Saturday, March 28, 2009

Raise Your Voice against the proposed Chemical Hub at Nayachar, West Bengal, India.

[Nayachar, an island at the southern part of West Bengal has been selected as the place for proposed Chemical hub. In the costal region, how such a project got the permission is surprising. There is enough reason to believe that, just to find a place near Haldia Petrochemical Industries, instead of Nandigram, govt. has selected Nayachar for chemical hub. According to the govt. claim, the project will generate million of employment. However, as it will be a special economic zone (SEZ), existing labour laws will not be followed and companies will enjoy huge tax exemption.
Till 25 March 2009, our major concern regarding the proposed petro-chemical industry at Nayachar was its impact on the ecological diversity in this region because of its environmental pollution and severe exploitation it would resort over there. The devastation could be as severe as the extinction of some fishes in the Ganga River.
But, on 25 March 2009, Mr. Prasoon Mukherjee, one of the developers of the proposed hub have come up with a new proposal—the filling up of some part of the Hoogly river to make a road between Haldia and Nayachar, the island. It is well known that any change in the flow of river is actually dangerous as the river has to take the revenge in its due course. It is one of the heinous attempts to shamelessly destroy nature and environment for sake of securing maximum profit, whose expense for sure ultimately have to be paid by natural disaster. This incident once again shows that the exploitation for maximum profit is the root cause of the destruction of environment and nature. Nature and environment is no longer safe in this imperialist-capitalist system. The following News was published in the Statesman on 26 March 2009 under the title "Haldia lifeline may make way for road".]

KOLKATA, March 25: In a proposal that would be the death knell of Haldia port if accepted, the consortium developing the proposed chemical hub at Nayachar has suggested blocking the river channel between the island and the mainland, considered to be the lifeline of the port.
The New Kolkata Infrastructure Development (NKID) has proposed that a link road between Nayachar island and the mainland be built over the channel, which is heavily silted up.
Mr Prasoon Mukherjee of NKID said: “ The channel is not navigable any more and ships cannot use it. Nearly Rs 300 crore is being spent annually for dredging the channel. If Kolkata Port Trust is willing and the eco-system permits, the state government can approach the Centre to build a road between Haldia and the island.”
Incidentally, when Mr Mukherjee along with Mr Philip Yeo, special economic advisor to the Prime Minister of Singapore, visited Nayachar on Sunday, their vessel got struck in the silt.
"Nayachar is viable. It is in a far better state than Judong Island before it was developed,” he said. However, he hastily added that if the proposal is not accepted, the developer will build a bridge “when necessary”.
The state government has been trying to draw the attention of the Union shipping ministry to speed up dredging to increase the navigability of the river channel, since the number of large vessels coming to Haldia port has dwindled due to poor draught. In fact the chief secretary, Mr AM Chakraborti, will meet the Union Cabinet secretary and shipping secretary tomorrow to discuss the deployment of more quality dredgers to save the port.
NKID on the other hand, is setting up a private deep sea port and will not be in any way dependent on Haldia port.
Mr Mukherjee also said that they will not begin construction at Nayachar unless they get environmental clearance and soil tests are completed. Since environmental clearance itself will take up a year, it is unlikely that the CPI-M's flagship for industrialisation in this election will be kickstarted in the next two years, as Mr Mukherjee himself admitted.

G20 protesters hope to capitalise on recession woes

London: Buoyed by a renewed sense that the recession has made anti-capitalist protest fashionable again, a myriad of groups have vowed to bring London to a standstill during next week's Group of 20 (G20) summit to rescue the global economy.
The website announcements by umbrella organisation G-20 Meltdown that large swaths of London would be in security lockdown and bankers would be targeted if they dared to wear smart suits on the day have led Scotland Yard to declare that police are facing a "huge challenge".
The protesters' target date is April 1, renamed Financial Fools' Day for the purpose, when suited effigies of bankers will be symbolically hanged and demonstrators will march on the Bank of England headquarters shouting: "Burn a banker!"
"They want to stop the City on Wednesday, that is their avowed intention," said Scotland Yard commander Bob Broadhurst. The force will have up to 10,000 men on the streets in a massive security operation estimated to cost in excess of seven million pounds ($10.2 million).
Their task is not made any easier by the fact that the G20 meeting coincides with a state visit by Mexican President Felipe Calderon - a summit participant - and with England's national football squad matches against Ukraine and Slovakia.
Broadhurst said the re-emergence of radical direct action groups that had not been active since the 1990s and had forged "new alliances" with environmentalists, anti-globalisation protesters and anarchists made the challenge unpredictable.
"Clearly there are some very innovative and clever people and they know our tactics," he said. "Anarchists by definition don't come to see us."
There have been reports that groups supporting "direct action" are planning to block streets and paralyse public transport by intentionally leaving unattended bags on Tube trains.
There were also plans to block a road tunnel en route to the summit venue in the ExCel exhibition centre in the former docklands in east London.
Demonstrators are expected to switch their attention to the purpose-built waterfront centre early April 2 as delegations and some 2,000 media representatives arrive for the one-day summit.
According to Broadhurst, the police will "facilitate lawful protest". There would be a "demonstration pen" near the ExCel centre to "accommodate a few hundred protestors".
Meanwhile, staff in the City, London's financial district, have been advised to dress down and postpone non-essential meetings during the summit week.
"Businesses might want to consider asking their staff not to dress in a suit and tie as a lot of the protestors say they're going to target bankers," said a spokesman for the London Chamber of Commerce.
He advised that workers should stagger their start and finish times and consider postponing meetings.
Businesses were braced for losses of millions of pounds as a result of the expected disruptions and staff being unable to get to their place of work.
"The revolution is coming. This is our time," protest group Government of the Dead said on its website, confirming the view held by anti-capitalism groups that the recession and spiralling unemployment would make ordinary citizens join their cause.
"There will be a lot of people for whom this is the first opportunity to express their anger and look for another way of doing things," singer and political activist Billy Bragg told the Observer newspaper.
Comparing the protests with the demonstrations against Third World debt at the end of the 1990s, he said: "The anti-globalisation movement last time was doing it in the teeth of a boom. Now capitalism has floundered and people want an alternative to what we have had."
While G20-Meltdown insists that its intentions are peaceful, the authorities fear that radical groups are preparing for more disruptive tactics, including entering banks and office buildings.
George McKay, professor of Cultural Studies at Salford University in Manchester, backed the belief that the economic crisis had served to boost support for street protest.
"We are at an absolutely pivotal point. That, I think, will add to a new level of angry energy," he said.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Celebration of International Women's Day in Sundarban

Like every years, International Women's day was celebrated in Gogeshgung-Gobindakati, the remote villages of Sundarban delta (West Bengal, India) with huge enthusiasms on 8th March 2009. From 4pm to 6pm a rally marched in different regions of Gogeshgung-Gobindakati and a mass meeting was held in front of Gobindakati Primary School from 6pm for two more hours. People participated in the rally shouted slogans in demand of the democracy, independence and equality of women, in support of the neo-democratic revolution which is in essence anti-feudal and anti-imperialist. They also shouted slogans against the feudal and imperialist cultures, and also against the practices of female embryo destruction. Their slogans expressed solidarity to the struggles of Singur-Nandigram and Lalgarh. They protested against construction of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in different parts of India.

While addressing the rally, speakers from different mass organizations and journals, like, Nari Mukti Sangha (NMS, a progressive-democratic Women's organization which believes that the liberation of Women could only be achieved with the success of Neo-democratic followed by socialist revolution), Sangrami Sramik Sanghathan (Workers' Organization), Marxist-Leninist Research Centre and Janamuktikami (a Bengali revolutionary journal) stressed upon the question of the liberation of women as it is totally related to the abolition of feudalism and imperialism in India.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tales of torture unleashed in secret report

David Usborne
NEW YORK, March 17: Interrogation techniques used by the USA on Al Qaida suspects in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, including beatings, sleep deprivation and so-called waterboarding, "constituted torture" as well as "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment, according to a secret Red Cross report.
The report, which was not meant for public release, was written after Red Cross observers were allowed to speak to 14 "high value" detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The detainees had been transferred from secret prisons, or black sites, operated by the CIA. The testimony given to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), notably by Abu Zubaydah, who was captured after fighting US soldiers in Pakistan, provides a level of detail about the treatment the men received that has not been seen before.
Zubaydah recalls being slammed repeatedly against a plywood wall in his cell and being confined in dark, coffin-like wooden boxes. He speaks of being left unclothed and struggling to breathe as water was poured on a cloth over his face, a simulated drowning procedure known as waterboarding. "I struggled against the straps, trying to breathe, but it was hopeless. I thought I was going to die. I lost control of my urine. Since then I still lose control of my urine when under stress," he is quoted as saying.
The report's authors say all the men gave strikingly similar descriptions of what had happened, even if they had had little or no contact with the others. Excerpts of the report appear in an article written by Mark Danner, a professor of journalism, to be published in New York Review of Books. It is not clear how he obtained the document.
It is legally and politically significant that the ICRC wrote the report, five copies of which were given to White House and CIA officials in early 2007. "It could not be more important that the ICRC explicitly uses the words 'torture' and 'cruel and degrading'," Mr Danner told The Washington Post. "The ICRC is the guardian of the Geneva conventions, and when it uses those words, they have the force of law."

The Independent

Source: The Statesman, 18 March 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Ugly Face of Indian Parliament

[This news was published in the Statesman (13 March 2009) under the title "Meltdown plays party pooper". It describes how the Indian parliamentary parties build their funds and select their electoral candidates. The candidates are selected mostly either on the basis of their money power or their higher position in social strata or both. Obviously, these candidates when become the "people's representative" show commitment to the interest of himself first, ignoring the interest of common Indian people. And no wonder, to get a reasonable amplification of the money they invested in election, they use to get involved in so many businesses which are dirty. These actually include providing support or giving consent to the requirements and demands of imperialism, comprador bourgeoisie and feudal class. Truly speaking, therefore, neither the parliament nor the ministry works for the people; rather they always adopt policies, which serve the interest of MNCs, big comprador bourgeoisie and feudal class. For a fundamental social change in the Indian society, it is therefore important to understand the real character of Indian parliament, which is not bourgeois democratic at all, but an instrument to give the democratic stamp on imperialist plunder and feudal exploitation.]

Stanley Theodore
HYDERABAD, March 12:
The global financial meltdown is severely impacting the functioning of political parties across the spectrum and also upsetting the prospects of several aspirants for party tickets.

Andhra Pradesh, estimated by various organisations, spends the most in the country during election time. For instance an Assembly candidate needed to spend at least Rs 25 lakh (US$ 0.05 million) in 2004 just to have his presence felt. Now parties estimate this around Rs 40 lakh (US$ 0.08 million). Further, considering that this is a simultaneous election to the Assembly and Lok Sabha, the expenditure can be better managed if both candidates act in tandem. A Lok Sabha (parliament) candidate needs at least Rs 2 cr (US$ 0.4 million) to show that he is in the race.

“This is the bare minimum amounts. If this much is not spent, voters tend to figure that the candidate is not serious enough to be in the contest. Over and above this Assembly candidates need to spend another Rs 60 lakh (US$ 0.12 milloin) and Parliament candidate another Rs 2 cr (US$ 0.4 million) to keep rolling their campaign machinery like jeeps, cadre, tents, among others,” a party leader said.

Parties began their collections in mid-2008 from various sources. Very few kept their commitment almost immediately. The rest contributed to varying extents and promised to deliver the remaining during election time. This group includes ticket aspirants. Now the liquidity crunch due to the economic recession has left them high and dry.

“Since September 2008 things began to look bleak. And thanks to the Satyam fiasco in January the situation has turned terrible”, a leader who deals with finances said. When asked if contributors or business houses have become tight fisted, he quipped: “Tight fist or loose fist is when there is something in the fist. These days all fists are empty”.

Now aspirants are showing share certificates and land documents to show that they have the financial backing to contest. But parties are not taking them seriously as the stock market is down and so is the real estate market. Even those speaking of "gold reserves" are told to liquidate them and have cash in hand.

Those candidates who traditionally flaunted their NRI funding sources are being ticked off. “One can have a hundred NRIs, friends and relatives. Today how many of them are in a position to transfer $20,000-$25,000? Its neither fair nor practical to take NRIs into account”, a poll fund manager said.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

International Women's Day 2009

Today is the International Women's Day. The first International Women's Day was observed on 28 February 1909 in the United States following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. Among other relevant historic events, it came to commemorate the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. The idea of having an international women's day was first put forward at the turn of the 20th century amid rapid world industrialization and economic expansion that led to protests over working conditions. By urban legend, women from clothing and textile factories staged one such protest on 8 March 1857 in New York City. The garment workers were protesting against very poor working conditions and low wages. The protesters were attacked and dispersed by police. These women established their first labor union in the same month two years later.
More protests followed on 8 March in subsequent years, most notably in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. In 1910 the first international women's conference was held in
Copenhagen (in the labour-movement building located at Jagtvej 69, which until recently housed Ungdomshuset) by the Second International and an 'International Women's Day' was established, which was submitted by the important German Socialist Clara Zetkin, although no date was specified. The following year, 1911, International Women's Day was marked by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, on March 19. However, soon thereafter, on March 25, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City killed over 140 garment workers. A lack of safety measures was blamed for the high death toll. Furthermore, on the eve of World War I, women across Europe held peace rallies on 8 March 1913.
On the last Sunday of February 1917, Russian women began a strike for "bread and peace" in response to the death over 2 million Russian soldiers in war. Opposed by political leaders the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. The date the women's strike commenced was Sunday 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was 8 March.
Following the
October Revolution, the Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai persuaded Lenin to make it an official holiday in the Soviet Union, and it was established, but was a working day.

In contrast to bourgeois feminist idea, the equality between men and women is directly associated with the question of wage-slavery. The existence of women as second grade citizen in our society actually ensures extraction of women's labour by imperialist-capitalist-feudalist masters in a dam cheap rate. In other words, the very existence of women as oppressed gender helps the ongoing exploiting system to run and ensure huge surplus deposited in the pocket of class enemies. Therefore women cannot expect equality in the existing system. Equality of woman will be accomplished when she will be free from all kind of slavery and this will only be possible when the mankind will be able to abolish all form of exploitation. The working women, as "half the sky" fight the same struggle what their men counterparts do worldwide—struggle for total abolition of all exploitation. When the current crisis of imperialist-capitalist system once again prove that this system has no future, it cannot solve the basic problems of toiling masses, but only intensify the problems, it simultaneously prove that the future is for socialism-communism only—the socialist ownership of the production. On the occasion of International Women's Day, we publish one writing of Com. Lenin which he wrote for Pravda in 1920 for the same.

On International Women's Day

V I Lenin

Capitalism combines formal equality with economic and, consequently, social inequality. This is one of the principal distinguishing features of capitalism, one that is mendaciously screened by the supporters of the bourgeoisie, the liberals, and that is not understood by the petty-bourgeois democrats. Out of this distinguishing feature of capitalism, by the way, the necessity arises, while fighting resolutely for economic equality, openly to recognise capitalist inequality and, under certain conditions, even to include this open recognition of inequality as a basis for the proletarian state organisation (the Soviet Constitution).
But capitalism cannot be consistent even with regard to formal equality (equality before the law, "equality" between the well-fed and the hungry, between the property-owner and the property-less). And one of the most flagrant manifestations of this inconsistency is the inferior position of woman compared with man. Not a single bourgeois state, not even the most progressive, republican democratic state, has brought about complete equality of rights.
But the Soviet Republic of Russia promptly wiped out, without any exception, every trace of inequality in the legal status of women, and secured her complete equality in its laws.
It is said that the level of culture is best characterised by the legal status of woman. There is a grain of profound truth in this saying. From this point of view, only the dictatorship of the proletariat, only the socialist state, could achieve and did achieve a higher level of culture. Therefore, the foundation (and consolidation) of the first Soviet Republic--and alongside and in connection with this, the Communist International-inevitably lends a new, unparalleled, powerful impetus to the working women's movement.
For, when we speak of those who, under capitalism, were directly or indirectly, wholly or partially oppressed, it is precisely the Soviet system, and the Soviet system only, that secures democracy. This is clearly demonstrated by the position of the working class and the poor peasants. It is clearly demonstrated by the position of women.
But the Soviet system represents the final decisive conflict for the abolition of classes, for economic and social equality. For us, democracy, even democracy for those who were oppressed under capitalism, including democracy for the oppressed sex, is inadequate.
The working women s movement has for its objective the fight for the economic and social, and not merely formal, equality of woman. The main task is to draw the women into socially productive labour, extricate them from "domestic slavery", free them of their stultifying and humiliating resignation to the perpetual and exclusive atmosphere of the kitchen and nursery.
It is a long struggle, requiring a radical remaking both of social technique and of customs. But this struggle will end with the complete triumph of communism.


The Masters of Indian Parliamentary Parties

Whose cash are the major political parties banking on this time? A good part of election financing is obviously done with black money, but a close look at formal business funding in the recent past offers enough clues on who's bankrolling whom.
Quite clearly, businessmen have their favourites, but many others tend to back all major parties even-handedly. Else, they offer donations based on the popular votes/seats received by each major party at the last elections.
The Congress' big backers are the Aditya Birla group and the Tatas, while the BJP received substantial funding from the Sterlite group of Anil Agarwal and the Gujarat-based Adanis. The Dhoots of Videocon backed both the major parties and also the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.
Using the Right to Information Act extensively, DNA obtained the officially declared contribution figures of various political parties between 2003 and 2007. Since disclosures are voluntary, the figures are only indicative, and may also hide more than they reveal. Thus, there is little data on Mayawati's BSP, which did not submit any declaration to the Election Commission.
Missing from the declarations are the contributions of the Ambani brothers. While Mukesh has access to the highest levels in the Congress, Anil Ambani is close to the Samajwadi Party's Amar Singh.
The Congress and the BJP hogged the lion's share of the booty during 2003-07 -- almost identical amounts of Rs 52.42 crore and Rs 52.93 crore. No business house obviously wants to fall foul of the two principal nodes of Indian politics, whether they are in power or on the sidelines.
But given the growth in coalitions, the smaller parties aren't doing too badly either.
Adani contribution of Rs4 crore to BJP underscores proximity to Modi

Small parties, big bucks
Smaller regional parties haven't done too badly either in the queue for formal business funding. The Shiv Sena (Rs 4.17 crore), the SP (Rs 2.45 crore), the TDP (Rs 2.25 crore) and health minister Anbumani Ramadoss' PMK (Rs 2.86 crore) were key beneficiaries during this period.
The Aditya Birla group headed by Kumar Mangalam Birla emerges as the country's biggest donor, having made total donations to the tune of Rs 24.67 crore. The bulk of it went to the Congress party -- Rs 21.71 crore.
The BJP got all of Rs 2.96 crore. The Birla General Electoral Trust made donations only to these two major political parties.
The BJP's political interests, on the other hand, were strongly supported by the Public and Political Awareness Trust based in Silvassa. It received Rs 9.5 crore between 2003 and 2007 from this trust, which, in turn, received most of its funds from the Sterlite group of Anil Agarwal.
In 2000, 51% of public sector unit Balco was sold to the Sterlite group by the then NDA government. Separately, Sterlite Industries donated Rs 1 crore to the Congress and another Rs 50 lakh to the BJP.
The Venugopal Dhoot-led Videocon consumer durables group gave more than Rs 10 crore to three major parties - the BJP, Congress and Shiv Sena. Of this, Rs 4.5 crore went to the Congress and Rs 3.5 crore to BJP. The Sena got a generous Rs 2.63 crore. Not surprising, since Dhoot's brother Raj Kumar is in the Rajya Sabha, courtesy Shiv Sena.
The Tatas are not far behind. They have donated Rs 4.32 crore to the Congress and another Rs 2.67 crore to the BJP. The Shiv Sena got Rs 60.94 lakh and the Telugu Desam (TDP) Rs 48.48 lakh. These donations were made through Electoral Trust, which was set up before the 1999 general elections for encouraging transparent political funding.
The Gujarat-based Adani group, which is into commodities trading, edible oil, infrastructure and private port operations, was the biggest benefactor of the BJP. Gautam Adani's proximity to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, often seen using the former's private planes, brought the BJP Rs 4 crore. The Congress got only Rs 20 lakh.
The professionally-managed ITC has scattered its largesse far and wide as it donates money on the basis of the parliamentary representation of each political party. The company gave Rs 1.45 crore to the Congress, Rs 1.38 crore to the BJP, Rs 36 lakh to the Samajwadi Party, Rs 12 lakh to the Shiv Sena, Rs 14.5 lakh to the TDP, Rs 8 lakh to Janata Dal (U) and even Rs 5 lakh to the AIADMK.
Engineering giant Larsen & Toubro has given Rs 1.6 crore to BJP, Rs 1 crore to Congress and another Rs 35 lakh to the Shiv Sena. The Mahindra group has distributed Rs 2.2 crore between the Congress, BJP, Shiv Sena and TDP. The Bajaj group has given Rs 1 crore each to Congress and BJP.
Naveen Jindal, who was elected to the current Lok Sabha on a Congress ticket, has donated a sum of Rs 1 crore to the Congress. Interestingly, he has also donated Rs 75 lakh to his party's main rival, the BJP.
The GMR group, which bagged major contracts for airport development across the country, donated Rs 1 crore to the BJP and Rs 25 lakh to the Congress through GMR Power Corporation and its promoters. Vijay Mallya's Shaw Wallace group, acquired in June, 2005, donated a sum of Rs 1 crore to the BJP in 2004-05.
There are several other notable names in the list. Pharma firm Ranbaxy donated Rs 95 lakh - Rs 65 lakh to the Congress, Rs 25 lakh to BJP and another Rs 5 lakh to TDP. The LM Thapar group donated Rs 70 lakh to the Congress and BJP. The Umesh Modi group gave Rs 50 lakh to the BJP and Rs 25 lakh to the Congress.
Among lesser-known financiers are Akik Education Centre, based in Delhi's Shahdara area at Baldev Park. Akik poured Rs 1.5 crore into the BJP's coffers. There is a three-storey building at the given address but DNA did not find any educational institute. Ahmedabad-based Nima Specific Family Trust gave Rs 1 crore to the BJP and Rs 30 lakh to the Congress.
Real estate groups - often operating at the edge of the law - also found a place among the formal donors to the major parties. The Ambience Group, led by Raj Singh Gehlot, which is into the construction of malls and luxury apartments, donated Rs 1.05 crore to the Congress from its Green Park Extension office. Another builder based in the capital, Somdutt Builders, gave Rs 75 lakh to the BJP.
Punj Lloyd, an engineering, construction and project management firm, doled out Rs 1 crore to the BJP while real estate developer Today House & Infrastructures donated Rs 55 lakh to the Congress.
The Jubilant group, which is into hyper and supermarket development, and real estate association Creda handed over Rs 50 lakh and Rs 47 lakh to BJP. Sanskriti Developers dished out Rs 50 lakh to the Congress and Rs 15 lakh to the Shiv Sena.
Quite clearly, from obscure trusts to famous industrial houses, all of them have contributed to keep the wheels of political parties greased.