Step Up the Initiatives on the Issues of People
by Kumar Parvez

After the ouster of the BJP from power in Bihar, the first winter session of the Bihar Legislative Assembly under the Mahagathbandan (Grand Alliance) government was held from December 13 to 19. The CPIML is supporting the Nitish Kumar led government from outside. Though the CPIML was invited to join the cabinet, the party instead of being a partner in power, wanted to play an important role in creating a meaningful dialogue between the government and the people by taking people's movements and issues to the government. The CPIML has demanded a common minimum program for the pro-people development of Bihar and a coordination committee including all the constituent parties of the Grand Alliance for the effective functioning of the government. Meanwhile, BJP is trying hard to convert Bihar into Uttar Pradesh by pushing communal narratives.

It is not enough to oust the BJP from the government; it needs to be ousted from the society. In this regard, the party presented Bihar CM Nitish Kumar with a vision document, which outlined administrative and legislative steps to effectively control the conspiracies and actions by the BJP- RSS Sangh brigade to convert Bihar into laboratory of communal frenzy and uproar.

During the period of the previous government, party had put forwarded the demand to stop large scale displacement of the poor from land in the name smart cities and other schemes like the ‘Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali Yojna’ (Water-life-greenery scheme). It was also demanded that a survey be conducted within a stipulated time frame and a new housing law be made on the basis of that. Other demands raised included that- all unfilled vacancies in the state be filled with permanent positions without any further delay; APMC act be restored; the recommendations of the land reform and education committees be implemented; land allotment be done for the landless poor; registration and provision of all tools for agricultural development be ensured for all tenant farmers; Immediate and concrete steps be taken towards construction of the Kadwan reservoir and repair of Sone and other canal and water systems; the poor who have been jailed under the prohibition law be immediately released, rehabilitated and action be taken against the liquor mafia; a respectful monthly honorarium be paid to all contract based scheme workers; and immediate reconstitution of Minorities, Women, SC-ST and human rights commission.

However, even after four months of the new government, there appears to be no visible concrete action in this direction. The large scale demolition and displacement of Dalit-poor continues unabated. In past few days bulldozers had been wreaking havoc on poor in Darbhanga, West Champaran, Nawada, Patna and Buxar and other places.

CPIML legislatures have decided to raise these concerns strongly in the winter session of Legislative Assembly and at the same time intensity people’s movement in the streets against these issues. Mehboob Alam, the leader of the CPIML legislature group also raised these concerns strongly at the meeting of the Grand Alliance.

A Draconian bulldozer Law

Contrary to the demands and expectations of the people of Bihar the state government has brought in the Bihar Municipality (Amendment) Bill 2022 which has now been passed by the Assembly. This amendment has made homeless poor more vulnerable by giving power to the municipalities to evict the poor on a 15-day notice, and for temporary structures a mere 24-hour notice will be effective. This means that the poor who mostly live in shanties will be ousted within 24 hours of serving an eviction notice. Furthermore, the amendment authorises to impose fines on the evictees, which is the most brutal way of displacing homeless, bulldozing their houses. Moreover, many rural areas have now been incorporated into the newly constituted Nagar Parishads and panchayats which mean that many poor living in rural areas will also come under purview of this anti-people amendment hence liable to be evicted from their houses. The party has termed this amendment draconian and demanded its withdrawal.

A delegation of CPIML MLAs in Bihar met with the Chief Minister on 15 December just a day before this amendment was passed in the Assembly, to submit a memorandum demanding an immediate stop to the evictions and displacements of poor without proper rehabilitation. The party asked for bringing in an Ordinance to this effect.

The Bihar government must conduct a methodical survey of homeless in the state and provide them their rightful housing and immediately withdraw this anti-poor legislation.

The tragedy in Saran

On the very first day of the Assembly Session, the tragic news of deaths caused by consumption of poisonous liquor was received. More than 70 people are suspected to have died. The statement made by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the assembly cannot be justified from any perspective. The CM not only refused to give compensation to the relatives of the deceased, but went on to say that whoever drinks will die. The BJP came into an attacking mode post the statement of the CM. This time it was a completely different political situation for the CPIML which was to resist the anti-people policies of the government while supporting the government. The party made it clear that irrespective of whatever the government says, the party’s commitment is towards the people. One team of CPIML legislatures went to Saran on 16 December. The team included party MLA’s Virendra Prasad Gupta, Manoj Manzil, former MLA Amarnath Yadav, Saran district secretary Sabha Rai and other local party leaders and activists. News of such deaths also started to come in from Siwan and other districts. House after house has been destroyed as families are left destitute and helpless and a bleak future awaits the children of those who have died.

A cold silence has gripped these Tolas. Most who have died were from poor and working class background from varying caste groups. In Saran, this is being referred to as the second genocide after the mid-day meal tragedy. The fact finding team met the families of Chandrama Ram, Brajesh Yadav, Noor Ansari and others who lost their lives. They also visited the Khushi Saah Tola. In such a situation, the responsibility of an elected government towards the citizens only increases, however Nitish Kumar has been adopting a stubborn attitude.

Unless action is taken against such mafia gangs, the series of deaths is not going to stop, nor will the prohibition law be successful in its purpose. On pretext of the tragedy in Saran, the BJP is trying to attack the Mahagathbandhan government. The BJP has been ruling Bihar for the last seventeen years till a few months ago when it was ousted and Mahagathbandhan took over. The Bihar BJP leaders now issuing statements on this tragedy are exposing its own hypocrisy on this subject. Earlier many BJP leaders were allegedly implicated for their involvement in illegal liq¬¬uor trade. The illicit liquor was seized from the premises of a school run by Ex-minister Ramsurat Rai and large numbers of liquor bottles were seized from a relative of leader of opposition in Bihar Assembly Vijay Sinha. This is being suspected that the killer liquor in Saran incident was supplied from the Yogi ruled Uttar Pradesh! While the prohibition has been a failed policy so far in Bihar, the BJP cannot exclude itself from taking the responsibility under whose rule dozens of illicit liquor death incidents had taken place.

CPIML has asked the Bihar government to conduct a high level prove into the liquor tragedy. The large number of deaths due to illicit liquor was reported earlier from BJP ruled states like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, now in Bihar we are facing similar kind of political patronage of the mafia leading to increased number of deaths in such incidents. The party had been asking since long to act against the liquor mafia and its political patrons but the inability of the Bihar government to act effectively has sadly led to this ghastly incident which is nothing less than a perpetrated massacre. The antiliquor legislation enacted in Bihar in 2016 was meant to provide relief from the adverse social ramifications of the liquor menace, but on the contrary, this is adding to another dimension of liquor deaths and lakhs of poor people being sent behind bars while the suppliers of spurious liquor and their protectors are doing business as usual.

Another worrying aspect is the use of prohibition as a weapon by police and administration to oppress dalits and poor in Bihar. One such incident occurred in Masaurhi district on 9 December. The police launched a reign of terror in Hansadih village on the houses of Musahar, Nat, Dom and other backward caste people where barbarity crossed all boundaries with women stripped and beaten up badly. A 55 year old woman Sonvan Devi died in police assault. This was certainly not intended when the prohibition law was brought into force. The objective and purpose of the law was not criminalise the people, but to provide welfare through de-addiction centres, proper rehabilitation, effective social reform campaigns and a thorough transformation of their miserable material conditions to effect a real change. Now the onus is on Mahagathbandhan government to work in this direction.

CPIML has demanded from the government to adopt a more sensitive approach and immediately release funds for the compensation and rehabilitation for the families of those killed as well as proper medical treatment of those fell sick. CPIML also demanded for the proper education etc. of the children of the affected people through governmental arrangement.

CPIML held statewide protests on 19 December in Bihar on these demands which were attended by thousands of people in all districts. The CPIML strongly condemned the insensitive attitude of Bihar CM and administration with regard to providing compensation to the victim families through these protests.

Party’s legislature group leader Mahboob Alam along with a group of CPIML MLAs met with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar on 19 December to press for the demands CPIML has raised in the aftermath of this incident. The CPIML legislators asked CM Nitish Kumar to invoke the clause of the prohibition law that provisions for seize of properties of liquor mafia and provides compensation to the victim families. Unless the actual perpetrators, their masterminds and protectors are not brought to justice, the actual purpose of prohibition cannot be achieved. CPIML has also demanded to constitute coordination committees at various levels by including representatives of political parties and social organisations for a campaign against liquor and that every block should have a de-addiction centre.

Increasing Police Atrocities in Bihar

CPIML Bihar state committee member, ex-chairperson of Bihar Women's Commission and ex-MLA Manju Prakash who was leading a protest demonstration against rape and murder of a dalit girl in Satanpur was attacked inside the Ujuarpur police station on 9 October 2022. There are video evidences that the police station incharge had gathered goons inside the station, who then attacked and manhandled Com. Manju. The protesters led Com. Manju were demanding arrest of the main accused who had BJP connections. CPIML has complained against the police station incharge to the Bihar administration but so far no action has been taken. This issue was raised by Mahboob Alam with the Chief Minister himself, still an effective action is awaited. In another incident, CPIML Dumraon MLA Ajit Kushwaha has been booked by police under fabricated charge of instigating suicide of an upper caste person who was arrested after a fight ensued between two groups in Kopvan village in Koransarai police station on 16 October. Here dalits were attacked by upper caste people and later an FIR was filed under SC/ST Act. This case is filed on the instructions on the SP. The Chief Minister has been apprised of this situation with a demand of immediate withdrawal of the FIR.
Step Up the Initiatives on the Issues of People