People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 28, 2007
CPI(M) APPEAL TO THE VOTERS OF PUNJAB
Ensure Defeat Of The Communal Akali-BJP Alliance
The following is the text of the appeal issued by the CPI(M) Punjab state committee to the voters in the ensuing state assembly elections.
THE elections to the Punjab state assembly will be held on February 13, 2007. This democratic process and political battle has great importance for the democratic development and prosperity of Punjab. These elections are being held in the context of a complex communal divide which acts as an impediment in the growth of democratic movement and in building joint struggles in defence of the common people and against the neo-liberal economic policies.
These elections are being held in the context where capitalist and landlord ruling classes are pursuing neo-liberal policies mercilessly and stubbornly. The consequence of these neo-liberal policies – price rise, unemployment, corruption, erosion of purchasing power of the common people, collapse of public education and health systems – have made the life of the people miserable.
The interests of common people and the democratic development of Punjab demand formation of such a government which is secular and answerable to people. The CPI(M) and its allies, which are sentinel of people’s interests, should be sent to assembly in a sizeable number to raise people’s voice in the House. The Amrinder Singh government is not only guilty of breaking its election promises but also of implementing vigorously neo-liberal economic policies and attacking the livelihood of common man through authoritarian and autocratic working. Leave alone setting up of new industries, there has been an increase in the number of sick mills in the state. During the last six years there had been no increase in the minimum wage of workers. Labour policy has been anti-worker and pro-industrialist. Trade union rights of workers have been snatched during this period. There had been no registration of trade unions in this period. Agrarian crises could not be solved by the government. Although agricultural crops have been purchased and payments made promptly to farmers, there has been regular erosion in the purchasing power of farmers. Pro-corporate sector agricultural policies are being implemented forcibly which are harmful for farmers as well as farming and will hit food self-reliance. Employment days for the agricultural labour have decreased. Public distribution system has been destroyed and is going from bad to worse by the day. Social sectors like education and health are incurably going into deeper crises. Government schools and hospitals have been abandoned and common people living in villages and cities have been denied of these important social services. There has been not a single KW increase in electricity production. Living conditions of the people has gone from bad to worse due to sharp increase in prices as well as in unemployment. In this way during the five years of Congress rule, all sections of people – common people, industrial and agricultural workers, farmers, youth, women, employees and students – have been hard hit. Whenever these sections conducted mass struggles to defend and save their livelihood they had to face brutal repression. Lathis and water cannons were freely used. Corruption and contempt for people has increased in the administration during the last five years. There seems to be no improvement in law and order situation in the state. Women, weaker sections and poor people had been the special target of repression. Police is acting like personal servant of Amrinder’s coterie. In the absence of a judicious solution to Punjab problem within the framework of Rajiv-Longowal accord, communal harmony and peace are still shaky in the state. The implementation of the anti-people policies by Amrinder Singh government has given a fertile ground to communal forces in the state. This problem is compounded by lack of any ideological struggle against communalism by the government and Congress. Instead by abandoning the secular approach, chief minister Amrinder Singh is celebrating Sikh religious festivals officially.
Keeping in view the assembly elections, chief minister has announced certain concessions to different sections. It would have been better if such concessions had been given immediately after assuming power in the state to fulfill the election promises or at least at that point of time when people were forced to undertake struggles. The overall assessment is that the popularity graph of Congress party has gone down considerably in comparison to 2002 assembly elections.
Presently, the burning issues before the masses are: Price rise, unemployment, corruption, lack of access to education and health services for the common people, agrarian crises and erosion of purchasing power of the peasantry, non solution of Punjab problem on the basis of Rajiv-Longowal accord which is necessary for making the communal harmony and peace durable in the state. These issues are essential and vital issues in the coming elections.
On the other hand is the Akali-BJP communal alliance which is totally unprincipled and unholy since on many issues like the approach towards minorities, more powers to the states, on use of Punjabi as an official language, on common civil code, on transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab, they have got no common ground. In the last five years, this Akali-BJP communal combination did not build any mass movement for the above noted burning problems of the people, for agricultural and industrial development of the state, nor for making the communal harmony and peace durable. To be true, this communal combine cannot take up this democratic course because they are themselves votaries of the neo-liberal policies and are characteristically communal. This combine is mainly relying on anti-incumbency factor. They think that the people are fed up with Congress and will automatically come towards them. Of late, on the eve of the elections in the latter half of 2006, this combine particularly Akali Dal (B) had undertaken some mass mobilisation. In this they did not present any alternative pro-people policies to the present neo-liberal framework. Rather in these rallies and their statements they are only presenting personalised accusations. This combine does not deserve the support of the common people.
The corruption and mal-governance of the Akali-BJP government of Prakash Singh Badal is still fresh in the minds of the people. The popularity graph of the Akali-BJP alliance is also low. As on today there is no wave in favour of any of the two bigger contenders. People are angry with both the big contending political forces. It is hoped that the outcome of elections will be a hung assembly. Out of the total 117 seats, there is scope for the joint front to get 25 seats provided it can mount an effective election campaign. It is just possible and it is hoped that in Punjab also, like at the centre, after elections there will be a secular government depending on the support of the Left.
A peculiar aspect of the political situation of Punjab is that there is hardened communal divide among people which is persisting since long. It is a firm conclusion that in so far as there is such a communal divide, democratic movement cannot advance here. It would be very difficult. All politically advanced, particularly those who are adherents of Marxism-Leninism, are of the firm opinion that to make the democratic movement advance in the state, the existing communal divide and communalism, particularly the dominant Sikh communalism, has to be combated first. It is because of this that it is a priority task that Akali-BJP alliance is defeated in the coming elections once again. It is only after combating communalism that there can be congenial atmosphere for the advance of Left and democratic forces. It is because of this compulsion and in the context of present balance of political forces prevailing in the state that the line of equidistance from Akali-BJP combine and Congress will be wrong and sectarian.
The CPI(M) believes that people can defend and protect their interests through their unity and build mass pressure through their united struggles. During the last five years CPI(M) has tried its level best for raising the political consciousness of the people by waging political, ideological and economic struggles. Mass organisations led by CPI(M) have also taken the issues of the industrial workers, agricultural workers, peasants, youth, students, women and employees etc. They are also fighting against the disastrous neo-liberal policies, against communalists of various hues and against imperialist intervention. The CPI(M) has also raised the demand of solving the issues involved in Punjab problem on the basis of Rajiv-Longowal accord so that communal harmony and peace is made durable.
The CPI(M) has placed the following 15-point minimum programme before the people of Punjab in these elections. The CPI(M) makes a solemn promise to the people that its representatives, on election, will raise their militant voice inside the assembly for the solution of the burning problems of the people, for this minimum programme and for pro-people policies.
15 POINT MINIMUM PROGRAMME
Reopen closed sick mills. Lock-outs and retrenchments be stopped. Stop indiscriminate privatisation of PSUs. Reverse the decision for the closure of corporations and boards. Fill up vacant posts immediately in government departments. Stop violation of labour laws by the employers/ managements. Ban the contract labour system. Take back the anti-worker amendments in the labour laws. Increase the rate of minimum wage to the tune of Rs 5000 per month for unskilled workers and in this ratio the wage for other categories of workers be raised. The anti-people and anti-national economic policies be rolled back and restore all facilities of the government employees being snatched. Take effective steps to check the price rise of food articles and other essential commodities.
Every agricultural labourer be ensured the minimum wage of Rs 125 per day and at least 250 days of work in every year. Women be paid wages equal to men. Comprehensive Act for the agricultural labour be enacted. The loans of agricultural labour up to Rs 5000 be written off unconditionally. Financial help be rendered for the construction of house and for the purchase of residential plots. Provide 14 necessities of life through PDS on cheaper rates. Simplify the norms and procedure for grant of old-age, widows and handicapped pensions and ensure regular payment of pension to every needy person. Implementation of Rural Employment Guarantee Act be spread to all the districts.
Adequate relief and compensation to the farmers be given at the time of natural calamities and loss of crop due to spurious seeds and pesticides. Write off debts of all common peasants. Ensure supply of 24-hours electricity to the farm sector. The peasants be provided all inputs and fertilizers etc. at cheaper rates. The peasants be given remunerative prices for their produce and for this purpose the support price and government procurements policy should be continued. To check import of cheap agricultural commodities, quantitative restrictions be re-imposed and peasantry be provided with security to save them from the flood of cheap import of agricultural produce under the WTO provisions. More public investments in irrigation and research be made.
A package of pro-peasant policies be set in place in order to overcome the agrarian crisis. Special attention be paid to the development of Kandi, Bet and Border areas. Concrete steps be taken for providing necessities of life such as water, electricity, transportation, education and health facilities to the people of these backward and neglected areas. Special attention be also given for the welfare of Border and Bet areas peasantry. Land Acquisition Act be amended. For acquiring land for industrialisation and other developmental projects, scientific comprehensive policies be put in place, which should provide fair compensation and rehabilitation package to the peasants and agricultural workers who would lose their land and livelihood.
Education be made cheaper. Stop privatisation, commercialisation and communalisation of education. Fill up all the vacant posts of teachers in government schools. Adequate fund be made available to upgrade the standards of education in the schools. All unsafe buildings be repaired at once. Technical institutions should be opened in all rural arrears. More job opportunities be created and unemployment allowance be given to the unemployed youth. Thousands of posts lying in the government departments be filled and the surplus declared posts should not be abolished. The increasing trend of use of intoxicants and drugs among the youth be stopped. Ban on recruitments in the government departments should be lifted forthwith. Academicians be appointed as vice chancellors of universities and not retired IAS officers.
Effective steps should be taken to stop the atrocities on women. Anti-dowry Act and Prevention of Domestic Violence Act should be implemented firmly. 33 per cent representation to women be ensured in elected bodies.
Cheaper health facilities in the government hospitals be provided so that ordinary citizens can afford treatment. Necessary improvements be done in government hospitals at the earliest. Vacant posts of Doctors and Paramedical staff especially in the rural areas be filled at the earliest.
In all cities and towns adequate provision of facilities like drinking water, sewerage, roads, street-lights and parks be made in mohallahs and colonies of poor people. User charges of these facilities be reduced.
Enforce the Right to Information Act to ensure the transparency in the government functioning. The rampant corruption in the government departments be checked. General public and mass organisations be involved in the campaign against corruption.
Stop police atrocities. Stop misuse of Section 144 to suppress the peaceful struggles of workers, peasants and other common people.
Concrete and solid steps should be taken for the speedy and balanced development and industrialisation of Punjab. Public sector should be expanded and public investment increased for the creation of more employment opportunities. To protect the small-scale industry and make them crisis free, apart from tax relief credit facilities, cheap raw material and marketing support should be enhanced. Agro-based industry be encouraged. New projects be installed at Doraha and Goindwal Sahib for the enhancement of production of electricity. Stop unbundling of PSEB.
Effective use of media should be made to enlighten the people against the evils of communalism of all hues. Communalism, fundamentalism of all hues, divisive and separatist forces should be isolated at every level. Great secular and patriotic traditions and legacy of Punjab should be promoted. Secular fabric of India should be protected.
Concrete steps should be taken to promote the scientific, secular and democratic culture and to ward off the imperialist and revivalist attack on culture. To rouse public opinion against American imperialist intervention in India.
Ensure the obligatory use of Punjabi language in government offices. And the status of Punjabi as a medium of instruction in universities, colleges and schools should not be downgraded.
Chandigarh be transferred to Punjab, just distribution of river waters and the settlement of claims and counter claims of territory be made in the framework of the Rajiv-Longowal Accord. The centre-state relations be restructured so as to give more powers to states and for strengthening the federal structure of Union of India. Such just solution of issues involved in Punjab problem is necessary for making communal harmony and peace durable in the state.
The democratic functioning of all the elected institutions like assembly, zilla parishad and panchayat samities, panchayats and municipalities be restored. The spate of authoritarian and bureaucratic attacks making these elected bodies defunct and paralysed should be stopped forthwith.
Keeping in view their past terrible record and their persistence in communal divisive activities, the CPI (M) will oppose the Akali-BJP alliance and call for defeating it. The CPI(M) will expose the anti-people policies of the Amrinder Singh’s government which is identified as wrecker of public education and health systems and promoter of corporate farming and also seen as a corrupt government.
The CPI(M) will fight the elections jointly with the CPI and Lok Bhalai Party and rally other secular and democratic forces around an alternative platform of pro-people policies. The CPI(M) is fighting these elections by forming a joint front with CPI and Lok Bhalai Party. This joint front has fixed the following three goals:
(1) They will work for the defeat of the Akali-BJP alliance which is rabidly communal, corrupt and has got worst anti-people record.
(2) They will have no alliance or adjustment with the Congress and will expose its anti-people policies – pursued under the dictates of WTO and other international financial institutions during the last 4-1/2 years – and is also marred by largescale corruption and
(3) They will build pro-people alternative policies and strive to win sizeable representation in the assembly to effectively legislate and implement the measures to defend interests of common masses and toiling masses, for rapid industrialisation and economic development of the state, and to save the democratic secular fabric of Punjab.
The CPI(M) has set up its candidates in 14 assembly constituencies where it has its mass political base. It exhorts upon the voters of these constituencies that they should cast their valuable votes in favour of these candidates who are wedded to pro-people policies and are tested in various struggles fought for the people and ensure their victory. By doing this the voters will be serving and protecting their own vital interests and also the interests of secular and prosperous Punjab.
They should also vote for ensuring the victory of the other candidates set up by joint front i.e. 18 of CPI and 14 of Lok Bhalai Party.
On the remaining seats, the CPI(M) appeals that voters should ensure the defeat of Akali-BJP communal alliance and cast their votes to the winnable secular candidate.
The upholding of great secular, democratic and patriotic traditions of Punjab, the cause of fulfilling the incomplete tasks of the noble freedom fighters and the cause of making the communal harmony and peace in Punjab durable, warrants this very decision of the voters.
(Secretary, CPI(M) Punjab state committee)