High Cut-Offs Burnt by Government School Students

Sujit Kumar & Dinesh Kumar, KRANTIKARI YUVA SANGATHAN (KYS), DELHI UNIT OF ALL INDIA REVOLUTIONARY YOUTH ORGANISATION, T-44, Near Gopal Dairy, Baljeet Nagar, New Delhi-110008. Ph. : 9312654851, 9313343753

High Cut-Offs Burnt by Government School Students!
Government School Students Demand 80% Reservation in Government-Funded Institutes and Universities!
Government School Students and their Parents Agitated over the Fact that Cheap Public Funded Education is Beyond Their Reach!
An Open-Letter is also sent to HRD Ministry for Immediate Intervention!

Today (June 26) a large number of government school students, their parents and progressive individuals protested against the high cut-off for admission in Delhi University. The colleges of DU declared their first cut-off for admission to various courses on Tuesday. With this the wait is formally over as far as the procedure to get oneself admitted in a college was concerned. However getting a seat secured in a college/course still remained a distant dream for many as the cut-offs have sky-rocketed beyond the expectations. However this is not something which is unique to this years’ cut-off. Every year cut-offs are so high that government school students are not able to get a seat in the institutes of higher learning. Our organization firmly believes that the cut-offis nothing but a calculated policy to keep the higher education beyond the reach of students from government schools, an overwhelming majority of whom come from socio-economically deprived backgrounds. These students have also sent an open-letter to HRD Ministry for immediate intervention.

It is important to note that the higher cut-offs eliminates the chances of government school students in the institutes of higher learning and the only recourse left to them is to do some technical certificate and diploma courses and become a source of cheap labour in the market. Also interesting is the fact that the government has not only continued with the dual education system but has kept the same cut-off for government and private schools.It is an undeniable fact that students from private schools with better teaching and coaching facilities get higher marks and the domain of government funded higher education becomes virtually theirs as there are a very limited number of seats. Whereas the students from government schools always have to kill their ‘ambition’ without anyone noticing the fact that the race was unequal from the start. The bad result of these government school students is a result of the larger policy issue. Most of the government schools students lack basic facilities and have insufficient number of teachers (mostly in science and commerce courses) which is magnified by their home environment as most of these students are first generation learners and mostly live in a single rented room with the entire family. The unavailability of sufficient teachers forces the students to go for unregulated tuitions which not only creates havoc of their career but promotes the privatization of education. It is high time that government should undertake its responsibility of ensuring that a large section of students is not denied higher education due to loopholes in the policy. We demand an immediate enactment of a policy that provides marks relaxation/reservation to students of the government schools in the publically funded institutes of higher learning. We do understand that the reservation cannot be a permanent solution. Therefore the government must abolish the dual system of education with private schools students with all sorts of facilities getting the fruits of cheap higher education on the one hand and on the other the government school students from socio-economically deprived background and lack of good learning facilities remaining outside the domain of higher learning. We also demand that the government should increase the amount of budget spent on higher education for the children of working masses.

It is to be noted that in India the number of students who go for higher education are abysmally low. Only 7 percent of the students who pass 12th standard go for higher education. Even these seven percent students do not get to study the courses and colleges of their choice, and only a very small number of students from them get seats in regular colleges. Most of the students end up doing their study through correspondence or distance learning. In Delhi University there are only 54000 seats whereas 146000 have applied for admission. Thus around a lakh students will be denied admissions. It is important to note that these students are aspirants yet they will not be given admission due to less number of seats. Isn’t it ironic that even from a small number aspirants a large number is denied admission. Most of students who are denied admission are from government schools and are first generation learners. Thus denying them admission eliminates their scope for upward mobility.

High cut-offs and less number of seats are problematic in many ways. For example if there are less number of seats overall, the reserve seats will be lower. Thus reservation which was a constructive policy to bring out Dalits from the villages and traditional occupations would remain an empty box as a large number of students will not get a seat. For example in Delhi University there are 12000 odd seats reserved for SC/ST candidates whereas the number of applicants are around 24000 i.e. double the number of seats. Thus a large number of students from the reserve category are forced to go back to their villages and continue with traditional occupations. This would deny not only upward mobility but also makes Dalit students prone to caste oppression and atrocities in the villages.

We demand:

1. 80% reservation for government school students in public funded institutes and universities.
2. Immediate increase in number of seats in institutes of higher learning.
3. Increase in the amount of budget spent on education.
4. Abolition of the dual education system.
5. Hostel facilities for all the students from socio-economically deprived background.

Faridabad Update: Nurses on Hunger Strike on International Nurses’ Day

NURSES OF PRIVATE HOSPITALS IN FARIDABAD ON WAR PATH, & TAKE OUT A RALLY AROUND FARIDABAD
NURSES of ASIAN HOSPITAL SIT ON HUNGER STRIKE ON THE OCCASION OF INTERNATIONAL NURSES’ DAY

The nurses of Asian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS), Faridabad and QRG Central Hospital continue to sit on strike for the sixth consecutive day. Since 6 days have passed and no fruitful negotiation seems in sight, the nurses of Asian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) decided to commemorate International Nurses’ Day by sitting on hunger strike, rather than celebrating the most important day of their profession with fanfare. The striking nurses of AIMS also took out a large rally from outside the hospital to Badhkal Chowk and HUDA Market. By going on hunger strike and taking out such a rally, the nurses’ have tried to expose how the nursing profession is treated in the medical community and society at large. On the hand, the management of both hospitals refuse to negotiate on the nurses’ just demands, although patients are vacating the hostel in panic, leading to huge financial loss. Following their meeting on Nurses’ Day, the nurses of both AIMS and QRG Central hospitals have decided to form a Joint Action Committee (JAC) so as to unite nurses of all the different hospitals in Faridabad. Considering that conditions continue to be grave, the nurses have also started to think along the lines of holding a JOINT PROTEST outside the office of the Deputy Labour Commissioner in Faridabad.

As of now the nurses of AIMS are paid a paltry sum of Rs. 11,000 from which the hospital management cuts PF, etc. Due to this the nurses get only some Rs. 9000 in hand—an amount which is way below the Rs. 42,000 earned by government hospital nurses. In the case of QRG Central hospital, many nurses are getting even less than their colleagues in AIMS (Faridabad). In both hospitals the nurses’ salaries are inflated on paper by including a vague category called Company Total Cost/CTC (which includes PF, gratuity, ESI health-card fee, etc.). The actual salary received in hand/basic salary is, of course, much lower than what is officially declared by the management on paper. In fact, the hospitals conveniently fool hapless nurses into work contracts by projecting higher salaries on paper. When asked to explain the exact functioning of the CTC, management of private hospitals across the board deny any proper explanation.

In Delhi and NCR region where rents are high, such salaries hardly enable the nurses to make ends meet. It is shocking that hospitals which earn huge profits on a yearly basis are unwilling to reward their nursing staff a fair wage and regular salary increments. While addressing the striking nurses, activists from the women’s organization, Centre For Struggling Women (CSW), Workers’ Unity Centre (WUCI), and Nurses Welfare Association encouraged the nurses to stand by their genuine demands like hiking the basic salary released, and paying the nurses salaries which hare in parity with those of government hospital nurses. CSW member also encouraged the nurses to unite the larger nursing community on the demand for a wage-board. The wage board would ensure some regulation of the salaries paid in private hospitals.

The other grave problem highlighted by the striking nurses is the manner in which they are assigned extra duties for which they are not paid adequately. For example, after performing eight hours of duty, the nurses are often forced to perform another 8 hours of duty. Furthermore, the aforementioned private hospitals exercise a skewed nurse-to-patient ratio. In violation of the World Health Organization’s norms, the nurses in Asian Hospital (AIMS) are assigned up to 3 to 4 ICU patients (the WHO recommended ratio being 1 nurse to 1 or 2 ICU patients). And after performing double duties back to back, the nurses do not receive compensation based on given rules on overtime payment. The nurses of QRG Central hospital explained how, in violation with laws pertaining to overtime payment, the management pays them even less than the normal duty’s rate for the additional 6-8 hours shift performed by them.

What is most disturbing is the way in which the issue of the striking nurses are being skirted continuously. For example, despite being intimated of the nurses’ issues, the Deputy Labour Commissioner and Labour Office have failed to intervene. Even after communicating their demands to the Chief Minister, no intervention or probe by the CM’s office has followed, thereby once again exposing the pro-management stance of the Haryana Government. As expected, the local thana has been actively involved in harassing the young nurses, and has forcefully pushed the strikers to from putting up a tent even at a distance of the stipulated 100 meters issued via a court order. Of course, seeing the nurses’ determination to continue their struggle, the Deputy Labour Commissioner’s (DL) office has suddenly swung into force. However, the nurses have complained that the DL has only been verbally threatening them than amicably trying to arbitrate between the two parties. The connivance between the Deputy Labour Commissioner and the management of QRG Central hospital has, in fact, ensured that the striking nurses are forced to sit far away (200 meters distance) from the hospital whereas the rule is generally 100 meters only. This reflects both the state administration and hospital management’s desire to conceal the genuine issues of the nurses from the patients and larger public.

Furthermore, the management of AIMS and QRG Hospital has resorted to several illegal practices like replacing the striking nurses with nursing students who are not qualified to practice, and by making ward attendants perform certain nursing duties like applying injections to sick patients. This measure is not only illegal but also detrimental to the interests of the admitted patients. In addition to this the hospital management of AIMS has also indulged in filthy practices like sending bouncers late at night to the nurses’ hostel on 8th May. Today on 11th morning, again certain senior hospital staff in AIMS forcefully dragged three nurses into the hospital. The three nurses, however, refused to stay and left the hospital shortly to join their striking colleagues. In the evening bouncers hired by the hospital kept encircling the striking nurses in their vehicle. Four of the bouncers again entered the nurses’ hostel on 11th evening and took photographs of the nurses inside the hostel. Worried about their safety and unsure of the extent to which the bouncers will go, the nurses submitted a written complaint at the local police station.

Standing up to the various intimidation tactics of the hospitals’ management, the nurses of both hospitals have decided to continue their strike till all the striking nurses are re-employed. With nothing to lose, the nurses are standing together in unity.

Thankamma Ravindran
Delhi Nurses Welfare Association

Lailamma Peter
Delhi Nurses Welfare Association

Alok Kumar
Workers Unity Centre

Maya John
Centre For Struggling Women
Ph: 9350272637

Note: This is an updated version of the release that was published earlier.

Nurses of Faridabad on War Path

NURSES OF FARIDABAD ON WAR PATH
RAMPANT EXPOITATION OF MALYALI NURSES
PRIVATE HOSPITALS INDULGE IN A RANGE OF ILLEGAL PRACTICES

Following a 14 day strike notice, 300 nurses of Asian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS), Faridabad have been sitting on strike since 7th May. Down the road, 140 nurses of another private hospital, QRG Central Hospital are also on strike. The majority of these nurses are from far flung parts of Kerela, and have joined the super-speciality hospital in the hope of earning salaries which will help them survive in the city, and also assist them in paying back education loans they have taken to pursue their nursing degrees. Unfortunately, like other private hospitals, Asian Hospital and QRG Central are misusing the nurses’ compulsion to pay off student loans to employ them on the basis of extremely low wages.

As of now the nurses of AIMS are paid a paltry sum of Rs. 11,000 from which the hospital management cuts PF, etc. Due to this the nurses get only some Rs. 9000 in hand—an amount which is way below the Rs. 42,000 earned by government hospital nurses. Ironically, this salary package has been in force since the inception of the hospital, i.e. for two and a half years. The nurses, hence, complained that despite putting in loyal service from the time of the hospital’s inception, their experience and hard work has not led to any pay hike. In the case of QRG Central hospital, many nurses are getting even less than their colleagues in AIMS (Faridabad).

In Delhi and NCR region where rents are high, such salaries hardly enable the nurses to make ends meet. It is shocking that hospitals which earn huge profits on a yearly basis are unwilling to reward their nursing staff a fair wage and regular salary increments. In fact, several private hospitals like AIMS have gone to the extent of deliberately forcing a section of the nurses to join as trainees from the first date of their service. The trainees are then conveniently paid wages as low as Rs 5000, despite the fact that they are fully qualified nurses who do not need to undergo any sort of “apprenticeship/training”. While addressing the striking nurses, activists from the women’s organization, Centre For Struggling Women (CSW), Workers’ Unity Centre (WUCI), and Nurses Welfare Association congratulated the nurses for risking everything and coming out to fight on their demands. The CSW member argued that the nurses’ salaries should be increased regularly on the basis of the hospital’s profit margin, and that a wage-board should be constituted for the nursing occupation. The wage board would ensure some regulation of the salaries paid in private hospitals.

The other grave problem highlighted by the striking nurses is the manner in which they are assigned extra duties for which they are not paid adequately. For example, after performing eight hours of duty, the nurses are often forced to perform another 8 hours of duty. “Imagine what kind of patient-care we can do when we are on our feet for 16 hours straight”, explained one of the striking nurses (who requested anonymity). The management of private hospitals find it easy to arm-twist the nurses for double duties due to the simple fact that nurses are desperate to pay off student loans, and because of the sheer clout private capital exercises in the health sector. With private hospitals outnumbering government ones, the managements of private hospitals find it easy to keep wages low across the board, and to overwork the nurses in the absence of government regulation. With little difference in the wage scales prevalent in private hospitals, most nurses are unable to challenge the adverse conditions of their employment. Furthermore, the aforementioned private hospitals exercise a skewed nurse-to-patient ratio. In violation of the World Health Organization’s norms, the nurses in Asian Hospital (AIMS) are assigned up to 3 to 4 ICU patients (the WHO recommended ratio being 1 nurse to 1 or 2 ICU patients). “And even after performing double duties back to back, we don’t receive adequate compensation,” said another AIMS nurse.

What is most disturbing is the way in which the issue of the striking nurses are being skirted continuously. For example, despite being intimated of the nurses’ issues, the Deputy Labour Commissioner and Labour Office have failed to intervene. Even after communicating their demands to the Chief Minister, no intervention or probe by the CM’s office has followed, thereby once again exposing the pro-management stance of the Haryana Government. As expected, the local thana has been actively involved in harassing the young nurses, and has forcefully pushed the strikers to a distance beyond the stipulated 100 meters issued via a court order. As usual the state machinery is quick to respond to the calls and communiques of the hospitals’ management, and lethargic, if not, aggressively anti the worker when contacted by affected workers.

Furthermore, the management of AIMS has resorted to several illegal practices like replacing the striking nurses with nursing students who are not qualified to practice. This measure is not only illegal but also detrimental to the interests of the admitted patients. In addition to this the hospital management has also indulged in filthy practices like sending bouncers late at night to the nurses’ hostel on 8th May. The authorities have also put up notices with the names of some 70 nurses who are supposed to vacate the hostel with immediate effect. The management has so far suspended 16 nurses and terminated the services of 12. While the management has given a verbal assurance of reinstating the nurses who have been suspended and terminated, it has categorically refused to reemploy 5 nurses on whom they have slapped legal cases. These 5 nurses have been the more active and vocal participants of the struggle. Clearly then, rather than negotiating with the nurses, the Asian Hospital management seems adamant in crushing the legitimate voice of the young Malyali nurses. Meanwhile, the Director of the QRG Central Hospital continues to scoff at the demands for a pay hike by his nursing staff. He has gone on record stating that the nurses behave “like cattle and don’t use their brains” when deciding about whether to sit on strike! As usual he overplayed the role of “outsiders”, whom he claims “misguide the nurses to agitate”.

Standing up to the various intimidation tactics of the hospitals’ management, the nurses of both hospitals have decided to continue their strike till all the striking nurses are re-employed. With nothing to lose, the nurses are standing together in unity.

Thankamma Ravindran
Delhi Nurses Welfare Association

Lailamma Peter
Delhi Nurses Welfare Association

Alok Kumar
Workers Unity Centre

Maya John
Centre For Struggling Women
Ph: 9350272637

Slum Dwellers protest outside Delhi Chief Minister’s Office

On 7th May 2012, following the renewed threat of massive slum demolition in Gayatri Colony (near Baljeet Nagar/Anand Parbat industrial area) by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), hundreds of slum dwellers gathered outside the Chief Minister’s residence in protest. Seeing this as a problem that affects slum dwellers across the board, women and children from across different slum/JJ colonies (Pandav Nagar, Hem Nagar, Nehru Nagar, Punjabi Basti, Gayatri Colony, etc.) gathered outside Sheila Dixit’s residence. The agitated slum dwellers sought to bring to the CM’s immediate attention the plight of the thousands of impoverished workers and their families residing in slums. The agitation was carried out under the banner of the Ghar Bachao Morcha, a body formed by the slum dwellers last year itself.

After a day-long protest, the Chief Minister finally met a four member delegation. On hearing the arguments with respect to the arbitrary nature of the 1998 cut-off date, the CM assured that the slum demolition will stop, and that proper discussion on the issue will take place. She assured the slum dwellers’ representatives that her government will further look into the matter of the cut-off date.

Since the beginning of their agitation, the slum dwellers have highlighted how the slum settlements across Delhi house lakhs of poor, working class people. Most of the men in these slums work in factories/sweatshops or as rickshaw-pullers, contract workers in the MCD, vendors, etc. The women work as maid-servants in people’s homes or participate in the informal sector of the economy. However, despite their important role in the socio-economic fabric of this city, slum dwellers are treated with little respect and are made to feel as if their lives have no value. Indeed, rather than recognizing the value of their economic contribution to the city’s economy, the Government’s approach is characterized by slum demolition which is accompanied by minimal relocation and rehabilitation. Whenever slum demolitions take place, most of the families are identified as “ineligible” for rehabilitation due to the cut-off date of 1998. The few families that are considered “eligible” for rehabilitation are moved to underdeveloped settlements in far flung off and poorly connected parts the city, causing massive social and financial dislocation of affected families. Ironically, many a times the land from which slum settlements are razed is left vacant (often with the rubble of the erstwhile slum still lying around)—a fact which indicates that more than providing alternative housing for the poor, ‘hiding of the poor’ is what characterizes the DDA’s policy vis-à-vis squatter settlements.

Activists of Ghar Bachao Morcha claim that the DDA’s own records reveal just how dismissive the urban authorities are with respect to the most vulnerable section of the city’ population. For example, in a study commissioned by the DDA to the Association of Urban Management and Development Authorities in 2003, what is clearly reported is the continuous unwillingness to meet estimated targets for low income housing—a troubling policy approach which has led to a situation where an estimated 3 million people (about 27% of the total urban population) is forced to occupy less than 3% of the residential area in the city! In fact, with the arbitrarily fixed cut-off date of 1998, the urban development authorities find it easy to demolish slums with minimal relocation and rehabilitation plans. On the one hand, the Government and urban development authorities refuse to implement land sealing under the Urban Land (Sealing & Regulation) Act, and on the other hand, they arbitrarily decide that people who come to the city after a certain date are “ineligible” to actually live in the city they work in.

The slum dwellers also pointed to the past record of DDA’s slum-clearance clearly shows that lands from which slum dwellers are evicted are mostly used for construction of malls or high-rise residential complexes which only the rich can afford. This, they argued was most unfortunate, considering that the DDA is supposed to cater to the needs of all strata of society. However, in reality very little of DDA’s finances are spent on housing projects for the poor. Quite expectedly then, the city’s slum dwellers are questioning the rationale of an urban development plan that excludes a very large portion of the city’s working population. The question is can urban authorities even claim that shopping malls and high-rise residential complexes are projects implemented for “larger public interest”, and are hence, projects that legitimately require urgent slum demolition.

It is in this spirit that the city’s slum dwellers are protesting , and have put forward the following set of demands:

    1. Immediate steps should be taken to stop any further demolition and clearance of slums
    2. In-situ development of slums
    3. Abolition of the 1998 cut-off date;
    4. Introduction of land sealing under the Urban Land (Sealing & Regulation) Act;
    5. Immediate action to be taken against all callous officials involved in the arbitrary demolition of our slum
    6. Immediate provision of temporary shelter, drinking water, sanitary facilities to all affected families
    7. Release of compensation to those who have lost property in the process of demolition
    8. Provision of health-care facilities to displaced families
    9. That housing policies for the poor should be prioritized by the DDA, and that the DDA should recommend a feasible and affordable housing policy/plan for the urban poor to the Government of NCT of Delhi and the Central Urban Development Ministry
    10. Before pursuing demolition the DDA should make use of proper consultation mechanisms, and should use all measures to take the slum dwellers into confidence.

Alok Kumar
Convenor, Ghar Bachao Morcha

May Day: Karawal Nagar Workers hold a Workers’ Rights Rally

On May 1, the Karawal Nagar Mazdoor Union, Stree Mazdoor Sangathan and Bigul Mazdoor Dasta organised a ‘Mazdoor Adhikaar Rally’ (Workers’ Rights Rally). The struggle of the unorganised workers of Karawal Nagar Yamuna Pushta started 4 years ago in 2008, when a union of almond workers was formed. In 2009, the Almond Workers Union (Badaam Mazdoor Union) organised a big strike which continued for more than two weeks and compelled the almond factory owners to compromise. This was one of the largest strikes of unorganised workers that Delhi has seen in the recent past. This strike of almond workers saw participation of informal/unorganised workers toiling in diverse occupations, like rickshaw pullers, construction workers, street vendors, etc. Some of them were in fact family members of the women almond workers, while others lived in the same area and came in support of the almond workers strike as a symbol of solidarity. In the next two years, the Badaam Mazdoor Union fought on a number of issues, organised protests against police oppression, and organised movements against the oppression by petty contractors. Most of these issues did not belong particularly to the almond workers, rather they were issues of all the unorganised workers of the area, irrespective of their occupations. The leaders of the Badaam Mazdoor Union realised that de facto, the union has become a union of the informal/unorganised workers of the area. So in 2011, the Badaam Mazdoor Union was transformed into the Karawal Nagar Mazdoor Union (KMU). KMU was formed as the neighbourhood-based union of the workers of Karawal Nagar.

On the May Day 2011, around 2 thousand workers from the Karawal Nagar Yamuna Pushta area gathered on Jantar Mantar under the leadership of KMU, along with thousands of other workers from different parts of Delhi, as well as, UP and Punjab. This protest was organised by different unions and workers’ organisations under the banner of ‘Workers’ Charter Movement’, which is still going on. KMU has been doing an experiment in organising workers in the era of Globalisation, when working class is dispersed or scattered at the shop floor level, while at the same time, it is concentrated in terms of the neighbourhoods where workers live. KMU believes that along with factory-based unions, there is a need to organise workers on the neighbourhood basis. Without strong neighbourhood-based organisation, area-wide organisation across factories, occupations and sectors, even the strong factory-based movements cannot hope to win.

KMU is planning to hold a huge protest march against the non-implementation of government’s policies for unorganised sector workers and different labour laws pertaining to the informal sector workers, oppression by the police and goons of contractors and factory owners, and the non-regularisation of the industrial units functioning in the Karawal Nagar area. The May Day rally ended in a meeting at the office of KMU in Mukund Vihar, Karawal Nagar, in which the plan of this wider march was discussed.

Delhi: Blind Workers’ day-long protest (April 24)

BLIND WORKERS GHERAO THE RESIDENCE OF THE MINISTER OF SOCIAL JUSTICE & EMPOWERMENT
DAY-LONG PROTEST LEADS TO THE GRANT OF JOBS TO RETRENCHED BLIND WORKERS
WORKERS DEMAND IMMEDIATE DISCUSSION ON THE LANGUISHING 2011 BILL ON RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITY

Today, large numbers of blind workers collected outside the residence of the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Shri Mukul Wasnik. These workers have met the concerned Minister, as well as officials in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on several occasions since November 2011. However, the deep rooted concerns of blind workers lay un-addressed. Today, when the blind workers initially gheraoed the residence of the Hon’ble Minister, he did not meet them, and left his residence in haste. This response once again convinced the blind workers that the Government is least concerned about providing adequate employment to the blind, as well as protecting the basic labour rights of blind workers employed in the private sector. However, undeterred by the Minister’s initial decision not to entertain a delegation, the blind workers continued to sit outside the Minister’s residence in the scorching April heat. The militant protest finally led to some dialogue as the K.M. Acharya met with the workers’ delegation. Following a lengthy discussion between Shri Mukul Wasnik and officials in the Ministry, the Ministry finally agreed to provide alternative employment at a government-supported institute, to all the blind workers retrenched by the NGO, National Federation of the Blind (NFB).

Since November of last year, the blind workers have been protesting the retrenchment of several blind workers by the NFB. This NGO retrenched the workers because they were speaking out against denial of minimum wages and other basic labour rights in the Training and Rehabilitation Centres (TRCs) run by the NGO. However, the struggle of the workers is not just against the NFB, but also against the overall exploitation of blind workers across the country by private companies and NGOs. In the interest of availing of certain benefits like tax exemption for employing persons with disability, the private sector is known to employ yet brutally exploit disabled persons. The arbitrary hiring and firing practices, unregulated working hours, etc. prevalent in the private sector, amount to a serious breach of social justice, which is why the bind workers have been approaching the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. More importantly, the workers realize that the failure of successive governments to provide adequate employment to the blind community is the main reason why blind workers are dependent on the highly exploitative private sector. Hence, their struggle is based on the fundamental right to a livelihood—a right the Government is to protect and uphold. The three specific demands that the workers sought to discuss with the Minister were:

(i) Inclusion of a special section in the long pending Bill on the Rights of Persons With Disability (2011), which would safeguard the economic rights of blind workers employed in the private sector. For example, the Bill should include provisions to the effect that bodies violating basic labour rights will be penalized to the effect that NGOs indulging in such violation will face the cancellation of their registration.

(ii) That the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment tables a concrete plan of greater job creation for blind persons in the public sector. It is only with the provision of more government jobs that the dependence of blind workers on exploitative private companies and corrupt NGOs can be overcome.

(iii) That because the Ministry has failed to curb the blatant violation of labour rights by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), it should ensure that all the disabled workers employed by NFB be provided alternative employment by the Government.

As the situation stands, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has conceded the third demand of the blind workers. With respect to the first and second demand, the Ministry has asked the Blind Workers Union (BWU) to provide a concrete plan which can be subsequently discussed and implemented.

Alok Kumar
Ramnath
Blind Workers Union
(A Unit of All India Federation of Blind Workers)
T-44, Panjabi Basti, Near Gopal Dairy, Baljeet Nagar, New Delhi-110008
Contact: 9313730069 Email: blindworkersunion@gmail.com

Delhi Press Release on Nonadanga and Urban Struggles (Protest Demonstration, April 25)

Halt eviction drives of urban slums and colonies!
Uphold the struggle of the toilers for the right to land!
Militant resistance in Nonadanga long live!!

Comrades, we are witnessing today the militant resistance of slum-dwellers of Nonadanga against the eviction drive of the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) through brute police force. Nonadanga presents us with the determination of the urban poor and working class to constitute an alternative form of social, political and economic power. The residents of Nonadanga have refused to budge from the site, have put up temporary shelters and a community kitchen, and are confronting the police everyday with their bare hands and their indomitable will, trying to hold on to whatever little they are left with. Since April 11, 5 comrades under Ucched Pratirodh Committee have persisted with a fast-unto-death in the site for 12 days with undeterred support of the entire slum, and beyond. Reconstruction and rebuilding of the demolished houses are being undertaken by them.

Nonadanga is a paradigm of struggle and unity that must be generalised across Kolkata, West Bengal and beyond. For, it’s only through the eruption of a hundred, thousand, million Nonadangas across the country – that the working class will be able to effectively pose its might and vision against the prevailing hegemony of neo-liberalism and its authoritarian political executive. In the absence of such a countrywide generalisation of urban resistance, the working masses of this country, including the residents of Nonadanga, have no hope in hell.

We are witnessing in India today, a ground preparing for a rising tide of urban upsurge. However much the ruling classes seek to dazzle the working people with the shine of their developmentist fables, corporate parks and election promises, they cannot hide from us the violence that is intrinsic to this process of capitalist ‘development’. Even as the agrarian crisis daily pushes the peasantry from villages to the cities as a proletarianised mass, capital is busy robbing this ever-growing population of urban workers of its bare necessities such as living wages, adequate land, decent housing and clean drinking water by putting up ever-heightening enclosures of rent and user-charges. Not just that. The political executive of capital does not flinch from turning the misery it produces into an opportunity for further accumulation. Even the demand for rehabilitation is used by neo-liberalism, more often than not, to carry out yet another assault on the reproduction of labour-power. The increase in distance between the place of residence and the source of livelihood that most resettlement and rehabilitation process imposes on the evicted slum-dwellers further devalues their labour-power by lengthening their average labour-day. Worse, any murmur of dissent against such accumulation by dispossession is brutally crushed by the state in order to ensure that the value of our labour-power can be progressively diminished even as the rate of extraction of surplus value is simultaneously enhanced and capitalist class power is reinforced.

The ongoing struggle against forcible eviction of slum-dwellers in Nonadanga, Kolkata, has revealed precisely that. On March 30, 2012, the KMDA, with the full support of the Trinamool Congress-led West Bengal government and its police force, bulldozed and burnt down the houses of over 200 families in the shantytown of Nonadanga in the name of ‘development’ and ‘beautification’. These people, who have lost their homes and hearths, are those whose cheap labour is ‘legally’ exploited to run the economy of the entire city. They are the toilers of unending nights and days, informal-sector workers and unemployed battling precarious living conditions. Among them are either those who were resettled here after being evicted from various canal banks across the city, or those whom the Cyclone Aila (2009) and the farm crisis uprooted from villages in the Sunderbans and other parts of the state respectively.

The state (and the corporate media), acting on behalf of capitalist land sharks eyeing this prime location in the city, are hell-bent on portraying these people as ‘illegal encroachers’. It has unleashed police and ‘legal’ repression, on an everyday basis, on all those who have been trying to resist this. A march of residents, under the banner of Ucched Pratirodh Committee (Resistance-to-Eviction Committee), was brutally lathicharged by the police on April 4, and again a sit-in demonstration four days later (April 8th) was violently broken up and 67 people arrested. Subsequent meetings and rallies held in solidarity with the movement on April 9 and 12 were attacked by goons and hundreds of activists were arrested by the police. Seven activists of various mass and democratic rights organisations, which stood in support of the Nonadanga movement, are either in jail or in police remand till April 26. Cases under Sections 353, 332, 141, 143, 148 and 149 of the IPC have been slapped on them. One of them, Debolina Chakraborty, has even been charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). During a court hearing on April 12, a prosecution team of 40 lawyers made a concerted bid to implicate them in a slew of false cases and paint them as ‘anti-national’, opening earlier ‘Nandigram cases’, even going so far as to claim that Nonadanga was used for ‘stockpiling arms and ammunition’. We remember that this Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool government came to power using the anger of the people over the Singurs and Nandigrams of the previous CPI(M) government to its parliamentary ends. It is they who are now using the instruments of repression at their disposal in a hurry to prove themselves as faithful lapdogs of their class masters.

Comrades, Nonadanga has shown us the way. For, the sword of eviction hangs not just on a Nonadanga, or for that matter a Bhalaswa (Delhi). Today in India, 256 lakh people are homeless or live in abject conditions in slums, and this number is progressively on the rise. Forget jobs or providing decent education, the state is retreating from all its responsibilities of providing us with the cost of living and reproduction. Evicting us from our homes has become the norm, as the cities are restructured according to the needs of the ruling classes. In Delhi, Shiela Dixit’s Congress-led government has drawn up a list of 44 colonies to be evicted in the next few months- 33 in the first phase. The criteria for being allotted the meagre government flats is possession of voter identity card, aadhar card and ration card as of 2007, and a capacity to make a down-payment of Rs 80,000. We are thrown into these legalisms even as we suffer the already inadequate housing and water situation. Even in the six resettlement colonies in Delhi, the conditions are horrendous. When one of our comrades from Bhalaswa presented Delhi CM Shiela Dixit with a bottle of water from her area, the CM was at first deceived by the colour of the water to think that she was being offered Pepsi-cola to quench her thirst. People living in slums in various parts of the city are the ones who make the city what it is, who make the super-profits of the capitalists possible. It is these people who become an embarrassment for the government, whichever party is in power, and whatever their false election promises. We remember the spate of demolitions which was the run-up to the Commonwealth games 2010, and how the political managers of capital attempted to hide our ‘dirty’ dwellings and crush our then disunited voices of protest. This continues daily, even today. On 20th April 2012, the DDA with over 2000 police force, attempted to demolish and evict slum-dwellers from Gayatri Colony near Anand Parbat industrial area in Delhi, but were forced to retreat faced with the unity and resistance of the residents.

Even here in Delhi, we have daily struggled on the streets for our rights and demands. We have, however, also been disunited owing to our precarious existence and localised struggles. When in Kolkata, our brothers and sisters are fighting it out not merely for survival but for the right to live a dignified and free life, let us wish it all power and condemn the authoritarian actions of the government of West Bengal. Let us stand with them in solidarity, and also intensify our struggles at our own locations.

We condemn the action of the Trinamool-led West Bengal government and the brutal lathicharge on the Nonadanga residents and their supporters on April 4, and the threat of impending everyday violence. We also condemn the arrest and framing of activists who stand in support of the resistance.

WE DEMAND:

Immediate and unconditional release of all the activists arrested on April 8. Drop charges against all seven of them: Debolina Chakraborty, Samik Chakraborty, Abhijnan Sarkar, Debjani Ghoah, Manas Chatterjee, Siddhartha Gupta and Partha Sarathi Ray.

Drop the draconian UAPA and all charges on Debolina Chakraborty, and release her immediately and unconditionally.

The state must stop further harassment of residents and activists, and apologise to the people for having infringed upon its democratic right to organise and dissent; and take action against the police officers involved in the lathicharge on April 4.

The right to housing and rehabilitation of the slum-dwellers and hawkers in Nonadanga must be immediately ensured in a fair and just manner so that that their labour-power is not further devalued.

All construction in Nonadanga by the KMDA must come to an immediate halt. The eviction drive in the city, and the anti-people programme of neo-liberal capitalist development of which it is an integral part, must be stopped.

The process of slum-eviction in Delhi must be stopped immediately and inhabitants of the jhuggi-jhopri clusters in the city should be provided with adequate land, and respectable housing with clean drinking-water sources and proper sanitation amenities.

Join a protest demonstration outside
Banga Bhavan on 25 April 11.30 am

Sd/-
All India Federation of Trade Unions(New)
All India Students Association
All India Revolutionary Students Organisation
Bigul Mazdoor Dasta
Disha Chatra Sagathan
Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra
Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association
Krantikari Naujawan Sabha
Krantikari Yuva Sangathan
Mazdoor Patrika
Mehnatkash Mazdoor Morcha
New Socialist Initiative
Peoples’ Democratic Front of India
Progressive Democratic Students Union
People’s Union for Democratic Rights
Posco Pratirodh Solidarity-Delhi
Radical Notes
Sanhati-Delhi
Shramik Sangram Committee
Students For Resistance
Vidyarthi Yuvajan Sabha

Update: Slum Razed Near Anand Parbat in West Delhi

Slum Razed Near Anand Parbat in West Delhi
Agitated Slum Dwellers Protest in Large Numbers Outside the Chief Minister’s Residence in Janpath
CM assures to look into the Case and Calls for a Stop to the Demolition

On April 20th 2012, officials from DDA, along with a huge deployment of policeman, began the process of demolition in Gayatri Colony, near Baljeet Nagar (Anand Parbat industrial area). Earlier last year, portions of this slum cluster were demolished by the DDA. It is to be noted that no prior notification was released by the DDA about this demolition drive. As a result, the residents were taken completely off-guard. When the hapless residents tried to collect their belongings, they were thrashed by the police. More than 1000 families have suffered a huge loss of property, and are now denied basic amenities like shelter, drinking water, sanitary facilities, etc. Even now bulldozers are razing large portions of the slum cluster.

The agitated slum dwellers decided to protest outside the Chief Minister’s Office in Janpath, and bring to her immediate attention the plight of the thousands of impoverished workers and their families residing in the slum. The agitation was carried out under the banner of the Ghar Bachao Morcha, a body formed by the slum dwellers last year itself. The Hon’ble Chief Minister met with a three member delegation which apprised her of the large scale loss faced by the residents. In a powerful memorandum submitted to Shrimati Sheila Dixit, the slum dwellers argued how the DDA was encroaching upon their right to shelter which is enshrined in the fundamental right to life [Article 21, Constitution of India]. The delegation also apprised her of the police atrocities committed during such demolition drives.

The agitating slum dwellers have highlighted how most of them are migrants who have come from villages and tribal belts in search of honest employment. Facing financial ruin due to the precarious agrarian cycle, or because they have been displaced due to industrial/mining projects in tribal belts, many migrants come to cities like Delhi. Most of the male migrants work in factories/sweatshops or as rickshaw-pullers and vendors. Women migrants work as maid-servants in people’s homes or participate in the informal sector of the economy. Despite their important role in the socio-economic fabric of this city they are treated with little respect and made to feel as if our lives have no value. The agitating slum dwellers also highlighted how in a city where the law pertaining to rent regulation and minimum wages are violated continuously, migrant workers have no option but to reside in the cities in the slums. With their meager incomes and faced with the problem of soaring rents in authorized colonies, they are forced to live in slum settlements like Gayatri Colony. Activists from the Ghar Bachao Morchs also highlighted that the past record of DDA’s slum-clearance clearly shows that lands from which slum dwellers are evicted are mostly used for construction of malls or high-rise residential complexes which only the rich can afford. This, they argued was most unfortunate, considering that the DDA is supposed to cater to the needs of all strata of society. However, in reality very little of DDA’s finances are spent on housing projects for the poor.

Hearing their case, the Chief Minister agreed to a second meeting on Monday, 23rd April at her residence. She has assured the Ghar Bachao Morcha members that DDA officials will also be present at the meeting so that some immediate resolutions can be reached. The question of compensation to those who have lost their belongings will be central to the discussion. As of now, the CM has also assured that the demolition drive will be stopped.


Alok Kumar
Convenor, Ghar Bachao Morcha

Slum Demolition, lathicharge and arrests in Anand Parbat, Delhi

Slum Razed Near Anand Parbat in West Delhi
DDA Calls in the Police in Large Numbers While Case is Still Pending in High Court
Activists and Slum Dwellers Lathi-charged and Arrested

On Friday, the 20th of April, agitated residents from the slum located in Gayatri Colony (Gulshan Chowk), near Anand Parbat industrial area, watched with horror and helplessness as bulldozers cleared away a large portion of the slum cluster. Resisting the sudden and brazen move of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the impoverished residents of the slum tried to fight back and save their belongings. However, they were overpowered by a large deployment of Delhi Police.

The Police, numbering almost 3000, resorted to a brutal lathicharge. At this moment, the Police has left several injured, and has also arrested six activists of the Ghar Bachao Morcha. The Ghar Bachao Morcha was formed from amongst the slum dwellers of Anand Parbat last year in March, when the DDA had made similar attempts to displace the residents. Most of the residents of this slum cluster are impoverished workers who are employed in the nearby factories of Anand Parbat. Last year when the DDA’s designs of displacement became clear, the residents organized themselves under the banner of the Ghar Bachao Morcha, and had demonstrated outside the DDA headquarters in Vikas Sadan. Realizing that the residents had filed a case in the High Court, the DDA temporarily withdrew its offensive. However suddenly, despite the case pending in Court, a demolition drive has begun again.

Apart from the six activists arrested, several residents of the slum were detained. Nevertheless, due to the pressure of the residents’ agitation, the DDA has, as of now, withdrawn from the site. Since the slum dwellers gheraoed the Anand Parbat thana, the Police were compelled to release the six activists from Ghar Bachao Morcha.

Unfortunately, a bleak future looms ahead of the slum dwellers, as even judicial proceedings fail to offer them protection and respite from the clutches of a building corporation determined to push through high income housing projects and construction of malls and shopping arcades. Housing for the poor and protection of their existing residence is hardly of concern to the urban development authorities. Realizing this, the slum dwellers are all the more determined to keep their struggle going so as to protect their right of residence in the city.

Alok Kumar
Convenor
Ghar Bachao Morcha
House No.T-44, Near Gopal Dairy, Baljeet Nagar, New Delhi-110008.
Mobile: 9313730069

Press Conference: Against Evictions and Repression in West Bengal (April 23, New Delhi)

PRESS CONFERENCE
AGAINST
EVICTIONS AND REPRESSION IN WEST BENGAL
April 23, 11 am at the Indian Women’s Press Corps,
5, WINDSOR PLACE, NEW DELHI-110001

On March 30, 2012, the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA), with the full support of the Trinamool Congress-led West Bengal government and its police force, bulldozed and burnt down the houses of over 200 families in the shantytown of Nonadanga in the name of ‘development’ and ‘beautification’. The dictatorial Trinamool government has unleashed police and ‘legal’ repression, on an everyday basis, on all those who have been trying to resist this. A march of residents, under the banner of Ucched Pratirodh Committee (Resistance to Eviction Committee), was brutally lathicharged by the police on April 4, and again a sit-in demonstration four days later (April 8th) was violently broken up and 67 people arrested. Subsequent meetings and rallies held in solidarity with the movement on April 9 and 12 were attacked by goons, and hundreds of activists were arrested by the police. Cases under Sections 353, 332, 141, 143, 148 and 149 of the IPC have been slapped on seven activists of various mass and democratic rights organisations, which stood in support of the Nonadanga movement. Six of them are either in jail or police remand till April 26, while Partho Sarathi Ray was released on bail on April 18. Debolina Chakrabarti has even been charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for ‘anti-national activities’. During a court hearing on April 12 a prosecution team of 40 lawyers made a concerted bid to implicate them in a slew of false cases and paint them as ‘anti-national’, even going so far as to claim that Nonadanga was used for “stockpiling arms and ammunition”. In spite of such unrelenting and brutal repression by the state, the people of Nonadanga have continued to resist.

The sword of eviction hangs not just on a Nonadanga, or for that matter a Bhalaswa (Delhi). Today in India, 256 lakh people are homeless or live in abject conditions in slums, and this number is progressively on the rise. Forget jobs or providing decent education, the state is retreating from all its responsibilities of providing working masses with the cost of living and reproduction. Evicting them from their homes has become the norm, as the cities are restructured according to the needs of the ruling classes.

In Delhi, more than two dozen left and progressive organisations have come together not just in solidarity with the Nonadanga struggle and the arrested activists, but, more importantly, to leverage this opportunity to link up the everyday struggles of their respective mass bases with one another. That, we think, is crucial in order to build a larger, countrywide urban resistance of the working people against the depredations of neo-liberal capital.

We invite members of the press to a press conference on April 23, 11 am at the Indian Women’s Press Corps, 5, WINDSOR PLACE, NEW DELHI-110001 to announce our future course of action and to express our solidarity with the Nonadanga struggle.

Sd/-
Nayanjyoti & Sunil – Coordinators
Contact: 8130589127