FOR more than eight months since the then chief minister of Tamil Nadu J Jeyalalithaa was hospitalised in late September 2016, the state of government in Tamil Nadu has been nothing short of disastrous for the people of the state. Following the demise of Jeyalalithaa and the subsequent split in the AIADMK, the rival factions of the AIADMK have been far more preoccupied with the struggle for the capture of the AIADMK and the survival of the government than with anything else. The BJP/RSS has been active in its efforts to capitalise on the resulting confusion and impasse in the ruling party and in governance. During this entire period, as we had noted in these columns earlier, our Party has been constantly taking up people’s livelihood issues as well as all issues of political importance. It has also been making serious efforts to build the broadest possible unity of working people against the anti-people policies of the central BJP government and the AIADMK government in the state.
The performance of the AIADMK government which completed one year in office recently has been pathetic, and was characterised rightly by our Party in its press release of May 22, 2017 as one of failure on all fronts. The state government has been completely indifferent to the issue of implementation of the promises made by the AIADMK in its election manifesto of 2016. In the last one year, the state has been badly affected by the failure of both monsoons. There is a severe agrarian crisis. More than 400 peasants have either committed suicide or died of shock at the sight of failed crops. No relief has been provided to the families of most of the peasants who have committed suicide or died of shock on account of crop failure. The government has shamelessly stated in the Supreme Court that no farmer has committed suicide in the state on account of the drought. Relief for farmers whose crops have been badly affected by the drought has not been forthcoming. Both crop agriculture and animal husbandry are facing crisis. The government has taken no steps to prevent the death of livestock from lack of access to water.
If the cultivating peasantry is in a severe crisis, the fate of agricultural labourers and other rural wage earners is equally terrible. No unemployment relief has been provided to them. The state government has not taken steps for the effective implementation of the NREGS.
The state is also reeling under a harsh situation in respect of scarcity of drinking water. There are many villages across districts throughout the state where a pot of water is being sold at the rate of anywhere from 10 to 20 rupees. The government has done little to address this.
While the employment situation has worsened under the present BJP dispensation, the state government has done nothing within its powers to provide relief or alleviate the severity of the problem. The number of persons on the live registers of employment exchanges has been growing rapidly, and employment in the informal sector has also been affected, both on account of demonetisation and the failure of the state government to respond adequately to the crisis.
Following the preoccupation of the leaders of both factions of the ruling party with political survival and dealing with the central government’s selective unleashing of the various enforcement agencies under their control, the government has not even been able to manage the law and order situation. Murders and robberies are occurring undeterred by the police machinery. Violence against women, dalits and vulnerable sections such as senior citizens continue to occur with depressing frequency. While the police were brutal in suppressing democratic protests including the jallikattu agitation, they have not shown the same urgency in tackling the perpetrators of the robberies and murders carried out by contract killers across the state.
The AIADMK had promised in the run-up to the 2016 assembly elections that, if voted to office, they would gradually implement prohibition and close down in stages the retail liquor outlets throughout the state. A thousand such outlets were closed down in two stages. Then came the Supreme Court judgment ordering closure of liquor outlets along national highways, leading to the closure of another 3000 outlets. But the government has been desperate to reopen many of the closed shops. As against this, there is mounting, spontaneous popular protest throughout the state demanding closure/non-reopening of retail liquor outlets. Women have been in the forefront of these struggles, and have been bearing the brunt of police repression and attacks.
Corruption is endemic in the state. Bribery, violation of norms and corruption pervade every department of government. In the sphere of education, for instance, standard (and, when the occasion provides/demands, non-standard as well!) rates seem to exist for appointment to any post whether it be that of a vice chancellor of the university or that of a class 4 employee with very low wages.
The report submitted by U Sagayam, an IAS officer appointed by the court to look into the lease of granite quarries, makes the observation that the loss of revenue to the state government on account of corrupt practices in this regard amounted in two decades to Rs 1 lakh six thousand crores in 20 years in the district of Madurai alone. The AIADMK government has taken no action on this report and maintains a deafening silence. Likewise, the AIADMK government has not tabled in the assembly the report on minerals and submitted by another IAS officer, Gagan Deep Singh Bedi. Nor has it initiated any action in the light of the report.
With the two AIADMK factions led by Palanisamy and Panneerselvam locked in a bitter mutual struggle for survival and both willing and eager to be on the right side of the ruling dispensation at the centre, neither faction pays any attention to the serious economic and social crisis and suffering that working people are going through. The BJP is of course not in the least interested in the welfare of the people. It is using the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate selectively to keep both factions on tenterhooks and practically subservient to it. The BJP government has not taken necessary follow-up actions on the raids conducted in the offices and/or residences of Sekhar Reddy and his associates, the former chief secretary Ram Mohan Rao and state health minister Vijayabhaskar, on the case against Dinakaran on the charge of trying to bribe the Election Commission, on the entries in the seized diary of Sekhar Reddy which allegedly speak of over Rs 300 crores given as bribes to ministers, officials and politicians and on related matters worthy of serious investigation and necessary severe action. Instead, it has used the developments to keep both factions under its thumb. One consequence of all this is that both factions of the ruling party in the state have completely abandoned the interests of the people of the state and are vying with each other to curry favour with BJP. The chief minister has instructed his ministers not to speak against the central government.
The BJP government has been assaulting the rights of the states. But neither faction of the ruling party dares to oppose the anti-state government and anti-people actions of the BJP, be it the NEET issue, imposition of Hindi, UDAY scheme, changes in PDS to fall in line with the National Food Security Act which goes against the principle of universal PDS, the refusal of the central government to respond adequately to the needs of Tamil Nadu for drought relief and for disaster relief following the Vardah cyclone, and most recently, the notification of rules by the union government on sale of animals in markets in a blatant transgression of the domain of state governments.
The ruling party factions are mainly obsessed with ensuring the safety and security of their ill gotten wealth and sustaining the steady flows of illegal income to their coffers through the maintenance of the wholly corrupt administration in the state.
The CPI(M) unit of Tamil Nadu has, against the dismal situation prevailing in the state, been relentless in mobilising various sections of working people on their class and mass demands. In the process, we are trying to reach large sections of the population with the message of our alternative policies, such as steps to deal with the agrarian crisis and immediate provision of relief to peasantry and rural wage labourers, land reforms, strengthening of the PDS, elimination of corruption, assertion of the rights of the state, fight against communalism and against caste oppression, and so on. In the recent months, the mass and class organisations under our leadership have also been active. From March 2-6, we undertook a mass campaign with the theme ‘Arise, Tamil Nadu’, with jathas and campaigns taking place in nine zones covering the entire state. In this campaign, we exposed the total failure of the state government, and put forward our alternative policies and slogans on each major issue. This campaign helped activise our units at all levels as also our mass and class organisations. The call of the April meeting of the Central Committee was implemented with state wide campaigns and struggles, using variety of means to reach the people including street corner meetings, door to door visits and big rallies at taluk and district headquarters, between May 15 and 21.
At the district and state levels, our class and mass organisations have conducted many struggles and campaigns in recent months. These include: the successful militant and united struggle of the employees of the state transport corporations; the struggle demanding extension of NREGS to town panchayats, in which tens of thousands of women participated; the struggle to save the river Tamiraparani ( a perennial river in southern Tamil Nadu that flows entirely within the state) from the rapacious multinational corporations of Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola; the widespread and spontaneous struggles generally led by women demanding closure of Tasmac retail liquor outlets, in which Party units as well as DYFI and AIDWA units have taken active part; and the struggle against NEET led by the SFI.
The recent past has also seen joint struggles with other political forces and mass organisations. On the issue of drought, there was united action by many political parties including us and the DMK. We are clear that united struggles on appropriate issues in appropriate forms can go hand in hand with our independent and clearly demarcated struggle for alternative policies, and should not be viewed in narrow electoral terms and calculations. Recently, a number of Left parties and class and mass organisations including us have come together to form a People’s Mass Platform to fight for people’s issues. There has been a united response against the central government’s notification of Rules on sale of animals in markets and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act as well.
The Party is very much on the move, and is also fully conscious of the huge and complex challenges ahead.