Vol. XLI No. 12 March 19, 2017

CPI(M) Takes Up People’s Issues in Tamil Nadu

G Ramakrishnan

TAMIL Nadu is facing an unusual situation. The entire state has been badly affected by a severe drought the like of which has not been seen for over a hundred years. On account of the shortfall in rainfall, from both the South West and the North East monsoons, agriculture in Tamil Nadu has been badly hit. In particular, there has been neither a kuruvai crop (normally planted in mid June, harvested by October) nor a sambha crop (planted in August, harvested in January) of paddy in 2016 in the (Kaveri) delta region which includes the three districts of Thanjavur, Nagapattinam and Tiruvarur.

In districts where lift irrigation was used to raise crops, the water table has declined considerably. As a result, crops such as paddy, sugarcane, maize, ground nut and flowers have wilted and died for lack of water. Unable to bear the sight of their parched lands and wilted crops cultivated on the basis of money borrowed at high rates of interest, more than 200 peasants have committed suicide or died of shock and resultant heart failure. Agricultural labourers who depend on wage employment in crop cultivation for their livelihood are shocked and stunned by the crisis. They are in extreme poverty. The drinking water shortage has become very serious. In villages, town panchayats, municipalities and corporations, drinking water is supplied once in ten or even twenty days. The public distribution system, which should have provided succour to the people suffering loss of livelihoods and incomes, has been disrupted. For the last three months, the distribution of toor dal, urad dal and palm oil in ration shops as part of the scheme of special PDS has been stopped. Instead of 20 kilos of free rice, much less is being provided. In some ration shops, people are being compelled to take wheat instead of rice. In some districts, complaints have been received that no rice is being supplied.

The MNREGS is not being implemented properly in rural areas. There are wage arrears. Though the scheme is supposed to provide 100 days of employment, the days of employment have not gone past 45-50.

Even as the people of the state are reeling under the impact of the drought in many ways, the competition for power has reached its peak in the ruling party. Just as Emperor Nero was playing the fiddle when Rome was burning, the two factions, one led by Panneerselvam and the other by Palanisamy, are locked in a bitter fight to capture the leadership of the ruling party and of the government. Neither faction cares about the people.  Sasikala, who is in prison having been sentenced to four years of imprisonment and debarred from contesting polls for ten years, is directing the Party and the government from inside the prison. Panneerselvam proclaims that he wishes to bring back the rule of Jayalalithaa, a person indicted by the Supreme Court for corruption. There has been such a terrible degeneration of politics in Tamil Nadu.

The DMK which is the party in the opposition behaved in an anti-democratic manner in the assembly session held on February 18. The DMK members behaved in an unacceptable manner in the assembly. The DMK leadership reckoned that, if the assembly is dissolved on account of violent incidents, their party can easily capture power very soon in the elections that will follow.

Though the entire state had been affected by drought, the AIADMK government announced the state as drought-hit only after several rounds of struggles by farmers’ organisations. The relief announced by the government is very meager and amounts to trying to satisfy the hunger of an elephant by giving it just one ear of corn.

The state government has sought Rs 39,000 crores from the centre as drought relief. While around 200 farmers have died either by suicide or from shock-induced heart attacks, the state government has sanctioned compensation only to 17 families.  The government has announced that relief will be provided only to a maximum extent of five acres of crop cultivation. There is no difference of opinion between the Palanisamy and Panneerselvam factions in this regard.

In the name of implementing the Food Security Act in the state, the central government has divided the population into the two categories of priority and non-priority households, and reduced the supply of rice from the central pool. The drought affected state of Tamil Nadu is yet to receive financial assistance for drought relief. The demonetisation measure of the central government has affected all sections of the people in the state. The NEET examination for admission into medical colleges announced by the central government will severely affect the students of the state.

Against this background, campaigns were conducted in nine zones covering the entire state of Tamil Nadu by the Party with the slogan “Arise, Tamil Nadu”. The campaign which started on March 2 and ended on March 6 was carried out under the leadership of the state secretariat and state committee members. Prakash Karat took part in the public meeting held in Madurai on March 6 and Brinda Karat in the one held in Chennai on March 5. The campaign received broad popular support.

The issues of drought, the collapse of PDS, shortage of drinking water, unemployment, corruption and the NEET examination affecting students were explained to the people.

In the last twenty-five years, the natural resources of Tamil Nadu such as riverbed sand, mineral sand and granite are being plundered. The parties of DMK and AIADMK which have ruled the states in this period have been accomplices in the plunder.

The AIADMK ruled the state from 1991 to 1996 with Jayalalithaa as the leader. The Disproportionate Assets case against Jayalalithaa and three others pertained to the corrupt practices of that period. Indirakumari and Ponnusamy who were members of the cabinet under Jayalalithaa were convicted in corruption cases and went to jail.

A case of corruption was also filed against Selvaganapathy, who was then a minister in Jayalalithaa’s cabinet. While the case was in court, he joined the DMK and became a member of parliament. The Court where trial took place against him sentenced him to two years in jail. The appeal in this case is now pending in the courts.

In a statement released on the Supreme Court verdict in the Disproportionate Assets case against Jayalalithaa, Stalin had said: “The Supreme Court verdict is a very good lesson that those coming into politics must come with the mindset of serving the people and should not be greedy persons seeking to accumulate wealth through corruption. Political leaders should study the words of this judgment carefully to ensure the progress of the country and society in the future.”

This statement is welcome. But the DMK does not lag behind in involvement in corruption cases. The case against Dayanidhi Maran that he compelled the allocation of 400 telephone lines to SUN TV when he was a central minister is pending with the Courts.

When the Congress led alliance at the centre tried to conceal the massive corruption in 2G spectrum allocation, the investigation took place under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court.  In the cases filed against A Raja of DMK who was then a central minister and Kanimozhi, member of parliament, arguments have been completed and judgment is awaited.

Ascension to power brings with it the possibility of corruption. Unless those coming into positions of power and their parties are firmly against corruption, it cannot be stopped or eliminated.

The CPI (M) has been continuously pointing out that the nexus of politicians, bureaucrats and corporate capital will remain a fount of corruption. The economic policy of neoliberalism has institutionalised corruption.

The plunder of granite, mineral sand and riverbed sand has been a continuing affair in Tamil Nadu. IAS officer Sahayam who investigated the granite scandal under the orders of Chennai High Court and submitted a report states in it that the government has suffered a loss of Rs 1,06,000 crores in the scam. His report also recommends that the CBI should inquire into this scam. But neither the ruling AIADMK nor the DMK leadership have taken note of this.

The Sahayam report has given details of the leases for granite mining awarded to contractors by the state governments between 1991 and 2014. Between 1991 and 2011, government orders have been issued sanctioning the lease of 175 granite quarries. Of these, 77 were issued between 2001 and 2006 when the AIADMK was in office. During the DMK rule from 2006 to 2011, 68 lease orders have been issued.

Everybody knows that in Tamil Nadu, irregularities are prevalent in the appointment to state government jobs, award of contracts, appointment of vice chancellors and so on. Such a situation has been created that, from the post of non meal scheme assistant to workers in the state bus transport organisations, no appointment will be made without money changing hands.

In the meeting of the Party state secretariat on March 10, the March 2-6 campaign was reviewed. The secretariat decided to conduct powerful campaigns and struggles at local levels on issues faced by the people including the impact of the drought.