A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 16 No. 47 12-18 NOV 2013
Opinions, Opinion Polls, and Democracy
The Election Commission's move of seeking political parties' opinions on banning pre-election opinion polls has sparked off a heated debate. On the one hand, the Congress has called for an outright ban on such polls, while the BJP, which in 2004 had favoured such a ban, has now decried the Congress' call for a ban as an attack on press freedom and freedom of expression. Most media organisations too have dubbed any restrictions on opinion polls as an attack on freedom of expression.
The positions of Congress and BJP at different times on opinion polls have been opportunist, coloured by whether the opinion polls tend to favour them or not in the forthcoming months. How can we go beyond the terms of the debate fixed by opportunistic ruling class parties and corporate-funded media, and arrive at a reasonable and democratic opinion on opinion polls?
One argument being made in favour of unrestricted opinion polls is that opinions by laypersons, editorials and media commentators, pollsters and politicians float around in any case. If one calls for restrictions on opinion polls today, it might go to the extent of restricting the free expression of opinions tomorrow. A related argument is that scientific opinion polls are preferable to lay rumours and 'expert comments' that do not enjoy the backing of data or scientific analysis.
What these arguments ignore is that opinion polls are not simply mirrors reflecting opinions. They are tools that seek to shape, influence, and organise political opinions. An editorial in a newspaper, or a comment by a TV anchor or 'expert' is simply that – an opinion of a particular media institution or individual, with no claims to reflecting popular will. But an opinion poll lays claim to representing people's opinion, and that is what sets it apart, qualitatively, from mere 'opinions'. An editorial is a self-avowedly subjective opinion – whereas an opinion poll claims to be an objective, even scientific, representation of, or guide to, popular opinion. In any elections, laypersons or media outfits may express opinions projecting poll outcomes and may attempt to persuade others to accept these opinions. But these subjective attempts at persuasion are likely to be viewed by voters very differently from the 'objective' polls presented authoritatively by media houses and various other bodies.
Any opinion poll claiming to objectively predict the outcome of elections (as opposed to simply expressing a subjective opinion about the outcome) do, then, have a potentially distorting effect on voting behaviour. In the backdrop of widely prevalent 'paid news,' the possibility of opinion polls being used to misinform and manipulate voters is immense, given the fact that it is corporate-funded media houses which generally conduct these surveys and polls. There is simply no denying that such surveys conducted and propagated by corporate-funded media houses have a far greater potential to distort voting behaviour than mere opinions of media-persons, laypersons or political figures. The voter is well equipped and experienced to assess the predictions of the local 'expert' at the tea stall or street corner or even the poll 'pundit' on the TV news. An 'opinion poll' that projects itself as the opinion of the people, claiming to be gathered through scientific methods, is far more capable of insidious influence and far more difficult for the layperson to challenge.
Currently, most opinion polls in India fail the test of transparency. Opinion polls that fail to disclose their sampling frame, size and social profile of the sample, techniques used, wording and sequence of questions asked, details of organisations conducting and sponsoring the poll, and fail to make their raw data available for scrutiny and challenge, nevertheless propagate their findings as 'objective.' However, even if the highest standards of transparency are met, the fact remains that the ordinary voter lacks the methodological tools to assess sample size, profile, etc to test the objectivity of various opinion polls. The ordinary voter will therefore be under pressure to accept the findings of such polls without really subjecting them to analysis.
No doubt, voters have proven opinion polls wrong time and again – exposing the lack of objectivity and even the possible political bias of those who conducted the opinion poll. But this cannot be an argument to allow opinion polls to continue unregulated.
Calls for a blanket ban on opinion polls, as well as calls for unregulated opinion polls, must be rejected. With the announcement of the election schedule, the model Code of Conduct comes into force, which imposes several restrictions (such as bans on the announcement of any new schemes by the ruling party) aimed at keeping out undue distortions of voting behaviour. During this period when the Code of Conduct is in force, media houses, parties, and other bodies should be restrained from publishing opinion polls or claiming to base their analysis on opinion polls. Any opinion polls conducted and published before this period must be subjected by the Election Commission to reasonable restrictions including mandatory disclosures to ensure transparency, and availability of raw data for scrutiny.
AIPWA Protests Inaction of Odisha Govt Against Sexual Harassment
Battling for life for five days, Itishree Pradhan, a school teacher who was set ablaze for refusing to withdraw a complaint of sexual harassment case against a school inspector in Tikiri school of Rayagada district, Odisha, died on 1st November 2013.
Itishree who hailed from Delang in Puri district and joined as Sikshya Sahayak at the Tikiri school, had lodged a complaint with the police in July 2013 but there was no response. Later, Itishree appealed to the state women's commission, the DG, the collector and the SP of Rayagada, but nobody took any action. Though an investigation report was submitted to the Collector, no action was taken against school inspector Netrananda Dandasena.
On October 27th a person entered her hostel and asked her to withdraw the complaint, and when she refused, he set her fire. The same night Itishree was shifted to Rayagada and due to 99% burns injury she was shifted to Vizag. On 1st November she died.
BJD chief and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced an ex gratia payment of Rs 10 lakhs to Itishree's family and ordered a crime branch probe into the incident, assuring that the case would be tried in a fast track court. AIPWA has demanded Rs 25 lakhs compensation, jobs for her family members, dismissal of the Collector, SP, and women's commission head, as well as immediate dismissal and criminal prosecution of school inspector Netrananda Dandasena. These demands were raised by AIPWA secretary Sabita Baraj in a protest meeting held on Bhubaneswar on 2nd November. Another protest meeting was held at Delang, under the banner of the CPI (ML) Liberation local committee, led by Comrade Ashok Pradhan, state committee member. A protest march was held in Bhubaneswar, led by Comrades Shantilata Bharati, Sanjukta Biswal and Mandakini Sethi of AIPWA. A massive protest march was also held in Rayagada on 8th November.
NOIDA Workers' Convention for Justice and Rights
AICCTU organized a Convention for Justice and Rights on 10th November 2013
for the falsely implicated and incarcerated workers from NOIDA, who were put in jail following the historic all trade union strike held on 21st and 22nd February 2013. The Convention took place
Apart from arresting workers protesting in the strike, the Noida administration and UP government also picked up workers from the AICCTU office in Sector 10, from their homes, or some just going about their work. About 200 workers were arrested, implicated in false cases and thrown into jails for months. 117 workers were slapped with false cases of the order of attempt to murder and robbery. Every worker who has managed to get released from jail has had to spend to the tune of two lakh rupees. Ironically the administration has not been able to produce a single shred of evidence, including the alleged video clipping in possession, through which workers were apparently identified.
The inspiring Convention was held outside the AICCTU's Sector-10 office, which had been the site of the police terror, and where the police had tried to continue intimidation for months. Defying the intimidation, the workers have renovated the office.
The Convention was conducted by Comrade Shivji. Workers and activists released from jail including the AICCTU organiser and CPI(ML) state committee member Comrade Shyam Kishor, Comrade Hare Ram Yadav, and others addressed the Convention, as well as CPI(ML) State Committee member Aslam Khan, AICCTU National Secretary Rajiv Dimri, AICCTU State President VKS Gautam, and other AICCTU leaders and activists.
A Struggle Committee of the NOIDA workers was formed – the Noida Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti - which will spearhead the movement for getting justice for the incarcerated workers in particular, and raising labour rights issues generally.
The resolutions passed by the Convention are:
1) This convention condemns the baseless arrest of all the workers that were arrested following the strike on the 21st and 22nd Feb, 2013. It demands the dropping of all charges and the paying of compensation to the affected workers.
2) It demands the implementation of minimum wages, as mandated by the government, and labour laws in Gautam Budh Nagar.
3) It condemns the communal conflagration in Muzaffarnagar and calls for standing against the communal polarization engaged in by the BJP and SP. It demands that strict punishment be awarded to those responsible for unleashing violence, and that the victims be rehabilitated.
4) This convention calls for participation in the March to Parliament, as called by the central trade unions, on 12th December, 2013.
5) This convention resolves to bring all the workers in Gautam Budh Nagar together. It resolves to initiate a movement in the district for worker's rights under the banner of AICCTU.
Uttarakhand State Level Party School Organized In Almora
The Party organized a State level school in Almora city on 26-27 October. The documents passed in the 9th Party Congress were studied at this school and discussions were held on 4 subjects—the national and international situation, the CPI(ML)'s basic documents, the report on Party organization, and the Resolution on Women's Msovement.
The school commenced by paying tribute to late Com. Madhav Nath Goswami of Bindukhattha, long time party member from Udham Singh Nagar late Com. Nandan Bhandari and to all the Comrades whom we have lost in recent times. Following this, Almora District secretary Com. Anand Negi welcomed the gathering and Com. Pankaj Inqalabi presented Faiz Ahmad Faiz's "Nissar Main Teri Galiyon Pe…"
The inaugural session of the Party school was addressed by Central Committee member Com. Raja Bahuguna. The classes on the national and international situation, women's movement, basic documents, and report on Party organization were conducted by Com. Indresh Maikhuri, Com. K.K.Bora, Com. Kailash Pandey and Com. Purushottam Sharma respectively. These were followed by lively discussions. Concluding the discussion session, State secretary Com. Rajendra Pratholi said that the current situation demands that all comrades, branches and committees make a deep study of the documents passed in the 9th Party Convention so that the Party ideology and direction can be properly disseminated among the people. Besides this, all comrades should also regularly read the Party publications. He further said that the committees should start study circles for the newly inducted State committee members on 4 designated subjects—1. The Origin and Development of Human Society, 2. History of the Freedom Movement, 3. About the present political parties in India, 4. A Brief History of the Communist Movement.
Calamity-Affected Protest on the Eve of Uttarakhand State Formation Day
Five months have gone by since the terrible disaster in Uttarakhand but the Congress government in the State has neither yet been able to provide relief to the victims, nor rehabilitate the people and villages who were rendered homeless by the disaster. The attention of the Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and his government is focused only on media management and restarting of Puja in Badrinath, Kedarnath and Hemkund to indicate that things have returned to normal. The reality is that road access in several places has not yet been re-established and several bridges washed away during the disaster have not yet been restored.
On 8 November, the eve of State foundation day (9 November), CPI(ML)s organized a State-wide Protest Day to protest against the negligence of the State government towards the relief and rehabilitation of the disaster victims. In all working areas of the Party, dharnas and demonstrations were held demanding that the State government immediately solve the problems of the victims and formulate and implement a people-oriented policy for their rehabilitation. The rehabilitation policy recently announced by the government talks of constructing pre-fabricated houses in 1000sq.ft, with those not wishing to avail themselves of these houses being given Rs. 4 lakhs instead, and those who wish to build their houses in land which is not marked out by the government being given Rs. 5 lakhs for the purpose.
Leading the protest demonstration in Udham Singh Nagar district headquarters (Rudrapur), State Secretary Com. Rajendra Pratholi demanded that the disaster affected victims be given "land for land and home for home". He stressed that the policy of pre-fabricated housing was nothing but a ploy to ensure profiteering for builders, contractors, politicians and bureaucrats. Com. Pratholi charged the government with complete failure to bring back normalcy to the affected areas. He pointed out that the State government has put only 300 villages on the rehabilitation list, whereas the actual number is around 1000 villages. State committee members Com. Bahadur Singh Jangi, Com. Lalit Matiyali, Student Union Vice President Kavita Verma, Ruby Bharadwaj, workers of Khurpiya farm, and Gujjar leaders of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha also joined the protests in Rudrapur.
The State government has received hundreds of crores of rupees from national and international sources as aid for the disaster affected victims but there is complete lack of transparency as to how this money is being spent. Through the State wide protests the CPI(ML) has demanded that the State government put the details of these funds and their expenditure in the public domain. In a memorandum to the CM the Party said that there are 1000 acres of ceiling land farms in the terai region of the State which should be used for the collective rehabilitation of the affected villages rather than being given over to SIDCUL (State Industrial Development Corporation) or other institutions. At the same time, the families of the workers who had been working for decades on these farm lands should also be made part of the rehabilitation policy. The Party also demanded that the cultivators whose fruits and vegetables perished due to roads and transport not being re-established should be compensated for their loss.
The State government and local administration is doing everything possible to crush the movement of the disaster victims in one of the greatly affected areas, Pithoragarh, under the leadership of CPI(ML) and Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha. Recently, during the CM's visit to Dharchula, Party District secretary Com. Jagat Martoliya was arrested and kept in custody for 3 days for no reason. Munasyari SDM has banned a demonstration which was to have taken place under the leadership of Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha on November 15. Condemning this repressive behavior of the administration, the Party demands punishment for the Munasyari SDM for his politically motivated action. Despite the repressive attitude of the government and the administration the disaster affected people joined the CPI(ML) protests in Dharchula of Pithoragarh district in large numbers. Pithoragarh District secretary Com. Jagat Martoliya, Dharchula Branch secretary Com. Kishan Singh Kunwar, Party leaders Har Singh Kunwar, Manoj Chunara, Padam Singh Gandi, Hira Devi, Vimla Dariyal, Mohan Singh Bisht, Soban Singh, Bhajan Singh, Parvati Devi, Narayan Singh, Jagat Ram, Pushpa, Hema, Gunja Devi, Madan Singh Bisht were active in the protests. The dharna organized by the Party in Lalkuan of Nainital district was led by Central Committee member Com. Raja Bahuguna, Nainital District secretary Com. Kailash Pandey, Govind Jeena, Pankaj Inqalabi, Ratan Singh and others. Memoranda were submitted to the CM at Deghat in Almora district under the leadership of State standing committee member Com. Purushottam Sharma, and in Bhikayasain district under the leadership of State committee member Com. Anand Singh Negi. Memoranda were also submitted in Joshimath (Garhwal) under the leadership of Garhwal committee member Com. Atul Satee. In Srinagar (Garhwal) committee member Com.K. P. Chandola, social activist Yogendra Kandpal, Vaibhav Kulashree, Kuldip Sailani (AISA) and others submitted memoranda to the Chief Minister.
Bhagalpur Bandh Against Murder of CPI(ML) Leader
CPI(ML) leader Comrade Ramdev Yadav was shot dead on 11 November by assailants in Bihar's Bhagalpur district. The armed assailants barged into Comrade Ramdev's house and shot him dead while he was asleep. His home is close to the University police station. Comrade Ramdev, aged 60, was the CPI(ML)'s town committee member and veteran AICCTU leader (Vice President of the district's AICCTU unit).
In protest against this heinous murder of Comrade Ramdev Yadav, the CPI(ML) called a Bhagalpur bandh. Reports tell us that several schools, as well as streets and markets, remained closed in response to this bandh call. Comrade Ramdev was known to have taken up a range of struggles of the oppressed and downtrodden, and to have exposed instances of corruption and high-handedness of the local administration. Like Comrade Bhaiyyaram Yadav of Rohtas, Comrade Ramdev Yadav too has been targeted and eliminated at the behest of the powerful and corrupt.
Red Salute to Comrade Ramdev Yadav !
Dr. Arun, 57, a member of the CPI(ML) who was a practicing doctor in Delhi, suddenly passed away in a private nursing home. He was being treated there for fever and pain, and it seems that a severe brain haemorrhage failed to be detected till it was too late. He was diabetic and also suffering from hypertension.
Dr. Arun was associated with the party since the 1980s. He always remained closely concerned with the Party's work in Delhi. He was always eager to extend all sorts of medical help to comrades.
He got his medical degree from BHU. He used to go from Delhi to his native village in Gaya district for at least a fortnight in a year to offer free medical aid to his fellow villagers. Since he was a gynaecologist, this free medical aid was invaluable to rural women, since there is a complete absence of skilled gynaecological care in rural Bihar and India.
The entire party is grieved by Dr. Arun's untimely demise and expresses deep condolences to his bereaved wife and son.
Long Live Dr. Arun!