THE 16th state conference of the Himachal Pradesh unit of CPI(M) was held in Kullu from March 5-8, 2018. A colourful procession was taken out in the streets of Kullu town. Thousands of Party workers, sympathisers, workers from different sectors, peasants, women (more than 50 per cent) and students joined the procession. Later a public meeting was organised in Dhalpur ground which was addressed by Subhashini Ali, Polit Bureau member of CPI(M), A Vijayaraghavan, Party in-charge of the state, Onkar Shad, Party state secretary and Rakesh Singha, Party state secretariat member.
The conference was inaugurated by Subhashini Ali. She underlined the importance of Party line in strengthening the Party. Referring to the international situation, she said there is a rightward shift in the world political scenario owing to the neoliberal policies being adopted. People are discontented which has led to the consolidation of the right reactionary forces. The Left has to occupy this space with an alternative agenda. Commenting on the national situation she said there are difficult times for the Left in the offing. The CPI(M) has to work harder in the present conjuncture where the BJP is targeting and will continue to target the Party. The Himachal Party has a history of concerted struggle against the ruling dispensation which has to be further consolidated.
The political-organisational report was placed by Onkar Shad. He said, class struggle in the state needs to be strengthened. Ninety percent of the state’s population lives in villages. However, the contribution of agriculture to state GDP is reducing considerably. Only 30 per cent are dependent on agriculture. The rest are sustaining on non-agricultural operations. Land is an important issue in the state. Only 11 per cent land is tillable. There is less land available and the holdings are very small. 87 per cent kisans own less than 2 hectares of land. But the average land is less than 0.5 hectare. This cannot be remunerative in the given situation. People have also encroached land around their houses. Interestingly all fallow land in HP is forest land. Hence such encroachments are seen as a crime. The poor, dalits and marginal farmers have become victims of the ire of the courts and the government. Earlier ‘nautaur’ used to be followed. It meant that the government will clear new land and will distribute it to the landless for their survival. To ensure that they do not part away with such land, riders were added and section 118 of the land reforms and tenancy act was brought in where the land cannot be bought by a non-agriculturist in HP. Even if somebody is staying in the state for long years the land cannot be purchased by her/him. The present BJP government on the one hand intends to evict farmers from their land which they have been tilling since decades and is trying to ease section 118 to ensure that the poor people can sell their land to the land sharks mainly of adjoining states. The state has a weak industrial base. Presently 50 per cent of the youth (15-34 years) are registered unemployed in the employment exchanges. This is a precarious situation.
The organisational report focussed on the priority fronts, which are the kisans and the students. The students’ front is in a continuous struggle. The elections in the universities and colleges were banned by the previous Congress government. This process effects the politicisation of the student movement. The reports also laid stress on raising the social issues in the state. The BJP government is planning to remove the novel ‘Jhoothan’ from the syllabus. Such issues must be taken up. Capable cadre has to be deployed on this front.
The report further stressed on improving the effectiveness of the state centre. Since a majority of the state secretariat members have also contested elections for the state legislature, they are more steered to work in their native places which affects the function of the centre. The state has a good number of whole-timers. A total of 90 whole-timers function in the state. Proper work allotment needs to be made and ideological and political education needs to be imparted. There was a focus on improving branch functioning. The task of the district committee was to ensure that at least once a month the branch committee meets.
21 delegates participated in the discussions. The delegates laid focus on raising social issues. They remarked that now more women are participating in the action programmes of the Party. However only 14 per cent are women members in the Party. Efforts have to be laid to ensure that they are enrolled into the Party and also in the leadership. Another important suggestion made by a majority of the delegates was to use the present atmosphere to enhance the fighting capacity of the Party, and increase the reach of the mass organisations.
The delegates also laid stress on the need to improve the Party organisation. The focus was on improving the state centre as a political centre. The in-charges of the districts must frequently visit and the meetings should not just end in a business-like affair. Adequate time must be spent on interacting with the comrades and ensuring that the district plan is prepared and discussed thoroughly. The delegates also laid focus on building local movements on local issues but also use the present opportunity to ensure that a pan state campaign be launched.
Resolutions on the issues of the peasantry, working class, employment and problems emanating out of widening of the roads were passed.
Credentials committee report was placed by Mohit. Total delegates were 202, out of which 13 were women comrades. The Party in Himachal is quite young. 14 delegates were in the age group of 18-25, 26-30 were 30 delegates, 31-40 were 41 delegates, 41-50 were 60 delegates, 51-60 were 43 delegates, above 60 years were 13 delegates. Class background of the delegates: working class- 13, poor peasant- 97, middle peasant- 55, rich peasant-6, landlord- 4, middle class- 17.
72 delegates were whole-timers. Those who joined the Party before 1980 were 8, 1981-1990 were 36 delegates, 1991-2000 were 48, 2001-2010 were 65, 2011-17 were 44.
19 were working on the students’ front, youth -34, kisan-52, trade union-63, Party-2, women-9, PSM-9, employees and advocates- 12, small traders- 2. Eleven delegates did not mention.
27 were from the Scheduled Castes, 5 from the Scheduled Tribes, OBC-17. Muslim minorities-1, Sikhs-4, Christian-1. Married-152.
52 delegates attended the conference for the first time. For 34 it was the second, for 30 it was third, for 19 it was fourth, for 19 it was fifth, for 15 it was sixth, for 7 it was seventh, for 3 it was eighth, for 7 it was ninth, for 4 it was tenth, for 5 it was 11th, for 5 it was twelfth and one delegate had attended 15 conferences.
In the last three years, 88 comrades were charged with cases while defending the rights of the people. Nineteen people remained in jail and Paras Ram and Rajesh spent 15 months in the jail. Twelve delegates have been elected that include Panchayat representatives – 11 and one to the legislature.
A Vijayaraghavan while speaking at the conference laid stress on the weaknesses and strengths of the Party in the state. He asked the Party to take up social issues. The Party has led many agitations in the state and is considered as a fighter party, which is very good he said. But the need to build the Party corresponding to the agitations has to be done with a careful plan. This is lacking. If this is done then the goodwill that the Party enjoys can be transformed into a large mass base. This must be done on a priority, he said.
The conference elected a state committee of 30 members with Onkar Shad re-elected as the state secretary. The other members of the state secretariat elected were: Rakesh Singha, Kashmir Singh Thakur, Kushal Bhardwaj, Prem Gautam, Kuldeep Singh Tanwar and Sanjay Chauhan. A Control Commission with three people was formed with Satpal Singh as the chairperson.
The conference also elected four delegates and two observers for the Party Congress.