May 1 2009. The Hindu
More than a million workers have lost their jobs and are facing abject poverty, starvation and diseases after tea gardens were closed down in recent years in the Dooars region of West Bengal, a study claimed today.
By Rick Steelhammer, Commondreams. May 4, 2009
Sarita Malviya wasn’t born when an explosion at a Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India, on Dec. 3, 1984, sent a cloud of deadly gas containing the compound methyl isocyanate into the old section of the city, searing the lungs and causing the deaths of at least 4,000 people.
INFOGEN, an IT firm in Kolkata, recently folded up overnight with its management disappearing, bringing into focus the issue of employee rights on a landscape dotted with such firms. An appeal from employees was published earlier.
By Dana Cloud, MRZine. April 2009
The noxious weeds of the new McCarthyism have begun to bear bitter fruit around the country. Reports are coming in, not just about the better-known cases of harassment and firing of Norman Finkelstein (denied tenure at DePaul and banned from a speaking engagement at Clark College) or Joel Kovel (recently fired from his position as the Alger Hiss Chair of Social Studies at Bard College). Many readers will know the horrific case of Sami al-Arian, the University of South Florida professor jailed for five years without basis or charges for the suspicion of ties to terrorism.
By Dipankar Dey
On the 23rd March 2009, the Tata Motors Company (TMC) launched its much publicized small car ‘Nano’ at Mumbai. As the Sanand plant at Gujarat is at its inception now, a makeshift arrangement has been made to produce 50,000 units at their Pantnagar plant. Limited numbers of prospective buyers will receive their cars after three months, in June 2009. It is reported that the basic model priced at Rs one lakh (ex-factory without transportation cost) without air conditioning will contribute only 20 per cent of the Nano sales and rest 80 per cent will be contributed by the premium models priced at around Rs1.6 lakh.
How does the media in Chhattisgarh report the conflict between the Naxalites and the Salwa Judum, or the conflict between local communities and corporations? Quite simply, it doesn’t. The pressures on journalists in Chhattisgarh are unique. They are paid not to report stories that are critical of the powers-that-be, whether they are industrial lobbies or state authorities.
Dropping a virtual bombshell in the run-up to the second phase of Lok Sabha polls, Forward Bloc state general secretary Mr Ashoke Ghosh, today disclosed that it was chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who had ordered police to fire on Nandigram villagers on 14 March, 2007 that killed at least 14 persons and triggered an unprecedented political turmoil in the state.
By Mukul Sharma, Kafila
In the first phase of elections, data (affidavits) available of 1440 candidates out of a total of 1715, compiled and analysed by the National Election Watch, is revealing: There are 193 crorepatis contesting elections in this phase; they have increased from 9 percent in 2004 to 14 percent in 2009. Congress has 45, followed by BJP and BSP, with 30 and 22 respectively. All parties, including independents, share this burden. Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh have a majority of them. Their total assets go as high as 173, 125, 89, 72, 56, 45, 30 crores. Neither the earth, nor the sky is the limit. And the declared assets may just reveal a partial picture, considering the fact that most of them (979 candidates) do not even bother to have a permanent account number (PAN), which is necessary for filing annual income tax returns.
April 22 2009. Ilina Sen’s SOS Message on Conspiracy by Chhattisgarh Administration
I am writing to share some extremely distressing information that has just now come to light. We now have clear proof that the police in Chhattisgarh are actively interfering with Binayak’s need for health care. I will just go over the facts with you.
Pictures from the Adivasi Rally of April 24th, 2009.
By Debarshi Das, Sanhati
What we mostly find in India is not open unemployment but underemployment. This is principally because going without jobs is a luxury in a country having non-existent unemployment benefits. Employed kith and kin cannot be of much help either if one is jobless because the wage levels are barely enough to sustain one. However a person doing a job which neither she nor others consider gainful employment should not be counted as employed . Her right to labour and dignity is yet to be realised. As pressure of global capital tightens and the organised sector shrinks, workers are made to take up more and more of such unpaying and hazardous jobs, whose remuneration stagnates as the rest of the economy surges past. All this is perhaps not much surprising. What is amusing is the eagerness with which dominant economic tradition of the day ties itself in knots.
By Koustav De, Sanhati
The Lalgarh movement has moved far beyond the initial point of fighting police repression. The people have decided to take up development initiatives that in theory are their fundamental right but which they have never seen – irrigation facilities, drinking water, and a health center.
Fact-finding team: Amit Bhaduri, economist, Professor emeritus, JNU; Madhu Bhaduri, womens’ rights activist, IFS, former ambassador to Vietnam; Vidya Das, adivasi rights activist, Agragamee, Kashipur, Orissa; Gautam Navlakha, PUDR, consulting editor, EPW; Colin Gonsalves, supreme court lawyer, Human rights law network; Aseem Srivastava, economist, writer, activist; Kaustav Banerjee, economist, CSD, Delhi; Budhaditya Das, student, DU; Manika Bora, student, JNU; Sudipta, human rights activist, Adhikar, Asansol, West Bengal
April 1, 2009.
A citizens’ committee, comprising geologists, chemists, chemical engineers, physicist, river scientists, doctors, economists and fish experts, has alleged that the government has withheld information on the proposed chemical hub at Nayachar.
By P. Sainath. March 21, 2009
What does it mean to rank much better on GDP per capita than in the HDI, as we do? It means we have been less successful in converting income into human development.
By Shubhranshu Choudhary. 31 Mar 2009, Indiatogether.
In Chhatisgarh’s Durg district, there is no shortage of farmers who have taken their lives – the district ranks second in the state on this count. But equally, there is no shortage of those who don’t see these suicides.
Nawagarh, in Durg district of Chhatisgarh, is a very small place by any standard. Everyone knows everyone else here, and so it was not difficult to find a local journalist as soon as we reached Nawagarh. We were looking for help to investigate stories of farmers’ suicides in the area. A simple enquiry at a local paan shop on the road side got us the address and directions to the most famous journalist in town.
The real story behind the much-hyped industrialization of West Bengal is one of continuous de-industrialization, land grab and conversion to real estate. This essay captures the emerging Shriram Hitec city in Hind Motors. Included is an article on industries in the Barackpur-Kanchrapara belt.
The massacre in Marichjhapi, which took place under CPIM rule in Bengal between January 26 and May 16, 1979, has few parallels in the history of independent India. It holds fair comparison with the Jalianwala Bag massacre perpetrated by the British. The level of police brutality was horrific. The entire island of refugees was put under economic blockade from January, after the Left had come to power the previous year promising to champion the cause of the refugees. The blockade first starved out the population, and then the killings began.
West Bengal Policy Reversal and the Marichjhapi Massacre by Ross Mallick
When tigers became citizens, refugees “tiger-food” by Annu Jalais
This report dated 20th November, 2008 was prepared by Jayanta Singha and Arjun Sengupta who were part of the fact-finding team that went to Salboni. They are also members of the SEZ Birodhi Prachar Mancha. The report has been translated from Bengali by Koel Das and Suvarup Saha, Sanhati.
In Salboni, West Midnapur district of Bengal, the Jindal Group is building a SEZ on 4877.44 acres of land. According to the State Government and JSW Bengal Steel Limited, the SEZ is being built on totally arid land. And that the land has been given joyfully, spontaneously, in return for which the Jindal Group has provided adequate compensation and promises. The job of this team was to probe the veracity of these claims, the socio-economic effect of the purported SEZ on the local population, and its environmental implications.
By Shamik Sarkar, Sanhati
1. A short note on agriculture 2. Opposition to land acquisition 3. The tale of crisis and beyond 4. Some notable characteristics of the resistance movement by social labour 5. Parliamentary Democracy
Infogen, an IT firm in Kolkata, recently folded up overnight, and its management absconded, leaving over a thousand employees jobless. With IT firms mushrooming all over, there is an acute need for ensuring employees’ rights and proper prosecution in criminal cases.
A sketch of Ashis Nandy’s recent lecture at UC Berkeley. March 13, 2009
It was not hatred, but a strong undercurrent of humanity, that was the surprising finding of research on the traumatic bloodbath of the Partition, iconoclastic Indian researcher Ashis Nandy told an audience March 3 at the University of California.
Nandy made some unconventional points: Even in the terrible bloodbath that claimed the lives of millions, as many as one in four people among survivors said they were saved by the other community, and their fondest memories were still of the days when they lived with the ostensibly enemy community. He added that while those who engaged in the killings virtually got off scot-free, they paid a price in terms of mental and physical health and some even accepted culpability in their later age.
In spite of increased enrolment, why are children in state-funded schools not getting quality education?
By Parimal Bhattacharya
In Satyajit Ray’s film, Aparajito, an inspector comes on a visit to a village school and asks a class the meaning of a Bengali word. The incident turns out to be serendipitous for young Apu: not only does he give the correct answer, but his moving rendition from a primer also pleases the headmaster.
1. World Bank roots for urbanisation, migration – March 13, 2009
2. Migration to urban areas is good, says World Bank – March 13, 2009
3. Encourage clustered economic growth, World Bank tells India – March 13, 2009
4. NREGA is a barrier to economic development: World Bank – March 15, 2009
5. World Bank to clear $2.6 bn loan for India soon – March 15, 2009
Various schemes of the Indian government like NREGA, watershed programmes and schemes for development of small and medium towns are acting as “policy barriers to internal mobility”, the bank said in its ‘World Development Report’ 2009.
1. Andhra Pradesh Court ruling : Police must file FIR after encounter – Feb 2009
2. Conviction is possible even if proof deficient: SC – March 2009
By Koustav De, Sanhati
(1) The Gorkhaland movement: A short background (2) Gorkhaland leadership extends hand of solidarity for Lalgarh movement (3) Exchanging views: A challenge to vote equations (4) The State’s divisive tactics (5) Looking forward
By Anindita Chowdhury. The Statesman, February 28 2009
In its zeal for industrialisation, the CPI-M now seems to be moving in the reverse gear on land reforms, going back on the progress it made three decades earlier.
The complaint has come from the state land and land reforms department after the state industries department demanded that the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) and West Bengal Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (WBIIDC) be given ryot status so that they can lease out land to industrialists and manage the land on their own. The proposal apparently, has the blessings of the chief minister as well.
By Chris Harman. Socialist Review, February 2009
November’s deadly attacks in Mumbai had one peculiar side-effect on the British media. Journalists were forced out into the streets and discovered that the vast majority of the city’s population are still poor.
By S Sivasegaram. RadicalNotes, 24 February 2009
Sri Lanka is in deep crisis on many fronts, and its politics is almost a total mess. Yet, its President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, elected by a whisker in November 2005, thanks to the boycott of the election by the Tamils in the North-East, after a last-minute call by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is the only Sri Lankan head of government to have grown in popularity since election. He owes this immense popularity among the majority Sinhalese to his rejection of the peace process and the success of the armed forces in regaining, at a very high but unknown cost in men and material, all but 200 sq. km of the vast territory held by the LTTE.
By Daniel Pepper. The New York Times, March 1 2009.
Madkam Deva walks about 20 paces off a dirt footpath in a verdant forest, finds the place where large, orange ants crawl over a dark maroon stain, then points to another bloodstain a few yards away. This, he says, is where he saw one villager cut down by police bullets, and then a second. “I’m scared they’ll come after me now,” says Deva, who is about 20. He says a bullet grazed his right forearm while he fled the barrage. His account of what happened in this remote and undeveloped corner of eastern India on Jan. 8 boils down to this: the police rounded up 24 tribal villagers, told them they were going to a station for questioning, then lined them up for execution en route. Five, including Deva, escaped.
Human rights activist and public health specialist Binayak Sen was arrested two years ago for being a member of an unlawful association. For good measure he has also been charged with ‘sedition’ and ‘conspiracy’ and waging war against the state. The police also added charges claiming he acted as a courier for the Naxalities. He is being held under the Chhattisgarh State Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act — both ugly images of the repealed POTA and tools in hands of the state to silence voices of dissent.
This is an update on his trial.
Tribal Peoples Committee of Purulia district hold meeting for basic rights in solidarity with Lalgarh
On 22nd February, 2009, the Adivasi Moolbasi Janashadharan Committee (Tribal Peoples Committee) of Purulia district in West Bengal held a meeting for basic rights and in solidarity with the movement in Lalgarh. Pictures and a charter of demands are given.
Short documentary on state violence in Dumka, Jharkhand [Youtube, Hindi, 6 mins]
Background report on Dumka firings by Sandeep Pandey
A comprehensive report from NAPM
This paper has been produced by Gurgaon Workers News, February 2009.
1. The character of the Shining India after the crash 1991
2. Landmarks of the current crisis in India. a) The Crisis Blow b) The state’s reaction
3. Margins of the crisis regime in India a) The Social Unrest of the Rural World b) The Energy Crunch c) The Industrial Impasse d) The political consequences for the crisis regime
4. New frame-work and potentials for proletarian unrest
By Amit Bhaduri. EPW, January 2009
It is remarkable that despite the inexactitude of economics as a body of knowledge, which should have left enough space for some if not several contesting economic ideologies, over the last 20 years or so all the major political parties in India cutting across the spectrum from the Left to the Right largely converged to a very similar point of view on economic management. Would the current global financial and economic crisis give us the courage necessary to re-educate ourselves to view the “logic of the market” more logically?
Message from Jean Dreze:
Two NREGA activists, Bhukhan Singh and Niyamat Ansari, were arrested on false charges in Manika (Latehar District, Jharkhand) on 15 February 2009, and sent to jail on 16 February. This appears to be a retaliation against the leading role they played in the recent struggle for payment of unemployment allowances in Manika. This struggle led to the payment of the unemployment allowance in two Gram Panchayats (Kope and Jerua) on 7 February 2009, and a fine on the local BDO. For further details, see attached complaints to the DGP Jharkhand (and earlier press note in Hindi).
By Jean Dreze and Christian Oldgies. Frontline, February 2009.
In an article in the July 27, 2007 issue of Frontline we presented and discussed data relating to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) for 2006-07, extracted from the official website of the Ministry of Rural Development ( www.nrega.nic.in). This follow-up note is essentially an “update” along the same lines, including a brief comparison of 2006-07 and 2007-08 figures.
No jobs, Muslims only fobbed off in Bengal
Stink of prejudice at every step
Sorry, you’re Muslim : Visually impaired techie’s house hunt horror
Clash in Midnapore town after Muharram procession stopped
Feb 6, 2009. The Times of India.
The Supreme Court on Thursday said that the government cannot arm common men or those associated with Salwa Judum — an anti-naxal people’s movement in Chhattisgarh — to curb the unlawful activities of naxalites, in remarks which are sure to encourage those campaigning for the dissolution of the armed resistance promoted by the state government to counter the growing Left-wing extremism in the state.
This report from a civil society forum called Save Naihati Industrial Area provides interesting perspectives to the breakdown of industry in Naihati, West Bengal, and its effects on local cultural and social life.
Loomtex Engineering Pvt.Ltd., West Bengal, continues to be a jute mill where 2,300 workers are well past the age of retirement. The management has not cleared their gratuity dues for the last 10-15 years and forces old, feeble, ailing workers to work at a measly rate of Rs. 100 per day. Loomtex is also a mill where the Provident Funds accounts of the workers have not been audited since 1997. Sangrami Mazdoor Union, newly formed by workers, has been agitating for clearance of the due provident fund and gratuity of since January 2008. On May 15 2008, a personnel manager was found dead in his office on the mill premises, while the Sangrami Mazdoor Union (SMU) was conducting a peaceful gate meeting protesting the non-payment of long standing provident fund and gratuity dues. Police and management blamed workers, throwing many of them in jail, while the spiraling violence perpetrated by the management’s hired goons threatened to break the back of SMU.
These notes from jail are by an imprisoned worker and appeared in ShramikShakti, November 2008.
Section 1: Abstract
Section 2: Voices from below
Section 3: Sickness Profiles: National Tannery, Kolay Biscuit, Eastern Paper Mill and 14 others.
Section 4: Regional Roundup of Industrial Belts: Eastern fringes, B.T. Road, Dum-Dum Lake Town, Jadavpur-Tollygunj, Taratala, Beleghata
Section 5: Factsheets: Industrial policy summary, Efforts to combat sickness, Survey of 500 sick industries, Rajarhat township, “Excess” industrial land.
Section 6: Summary
By Siddhartha Mitra and Debarshi Das, Sanhati. Translated from a FAMA study
Contents: 1. Introduction: the old versus the new market: the politics of change 2. The attempt to control small businesses 3. How the attack on small businesses has already impacted the rest of the world 4. What is the current situation of small scale retail in India 5. How this is all going to change 6. The death of small businesses and the false promise of new employment 7. Farmer suicides 8. Procuring the crops – the farmers are left out 9. Impact on the environment 10. That is why there is Nandigram, Khammam, Posco 11. Let us walk together
North Bengal – when the cup inebriates: Sankar Ray, Perspectives
Morcha peace pledge, threat
Bid to stop ‘ethnic’ conflict – Talk at the earliest, CM writes to Gurung
They informed us that their predecessors have been staying in that area for more than 100 years.
January 17, 2009: DLF, which was pursuing a huge real-estate project at Dankuni, West Bengal amidst widespread protests, has formally abandoned the project, ostensibly due to the current economic crisis.
1. 900 landholders reject land acquisition in Andal, site of Aerotropolis project – Jan 11 2009
2. Villagers form Farmers Committee at Andal, site of Aerotropolis project – Jan 6, 2009
(1) Introduction – Shabnam Hashmi and Ram Puniyani (2) Terror: the aftermath – Anand Patwardhan (3) As the fires die: the terror of the aftermath – Biju Mathew (4) Hotel Taj: Icon of whose India? – Gnani Sankaran (5) Why the United States got it wrong – P. Sainath (6) The Monster in the Mirror – Arundhati Roy (7) Counter: Terrorism must not kill democracy – Praful Bidwai (8) Handling queries: democratic responses. Antuley remarks and the aftermath – Ram Puniyani (9) Need for a thorough investigation – Raveena Hansa (10) Terrorism, rule of law, and humna rights – K.G.Balakrishnan (11) Acts of terror and Terrorising Act: Unfolding Indian tragedy – Sukla Sen (12) Our politicians are still not listening – Colin Gonsalves (13) India’s new anti-terror laws are draconian, say activists – Praful Bidwai (14) Terrorism: are stronger laws the answer? – Prashant Bhushan
These updates are from the December 2008 issue of Gurgaon Workers News
1. Updated list of exploitative companies and what they do
2. Commonwealth Games: Building Workers’ Riot in Delhi
3. Maruti Suzuki and DLF: Pillars of Gurgaon’s Urbanisation shaken by Crisis
Apeejay Group in Kolkata, Shrishti in Rajarhat
DLF and Siddha Group in Rajarhat
Ruchi Realty in Kolkata
Ambuja Realty in North Bengal
Salarpuria group in Rajarhat
Singapore major FEO in Kolkata
Constant updates on the Forest Rights Act are available on forestrightsact.com
In December 2006, Parliament passed the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act. This historic legislation marks the first time in India’s history that a law has been passed recognising the rights of forest communities. Implementation of the Act is an unfolding political struggle.
1. General issues in implementation across states
2. Detailed updates from various states as of December 2008
By Neil Clark, New Statesman. December 2008.
If socialism signifies a political and economic system in which the government controls a large part of the economy and redistributes wealth to produce social equality, then I think it is safe to say the likelihood of its making a comeback any time in the next generation is close to zero – Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History, in Time magazine in 2000.
He should take a trip around Europe today. Make no mistake, socialism – pure, unadulterated socialism, an ideology that was taken for dead by liberal capitalists – is making a strong comeback. Across the continent, there is a definite trend in which long-established parties of the centre left that bought in to globalisation and neoliberalism are seeing their electoral dominance challenged by unequivocally socialist parties which have not.
By Debora Mackenzie, Newscientist. Dec 2008.
History may be repeating itself. Until the mid-20th century, many European countries grew rich on the resources of their colonies. Now, countries including China, Kuwait and Sweden are snapping up vast tracts of agricultural land in poorer nations, especially in Africa, to grow biofuels and food for themselves.
Dec 22, 2008: This survey by the premier statistical institution of the country produced interesting results. Rural poor in most states in India, including a majority in Bengal, oppose land acquisition. Fault-lines exist along the poverty line: people above are less opposed than those below. A small minority of states produced results in the affirmative. Interestingly, these states included ones with higher as well as lower per capita SDP than Bengal, pointing out the complex dynamics at play in these states.
January 8, 2009: West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation will soon conduct a socio-economic viability study to overcome the land acquisition hurdle for the Rs 2,000 crore Apeejay-Bharati shipyard joint venture project in the State.
1. Current statistics of healthcare in Bengal: causes for concern
2. Amartya Sen lists factors behind failing ‘health’
By Sanjay Ghosh, South 24 Parganas. Translated from Sangbad Manthan by Koel Das, Sanhati.
This political travelogue probes the lives of tribals in the Sunderbans, looking at their means of livelihood, Panchayat power dynamics, and access to the public distribution system, mid-day meals, and education. The writer comes to the conclusion that “…even after 62 years of independence, this part of Sunderban, located 3 hours from Kolkata, is a land of nothing…”.
“Singrauli will turn into Singapore,” – Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, 2008
Across the nation, up to 60,000,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by power, irrigation, mining and other development projects since independence.
By Sankar Ray. Dec 2008
Many old guard – especially fellow-travellers of CPI(M or CPI prior to the victory of Left Front in the Ninth elections to the West Bengal State Assembly – who saw the film Szabadság, szerelem (Children of Glory) depicting the turmoil in Hungary in 1956, a few months after the historic and controversial secret speech of Nikita Sergeyvich Khruschev on the last day of the 20th Congress of now-defunct Communist Party of Soviet Union in the fag end of February, at the 14th West Bengal Film Festival (14th FF)at Nandan Auditorium – looked pensive.
While walking out of auditorium, some were heard admitting that they were misinformed and misled by party leaders.
Dec 20, 2008
The power minister today asked Burdwan district officials to complete land acquisition formalities in Katwa for a power plant after being told that most farmers had agreed, but the land owners have denied the claim.
Implications for peoples movements
Press Release from Kolkata activists: deep anguish over laws – Dec 24, 2008
Acts of Terror and Terrorising Act – Unfolding Indian Tragedy – Dec 19, 2008
Double-barrel strike on terror – Dec 16, 2008
One of the aspects of neoliberal accumulation in India and Bengal has been the steady creation of real estate enclaves, hubs, and gated cities. A new chapter in this process is the impending concept of airport cities, with the usual promises of job creation, downstream employment, and development. An idea imported from highly developed nations, the aerotropolis, as it is called, will demand the creation of attendent SEZs and the provision of infrastructure like water and electricity by local taxpayers. A land acquisition notice for an airport city in Andal (Burdwan, West Bengal) was served in December 2008.
By Parimal Bhattacharya, Dec 2008
Every night, at 11 pm, Moumita Pan waits in the dark with her schoolbooks for the electric light to come on. A student of Class XI, she has to race through her studies before the light goes out again at two in the morning. Moumita is the only girl in the workers’ quarters of the Jenson and Nicholson plant at Naihati, closed since 2004, who has cleared the Madhyamik and has not dropped out yet.
‘Malnourished’ Sabar dies: Belpahari, West Midnapur, Dec 14 2008
Kalla Sabar (34) a resident of Labani under Simulpal gram panchayat in Belpahari block in Midnapore West died succumbed to tuberculosis yesterday. Kalla had contracted tuberculosis as a result of acute malnutrition. Kalla’s body thrown in a nearby forest by the family members, police said.
Human rights may be overlooked to fight terror: PM
West Bengal DGP advocates torture, MASUM protests
Dec 14, 2008. Swapan Ganguly, General Secretary, Paschim Banga Khet Mazoor Samity.
The Calcutta High Court today admitted a public interest litigation on non implementation of the 100 days work guarantee scheme in West Bengal. The Bench consisting of Chief Justice SS Nijjar and Justice Sanjib Banerjee ordered the State and Central Governments to file their replies within two weeks to the allegations raised by Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS), a non party, registered trade union of agricultural workers.
By Ajay Bera, Arambag. Translated by Debarshi Das from ShramikShakti Newsletter, November 2008.
Drawing from daily interactions with hundreds of decimated farmers of Arambag Subdivision I am writing this article to give a communicable shape to my experience. Neither the electronic media nor the newspapermen care to see their abject destitution. The government has become tactically deaf. The words which are going to follow are not mine, but of the farmers.
Suicides by farmers of Maharashtra crossed the 4,000-mark in 2007, for the third time in four years, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). As many as 4,238 farmers of the State took their lives that year, the latest for which data are available, accounting for a fourth of 16,632 farmer suicides in the country.
By Bishan Dutta. Translated by Suvarup Saha, from Shramikshakti Newsletter, November 2008.
Privately owned educational institutions have been on a roll from the days of the Rajiv Gandhi’s new economic policies. Here, in West Bengal, the left-front government joined the bandwagon a little late but has been quick to champion its cause with immense dedication – testified by the mushrooming of more than 150 professional degree colleges in last few years. The newest in the list is the KPC Medical College located at Jadavpur, in the south of Kolkata.
By Dipankar Basu and Debarshi Das, Sanhati
In a recent lecture, eminent Marxist scholar David Harvey drew the attention of his audience to recent developments in West Bengal, India as an example of “accumulation by dispossession”. The main target of his example, the CPIM, responded to his criticism through certain claims which have been perfected down the years into an effective propaganda machine. Many exhaustive studies in the past and recent events have shown these claims to be either untruth or half-truths. This article summarizes the main contours of those studies, and argues that Harvey has indeed correctly interpreted the happenings in Bengal.
Some commentators like Biju Mathew have stressed the dangers of State and civilian vigilanteism and the consequent erosion of civil liberties in the wake of the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. These dangers are particularly grave amidst general demands for the recall of POTA and for higher defense budgets and militarized lives for ordinary citizens. A modest proposal in Bengal holds ominous potential.
Govt to consider Tata’s proposal in helping domestic companies
An open letter to Ratan Tata
Dec 5, 2008: It is naturally assumed that the human cost of development will be outsourced to rural populations, far away from urban enclaves – hence the location of polluting industries and nuclear power plants in those areas, slum eviction drives in the cities, etc. An extension of this mindset is that it is perfectly natural for 5,000 rural citizens of India to go without power for 3 days, to ensure that their Prime Minister’s 25 minute trip to the locality is secure. Police are ready to be deployed, in case somebody finds the sacrifice exploitative. The fact that the trip finally doesn’t take place on a whim adds to the insult.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Poznań, Poland, between 1-12 December 2008. Over a decade ago, most countries joined an international treaty – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – to begin to consider what can be done to reduce global warming. This Conference of the Parties (COP) is the “supreme body” of the Convention; it is the highest decision-making authority. The COP meets every year.
Several ominous reports on India and the subcontinent emerged from the COP this year.
(1) India loses more people to climate change than any other country
(2) Farm output may drop 30pc in S Asia by 2050, effects already on display in Bangladesh?
Singur Update: Farmer commits suicide, Tata sheilds “trade secret”, faces resistance in Sanand, Gujarat
A sharecropper who had apparently lost work after nearly 1,000 acres were acquired for Tata Motors hanged himself today.
Bholanath Patra’s wife Shyamali said the family had six cottahs outside the factory site, but that was too little. “After he lost his job, we found it difficult to arrange two square meals a day. He started working in a cold storage unit but his health began to fail,” said Shyamali, a mother of two in Bajemelia.
Nov 30, 2008: The Dunlop management today declared suspension of work in Bengal’s Sahagunj, rendering nearly 1,200 workers jobless.
By Walter Fernandes. This paper first apeared in Counterviews Webzine, Feb 2008.
(1) Tribals and Land – Basic Statistics (2) Tribal displacement due to refugee rehabilitation (3) Displacement in Tripura due to refugee rehabilitation (4) Development-Induced Displacement (5) Ensuring Availability without Access (6) The Development Paradigm (7) Attack on Tribal Culture (8) Tribal Reaction (9) Conclusion
Porichoy Patrika archives are also available at http://sanhati.com/porichoy/
Archivists: Soumya Guhathakurta, Sarita Dhawan, Dhiman Chatterjee, Atreyi Dasgupta, Sanhati
Update November 9: 1955-56 Issues 7-12
Update October 26: 1955 Issues 1-6
Update September 20: 1953-54 Issues 7-12
Update September 16: 1952-53 Volume 2 (Issues 1 to 6)
Update August 15: 1951-52 Volume 1 (Issues 1 to 6), 1952-53 Volume 1 (Issues 1 to 6)
Update July 22: 1950-51 Volume 2 (Issues 1 to 6)
Update July 9: 1950-51 Volume 1 (Issues 1 to 6)
Update June 26: 1945-46 Volume 2 (Issues 5,6); 1946-47 Volume 2 (Issues 1 to 6); 1950 – January to June
Update June 10: 1945-46 Volume 1 (Issue`s 1-6) and Volume 2 (Issues 1-4)
Update May 23: 1936 Issues 1-6.
Update May 1: 1933 1st Issue, 1934 1st Issue
Update April 27: 1933 2nd Issue.
About Porichoy – The Early Phase
On his return from Europe in 1929, the poet Sudhindranath Dutta felt the need for starting a ‘review’. The purpose was to strengthen the bonds that Bengali literature had developed with literature of the world. The poet was promised help in this endeavor by friends who were established litterateurs or connoisseurs of the craft. Finance was arranged from family quarters. The editorial board of the ‘review’, which was named Porichoy, consisted of the likes of Charuchandra Datta, Satyendranath Bose, Subodhchandra Mukhopadhyay, Prabodhchandra Bagchi, Dhurjati Prasad Mukhopadhyay, Nirendranath Roy, Girijapati Bhattacharya and Sudhindranath Dutta. Very soon a circle of intellectuals in Calcutta clustered around Porichoy, including people like Abu Sayid Ayyub, Bishnu Dey, Hirendranath Mukhopadhyay, Annadashankar Ray, Budhadeva Bose and many more.
The first issue of Porichoy was published in 1931. From 1931 to 1936 Porichoy was a quarterly. From 1936 onwards Porichoy became a monthly. The second issue of Porichoy printed an adulatory note from Rabindranath Tagore to the editor. In fact, Tagore wrote poems, essays and book reviews for Porichoy during the period 1932 to 1942. The liberal Sudhindranath Dutta allowed the control of Porichoy to pass on to ‘Anti Fascist Writers Association’ in 1944. It may also be said that this signified the shift of the periodical’s control to Communists and their sympathizers. However, Porichoy always acknowkedged its intellectual debt to Sudhindranath Dutta and even as late as 2001 there was a special issue to commemorate the poet’s birth centenary.
Liberation archives are also available at http://sanhati.com/liberation/
Archivists: Soumya Guhathakurta, Sarita Dhawan, and Dhiman Chatterjee, Sanhati
Update October 8: March 1968, April 1968, June 1968
Update August 29: December 1967, November 1969, December 1969, January 1970, February 1970
Update July 31: First Issue – November, 1967; July, 1968; August, 1968; September 1968; October, 1968.
Liberation, the monthly central organ of the undivided Communist Party of India (Marxist – Leninist) (CPIML), was first published in November 1967. Through intense state repression and terror perpetrated by various political parties, the monthly continued to be published except for a brief hiatus in the early 1970s.
Issues of the monthly will be archived here till 1972.
While studies of the Naxalbari movement have continued over the decades, there has been a conspicuous lack of widespread availability of the literature of its main protagonist, the CPIML. Through this archive, we hope to fill this lacuna, thus enriching the debate for scholars and activists alike.
The archival material has been sourced from the personal collection of Suniti Ghosh, Central Committee member of pre-split CPI(ML).
Now archives are also available at http://sanhati.com/now_archives/
Archivist: Soumya Guhathakurta, Sanhati
Updated June 27, 2008: March 24 1967, March 31 1967, April 7 1967
Updated March 30, 2008: August 12 1966, August 19 1966, August 26 1966, September 2 1966
Updated March 22, 2008: August 5 1966, July 29 1966, July 22 1966, July 15 1966, May 27, 1966
In 1964 Samar Sen quit Hindustan Standard, the now defunct Calcutta English daily from Anandabazar group of publications stable, over a disagreement with the group about the carrying of news about communal disturbances in East Pakistan. Union Minister Professor Humayun Kabir approached Samar Sen with the job to edit a weekly with the objective of strengthening democracy, secularism etc. Thus was born Now and the first issue hit the stands in October 1964. Those who assisted in editing the weekly and writing columns included names like Nityapriya Ghosh, Niranjan Mazumdar (The Statesman, Calcutta), Shankar Ghosh (senior journalist known for his memoirs Hostantor), Ashok Mitra (previously minister in the Left Front regime), Amalendu Dasgupta (editor of The Statesman, Calcutta), Nayan Chanda (now at Yale and author of Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers and Warriors Shaped Globalisation ), Kunal Bose (Financial Times, London) and Jayanta Sarkar (The Economic times & F E E review).
Initially, the issues of Now were an agglomeration of writings of famous and infamous scribes, both from India and abroad. A distinct left slant to the weekly was provided by some of the edit writers, notably Ashok Mitra. This was a cause for discomfort to Prof. Kabir which he expressed in his correspondence, but he never interfered with the matter that the weekly carried in print. However, this attitude of Prof. Kabir began to change with the 1967 assembly election and the coming to power of the Bangla Congress and CPI(M) led United Front. Post 1967 elections Now supported CPI(M). However, CPI(M)’s stance after the peasant uprising at Naxalbari, expulsion of dissidents and the attitude of holding on to power by means fair or foul disillusioned Samar Sen. The first United Front Government collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions and a few days later a letter of dismissal was served to the editor of Now. Samar Sen left Now in 1968 and the weekly, under a new editor, folded up after a few issues.
Among others to write for Now were Nirad C. Chaudhuri , Lindsay Emmerson (The Statesman, Calcutta), Kingsley Martin (editor, New Statesman). Now was the first to carry a translation of Sukumar Ray’s verse by Satyajit Ray. The entire team of writers from Now followed Samar Sen to Frontier (which hit the stands in April 1968) save a few like Nirad C. Chaudhuri and Kingsley Martin.
The indigenous people of West Midnapore appear to have adopted protests more familiar with those taken in Nandigram where, in the backdrop of police excesses, the locals dug up roads to prevent the law enforcers from making inroads into their villages. For the fifth successive day since Maoists set off a landmine close to the chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s cavalcade, the indigenous people of Lalgar, in Jhargram sub-division, continued to put up obstacles in their bid to prevent the police from raiding villages from where secondary school students were arrested for their alleged involvement in the blast. The people of Lalgar and adjoining parts of Jhargram subdivision are on a warpath protesting against the torture of adivasi women and arrest of seven “innocent” community men in connection with the 2 November blast.
A message from Dipanjan Rai Chaudhuri. Nov 8, 2008
The Bengal Engineering College, now a university, the BESU, has been closed sine die by its VC on November 6, after he called in the police to punish a section of the students who do not follow the dictates of the SFI, the students’ organisation of the major ruling party.
Where is red in your sky, comrade? – revolutionary posturing on the eve of the Calcutta Film Festival
Rosso come il Cielo (Red Like The Sky), to be shown at the inaugural ceremony of the 14th Kolkata Festival has a piece of significant dialogue:
“You’ll grow up, and by that time you’ll have outgrown everything about this place.”
Writing against Sangh Parivar and Brahmanism is ‘inflamatory’ or ‘War agaisnt State’ – The Orissa police proves it by arresting a Bhubaneswar based critic of Brahmanism and RSS. Mr.Lenin Kumar, editor, Nishan was arrested day before yesterdey for writing the book ‘”Dharma Naanre Kandhamalare Rakta Nadi”.
Salem, in Tamil Nadu, South India, is the scene of mining operations and an impending SEZ site. Various players, from SAIL to the Jindals to the infamous Vedanta corporation, are vying for mining rights in the area. An IT SEZ is on the cards. Local struggle is developing.
By Dipankar Basu, Sanhati. This series will also appear parallely on Radicalnotes
The global economic crisis currently underway is, by all accounts, the deepest economic crisis of world capitalism since the Great Depression. It is necessary for the international working class to understand various aspects of this crisis: how it developed, who were the players involved, what were the instruments used during the build-up and what are it’s consequences for the working people of the world. This understanding is necessary to formulate a socialist, i.e., working class, response to these earth shaking events. In a series of posts here on Radical Notes, I will share my understanding of the on-going crisis as part of the larger collective attempt to come to grips with the current conjuncture from a socialist perspective, to understand both the problems and the possibilities that it opens up.
Varanasi in North India, which employed 700,000 people in handloom a decade back, now employs only 250,000, with 47 reported cases of suicide. In the face of liberalization, silk cloth imports, indiscriminate mechanization, loose control over cheap imitations, rising price of silk, etc. weavers, like other artisans, are being dispossessed. This article discusses the inefficacy of existing government schemes, and suggests ways forward, stressing the need for an artisans’ movement in the country.
Dipankar Basu and Debarshi Das, Sanhati. Open for comments.
Sifting through the divergent viewpoints thrown up by attempts to make sense of the recent political history of West Bengal, one is led to the conclusion that the tumultuous events have taken many, if not most, by surprise. With the benefit of hindsight one can probably say this: a combination of an insensitive state power, an arrogant ruling party, lapping-it-up corporate interests, and cheerleaders-of-corporate-sector-doubling-up-as-media orchestrated a veritable assault – a perfect storm. Yet the peasantry, initially without the guiding hand of a political party – indeed at times against the writ of the party – fought on. Through this episode Indian political economy seems to have stumbled upon the peasantry while it was looking for a short-cut to economic growth through SEZs.
By Santanu Sengupta, Sanhati. Translated from ShramikShakti Newsletter: August 2008. Open for comments.
The lower Damodar river valley in West Bengal is the home of the Damodar Valley Corporation or DVC, the first multipurpose river valley project of independent India, whose stated aims are flood control, irrigation and generation and distribution of electricity. It is also the site of horrendous annual flooding that has brought ruin to over 4 million people for over a generation. This article probes the disparity between the stated objectives of the project and its performance, and the dangerous politics of big dams that has wreaked havoc on the lives of millions in Bengal.
A version of this article appeared on MRzine with some editing including the removal of a section on West Bengal and other amends affecting the treatment of the struggle in Singur and the role of the CPI(Marxist). The unedited version is given below. – Sanhati
I recently spent three weeks gathering information about the anti-displacement movement in India. As a guest of Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan (People’s Movement against Displacement and for Development), I traveled across five states in central and eastern India visiting the sites of proposed industrial and mining projects, Special Economic Zones and real estate developments. I spoke with hundreds of villagers who are threatened with displacement and with many dedicated activists who are helping to organize the people’s resistance.
21 Oct 2008: Days after Ratan Tata shifted his Nano car plant from Singur to Sanand in Gujarat, Kolkata’s biggest IT project slated to come up on a 33 2-acre plot in Rajarhat has hit a roadblock. Many farmers at Rajarhat’s Jagadishpur — the site identified for the Rs 1,500-crore IT project — have refused to give their land for the venture saying they have been shortchanged by the government.
On August 11 2008, India’s Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for two huge and controversial mining projects (companies: Vedanta and POSCO) in the eastern state of Orissa. Dongria Kondh tribespeople say their livelihood will be destroyed. The on going peaceful and democratic peoples’ movements in the state have been shocked by the fact that one of the main pillars of our democracy, the judiciary has joined the sides of the corporations who are desperate to grab the resources that has been sustaining the life of millions of peasants, tribals, fishermen and forest dwellers only to maximize their own profit.
Singur land for industry, says govt – Oct. 22, 2008
SC doesn’t like APDR filing petition on behalf of Singur farmers – Oct 13, 2008
CPM sees gain in Singur ‘restraint’: Flak for Tata at party meet – Oct 13, 2008
Oct 20, 2008
Thousands of villagers marched in Jharkhand on Monday to protest against a proposed Arcelor Mittal steel plant, police said, the latest in a series of confrontations over industry on farmlands.
October 12, 2008
Months of unflinching resistance by the people of Singur, especially landless labourers and marginal farmers, against the unjust and violent farm land acquisition by the West Bengal government has finally forced Tata Motors to withdraw its small car project from that area.
October 12, 2008
The now familiar debate of development versus displacement has cropped up again. Farmers whose land has been acquired by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) are up in arms.
By Manshi Asher, Himvani
This article is a critical note on the proposed SKIL SEZ, in Gagret, Himachal Pradesh.
This is a small but typical list of companies in the Gurgaon area of North India, which commit flagrant violations of existing labor laws and get away with impunity. Their practices are listed below, in the form of first-person reports from workers, gleaned from Gurgaon Workers News. In most cases the minimum wage for industrial helpers of Rs. 3510 is not paid. If it is paid, then the working-times are way beyond the fixed 8-hours day and 6-days week. In most cases the over-time exceeds the legal restriction – maximum 50 hours in three months – and is paid at single rate, though according to the labour law it should be paid double. Hardly any workers receive the Provident Fund (PF), nor do they get ESI, medical insurance, which they are entitled to by law.
With the increasing spatial concentration of wealth and misery, of upward opportunities and downward spirals, those who feel privileged tend to feel threatened. In that way Gurgaon, the new IT hub of northen India, is a landscape of mass-psychosis.
Farewell to the Tatas: Costs and benefits of the Tata-Singur Project, a detailed dissection of the deal
By Dipankar Basu, Sanhati. Open for comments
Costs: the total cost of the Tata-Singur project incurred by the exchequer, and hence ultimately the tax payers, will be approximately be Rs. 3000 crores on a net present value basis when we add up the costs pertaining to the land subsidy, the tax holidays, the soft loan, the real estate gift and the subsidized electricity using an interest rate of 11%. This is about 58% of the total realized industrial investment in the state of West Bengal in 2007.
Introduction 1. Helping Killer Carbide – the Dow Chemicals nexus 2. Bypassing Democracy (a) Dictating Indian Policy (b) Holding on to Corporatocracy (c) Business with Military Junta 3. Desecrating Tribal Lands (a) Parched Earth Tactics (b) Chrome Poisoning (c) Luxury Resort in Tiger Country 4. Violence and Massacres (a) Gua Massacre (b) Kalinganagar Massacre (c) Singur Oppression 5. Toxic Dumping (a) Saline waste (b) Hell on Earth (c) Mountains of Waste, Jugsalai (d) Joda Mines (e) Coal Slurry Dumping 6. Hazardous Incidents (a) Founder’s Day Fire 7. Strong Anti-Labour Policies (a) Worker Suicides (b) Sub-contracting and Fostering Insecurity (c) Lay-offs (d) Union busting (e) Killings 8. A Historical Record as Collaborators of British Imperialism (a) Drug Running (b) Empress Mills (c) Fueling British Expansionism (9) Tatas opposed by the people
By Rick Wolff
In US capitalism’s greatest financial crisis since the 1930s Depression, status-quo ideology swirls. The goal is to keep this crisis under control, to prevent it from challenging capitalism itself. One method is to keep public debate from raising the issue of whether and how class changes — basic economic system changes — might be the best “solution.” Right, center, and even most left commentators exert that ideological control, some consciously and some not. Hence the debates where those demanding “more or better government regulation” of financial markets shout down those who still “have more confidence in private enterprise and free markets.” Both sides limit the public discussion to more vs less state intervention to “save the economy.” Then too we have quarrels over details of state intervention: politicians “want to help foreclosure victims too” or “want to limit financiers’ pay packages” or want to “weed out bad apples in the finance industry” while spokespersons of various financial enterprises struggle to shape the details to their particular interests.
Who committed the real violence at Graziano Transmissioni? – Kavita Krishnan
Graziano Workers Solidarity Forum formed
By Pankaj Mishra
For decades now, Kashmir has hosted a bloody stalemate, in which a powerful nation-state repeatedly tries, and fails, to impose its will on a small unyielding population. The Indian state uses political means (elections, special privileges) and financial inducements as well as military force to convince Kashmiris that they should not dream of self-determination. Still, Kashmiri defiance and harsh Indian retaliation exact a terrible human toll: tens of thousands killed, innumerable many disabled, tortured, orphaned and widowed. There is hardly a family in the Valley left untouched by the biggest military occupation in the world.
A few of us had a discussion with Professor Amit Bhaduri on his concept of “Development with Dignity”. In the struggle of ordinary people against the aggression of big capital in our country, this concept provides a vibrant locus of activity and future direction. It may also be important in the broader aim of social change. We present a draft of our conversation, both in Bengali and in English.
Farmers in Raigad district have defeated Reliance Industries SEZ referendum that the government had organized to know people’s impression about the Reliance Industries’ mega SEZ. The defeat of referendum means that the Special Economic Zone may not come up at the site where it was originally planned. The yet to be launched SEZ was being described as mother of all SEZ that have come up so far in India.
By Dipankar Basu, Sanhati. Open for comments.
The Tata Group of Companies is one of the largest business conglomerates in India today with about 100 large companies in its fold. With the might of the Indian State firmly behind it, monopoly capital in India has started a move to aggressively acquire foreign assets. This short note examines the true character of agreements like the one `struck’ between the TML and the West Bengal government. It is important to understand how such `agreements’ look like under a neo-liberal regime.
The dislocation of 15 million fishworkers and environmental degradation: an introduction to ongoing changes in Coastal Zone Regulations
By Suvarup Saha, Sanhati. Open for comments.
Coastal Zone Regulations in India are currently being changed and manipulated. It is necessary to examine these changes closely and understand the political and economic currents that motivate them. The 8200 km long coastline of India provides livelihood to 15 million people and is one of the richest environments in the world – changes and amendments in protective regulations thus have widespread effects, effects which are being swept under the carpet by political parties, from the right to the parliamentary Left. This is an introduction to the issue.
The U.S. financial crisis: some views from Monthly Review
The Greed Fallacy: By Arthur MacEwan, Dollars and Sense
Hard Truths About the Bailout
Free market ideology is far from finished: By Naomi Klein
Crisis of Capitalism and the Left: By Emir Sader
Questions on Dr. Sen’s trial – PUCL update, September 15, 2008
Events of the third phase of Binayak Sen’s trial and incidents preceeding Ajay TG’s bail – By Kavita Srivastva, Secretary, National PUCL
Dr. Sen’s trial observation – By Abhay Shukla, NHRC
Salwa judum ‘atrocities’: Apex court seeks report
Anti-Naxal Salwa Judum faces axe over rights abuse
Implement NHRC recommendations on Salwa Judum, Supreme Court asks Chhattisgarh government
If the government agrees to have tough a anti-terror law as recommended by the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC), Naxalites will also be treated as “terrorists” as the panel has termed them nothing but those who follow “ideology-oriented terrorism” — a departure from the official line which has so far preferred to call them “Left-wing extremists”.
Open for comments
Voices for a separate state of Gorkhaland are once again echoing in the hills of Darjeeling and the surrounding areas. These developments are certainly disturbing for the uninformed Bengalis – they fail to understand why such a picturesque and otherwise “peaceful” place would like to secede from their province. They also feel sad at the thought of losing something so beautiful, something to be proud of. Sometimes, there is the knee-jerk reaction among some of them – a refusal to part with the region. With the state government and the mainstream media purposely continuing to feed on this ignorance and pride, it becomes important to put together a historical account of the developments in Darjeeling and thereby address questions regarding the right to self-determination of the people staying in this region. The hope is that such an introductory account of the evolving situation in Darjeeling would help the democratic-minded people to come to a rational decision.
By Siddhartha Mitra, Sanhati. Translated from ShramikShakti, June 2008
“Son, do not feel ashamed about my death; instead, feel proud of it, because this self-sacrifice of mine is for the greater good of the 6000 workers of the Chongtong tea-estate. We are still able to provide ourselves with two meals a day; but the thought of the frightening situation of the others in the tea-garden is making me unbearably anxious
– these were the words the Baburam Dewan wrote to his son in a letter just before he took his own life.
Durgapur, Sept. 9 2008: Farmers protesting land acquisition plans for a power plant in Katwa today warned of a backlash like the ones in Singur and Nandigram if the government resorted to forcible takeovers. The Krishi Jomi Krishak Khetmajur Raksha Committee, which is leading the protests, held a meeting this morning in Katwa, 180km from Calcutta, and iterated its stand against forced acquisitions.
August 31, 2008
This is very recent news, and not very widely known yet. The Jindal group, which is planning to set up a mega steel plant in Salboni in West Bengal, had applied for SEZ status for their plant in September 2007. The SEZ status was granted by the government of West Bengal on August 28, 2008. This might become a new, and disturbing pattern, as every industry which will be planned to be established will apply for SEZ status, with the accompanying suspension of labour laws, huge tax rebates etc. Things are moving fast, and quietly. The SEZ-Birodhi Prachar Mancha, a SEZ watchdog and awareness forum in Kolkata, is also going to move against this. – Partho Sarathi Roy, Sanhati
By Kuver Sinha, Sanhati. Open for comments
There is an ongoing siege in Singur, West Bengal, the site of the Tata Nano project. The Trinamul Congress, led by Mamata Banerjee, has demanded that of all the land acquired by the State Government using the colonial Land Acquisition Act of 1894, 400 acres be returned to farmers who had been unwilling to sell. The Krishi Jomi Jibon Raksha Committee or KJJRC (Save Farmland Committee) is the broad umbrella organization carrying out the struggle. Various civil society groups have rallied behind this call, as have landed farmers, landless labourers, and sharecroppers of the area.
By Indira Chakravarthy, Guest Contributor.
As a complement to Dipankar Basu’s piece on the “achievements” of the CPM government in West Bengal on the economic and social fronts (http://sanhati.com/front-page/857/), I would like to share a few facts/concerns about the health status of common people in W Bengal. Using publicly available data, Dipankar had demonstrated that West Bengal’s growth story was rather unspectacular when compared to other Indian states. Now, I would like to raise a related but different question: has even this below-average “economic growth” translated into improvements in the social sector for the common people?
By Santanu Sengupta, Sanhati. Translated from Rajarhaat – Uponogorir Ontorale Arto Manuher Kanna
Rajarhaat, near Kolkata, is Bengal’s new IT hub and a hotspot for real estate investment. Within no time Rajarhat has become the hotbed of real estate investments with companies like DLF, Keppel Land, Unitech group, Singapore-based Ascendas, Vedic Realty, etc. coming in. Land prices have soared. The first phase of DLF’s Rs 280 crore (Rs 2.80 billion) IT project has been operational since 2005 and a second IT park is on the cards. Wipro, Infosys, IBM – all the major IT houses are in operation here, on subsidized lands. A wireless hub is in the offing. Contrasting with Singur-Nandigram, official state versions have given the picture that Rajarhat’s land acquisition from the mid 1990′s onwards has been peaceful. This is an acount of the immense bloodshed that lay behind this acquisition, in a decade when the civil society and media wasn’t interested.
On 16th August, 2008, pipes carrying uranium tailings in Jadugoda (Jharkhand) burst again, spewing the village of Dungridih in Jadugoda with radioactive waste for the third time since Dec 2006. Records obtained from UCIL (Uranium Corporation of India Ltd, which owns and operates the mines and operations in Jadugoda) through RTI filings reveal that there have been three previous tailing pipe leakages in recent months, where radioactive material was released into the environment- – on 24th December 2006, 10th April 2007, and 22nd February 2008. In an additional incident in July this year, excessive rains caused the tailing ponds to overflow and contaminate the village ponds and canals.
By P.K. Sundaram, Guest Contributor. August 20, 2008. Open for comments.
India’s desperate diplomacy prior to the NSG meet on August 21-22, 2008 reveals the not-so-hidden truth about the deal – at a time when there is a need for renewed focus on disarmament, India rehabilitates nuclear energy corporates in order to circumvent nonproliferation regime and secure its right to conduct nuclear tests. And it finds supports from the Bush nuclear strategy bent on reducing nonproliferation into counterproliferation.
The wretched of the earth are standing up in Kerala and re-defining the politics of agitation. Their young middle class supporters are rewriting the grammar of protest. All this has stumped the political establishment, of which the traditional Left is now the dominant element. It all started when CK Janu marched into Thiruvananthapuram with hundreds of her tribal followers in 2001 demanding restoration of their alienated forest lands. Breaking with the tradition of staging rallies or holding meetings, they erected makeshift hutments in front of the State Secretariat and camped there.
by Dave Pugh August 16, 2008
Yesterday I returned to the U.S. after spending three and a half weeks gathering information about the anti-displacement movement in India. I traveled across five states in central and eastern India to the sites of projected industrial and mining projects and real estate developments. I spoke with hundreds of villagers who are threatened with displacement and with many dedicated activists who are helping to organize the people’s resistance.
Reporting from Singur – Shamik Sarkar, Sanhati. 19th August, 2008. Comments enabled.
It has been over a year and a half that 997 acres have been sealed off by Tata’s fences here. But many landowning farmers have not accepted compensation. In the last week of July, 2008, the Krishi Jomi Jibon Jibika Raksha Committee (Committee for saving farmland, life, and livelihood) gave the call to “outsiders working in Tata’s plant” to leave Singur, “to protect the rights of unwilling farmers, Bargadars, and agricultural workers”. After that, Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee declared that there would be a continuous blockade of the project from August 24th. The pressure of the movement forced workers who had been coming to the site from outside to stop.
Greater Noida, Aug 13, 2008
Five people were killed Wednesday in firing by police on farmers protesting inadequate compensation for their land being acquired in Uttar Pradesh’s booming Greater Noida region bordering the national capital.
Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan Press Statement, 12 August 2008
The Orissa police detained Mr. David Pugh, a teacher from US on 12th August along with advocate Miss Protima Das and an anti-displacement activist Mr.Pradeep who accompanied him assisting in translation and showing the area in Kalinganagar and Sukinda on their way back to Bhubaneswar.
This conversation with a worker from Tamil Nadu, appeared in Shramik Istahar, May 2008. It has been translated by Koel Das, Sanhati.
I was conversing with Sudhakarda. Sudhakar Raut, originally from Orissa, used to work in a reputed private engineering factory in West Bengal. He lost his job after being victimized in a lock-out while fighting against the injustice of the factory owner. I met him a couple of days back when he talked about his experiences over the last one year.
A historic land struggle has been unfolding at Chengara in Pathanamthitta district, Kerala, involving about 7500 families, which includes all sections of landless people, the majority of them being Dalits and Adivasis. Landless people have claimed land in the Chengara estate, a rubber plantation, which had been leased to the Harrison Malayalam Plantation by the government of Kerala. At present, the lease is invalid and the property has lapsed back to the government. The landless people who have flocked there from all parts of Kerala demand that this government land be redistributed to them. These marginalised people have thereby demanded a say in what must be done with government land in Kerala: given the present political and economic climate, the likelihood is that this land will be taken over by the state only to be assigned unconditionally, or with minimum conditions, to the multi-nationals.
August 5, 2008.
1. Release News
2. Ajay’s future plans – prison diaries of a suspected Naxal
August 8, 2008
The Government of India has announced that it will take legal action on the civil and criminal liabilities of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical for the ongoing disaster in Bhopal, India. This landmark announcement comes after over 5 months of campaigning by Bhopal survivors and their international supporters, which included a 500-mile march and a 130 day sit-in on the streets of Delhi by survivors of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster.
August 11, 2008: India’s Supreme Court has said two huge and controversial mining projects can proceed in the eastern state of Orissa. Dongria Kondh tribespeople say their livelihood will be destroyed. A BBC report.
Powerful NRI lobbies in the U.S.A. such as the US-India Business Council (USIBC), US-India Friendship Council, Indian American Forum For Political Education, the US-India Political Action Committee, Coalition for Partnership with India and others have consistently pushed for the US-India nuclear deal, the chemical hub at Nandigram, and deals with Dow Chemicals.
1. USIBC pledges support for securing nuclear deal – July 23, 2008
2. US-India Friendship Council: ‘Finally, Congress party showed some spine’ – July 12, 2008
3. USIBC: Nandigram Investment Plans on track despite violence
4. NRI groups, Dow Chemicals, and the Bengal government – read RTI documents: Questions and Response from government.
Dynamics of rural proletariat: labour shortage in agriculture, NREGA, aspirations, and the nouveau riche
Introduction: rural proletariat in Haryana and Punjab
Aspirations within misery: labour shortage in agriculture
The NREGA and the control of rural proletariat
The teenage guns of the nouveau riche
By Shubhendu Dasgupta. Translated by Debarshi Das, Sanhati
One of the many aspects of the land reform programme was security for tenants. Those land owners who would not cultivate the land themselves, would lease out the same to the tenants. This is called tenancy cultivation – or “barga” cultivation in Bengal. Those who would lease in the land on barga cultivation would be called “bargadars”.
1. Nuclear Reactor Hazards : Ongoing dangers of operating nuclear technology in the 21st century
2. Nuclear Power: no solution to climate change
3. Pros and cons of nuclear power
4. The nuclear ’solution’ to climate change
5. The Nuclear crisis in France
By Mark Butler and David Ntseng, South Africa. Guest contribution, July 2008.
In South Africa one of the biggest barriers to the ability of grassroots political society to contest directly with state and capital is the spongy wall of civil society around both. This is very seldom recognised by the middle class left, most of whom are located in that civil society in NGOs or the academy. In that context this article by Mark Butler and David Ntseng is quite important as there are very few critiques of civil society around in South Africa. – Contextual introduction by Richard Pithouse
By James Petras, Guest Contributor.
Inflation and all of its repercussions for wage and salaried workers, fixed income middle classes, as well as manufacturers and transport industries is splashed all over the financial pages of the major newspapers throughout the world. Inflation is the great solvent that dissolves paternalistic ties between employers and workers, landowners and peasants, clientele-patronage regimes and the urban poor and sets in motion violent protests against private property and previously popularly elected regimes. Historical religious, clan, party, ethnic, tribal, caste and other differences are temporarily suspended, as Hindus and Moslems in India, Communists and Christians in the Philippines, peasants and workers in China, industrial workers and public employees in Egypt, blacks and mulattos in Haiti…join together in sustained mass protests against inflation which profoundly and visibly erodes their living standards from week to week, in some cases from one day to another.
The Karnataka convener of the National Alliance for People’s Movement, A.D. Babu, was killed recently. He was on his way, along with two colleagues, to a NAPM meeting on an anti-liquor campaign at Ramnagaram, when a group stopped his vehicle at Mayanagram, a few km from the venue, and attacked him with knives and swords. He died on the spot. It is believed that a Karnataka liquor mafia is behind the gruesome murder.
These reports from the Centre for Environment and Food Security (CEFS) published in July 2008, give an outline of NREGA scams in Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. The full reports, as well as their executive summaries, are given.
Introduction I. Economics as Mechanics II. How Capitalism Emerged in Europe III. Colonial Rule: Setting the Pattern IV. India’s Runaway ‘Growth’ IV 1. Missing Links IV 2. The External Stimulus and Its Implications IV 3. Private Corporate Sector-Led Growth and Exclusion IV 4. The Condition of the People IV 5. The Agrarian Impasse and Its Implications V. Unlocking the Productive Potential of the Entire Labour Force
Indian capital is quick to take cue from the government’s move and has already started planning its investments in the nuclear sector. Whose interest will the nuclear deal serve? (1) US strategic interests, and (2) Indian corporate interest. The CPI(M) is and probably will remain silent about the second. One might even go a little further and see the haste in the government’s move resulting from pressures emanating from these two quarters: (1) US administration, and (2) Indian big capital. Thus, it seems that a nice alliance is in operation here, the alliance between multinational capital (represented by the US State) and national capital (represented by the Indian State). Analyzing the changing nature of this alliance over time might offer insights into the evolution of contemporary imperialism. – Dipankar Basu, Sanhati.
By P.K. Sundaram, Guest Contributor. Open for comments.
It is the Indian Left’s concurrence, rather than its disagreement, with the idea of a nuclear future (including nuclear weapons) that has made its case weak and inaudible to the larger masses.
By Dipankar Basu, Sanhati. Open for comments.
Mindless economic growth through unfettered operations of the “free” market, that is often portrayed in the mainstream media as a panacea for all of India’s economic problems, has now been shown to be seriously flawed as a sensible strategy for economic development. Active, pro-people state intervention through sound policies is essential for making any meaningful dent on the problems facing our country today; and this includes, if historical experience is anything to go by, even the achievement of sustainable, broad-based economic growth. In every known case of successful industrialization and economic development, be it England or Continental Europe or USA or Japan or the East Asian tigers, the State has played a pro-active role in directing investments, mobilizing resources to finance that investment, protecting fledgling industries from undue competition from abroad, and so on; it is, therefore, inconceivable that any state, or the country for that matter, can make that transition without State intervention through effective policies for agriculture and industry. State governments subscribing to this viewpoint would claim to have put this political philosophy into practice, especially the one in West Bengal.
By M.V. Ramana, Guest Contributor.
With the submission of the safeguards agreement to the IAEA and the challenge to the government from the left parties, there is now renewed widespread debate about the nuclear agreement with United States. Much of the debate on the deal has been between what can be broadly called the nuclear hawks and the nuclear nationalists. The nuclear hawks believe India’s nuclear programme is a great success and more than able to take care of itself. They see the deal as imposing unnecessary constraints on the programme and making more difficult the creation of the large nuclear arsenal, including thermonuclear weapons (hydrogen bombs), that they believe is essential for India to be a ‘great power.’
The Indo-US Nuclear Pact and the Hoax of Nuclear Power – By Dipanjan Rai Chaudhuri
India’s Nuclear History: A Brief Outline
Choosing the Wrong Future: The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal – By Andrew Lichterman and M.V. Ramana
Wrong Ends, Means, and Needs: Behind the U.S. Nuclear Deal With India – By Zia Mian and M. V. Ramana
By Saroj Giri, Sanhati. Open for comments.
The workers chanted “Allende, the people are defending you: hit the reactionaries hard.” The mood of the masses was militant. They were waiting for a lead that never came. – Tariq Ali, Allende’s Chile
Is the Maoist victory in the Constituent Assembly elections in Nepal a challenge to the liberal consensus and hegemony or is it its expansion, or worse, its intensification, co-opting the Maoists in the process? It could be either, mostly depending on which way events unfold in the coming days. The ‘meaning’ of the Maoist victory calls for a critical examination even as it promises an interesting and politically salient expose of the intricacies and dangers of trying to beat liberal democracy in its own game. Liberals, both left-wing and right-wing ones, have welcomed the Maoist victory though with caution and sometimes clenching their teeth, as a victory of the ballot over the bullet and a step forward for democracy and peace in Nepal. Those on the revolutionary left have however hardly allowed their pleasant surprise at the results to underestimate the enormous risks of ‘right-wing deviation’ and capitulation that the present path entails for the Maoists.
The May 2008 Pogroms: xenophobia, evictions, liberalism, and democratic grassroots militancy in South Africa
By Richard Pithouse, Guest Contributor. Durban, 16 June 2008.
This essay examines the issues of xenophobia in present-day South Africa, in the light of the riots of May 2008. It starts by looking at eviction in the Harry Gwala settlement and the role of various poor people’s movements like Abahlali baseMjondolo, Anti-Eviction Campaign, and the Landless People’s Movement. It then looks at the riots, making the point that most areas under the control of militant organisations of the poor that have been in serious conflict with the state had no violence. The essay evaluates the ideas of Michael Neocosmos in theorizing xenophobia, coming to the conclusion that “For Neocosmos xenophobia and authoritarianism are a continuation of apartheid oppression that are, in the end, a product of liberalism. He proposes, against the state centric politics of liberalism, a recovery of popular emancipatory politics…[it] is the practical politics that was able to defend and shelter people targeted in the May pogroms, and has previously, although covertly, offered the same protection from the state…”
1. India’s Emerging Food Security Crisis: The Consequences of the Neoliberal Assault on the Public Distribution System – Analytical Monthly Review
2. A man-made famine – Raj Patel, The Guardian
3. The World Food Crisis: Sources and Solutions – Fred Magdoff, Monthly Review
4. Manufacturing a Food Crisis – Walden Bellow, The Nation
5. Global food crisis: ‘The greatest demonstration of the historical failure of the capitalist model’ – Ian Angus, Socialist Voice
6. Soaring prices are causing hunger around the world – Washington Post Editorial
7. The World’s Growing Food-Price Crisis – Time magazine
By Shamik Sarkar, Sanhati. Open for comments.
I. Beliya village, Haruda, and promises of development
II. Singur, its sharecroppers and laborers, and the Opposition
III. Corporate hands in rural Bengal
June 12, 2008
Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) had organised a People’s Tribunal on Torture (PTT) on 9-10 June. The police have started a case against MASUM claiming the tribunal to be illegal. On June 12 a huge police force raided MASUM’s office (26 Guitendal Lane, Howrah 711101). To protest against this, a meeting has been planned at MASUM’s office, today, on 13 June at 4pm. Please come and send this news to all.
Detailed report on incident from The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.
By Alita Nandi, Sanhati. Open for comments.
In the early 1990s various liberalisation policies had been introduced in India and India had started to experience higher growth rates (compared to pre-liberalisation period). The official poverty estimates published by the Planning Commission showed a decline in absolute poverty levels from 36% in 1993-94 to 26% in 1999-00. The question that became important at this juncture was, “Did the advantages of this high economic growth reach all echelons of society, in particular the ‘poor’?” And so the official reports at this time showing a reduction in absolute poverty levels created a stir. Some old issues about poverty measurement and some new ones were brought into the foreground and heavily debated and discussed. Here I attempt to trace out the key issues of this debate.
By Dipankar Basu, Sanhati. Open for Comments.
In a recent article in Macroscan, Jayati Ghosh (JG hereafter) has argued that West Bengal is a “pioneering state” with regard to panchayati raj institutions and other measures aimed at decentralization of state power in India. The author shows that when one uses the correct index in the analysis, these conclusions vanish into thin air – of the states studied, Maharashtra, for example, outperforms West Bengal in participation of disadvantaged classes in Panchayats, even though it has never had the benefit of a progressive, left-wing government. The author suggests that this may be due to a vibrant culture of grassroots social and political activism, nurtured and led in no small measure by the radical left.
By Suhit Sen, The Statesman
A team of experts constituted by the Planning Commission has cottoned on to something the Prime Minister doesn’t seem to comprehend. It has pointed out that Left-wing extremism is not just – we could go further and say not at all – a law-and-order problem. It is a phenomenon that arises from a complete lack of development, desperate poverty and the dehumanisation that arises from it, and injustice and inequality. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh does not agree, of course – not long ago he had characterised extremism as the most virulent disease that afflicted India’s body politic and Naxals as the Public Enemy Number 1. He should take time off his admittedly onerous duties to pore over the report.
An EPW commentary by Sumanta Banerjee on the recent Planning Commission Report, “which while meticulously arranging the latest facts and figures, rigorously examines the causes of the continuing economic exploitation and social discrimination in the adivasi and dalit-inhabited areas even after 60 years of independence. It is significant that this particular expert group was set up by the government in May 2006, in the background of increasing Naxalite activities in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa.”
Leaflet from Gana Udyog
B.L.R.O. Srirampore: I won’t commit this to paper. However, there is one set of rules for common people, another for the Birlas. I can’t do much from my chair. We are servants who obey government directives. Decisions come from much higher up.
(1) Land-acquisition in HindMotors for real-estate: A Timeline
By Pinaki Mitra, Sanhati. Open for comments.
This article analyses the reactions of the CPIM leadership to the recent election reversals, gleaning from the reactions certain classic maladies of the Party itself. It then looks back at the CPIM’s history of compromises, ending with the dilemmas it now confronts.
Panchayat Elections 2008 Final Tally:
Panchayat Samiti: Total – 329. LF – 189, Opposition – 131, No Result – 9.
Gram Panchayat: Total – 3220. LF – 1585, Opposition – 1498, No Result – 137.
Brutalized Singur and Nandigram vote out CPIM’s anti-people policies
Enemies of the State: Women and men who choose the margins – By Ashok Mitra
Mumbai’s Rebels: Those Who Couldn’t Remain Unmoved. Profiles of Anuradha Ghandy, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Shridhar Shrinivasan – By Bernard D’Mello
Factsheet on incidents regarding Nandigram from May 5 to 11, 2008 – APDR report
Government vs. CRPF: Lakshman Seth and his arm-twisting – May 12, 2008
May 10, 2008. Click here for a cartoon of today’s Nandigram!
On getting information of the continuing disturbances and police inaction in Nandigram, our fact finding team reached violence-torn Nandigram today and has gathered shocking information from the villagers. Since last night musclemen and goons alleged to be supporters of the largest ruling party CPI(M) flaunting red flags resorted to bloody violence in the area. These miscreants snatched away voter identity cards of many villagers and beat them mercilessly even on the mere suspicion of not being supporters of the ruling party.
By Tapas Sinha. Translated by Suvarup Saha, Sanhati
The phonecall came on the 10th of April. One of the organizers of the Champdanga Theatre Festival was on the line. On the receiving end was thespian Koushik Sen, who has been active in the civil society movement of Nandigram.
Kolkata witnessed another Mahamichhil on May 9, 2008. To (a) protest against the reign of terror unleashed by the CPI(M) on the eve of the panchayat elections, aimed at cowing down voters all over the state, and (b) especially to condemn the atrocities being perpetrated by CPI(M) workers in collusion with the state police in Nandigram.
Update May 12, 2008: PUDR condemnation statement, Petition of solidarity
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) strongly condemns the arrest of Ajay TG, widely recognized film maker, journalist and human rights activist by the Chhattisgarh police in Raipur on 4 May 2008 and calls for his immediate release.
Bondimukti Committee members protesting against political arrests were attacked by police and have been fasting at College Square, Kolkata, from May 6 2008 in protest.
By Shyam Sundar Roy
About 500 voters, belonging to over 160 Santhal families living under Shiromoni gram panchayat in Midnapore Sadar block, do not know which party to vote for in the ensuing panchayat elections, as they say none of them are ready to help them.
Manipur will arm its civilians to fight militants: A Salwa Judum in the making? – May 3, 2008
Chhattisgargh’s purification hunt – By Shubhranshu Choudhary
4 farmers commit suicide everyday in Chhattisgarh – the highest in the country – By Shubhranshu Choudhary
This is a translated version of a leaflet from the Krishak Committee (KC), written and distributed at the advent of Panchayat elections in West Bengal. The Sharamik Sangram Committee (SSC), a small fraternal organisation of the Krishak Commitee, leads the union at Hindustan Lever.
By James Petras
An analysis of Venezuela’s political scenario, covering the following points: (1) The advances and limitations of economic policy (2) Politics: the chavistas strike back (3) Social and cultural advances and contradictions (4) Cultural contradictions and challenges (5) The struggle of popular social movements versus the reactionary middle class movements (6) US-Venezuelan relations (7) Imperial-Vassal Three Part ‘Soft Power’: Drugs, Human Rights and Terrorism (8) The Hard Power Campaign – Three Part Strategy: Economic Boycotts, Low Intensity Warfare and the Colombia Card (9) Diplomatic and Economic Confrontation: Chavez Versus Bush (10) Vulnerability, Opportunities and Challenges (11) The National Security Threats (12) Conclusion: Advantages and Opportunities for Socialist Transformation
By Jean Drèze and Reetika Khera. An editorial in The Hindustan Times
Anyone who has illusions about the influence of corporate interests on public policy in India, or about the priorities of elected representatives, would do well to read the recent correspondence among the Biscuit Manufacturers Association (BMA), Members of Parliament and various ministries. The main issue in this correspondence is a proposal to replace cooked mid-day meals in primary schools with biscuits.
Honourable Chief Minister, I am the same Radharani Ari of Nandigram. How many more times will your cadres rape me?
Yes, I am the same person. The same Radharani Ari, resident of Nandigram Block, village – Gokulpur. Whether or not you remember me, I am not too sure, although by now the entire state of West Bengal has heard about me. I did not catch the limelight due to some creditable act of mine but on account of my misfortunes. I am a housewife of, by now infamous, Nandigram.
This eyewitness account appeared in November 2007, and presents an alternative first-hand view of the highly publicised Khejuri camps. It has been translated by Atreyi Dasgupta, Sanhati.
…One of the little ones, when asked his name, immediately parroted, “We need industry, or else how can we have development”. He was ten years old. His sister was just beside him, and she said, “We don’t know how long we have to stay in this condition. If we ask these people, they say, everything will go back to normal in a few days. But where is that happening? You know didi, our friends in Nandigram told us that they have resumed their studies. What will we do?”
By Partho Sarathi Ray, Sanhati. Comments enabled
Where is the “Great Indian Middle Class”? Where are those conspicuously-consuming, frequently-flying, gizmo-toting, big car-driving, globalized offsprings of our jet-setting “new economy”? Don’t we see them all around us: living in highrises with blue-tiled swimming pools, with people living a few miles away getting water once in three days, shopping in glittering malls built on the land of evicted slums, driving around in Toyotas and Chevrolets on roads choked with traffic? From all accounts, and appearances, we have reached the heady days when the Indian middle class has finally arrived. They are the ones who supposedly constitute one of the biggest markets in the world, for whom multinational corporations are falling over one another to invest in India, for whom our governments’ policies are directed, for whom roads and airports are built, for they ARE the “people” of India. This great middle class is our hope, the engine of growth for our economy. So – where is it?
By D. Bandyopadhyay
The national economy is growing at double digit rates but neither industry nor non-agricultural activities in rural India provide livelihood for millions of rural workers. The annual growth of agricultural output decelerated from 3.08 per cent pa during 1980-81 to 1991-92 to 2.38 per cent pa during 1992-93 to 2003-04. It is this failure that underlies the spurt in rural violence that has highlighted once again the issue of the poors’ access to land, water, and forests. It is gradually being recognised that further deterioration of economic, social, and political conditions of the rural poor can neither be arrested nor reversed without a significant policy shift towards a comprehensive land reform program.
By Amit Bhaduri
Over the last two decades or so, the two most populous, large countries in the world, China and India, have been growing at rates considerably higher than the world average. In recent years the growth rate of national product of China has been about three times, and that of India approximately two times that of the world average. This has led to a clever defence of globalisation by a former chief economist of IMF (Fisher, 2003). Although China and India feature as only two among some 150 countries for which data are available, he reminded us that together they account for the majority of the poor in the world. This means that, even if the rich and the poor countries of the world are not converging in terms of per capita income, the well above the average world rate of growth rate of these two large countries implies that the current phase of globalisation is reducing global inequality and poverty at a rate as never before.
The political landscape in colleges across West Bengal is barren – the SFI wins mainly uncontested almost everywhere, through an intricate mechanism of nepotism, selection and campus terror.
The students of Sibpur BESU are facing an assault of the college administration- local goons-police. The Vice-chancellor Nikhil Ranjan Banerjea is orchestrating the assault, the aim of which is to terrorize students into joining or supporting the students’ wing of the major ruling party. It is not an accident that all those who are being arrested by the police are distinguished by their non-allegiance to this students’ organisation.
The Government of West Bengal has begun the implementation of the Forest Rights Act with great delay and reluctance. It is clear that a process of sabotage is going on in the implementation, and this requires constant vigilance and protest. Following are two documents – (1) a press release from the North Bengal Regional Committee of the National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (NFFPFW), raising questions of legality of a recently issued order (number 1220/PN/O/I/1A-2/07, dated March 17, 2008) and (2) Letter to the chief secretary to the Government of West Bengal from Nagarik Mancha on the issue, March 27, 2008.
By Dipankar Basu, Sanhati (Open for comments)
This article attempts to throw some light on the following two questions: (1) How does the classical Marxist tradition conceptualize the relationship between the two stages of revolution: democratic and the socialist? (2) Does the democratic revolution lead to deepening and widening capitalism? Is capitalism necessary to develop the productive capacity of a society? The answer to the first question emerges from the idea of the “revolution of permanence” proposed by Marx in 1850, accepted, extended and enriched by Lenin as “uninterrupted revolution” and simultaneously developed by Trotsky as “permanent revolution”. This theoretical development was brilliantly put into practice by Lenin between the February and October revolutions in Russia in 1917. The answer to the second question emerges clearly from the debates on the national and colonial question in the Second Congress of the Third International in 1920. From this debate what emerges is the idea of the democratic revolution led by the proletariat as the start of the process of non-capitalist path of the development of the productive capacity of society, moving towards the future socialist revolution. Rather than deepening and widening capitalism, the democratic revolution under the proletariat leads society in the opposite direction, in a socialist, i.e., proletarian direction. Promoting capitalism is not necessary for the development of the productive capacity of a country.
In view of the appalling lack of transparency pertaining to various aspects of the West Bengal Government’s proposal for, and efforts towards, setting up a Chemical / Petrochemical Hub at Nayachar and the numerous urgent issues of public interest thrown up by such a project, a Citizens’ Expert Committee was constituted to look into the desirability and viability of the said project. The Committee comprises of eminent specialists drawn from various disciplines – geology, chemistry, physics, river science, medicine, economics and fisheries. Presented below are the preliminary observations of the Committee, covering environmental, geological, and economic aspects.
Today we are witnessing the sharpest assault on democratic rights since Emergency. And as before, the reason is an upsurge from below, in the current case in resistance to the imposition of neoliberal policies. A most ominous event is the recent arrest, by the police of CPI(M)-led left front government, of Mithu Ghosh, an activist of Sharamik Sangram Committee (SSC) and Krishak Committee (KC), along with a senior leader of Nandigram movement and his son on 12th February, 2008 from Sonachuda, Nandigram West Bengal. An allegation of Maoist link under section 120B, 121, 121A and 153 of IPC was charged.
By Swati Bhattacharya. Translated by Debarshi Das, Sanhati
We want work, work, work, work and work. – Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Chief Minister, West Bengal
Anukul Das was from Sonaga village, Gosaba Gram Panchayat (South 24 Parganas District, the Sunderban region). He demanded the right to work for minimum hundred days from Panchayat. Presently he is in the Andamans seeking work. His wife Shikha Das says, he got only nine days of work in two years. So, he went to submit the application for unemployment dole with some other villagers. Panchayat did not want to accept to application, hence they forcibly submitted it. A few days later, works started in the area, and they did not find any. They were allotted works in Rangabelia, about four kilometres away. Cost of travelling to and fro is twenty two rupees per day. One hour by boat, one more on foot. It was absurd to accept such a proposal. Panchayat members had told them openly: you complained about us, we will provide no work to you.
Capitalistic socialism: New Oxymoron – By Sankar Ray
Irony of recent history – A critique of the CPIM’s draft political resolution – By Sankar Ray
It has been argued that big capital investment in West Bengal “creates a wonderful opportunity to make much larger investments in public education, healthcare, public transport, environmental protection, and other public goods.” (Amartya Sen). On the other hand, the argument has been made that a government with a neo-liberal mindset does not care about people who, because of their purchasing power, are outside the market. If the government has money, it will make malls and flyovers, at the cost of public health. The problem is not one of intention but definition.
The situation in a state mental hospital, a mere 6 km from the seat of government at Writers Building in Kolkata, displays the typically dysfunctional nature of public healthcare, amidst all the rhetoric of development.
Singur brutalizer gets medal, cadres get Nandigram land, cash incentives for officials: Laissez-faire in action
Friedmanite neo-liberalism advocates minimization of the involvement of the state. In reality, neo-liberal policies are imposed and facilitated by the state – from nepotism and incentives to disappearances and massacres.
1. Singur: IPS officer accused of torture awarded Seva medal by Chief Minister – March 3, 2008
2. Bengal govt to distribute vested Nandigram land to party supporters – February 27, 2008
3. Cash Incentives for Officials Who Take Initiative for Land Acquisition – February 2, 2008
By Amit Bhaduri, B.N. Ganguly Memorial Lecture; CSDS, Delhi, November 2006.
We are living in India at a time when the media is continuously transmitting confusing, even conflicting, economic signals. If we restrict ourselves to the English language print as well as electronic media, our comfort level is likely to be high. The economy is growing at a high rate, the stock market is booming, our foreign reserve is at a comfortably high level, and freer trade is bringing to our doors a variety of goods and services simply unimaginable even a couple of decades ago as a mark of the benefits of globalization. What is more, we are daily reminded that India is poised economically and politically as an emergent world power.
The “development” process in West Bengal is taking place in a two stage mechanism – conversion of agricultural land into industrial land, and conversion of industrial land into real estate. Land acquisition in Dankuni clearly demonstrates how the aim of the “development” process is really the extraction of maximum profits by private enities from resources, in this case, land. Real estate provides the maximum profit, therefore functioning factories in Dankuni are being shut down to acquire land for a housing project by the powerful DLF group.
The ‘Agricultural Science Fair 2008’ was organized by Bolagarh Gana-Bijnan Samiti on 25-26 January, 2008 at the Jeerat Colony High School in the Hooghly district of West Bengal, India. Extensive discussions and programs were carried out on the role of multinationals like Monsanto in promoting genetically modified seeds, pesticides, and fertilizers. Alternative bio-friendly methods of agriculture were discussed.
February 13, 2008. Kolkata: A rally from College Square to Utkal Bhavan (an office of the Orissa govornment) took place and was followed by a mass-deputation in Utkal Bhavan against the proposed POSCO project in Jagatsingpur district, Orissa. The program was organised by 18 organizations. After a demonstration in front of Utkal Bhavan the protesters conveyed their solidarity to the POSCO movement in the form of a memorandum to the government of Orissa. The authorities at Utkal Bhavan received the memorandum on behalf of the government of Orissa. Afterwards, anti-POSCO activists including Biswajit Roy shared their experiences with political organisations and human rights activists at the Indian Radical Humanist Associations Hall in a discussion called Posco Ebong Tar Protirodh. Activists involved in the protest movement against illegal and extensive stone quarrying in Asansol and Birbhum were also present to express their solidarity to the people of Orissa and speak about the conditions in the regions where they work.
The 18 organisations which organised the program were: APDR, Chhatra-Chhatri Sanhati Mancha, Little Magazine Samannay Mancha, Lok Seba Sangh, Nandigram Ganahatya Birodhi Prochar Udyog, Sahanagarikder Jukta Mancha, Hawker Sangram Committee, TASAM, USDF, NAPM, Sanhati Udyog, PaschimBanga Khetmazoor Samiti, Ganamukti Parishad, Janasangharsha Samiti, West Bengal Gandhi Peace Foundation, Bondi Mukti Committee, West Bengal Government Employees Union, and National Fishworkers Federation.
1. February 10, 2008 : Kalipada Majhi, a sharecropper rendered jobless in Singur after land acquisition, died from malnutrition.
2. In an article called The Nano-flyover Syndrome, Sunita Narain examines what subsidises the cheap Nano, and who actually pays.
By Dipanjan Rai Chaudhuri and Purnendu Chakraborty
These articles calculate the actual employment figure in downstream units of HPL for 2005 to be less than 19,301. We are being asked to believe that, in 2 years, the figure has increased from less than 19,301 to 50,000+89,900, an increase of more than 7-fold. The figure of 89,900 is also suspiciously close to 89,895, which is the employment figure for ALL new projects implemented in the state between 1991-2002 (Source: Frontline). It seems that either 89,000 is a favourite number, or that all employment in the state has come from HPL.
February 4th, 2008, marks the tenth anniversary of the illegal detention of 34 Burmese freedom fighters in Bengal. The Solidarity Committee for Burma’s Freedom Fighters, whose members include Ashok Mitra, Lakshmi Sehgal, and others, carried out a Dharna in protest.
Personal accounts of prisoners and press release of the protest are included.
Neoliberal Globalization Is Not the Problem – By Rick Wolff
2008: The Demise of Neoliberal Globalization – By Immanuel Wallerstein
Putting the U.S. Economic Crisis in Perspective – By Leo Panitch
By Amit Bhaduri
Economic growth tends to be sustained over a period of time by mutually reinforcing tendencies. This process has appeared in different guises in various fields of enquiry to describe essentially similar phenomena. Biologists have long known it as symbiosis or mutualism between two species; they appear as autocatalysis in chemical reactions, and engineers dealing with electrical circuits call similar mechanisms systems of positive mutual feedbacks. Economists Myrdal and Kaldor tried to capture this phenomenon occurring during the process of economic growth as the mechanism of ‘cumulative causation’, and ‘dynamic increasing returns’ respectively. While most processes of economic growth sustained over a period of time might be characterized by this somewhat abstract notion of mutually reinforcing tendencies, each historical process is also different in so far as it generates it own specific tendencies. It is the specificity of these reinforcing tendencies that determine to a large extent the developmental politics underlying this growth process. The growing despair and anger in large part of Indian countryside about India’s recent and unprecedented high growth has to be placed in this context.
On Jyoti Basu’s Embrace of Capitalism as the Only Road to Industrialisation – By P.J. James
CPI(M)’s 19th Congress: The Social Democrats Stand Further Exposed – By K.N. Ramachandran
January 22, 2008. A report by Anuradha Talwar, Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity
The High Court dismissed all the petitions against the land acquisition in Singur on 18th January 2008. After waiting for over almost six months to give its verdict (the last date of hearing was 31st July 2008) the High Court dismissed all the 11 public interest cases against forcible land acquisition by the State Government for Tata Motors Company. The Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court comprising the Chief Justice, Mr. S.S. Nijjar, and Mr. Justice P.C. Ghose, by a common order, on 18th January, Friday held that the land acquisition by the State Government at Singur for construction of a small car manufacturing unit by Tata Motors is valid. While dismissing all the public interest litigations challenging land acquisition at Singur, the court held that those petitions are not maintainable.
By Jean Drèze
The extension of the NREGA to the whole country is an unprecedented opportunity to build the foundations of a social security system in rural India, revive village economies, promote social equity, and empower rural labour.
By M A Oommen. A EPW article, January 12 2008.
A model, which is not sustainable, is a tragedy. In the context of neoliberal reforms, this article raises certain emerging issues relating to equity and sustainability of the “Kerala model” of development.
This article seeks to raise certain issues relating to equity and sustainability concerning Kerala’s development experience, widely referred to as a development “model”. The issues are raised in the context of the neoliberal reforms underway in India since 1991. It is particularly important because there is a strong view that “Kerala’s social democratic gains have been preserved and the social costs of its transition to a more open and competitive economy have been effectively managed” [Sandbrook et al 2007:68].
On the first day of the CPI-M’s four-day-long state conference on January 14 2008, the party’s top leadership tried to grapple with the self-contradictions in its ideological and tactical positions that have come to the fore in recent times.
January 6, 2008: The Forward Bloc demanded that Tata Motors be asked to shift its Singur plant to West Midnapore on a day the CPM patted itself for changing with the times. “The factory can’t be built here, on this fertile land. The government must accept this verdict of the local people, admit its folly and ask the Tatas to shift it to Kalaikunda,’’ Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh told a rally near the boundary wall of the car plant site.
January 10, 2008: Chief U.N. climate scientist Rajendra Pachauri, who shared last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, said last month that “I am having nightmares” about the prospect of the low-cost car.
By Garga Chatterjee, Sanhati
The events in Nandigram have possibly changed the trajectory of contemporary political discourse for good. West Bengal’s “leftist” government started a policy of forcibly acquiring land from peasants, dependents on soil and other communities that live off the soil. Incident after incident followed where discontented locals spontaneously organized, into Krishi Jami Raksha Committee, Bhumi Uchhed Protirodh Committee, Uchhed Birodhi Committee, and more.
For some time Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has been advising the Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee to disband the organisation since the state government has “abandoned for good” the plan to acquire farmland at Nandigram, while the outfit’s nomenclature means it was formed for resistance against displacement from land.
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