Monday, July 26, 2010
Editorial of People’s Democracy dated 25th July, 2010
Playing with People’s Lives
YET another rail accident has claimed over 60 lives and has left over a hundred seriously injured. Yet another conspiracy theory has been woven by the union railway minister. It is, indeed, a shame for our country that we have, in the present political leadership of UPA-II government, ministers for whom precious human life comes so cheap that death does not even merit a thoughtful moment of human sadness and sympathy. Sabotage theories have come even before the customary expression of pretensions of remorse on such occasions. The railway board, following the cue from the minister, has declared that it does not rule out sabotage with its chairman hinting at “willful interference”.
Between May 2009 when this UPA-II government assumed office and July 2010, there have been 16 major rail accidents in which at least 269 people lost their lives and over a thousand seriously injured. If all minor incidents are taken into account, then there have been 162 accidents since May 2009 in which 428 people died.
Absolving herself of any responsibility or moral torment, the railway minister, at the accident site said, “I am suspicious about the cause of the accident. We have some doubt in our mind. Whatever happened is not a casual thing. We will take strong steps against those who are behind this.” On May 28, 2010, following the derailment and collision of the Jnaneswari Express in West Bengal that killed 149 people, the minister said: “There was a political conspiracy behind the derailment. I feel bad at the way the incident was engineered to fulfill one’s political interest. Those who have done this sabotage and played with so many lives should not be pardoned.” Earlier, on October 21, 2009, after the Goa Express – Mewar Express collision near Mathura that killed 21 people, the minister said: “Somebody is saying that chain pulling was the reason and others say there was a signal problem. It may be a case of criminal offence also. I’ll let the CBI decide.” Shockingly, when two people died and many injured in a stampede at the New Delhi railway station caused by an abrupt change in the platforms announced by the railways, the minister once again absolving all responsibility with impunity said: “It is not the failure of the administration. People are responsible for such chaos. It is difficult to control such situations.”
On this occasion of the collision of the Uttar Banga Express with the Vananchal Express, the union home ministry shot down the railway minister’s suspicion on the cause of the collision, which hinted at foul play. The home ministry officials have said that the accident pointed to a system failure where both man and equipment failed. This is the second time that the union home ministry has negated the claim of the railway minister. It had earlier ruled out the use of explosives, which the railway minister so promptly announced, in the collision of the Jnaneswari Express.
Undeterred, the railway minister and her Trinamul Congress (TMC) continues to churn out conspiracy theories targeting the CPI(M) and the Left. The Jnaneswari Express accident, we are told, occurred just two days before the municipal elections inWest Bengal. This is a fact. But then, it was the TMC that gained in these elections. Where does the needle of suspicion point to? From the TMC’s own standards of conspiracy theories, it is clear that the `boot is on the other foot’. This unfortunate accident happened again two days before an annual gathering of people that the TMC organises every year in Kolkata.
This accident, as with the string of others, leaves many important questions unanswered. All of these have been widely reported and, hence, need no repetition. All of these, however, point to a massive systems failure during the last one year. And, all invariably point to the lack of the required concentration and attention to efficiently and safely run the world’s largest railway network. The Indian railways today transports over 18 million passengers a day apart from large-scale transportation of goods and freight. Safety on the railways has, obviously, been neglected. Nearly 90,000 sanctioned posts remain vacant as the railways under the union minister fails to find time for these appointments. Shockingly, over 20,000 of these are directly related to safety! The anti-collision devise (ACD) which automatically prevents train collisions was curiously developed by the former managing director of Konkan railways when the current railway minister was the minister in an earlier stint. The Konkan railways, today, uses the ACDs. Yet today, during the course of this entire year, the railways have not found the time or the inclination to introduce these in its all-India network.
Clearly, India cannot afford such dangerous state of affairs in our railway network, which is so crucial for the country’s existence. The union railway minister, pre-occupied, as she is, with other activities, is not discharging her responsibilities as the union minister that have been sanctioned and sanctified by the oath of office. The collective responsibility of our system of cabinet functioning includes the individual accountability of the ministers. It is the prime minister’s responsibility as the leader of the cabinet minister to ensure this.
This is importantly required on another count as well. The prime minister has repeatedly declared that Maoist violence constitutes the single gravest threat to India’s internal security. Growing evidence contained in statements made by Maoist leaders reconfirms, if such a reconfirmation was ever necessary, that the TMC had helped the Maoists penetrate in West Bengaland continues to maintain links with them. This contradiction urgently needs to be resolved by the prime minister.
In the interest of the country, its internal security, in the interest of the safety of nearly two crores of people who use the railways every day, it is high time that the UPA-II government and the prime minister take a call. The country cannot afford and the people do not tolerate the continued lack of accountability that jeopardises the safety of both the country and the people.
(July 21, 2010)
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
New Delhi, 20-07-2010: The Home Ministry on Monday differed with Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee over the cause that led to the collision of the Uttarbanga Express with the Vananchal Express that has left 67 people dead and 121 injured at the Sainthia railway station in West Bengal.
Top Home Ministry officials shot down Ms. Banerjee's suspicion on the cause of the collision, which hinted at foul play. Inputs at the Home Ministry were that the signal had failed and the driver of the Uttarbanga Express seemed to have miscalculated his speed, ramming the train into the Ranchi-bound Vananchal Express. Officials said it pointed to a system failure, where both man and equipment failed.
The Home Ministry has, for the second time, negated the claim of Ms. Banerjee. It had ruled out the use of explosives in the derailment of the Jnaneswari Express and subsequent ramming by a goods train, which claimed 149 lives in May.
While most senior railway officials were away at the accident site, others who were present at the Rail Bhavan declined to comment on the Home Ministry's assertion, particularly because the Railway Minister herself suspected sabotage.
The officials, however, admitted that the Uttarbanga Express was speeding in excess of 60 km an hour, almost 40 km above the limit as the train had a scheduled halt at Sainthia.
These officials admitted that driver M.C. Dey had been in touch with the staff of the Rampurhat station, just ahead of Sainthia, giving the impression that he was in his senses and not affected by any intoxication. Both the driver and the assistant driver were killed in the collision.
The two collisions have together claimed 209 lives in the first four months of the current financial year, accounting for almost 80 per cent of the 248 deaths caused in various accidents.
The year 2010-11 is turning out to be a black year so far as train collisions are concerned, the death toll being the worst in the past eight years.
It had a declining trend in 2005-06, when 25 people died; in 2006-07, accidents claimed two lives and in the following year (2007-08) it came down to one. The death toll rose to nine in 2008-09 and climbed to 42 in 2009-10 when Ms. Banerjee took over from Lalu Prasad as Railway Minister.
Similarly, the injury figures too paint the Railways in a bad picture. The two collisions this year have left more than 250 people injured.
The BJP, the CPI (M), the RJD and the LJP have sought an explanation from the Prime Minister over the practicality of continuing with Ms. Banerjee as Railway Minister, charging that these collisions were the result of a system failure.
Friday, July 16, 2010
July 07, 2010
THE unprecedented success of the countrywide hartal against price rise on July 5 has provoked a string of absurd reactions from our political opponents in the government. Instead of accepting the fact that this spontaneous outburst of anger by the vast majority of the common people must be addressed in right earnest by making efforts to halt the price rise and improve the living conditions of the people, the Congress and some of its allies in the government, ably assisted by sections of the corporate media and the pen pushers of India Inc., have resorted to hurling baseless charges against us.
In this regard, the Trinamul Congress and its chief take the cake. Rattled by the spontaneous response in West Bengal, far surpassing the state’s usual response to hartals against the anti-people policies of the government, the Trinamul chief accused the CPI (M) of being “hand in glove with the communal party”. Committing a Freudian slip, she invoked her party’s election symbol and said that the CPI (M) and BJP are “two flowers on the same stalk”.
Such temerity from a person who, in the first place, facilitated the formation of a government by the communal forces led by Vajpayee in 1998! Having served as a union cabinet minister, holding the same portfolio that she now holds in the Congress-led UPA government, she left the NDA in order to align with the Congress for the West Bengal state assembly elections in 2001. Soon after this alliance was trounced, she abandoned the Congress to rejoin the NDA, in the aftermath of the communal genocide in Gujarat. Having been an opportunistic bedfellow of the BJP, she now has the gumption to attack the CPI (M) as “collaborating with the BJP”!Let us set the record straight. As is well-known, the CPI (M) and the Left parties along with their secular opposition allies had given the call for this nationwide hartal. Later, the BJP and its NDA allies gave a similar call on the same date. Further, this call for a hartal came as a culmination of an over year-long campaign against price rise conducted by the Left parties. On several occasions, this issue was raised in the parliament. However, met by a callous response by the government in parliament, the Left parties decided to mount pressure on the government through popular protests and struggles. A massive `march to parliament’ was organised on March 12, 2010. This was followed by a nationwide `jail bharo’ campaign on April 8 in which over 25 lakh volunteers of the Left parties participated. This was followed by a call by the Left parties for a nationwide hartal on April 27. This present hartal has come after the recent hike in the prices of petro products in defiance of all arguments in parliament and protests outside falling on the deaf ears of the government.
The CPI (M)’s credentials in fighting communalism and uncompromisingly upholding the secular democratic character of modern India is known to all. It must be recollected that in the 2004 general elections, of the 61 Left MPs in the Lok Sabha, 54 won by defeating the Congress candidates. Yet, in order to prevent the communal forces from staking claim to form the government again, the Left parties extended outside support to a secular government headed by the very same Congress party. This is despite the fact that in the Left strongholds of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, it is the Congress which is the main political adversary. Such is the commitment of the CPI (M) to uphold the secular democratic character of modern India. Having cohabited with the BJP in the past, the Trinamul Congress is cynically trying to spread patent falsehoods to muster support from the religious minorities in West Bengal.
Several Congress leaders have also been making similar fabricated charges against the CPI (M). In this context, it is necessary to recollect that in 1996, the CPI(M) and the Left played the crucial role in forming the United Front government in order to prevent the continuation of the government headed by Vajpayee which lasted a mere 13 days. The Congress party had then assured the country and the president of India that it would support this secular combination from the outside for its full term. However, it betrayed its own assurance and withdrew support in 1998 to pave the way for the formation of the BJP-led NDA government. If the Congress had not thus betrayed, then the assumption to office by a government of the communal forces would never had happened in 1998.
Such absurd politicking and motivated anti-Communist campaigns apart, it needs to be underlined that this nationwide hartal was called on the issue of the relentless rise in the prices of all essential commodities. The immediate provocation for the hartal is the massive hike in the prices of petroleum products which, as already endorsed by sections of the mainstream media, is already having a cascading impact on prices sending the inflationary spiral higher. On all such attacks on the livelihood of the people, the CPI(M) along with its Left and secular allies had gone in for popular public protest actions in order to force the government to rollback such attacks. The protection and improvement of people’s livelihood is at the core of CPI(M)’s political practice.
On the issue of the hike in the petro prices, the CPI(M) had always protested – whether while supporting the United Front government from the outside, while opposing the BJP-led NDA government or again while supporting the UPA-I government for four years and later opposing their anti-people policies including those of the UPA-II – on the ground that they impose severe hardships on the people.
As noted in these columns last week, the proposal for the deregulation of the petrol product prices during the United Front government in 1996-98, was accompanied by the abolition of all taxes on imported petroleum products. This proposal was put into effect in April 2002 by the Vajpayee government, only partially, without reducing the taxes on imported petroleum products. This resulted in petrol prices increasing by 21 times and diesel prices by 24 times during the NDA tenure. The CPI (M) and its secular allies had organised countrywide protests against these unprecedented extra burdens being imposed on the people through such hikes. On many occasions, other parties, including the Congress, synchronised their actions with the protests organised by the CPI (M) and the Left. So rattled was the then NDA government that on February 21, 2004 in the face of imminent general elections, it put out advertisements in the media making a commitment for no further increases in LPG and kerosene prices.
The fact of the matter is simple. Irrespective of who is in government, the CPI (M) will uncompromisingly champion the interests of the people and organise popular protests against all policies that impose greater economic burdens on the people. Unlike the crass opportunism of our political adversaries, such attacks on the people’s livelihood are not matters of political alignments or adjustments for the CPI (M). These are matters concerning the quality of life of our people – whose continuous improvement remains the firm unequivocal commitment of the CPI (M), a commitment that goes hand-in-hand with an equally firm commitment to safeguard and strengthen the secular democratic character of modern India in the face of any assault on this by the communal forces.
Monday, July 5, 2010
4 July 2010
The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) met in New Delhi on July 3 and 4, 2010. It has issued the following statement:
AGAINST PRICE RISE
The Polit Bureau strongly condemns the refusal of the UPA government to reconsider the decision to increase the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas and the steps being taken to deregulate the prices of petrol and diesel.
By these steps, the Congress-led government is directly responsible for the spiraling price rise of food items and essential commodities. The deregulation of prices are meant to help the private oil companies and put the people at the mercy of a market-controlled by the oil MNCs and the domestic corporates.
JULY 5 HARTAL
The Polit Bureau appealed to all sections of the people to join the all India hartal on July 5 and make it a big success. This powerful all India protest action should serve as a warning to the government not to heap burdens on the people and to withdraw the price hike measures.
CAMPAIGN FOR FOOD SECURITY
The Polit Bureau endorsed the decision of the Left parties convention held on July 1 to conduct an extensive campaign in the month of August on the demands for a comprehensive food security legislation which will provided for 35 kg of foodgrains to every family at Rs. 2 per kilo; making the public distribution system universal; and distributing the food stocks accumulated in the godowns to feed the people. State units will organise this campaign through padayatras, jathas and rallies.
The Polit Bureau expressed its deep concern at the continuing phenomenon of “honour” killings. The caste khap panchayats are issuing illegal diktats against young couples who marry outside their narrow caste norms, which results in their brutal and inhuman killings. The statement by the Haryana Chief Minister and some Congress MPs defending the khap panchayats are providing sustenance to such illegal and violent activities.
The Polit Bureau demands firm action against those who issue such illegal decisions and resort to intimidation, threats and violence. The government should immediately bring forth a comprehensive law against “honour” killings.
ATTACKS IN WEST BENGAL
The Polit Bureau denounced the continuing violence and attacks against the CPI (M) workers and supporters in West Bengal by the TMC combine. The Maoist involvement in the derailing of the Gyaneswar Express resulting in the deaths of 149 passengers has been established. They are desperately trying to eliminate CPI(M) cadres and terrorise supporters in the Jangal Mahal area. The true nature of the Maoists has been fully exposed by these heinous activities.
The Polit Bureau calls upon all democratic and progressive circles to condemn this degenerate and perverse activities of the Maoists. The Polit Bureau calls upon all its units to step up the campaign in solidarity with the CPI (M) and the Left Front in West Bengal.
CENTRAL COMMITTEE MEETING
The Polit Bureau finalized the draft of the political resolution for the extended Central Committee meeting to be held in August. This draft along with the review of the implementation of the political-tactical line will be placed before the next Central Committee meeting to be held on July 21-23, 2010.
5 July 2010
The Left parties, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party and the Forward Bloc have issued the following statement:
JULY 5 HARTAL: UNPRECEDENTED SUCCESS
The all India hartal to protest against the steep increase in the prices of petroleum products has been an unprecedented success. Despite detention and arrests of thousands of protesters, there was a bandh like situation in all parts of the country with shops, business establishments, transport and educational institutions being closed. Left leaders, A.B. Bardhan, D Raja and Brinda Karat were arrested for picketing in Delhi. This has been the most widespread protest action in the country in recent years.
The Left parties congratulate the people and the tens of thousands of activists who have made the hartal a complete success. By this action the people have expressed their anger and strong opposition to the anti-people policies of inflicting successive burdens on the people through price hikes of petroleum products.
The Left parties in consultation with secular opposition parties will chalk out plans for further intensifying the movement against price rise to compel the government to reverse these harmful steps.
General Secretary, CPI (M)
General Secretary, CPI
General Secretary, RSP
General Secretary, AIFB