The Election Commission who conspicuously delayed declaration of the dates of assembly election under the pretext of completion of rehabilitation work of flood-ravaged Banaskantha finally announced that polls would be held in two phases, on 9 and 14 December. It is alleged that this unusual delay was to facilitate declaration of some customary pre-poll sops to the people of the state by the Prime Minister to assuage their hostile feelings. In keeping with lately emerged pattern of 2-party democracy, it is the BJP and the Congress, who are the main contenders. Both these parties had started their pre-poll sorties long back and the whole and sole plank of their propaganda has been to take pot shots at each other, often stooping very low and transcending limits of decency. Not a single people’s issue is being addressed. Disgusted with such rotten power-mongering under the cloak of politics, to be precise electoral politics, common people have been becoming more and more indifferent to political affairs allowing the capitalist rulers and their political agents to continue their oppressive rule with impunity. A brief overview of the people’s growing ordeal and how the ruling BJP is cunningly bypassing the burning people’s issues and instead projecting irrelevant non-issues to divert and confuse people on the eve of election would expose the great deception that has become the hallmark of bourgeois vote politics in India.
Growing plight and pauperization of people in 22 years of BJP rule
A myth has been created that Gujarat is a ‘vibrant’ state with spectacular all-round development worth of being showcased throughout the country. But the reality is just the reverse. Like all other parts of the country, downtrodden people of Gujarat are equally plagued with growing poverty and misery. Life and livelihood is devastated in every respect. While the ruling BJP is raising the slogan of “Hu chhu Vikas, Hu chhu Gujarat” (I am the development, I am Gujarat), major sections of the toiling working masses are on the streets to protest against growing misery and poverty tearing them apart.
Devastation of the peasants
Prices of essential food articles are sky-rocketing. But, the producers of these commodities, i.e. the peasants are not getting even the price for covering up their expenses which have been rising enormously because of spurt in the cost of seeds, pesticides, fertilizers. There is no facility of cold storage for perishable items like vegetables, fruits, etc. As a result, peasants are forced to sell out those crops at a very low price. Government delays declaration of Minimum Support Price so much that the peasants do not wait for it and go for distress sale. Despite the tall claims of Gujarat’s development, as many as 2,766 of the state’s farmers have committed suicide between 2003 and 2016. The disruptive consequences of demonetization led to a further fall in incomes, threatened agricultural production and created uncertainty about any revival of agricultural growth. A large number of the rural poor have no access to drinking water.
In absence of adequate irrigation facility, the farmers still depend on rain god for cultivation. Even after so many years, no proper irrigation facility has been developed by the government. Narmada irrigation system is still a mirage. After so many decades and incessant drum-beating by Shri Narendra Modi and the BJP, the work of sub-canal and minor-canal is still not completed. Wherever it is completed, it is of so low a quality that often cracks appear and water rushes to the nearby farmlands or villages causing further damage. The recent floods in Banaskantha district were partly attributed to such cleavage in Narmada main canal. Some more statistical facts about Narmada are revealing:
The determined irrigation due to Narmada project was about 17.92 lakh hectares. But today only 2 lakh hectares are being irrigated.
Still canal work of 42000 km is unaccomplished.
Originally, the total cost of the complete project was estimated to be Rs. 6000 Crore. But now the estimate has gone up to Rs. 1 lakh Crore.
Notably, a law curtailing the right of the peasants to irrigation has been enacted in the state assembly. The plight of the peasants would be further aggravated when they would face forcible grab of their cultivable land for construction of Airport, Highways, SEZ, Special Investment Region (SIR), Delhi-Mumbai industrial Corridor (DMIC), Bullet train, etc. and would be evicted from their home and hearth. Alternate cycles of drought and flood rattle their livelihood.
Peril of the working class
The working class is also in peril. Shutters are downed in many industries throwing thousands out of job. 60,000 small industries have been closed down. Of late, much-clamoured Nano factory in Sananda has announced closure. The employees of Nano had to struggle for months and face police torture and rustication before getting their right to do union. Now they are facing job loss. Minimum wage has reached the bottom. Migrant labourers as well as locals working in the power-looms, diamond industry, garment factories, textile mills, chemical and pharmaceutical factories work under inhuman condition where they don’t get even basic facilities of drinking water, toilets, ventilation, etc. Most of them don’t have identity cards. Factory registers do not mention their names. Instead, fictitious names are mentioned so that there is no record of their employment. They work in most unhygienic conditions for 12, 14 or even 18 hours a day and are paid meager wage. They are not allowed to undertake trade union activities in their factories. Even media portray such hapless labourers in such a bad light that an anti-working class mind develops among other sections of the common people. When these workers being unable to bear with the gruelling oppression rise in protest, struggle for their legitimate rights or resort to strikes, the capitalist owners in connivance with the state government and vested interest cunningly seek to impress upon people that these are attempts to disrupt production and disturb industrial peace. Similarly, ASHA and anganwadi workers, mostly impoverished women, are yet to get subsistence level remuneration for the arduous job they perform. No better are the white collar employees including bank employees. The highly undemocratic labour reform severely restricting the basic rights of the workers, which could not be brought in the Parliament, was enacted by the Gujarat Government in the state assembly with the help of majority.
Unemployment continues to mount despite all mouthful assurances of the BJP government and leaders. Plight of the unemployed youth knows no bound. Let alone those who are denied access to highly expensive education even highly educated students, gold-medalists and doctorates are without employment. Only a few are fortunate to have some stray jobs at low wage on contract basis. Despite contractual appointment being prohibited by law, the government is an indulgent onlooker to such contract jobs offered by the private agencies to exploit the unemployed youths.
Education curtailed and made accessible only to a few rich
Rampant privatization and commercialization has made education exclusive preserve of the rich and affluent. The menace of donation, tuitions, autocratic behavior of the private institution management, large number of vacancies in the posts of teaching and non-teaching staff, appointment of part-time, ad hoc and contractual teachers at less than half the normal salary, unthinkable student teacher ratio of 100 : 1 are some of the general features of the Education System in Gujarat. All the central or state policies have proved to be detrimental to the spirit of democratic, secular and scientific education- be it Semester System, NEET or Fee Regulation Act. The students, parents, teachers and associated employees are left in lurch. A Higher Education Council Act curbing the autonomy of the Universities was passed within few minutes on the last day of the assembly session in the absence of Opposition. The standard of education has been deteriorating to an alarming level. The state is 13th in terms of admission in higher education. There is no intention on the part of the government to control the privately managed institutions. Some figures would be revealing:—
56% dropout between standard (class) 10 to 12.
26% dropout between class 1 to 10 in the state.
In total 77.56 lakh students leave their studies before coming to higher education.
The students pursuing higher education in the entire country is 18%, while it is just 14.72% in Gujarat.
27.49% of primary schools in the state don’t have standard 8.
According to a government report of 2017, only 858 primary schools out of 34,237 are of A+ grade, 11,134 schools are of A grade while the rest of the schools are of D grade.
One fourth of the total schools in the state are private.
44.56% of secondary and higher secondary schools in the state don’t have laboratories.
30% of the teachers in secondary schools are ad hoc.
Average Student-Teacher ratio in Colleges and Universities is 85:1.
Out of total 59 universities in the state, only 33 are government universities.
The number of Government Medical Colleges is only 6 against 15 Self-Financed Medical Colleges.
There are 16,000 vacancies of teachers in primary school and about 10,000 of lecturers in Higher Education.
Similarly sordid is the state of affairs in the health sector. Rapidly deteriorating service and facilities in the government hospitals are compelling common people to opt for highly expensive treatment in private hospitals. During monsoon, epidemics like Swine Flu, Malaria and Chikungunia claimed more lives than what were lost in the flood. A few data would throw more light on the sorry state of health in the state:
About 1029 children died in Ahmedabad Civil Hospital in last 10 months.
Gujarat stands 9th in the entire country in infant mortality rate.
According to C.A.G. report of 2016, there is 77% vacancy of Specialist Doctors, 72% vacancy of Nursing Staff and 41% vacancy of Paramedical staff. Even the number of beds is less by 73%.
The number of Community Health Centres at district level is 73% less, 219 Primary Health Centres are less while 948 Sub level Health Centres are less in the state.
There are 16,574 vacancies of doctors in 3000 Community Health Centre and 67 Government Hospitals.
Out of 75 sanctioned vacancies of Pediatricians in Government General Hospitals, only 23 are filled.
Malnutrition, child mortality and women health is lower than national average.
Wherever SUCI(C) workers are campaigning, the people are highlighting non-availability of due civic service from the BJP-run highly corrupt Municipal Corporations in major cities. People have been vociferous about complete inaction on the part of the Municipalities and Nagarpalikas during the monsoon in particular, when people witnessed the most corrupt and ineffective administration of Municipal Corporations. The entire state is water-logged, roads are flooded, street lights go off now and then, pits and manholes submerged in water cause accidents in large number and outbreak of epidemics is common.
Growing insecurity and lack of safety
There is growing insecurity and lack of safety of the citizens. Theft, loot, murder of lonely elderly persons for robbery, harassment by bikers’ gang, spurt in hit and run cases, growing crime against women including rape, gang rape, sexual harassment and eve-teasing are rampant. The government who waxes eloquent about ‘Beti porao, beti bachao’ is not at all serious about desirable implementation of Domestic Violence Act, Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act, etc. Not even a Protection Officer has been appointed. The anti-Sexual Harassment Committees are only on paper. In spite of prohibition, liquor sale and consumption are going on unabated. Everyone knows that the sprawling illegal liquor trade and its mafia kingpins have controlling influence on the government and administration. Ironically, though the recent amendment in Prohibition Act has included the provision of hanging the violators, not a single arrest has been made so far. Still more ironical is the appointment of ‘Vahivatdaar’ (Middlemen) in all the Police Stations, ostensibly with strings pulled from behind. Extent of crime against women would be clear from the following figures:
Total number of Crimes:3859
Rapes: 343; Dowry related crimes : 2961; Eve teasing: 762
In the last 4 years, more than 950 teenage girls became rape victims in Ahmedabad city alone. Culprits of only 250 cases were hauled up.
Gujarat ranks 108th in Male-Female equality.
Gujarat is 25th in Male : Female ratio.
Environment surcharged with fear and tension
Since the horrific anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002, the atmosphere continues to be surcharged with tension as the RSS-BJP and their Saffron Brigade have been continuously spewing communal venom with a gusto perpetuating a sense of fear and insecurity among the Muslim minorities. Of late, self-appointed cow vigilant groups are on a prowl harassing, persecuting and even killing anyone they like on the pretext of preserving honour of the cow. The culprits of ghastly dalit lynching incident of Una are roaming free on bail. The report of the committee appointed to probe into another incident of dalit lynching at Thangadh has not been published. The very social mosaic of the state is under strain.
Not a single people’s issue is addressed by either BJP or Congress
But while such are the burning issues wreaking havoc in people’s life, the BJP having understood that fake slogan of development would work no more, has been carefully skirting the key issues and instead fanning up communal-casteist sentiment to garner votes. Now Prime Minister Narendra Modi and all other front-ranking leaders of the BJP have made a beeline in Gujarat to woo the voters, not by addressing any of their pressing problems, but highlighting non-issues in the context of the election like Kashmir situation, terrorism, international diplomacy, certificate of country’s development from IMF and World Bank and so on and so forth. It appears that it is not a state election but a parliament poll. The Prime Minister and his colleagues are busy on self-eulogy over ‘phenomenal growth and development’ of the country in last three years of BJP rule completely bypassing their scorecard of performance in the state in the last 22 years. Beating about the bush, fuelling Hindu communal sentiment by raking up Ram mandir issue, taking potshots at the Congress, their main parliamentary opposition, inciting narrow sectarian Gujarat-chauvinism and dishing out trashes like self-proclaimed “Chaiwala” credential of the Prime minister are what the BJP leaders have chosen as their plank for seeking vote. And they have the corporate media standing by them in their good stead in this bid of self-projection and self-support. On the other hand, the Congress trying to better prospects by riding on the anti-incumbency factor is also traversing almost on the same line, befriending the casteist forces, peddling soft-Hindutva and indulging in personal attack against the BJP. If one wishes to see what low has stooped murky bourgeois vote politics in decadent moribund stinking capitalism, one can come to Gujarat and be a witness. Money is flowing like anything—so are false promises which BJP President Amit Shah termed openly as ‘electoral gimmicks’. They have the least concern for people’s cause. To them, people are not human beings but are mere voters who are to be bluffed and hoodwinked in every possible way to grab seats and pave way for self-aggrandizement.
Make SUCI(C) candidates victorious
While these two trusted representatives of the ruling monopolists in alliance with other opportunist bourgeois groups are in the fray with the singular objective of grabbing pelf and power, the SUCI(C), upholding the banner of genuine struggling leftism and relentlessly pursuing the revolutionary line of developing class and mass struggles based on higher proletarian culture, is providing the alternate current of value-based socially purposive politics. With an appeal to elect tested soldiers of democratic movement and reflect the voice of the people inside the assembly, the SUCI(C) has fielded three candidates in three constituencies-Ellisbridge (Ahmeda-bad), Manjalpur (Vadodara) and Limbayat (Surat). SUCI(C) calls upon the right-thinking conscious people of Gujarat to wholeheartedly stand by its candidates and make them victorious.