Lokayat update of activities

The swine flu outbreak put a stop to all our activities. Since the second week of August, since Aug 11, nothing much has been done. Here is a report of our activities since July.

1. We have been campaigning against the proposed privatisation of PMPML. The PMPML is proposing to buy 200 AC buses, which is going to be absolutely ruinous for the finances of PMPML. The present few AC buses with PMPML have thrice the rate of standard buses, and so they go empty and hence incur heavy losses. Actually, for public transport in a city, where the average duration of travel is barely 20 mins or so, there is no need for AC buses. Various organisations of Pune have come together to form a joint front, PMPML BACHAO KRITI SAMITI, and a dharna is planned outside PMPML office at Swar Gate on Monday, Aug 10 from 2 pm to 5 pm. A similar dharna will be organised in Pimpri-Chinchwad on Aug 11.

This got cancelled due to Swine flu.

Now fresh agitations are planned. The schedule is:

SEMINAR ON PPP Model and PMPML:

Pimpri – Sept 7, Monday
Pune – Sept 8, Tuesday, at Shramik Bhavan, near PMC bus stand, time 5 pm.

DHARNA AND DEMONSTRATION

Sept 10, Thursday, outside PMPML head office at Swar Gate. The dharna would be daylong, and the demonstration would be from PMC to Swar gate. It is a joint program of various groups, including the PMPML union, CPM, Sarva Shramik Sangh, Shramik Mahila Morcha, Maruti Bhapkar’s group, Manav Kamble’s group, Subhash Sarin’s group, and so on.

2. We have organised a series of lectures in various law colleges on Judicial Accountability and Reforms, in July.

3. We have also organised lectures and film screenings on human rights issues in various law colleges in July.

4. As a part of NO MORE HIROSHIMAS, NO MORE BHOPALS campaign, for which a cultural festival is scheduled for August 8, about which I have already mailed you, we organised a musical public awareness campaign on July 30 and 31. A guitarist from Chennai had come down to Pune to help us in this campaign, and with him we went around various colleges and gardens of Pune, singing songs and distributing pamphlets about the subject. Then, on Aug 6-7-8, there were a series of film screenings and talks by Satinath Sarangi from Bhopal in various colleges, including MIT college, College of Engineering, ILS, apart from a big seminar in Fergusson College Amphitheater on Aug 8 morning in association with DES Law College of Fergusson.

5. The Lokayat women’s group organised a staging of the play, Mulgi Zhali Ho, in Mohite college on Aug 1. A poster exhibition on women’s issues has also been made and it will be put up in various colleges.

6. The Lokayat Free Software Initiative has organised a series of programs in various engineering colleges and computer science departments of Science colleges on the free software in July and August so far, and now are planning to organise an inter college seminar on the subject.

7. Workshops of Prof. Ram Puniyani are planned in Symbiosis and ILS on the subject, Challenges to Secular values of Indian Constitution, towards early september.

8. With the government promoting nuclear energy in a big way, including the setting up of a nuclear power plant at Jaitapur, we are planning a big campaign against it.

CAMPAIGN AGAINST NUCLEAR ENERGY

During Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations:

Venue: Outside Saraswati Vidya Mandir on Bajirao Road, from Aug 28 to Sept 1, Friday to Monday, from 8 to 11 pm.

9. Regular adult education classes are being organised in two slums, Pandav Nagar (behind Symbiosis college) and Janata Vasahat (near Parvati), where volunteers go twice a week. The women’s group is also working with the women of these slums, in association with Molkarin Sangathana, and they also go regularly to these slums for workshops, film screenings and other interactions.

10. The SUNDAY MEETING takes place regularly, from 4 to 7 pm, at the Lokayat Office. Do join us whenever it is possible for you.

Type rest of the post here

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Microsoft Patches Linux; Linus Responds

Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel.Image via Wikipedia

Microsoft has released code for inclusion in the Linux kernel, but should it be accepted? Linus Torvalds gives his perspective.

You may have already heard, but the unthinkable has happened. That’s right, Microsoft, the self-proclaimed enemy of Linux and free software, has announced that they will be submitting some 20,000 lines of code to the Linux kernel. Come again? Yes, Microsoft wants to get its code into the Linux kernel. You read that right!.

To read more click http://www.linux-mag.com/cache/7439/1.html

When approached by Linux Magazine as to whether he has even looked at the code, Linus Torvalds (the father of Linux) replied:

“I haven’t. Mainly because I’m not personally all that interested in driver code (it doesn’t affect anything else), especially when I wouldn’t use it myself.

So for things like that, I just trust the maintainers. I tend to look at code when bugs happen, or when it crosses multiple subsystems, or when it’s one of the core subsystems that I’m actively involved in (ie things like VM, core device resource handling, basic kernel code etc).

’ll likely look at it when the code is actually submitted to me by the maintainers (Greg [Kroah-Hartman], in this case), just out of morbid curiosity.”

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How the West exploits Africa

By Tony Iltis

US President Barack Obama used his African heritage in his July 11 speech to the Ghanaian parliament in Accra as justification for proceeding to blame Africa’s problems on its own people.

He acknowledged historical Western crimes, but denied that ongoing suffering is caused by the current policies of the West.

Western aggression and exploitation, Obama claims, are things of the past.

A July 15 Los Angeles Times editorial said: “It was the same message about good governance they’d heard from presidents [Bill] Clinton and George W. Bush. No new programs or initiatives for Africa.

“But just because the message is old doesn’t mean it’s not worth repeating.”

Obama played up his own ancestry to appeal to his audience. He referred to the indignities his grandfather suffered under British colonial rule in Kenya, including being briefly imprisoned during the independence struggle of the 1950s and ’60s.

Having thus established his credibility, he continued: “Yes, a colonial map that made little sense helped to breed conflict … But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants.”

Actually, the West has a direct responsibility for both, and for the endemic corruption and authoritarianism that Obama identified as a major cause of Africa’s problems.

The destruction of the Zimbabwean economy, for instance, is not just a result of President Robert Mugabe’s corruption and mismanagement, but even more his government implementing neoliberal policies dictated by Western financial institutions.

Obama acknowledged the criminal history of the slave trade. The slave trade came to an end in the 19th century, largely as a result of slave uprisings in the Caribbean, most notably the Haitian revolution of 1791-1805.

On the back of the slave trade, Europe and North America developed societies more wealthy, militarily powerful and technologically advanced than any previous civilisation.

In the 19th century, the British set about conquering Africa. Although less than a century earlier the British were the biggest slave traders in history, this conquest was justified as fighting slavery.


Other European powers followed suit. In 1885, Africa was literally carved up at a conference in Berlin, without regard for pre-existing linguistic and political boundaries. This “colonial map that made little sense” is still the basis for the political map of Africa today.

As much as slavery, colonialism meant the development and enrichment of the West at Africa’s expense. Again, millions died.

In the Congo, King Leopold of Belgium systematically enslaved the entire population to produce rubber and ivory. Between 1885 and 1908, 13 million people were killed.

In the mid-20th century, more than 3 million people were killed in the construction of the Brazzaville-Ocean Railway by France.

The creation of such infrastructure, which connected Africa’s raw materials to points of export to Europe, was described as giving Africa the benefits of Western civilisation.

The same process continues today and is now called “development”.

Read the full article here

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Villagers’ Agitation in Sindhudurg Against Land Acquisition by State Govt for Mining

By Angad Patwardhan

INTRODUCTION

On Tuesday, June 23, four of us from Lokayat left for the town of Banda in Sindhudurg district at night. The plan was to visit Kalne village from there. It was in the news that a full State Cabinet meeting was to be conducted in the district the following day. With limited information we set out to fathom what the situation really was and why the good villagers were opposed to a “development” project of the government.

We arrived at Banda on the morning of June 24 where we understood that the Cabinet meeting was scheduled to take place at another town, Oras and not at Kalne as we had presumed. There was a lot of police activity on the highway and a steady stream of police vehicles kept flowing through the town! From there we left for Kalne village.

Kalne is a beautiful village located on the slopes of a hill. The people there are extremely friendly. We all felt totally at ease while interacting with them. When we arrived, they were about to start their bhajan satyagraha which they’d been carrying out for the past 3 days. Some young villagers, many of them women, were seated on a stage and had been fasting since June 22 as a mark of their protests against the Cabinet meeting. We joined in the bhajan satyagraha also sung some songs of our own relating to peoples’ struggles. This was a sort-of ice-breaking process, though it was unnecessary with these people.

BACKGROUND

As we started interacting with the villagers, a lot of information started flowing out. Most of the villagers grow cashew-nuts which they sell as dry fruit and to make feni, a popular drink. The major sales occur in the months of May-June. However, they are content with whatever they get from the produce. They also grow their own grain and vegetables. Apart from this, the hill on which the village is based and the near-by river are held to be sacred by the village-folk.

The Maharshtra govt. is interested in setting up a mine in and around Kalne, along with a Mumbai-based company, Minerals & Metals Ltd. This means that all the people living there will have to be moved out. Also, their farms and orchards will be destroyed in the process, and the river heavily polluted. For these reasons, they do not want to sell their lands under any circumstances. They have been agitating since August 2008 when the government’s proposal first came up. A gram sabha resolution was also passed to that extent with only 2 dissenting votes. As per the government’s own regulation, no resolution passed in a gram sabha can be overturned by the Central/State governments. With total disregard to this fact, the state govt is aggressively perusing the development of this project.

In December 2008, one of the dissenters secretly sold off his land to the company without informing even his own family members who were against the acquisition. They also had stakes in the land which he had sold and hence applied for a stay on the deal in Bombay High Court. The case is underway currently.

However, on the dawn of March 19, 2009, the company started making inroads into the “acquired” plot by trespassing through other plots. They had got all their road-making equipment along with private security personnel from Mumbai. when the villagers got wind of this, they rushed to the spot and staged a rasta-roko andolan. There was a heated argument between the villagers and company officials. Sensing the growing discomfiture of the villagers, the company officials and security guards started climbing into their vehicles and zooming away. At this juncture, one of the security guards fell off a vehicle that he was holding onto and injured his head severely. His colleagues took him to a near-by hospital, then to hospitals at Sawantwadi and Goa, where he finally succumbed to his injuries at about 11 pm the same day.

Immediately, the police applied Section 302(Murder) of the Indian Penal Code(IPC) and set out to arrest 16 villagers, who fled the village. They also arrested 200 villagers, including 40 women under Section 144(Unlawful Gathering of More than 5 Persons). These were granted bail later.

Police used to enter the village daily and harass the villagers as to the whereabouts of the 16 absconding men. Hence, on April 9, they surrendered themselves and were put in prison at Sawantwadi. Their bail pleas were rejected by the District Court and hence they moved the Bombay High Court. 12 persons were granted bail after 35 days, while 4 are in police custody till date. The High Court has demanded that the police file charge sheets against the 4 accused as a pre-requisite to granting them bail, which has still not been done, even after 3 months of keeping them in prison. As these 4 villagers were at the fore-front of the “anti-land acquisition” agitation, it is clear that they’re being forcibly kept in prison by the government.

In the afternoon of June 24, while the bhajan satyagraha was on, a delegation including the sarpanch and upsarpanch of Kalne left for a meeting with the State Cabinet at Oras, where they presented their demands to the Cabinet. A full question-answer session followed in the presence of media from various leading newspapers as well as news channels. However, as is expected, there was no news of the same in the following days. Instead, the leading newspapers have described how Narayan Rane is all out for the “development” of Sindhudurg by spending crores of citizens’ money on building memorials and halls at various places in the district!

WHAT WE LEARNT

We returned the same day and reached Pune on the morning of June 25. The trip has been an enriching experience for all of us. I saw first-hand for the first time what a people’s agitation is like, and how people come together in times of distress to fight for their cause. It also taught me how to interact with people and make ourselves be counted as their own. This trip was an eye-opener to the heinous acts being committed by our governments in various parts of the country in the name of “development”, and how the truth never even reaches us, as the media goes hand-in-hand with them!

We urge our like-minded fellow citizens to go and witness such agitations wherever and whenever they can, as well as extend their support and solidarity to the movements along with spreading awareness about the same, where they reside!

Jai Hind!

Know what’s what about SEZ (Special Economic Zone)

SEZ: Corporate Statehood Defined

By C.R Bijoy

The SEZ Act ( Special Economic Zone Act ) heralds the integration of the powers of the executive, the elected institutions and the judiciary, centralized in the SEZ Authority – the Development Commissioner (DC) and/or the developer (company) – paving the way for the creation of of a political and economic entity, separate from the Indian state. SEZs internally are structured for the establishment of authoritarian capitalism with the Indian state as an instrument of capital.

Imagine state sanctioned and protected small and mid-sized cities built, operated, owned, and governed by ‘developers’ scattered all over the country….no elected local government to bother about….heavily state subsidised export-oriented economic enclaves ostensibly to generate foreign exchange and foreign investment; insulated, free and secured from the vagaries of the rest of the already liberalised economy….a walled-in heavily guarded enclosure with businesses, residences and entries strictly defined, regulated and controlled by an ‘Authority’ that also controls and regulates provision of all goods and services within these enclaves including water, electricity, communication and transportation, provision of essential and consumer goods, health, education, housing, sanitation, finance, entertainment and culture. With subjects as revenue, internal security, law and order and the justice system falling within the scope of the ‘Authority’ the picture is almost complete – the establishment of ‘corporate states’ or sovereign corporate-owned private states except really in matters of defence and foreign affairs. The Special Economic Zones Act, 2005 has within it all the trappings for the conceptions of such political entities.

Redefining the Governance Structure

Though the SEZ Act or its Rules does not specify, the Model SEZ Policy advocated by the Central government for the State governments states that: “The State Government will declare SEZ as Industrial Township and if necessary, relevant Act would be amended so that SEZ can function as a governing and autonomous body as provided under Article 243(Q) of the Constitution” (item 10). In line with this, as local governance being in the State List (List II of Seventh Schedule of the Constitution), various state policies on Special Economic Zones (SEZs) as that of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal envisage the notification of these zones by the governors of the respective states as “industrial townships” under Article 243Q of the Constitution. This exempts them from the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution, which provides for elected local governments, i.e. municipalities. An industrial township authority is constituted instead with the same powers and duties as a municipal body with nominees from the Developer and the State government with powers including licensing, provision of infrastructure and planning. The developer constructs the zone and effectively controls the local government.

Further, the SEZ Act provides for the creation of a Special Economic Zone Authority (sub-section 1 of section 31) headed by a government-appointed ‘Development Commissioner’ for one or more Special Economic Zones (sub-section 1 of section 11) who will govern the Zone primarily to facilitate economic growth. The DC may be assigned additional powers and functions by the Board of Approval (subsection 4 of section 9). The Central government can also modify or repeal any Central law and any rules or regulations by mere notification in its application to SEZs with the exception of ‘matters relating to trade unions, industrial and labour disputes welfare of labour including conditions of work, provident funds, employers’ liability, workmen’s compensation, invalidity and old age pensions and maternity benefits applicable in any Special Economic Zones’ (section 49) including any provisions of SEZ Act other than sections 54 (power to add to omit any enactment provided in the First Schedule of the Act containing a list of enactment for payment of taxes, duties or cess) and 56 (power of the Central government to remove difficulties in operationalisation of the provisions of the Act). This section gives overriding power to the Central government over the Parliament and the State governments in empowering SEZ Authority. The State Governments are by law to make available water, electricity (uninterrupted) and such other services to the proposed Special Economic Zone Units and Developer (rules d of 5).

Together with the industrial township authority, the governance structure webs the central and state government as instruments of legitimacy and power of the developer company.

Governance Defined

The powers of the DC include infrastructure and public services by agreement with the Developer (subsection 11 of section 3). There shall be no investigation, search or seizure in a Special Economic Zone by any agency or officer without the permission of the DC (section 22) except in the case of ‘notified offenses’ notified by the Central government (section 21). Even in the case of ‘notified offenses’, the DC is to be intimated (section 22). Further, both civil and criminal matters and any ‘notified offence’ falling within the Zone are to be tried only by the special courts set up in SEZs (section 23). The High Court of the State can hear appeals from these special courts (section24). Put together, a separate investigative and judicial process is in place where the DC plays a critical role in influencing the outcome. State policies also envisage ‘separate and exclusive arrangements’ for ‘law and order and control of crime’ within SEZ’s. The policing and justice system are sought to be brought under the influence and control of the SEZ Authority.

Every person, whether employed or residing or required to be present in an SEZ, are to be provided an identity card by the DC (section 46) which will be used to regulate ‘the entry of persons to the processing area’ of the SEZ (rule 70). The processing area and Free Trade and Warehousing Zone are to be fully secured with specified entry and exit points (rule 2 of 11). The processing area is moreover accessible to ‘authorized persons’ only (rule 4 of 11). The importance given to securing the Zone physically as well as determining who can enter and leave indicates intention of tight control within and isolation from without.

While the Zones are not exempt from the application of labour laws which anyway are flouted in the normal course in the country, the DC who virtually controls life within the Zones, the work, personal, social and political space is also in addition designated as the Labour commissioner. By declaring the SEZs as ‘public utility service’ under the Industrial Disputes Act 1947 and the delegation of powers to the DC under the Industrial Disputes Act and other related Acts, dissent, trade union activities, democratic rights to protest and labour rights are under tight leash if not extinguished as a right, and if at all, are to be mere concessions. Further, the Model Policy advices exemption from the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 and Minimum Wages Act 1948, licensing widespread use of contract labour system. This seeks to complete the project of informalisation of work and casualisation of employment ensuring a shift to preponderance of casual positions from full-time and permanent or contract positions to ensure sustained depression of wages, a critical factor for super profit generation.

The establishment of these privileged secure enclaves will in turn spiral a spill-over into the surrounding region that rapidly would get converted into captive peripheries sub-serving the needs of the Zones by colonizing and diverting livelihood resources of people, primarily land and other natural resources by the their take over and conversion by real estate speculators, service providers, traders and businesses.

(C.R Bijoy is a writer and activist associated with Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a coalition of struggle based mass organization of forest dwellers. This article originally published on countercurrents.org )

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