluding the unquestionably rich, be included in the BPL list – with automatic inclusion of all agricultural workers, landless, sharecroppers, marginal farmers, contract and honorarium workers. The Conference demanded provision of subsidized food rations as well as all other social welfare benefits to this BPL section of people. The Conference demanded that the questionnaire for BPL census be prepared with consultation with agricultural workers’ organizations and trade unions. The Conference announced a countrywide campaign with the slogan – ‘Awaken the Poor: Let No Poor Be Left Out, And No Rich Find a Place in the BPL List’.
On the question of corruption in MNREGA and other rural welfare schemes, and well as inclusion of all the poor in the BPL list, the Conference announced a countrywide protest at block HQs on 15 December. In Bihar, the AIALA would gherao the block HQs on this question.
The Conference rejected the LARR (Land Acquisition) Bill proposed by the Government, terming it a document to legalise land grab. The Conference instead demanded protection of all agricultural, forest and coastal land. The Conference also demanded land reform laws to ensure the rights of sharecroppers, as well as shelter rights and 10 decimals of homestead land to each agricultural labourer.
The Conference demanded a comprehensive legislation for the welfare and rights of agricultural labourers. Noting the callousness of state and central Governments towards rural healthcare (especially the instance of the encephalitis epidemic in Uttar Pradesh and high maternal mortality all over India), the Conference demanded comprehensive rural healthcare as a priority.
Addressing the Conference, Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya said that legacy of Comrade Ram Naresh Ram would inspire the struggles of rural workers and poor even though he is no longer with us. Agricultural workers, he said, are not just struggling for their own rights; their struggle is in fact to save agriculture, save the country. He cited the instance of the Kaun Banega Crorepati winner from Bihar being declared the brand ambassador of MNREGA, saying that in doing so, the Government has unwittingly revealed the truth – that MNREGA, far from being a job guarantee, is in fact a lottery. He said that MNREGA should, in fact, provide jobs round the year, for at least 300 days a year, and the MNREGA wage should not be less than Rs 300 a day. There is merit in the argument that MNREGA be extended to agriculture, so that it can contribute to combating the agricultural crisis.
He called for land reforms, housing rights, as well as education and health rights for rural poor. He said that AIALA needs to develop continuity as an organization that works round the year to give shape to the aspirations and struggles of rural poor. The initiative of rural labour activists in the villages needs to be unleashed. Even while fighting for small issues, he said, we should be inspired by big dreams and revolutionary vision, striving to make those dreams of a bigger, stronger AIALA and more vibrant struggles for a new society and politics, a reality.
The Conference unanimously adopted the report after Comrade Dhirendra’s summing up of the debates. A 175-member national council was elected with a 47-member executive, and Comrades Rameshwar Prasad and Dhirendra Jha were reelected National President and General Secretary respectively.