World In View

Bitter Truth


In the district of Farguson, which falls within the state of Missouri, blacks constitute 67% of the population. But blacks form as much as 93% of the arrested urban people, 88% of those tortured by the police and 85% of those whose cars are stopped and searched on the streets. On the other hand, whites constitute as much as 95% of the police force of Ferguson, and the number of white and black police officers are 50 and 3 respectively.

The citizens' rights branch of the US judiciary recently conducted an investigation on discrimination against the blacks, which has yielded the following information. This investigation was led by Banita Gupta, an US attorney of Indian origin. The investigating team worked for as long as six months, took interviews of several hundreds of persons, and scrutinized 35 thousand pages of police records. In the report submitted after the survey, two lines of that famous song of Bob Dilan have been quoted, "If you are black, you might as well not show up on the street, unless you want to draw the beat". The report says that the police force of Farguson, in order to increase their revenue, imposes heavy fines on the blacks, even in cases of extremely light violations of law. The picture revealed by the report is really very bad, but it is nothing novel. Racialism is an inhuman policy followed by the US ruling (capitalist) classes, and the people have been fighting against it for more than two centuries. In the fight for defeating racialism and establishing human rights, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King had to lay down their lives. But racialism continues to survive in the USA and in reality, it has become an inextricable part of the US capitalist system. The imperialist United States while engaged in plundering activities throughout the world and launching wars of agression in order to maintain this reign of plunder, pursues a policy of suppressing the blacks and immigrants at home. The more the crisis of the world capitalist system intensifies and it becomes difficult to maintain the rate of profit, the more the US ruling classes take off the mask of democracy, freedom and human rights and assume the appearance of barbaric slave-owners. As long as the US working classes are unable to overthrow this capitalist system, racialism will not be wiped out. Conversely, unless the white workers stand by the struggle of the blacks and immigrants for equal rights, the solidarity of the working class necessary for he overthrow of capitalism will remain elusive.

The suppression of religious minorities, dalits and adivasis in the Indian society may be compared with the racialism practised in the USA. For example, Muslims constitute 27% of the population of "West Bengal, but they are about 50% of the persons in jail. On the other hand, the presence of Muslims in the police force of the state is less than 5%. This situation is the outcome of a long process of discrimination and suppression. But it has a difference with the situation in the USA. Communists, leftists and progressives all over the world view the struggle against racialism in the USA as a positive struggle and stand by it. But when the religious minorities of India, dalits, adivasis and other suppressed identities, victims of deprivation and suppression, raise questions of deprivation or make some political mobilization on such questions, Indian leftists customarily oppose it, calling it casteism and communalism. This attitude has scarcely changed even after many setbacks and defeats. This is a negative factor as far as the progress of leftism is concerned.

Caught in a situation of all-pervasive crisis of capital, the capitalist state has been making a desperate bid to impose the burden of suffering on the people. They call it a measure of austerity. They imposed this measure on the people of Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Cyprus. Germany is the ringleader. Owing to various historical reasons, German capitalism is yet in a somewhat stronger position than others.

Now in Germany also the masses have erupted in grievances against austerity. On 18 March 2015, in order to disrupt the function arranged on the occasion of the inaugration of the new headquarters of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, several thousands of workers assembled and set the police car on fire. Reportedly, the German police arrested 350 workers. The house of the headquarters is 605 feet high and its construction cost 1.3 billion Euros. This huge cost is incurred at a time when social services are curtailed and the people are asked to practise austerity. This European Central Bank and the IMF are the masterminds behind the imposition of austerity measures on the whole of Europe. In the very afternoon of 18 March, twenty thousand people assembled at the spot where the violent incident had taken place, and protested against the imposition of austerity.

The way the wave of protests have finally lashed Germany reveals new possibilities of struggles against capitalism in the advanced capitalist countries of Europe.

Barrack Obama, declaring Venezuela, a 'Threat to national security', imposed a ban on seven government and military officials, and ordered confiscation of their property in the USA. The US complaint was that by detaining opposition leaders like Antonio Dayaj, the mayor of Caracas, Venezuela had violated human rights. In the face of the US threat, the Union of South American Nations, an organization of 12 countries of Latin America, stood by Venezuela and demanded withdrawal of the ban. In a message to Nicholas Maduro, Castro said, "US terrorism, what much can you do? Never think you can still do what you did for years."

National Scenario
In the Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Indian Constitution, the State is directed to take responsibility of employment, housing, education and health, but these are not recognized as basic rights. If somebody does not get employment, he is not entitled to file a suit against the State on the issue of employment or unemployment allowance. The same holds true for education, health and housing. The MGNRGEA introduced under the UPA rule partially recognized the right to work. Similarly, programmes like the mid-day meal and ICDS provided some social protection.

The corporate groups spent colossal sums of money in order to install Naredra Modi in power, and he had promised to them he would stop the 'wastage' on the poor and remove the restrictions on investment of capital and uninhibited plunder of natural resources . Modi has kept his word. An ordinance has been issued in order to cancel the 'clause on property' in the Land Acquisition Act of the UPA regime. Similar ordinances have been issued for privatization of coal and insurance. In its first full-fledged budget, the Modi Government has curtailed whatever precious little was allotted to the social service sectors. Allotments for the ICDS, mid-day meal scheme, sarbasikhsa abhijan, scheduled castes sub-plan, tribal sub-plan, women and child development have been drastically reduced. The Central Finance Minister has claimed that reductions in such allottments were essential for managing budget deficits, conveniently forgetting that defects could be managed in other ways too. Huge tax concessions, worth about Rs 5 trillions, have been given to the corporate sector, and the burden of taxes for the super-rich have been further lessened.

The taxes collected by the central government and state governments of India, taken together, form about 14% of Gross Domestic Product. This is the lowest tax-GDP ratio in the world. In the USA, this ratio is 24%. If India's central and state governments can raise it to the level of the USA, the additional revenue will be enough for ensuring food for all, work for all, education for ail and health services for all. Right now, the government spends only 1% of the GDP on health services. Much more is spent in this sector in many third world countries. Raising it to just 3% will make it easy to provide universal health care in India. Although a small country, Cuba has built up an exemplary universal health care system, while struggling against US blockade. Cuba spends about 6.5% of its GDP on health care. There the number of doctors per ten thousands of people is 60, while in India it is only 6. Will India learn from Cuba?

On 17 March, Delhi witnessed an unprecedented rally. Opposition leaders including Sonia Gandhi, Sitaram Yechuri, Derek O'Brien, Sarad Jadav, Deve Goura etc were seen together. More than 200 MPs from 14 different political parties joined the procession, which started from the parliament building and went to the Rastrapati Bhavan, demanding cancellation of the Land Ordinance. Despite their many political differences, the unity against the Ordinance has given the people a measure of confidence. It would have been better had the Opposition been able to build up united protests against the insurance bill and privatization of coal mines also. The Congress supported the insurance bill because it is this party that had proposed the share of FDI in the insurance sector to be raised to 49%. The Trinamul Congress staged a walkout in the name of opposing the bill, but did not vote against it. It is possible that they had come to a secret understanding with the central government. On the issue of privatization of mines and coal, the TMC has directly supported the central government on the alleged ground that it would enhance the revenue of the state government. On this very ground they might support the Land Acquisition Ordinance too. In spite of such vacillations among the opposition parties, the broad unity on the question of land acquisition is good. It would be better if this untiy is extended to mass movements as well. Sonia Gandhi has expressed her party's readiness to take to the path of movements with Anna Hazare as companion. It is a good proposal. Outside the initiatives of the parliamentary parties, some mass organizations and voluntary organizations are going to launch movements against the Land Acquisition Ordinance. All these taken into account, it may be said that the struggle against the Ordinance is going to provide a platform for the protection of democracy in India.

In as back as the late nineties of the last century, the BJP-Siv Sena alliance once formed the ministry in Maharastra. During that period, they passed a law imposing a full ban on cowslaughter. That law was so long waiting for the approval of the President. This law did not receive this approval because the BJP was not in power during 2004-2010. It is known to all that except in some exceptional cases, the approval of the President implied the approval of the central government. It may be said that concurrently with the step of pleasing the corporate demons by issuing ordinances on coal, mines, insurance and land acquisition, the BJP has pleased the Hindutva brigade by giving consent to the law of banning cow slaughter. It accords well with the fierce attacks on the religious minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, in the name of ghar wapsi. It is not only an infringement of the rights of one class of people about their choice of food, but also a large onslaught on the livelihood of many peasants, particularly poor ones, who do not eat beef. Those who have some idea about the nature of the rural economy of India know that peasant families all over the country are in the habit of rearing cows, buffaloes and goats, and that this is one kind of insurance to them. When they require medical treatment or face other difficulties, they somehow manage the situation by selling those animals. As long as animal power played a major role in agricultural activities, cows had a utility apart from serving as sources of meat. But the situation has undergone a drastic change over the last three decades. Now, the power used for cultivation is predominantly mechanical power, while an insignificant role is played by animal power and human power. In this situation, a cessation of the use of cows as sources of meat will lead to a serious contraction of the demand for animal rearing and the economy run by many millions of poor peasants, be they Hindus or Christians or Muslims, would be severely damaged. Besides, darkness will descend on the lakhs of people engaged in the business of slaughter of cows, sale of beef and trade in hides.

Just one day after the President of India gave his approval to this draconian law, the largest butchery of Mumbai had to close its work, rendering four thousand workers homeless. In early March, these workers, along with workers of other enterprises, organized a large demonstration of about five thousands. The workers have decided to build up public opinion and movements all over Maharastra against the law banning cow slaughter. Supriya Nule, the NCP leader, has told in a press interview that the ban on beef is a serious onslaught on the economy of poor cowherds.

Those who have made some studies on the economy of ancient India are informed that the Aryans who settled in India constituted an animal-grazing community, and beef was an important item in their list of eatables. Raja Rajendralal Mitra, the famous nineteenth century scholar, wrote a booklet titled Beef in Ancient India, and showed with citations from Hindu scriptures and philosophical texts that on the occasion of the arrival of a guest, a well-fed calf was slaughtered.

Subsequently, with the expansion of settled agriculture, cultivation required so much animal power that slaughter of cows was put under restriction. But it was never banned. After the caste system assumed a rigid shape, Brahmins characterized beef eating and skinning cows as unclear jobs and used this characterization in order to suppress the working people. A sordid class interest lies also behind the move towards the ban on beef by the corporate-Hindutva alliance. This interest lies in hurting the economy of dalits, adivasis and religious minorities.

Protests are raging from many quarters against the ban on cow-slaughter. It may be hoped that the rural people, particularly poor peasants, will join these protests and finally bid farewell to this black law.

A vast tract of land in the Gangetic plains of West Bengal is now full of screams of farmers. In Rajasthan, farmers are committing suicides because of crop failure, while potato farmers in West Bengal do the same owing to overproduction. Due to good weather and extension of cultivation this year production has far exceeded the capacity of the cold storages. In earlier seasons, traders from other states, e.g. Assam, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar used to buy considerable quantities of potato from West Bengal. But the state government stopped the export of potato from West Bengal, and the price of this vegetable has rocketed to as high as Rs 30 to 35 in those states. This has forced these states to expand potato cultivation. Potato traders from these states have not come to West Bengal this year, and the price has gone down. Cold storages can provide no further space, and hence, sale of potatoes now means a loss of Rs 5 to 10 thousand per bigha (one third of an acre). The loss is larger for those who have leased in others' land. Farmers, unable to bear this burden and to repay the loans, are committing suicides. When the weather is unfavourable, it is disaster to farmers. When the weather is favourable, it is also disaster to farmers. In the market economy, the market is the Supreme God. If the state government stood by the farmers, their suffering could be somewhat alleviated. But this TMC-led government is not willing to recognize the problem, let alone try to solve it. The minister of agriculture, a former Naxalite, has bluntly denied the event of suicide due to losses. The government promised to purchase potato at Rs 600 a quintal, but has not purchased even one lakh quintals. Had the government bought 20 lakh quintals of potato, the farmers would have benefited somewhat. For a government that spends Rs 200 crore as donations to clubs, Rs 120 crore, value of 1 lakh quintals, do not mean a big amount. But the government has not spent even Rs 10 crore for purchase of potato. So the list of suicide is lengthened.

Although it is difficult to pronounce with any degree of certainty what changes have taken place in West Bengal after 2011, it may be said that the state has become a paradise of rapists. Since the chief minister does not believe in communalism, one can find the names of all religions and identities, namely Hindus, Muslims, Christians, daltis, adivasis in the list of the raped. And there is no consideration of age. All sorts of women, of ages from7 to 70 years, are victims of the animalistic lust of the hooligans. Three years ago, after the rape of a lady in the Park Street region, Chief Minister called it a 'small incident'. A woman MP of her party, cast aspersions on the character of the raped lady. Another actor-leader of TMC, while addressing a public gathering, issued the open threat of having the women of the opponents' households raped by his own men. That MP has got away with impunity. It is not only that Mamata Banerjee, as the chief minister, has failed to provide protection to women. She has done her best to ensure that the rapists do not get arrested and punished. The upshot is the Ranaghat episode.

But the grievances may lead to explosion, and the people of Ranaghat displayed it. Mamata Banerjee in her characteristic Hitlerite manner, scolded the demonstrating students, but this did not work. Her convoy was blocked for 45 minutes, and she hurled a challenge at the protesters by calling them CPI(M) and BJP people. Firhad Hakim, number two in Mamata Banerjee's cabinet, tried to portray this event of dacoity and rape as part of the Sangh offensive against Christians. But this theory did not work because the CCTV footage displayed the miscreants and the police failed to arrest them. Finally Mamata Banerjee ordered a CBI probe. It may be recalled that in order to prevent a CBI probe into the Saradah scam, her government had spent 11 crores of rupees.

But the police forces have shown competence in filing cases under non-bailable sections against those who demonstrated against her. Mamata Banerjee perhaps hopes that it will scare the people of West Bengal, and in future, nobody will show the courage to block her journey. The history of West Bengal, however, tells a different tale. o

(Courtesy : Sramajibi Bhasa, 1 April 2015)

Vol. 48, No. 2, July 19 - 25, 2015