Jan 01,1970
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Mass Meeting Concludes AIPWF Conference

THE ninth all-India conference of the All India Plantation Workers Federation (AIPWF), held in Agartala from November 22 to 24, concluded with an impressive mass rally of the workers on Sunday, November 24, in front of the Rabindra Shatavarshiki Bhavan. The meeting saw an enthusiastic gathering of the working class and other toiling masses from all the eight districts of the state. The meeting was presided over by Dr K Hemlata, vice president of the AIPWF. It was addressed by Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar, CITU all-India general secretary Tapan Sen and Dr K Hemlata, P Lalaji Babu (newly elected president of the AIPWF), Ziaul Alam (newly general secretary of AIPWF) and Tripura school education minister Tapan Chakraborty who is also president of Tripura Tea Workers Federation. The CITU’s Tripura state committee president and state power minister Manik Dey, state CITU working president Piyush Nag and state CITU general secretary Shankar Dutta were also present on the dais. ALTERNATIVE POLICY FRAMEWORK NEEDED CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar, at the outset of his speech, congratulated the CITU and other democratic mass organisations and the democratic people of the state for successfully organising an all-India conference for the first time in Tripura. Manik Sarkar said plantation workers, as an integral part of the working class, are victims of the identical or common problems facing the working class in general. It must be understood that a resolution of these problems lies only in unified struggle of the working class and a vast majority of other toiling masses in general. Sarkar said the rise in the prices of essential commodities has been unabated, though it could well be controlled by universalising the public distribution system and supplying 14 or 15 essential commodities through it at identical prices all over the country, which we have been demanding inside as well as outside the parliament. However, the Congress led UPA government is paying no heed to it. This is precisely because such a step will go against the hoarders, black marketers, speculators and corporate houses whom the Congress represents and who are the source of electoral fund for it. They shed crocodile tears for the poor before the elections but work in the interest of a few rich after getting elected. The agrarian crisis is acute. Sarkar said in Tripura the Left Front government stands by the farmers by providing them quality seeds, subsidised fertilisers and cost free irrigation, so that there has not been a single case of farmer suicide in the state. This is in contrast to other states where in the last 10-12 years more than 3.5 lakh farmers have committed suicide because of indebtedness, lack of institutional credit, high cost of production and absence of government procurement. Suicides have now started in West Bengal too under the Trinamul regime, something that was unheard of during 37 years of Left Front rule and in Kerala after the UDF assumed office. Unemployment has become a national problem with the country having 20 crore unemployed youth. Belying the promise of creating one crore jobs per year, the centre is now issuing circulars that no vacant posts are to be filled up. Many UPA ministers are neck-deep in corruption; fingers are being raised against the prime minister’s office as well. The economic crisis that started in 2008 has engulfed India in a big way. The way out from this crisis is to increase the employment opportunities so that the purchasing power of the people could be enhanced, thereby revitalising the domestic market which in turn will boost the demand and production. But this worthless government is incapable of taking any such steps. Hence already there is a public sentiment to throw out this government which is reluctant to change its policies for the people’s welfare. As for the BJP, it is trying to pose as an alternative in this chaotic situation, but its track record is no different, observed Sarkar. He said the BJP got a stint of six years at the centre but followed the same policies. In the recent period it supported all the anti-people bills including pension bill, insurance bill and land acquisition bill. They are equally corrupt as has been proved in Karnataka. Moreover, they are trying to polarise the masses in the name of religion, Sarkar said. In such a situation the people all over the country are asking for a change in policies. The working class is launching united struggles irrespective of union affiliations. As a pro-people alternative, the Left has put forward a policy platform. Recently we also saw the coming together of the Left, democratic and secular forces. But it is necessary that the working class take the initiative to forge unity and win over more and more people who are still in the wrong camp. POOREST OF POOR RESOLVE TO FIGHT CITU all-India general secretary Tapan Sen said even when the economy is in a crisis, the owners of tea and coffee gardens are continuing to flourish as their market is booming. The crisis is reflected only in the pitiable condition of the workers. Exploitation of the workers is increasing to maximise profits; even the labour laws are being flagrantly violated. This is all because of the policies pursued by the government at the centre and in several states who, after getting elected by people’s vote, work to safeguard the interest of corporate houses. As the elections are approaching, the media are trying to make us believe that a mere change of leader will solve all our problems. It is as if the pitiable condition of the workers, peasants, youth or the economic crisis, the deteriorating state of health and education etc are not at all an issue in these elections. Sen said the corporate media are trying hard to hide the real issues and limit the election’s agenda to a mere cosmetic change, to who will be the next prime minister. But the historic responsibility of changing the agenda and bringing forth the burning issues of the working people is the historic responsibility of the working class itself, and it has to spearhead the movement for an alternative set of policies. The platform proposed by the Left parties in reality coincides with the 10 point charter of demands put forth by the united trade union movement. K Hemlata said plantation workers are the most oppressed, poor and vulnerable lot even within the working class. They hardly get one third of what workers in other industries get as wages. The plantation labour act is not being implemented in most of the gardens, thereby depriving the workers of their basic, minimum benefits. Contractisation is increasing; there is no job security. As such the plantation workers must be ready for greater struggles to snatch their due demands. She called for making the December 12 Parliament March a grand success. Describing the situation of plantation workers all over India, newly elected AIPWF president P Lalaji Babu and general secretary Ziaul Alam said they are the poorest of poor. Even though they are mostly tribal, they are even denied ST status in most of the states. The biggest union among them is affiliated to the INTUC but the experience is that the INTUC union is working as agents of the management. They join hands with the management to unleash severe atrocities on the workers who try to raise voice against these. An incident of atrocity against a woman in Delhi gets national media coverage but the media never care to report the innumerable cases of rape and murder of working women in plantations. Tapan Chakraborty, in his brief discussion, pointed out that after the Left Front assumed office in 1978, plantation workers have earned social esteem in the state. Education, health and other facilities are no more out of bounds for them. They are covered by social security programmes of the state government. With the decentralisation and democratisation of administration and introduction of the three-tier panchayati raj bodies and of the village committees of TTAADC, even plantation workers here are getting elected as people’s representatives. Rahul Sinha