A NATIONWIDE strike call given by the Left parties against skyrocketing prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas, and subsequent increase in prices of essential commodities, was observed on September 10. The strike, supported by several opposition parties, was successful in most parts of the country. During protest action on the day, a call was given to defeat the anti-people Modi government.
In the national capital, thousands of Left activists belonging to the CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML) and SUCI(C) demonstrated in various parts to make the strike a success. A powerful protest demonstration and court arrest programme was organised in Parliament Street that was led by CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary Sudhakar Reddy and other leaders of Left parties. AAP leader Atishi Marlena also came to the venue of the protest and extended her support to this protest.
Addressing the protesters, Yechury lambasted the Modi government for not controlling the prices of petrol and diesel which is resulting in the escalation of prices of essential commodities. The worst victims of these anti-people policies are the toiling masses in both urban and rural areas. He said today’s Bharat Bandh which is supported by 21 opposition political parties and working people, farmers, workers, students, women, Dalits and tribal communities will become a massive campaign to oust the anti-people Modi government from power in 2019.
Reddy said that the BJP government is trying to shrug away its responsibility of bringing fuel prices under the ambit of the Goods and the Services Tax (GST). Unlike the previous governments, the BJP has also failed to cut excise duty whenever international oil prices shoot up. Santosh Rai from CPI(ML) and Pran Sharma of SUCI-C also criticised the Modi government for its refusal to curb petroleum prices and inflation in general.
At the end of protest meeting, hundreds of activists marched towards Parliament and courted arrest in front of Parliament Street police station. The protesters raised slogans against the anti-people Modi government and demanded rollback of hike in petrol and diesel prices. Besides the central programme, protest rallies and effigy burning against the unprecedented rise in prices of petroleum products were also held in Bawana, Jehangirpuri, Mangolpuri, Dabri Mor, Mahipalpur, Mithapur (Badarpur), Sonia Vihar, etc. in Delhi as well as in Old Bus Stand, Ghaziabad, Qasba Chowki, Loni and Sector 8-9 Chowk in Noida.
People of Kerala sent a strong warning to Modi led BJP government through the September 10 hartal which had paralysed the entire state. Understanding the fact that the fuel price hike will put extra burden on the flood ravaged state, the shops owners kept their commercial establishments closed from dawn to dusk, as a symbol of protest. All vehicles were kept off the roads. State government employees did not attend the offices including the secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram. All constituents of the Left Democratic Front took part in the hartal.
The functioning of all three airports was partially disrupted due to the hartal. DYFI workers in Palakkad pulled bullock carts across the city. Lorry owners in Kannur took part in the protest by pulling their vehicles along the streets. Major public sector industrial units like Cochin Shipyard, FACT and Infopark in Kochi were also disrupted. In the capital city, a massive procession was held from Palayam Martyrs' Column to Secretariat. The public meeting was chaired by LDF convener A Vijayaraghavan.
People spontaneously responded to the strike called by the Left parties on September 10. There was no scope for the Left Front to organise a campaign for the strike. On the contrary, aggressive anti-strike processions were organised by the BJP workers on the previous evening, and a strong circular was issued to the government employees directing them to remain present in the office on that day. However, people rejected all their threats. Shops and markets remained closed throughout the state. Except some private vehicles, no commercial vehicle came out on the street. Only some organised sector employees and teachers attended their duties though hardly any student turned up. Rail service remained closed. This strike is a befitting reply to the anti-people, pro-corporate policies of the Modi government at the centre. It is also an indicator of the severe economic distress set in for the rural people by the newly elected BJP-IPFT government.
A 12-hour ‘Hartal’, called by the Left Front in West Bengal, evoked good response. District towns wore deserted look. Shops were closed in most of the towns. In Kolkata, the TMC government left no stone unturned to ensure the strike was a failure. They forced state government employees to attend office by issuing a threatening circular. Transport services were lean in Kolkata. In industrial areas, many factories were closed. In Durgapur, Asansol and Barrackpore industrial areas, TMC unions joined in work in some factories. But production in large industries were severely jolted. There were numerous road and rail blockades throughout the state. In some areas, there were scuffles with police.
In Kolkata, Left Front leaders walked in a procession. In districts, Left activists organised processions in support of the strike. In Howrah, police arrested CPI(M) activists from a peaceful protest meeting.
In response to the nationwide call of the Left parties, the people of Assam observed total 'Hartal'. A cross-section of people registered their anger and protested against the unprecedented rise in prices of petroleum products and other essential commodities. In Assam, apart from the Left parties, the other constituent parties of Left-Democratic Mancha -- namely the NCP, Janata Dal(S), AAP, Asom Sangrami Mancha and Liberal Democratic Party -- also extended full support to the bandh call.
Most of the business establishments, financial institutions, educational institutions, government offices remained closed. Public transport services came to a standstill. In some places, movements of trains were affected due to the blockades. Industrial activities also came to a halt. The capital city of Guwahati wore a deserted look. The attendance in the central and state government offices was very thin. The response to the protest call was widespread and unprecedented. Police arrested volunteers and supporters of the 'Hartal' in many places of the state.
The Left-Democratic Mancha greeted the people of Assam for their massive response and participation in the protest action against the anti-people policies of the Modi government. The Mancha also condemned the arrest of peaceful volunteers and repressive actions of the state administration.
The bandh call evoked massive response across Bihar. From early morning, leaders and cadre of Left parties took to the streets and blocked highways, rail tracks and brought out processions raising slogans against anti-people policies of the Modi government. Lathicharge on squatters on roads in Nawadah district was reported, the bandh in Bihar otherwise remained peaceful. Schools, shops, commercial establishments remained closed. All the long route buses, city buses, trucks, autos, light vehicles remained off the roads.
The bandh saw the entire anti-BJP opposition parties on the road and the common people spontaneously supported the bandh in Bihar. It was like a carnival. Thousands of people joined marches holding banners and posters of different parties. They came on bullock carts, on horse-drawn carts, etc.
In Patna, CPI(M) cadre and leaders assembled at the Party headquarters in the morning and marched towards Gandhi Maidan under the leadership of state secretary Awadhes Kumar, Central Committee member Arun Kr Mishra and state secretariat member G S Singh. All the Left parties gathered near Gandhi Maidan and started their march towards Dak Bangla roundabout. After reaching Dak Bangla Chowk, the march converted into a mass meeting. The meeting was presided over by CPI state secretary Satya Narayan Singh.
Addressing the gathering, the Left leaders made frontal attacks against the Modi government for four-and-a-half years of anti-people rule and surrendering before American imperialism. They vowed to take this movement to its logical end and throw the Modi regime out.
Protest demonstrations were held by CPI(M) district units all over Karnataka against petrol price hikes. At Bangalore and many parts of the state, normal life came to a standstill as KSRTC and BMTC buses did not operate. Most district and taluka centers also observed Hartal. At Bagepalli, main roads were blocked with static scooters and motorcycles surrounded by protesters. Bullock cart driven scooter was displayed at Tumkur. At Mangalore, port workers held a separate demonstration. Reports have also been received from Mangalore, Anekal, Ballary, North Kanara, Hasan, Gulbarga observing the strike.
JAMMU & KASHMIR
As part of country-wide protests, CPI(M) took out a rally in Srinagar on September 10, protesting against the steep hike in fuel prices.
Demanding the withdrawal of the hike in fuel prices and an increase in the tax levied on private oil companies, the protesters carrying placards raised slogans against the BJP-led government’s anti-poor and anti-farmer policies.
Addressing the Party workers, CPI(M) leader and MLA Kulgam, Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said that people were already overburdened with spiraling prices of essential commodities, and an increase in prices of petroleum products was adding insult to injury.
The unprecedented economic burdens are being mounted on the people by Modi government. The exponentially rising prices of petroleum products are having a crippling effect on the livelihood of millions of poor in India as it has led to the increase in overall price of all essential commodities.
The unprecedented fall in the value of the Indian rupee reflects the deep economic crisis created by the BJP government. Such economic attacks on the people come on top of the vicious communal-authoritarian onslaughts mounted by Modi government.
In J&K governance deficit, unemployment, denial of wages to casual labourers and other scheme workers and problems of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) teachers have peaked in the last four years. The weaker and poorer sections of the society have been totally neglected by the government which has severely hit their means of livelihood.
The welfare schemes for old aged, destitute and other weaker sections are virtually defunct. Same is the situation with casual labourers working in different departments. The governance deficit has cost the state dearly and inflation is so high that for a common man purchasing essential commodities from the market has become difficult.
CPI(M) state secretary Ghulam Nabi Malik while addressing the protesters said the peasantry all over the country has been demanding the promised remunerative price and loan waiver, but the Modi government callously refuses. On the other hand, it shows largesse of waiving off loans taken by the corporates during the last four years of nearly Rs 4 lakh crores.
The steep hike in fuel prices has hugely affected Kashmir’s fruit industry as the transportation charges have substantially increased. This has impacted the livelihood of lakhs of people in the state who are directly or indirectly dependent on the fruit industry. The artisan community is also under huge stress due to steep price rise and nobody is bothered about their plight.
Humongous amounts of loans taken from our banks by the corporate and the consequent NPAs has bled our banking system. Black money, instead of recovering, as promised, has been legitimised. All efforts to divert people’s attention away from these monumental failures by spreading an atmosphere of hate, violence and indiscriminate arrests of activists will not succeed.
The entire state of Odisha wore a deserted look on September 10. Rail and road transport, educational institutions, shops and establishments and banks were closed. The impact of the ‘Hartal’ was felt in all 30 districts of the state. People spontaneously supported the ‘Hartal’. In Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Berhampur, Rourkela and Sambalpur, the bandh was complete. Inter-state trucks were off roads. CPI(M) volunteers took to streets since morning. The Chief Minister of Odisha could not enter the state secretariat through the main gate.
CPI(M) state secretary Ali Kishor Patnaik and state secretariat members including Janardan Pati, Jaganath Mishro, Dusmanta Das, Suresh Panigrahi, Santosh Das, Puspa Das, Nirmal Nayak, Sisir Hui and Bishnu Mohanty led the protests in various parts of the state.
The bandh was observed in Manipur. Besides Left parties -- CPI(M), CPI, RSP, Forward Bloc, the strike was supported by JD(S), AAP, BSP and NCP. The Congress also called a Bandh on the same day and on the same demand. The strike was supported by every section of people in the state. Educational institutions were closed, shops and establishments in all the markets were also closed, the attendance in private, central and state government offices were thin. Public and private transport services were off the roads. In some places, volunteers in hundreds organised road blockades in support of the general strike, particularly on national highways and state highways. The Left parties congratulated the people of Manipur for their support to the general strike and appealed to them to defeat and isolate the BJP and its allies in the state.