The Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) met online, for the first time, on July 25-26, 2020. It has issued the following statement:
Covid-19 Pandemic Surge
The abrupt, unprepared, unplanned, unilateral lockdown declared by Prime Minister Modi has proved ineffective in combating the surge of the pandemic in the country. The Central government failed to utilize the long period of total lockdown for augmenting our health facilities, providing protective equipment for the health workers, conducting widespread testing, isolating positive cases, contact tracing and quarantining as the scientific method to combat the pandemic. PM’s demagoguery of alluding to the Mahabharata war and that we would be achieving victory in 21 days proved to be totally illusory.
This lockdown, on the other hand, has imposed untold misery on the vast majority of our people, particularly, Dalits, Adivasis, women and the disabled, with widespread job losses, ruination of livelihoods and growing hunger and misery. The Central government refused to concede the essential demands of immediate cash transfers and provision of free foodgrains to the needy despite increasing sufferings and miseries of the people.
Having failed in containing the pandemic, the PM and the Central government have now, completely abdicated their responsibility, passing the burden of resolving problems caused by the PM’s declaration of the lockdown to state governments and leaving the people to fend for themselves.
Relentless Pursuit of RSS/BJP Agenda
Instead of focusing single-minded attention on combating the pandemic and providing relief to the people, this BJP Central government is relentlessly pursuing its agenda. It has embarked on an economic trajectory that is a deadly combination of outright loot of our national assets and the mounting of anti-working people assaults.
Self-Subservience, Not Self-Reliance: The stimulus package announced in the name of India’s self-reliance is actually a blueprint for India’s self-subservience to private capital, both foreign and domestic. All sectors of our economy have now been opened up for FDI through automatic route including railways, coal, minerals and insurance. Most public sector undertakings are being privatized, including railways, ordinance factories, BSNL etc. and also in electricity, coal, minerals, petroleum, banks, insurance and the financial sector. This loot of public resources is accompanied by efforts to negate the hard-earned rights of the working class through dilution of the labour laws. In many states, the working hours have been increased from 8 hours a day to 12 hours.
Sharpening Communal Polarisation: The Central Committee noted with concern the further sharpening of communal polarization and targeting of the Muslim religious minority community. In Delhi a totally false chronology of events to whitewash the role of the RSS/BJP and their affiliates in the communal violence is being aggressively pushed by the Delhi Police under instructions of the Home Ministry. Many young activists including students who participated in the peaceful anti-CAA/NRC/NPR protests and victims of communal violence are being targeted and arrested under draconian provisions, while those who instigated and led the communal violence in North East Delhi have been left scot free. In Uttar Pradesh the draconian `UP Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Ordinance 2020’, is being used to levy exorbitant fines and for auctioning of property of those who participated in peaceful protests.
Attacks on Democratic Rights and Civil Liberties: The demand for the release of several prominent human rights activists on health grounds given the pandemic situation, continues to be treated with contempt. Any expression of dissent is treated as `anti-national’. Even the few left in the media who dare to challenge the authorities concerned are not spared and fabricated cases have been filed against them.
Authoritarian Drive: The Central Committee also noted that the BJP led government, under the cover of the pandemic is further strengthening the drive for centralization of all authority and power, negating the principles of federalism, a basic feature of our Constitution. All decisions are being taken unilaterally by the PM and the Central government and the states are burdened with bearing the consequences of such unilateral decisions.
Though the state governments are in the forefront of combating the pandemic, instead of allocating resources, they are being denied even their legitimate GST dues. The Centre must immediately transfer the thousands of crores of rupees collected in the name of combating the pandemic in a private trust named after the PM to the states.
Undermining Constitutional Institutions: The Central Committee cautioned the people against the increased efforts by the BJP government to undermine all independent Constitutional institutions. Parliament’s functioning has been grievously circumscribed. Serious questions have come up about the way the judiciary has been functioning in recent times. Several important petitions challenging the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution as also the CAA have been kept pending. The independent functioning of the Election Commission is increasingly coming under a cloud. The Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation are increasingly functioning as the political arm of the Central government.
Destabilising State Governments: The Central Committee also noted the efforts being made by the BJP to topple democratically elected governments of other parties by engineering defections through naked horse-trading using the huge resources, earned through dubious means, at its command.
Denounce the Efforts to Destabilise the LDF Government in Kerala: The gold smuggling case in Kerala through diplomatic baggage addressed to the UAE consulate is being used by the Congress-led UDF and the BJP, working in tandem, to destabilize the LDF government, demanding the resignation of the Chief Minister, on false allegations. The case concerns the Customs’ seizure of contraband gold and does not fall within the jurisdiction of the state government. The Chief Minister asked for an investigation by the Central agencies and the NIA is currently investigating the matter. All those found guilty and involved in this racket by the NIA should be dealt with in accordance with law.
The CPI(M) Central Committee is confident that the people of Kerala will defeat this disruptive move of the UDF and BJP at a time when all efforts are needed to be focused on combating the Covid-19 pandemic.
Further Cementing Subordinate Ally Status with USA: Abandoning India’s traditional independent foreign policy, the BJP Central government has allied India completely with USA and furthering the strategic interests of USA in the world. This is not in the interest of the country and the people.
Education: No Digital Divide
The Central Committee analysed the reports from various states with regard to the status of school and college education. The lack of infrastructure, lack of equipment like computers and smart phones has created a digital divide with a large section of students unable to attend online classes. The Central Government must immediately provide resources to augment the internet infrastructure especially in the rural areas as also adequate financial assistance to the students to pursue their education and to purchase the required equipment. In its absence, no digital teaching/examinations must be conducted. Digital education is no substitute for physical teaching pedagogy.
Economic Situation: Greater People’s Misery
The Indian economy was already in a tailspin plunging into a recession before the Covid-19 pandemic impacted. Even prior to the outbreak of the pandemic and the lockdown, Party has been intervening urging greater public investments as the only way to revive the economy. The building of our much-needed infrastructure through public investments would have generated high levels of new employment which, in turn, would have vastly expanded domestic demand in the Indian economy. This would permit closed factories and halted manufacturing to revive. But committed as it is to the neo-liberal agenda, the Modi government continue to pursue policies that further reduce people’s purchasing power, pushing the economy deeper towards a recession.
The anticipated decline of India’s GDP between (-) 4 to (-) 7 per cent will further intensify exploitation of the people and their consequent miseries. Continuous price rise of petroleum products, rising inflation and prices of essential commodities is heaping further burdens on the people. The government’s trajectory neither helps in any economic recovery nor in providing a better livelihood to our people. This is a trajectory that only provides greater profits to the corporates, further widening the obscene levels of economic inequalities.
Dangerous Ordinances Destroying Indian Agriculture: The Central Committee condemned the promulgation of ordinances to remove the Essential Commodities Act as also to amend the APMC Act to allow the free movement of foodgrains across states on the basis of unregulated pricing. This has serious implications for the country’s food security in the future. Whatever little protection the farmers were getting through MSP procurement will end. This will also destroy whatever little of the public distribution system that is existing in the country. These measures, importantly, will open the way for the entry of big multinational agrobusiness and domestic corporates to fully access India’s agricultural produce and markets. This is a recipe for the destruction of Indian agriculture.
Bihar Assembly Elections
The defeat of the BJP-JD(U) alliance in Bihar is imperative both for safeguarding the interests of the people in Bihar and in India. The three state level Left parties – CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML) – have jointly declared that the Left will cooperate with all other forces who are interested in achieving this objective.
The BJP has begun its feverish preparations for these elections. It has launched a massive digital campaign utilizing all resources at its command.
The CPI(M) and the Left parties have opposed the proposal of the state Election Commission, which is backed by the BJP and JD(U), to conduct these elections exclusively through digital campaigning and digital voting. This will exclude vast numbers from participating in the electoral process undermining democracy. Further, it has been proved by international experience, as well, that such methods of campaign and voting is subject to extremely high levels of manipulation. This will distort people’s mandate.
It is the responsibility of the Election Commission to ensure that proper conditions prevail for the conduct of proper elections, with a level playing field for all contestants, through proper campaigning methods and physical voting by the people.
Under the conditions of a surging pandemic, it is the task of the Election Commission and the administration to ensure the safety of the people and to provide conditions for the conduct of normal elections.
Given the gross misuse of money power by the BJP, the Election Commission of India must pursue its submissions to the apex court pointing out the dangers that electoral bonds pose, distorting the democratic election processes and depriving people of exercising an informed choice. These electoral bonds must be scrapped and not allowed to be issued before any elections in the future.
Jammu & Kashmir
Even after nearly a year of the abrogation of Article 370 and 35(A), large-scale detention of thousands of people including all prominent political leaders, the virtual disruption of regular socio-economic life of the people and curtailing communication network, the situation continues to remain critical. During the period of the national lockdown that was imposed over and above the political lockdown in Jammu & Kashmir for nearly a year, the Central government has altered the definition of domicile status to permit people from outside to procure government jobs and purchase property, thereby bringing about a demographic transformation in the Kashmir valley. Serious violations of people’s democratic rights and civil liberties continue with all dissentors being treated as anti-national elements and booked under draconian laws.
The new media policy announced in the now Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir legalizes the control of the bureaucracy and security officials over what can be published or not. Thereby, abrogating the Constitutional guarantee to the right to free speech and expression.
The Central Committee demands that all those detained since August 2019 must be released, full communications must be restored and the free movement of people allowed. This is essential for both combating the pandemic effectively and providing relief to the beleaguered people.
Central Committee Demands
The Central Committee, under these circumstances, has put forward the following essential demands before the Central government:
1) Immediate cash transfer of Rs. 7,500 per month for the next six months to all families outside the income tax bracket.
2) Immediate distribution of free foodgrains of 10 kg per individual per month for the next six months for all the needy.
3) Expand MGNREGA to ensure at least 200 days of work a year with enhanced wages. Promulgate an Urban Employment Guarantee Act. Announce unemployment allowance to all the unemployed.
4) Scrap the proposal to repeal the Interstate Migrant Workmen Act (Regulation of Employment & Conditions of Services) Act 1979 and, on the contrary, strengthen the Act.
5) Increase Central expenditure on public health to at least 3 per cent of the GDP.
6) Scrap the ordinances that remove the Essential Commodities Act and to amend the APMC Act to allow free movement of foodgrains across states on the basis of unregulated pricing.
7) Withdraw all proposals to abolish/amend/suspend existing labour laws.
8) Scrap privatization of public sector undertakings, especially Indian railways and in electricity, petroleum, coal, banks/insurance, defence production sectors.
9) Transfer all funds collected in a private trust fund bearing the PM’s name to the States who are in the forefront of combating the pandemic.
10) As the Disaster Management Act has been invoked for combating the pandemic, announce a one-time financial assistance to the families of victims who succumbed to the pandemic in accordance with the National Disaster Relief Fund provisions.
11) Strictly implement reservations for SC/ST/OBCs & disabled. Fill up all backlog posts.
12) Examine and award degrees to the final year graduate and post-graduate students on the basis of their previous semesters’ performance.
13) Immediately release all those who have been detained since August 2019 in Jammu & Kashmir. Restore full communications and allow free movement of people.
14) Release all political prisoners in jails detained under draconian laws like UAPA, NSA, Sedition Act.
15) Withdraw Environment Impact Assessment 2020.
16) Punish the perpetrators of growing caste violence against Dalits, domestic and sexual violence against women and exploitation of the tribals.
Central Committee Calls
- Highlighting this demand charter, the Central Committee has called upon all units of the Party to observe a protest week from August 20 to 26 all over the country adhering to the required restrictions and precautions.
- The Central Committee extends the Party’s support and solidarity to the call for an all-India protest action given by the trade unions, the kisan sabhas and the agricultural labour unions on August 9, 2020.