Updates

Articles

Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

Bulgaria: The wave of protests, 2012-2013



Bulgaria:
The wave of protests, 2012-2013

Mariya Ivancheva
from International Viewpoint
http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article3225

In the past half-decade, post-socialist Bulgaria has witnessed a persistent wave of protests. These protests have coincided with the global wave of anti-neoliberal mobilization against austerity, debt, and precarity, heralded by the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and Indignados movements. Yet, interpreting the Bulgarian protests as part of the same protest wave might turn out to be dangerously misleading.


In this paper, I explain the dynamic of contestation and frames of protest by discussing the three peaks of the 2012–2013 protest wave. I show a number of characteristics of the political and social landscape of post-socialist Bulgaria, which have made the anti-neoliberal or anti-capitalist framing of the protests increasingly difficult. I claim that a reason for this has been a few mutually reinforcing characteristics of the Bulgarian protests, typical not only for Bulgaria, but also for other post-socialist countries.


First, the recurrence or persistence of a strong neo-liberal capitalist party in power – which draws on the symbolic legacy of state socialism but fervently destroys socialist welfare institutions – perpetuates a strong ‘anti-communist’ framing of the protests. Second, the trope of the ‘hard-working middle class’ – a main slogan of the transition to liberal democracy and free-market capitalism since 1989 – has made inter-class alliances between the economically vulnerable low- and high-skilled workers impossible. Last, but not least, given the decades of creation of neo-liberal hegemony in the country, ‘smoothly functioning capitalism’ has been seen as a solution to, and not the cause of, impoverishment, indebtedness, and precarity. These three motives, which are all present in the Bulgarian case, make it impossible to frame protests in an anti-neoliberal and anti-capitalist way. They also draw a line between parallel but not coinciding waves of social protests around the world: a demarcation that might turn out to be a frontline in emergent mobilization for global social change.


The protest wave emerges


Since 2007, Bulgaria has witnessed a continuous wave of protests. Triggered by the increasing construction on protected land, they took place mostly in the capital city of Sofia. Despite the protection of Bulgarian reservations under the European Commission’s Natura2000 program, a massive wave of semi-legal and unregulated construction was brokered by the Bulgarian political class and profit-seeking developers. Spots of natural significance were turned into concrete wastelands, resulting in the destruction of water sources, soils, and natural habitats. The protest wave was paralleled by campaigns against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), shale-gas fracking, and the ACTA agreement: all framed as important assets of middle-class consumption, health, and access to education and leisure. This wave peaked in June 2012, when a new Forestry Act was passed in Parliament. The capital city’s central boulevard was occupied for days by protests. Pressed by the massive unrest, the political class passed the law without the clauses concerning reservation lands.


Ecological activists hailed these protests as a success. Yet, their struggle for nature was not grounded in debates about crisis-born alternatives to neo-liberal capitalism. Slogans against oligarchy and corruption have eclipsed the debate of similar practices in other sectors since 1989. In the process of mass rapid privatization and draconian austerity, governments in the late 1990s and early 2000s dismantled the infrastructure and welfare institutions of the socialist state and led millions of Bulgarians into unemployment, precariousness, or misery-forced migration. Yet, the protesters against the Forestry Act, shale-gas fracking, ACTA, and GMOs showed little solidarity with teachers, academics, students, miners, factory workers, and drivers, who marched in parallel to them in order to contest the privatization of industries and the cutting of public-sector jobs, salaries, securities, and services. Despite their use of slogans inspired by Occupy Wall Street and other anti-austerity protests, Bulgarian environmentalists did not see capitalism as a problem. Not only did they declare themselves ‘anti-communist’ and thus opposed to the state socialist past and its metastases in state power, but they often declared capitalism as an ideal, problematic not in its global manifestation (e.g., the crisis since 2008, to name but its most recent failure), but in its local ‘oriental’ version: disrupting the consumption and leisure of the hard-working middle class.


Due to the same reasoning, in the summer of 2012, the environmental activists ignored two crucial possibilities to engage with people who were concerned not with leisure, consumption, and the long-term ecological survival of the planet, but with making ends meet. First, they haughtily ignored the counter-protest of peasants from the reservation areas, for whom the development of these regions could only mean jobs and economic survival. Second, while protests about reservation land were taking place, the environmental protesters did not challenge the 13-percent increase of the price of electricity, which occurred when they were still marching in the streets of Sofia. At that point, activists had already pointed out that the increase would mean that half of the monthly pension or minimal salary of millions of Bulgarians would go into the accounts of privatized power redistributive companies. And while no one took the topic seriously in the summer of 2012, all Bulgarians began paying a steep price for their lack of response to electricity price hikes starting in the winter of 2013.


‘Civil vs. social’


In late January, Bulgarians woke up to enormous electricity bills, which many could not pay. The response was incendiary: an increased suicide rate and casualties among elderly people culminated in seven self-immolations of unemployed and working-class people. The cases did not cease during the winter: two more acts of self-immolation also occurred this past summer. The bills and the casualties catalyzed social mobilization around the country starting in the winter of 2013. Protesters were mostly rank-and-file Bulgarians: middle-aged men and women, young couples with children and students, and also a number of right-extreme football hooligans. Using different protest repertoires, they all questioned the high energy costs, mediocre living standards, and blatant corruption. The protests were not massively joined by the environmental movements from the summer of 2012, although they also protested throughout the winter season against the Belene nuclear power plant and against new legislation that outmaneuvered the Forestry Law. Trying to please the government that made the concession in the summer, the environmentalists insisted that only the Minister of the Environment – and not the entire government – should resign. In their discourse, they said that they did not want to join the contestation of price hikes, emphasizing that they fought for ‘civil’ and not ‘social’ causes. The salvation of the Bulgarian forest was a cause of a ‘civil society’, while welfare, labor rights, and access to services were seen as ‘social’ – ergo, irrelevant – causes.


The counterproductive division between civil and social causes was reproduced in the next peak of the protest wave, which started in the summer of 2013. After clashes between protesters and the police in February 2013, the center-right government of GERB resigned and was replaced by a similarly neo-liberal government of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the Movement for Rights and Liberties (DPS, representing the Turkish minority in the country), and the right-extreme party Ataka. This coalition between social Democrats, ethnically based liberals, and a right-extreme party could be seen as a true contradiction in terms, yet it was completely aligned with the traditional procedure of Bulgarian political coalitions throughout the past 23 years of transition: parties of allegedly different segments of the political sector converged around the interest of global power blocks and local capitalist elites. BSP, an oligarchic structure with roots in the socialist nomenklatura, and its post-socialist national and transnational allies elected Plamen Oresharski – a financial minister of two former cabinets, declared as left- and right-wing – to head a coalition cabinet.


Oresharski’s promise of reforms that would benefit the economically vulnerable Bulgarians could not suppress the moral panic among many anti-communists. They feared the return of BSP to power, which would make Bulgaria subservient to Russian interests. Curiously, the fear of power blocks beyond Russia was mostly eclipsed. At the same time, the distrust against the new government was fueled by an increasing crisis of political representation and the apparent lack of any political and economic program that could fill the emptied state treasury. Successive appointments of oligarchic figures made the government’s credit of trust quickly dissipate. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the election of Delyan Peevski as Head of the State Agency for National Security (DANS). Oresharski announced Peevski as a fighter for transparency, but in the eyes of most Bulgarians, the media monopolist and beneficiary of shady privatization deals was corruption incarnate. Even when Peevski resigned, people continued to go out in the streets on a daily basis. As of the writing of this article, thousands of Bulgarians (mostly high-skilled workers and students) still gather on the streets (mostly in Sofia) on a daily basis, demanding Oresharski’s resignation. They equate the neo-liberal, capitalist BSP and its oligarchic parties in power and the opposition as ‘communist’. As in the summer of 2012, the protesters mostly neglect the daily counter-protest staged by Bulgarians with less symbolical and economic capital: those for whom a change of the government would not mean much, whereas cosmetic reforms would mean a few more crumbs to survive the winter.


Winter vs. summer?


The protests of the summers of 2012 and 2013, in addition to those of the winter in between, seem to be part of the same protest wave in Bulgaria. Since they coincided with protests in Greece, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey, and other countries in Europe and beyond, they were also at times interpreted as part of a larger wave of anti-austerity and anti-privatization protests. Yet, the reality on the ground was more complex. While the protests during the winter were an outburst of people suffering poverty and deprivation amid the economic crisis, those in the summers of 2012 and 2013 were caused by a moral panic of oligarchic and illiberal ruling forces. And while all of the protests made claims against the state’s takeover by oligarchic networks, the February protests articulated some anti-capitalist demands for security and equality, while demands in June have either eclipsed or been watered down to claims for democratic liberties. In this, ‘oligarchy’ is justly equated with the current political elite. Yet, instead of seeing it for what it is – a typical state power elite, defending the interests of big capital – the Bulgarian neo-liberal oligarchy is seen as ‘communist’, and thus any claims against it have to be either anti-communist, or invalid and futile.


What is more, while many Bulgarians who were in the street in the winter of 2013 also came out to protest in the summer, the liberal media has taken to dividing the two waves as incompatible, using the trope of the ‘middle class’ borrowed from the protests of the summer of 2012. This motif eclipses the reality of those with mediocre incomes in the European Union’s poorest member state, who hardly make ends meet on an average salary. Yet, the rhetoric of the ‘middle class’ remained present in local narratives in favor of the protests. It was used by the protesters in the summer of 2013 and also one year earlier, in order to defend their ‘civil’ cause of ‘values’ against the ‘social’ cause of ‘starvation’. Intellectuals who sided with the protests have claimed that the split between winter and summer has been between those who read and those who don’t; between those who comprehend European civilization and values, and those who don’t; between the ‘poor’ and the ‘morally indignant’; between those who can pay their bills and taxes, and those who can’t afford to do so and who therefore live off of welfare. This fake division has enraged many socially minded people, and made them stop going to the protests.


At the same time, the protesters’ economic demands during the winter and summer remained rather unclear and intrinsically contradictory. In the summers of 2012 and 2013, the discussions of how reservation land or public resources could be managed by the people in a more transparent way usually drew blanks. Privatization was seen as wrong only when it hit reservation lands or when it happened in a non-transparent way. Green capitalism, green energy, low taxes for the rich, and a rapid smooth privatization to earnest and moral capitalists were some of the demands raised by the summer protests. And while they shared the concern of anti-corruption and transparency, their analysis did not see the current economic system as unjust or problematic. Western free markets and representative democracies, all shaken by substantial crises, were still idealized: ‘Europe’ was asked in protest slogans to help Bulgarians out of corruption. The winter protests allowed for anti-privatization rhetoric, but only initially. Once the key demand of ‘the end of all monopoly’ was raised, it transpired that the majority of people blamed the not-sufficiently privatized power distribution companies for the high electricity prices. They glossed over the fact that prices were kept high by a cartel agreement and because they were not regulated by the government. On the issue of political rights, winter and summer protesters also did not significantly diverge: they made various mutually incompatible demands, and the expert government, majority representatives, and direct democracy were all to be seen and heard as slogans born from the streets.


Opportunity openings and closures


All of these mutually contradictory claims have presented an equally fangless diagnosis and prognosis that would allow people to mobilize against the current political and economic system. What they showed, more than anything, was that the amnesia of 23 years of transition to a liberal democracy and market economy has emptied the political imagination, dictionary, and repertoire of the protesters. Despite the global wave of protests against neo-liberal capitalism, it was still celebrated consensually by all parties of the Bulgarian transition, and seen by the people in the streets as the only way ahead. The prevalent ‘anti-communist’ frame of the protests made any appearance of a left-wing, socialist, or anti-anti-communist frame impossible. The middle-class trope precluded coalitions built with those suffering not only moral, but also economic, deprivation.


Still, a small number of critical voices emerged among the ranks of the summer protesters, who stated that they shared much in common with those who went out during the winter, but also with the summer counter-protesters: that all people are suffering from the current political and economic situation, and that precariousness is a country-wide condition. It is now their call to reframe the protests in a more inclusive way, and to make the Bulgarian protests resonate with the global wave of anti-austerity mobilization. If this does not happen, Bulgarian protesters will still remain on the opposite side of the barricade. They will increasingly represent the outrage of the peripheral wannabe elite, who wishes to maintain the powers that be in a different constellation and fight to the last drop of blood for the early transitional utopia of global capitalist prosperity – a cause that has been withering away in the core countries of the global capitalist system.



    Mariya Ivancheva

    Mariya Ivancheva has a PhD in Sociology and Social Anthropology from the Central European University in Budapest. She is a junior visiting fellow at the Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna, working on higher education reform in Bolivarian Venezuela. She is a member of the Social Centre Xaspel collective in Sofia and the transnational organization European Alternatives, and is also editor of the Eastern European left-wing web portal “Lefteast.”

Scrap Article 377, Defend LGBT /Queer Rights Through Mass Movements

Scrap Article 377, Defend LGBT /Queer Rights Through Mass Movements
Soma Marik

In 1895, during the trial of Oscar Wilde, the German socialist Eduard Bernstein wrote a few articles in the German Social Democratic press on the issue. While confused by today’s standards, Bernstein made a few cogent points. On the view that same sex relations were unnatural, Bernstein commented:
“Our entire cultural existence, our mode of life from morning to night is a constant offence against nature, against the original preconditions of our existence. If it was only a question of what was natural, then the worst sexual excess would be no more objectionable than, say, writing a letter – for conducting social intercourse through the medium of the written word is far further removed from nature than any way as yet known of satisfying the sexual urge. Have there not been observed among animals (usually amongst domestic and captive animals, of course, but these are still significantly closer to nature than man himself) and amongst so-called natural peoples practices relieving the sexual urge which would colloquially be termed, “unnatural”?

He went on to argue that in reality, in most civilised countries, sexual intercourse, while formally being described as being related to the propagation of new generations, was actually conducted for pleasure, and was “unnatural” in the sense that all attempts were usually taken to ensure that childbirths did not result from the act.
Bernstein used the word “abnormal” in preference to “unnatural”, suggesting that this was a deviation from the norm. He suggested that there was a need to understand the history of same sex relations rather than to condemn it. In particular, he made out an extremely strong argument. It is the male same sex relation that has been the prime target. Both English and German law condemned this. Anal sex perpetrated between two men was a criminal offence, as it indeed still is, in terms of Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code. But quoting Kraft-Ebbing, Bernstein showed that Prussian law did not punish sodomy when one partner was a woman. As he argued, this latter was most often carried out on women who had no say in the matter, so that it was in fact “inferior” (in his words) to such a relationship between two males. The rise of the “paternal-right family” meant the woman’s body was of little consequence. If she was a prostitute, the state in Prussia oversaw the health of her sex organs to the extent that if a man infected her with a sexually transmitted disease, she was kept locked up. But how a man, whether the husband or the customer, used a woman’s body was of supreme unconcern to the state.

Bernstein’s authority being Kraft-Ebbing, he had the problem of viewing same-sex relations as a medical or psychological issue. Despite that, a century and eighteen years back, he, and a large part of the SPD, were involved in the campaign for the abolition of punishment for homosexual relations.

118 years later, the Supreme Court of India as well as the entire range of Indian political parties have shown their inability to grasp this. Bernstein had grasped, however imperfectly, that hetero-sexism is rooted in the heterosexual, patriarchal family relations. Under capitalist conditions, the family of this kind is important for the perpetuation of class divisions from one generation to the next. It provides a cheap and ideologically acceptable mechanism for reproducing human labour. This involves using unpaid, and overwhelmingly female labour in the family to care for the young, the old, as well as for the male working adult. Monogamous, heterosexual love as a compulsion is a central aspect of the family system as it exists. The state and its laws, the medical and psychiatric establishments, much of the educational system, are all tailored to promote procreative heterosexuality and to stigmatize and suppress other forms of sexuality, often described as abnormal, irresponsible, or medical cases.

Marxist responses subsequently to start with Engels varied from hostility, indifference, and deprioritization. Since the 1970s different currents of Marxists have been compelled to take up the LGBT issue seriously as a political issue. The Fourth International argued in 2003:

“As long as society is organized in a way which assumes that many basic needs will be met within the family, all those who are marginalized from it or choose not to live in it will have difficulty in meeting their needs. This family form under capitalism presupposes and reproduces a heterosexual norm, which pervades the state and society and is oppressive to anyone who deviates from it. As long as heterosexual love is the basis for forming a family, people whose emotional and sexual lives revolve largely around same-sex love are marginalized from family life. As long as the family is a central place where children are raised, lesbian/gay/ bisexual/transgendered children will grow up alienated - even more than children and young people in general are alienated in the family; and children’s access to adults, especially unmarried adults, and other children to whom they are not biologically related will often be limited. As long as only heterosexual desire and romance permeate capitalist consumer culture, LGBT people will feel invisible. As long as heterosexuality is defined as the norm by the state and medical and psychiatric establishments, LGBT people will be explicitly or implicitly discriminated against and marginalized. Repressive laws and widespread social discrimination intensify this oppression in most parts of the world, but repealing repressive laws and combating social discrimination will not by themselves eliminate it”.

In India, the LGBTQ community is mostly hidden. The Telegraph, reporting the SC judgement, suggested the figure of 12 million for a possible size of this community. In course of the case, Suresh Kumar Kaushal & Another v. Naz Foundation & Others, attempts were made to present before the Supreme Court a mass of evidence concerning discrimination, harassment, and torture faced by LGBT persons.
The Supreme Court, in striking down the Delhi High Court judgement, has argued that the High Court had relied too much on foreign judgements, which cannot be applied to the Indian context. This is not the first time that judgements in foreign courts have been discussed by Indian courts. So this insularity has to do with a political orientation, regardless of the formal words uttered. In that case, what the Supreme Court is deferring to, is the socially constructed and maintained conservatism. This finds striking confirmation in the utterances of Baba Ramdev, the BJP, and the Darul Uloom Deoband. For Ramdev and the BJP this is a western aberration that has no space in “Indian tradition”. For the Darul Uloom Deoband deputy Vice Chancellor Maulana Abul Khlik Madrasi, “Homosexuality is an offence under Islamic law and ‘haram’ [prohibited] in Islam”.

The apex court has upheld the constitutionality of IPC 377 by rejecting the constitutional validity of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of our constitution. By this it had written off the very cornerstone of democracy,----pluralism.  

The court distinguishes between “those who indulge in carnal intercourse in the ordinary course” and “those who indulge in carnal intercourse against the order of nature”.  The Court says that therefore section 377 is not classified irrationally or arbitrarily. In other words, the Supreme Court is opposed to sex against the “order of nature”. But in that case, should the Supreme Course not oppose, in a spasm of judicial activism, the Government of India’s decades long birth control or the so–called ‘population control’ campaigns? Sex using condoms, sex after various measures to ensure that women do not get pregnant? Is not it going to the extent of authorising the policing of sex lives to check whether fellatio is committed?

The Supreme Court has also argued that the LGBT community is a very small community. So it seems that if a community is sufficiently small, then being a minority confers no assistance. Rather, if you are a small enough minority, then your rights can be violated with impunity since that does not disturb the public peace. The Court cites the fact that there have been only a handful of convictions as proof the community is small. It prefers to ignore how the police routinely harass, take bribes, etc, when it sees same sex activities. The fact that the existence of the law acts as a perpetual threat to the LGBT community is totally ignored.

The court also rejects the claims that Article 377 leads to violation of the right to privacy, the right to bodily integrity and sexual choice and the right to live with dignity. The cases cited by the court have been extremely confused. Of course, the women’s movement has long opposed certain uses of the argument of privacy, for e.g., when it is used to hide rape of a wife by a husband. But that is not the concern of the SC. Ignoring the fact that what was under the scanner was consensual sex between two adults, the SC cited a case where a doctor had disclosed the HIV positive nature of his patient to her fiancée. In that case, it had been correctly held that privacy was subordinate to the right of health and freedom of others. But changing the scope of Article 377 to remove consenting adults from its purview does not come under this head. Once again, if two consenting adults have any kind of sexual relations, whose health and freedom is negatively affected?

The strategy of over-reliance on judiciary can sometime be counter-productive. To cite two landmark cases, the Supreme Court did not come out with a rights perspective for the marginals. It had rejected the Narmada Bachao Andolan plea, and had acquitted the accused in the Mathura Rape Case. If we focus on the elite, if we focus on well-paid lawyers arguing in courts, we cannot expect a wider discourse of rights to be articulated or honoured. To rely on NGOs, to lobby, cannot go far when fundamental social issues are involved. And at the beginning of this essay that is what we argue. To decriminalise and recognise the equality of same sex relations is detrimental to fundamental interests of the ruling elite. Lesbian/gay liberation is part of a broader, human liberation we are fighting for. We cannot fight for full rights for LGBTs and think that we do not need to fight for the immediate scrapping of the AFSPA. Even closer to the community itself, the ‘queer movement’ of the subcontinent has to look at the queer who are poor, who are not from the upper castes, who are non-urban. To get rights one has to fight for rights, not just lobby for rights. Lobbying can get little advantages for small segments. Full equality cannot be gained other than by mass struggles. It is when there are mass struggles that courts, legislatures, have shown themselves to be willing to be positive. This is not a call for rejecting court battles, but a call to recognise that if we want, not slight gains for small sections of LGBTs, but full equality, then we need to fight for it.
One needs to be grateful for the SC nonetheless, for it has forced into the open the issue of LGBTs. One is grateful also to the BJP, for having come out openly, showing that it is reactionary across the board. But what about the hypocrites in the mainstream parties who are today suddenly concerned about LGBT rights? Much calculation goes into their stances. The Congress has today declared it will bring legislation or push for ordinance. Where was it all these years, especially in periods when it enjoyed comfortable parliamentary majorities? Clearly, at best, the Liberals on the Right wanted to let the courts decide. To take up the cause of alternative sexualities risked losing votes, which they were not keen to do. The reason for Rahul Gandhi’s sudden concern is not far to see. The Deobandis have already declared that they are not particularly keen to take the side of Congress against the BJP. Meanwhile the Delhi elections have shown that the younger generation and the middle class generally has rubbed the Congress out. So this is a desperate gesture to try and regain some support. At the same time, it is quite a safe gesture. The government will either try for a “curative petition” (i.e., again ask the Supreme Court) or ask Parliament, a very safe option since in the current parliament the bill cannot be driven through with a party whip, as not enough parties are openly for the decriminalization of alternative sexualities, so that the congress gets left-liberal approval without antagonising its other potential voters too much.

Nor, sadly, are those whose stated agenda are for social change fully behind the struggles of the LGBTs. The AIDWA demonstrated criticising the Supreme Court. Yet it was also the same AIDWA that had criticised the World March for Women, because in the AIDWA’s opinion, the WMW was wrong in putting LGBT rights upfront along with issues like economic security. Biman Bose, the CPI(M) leader and Chairperson of the Left Front in West Bengal, was blunt. He is on record as having said that there is no hurry as there are more important issues. In other words, the Left is unable to understand that pushing LGBTs back to the closet will be worse for LGBTs from socially deprived sectors.

The women’s rights movement has also not always taken up LGBT rights sufficiently seriously, or in a sufficiently central way. One can think of moments when one has seen LGBT organisations visibly distressed by the reluctance of the sectors of the women’s movements one has participated in, to foreground LGBT rights.

And the LGBT movement, likewise, has to recognise that political rights and civil liberties are indeed indivisible. If we fight for civil and political rights, we cannot afford to be sectoral. One cannot say that one is supporting the rights of people of Manipur but not someone accused of being a Maoist. Likewise, one cannot desire rights for LGBTs but say that one is unconcerned about the rights of others. It is by building popular alliances, by launching peoples’ struggles, that we can win. And we cannot fight purely on the terrain of courts.

Radical Socialist statement on Tarun Tejpal and the issues round his case

Condemn the Tarun Tejpal Sexual assault case

Build up Resistance and Sustained Agitations against all similar cases

 

The unfolding of Tarun Tejpal's deeds and the attempted cover up have again raised the question of incessant rapes and sexual assaults on women all over India. Radical Socialist severely condemn the Tejpal case which exposes that Tehelka, for all its supposedly upright stance and “feminist” managing editor, had not been complying with the 1997 Vishakha guidelines of the Supreme Court of India. It did not have an internal committee in place, to which women could turn in cases of sexual harassment. Only after the charges against Tejpal became public did the Managing Editor go through motions of creating a committee, by which time few people, including above all the woman concerned seemed to have any faith in any such internal process.

 

Tarun Tejpal, former Editor-in-Chief of Tehelka, stands accused of having misused his position of power to sexually assault a young woman employee working under him, in a way that tantamounts to rape as per the new definition. Against the objections of the woman, he allegedly violated her bodily integrity twice in two consecutive days. His text messages to her showed an arrogant use of his power. The journalist informed a few of her colleagues soon after the first assault, and since then, her version of the incidents have remained the same. Tejpal by contrast has moved from one explanation to another, in an attempt to protect himself. He attacked the victim for having spoken out to his daughter, who was her friend. After the woman complained formally to Tehelka, he talked about a “lapse of judgement” and an “unfortunate incident”. He proceeded to try and act as his own prosecutor and judge, deciding he should “atone” by “recusing” for six months. When, as a result of the young woman standing firmly by her stance and a considerable amount of public outcry, the Goa police moved into action, Tejpal declared that it was he who was being victimised by the BJP. He also openly accused the woman of being a liar, claiming there had been a single 'incredibly fleeting consensual sexual encounter'.

 

Tehelka Management, represented by Shoma Chaudhury, tried a clear case of cover up. When the complaint was first made, she did not accept the complainant's demand for a public acknowledgement of the sexual assault and the setting up of a Committee against Sexual Harassment, something Tehelka had to do in accordance with the Supreme Court judgement. Nor did she report the matter to the police, as she was supposed to do. Instead, she backed Tejpal's story in practice, by accepting his misleading 'apology'. Her memo to employees called the action an unfortunate incident. When the matter was finally leaked to the media, she tried to claim the complainant was satisfied. The media was accused of being more aggrieved than the victim – a posture that is familiar, from governments seeking to cover up or play down rape cases. On television, the Managing Editor urged that Tejpal's 'version' should be considered. Only when the exposure became too great she resigned, but again, claiming that she had all the while stood by the woman: “Since the devastating allegation was first brought to my notice on 18th November, I have taken a series of actions in response to this complaint. To my mind, I acted on instant outrage and solidarity for our colleague as a woman and co-worker”.

 

This entire narrative as it has unfolded shows that all workplaces in India continue to be extremely skewed against women employees. Even today, the Vishakha Guidelines continue to be flouted. The Supreme Court itself did not have the mandatory committee. Every democratic Indian, every Indian at all sensitized to the demands for women's equality and their right to work, has to recognise how difficult the situation continues to be for women at home and outside.

 

Cases of rapes and sexual assaults continue with impunity. The media coverage of the case has also been dubious, with graphic details of the complaint leaked and even re-enacted on television under the pretext of exposing the crime. It is precisely the fear of the publication of these details, or the traumatic event, that deters women from complaining. The publication of the details violates them as much as the incident itself. This is not about stigma or the fear of losing one's job, but about the fear of losing one's own dignity.  All the while, the media has been less than forthcoming on the reality that sexual harassment is rampant in many media houses.

 

The politics around the Tehelka case is also significant. Tejpal’s argument about BJP trying to frame him is no different from the claim of Asaram that the Congress government in Delhi was hostile to him. The political motivations of different sections of India's elite are not difficult to see. The BJP, which had tried to get Asaram off the hook, and which has been covering up for the Gujarat Chief Minister, who is implicated in using the ATS to illegally spy on a woman's private life, has been issuing statements about Tehelka. That Tejpal is part of the Indian elite can be seen from both his opulence, and the relative gentleness with which he was treated. An ordinary person, accused of similar crimes, would have been arrested much earlier, and any bail plea would have been heard when he was already in custody. There can be no doubt that when members of the elite are charged in cases of this kind, they do have opponents within the elite who would like to bring them down a little. But that does not in the least mean that the woman who complained is lying. It simply means that Tejpal is complaining that if others are getting away, why should he be prosecuted. But the conduct of political parties, including the mainstream left (e.g., the CPIM) as well as the Congress and BJP when their own leaders have been accused of violence against women, means they have no moral standing to display “outrage” on the Tehelka case.

 

Radical Socialist:

 

·         Expresses complete support and solidarity to the survivor and her courage to speak out.

·         Demands women’s control over their own bodies which should neither be the sites for power play nor for contest among political parties.

·       Demands due legal process and prompt action by the Tehelka management and the government.

·       Rejects the self-serving claims of the management.

·           Condemns the mob attack orchestrated by the BJP on Shoma Chaudhury’s residence

·           Demands that the state must carry out the task of ensuring the safety for women and create conducive conditions where they can go out to work without being under constant threat.

·           Demands for the immediate formation of the committees at all work places as per the Vishakha Guidelines announced by the Supreme Court of India in 1997 for prevention and redressal of sexual harassment.

·           Demands immediate framing and notification of the rules and effective implementation of the recently passed “The Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013.”

Given the National Crime Records Bureau data and the continuous rise in cases of rape and sexual violence in India, only a handful of cases are taken seriously. Even in such cases, sustained public agitations, campaigns and mobilisations can only push the governments to take prompt actions. We believe that the legal processes give meaningful results when mobilisations and campaigns are carried out. We urge all democratic minded organisations and people to build such mobilisations, including as parts of the ongoing International Fortnight on Violence against Women.

 

Soma Marik and Trupti Shah

On behalf of

Radical Socialist

2 December 2013

 

 

 

.

 

 

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

The death of Nelson Mandela closes the life of a heroic resistance figure who devoted his very being to the struggle against apartheid even though this came at immense personal cost. Mandela was, also, however, the saviour of South African capitalism, which condemned so many of his countrymen and women to continuing terrible hardship even after the destruction of the apartheid regime. His broad popularity in South Africa, ranging from the pauper to the plutocrat, cannot be understood without comprehension of both these facts.

Mandela was loved by the masses because of his immense dedication to and sacrifice for the cause, epitomised by the 27 years he spent in the regime’s rotten jails, 27 long years in which he grew to be an old man.

For the first 18 years of his imprisonment, Mandela was held on Robben Island off Cape Town, cut off from all that he had known. His first cell was a dank 2.4m by 2.1 m with only a straw mat to sleep on.

He was prevented from attending the funerals of his mother and first son, permitted only rare and brief visits by his daughters and wife Winnie, herself frequently jailed, beaten and banished for political activism. For the first decade he was allowed only one letter every six months. Newspapers were banned and prisoners were forbidden from talking to each other while eating or undertaking prison labour.

Prison life at Robben Island took its toll on Mandela’s health which makes his longevity all the more surprising. At the age of 46, he was condemned to hard labour on the island’s limestone quarry and denied sunglasses, the glare from the harsh sun ruining his eyesight. Many years later, at the age of 70, after having been moved to a jail in Cape Town, Mandela contracted tuberculosis.

Mandela could have won relief from all this by turning his back on the fight and on his comrades, by renouncing armed struggle, by cooperating with the apartheid system, by joining all those other black leaders who made peace with apartheid for 30 pieces of silver. But Mandela pursued instead the path of resistance for 40 years and, with other ANC activists, turned Robben Island into a university of struggle, forcing the prison authorities gradually to relax the harsh regime.

Before being thrown in jail, Mandela was, with a handful of others, responsible for reviving the rump African National Congress in the 1940s, a conservative organisation committed to the interests of the tribal leaders. The ANC’s vision went no further than sending fruitless appeals to London for redress. Mandela and his comrades transformed it into a mass organisation capable of mobilising thousands, and, later, hundreds of thousands of South Africans in a fight for freedom.

Mandela was instrumental in most of the turning points of the ANC’s modern history. With Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo, he created the ANC Youth League in 1944, which outflanked and then overturned the old leadership, ushering in a new generation of more militant leaders. The state repression of the 1950 May Day strike, which he opposed but which brought out half of Johannesburg’s black workers at the call of the Communist Party (SACP), brought home to him both the brutality of the state but also the realisation that the working class could be mobilised for political action and the need for better relations with the SACP, which he had previously fought vigorously.

Mandela was responsible for the 1952 Defiance Campaign, a movement of non-violent mass disobedience which helped the ANC’s membership balloon from 20,000 to 100,000. In 1955 he convened the Congress of the People, which hammered out the ANC’s defining statement, the Freedom Charter, and in the following year he was arrested with most of the ANC Executive for “high treason” against the state. The subsequent trial lasted six years. Mandela was found not guilty in 1961, but the jail doors were soon to slam shut on him.

Following the massacre of 69 protestors on the streets of Sharpeville in 1960, something that brought apartheid to the attention of the world, Mandela pressed ahead with plans to create an armed wing of the ANC and in 1961 formed Umkhonto we Sizwe ( MK) – Spear of the Nation – to carry out sabotage on military and civilian infrastructure within South Africa. If this failed, Mandela and his comrades planned to escalate the operation to guerrilla warfare.

At great personal risk, Mandela coordinated the MK sabotage campaign. However, he was quickly picked up by the authorities and in 1964 sentenced to jail for life, only narrowly beating the death sentence.

Although hostile to the left as a young man, a product of his own relatively privileged background and his early adherence to a narrow African nationalism, Mandela went on in the early 1950s to form an alliance with the SACP, in whose ranks were some of the country’s most committed trade unionists and socialists. This African nationalist-Communist alliance was to underpin the ANC’s trajectory in subsequent decades and explained its ability to win a mass audience among blacks.

The struggle of black South Africans inspired many millions of blacks around the world to fight for their rights. And not just blacks. For several generations of leftists, the anti-apartheid struggle was, with the fight against the Vietnam War, one of the main touchstones of all those involved in resistance to injustice. The image of Mandela languishing in jail was one of the most important elements of this struggle, personifying the sacrifices of so many nameless blacks who were similarly suffering the lash of apartheid. And when Mandela was released from jail in February 1990, the event was marked by celebrations around the world.

It is the memory of Mandela’s contribution to this struggle that is inspiring so many non-white and, indeed, many liberal white South Africans to express their collective grief at his passing.

Hypocrisy of the West

But it has not just been the masses who are expressing their sorrow at Mandela’s passing. Western statesmen and women are trying to outdo each other in their plaudits for the South African leader. British Tory Prime Minister David Cameron has called Mandela “a hero of our time” and ordered the flag at 10 Downing Street to be flown at half mast.

For those of us old enough to remember the heyday of the anti-apartheid struggle, these paeans of praise are nothing but a sick joke. As blacks were being shot in the streets, hanged on the gallows, jailed by the thousands, tortured in police cells and tear-gassed and clubbed while protesting in schools, universities, factories and mines, Western governments turned a cold shoulder to the South African fight for freedom and treated Mandela as a pariah.

So it was that when Mandela toured Europe in the early 1960s, looking for assistance for the anti-apartheid cause, the doors of pretty much every government were slammed in his face.

In the 1980s, both the Thatcher government and the Reagan administration in the United States routinely referred to the ANC as a terrorist organisation, and it took the US until 2008, 18 years after Mandela had been released from jail, before both he and the ANC were removed from its terrorism “watch list”.

Thatcher and Reagan were lavish in their praise of the Pretoria regime as a loyal Western ally. President Reagan told CBS in 1981 that he supported South Africa because “it was a country that has stood by us in every war we’ve ever fought, a country that, strategically, is essential to the free world in its production of minerals”.

These governments stood in staunch defence of the big Western capitalists who made a fortune from the cheap black labour whose perpetuation was the chief purpose of apartheid. Shell, Consolidated Goldfields, Caltex, Mobil, Honeywell, IBM, Ford, GM, Westinghouse, Pilkington, BP, Blue Circle and Cadbury Schweppes – a veritable Who’s Who of the London and New York stock exchanges – all invested heavily in South Africa in the 1960s, when the economy boomed. They maintained their investments through the 1970s even as the repression escalated. Others held shares in South African conglomerate Anglo-American, which made its enormous profits on the broken backs of South African mineworkers.

In the 1980s, a sustained divestment campaign forced some big companies to pull out, but not before they had licensed their products to local distributors. And the pull-out was done slowly and only patchily: at the end of 1987, 410 European and North American companies had divested from South Africa but 690 still remained. Even as late as 1988, US companies invested $1.3 billion in South African industry, and held $4 billion in investments, or 14 percent of the total, in the crucial mining industry. US exports to South Africa actually rose by 40 percent between 1985 and 1988. While there were profits to be made, Western businesses and  governments turned a blind eye to the oppression of black South Africans.

The hosannas currently being showered on Mandela by these parasites are hypocrisy of the highest order.

Saviour of South African capitalism

So what explains this about-face by Western leaders? Why was Mandela transformed from communist stooge and terrorist to a secular saint and “Father of the Nation” in mainstream political discourse? Central to understanding this is his role in the transition from apartheid in the latter half of the 1980s.

Apartheid South Africa was hit by two major crises in the 1980s. For many years apartheid had been useful to international capitalism because, by savagely repressing the black working class, it kept wages sufficiently low to make the South African mining industry profitable. South African capitalism boomed in the postwar decades, with growth peaking at 8 percent in the first half of the 1970s. Thereafter the economy slumped and never recovered, with growth slowing down to a meagre 1.5 percent.

The economic crisis interacted with the explosion of popular insurgency, starting with the 1976 Soweto uprising and culminating in a nationwide wave of township insurrections in 1984-86. This insurgency meshed with the emergence of a black workers movement organised in largely non-racial unions. Starting in Durban in 1973 but reaching full force in the early 1980s, trade unionism swept the black working class. In 1979, the new unions were organised in a new union federation, FOSATU, whose leaders were in many cases revolutionary syndicalists who saw mass working class action as the vehicle to smash apartheid. Socialism gripped the unionised masses like a new gospel.

The administration of P.W. Botha initially responded to the economic crisis and upsurge of militancy by a combination of partial reforms and vicious repression. Botha hoped to extend the life of apartheid by incorporating Indians, so-called “coloureds” and a minority of blacks into the system. This project failed dismally when the ANC and its allies refused to cooperate. In 1986 Botha declared a state of emergency, an exercise in state repression but also an admission of failure. Nervous about “instability”, foreign capital started to flood out of the country.

The ANC could not be crushed by state repression. Even though the ANC had tailed behind, rather than led, many of the big developments of the period, such as the 1976 Soweto rising and the creation of the independent unions, it had nonetheless managed to attain hegemonic status within the movement. Rival currents, chiefly the Black Consciousness movement and the syndicalist unionists, failed to challenge it effectively, allowing it to take the initiative. This became clear in 1989 at the third congress of COSATU, successor to FOSATU, when the ANC’s political line of march dominated.

In this context, more far-sighted bosses in South Africa, along with an increasing number of foreign governments and business people, realised that the ANC had to be brought inside the tent and no longer shunned. All the epithets that the bosses had thrown at the ANC were forgotten when they realised that Mandela and the ANC were the only thing that could halt a working class revolution.

Starting in 1985 with a meeting in Zambia between ANC leaders in exile and South African business chiefs, the path to a negotiated removal of the apartheid political structure was therefore opened up. Restrictions on Mandela were gradually eased, and by 1988 he was regularly conversing with delegations of National Party ministers even while still a prisoner of the regime.

The ousting of Botha in August 1989 by F.W. de Klerk was another step in the reform project. De Klerk was a dyed in the wool National Party figure but could see that more radical concessions were needed. In February 1990 the new president freed Mandela and all other political prisoners and unbanned the ANC and SACP. Four years later, the ANC won a sweeping victory in the country’s first democratic elections. The political structures of apartheid were dismantled and black majority rule was confirmed.

It was during this period that Mandela became a darling of the West and hailed as saviour by his former enemies in South Africa. Mandela undertook all of the early negotiations alone and without consultation with his ANC comrades. He was the chief figure responsible for selling negotiations, in place of revolution, to the ANC’s mass base. At key moments in the transition it was Mandela who steered the masses away from an insurrectionary path towards set-piece stay-aways and demonstrations. So important was Mandela that the government was terrified when he contracted tuberculosis in 1988 – they feared that with his death there would be nothing to hold back the revolution.

The most important precondition for the negotiated settlement was that the fortunes of Anglo American and the other robber barons would be left untouched. Nationalisation was dropped from the ANC program, and Mandela repeatedly reiterated his commitment to private enterprise, foreign investment and “restructuring” of the big civil service and state-run industries that had been created by the National Party government.

The ANC leadership also agreed to leave the chain of command of the South African military and civil service intact and agreed to a five-year transitional “government of national unity” which was to include senior cabinet portfolios for National Party politicians.

In August 1990 Mandela ordered the cessation of armed struggle. While it may have been expedient given the ineffectiveness of this method against the continent’s most powerful military apparatus, this step signified a further willingness to accommodate.

Some ANC supporters condemned these moves as a sell-out. Many were angry at ending the armed struggle at a time when the government was unleashing death squads against ANC militants across the country. They confronted Mandela with placards “Mandela, give us arms” and “You are acting like a sheep while the people are dying”.

The conditions negotiated by Mandela were, however, entirely consistent with his long-standing politics. He had always supported private enterprise and a parliamentary set-up; his chief objection was that blacks were excluded from participating in them. At the Rivonia trial in 1964, Mandela told the court: “The ANC has never at any period of its history advocated a revolutionary change in the economic structure of the country, nor has it, to the best of my recollection, ever condemned capitalist society”.

The commitment to nationalisation contained in the 1955 Freedom Charter was only a token concession to appease working class delegates at the Congress of the People where it was adopted. It was never meant by Mandela to be treated seriously.

Neither Mandela nor the ANC nor even the SACP saw socialism on the agenda in South Africa. This was at best, for the SACP, something that awaited South Africa several decades after the supposed “first stage” of the revolution – the national democratic revolution – was completed. Nonetheless, the SACP was able to use its authority to defuse working class opposition to the rotten deal that was being negotiated in their name, with Mandela’s old MK comrade, the SACP’s chief theoretician Joe Slovo, at the forefront.

The ANC in office

Following the first democratic elections in April 1994, the black working class, which had struggled and suffered for the cause of socialism in South Africa, was left to drink a bitter brew by the ANC while the chiefs of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, soon joined by a number of high profile ANC figures, continued to quaff champagne.

In their gratitude, the bosses cheered Mandela as the head of a new “Rainbow Nation” which enabled them to keep gouging big profits from the working class and shift their head offices overseas while blacks continued to suffer a life of shack housing, pit toilets, lack of running water, metered electricity, shoddy under-funded schools and Depression-era unemployment rates of 30 percent or more.

Two years after introducing a weakly reforming Reconstruction and Development Program, the ANC government abandoned even this in favour of the neoliberal Growth, Employment and Redistribution program, drawn straight from the World Bank recipe book. In 1995, Mandela won further praise from apartheid era die-hards by donning the shirt of the hated Springbok rugby team at the Rugby World Cup as he presented the trophy to the team captain. The wealthy citizens of Sandton, a virtually all-white posh suburb of Johannesburg, erected a statue in his honour at their local shopping centre.

This is why Mandela’s death is being marked today not just by those who dreamed that he would lead them to freedom but also by those bosses whose necks he saved when they came under mortal threat in the 1980s.With Mandela’s death we remember him both as a resistance leader but also as someone who sold his supporters short as he diverted their struggle into a capitalist dead-end.

The police murder of 44 striking platinum miners at Marikana in August last year, in scenes reminiscent of Sharpeville 50 years earlier, demonstrates that the struggle for genuine liberation of the South African working class still lies ahead. It will have to be done in opposition not just to the ANC but to the entire framework of nationalist politics on which Mandela’s life was based.

[Tom Bramble is co-editor, with Franco Barchiesi, of a book of essays about the South African working class titled Rethinking the Labour Movement in the “New South Africa”, which was published by Ashgate (Aldershot) in 2003.]

- See more at: http://redflag.org.au/article/nelson-mandela-1918-2013#sthash.6IkZTix8.dpuf

Modi will uphold democracy, so please do not oppose him unless you want to be arrested

Modi will uphold democracy, so please do not oppose him unless you want to be arrested


Kunal Chattopadhyay


Narendra Modi has many admirers. They see him as the upholder of development, dignity, Hindutva, so many different things. And they are unwilling to hear any criticism of Modi. Anyone criticising Modi is berated as a pseudo-secular, a supporter of the corruption of the Congress, a leftist who is perceived as a defender of the worst tyrannies of the Stalin era. Avbove all they are opponents of democracy and defenders of dynasty raj, according to the binary vision that is attempted to be imposed. And foremost among these Modi-lovers is not Swapan Dasgupta, or Arnab Goswami, or any other media figure, but Narendra Modi himself. And therefore, Modi, through his police, has struck at those who would dare to question development, dignity, Gujarat’s pride, Hindutva’s ascent. These people are horrible. But who are they? And why this anger of Modi?

Narendra Modi has been spending the money of the Gujarat government in massive adver4tisemnts all over India, in newspapers and in TV channels, highlighting the even more massive statue of Sardar Patel. The BJP –RSs has a fascist agenda, as we have been arguing for a long time. But in order to win power, merely sectarian politics cannot suffice. So they want to appropriate as much of Indian nationalism as is possible. Given that their direct rival for governmental position is the Congress (I),  they are on one hand trying to run down the Congress as a Nehru-Gandhi family affair, (along with other types of attacks on it) and at the same time seeking to appropriate whatever element of nationalism they can from the congress. This is particularly important for them, because in the pre-independence period, the RSS had a sorry role in the freedom movement, and therefore needs to clothe itself somehow whenever presenting its nationalist face. This is where Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel presents such a useful alternative (though, as we will see, a little flawed). Sardar Patel was a Gujarati. For the chief minister of Gujarat, who is trying to project himself as an all india figure vbased on his real or alleged achievements in Gujarat, the Patel legacy is useful. He cannot fall back upon the other illustrious Gujarati, for by no stretch of imagination can the RSS show Mohandas Gandhi in its pantheon. Patel was a traditional conservative. But Patel was also a staunch nationalist who used every means at his disposal to incorporate all erstwhile princely states in India, and who as Home Minister used ruthless force to put down left wing militancy, in Telangana as well as elsewhere. Patel, unlike Nehru, had never toyed with socialistic phrases. Patel had been a firm anti-communist who as Union Home Minister tried to take steps to curb all the radical left parties.  Even earlier, it was Patel, who controlled the Congress organisation in the 1930s, who had been instrumental in ensuring that while the left carried the burden of left of centre campaigns for the elections of 1937, the candidates would be quite right of centre, and the Congress governments at the provinces would be committed to capitalists and landlords. While this does not turn Nehru into a socialist, this does stress that the free-market right wing economic aspect of the BJP agenda, along with its utmost hostility to any idea of the working class as a class, makes it possible to appropriate Patel in a way that it cannot appropriate Nehru.

The flaw in all this is, as a Union Home Minister, Patel also displayed a rightwing, but non-communal nationalism, and he was to ban the RSS immediately after the murder of Gandhi by Nathuram Godse, an RSS member who had dropped his membership not out of principled change of heart, but because he did not want  to get the RSS involved directly in his activities.

Nonetheless, as we show above, when the BJP is seeking to win over the centre-right support base from the Congress, appropriating Patel is a sound tactical effort.

And so, Narendra Modi has been involved over the past three years in having built, near the Sardar Sarovar Dam, a massive statue of Patel. There will be a 597 feet high statue, which is to be far bigger than the Statue of Liberty. The proposal is for a project involving a bridge connecting the statue on Sadhu island to the bank of the Narmada river, a memorial, visitor centre buildings, a memorial garden, a hotel, a convention centre, an amusement park, research centres and institutes. The total cost is currently estimated to be Rs 2500 crores (US $ 406.5 million). To understand the meaning of this figure we will cite just a couple more figures – Gujarat’s budget for 2013-14 shows a revenue surplus of Rs 4602 crores, while the allocation for labour and employment is Rs. 841 crores.

The problem with all this all-India, possibly global drum beating of Modi, where he is virtually seeking to put up his own statue under the shadow of the Sardar, is the opposition by locals. Villagers of Kevadia and a number of other nearby places wewre bitterly opposed to all this. Activists of Radical Socialist, trade unionists, environmental activists, and local people, have pointed out that the Kevadia Area Development Authority, a body under the government of Gujarat, had clearly projected plans to turn the place into a tourist spot. In order to do so, Sarpanches of 52 villages got letters from the KADA that they should agree to hand over their villages for tourism purpose or else face consequences.

This is an area where six villages had been compelled to hand over their land back in the early 1960s for the Sardar Sarovar Dam, to build the Staff Colony, Government Offices and Guest House. Only recently, a few days back, Modi agreed to some of their demands, as a result of adverse publicity at a time when he was trying to showcase the Statue of Unity. Till then, these villagers were not even treated as project affected people.

Building the Statue and the project that goes along with it will deprive trival people from land, livelihood, and forest. As a result, they have been fighting Modi for a considerable time. It had been declared that today, Sardar Patel’s birthday, which Modi is seeking to appropriate by inaugurating the statue, would be observed by many such protestors in a peaceful manner. They were going to organise a day long hunger strike, after having given public notice, in a private place, not even in a public space.
 
But to stop even this, raids have been carried out on the evening of 30th October. Rohit Prajapati, Trupti Shah, Amrish Brahmbhatt, and Sudhir Binniwale, who are widely known radical activists of Gujarat, were travelling from Vadodara to Rajpipla. They were apprehended at Rajpipla and forcibly confined in a house without any reason being given. It has further been reported that a significant number of people have been arrested from at least seven villages. The full list of the names of the arrested is not known. However, this includes Lakhan Musafir, Dhirendra Soneji, Dipen Desai, Rameshbhai Tadvi from Indravarna village, Shaileshbai Tadvi from Vagadia village, Vikrambhai Tadvi from Kevadia.

We appeal to all socialist and democratic organisations, to protest the entire project, to support the right of adivasis to land, forest and livelihood, and to support democratic right to protest.

Please send your protests to
The Governor, Gujarat
Fax No . 079-232 31121
  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Chief Minister of Gujarat
Fax : +91 - 79 – 23222101
  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Justice Shri K.G. Balakrishnan
Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of India
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Please forward your protest mails or faxes to
Rohit Prajapati: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
and
Radical Socialist : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ten Months after Delhi: Continue fighting the Rape Culture through Independent Mobilisations, Resist the Unrelenting Sexual Violence on Women in West Bengal and Everywhere in India

Ten Months after Delhi: Continue fighting the Rape Culture through Independent Mobilisations, Resist the Unrelenting Sexual Violence on Women in West Bengal and Everywhere in India


Statement of Radical Socialist


For the Government of India, only Delhi matters, whether it is the rape of women or the price of onions. So after having sent its managers to handle the negative fall-out of the Delhi case, it has been pretending that all is now well in India.  The reality is that its handling has been narrowly political, interested only in what it perceives as immediate gains. In province after province, and indeed even in Delhi, the reality is different.

In West Bengal, the cases of sexual violence are massive indeed. Three women/girls raped within four days. In Madhyamgram a young woman gang-raped twice, the second time after she had lodged a complaint with the police. The police have gone on record, questioning whether a gang-rape had really happened a second time. In the Rajarhat case, the hospital trainee nurse or attendant (reports differ) was attacked inside a shuttle car, rendered unconscious, and taken to a house in the Sonagachhi area, where she has been gang-raped, according to the police FIR. In Burdwan, a young woman who had gone for a tuition was missing, till her disrobed dead body was found several days later. In  Malda, a ticket checker was arrested by the police for sexual violence against the wife of an army officer travelling in an air conditioned coach. Just under fifty cases of rape reported, not committed but only those reported, in West Bengal in the last sixty days. And a retired police officer goes on television, asserting that rape is not a preventable crime, since the police cannot be expected to know in advance when a woman is going to be attacked and raped.

The TMC government has been now in power for over two years, and it can no longer try and hide behind the over-used excuse of the years of CPI(M) misrule. So what the continuing violence on women show is of great significance.

In the first place, this shows that the criminally irresponsible stance of the Chief Minister and other Ministers and TMC leaders have emboldened rapists. The Park Street rape survivor, despite her strength and perseverance, is still waiting for justice since February 2012, while the main accused is still absconding.......so are the survivors of Katwa, Barasat, Katwa, Falta, Gurap, Santragachhi, Park Circus and other places throughout the province. In Kamduni, threats, constant pressure, and economic hardship have made the retention of solidarity difficult. And so, as protests die down or as the news channels feel that there is no longer much TRP to be milked out of these cases, and therefore report the continuing protests less and less, rapists are emboldened.

In the second place, the developments show that administrations and rulers have no wish to learn from past experiences. For them, rape remains simply a “law and order” problem. One still gets comments about the times when a woman should and should not go out, the issue of whether a single woman should move around at certain times, and worse. On the TV channel 24 Ghanta, an ex-cop defended the police, saying that the police face political pressure. He also argued that police do not have adequate infrastructure, and that is why they cannot tackle rape cases.

The third important point to note is, this has, in a way, started putting paid to all those who were arguing that all the elaborate arguments of the Verma Committee were marginal, and the main thing was to hang a few of the rapists. The trial of the Delhi Rape Case of 16 December was pushed through with a swiftness unheard of in the Indian judicial process, and all the adult criminals were not only convicted by the trial court, but given the death penalty. This has done absolutely nothing to prevent further cases of rape.

Rape is preventable. But prevention of rape requires a sustained political battle. No bourgeois party, nor most mainstream left parties, are willing to take on patriarchy, which is the social-cultural-ideological fountainhead of rape. Whether the BJP, or the TMC, or the Congress, have we not heard them describe the woman, ask questions about her morality, her dress, the legitimacy of her actions, in rape case after rape case? [This is of course quite apart from the political rapes on communal and caste grounds, whether in the Delhi riots of 1984, or Gujarat 2002]. Prevention of rape requires forcing the police to take every rape case, every rape complaint seriously. If rape survivors can be assaulted immediately after they dare to protest, or if people can be assaulted and abducted while travelling from or to work, then even the law and order approach has utterly failed. And by casting aspersion on the woman, the police are certainly aiding and abetting rapists who will use the threat of repeat rapes to silence victims.

To prevent rape, to force major changes in police and administrative functioning, we need a sustained battle. This calls for struggles on several levels.

First, we need a stringent implementation of law even more than law reform and the sensitisation of all arms of the state apparatus. To merely have some women’s cells of the police, or to create some all-women police stations, will do very little, as long as the bulk of the police force believes that it is legitimate to start by doubting the claim of rape, or as long as the government can think that the response to rape can be to offer compensation or Kanyashree scheme of providing scholarships to poor girl students. In the absence of security and adequate transport facilities the girl students will either face relentless sexual harassment and violence or their family will prevent them for pursuing their studies and marry them off.  As long as police, or even sections of the legal profession or the judiciary remain steeped in sexist values or patriarchal beliefs, rape will not be treated by them as a systemic issue.

An ultra-left position would say, there is no point in raising these demands within the bourgeois system at all. We disagree, because it is by fighting for concrete reforms, whether or not all of them are achieved here and now, that we can develop political consciousness, as well as a clearer picture of the kind of society we are fighting for. It is by fighting for the right of all men and women to work, to have the right to go to work without being under threat, that we can put something like the Rajarhat rape case, mentioned above, in the proper context. And while we believe that the police, the judiciary, are all parts of the bourgeois state, revolutionaries also need to understand that unless we integrate the struggle against patriarchy in our everyday struggles, it cannot become a part of the revolutionary programme. At the same time, we need to take special note of the class approach of the police and fight it. In the Malda case, they acted promptly, because the woman involved was the wife of an army officer, and was travelling upper class. In Madhyamgram, the woman is the daughter of a taxi driver, so her claim of being gang raped a second time can be safely deried by the Superintendent of police.

Second, we need therefore to build broad fronts of struggle. All women’s rights organisations, all democratic right organisations, trade unions, peasant organisations, student organisations, as well as political organisations of the radical left need to unite on a non-sectarian basis for wide and sustained mobilisations. The demand for exclusions should be treated carefully here. We agree that there can be no question of giving a clean chit to the previous regime. But the central goal of the struggle should be based on concrete demands, rather than on making lists of who to include and who to exclude from rallies, or other forms of protests.

We demand:
·    Immediate implementation of the Verma Committee Report by the Government of India
·    Abolition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and stern action against all cases of rape/sexual violence in custody.
·    That the state must provide security to everyone living in India at all times, in all places not just citizens.
·    The Government of West Bengal, especially the Home ministry, must ensure that:
·    Every rape complaint is immediately followed by a proper FIR
·    Rape survivors are given protection as well as the necessary medical and legal assistance
·    The police take proper action all the way to filing charge-sheet, starting a case, and getting convictions.
·    No to “compensation”. Provide trauma therapy instead.
·    Punish the Officer in Charge as well as the Duty Officer of any Police Station that does not follow proper procedure as laid down in several legal documents in handling rape cases.
·    Ensure that police are informed and trained in handling cases relating to women with disabilities.
·    No to political rapes
·    No to rape culture


Kolkata , 29.10.2013

Laboratory of Fascism: Capital, Labour and Environment in Modi’s Gujarat

Laboratory of Fascism: Capital, Labour and Environment in Modi’s Gujarat

Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah[1]

We are caught in a false debate in which the reality is presented in an erroneous perception. Narendra Modi, the perpetrator of 2002 carnage is counter posed with Mr. Modi the “development leader”. We call it a false debate, since for us, who have lived and grown in Gujarat over the past five decades the two aspects are actually the same – that of fascist. And we use the label of fascist for Modi with utmost seriousness and with full awareness of what the term involves. Of course, we have a different situation in India today, compared to Italy or Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. Then, bourgeois parliamentary democracy was not too deep-rooted in those countries. By contrast, despite the efforts of Maoists on the extreme left and fascists on the extreme right, parliamentary democracy has struck considerably greater roots. This has had implications for the far left as well as the far right. Our concern today is the far right.

Since the Sangh Parivar has been consigned by fate to operate within ‘bourgeois democracy’ for a far longer time than it had originally envisaged (in 1947-48 it had clearly planned for a fairly swift grab for power, creating a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ analogous to Jinnah’s plan for a ‘Islamic State’), it has been compelled to split its operations. The BJP, as the electoral arm, has to look “moderate”. Of course, it is “moderate” only if one argues that a hyena is moderate compared to a wolf-pack. One should remember that the Mr. L. K. Advani, hailed these days as a “Statesman”, was seen as aggressive as against the “moderate” Mr. Vajpayee back in 1989-1992.

So the issue is not as if there is a “fascist tendency” in the Sangh Parivar, but also a “developmental discourse”. The issue is, how is the fascism of the Sangh Parivar going to be utilised for capital? This is where the ‘Modi model’ is crucial. It is Gujarat, a rapidly industrialising province that is showing, in a small way, what the Sangh Parivar is willing to do for capital.

The success story of the two-digit growth has masked the several digit realities of loss of livelihood, land acquisition, displacement and permanent loss of natural resources, which are treated as free goods in this process. The investment figure, without the figures for displacement and depletion of natural resources and the employment figure without loss of livelihood does not make sense. No wise person would talk about the income without talking the cost of acquiring that income or wealth.

It is a shocking fact that we have never tried to arrive at even a realistic estimate of these figures but the magnitude of the loss can be guessed from some of the facts emerging from various important research works. This is just a tip of iceberg.

What the Government data shows:

In order to forestall charges that we are using tendentious data, we propose to build our case by using, in the main, data released by government sources, or data not repudiated by the regime.

The Gujarat Government claims that it has generated vast numbers of jobs. This is the first thing we wanted to investigate. Activists of the Gujarat based Jyoti Karmachari Mandal, an independent militant trade union, Amrish Brahmbhatt and Rohit Prajapati, in collaboration with the Documentation and Study Centre for Action chose a close scrutiny of Government of Gujarat’s latest “Employment Effort”, the “Swami Vivekanand Youth Employment Week” in February/March 2012 as an instance[2]. In response to our RTI application, the Gujarat Government told us that spread over months, 489 melas were organised, and 65,000 youth were given employment through the ‘Rojgar Melas’.

In April 2012, we filed a detailed RTI application to the Chief Minister's Office of Gujarat (CMO) and Principal Secretary, Labour and Employment department, Gujarat seeking details on 18 counts.

Instead of getting collated data from the CMO or the Principal Secretary, Gujarat Labour and Employment Department, which would have given a state-wide comprehensive picture, we started getting fragmented replies from each of the ‘District Employment and Training Department' across the state.

The Employment and Training Departments in the districts were not in sync with each other, as some provided statistics in their replies of the district employment or data to some of the queries, while some did not, without giving any satisfactory reason.

Instead of 65,000 beneficiaries, the number of jobs provided based on information given by the authorities in 23 districts, totals only to 51,587. Out of that 11,172 are apprentices (30.4%). i.e. the actual figure is 40,415 and not even 51,587. But, the names of only 32,372 were provided to us.

We had sought specific information on what post, what pay and which industry and if each of them provided 'employment' in this “Rozgar Mela” would be entitled to benefits under labour and other statutory laws.

Again, we received no categorical reply about entitlement of benefits, saying the information would be best available with the concern employers. While some gave details about post employed, the employer’s name, none gave details about the pay and other legal benefits they will get.

Collating all the information, we got some important facts. Nobody had been given an ‘Appointment Letter’. What they got was a piece of paper called ‘Employment letter’, which is bad in law. Secondly, the total amount spent for these melas came to Rs 1, 87, 70,000 according to the Department of Employment and Training. This excluded the money spent on the participation of the ministers - including the Chief Minister - in these melas. The Department of Employment and Training categorically told us that it had not spent money for their participation. This money therefore came from other sources.

Thus, we get a picture that some 32,000 to 40,000 (at best) got some sort of unspecified jobs, while another 11,000 odd got apprenticeships. In Ahmedabad, 4,370 were recruited but all as apprentices. The Apprentice Act, 1961[3] under which the employers of certain factories have to recruit certain number of apprentice in their factories clearly states that they are not employees of the factories and therefore they are provided with no legal benefits but only stipend of Rs.1,490 for the 1st year, 1,700 for the 2nd year, and 1,970 for the 3rd year. In the other cases, where people did get actual jobs, those were mostly temporary in nature.

Thus, the ‘employment’ given ranged from apprenticeship to private sector employment for temporary jobs, with very few being skilled workers. The state was using its finances and officers to procure low paid workers for private capital, for example the GIDCs[4].

We leave out the fraudulent information given by the state, not because we forgive the fraud, but because that is not central to our present arguments. It is however important to note that many names have been put more than once to pump up the figures, and also that people who got jobs on their own and were already in job have found their names listed as beneficiaries of Mr. Modi. What is vital, however, is that most of the workers we could actually contact and interview stated they have low wages, high working hours (in some cases even 12 hours per day). Most of them do not get any other legal benefits like Provident Fund or leave except weekly leave.

In Anand district, 2,464 candidates were provided jobs by the Employment and Training Department. The list of Anand District shows that 621 (25.21%) graduate/post graduate/MA-B.Ed/PGDCA were given job as School Coordinator. They were promised the salary of Rs 4,500-5,000/month but they received only Rs. 3,100-3,500/month. This is less than the statutory minimum wage! With some of them, an 11 years contract was signed but they were relieved after 10-11 months.

The central picture that emerges from the foregoing is, the rhetoric of Mr. Modi is belied by the reality that his government is driving down state expenses and also the expenses on wages by private employers, using force and fraud.

Environment and Industry in Gujarat:

The Gujarat Government has charted out its roadmap clearly. It wants to take over peasants’ land at low cost, it wants to ensure that workers are paid low wages, and it will do its best to ensure that industrialisation does not confront 'stupid' hurdles like labour rights and environment protection. The then Finance Minister of Gujarat Mr. Vajubhai Vala while addressing a day-long pre-Vibrant Gujarat Summit seminar at Ahmedabad Management Association on ‘Industry Responsive Skill Development: The Emerging Trends in Gujarat’  on January 11, 2011 said  that “A farmer engaged in agriculture on a five acre plot will earn enough only for his family. But if an industry is set up on that land, it will provide sustenance to families of 25-30 thousand workers.”[5] He asked local industrialists not to spoil workers by giving them more than what is rightfully due to them.[6]

Thus, it is evident that for the Gujarat government, toiling people of any kind do not matter.

Modi's hymn singers, and today they are increasing, as so many among the privileged think they should take the “right” side before it is too late for them to get a fair share of the gravy. They will therefore contest our claims, accusing us of at least overstating our case. We will therefore make the case in further details.

GDPise Chemical State - Gujarat State does not have Comprehensive Chemical Emergency Plan:

Gujarat is the only state where all registered chemical factories have been identified and categorized in various hazard classes, by the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health considering their hazard potential.[7] Major Accident Hazard (MAH) factories are identified as per standard norms of related laws. Gujarat state has the highest total 497 MAH Class factories which amounts 30 % of MAH factories in India. At present, 3204 ‘B’ +’C’ class hazardous chemical factories are identified in the state. Gujarat is having a total 30,310 factories registered under the Factories Act (employing directly 940567 Workers) out of which total 4,559 (15%) are hazardous chemical factories.[8]

Over a period of time, Gujarat has also succeeded in widening its industrial base. At the time of inception in 1960, the industrial development was confined only to four major cities viz. Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat and Rajkot and some isolated locations such as Mithapur and Valsad. Today, almost all the districts of the state have witnessed industrial development in varying degrees. Such a massive scale of industrial development has been possible on account of haphazard and severe exploitation of natural resources. The discovery of oil and gas in Gujarat in the decade of 1960s has played an important role in setting up of petroleum refineries, fertilizer plants and petrochemical complexes. During the same period, the state government has also established a strong institutional network. Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC), established industrial estates providing developed plots and ready built-up sheds to industries all across the state. Institutions were also set up to provide term finance, assistance for purchase of raw materials, plant and equipment and marketing of products. Later, District Industries Centers (DICs) were set up in all the districts to provide assistance in setting up industrial units in the form of support services. The state also developed infrastructure facilities required for industries, such as power, roads, ports, water supply and technical education institutions. The Government also introduced incentive schemes, from time to time, to promote industries. All these initiatives have made Gujarat emerge as the highly industrialized state in the country today.

Gujarat contributes more than 62% of national petrochemicals and 51% of national Chemical sector output. It leads all states in India in terms of the investments committed in the chemical and petrochemical sector. 30% of fixed capital investment is in the manufacturing of Chemical and Chemical Products. Manufacturing of chemicals and chemical products contribute to around one fifth of the total employment in state. The production capacity of major suppliers of polymers, PE/PP/PVC in Gujarat is nearly 70% of the whole country’s production. The province also has large quantity of production of basic chemicals like caustic soda, caustic potash and chloromethane. It is the largest supplier of bio-fertilizers, seeds, urea and other fertilizers.[9]

But the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA), it seems, doesn't think that chemical industries have potential to cause chemical disasters in the state. Despite the Bhopal gas tragedy that took place 28 years ago, which killed at least ten thousand persons and resulted in about 500,000 more people suffering agonizing injuries with disastrous effects of the massive poisoning[10], the Gujarat government doesn't seem to have learnt anything. Replying to one of our Right to Information Application (RTI) about Chemical Emergency Plan of the Gujarat state the GSDMA stated in their replies that “A Chemical Emergency Plan is currently under consideration at the Disaster Management Authority.”[11] GSDMA further stated in their replies “In reference to your above mentioned letter where information like numbers and names of the chemical industries, chemical used, final product, pollutant generated and its impact, also information about engineered landfill site - treatment storage and disposal facility, effluent treatment plants, common effluent treatment plants, etc. have been sought by you, we would like to inform you that the requested information is not available with this office.”[12]

The 'Honourable' Chief Minister is the chairman of the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority and the same authority has to implement ‘The Gujarat State Disaster Management Act, 2003. The Act clearly under clause 2(h) states that “disaster”  means an  actual or imminent  event, whether natural or otherwise  occurring in any part of the State which causes, or threatens to cause  all or any of  the following: (i)  widespread loss or damage to property, both immovable and movable; or (ii)  widespread loss of human life or injury or illness to human beings; or (iii)  damage or degradation of  environment;’[13] but the web site of Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority states ‘The GSDMA has been constituted by the Government of Gujarat by the GAD’s Resolution dated 8th February 2001. The Authority has been created as a permanent arrangement to handle the natural calamities.’[14] What about environmental disasters? There is no ‘Comprehensive Chemical Emergency Plan’ with the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority. The Director, Health & Safety Department has an ‘Off Site Emergency Plan;’ but when we demanded a copy of it, we were told that it is secret.[15] A chemical emergency plan is not among the priorities in Gujarat, a state with one of the country’s highest concentration of chemical industries.

The Cases of Critically Polluted Area - Vapi and Ankleshwar:

This is another first for Gujarat, though this finds no mention in Gujarat chief minster’s speeches.

In 2009, the Ankleshwar’s industrial area, with 88.50 CEPI[16], topped the list of ‘critically polluted areas’ of India.

In 2011 and 2013, Vapi industrial area, with CEPI of 85.31, topped this list.

Thus Gujarat is able to top in 2009 in ‘critically polluted areas’ in India and continues to maintain its position in 2011 & 2013.

The Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi who is the BJP’s PM-designate does not comment or engages ever on this issue. We, the concerned citizens challenge him for an open discussion on this issue.

Mr. Narendra Modi in his book ‘Convenient Action: Gujarat’s Response to Challenges of Climate Change’ published in 2011, on p. 132-133, has printed a photograph of Vapi’s Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) which even today does not operate as per the prescribed norms of Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB). When the CETP of Vapi industrial area is not able to meet the prescribed GPCB norms, what message does the CM want to convey to the country and the world by printing a two page photograph of this treatment plant? On this issue we have posed several questions to him in our review of his book but he has been unable to answer a single question.[17]

The constant advocacy by the pollution affected people and people’s organisations and NGOs regarding the increasing pollution levels in the industrial areas of India forced the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) in 1989 to initiate the process of indexing the critically polluted areas. At that time 24 industrial areas including Vapi, Ankleshwar, Ludhiana etc. were declared ‘critically polluted’.

Thereafter, in several meetings of CPCB and SPCBs serious debates on the pollution status of these areas were undertaken. Even after formulation of ‘action plans’ for the said industrial area no substantial or qualitative change was observed in these industrial areas. For this reason, in 2009 the CPCB and IIT-Delhi, in consistence with the demands of the people’s organisation’s working on environmental issues decided to use a new method of ‘indexing the pollution levels’ of these areas, which is now known as the ‘Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index’ (CEPI). The CEPI includes air, water, land pollution and health risks to the people living in the area. However, our demand has been to include the health of the workers, productivity of land and quality of food / agriculture produce in the index since the presence of high levels of chemicals and heavy metals in food produce has severe health implications. This is affecting not only people living around the industrial area but anyone consuming it – hence not restricting the impact to the particular industrial area.

As per the agreed upon measures, industrial areas with a CEPI of 70 and above are considered ‘critically polluted’ areas while those with a CEPI between 60-70 are considered ‘severely polluted’ areas. In our opinion, those industrial areas with CEPI between 40-60 ought to be labelled as ‘polluted areas’.

In December 2009 the CEPI of 88 polluted industrial estates was measured; it was then that the CPCB and the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) of Government of India were forced to declare 43 of those as ‘critically polluted areas’ and another 32 industrial areas as ‘severely polluted’ areas. Following this study the MoEF on 13 January 2010 was also forced to issue a moratorium (prohibition on opening new industries and/or increasing the production capacity of the existing industries) on the 43 critically polluted areas. At that time, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) and other environment protection groups had asked for a moratorium on all the 75 (43+32) polluting areas, but it was not done under pressure from the powerful industrial lobby and state governments. The mucky politics and economics of ‘GDP growth’ prevailed over the cause of ‘life and livelihood’ of ordinary people and ‘environment & conservation.

As such the process of declaring moratorium was started from Ankleshwar in Gujarat in 2007. The industries located in Ankleshwar, Panoli and Jhagadia GIDC estates treat their effluent in their Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) and then, after giving further treatment ‘at the Final Effluent Treatment Plant (FETP) at Ankleshwar discharge the effluent into the sea. The FETP, from its inception, did not work as per the prescribed norms set by the GPCB. Even today it is not able to meet the prescribed norm. For this reason, on July 7, 2007, GPCB, on the directions of the CPCB, imposed a moratorium on the industrial areas of Ankleshwar, Panoli and Jhagadia. The moratorium is in force even today, since there has been no substantial improvement in the pollution levels even after the implementation of the so-called ‘action plans’ prepared by these estates. The same plant’s disposal pipe line’s project was inaugurated by Narendra Modi on January 25, 2007. By inaugurating this plant, he was sending out the message to the investors to not to worry much about the compliance/s of environment laws in the state. Despite this moratorium being in force officially, the active connivance of the industrial lobby with the collusion of politicians along with the official machinery in Gujarat has surreptitiously lifted the moratorium from some area at different times.

Despite the “Polluter Pays” principle, common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) were highly supported by public money; 25% of the cost was state subsidy, 25% central subsidy, 30% loans from financial institute, and only 20% was directly paid by industries. In essence, half of the ’supposed’ solution to the pollution generated for private profit, was funded by the general public. As if this subsidy was not enough, the subsidy for the CETP has been increased from 25% to 50% by the Central Government.

The pipe line project of Final Effluent Treatment Plant of Ankleshwar was built with the sweat of tax payers. Out of a total project cost of Rs. 131.43 crores, the industries paid only Rs. 21.75 crores (about 17%); the rest of the tab (Rs. 109 crores) was borne by the Central Government, the Gujarat Government, and the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) - all of which ultimately draw from public money. It is a familiar story: the profits are distributed privately, but the institutional costs and environmental burden are borne by general public. Can we find a better example of the privatisation of profits and the socialisation of the costs, burdens and hazards?

With no improvement in the levels of pollution being shown by the CEPI of the CPCB, the MoEF again, through its order of September 17, 2013 re-imposed a moratorium for some industrial areas.[18] However, surprisingly the same order also lifted the moratorium from some polluted areas in the name of ‘promises, presumption and assumption’ of improvement.[19] However, in our opinion the moratorium ought not to be lifted until these units bring down their CEPI to below 60.

In Gujarat, the GPCB has served repeated closure notices to several industries, which have been openly flouting environmental norms. However, the CPCB report of April 2013 has revealed no significant change in these industrial areas. Strict action needs to be taken against such industries and their ‘treatment facilities’. The CPCB report of 2009 covered 88 industrial estates, but the reports of 2011 and 2013 covered only 43 ‘critically-polluted areas’. In our opinion, the CEPI of all 88 areas should be conducted by the MoEF, CPCB and SPCBs. Other areas should also be included if the residents so wish.

Moratorium continues
    

Moratorium lifted
    

Moratorium re-imposed after having been lifted

Ankleshwar – Gujarat
    

Bhiwadi – Rajasthan
    

Vapi – Gujarat (CEPI - 85.31)

Chandrapur – Maharashtra
    

Dhanbad – Jharkhand
    

Gaziabad – UP (CEPI - 84.30)

Pali - Rajeshthan
    

Manali – Tamil Nadu
    

Singrauli – UP (CEPI - 83.24)

Vatva - Gujarat
    

Ahmedabad – Gujarat
    

Panipat – Haryana (CEPI - 81.27)

Vellore – Tamil Nadu
    

Korba – Chhatisgadh
    

Indore – MP (CEPI - 78.75)

Najafgarh – Delhi
    

Asansol, Haldia and Howrah – W. Bengal
    

Pattancheru-Bellaram – Andhra Pradesh (CEPI - 76.05)

Jodhpur – Rajasthan
    

Vishakhapatnam – Andhra Pradesh
    

Ludhiana – Punjab (CEPI - 75.72)

 
    

Kanpur – Uttar Pradesh
    

Jharsugoda – Orissa (CEPI - 73.31)

 

The mega-star Amitabh Bachhan - the brand ambassador for tourism of Gujarat - with his welcome speech, “Come and spends some days in these areas of Gujarat’’ is never heard welcoming anyone in these polluted areas.

Modi is neither uttering single word on these issues nor is he ready for any kind of dialogue or debate on this issue.

Struggle against proposed 6000 MW Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant:

At Mithi Virdi, in the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, the Central Government, with full cooperation of the state government, is seeking to build a 6000 MW Nuclear Power Plant. Thousands of villagers are up in arms, protesting this with the slogan ‘Not here, not anywhere; not in any country in the world’­. The Government of Modi is perfectly aware, that Mr. Manmohan Singh is trying to dilute the Nuclear Liability Act even further, so that private profits are safeguarded even as Fukushima exemplified all over again how risky N-plants are.

Indeed, Mr. Modi is not merely silent. The agencies of the Gujarat government, in this matter, are working hand in glove with the centre. As The Hindu reported in August, CRZ clearance has been given in a remarkably slipshod way. During and before the Environmental Public Hearing (EPH) for the proposed Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), villagers, local Panchayats and organisations like Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti have brought to the notice of the authorities that Engineer India Limited (EIL), the consultant of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) does not have necessary accreditations to prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIA) for a NPP. However, in an instance of utter disregard and disrespect to the Environmental Law and the Constitution of India, NPCIL and EIL went ahead with the EIA study and the collector tried to go ahead with the illegal Public Hearing in March 2013.

On March 5, 2013, on the day of Public Hearing more than 6500 villagers, local Panchayats and Voluntary Organisation raised certain basic legal issues and sought clarification from the Chairman of the Public hearing, the then collector of Bhavnagar Mr. V. P. Patel. He had no answers to the important questions raised by them but instead tried to go ahead with the illegal hearing. The villagers were left with no choice but to walkout from the illegal, unconstitutional public hearing.

The EPH was held in a coercive and terror-filled atmosphere, in order to prevent the villagers from making free and fair representation. Not only a heavy posse of police force but also private security guards were hired at the EPH site, frisking and checking every entrant, and at places questioning villagers and participants about their antecedents. Unnecessary barricades and iron wire fencing separated the collector’s dais and the participants area, a first ever arrangement during the EPH in recent times in Gujarat. While the barricades and iron wire-fencing might have been put for “the safety and security” of the collector and officials, they created an atmosphere of coercive tactics that invoked state control and fear over the proceedings of grave public concern.

The collector allowed songs and recordings in favour of the NPCIL and benefits of nuclear power plant to be broadcast from the public address system arranged by the collectorate. These recordings continued to be played till the EPH proceedings began formally. This was a clear violation of the neutral approach that the collector should have taken on the issue and instead made clear his predisposition on behalf of the NPCIL. On the contrary, the villagers were not only prevented from making free and fair representation; their representations on procedural issues were also ignored during the EPH.

There were at least thirty odd people sitting on dais on both the sides of district collector during the EPH, whose presence and background went unaccounted with no one introduced or briefed about who they were and in what capacity they sat there. The villagers and their elected representatives on the other hand got no such chance and instead were frequently frisked and subjected to irritating queries.

The NPCIL and EIL has since then continued to resort to the illegal practices by keeping silence on the issues raised by the villagers. This is evident from its application and presentations for Costal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance to the authorities in Gujarat without submitting adequate documents and information.

Members of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Krishnakant, Swati Desai, and Rohit Prajapati, environmental activists in Gujarat, wrote letters to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), alleging that the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) clearance by the State Government was without any site visits and documentation of ground realities.

On June 11, 2013, while giving the so-called CRZ clearance/ recommendation for CRZ clearance to the NPP,  the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) stated that “The Authority deliberated the proposal of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and after detailed discussion, the Authority decided to recommend to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India to grant CRZ clearance for construction of intake, outfall facilities, jetty and Desalination plant at Village: Mithi Virdi, Dist: Bhavnagar by M/S Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, only after submission of the following details to this Department : 1. Detailed note regarding the safety aspects and site selection criteria along with its advantage for this site and submit to this Department. 2. A site visit should be carried out by GCZMA Member.”

This clearly means that the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authorities is not serious about the CRZ clearance because they have casually given this clearance/recommendation for CRZ clearance without asking for and reading the note on safety aspects, site clearance report and without undertaking the site visit. GCZMA has also not taken in account the basics, for instance eventualities like population increase in the immediate vicinity of the proposed plant. What the CRZ clearance does, therefore, is to endorse the illegal and unconstitutional act of NPCIL and EIL. Activists earlier alleged that the EIL had no accreditation to conduct an environment impact assessment for a nuclear power plant. It appeared as if the GCZMA is a victim of the non-transparent and secretive approach of NPCIL, which has not attached the report dated June 28, 2007, of Site Selection Committee even in the Environment Impact Assessment document and also to the GCZMA.

NPCIL needs 81 hectares of forest land in addition to the other land for the nuclear power plant. To facilitate this the Taluka Development Officer (TDO) of Gujarat State sent a letter dated July 15, 2013 to Sarpanch of Jaspara directing him to pass a resolution on the lines of the copy that he had sent, so as to have the village body's stamp of approval for the state government transfer of forest land to the NPCIL. In this letter the TDO instead of seeking the opinion of Gramsabha as per the law for the land transfer, illegally and unconstitutionally orders the Sarpanch to pass the readymade resolution. The Gramsabha of Jaspara unanimously condemned and rejected such an unconstitutional letter of TDO. The Gramsabha unanimously resolved not to hand over the forest land for non-forest use to be handed over the NPCIL.

This is the new way of getting the consent from the villagers by Mr. Modi’s Gujarat State.

Kevadia near Sardar Sarovar Dam: Old and New Struggles

Another hot spot Mr. Modi faces is near Sardar Sarovar Dam.

The work for the Garudeshwar weir, proposed about 12 km downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam, began without necessary environmental clearance from the Environmental Sub Group (ESG) of Narmada Control Authority’s (NCA). It is very clear if one looks closely at the letter dated March 24, 2013 written by a senior member Mr. Shekhar Singh of the ESG of NCA to its chairperson Mr. Dr V. Rajagopalan, the secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India.

He expressed surprise over Gujarat Government's decision to start work for the construction of the Garudeshwar weir without obtaining necessary environment clearances.

He states in his letter that “Garudeshwar weir, to be built 12 km downstream of the SSP dam with a live storage capacity of 32.9 Million Cubic Meters is a component of the Sardar Sarovar Project, as was envisaged by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award of 1979. However, as far as I recollect, the environmental and social impacts of construction and operation of Garudeshwar weir (GW) have never been brought before the ESG of NCA.”

He further states in his letter “In my estimation, the construction and operation of the GW will have significant social and environmental impacts, since it will entail a reservoir of about 12 km in length and unknown width and submergence area. The weir will have the potential of affecting the fisheries in the immediately surrounding areas and also of affecting the downstream river and its biodiversity, and other related aspects. This is especially because the weir will control the flow of water and silt downstream. However, I do not know whether there has been a comprehensive assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the GW and its contribution to the cumulative impact of all the projects and activities in the area. And if there has been, I do not believe that this has been put up to the ESG for its approval.”

At the end of the letter, he clearly demands, “If this is correct, I find this problematic as ESG has not yet cleared the construction of this weir. Under the circumstance, I urge you to: (1) Ask the Government of Gujarat (GoG) to immediately stop construction of the GW. All other activities related to the GW should also be stopped. (2) Ask GOG/ SSNNL to submit the full feasibility report, environment and social impact assessment report including impacts during construction and operation of the GW to the ESG and seek clearance of the ESG for this work. (3) Ask GOG not to start any work in this regard till the ESG clears this.”

In a clear example of how area development authorities, notified by the Gujarat Government, behave vis-à-vis local villagers, a letter written by the Chief Executive Officer, Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) has threatened the Sarpanches of 52 villages adjoining the Sardar Sarovar Dam that they better agree to hand over their villages for tourism purpose or else they would face consequences. The four-line letter dated March 6, 2013 sent to the village Sarpanches under the heading “Regarding the decision to include your villages under KADA”, threateningly states “the government has decided on development oriented work in these villages, even then you have not passed resolutions on your letter-heads agreeing to be included under KADA.” Calling the behaviour of the 52 village Panchayat “improper”, the KADA letter says, “You are requested to send your approval for the use of your villages for developmental purpose within seven days. In case you fail to do it, then – keeping that in view – we will be forced to take further steps against you.” Significantly, KADA comes directly under the Gujarat Urban Development Department and has been given the task of “developing” the area around the Sardar Sarovar Dam into a tourism spot, complete with all types of entertainment facilities, hotels and sports.

KADA Chief Executive Officer Mr. D. B. Rahewar said that his office has so far only asked consent from 54 villages to get consent of the village Panchayats for town development purpose, and the process was still at initial stage. “We have added 54 more villages under our scheme and have sought consent from the Panchayat but are yet to get their consent. We intend to develop the area under town planning scheme. The systemic development of the basic infrastructure in the region will be meant for mass service,” he said.

The six villages, which were the first to hand over the land way back in 1961-63 to build the Staff Colony, Government Offices and Guest House to build the Sardar Sarovar Dam, have even decades later not been considered “equal” to other project affected persons (PAPs), thus remaining deprived of all the facilities which other PAPs of Sardar Sarovar Dam of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have received. In fact, they cannot even access to Sardar Sarovar Dam water for irrigation. Worse, the view is gaining ground among them that water is only for urban and industrial use.

The view is also gaining strong among the villagers that all this is being done at a time when the Gujarat Government has decided to build the highest statue of the world in the memory of Shri Sardar Patel by spending Rs 2,500 crores near Sardar Sarovar Dam, around which KADA’s tourism will be developed. Already, 16 villages have been brought under KADA, while the plan is to take the number to 70.

On October 2, 2013 a huge contingent of police force was mobilised by the Gujarat state police department to create an atmosphere of terror and threat among the villagers to prevent them from reaching the place of the meeting where they were to discuss and raise their grievances against KADA (Kevadia Area Development Authority) near the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat. Government authorities photographed as well as video recorded the villagers who made their way to the meeting venue as a means of intimidation.

This happened a day after October 1, 2013, when the Collector, district Narmada and KADA authorities organised an urgent meeting with Sarpanches, Panchayat members and the Talati of 70 villages where they spelled out in not many words to dissuade the locals not to join the October 2 meeting. In spite of these “efforts” by the state and KADA authority, over 1500 people from the villages attended the meeting and resolved to fight back this inhuman and unconstitutional action. Protesting tribals shouted, "jaan denge, jameen nahi (we will give our life, but not our land)", "jameen rotlo aape chhe (we get food from our land)", "amaro gaam, amaro raaj (our village, our rule)," "vikas joiye chhe na ki vinas (we need development and not destruction)", among others, to register their protest against the move of the KADA to acquire land.

The Chairman, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, the Chairman & CEO, KADA and Collector, district Narmada were invited for the meeting to put forward the information, facts and figures before the villagers on October 2. Much to everyone's regret, they all chose to remain absent from the meeting.

At the end of the meeting, the villagers and concerned citizens took a pledge with Narmada water in their hand.

In other words, in the Modi development model, if you are workers, dalits, adivasis, and of course Muslims, then you may expect extremes of oppression and suffering. Tie this in with the export of the Gujarat model to the rest of the country, starting with the experiments in Uttar Pradesh (Muzzaffarnagar). The BJP sent a tested criminal, Mr. Amit Shah  into UP to apply the lessons of Gujarat to the country’s biggest state, since Mr. Modi has decided that whoever wins UP wins India. In UP, Shah communalised the state or large parts of it, pitting the Jats against the Muslims. Incidents were concocted so that pogroms could be whipped up. This resulted in the mass violence. At least 48 people died, many more are still missing and huge numbers had to flee their homes. And meanwhile the thugs who fanned the flames of this cynically orchestrated violence and destroyed thousands of lives gather for a photo-op in the corridors of the UP state assembly. This is what projecting Modi as PM implies – capitalist development in the interest of the top layers of the country, mass exploitation of workers and other toilers, along with mobilisations based on extreme communal politics and the destruction of peoples’ organisations. This is precisely Indian fascism.

The authors can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

[1]  The authors are members of Radical Socialist, http://www.radicalsocialist.in/

[2]  http://www.sacw.net/article3417.html

[3]  http://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/ApprenticeAct1961.pdf

[4]  Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation has been created with public money for the facilitation and establishment of private companies and corporations both domestic and international in industrial areas and industrial estates in the state. It has established 182 industrial estates, ranging from mini to mega sizes, in 25 of the 25 districts of the state. It has also developed 7 Special Economic Zones (SEZ). It is now establishing Special Investment Regions, PCPIR, Industrial areas and large sector-specific estates to attract big capital with the help of public finances.

[5]  Gobbling farm land for industry a fair game: Minister, Indian Express, 12 January 2011.

[6]  Gobbling farm land for industry a fair game: Minister, Indian Express, 12 January 2011.

[7]  http://www.chemicalsafety.co.in/mesures.htm

[8]  http://www.chemicalsafety.co.in/mesures.htm

[9]  http://www.vibrantgujarat.com/focus-areas/chemicals-and-petrochemicals.aspx, dated 21-9-2011

[10]http://www.bmhrc.org/Bhopal%20Gas%20Tragedy.htm

[11]Reply by GSDMA to Rohit Prajapati dated 10-8-2007

[12]Reply by GSDMA to Rohit Prajapati dated 23-8-2007

[13]http://www.gsdma.org/dmact.pdf

[14]http://www.gsdma.org/profile.htm

[15]Reply by Director, Health & Safety Department, Vadodara, to Rohit Prajapati, dated 9-9-2010

[16]   Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI), is a rational number to characterize the environmental quality at a given location following the algorithm of source, pathway and receptor have been developed. The index captures the various health dimensions of environment including air, water and land.

     http://cpcb.nic.in/divisionsofheadoffice/ess/NewItem_152_Final-Book_2.pdf

[17]  Mr. Narendra Modi - ‘CONVENIENT ACTION – Gujarat’s Response To Challenges of Climate Change’ has conveniently ignored the level of irreversible environmental degradation in the State of Gujarat. - Rohit Prajapati http://www.radicalsocialist.in/articles/environment/378-narendra-modi-and-climate-change-a-response

[18]http://envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/om-ia-moratorium-reimposing-170913.pdf

[19]http://envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/om-ia-moratorium-lifting-170913.pdf

Subcategories