30 years of Naxalbari

An Epic of Heroic Struggle and Sacrifice



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 PART — 10



Economic Gains

Political Authority of Peasant Committees

Social Transformation


A mere glance at the lives of the people in the Guerilla Zones of Dandakaranya and North Telangana would be sufficient for the people of the country to welcome the new society being born in central India. In it, we can discern in an embryonic form the birth of the New Democratic India of the future. The changes in the guerilla zones are not just partial, not just material they are all-encompassing. With the economic, political and social changes taking place in DK and NT a new man is being born.... the socialist man. The dreams of Charu Mazumdar are turning to a reality. Naxalbari, that had blazed a new path for the people of our country, has taken a leap forward in the direction towards its final goal. The goal, is still, no doubt distant, there are yet hundreds of hurdles and obstacles to cross, but, the direction set by Naxalbari has proved correct. What is more, the last two and a half decades of experience, has cleared the hazy vision that was there at the start, has removed many of the cobwebs, has swept aside the years of muck accumulated by the revisionists, and has created a new hope for the bright future of our country.

But, what do we see as we walk through the villages, plains and forests of Dandakaranya and North Telangana ?

Economic Gains

The economic benefits gained through the movement have been quite substantial. First, the gigantic loot of the masses by the officials, specifically of the forest department, revenue department and of officials at various levels of the bureaucracy, has come to an end. Today, even the Gram Panchayats and Sarpanchs (whenever they continue to exist) are under complete scrutiny of the villagers led by the party and all government schemes are strictly implemented according to the decisions of the village bodies and all accounts are thoroughly checked. All this, in itself is a big gain, but it was only the beginning.

The major issue for the welfare of the masses has been the land question. With the landless and poor peasants comprising a large majority of the population, land distribution has been a key aspect of the movement. Lakhs and lakhs of acres of government land, waste land and forest land have been occupied by the landless. Thousands of acres of landlords land has been confiscated, some lie fallow, the rest has been redistributed to the landless and poor peasants. Besides, in making full use of the government schemes a large number of peasants have been able to dig wells, borewells etc and irrigate their land. So, what 15 years back was a large mass of people eking out a subsistence existence, are today peasants with at least three acres of land taking out one or two crops. This has made a big change in the economic conditions of the poorest. Also, in many villages, orchards of the landlords have been taken over by the peasants and now the fruits are distributed to all the villagers.

In labour rates there has been quite an increase all around. On the question of agricultural labour, the daily wage rates have increased three fold in the course of these years. Also, earlier the hours of work were indefinite and much unpaid labour went to the landlord. Now there is - now a strict eight hour working day and of course, the question of unpaid labour no longer exists. For yearly employed labour, the rates have more than doubled from Rs. 5000 yearly to Rs. 9000 to Rs. 12000 yearly. The biggest gains have been in the tendu leaf collection struggles and the bamboo cutting struggles (against the paper mills). In 1982 the contractors gave a mere three paise per bundle (of 75 leaves)....with yearly struggles, strikes, attacks on contractors’ godowns....the rates have steadily increased to 17 paise by 1984 and 80 paise by 1993. Today they get over a rupee per bundle. The difference can be estimated from the fact that where as earlier a family barely earned Rs. 200 in the leaf plucking season (of roughly one month) now they earn anything from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 5000. In parts of NT where the government refuses to give decent rates (having taken over the task from the contractor) the villagers sell their leaves privately. In bamboo cutting, the contractors, under the paper mills, gave a mere 30 paise per bundle (of 20 pieces of 2 meters length) in 1982. In 1996 the rate was Rs. 5.35 paise per bundle. Today bidi workers get roughly Rs. 30 to Rs. 32 for rolling 1000 bidis with a large number of other benefits. This can be compared to their counterparts in neighbouring Maharashtra who get barely Rs. 15 for 1000 bidis with no benefits. Then there have been struggles for an improvement in wages of tractor and lorry drivers, a big improvement in conditions of work of RTC bus workers and most important of all has been the struggles of the one lakh ten thousand workers of Singareni coal mines. They have achieved gains in wages linked with local issues, in better housing conditions, better schooling for their children, better hospital and sports facilities and on hundreds of small issues linked to exploitation and oppression by the management.

The peasantry too have made gains. They are now more easily able to utilise government schemes, bank loans, etc which were earlier cornered by the various rungs of the bureaucracy. Then there have been major struggles for the reduction in price of agricultural inputs-like seeds, fertilisers and pesticides, electricity charges, water cess, etc. Added to this there have been movements for getting a remunerative price for their produce.....they have successfully raised the price of cotton, sugarcane, tobacco, haldi and some other crops. Also in the forest areas they have successfully struggled against the traders and raised the price of various forest produce like Mahua, brooms, Pauvuru leaf and bark, ginjala nuts, baskets etc.

Then, general conditions have improved by putting an end to usury. The party has instructed that a maximum of 2% per month can be charged as interests on loans - earlier it was a minimum of 10% per month. Also, all traders and merchants have been strictly instructed to sell, their merchandise at not more than a 10% margin. Earlier these traders charged extortionist rates from villagers.

These are some of the economic gains, others are linked to overall village development.

Political Authority of the peasant committees

The peasant upsurge in DK and NT has smashed the authority of the landlords and established the power of the peasant committees. The more notorious landlords have been eliminated, others have fled to the cities, and many of the smaller ones have surrendered before the peasant committees. Initially it was the various mass organisations under the leadership of the party that dominated the village. The peasants were organised into the various peasant associations (RCS, DAKMS, etc), the youth into the RYL (those not involved in agriculture) the students into RSU and the women into the womens’ organisations (i.e. KAMS in DK and Mahila Vimukti Sangham in NT). These organisations, led by the party, virtually guided all-spheres of village life including the arbitration of inter personal problems.

But with the decision to establish DK and NT as primary-level guerilla zones, and, the call ‘All Power to the Peasant Committees’ taking shape, the organs of political power began to grow in these areas. The chief organ of political power is the revolutionary peasant committees or Gram Rajya Committee (GRC) as they are known. Also, an important organisation, first to harass the enemy and later also to establish the authority of the peasant committees, is the village defence squads - or Gram Rakshak Dal (GRD).

These organs of power are slowly taking shape throughout the guerilla zone. The GRC is being formed only where there is at least one party member to lead it. It is a united front of the various classes in the village - i.e. landless and poor peasant, middle peasant and in some places also the rich peasant. Under the GRC are three committees with five members each (two of whom are from the GRC). These are the (i) Co-operative Society (ii) the Village Development Committee (VDC) and (iii) the Panchayat Committee.

Co-operative Societies are being set up in many villages to help the peasants with loans etc- in times of need, specifically inputs during the monsoon. The society is set up with a corpus made with (i) a fixed contribution from each family (ii) donation from the party and (iii) money misappropriated and recovered from, say Sarpanch’s, some local Temple trusts etc. An interest of 1.5% per month is charged on the loans.

The Village Development Committee has two major tasks - first to utilise government schemes for the benefit of the village, and second to plan and organise development projects for the village. All over the guerilla zone it can be seen that the VDCs are functioning, undertaking : repairs and building roads, (in NT) schools, drainage schemes, water facilities and in some places even irrigation projects like tanks, bunds and small dams have been built. All the projects are built through voluntary labour (Shramdan) of the villagers and funds donated through collections. For larger projects like Dams the party assists by acquiring the use of tractors and lorries (free) owned by rich peasants, with diesel bought by the party. A few projects are of the size that can irrigate upto 1000 hectares. The VDC has also organised teachers for running schools which are not functioning.

The Panchayat Committee is basically to arbitrate disputes within the village - a ‘peoples’ court’ to settle problems and contradiction arising in the village. It can also meet out punishments if the crime is serious or recurring.

All committees are democratically elected and have yearly general body meetings to review the work of the committees.

Social transformation

The two major social evils of our society - caste oppression and women’s oppression - are much reduced in the guerilla zones - by conscious intervention and education by the party.

Earlier, even eight to ten years back, in village hotels SCs were made to drink out of separate glasses and were victims of extra-economic forms of coercion by the landlord (eg. Vetti-chakiri or unpaid labour, utilisation of their women etc). With the smashing of the landlord authority, these extra-economic forms of coercion have, of course, ended. Also, oppression of scheduled castes is now minimum with close interaction between all castes within the sanghams and committees. As SCs come from the poorer sections they will be found on most village-level committees. Also, inter-caste marriages, which were unheard of before, are now taking place with full support of the party (even if opposed by the families or village elders).

A lot of emphasis has been put on ending women’s oppression by consistent education of the villagers and supporting women in many cases of oppression. Wife beating, discarding women if unable to beget children, etc are all being fought. Dowry taking has been banned, and, if at all it takes place, has to be done secretly. Women are being encouraged to come out of the four walls of their house and participate in the social and political life of the village. The women’s organisations are playing an important role. Also irrational traditions like removal of bindi and bangles with the death of the husband, are being fought. Normally, all committees at the village level are encouraged to have at least one woman member.

Added to these, superstitious beliefs are being countered and a scientific temper encouraged. Specifically in the realm of health care this is being emphasised. Many of the irrational and traditional customs amongst tribals are slowly changing. Education is being encouraged and anyone who enters the party or even mass organisation activists, are first made literate.

Now, in the entire guerilla zone areas drinking of liquor has been banned. Through patient education over the years and with the mobilisation of women, long before the AP government brought in prohibition, drinking had been reduced to a minimum. With this, much social tensions in the village and in the family has been reduced and economic conditions of a large section of people bettered. Also, since the last few years, the party has issued a total ban on cutting forest trees. Even fire-wood is to be only collected from the dry and dead branches. Previously, entire tribal villages existed on felling the forest and selling the wood in nearby urban centres - now, these same people, live by agriculture. An environmental consciousness is brought to the people by educating them about the importance of forests for rain.

These economic, political and social changes which are clearly visible in the guerilla zone areas of DK and NT are to a large extent also visible, if to a lesser degree, in the other three regions which are at the preparatory stage of guerilla zone-that is the Eastern Zone, the South Telangana region and the Nallamala forest region. But, the leading factor in all this change has been the Party.



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