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To All Comrades and Friends,

 

Dear comrades and Friends,

 

Com. Sharmistha, PB member of the Party, General Secretary of AIRWO, and Central Executive Committee member of the TUCI left us at 3 pm today, in a hospital in Kolkata where she was admitted yesterday evening for serious abdominal ailments from which she was suffering for a long time. She became ill while participating in the election campaign at Bhangar and from that time she had to keep away from all activities.

 

Com. Sharmistha was in the forefront of the party activities as well as in women’s front and working class front. In developing the ideological, political line of CPI(ML) Red Star, as well as in building the party in W. Bengal she has played an important role along with other leading comrades. She was just 45 years old when she left us. She was a student of Presidency College and then Kolkata University from where she did the post graduation, and journalist course. She started her career as a journalist in The Telegraph. From the Presidency College days she was a militant student activist. In 2002 she left the job, and became a whole time activist in the CCRI. In 2009 CCRI became part of the CPI(ML) Red Star. During the last 12 years, as an active party leader, as General Secretary of the All India Revolutionary Women’s organization, and as the Central Executive Committee member of Trade Union Centre of India she has participated and led many important struggles.

 

On the question of women’s liberation she has written many important papers which has exposed the theoretical weakness of the communist movement from the beginning in developing a consistent political line and practice against the Brahmanical, Hindutua ideology and patriarchy based on Manumrithi, which is the theoretical basis of RSS and all reactionary forces, perpetuating the slavery of women and other genders. She has campaigned for revolutionary emancipation of women, and has led the AIRWO for last one decade, developing it to an all India organization. Extending her activities to international level, she has played an active role in the development of the World Women’s Conference, actively participating in its Conferences at Caracas (Venezuela), Nepal and Germany, and organizing the latest Conference at Bangalore in 2018.

 

Com. Sharmista was active in working class movement also from the beginning of her political career. When the neoliberal policies have turned 95% of the workers as contract/casual workers, and as the traditional TU movement of the old style, affiliated to ruling class and reformist parties have become stagnant failing to take the working class beyond economism, she was always eager to develop movement of the workers in the unorganized sector. One of the struggles of closed jute mill workers led by her had led to collision with the TMC government.

 

In initiating and developing the Bhangar movement , and the Committee for land and livelihood she played an important role along with com. Alik, who is her life partner also, and other comrades. She was arrested and jailed under UAPA. After coming out of the jail after six months, she again plunged in to the movement playing an important role in defeating TMC goons and winning five seats in Polarghat panchayat elections. Once the struggle was successfully concluded, she played important role in consolidation the party and mass organizations  in that area.

She was vibrant and militant mass leader, a powerful speaker. Living in the Commune with com Alik and other comrades, she dedicated her life for the emancipation of women and all oppressed classes and sections, with uncompromising communist conviction and determination. Comrades Sharmistha was a real revolutionary mass leader who has contributed much in developing the revolutionary mass line under the leadership of the party. Her loss, just two weeks after the our another great loss, com. Sivaram leaving us on 28th May,  a time when the communist movement is facing serious challenges, is not only a loss to our party, but to the whole communist movement. The Central Committee of the CPI(ML) Red Star appeals to all comrades and friends to organize memorial programs, and to dedicate ourselves to carry forward the revolutionary work for which com. Sharmistha has fought for all her life.

 

She is survived by her mother. The Party extends heartfelt condolences to her and all other friends and comrades dear and near to her. Com. Alik, her partner, who is the secretary of the W. Bengal state committee of the party, has announced that after a brief program when all comrades from different parts of the state including Bhangar shall pay tributes to departed leader com. Sharmistha, and her body shall be handed over to the hospital for helping the students’ research. Com. Sharmistha was our beloved, dear comrade, whose memory shall be always with us inspiring us to carry forward the revolutionary tasks.

 

Red Salute to our beloved dear comrade Sharmistha!

 

K N Ramachandran

General Secretary

CPI(ML) Red Star

 

New Delhi

13th June 2021

Com. Sivaram, the Odisha state secretary of CPI(ML) Red Star and its youngest Polit Bureau member, passed away at 11.20 pm on 28th May night after he was admitted for post-Covid complications in hospital at Bhubaneswar.
 
During the last 25 days he was in ICU and then in ventilator, we were getting daily reports from the hospital about his critical condition. Every day we were waiting for a positive turn. But in spite of our great hope, he left us. Red Salute com Sivaram, you will be remembered by the communist movement in this country for the hope and expectations you created among the masses, by building from scratch a powerful struggling slum people’s movement in Bhubaneswar, and based on this mass base the party and class/mass organizations in a number of districts of the state, taking the message of the party to most parts of the state. He consistently fought about all alien trends, and assimilating the importance of revolutionary mass line, organized hundreds of struggles. Moreover he was part of all big mass movements from Chilka movement onwards to anti-POSCO movement for which he had to face police attacks and detention. He was always active in the relief work along with the comrades, from the time of the super cyclone.
 
While building the party uncompromisingly struggling against all deviations from the revolutionary path, he could establish relations with all parties of the broad left spectrum and especially with the revolutionary left and struggling forces. He was recognized as a leading voice of the revolutionary left by all progressive forces.
 
The departure of such a energetic and young communist fighter at a time when the movement is struggling hard to overcome present great challenges is a big loss, which cannot be filled up easily. At this moment, it is not easy for all of us who knew him so well and worked with him, to get over the shock from his departure. But, his great revolutionary spirit demands us to overcome the shock, and carry forward the tasks for which he devoted his life. That will be the biggest tribute to him.
 
We can understand how grief stricken are com. Pramila, a great fighter who was always in the forefront of the movement together with him, and his life partner, and their son Sonu. We hope com. Pramila shall overcome it and console her son, as well as the tens of thousands of slum dwellers, workers, peasants and friends from all sections who are grief stricken at this unexpected loss.
 
Comrades of the whole party, friends and sympathizers of the communist movement, all democratic forces with whom we are leading numerous movements, let us try to turn our grief at the demise of our beloved Sivaram, in to revolutionary spirit and determination to march forward towards the communist future for which Sivaram entirely devoted his life.
 
Red Salute our beloved comrade Sivaram!
 
KN Ramachandra
General Secretary
CPI(ML) Red Star
 
New Delhi
29th May 2021.

Letter to Supreme Court by Trade Unions

We the undersigned leaders of various Trade Unions from Maharashtra have seen with dismay the judgement of the hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter regarding tweets of Shri Prashant Bhushan, Advocate. 

The tweets of Shri Prashant Bhushan are a legitimate expression of his anguish and of his views that the Supreme Court was not functioning as it should have during the lockdown, that Indian democracy has been on a downslide in recent years, that the Supreme Court and the past four Chief Justices of this court have played a substantial role and have allowed such a downslide. 

The judgement has unjustly reached the conclusion that the said opinions are malicious and scandalous, particularly in the light of the following:

In January 2018, the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court held a press conference in which they made public their views. 

They said, “It is with great anguish and concern that we ... address this letter to you to highlight certain judicial orders passed by this Court which has adversely affected the overall functioning of the justice delivery system and the independence of the High Courts besides impacting the administrative functioning of the Office of the Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India.” Further, “There have been instances where case having far-reaching consequences for the Nation and the institution have been assigned by the Chief Justice of this Court selectively to the benches “of their preference” without any rationale basis for such assignment.” Further, “...such departures have already damaged the image of this institution to some extent.” While speaking at the said press conference Justice Chelameswar said, “The administration of the Supreme Court is not in order. Many things that are less than desirable have happened in the last few months,” and “Unless this institution is preserved, democracy will not survive in this country,”

Thus it is clear that the four  senior judges asserted that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court had departed from the normal practise of assignment of matters and had assigned matters to some selected benches. Any person hearing these statement may well understand that such cases were being assigned to serve some hidden agenda. The imputation is also that the Chief Justice while administering the Supreme Court has committed many ‘less than desirable’   acts and that this has threatened democracy in the country. If the Hon’ble Supreme court and the Chief Justice  in its discretion and wisdom,  did not proceed against the four senior justices  for committing contempt of the court for making such statements in a press conference, should not the same standards of justice, discretion and wisdom be applied to Shri Prashant Bhushan.

This judgement also takes into account the fact that Shri Prashant Bhushan is an advocate of good standing and such statement coming from him in a tweet may reach millions. How much more then, would this apply to four of the seniormost judges of the Supreme Court making such remarks about the Chief Justice in an open press conference which was publicised all over the country.

We, as representatives of the workers note that questions regarding workers and their plight are not getting the importance that they deserve from the judiciary. 

It is a fact that workers are being denied, by delay, their basic rights to justice since the lockdown. 

Besides the Supreme Court and the High Courts taking up matters deemed urgent, no other courts are functioning. Labour and Industrial courts are hardly functioning.

It is not out of context to mention here that the workers of Harley Davidson ( which company was mentioned in one tweet). in Haryana are to be laid off. Many workers have lost their jobs in the pandemic. Wages have not been paid. Many workers cases are pending in the Supreme Court . 

The case regarding the payment of wages for the lockdown period is indefinitely adjourned.

Many other matters of grave national importance are pending in the Hon’ble Supreme Court. 

A tweet by Shri Prashant Bhushan is of little importance or urgency in comparison to the important matters which are pending in the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

Finally, may we submit it is less the tweets of Prashant Bhushan that tend to put the Supreme Court into disrepute but the very judgement against him. 

We urge you to retain the majesty of the Court by recalling the order against Shri Prashant Bhushan and confining the case against him to the record rooms where it belongs.

On behalf of the workers from  Maharashtra from both the organised and unorganised sector,

For Trade Union Joint Action Committee (Maharashtra state)

18/8/2020

Vishwas Utagi, Joint Convener, TUJAC

Jaiprakash Chhajed (INTUC), Uday Choudhary (AITUC), Dr. Vivek Monteiro (CITU) Anil Tyagi (AIUTUC) Uday Bhat (AICCTU), N Vasudevan (NTUI), Sanjay Singhvi (TUCI) and All industry-wide Associations

The Uttar Pradesh government has approved an ordinance exempting all establishments, factories, and businesses from the purview of most labour laws for over three years. Laws that would no longer apply include the Minimum Wages Act, Trade Unions Act, Industrial Disputes Act, Factories Act, Contract Labour Act, Payment of Bonus Act, Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, Working Journalists Act, Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act. This ordinance is now pending approval of the central government. In Madhya Pradesh, all provisions, except Section 25 of the Industrial Disputes Act, have been relaxed, working hour has been extended to 12 hours a day, establishments employing less than 50 workers have been excluded from inspection under various labour laws, In industries with less than 100 labourers, exemptions have been given from provisions of the Madhya Pradesh Industrial Employment (Permanent Order) Act, fixed term employment has been approved, a provision has been made to maintain a single register instead of various registers under labour laws and to file a single return instead of 13 now, under the Factory Act, exemption has been given to factories from inspection for a period of three months. Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani has declared that Gujarat is planning to exempt new projects from provisions of labour laws if the unit will work for at least 1,200 days.

Maharashtra has made exemption of section 51, 52, 54, 56 of Factories Act and has allowed extension of working hour upto12 hours a day. Assam government has allowed introduction of fixed term employment in industries, increase in minimum number of workers for implementation of the Factories Act from 10 to 20 (factories run with power) and 20 to 40 (without power). It also has approved increase in minimum number of workers for implementation of Contract Labour Act from 20 to 50 and increase in shift hours from 8 to 12 hours.

Other states like Rajasthan, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh has also amended the Factories Act since last month and raised the working hours from 8 to 12 hours per day. These changes are nothing but a ploy to transfer the cost and crisis of the pandemic to the working class, preserving the interests and profits of the capitalists and exploiting the corona crisis for fast track implementation of anti-worker labour law reforms, even bypassing the parliament. This will increase job loss, abolish job security, dilute industrial safety and increase industrial accidents and throw a huge majority of workforce out of any legal safety net, and effectively bring back the practice of bonded labour in production. This will push back the gains of working-class struggle for basic rights and dignified job by a hundred years.

 Already the Indian working class is suffering from the corona crisis – job loss, salary cut, crisis of ration, shelter and other facilities, despite the evident fact that they build the wealth of nation. Particularly the crisis of migrant workers and unorganized workers has been severe. In this context, these measures will increase the precarious condition of workers by manifold. MASA demands immediate withdrawal of all ordinances/orders by different state governments that allow anti-workers measures in pretext of COVID-19 crisis.

 MASA demands from the central government and all state governments immediate measure for the protection of workers’ rights and interests in this hour of crisis – secure jobs and full salary for all, universal health and social security, legislation for migrant workers’ rights and facilitation of their going back home free of cost, strong measures for industrial safety etc. We vow to fight for these rights of the workers and call upon all workers, all toiling masses and all democratic sections of society to rise up and fight for these rights. At present we will fight through the courts and virtually by all means possible. As soon as it is responsibly possible, we will move this struggle to the streets.

(Statement issued by MASA, Mazdoor Adhikar Sangharsh Abhiyan) n

 

Today saw an industrial tragedy in Vizhakhapatnam with over 12 dead and thousands injured. This happened following a gas leak in the LG polymers plant in Vizag. Reports are that the plant was sought to be opened with only 30% strength as per the Kovid-3 guidelines. The personnel proved insufficient to run the plant safely and this resulted in a gas leak which led to the deaths and the disease. Coming, as this does, in the middle of the third Covid lockdown, it is putting pressure on the already fragile medical system especially in AP.

Nor was this the only tragedy today. As there is a rush to reopen after the lockdown, there was another gas leak reported in Chhatisgarh in Raigarh and a boiler blast in Neyveli in Tamil Nadu. This clearly shows that safety for workers and for society as a whole is being thrown to the winds in trying to regain the profits lost by industry due to the lockdown.

TUCI commiserates with the families of the dead and the injured. We promise to fight to see that justice is done for those dead and injured. The State Government has announced some compensation. At the same time, the dead and the injured are also entitled to compensation from the company. There have been reports that the company, in Vizag, has been trying to fob off the workers with insurance payments of Rs. 25000 per death and 1000 per month for loss of earnings for the persons injured. TUCI vows to fight any such attempt by the LG company to avoid its liability.

At the same time it is obvious from the three accidents today that industrial establishments are being opened in a hasty manner without adequate care being taken for safety and for health. At the same time, instead of increasing the measures for the health and safety of the workers and of society at large, the Central and various state governments are bent upon removing every vestige of rights for the workers, under the mistaken understanding that any increase in the rights of workers will mean a contraction of industrial growth.

One of the main, if not the sole, protections of the rights of workers to safety, is the Factories Act. This was already under attack even before the lockdown. Now many state governments like Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and Maharashtra are amending the act to allow 12 hours duty as a norm in place of 8 hours duty. The Gujarat notification also reads that the wages are to be paid at single rate for the whole 12 hours and not at overtime rates. All of these notifications are clearly illegal. They offend the sections of the act, the powers given to states under the act as well as being against various conventions of the ILO which India has signed and endorsed and also some which it has not.

Today the UP Cabinet has taken a decision to suspend all rights of workers under under all labour laws (except the Bonded Labour Act, the Workmen’s Compensation Act, the Building and other Construction Workers Act and laws regarding women and children) for 1000 days. The reasons given for such decision is that industry has slowed down in the lockdown (as it was bound to) and it needs to be helped for some time to be able to recuperate. This is foolish and no reason at all. Firstly, it is tautology to say that industry has slowed down when it was ordered to be locked down by the Government. Secondly, there is nothing to show that curbing workers rights will allow industry to recuperate. History shows otherwise. Workers rights and growth of industry have gone hand in hand. There is no precedent to show that curbing workers rights will allow for a sustained growth of industry. It is clear that the UP cabinet have no constitutional or legal right to pass such an ordinance and certainly not without the assent of the President. Further, it is the workers who have been the worst sufferers in the lockdown. It makes no sense to remove rights like double wages for overtime, PF, ESI, etc and justify it as a measure to encourage industrialisation. Even morally, such a move could never be justified.

This is not even good economics. If workers don’t get proper wages, etc. This will have an effect on the home market. The workers employed by institutions like the PF office and the ESI office will starve. We will go back to the rule of hire and fire which has never been shown to help the growth of industry. It is clear that such a mentality does not even come from a developed capitalist thinking but from a primitive feudal or slave mentality. This is only the result of the UP Government pimping itself to the interests of the big corporates to squeeze the workers.

Similar decisions have been reported to have been taken by the MP Government. The same reasoning applies here also. Similarly for the decisions of several governments like the Karnataka government which was disallowing migrant workers from going back after talking with the builders lobby.

It is clear that the BJP Government at the centre entered into the tactic of lockdown for this pandemic merely as a statement, without any preparation whatsoever. There was no preparation for the workers and the poorer sections of society. Similarly for the lifting of the lockdown. There has been no thought and no plan but only press conferences and statements. The figures of the affected and the deceased keep rising but all that follows is more conferences and further statements. There is no integrated plan to deal with lockdown and with its aftermath like one finds in almost all other countries.

The economy was in no great shape even before the lockdown. The figures for the third quarter (Sept to Dec 2019) already showed the economy was ailing. The government was to attempt to push the burden of this ailment upon the workers and other toilers by means like GST, amendments to labour laws etc. These amendments, ostensibly to consolidate the labour laws, were clearly designed to remove even the meagre protections given to workers and make them into contract and casual workers and push down their wages and living standards. While these attempts were under way, came covid-19. Now the attempt is to push the whole burden of covid-19 upon the backs of the workers by all the means outlined above.

TUCI vows to fight against this attempt by the ruling classes in aid of the big corporates. We will fight such attempts in the courts and in the streets when it is safe and responsible to do so. Till then we will fight then virtually by all means at our disposal. We call upon the working class, the toiling masses and all democratic sections of society to join us in this struggle. n

 

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The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history.