Reports of recent developments in Nepal and the Maoist-led government's proposed crackdown on workers' struggle.
Several months ago we reported public statements by Maoist government ministers that they intended to legislate to ban strikes (see http://libcom.org/news/nepal-victory-turns-sour-22012009). This was received badly by some pro-Maoist internet leftists; on more than one site it was falsely insinuated that we were dishonest and/or inaccurate (though they failed to show any evidence of this), that we had misinterpreted the meaning of these statements or their motive etc. With quite desperate and convoluted argument, some even tried to defend a strike ban as part of the 'building of socialism' in the interests of the working class.
As previously reported, to encourage foreign capitalist investment the Maoists have already passed legislation to restrict workers' rights to defend their interests in the proposed Economic Processing Zones (EPZs).
KATHMANDU, Jan 22: After four years of finalizing the draft, the cabinet on Thursday endorsed Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act, paving way for the implementation of the SEZ projects in the country. [...]
...the Act treats SEZ as a land where other domestic laws related to labor and industries would not be applicable. It has mooted an autonomous SEZ Authority to oversee its operations.
The source stated that the ratification of the Act, which had so far lingered due to the differences over the tighter labor provisions, had became possible after the seven parties recently agreed not to launch strikes in the industries or disturb productions.
“The Act allows workers to unite and practice collective bargaining, but prohibits them from undertaking activities that affect production and normal operations of industries,” said the source. It also allows the entrepreneurs to hire workers on a contract basis. [Our emphasis.] http://myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=1357
Now Maoist finance minister Dr Bhattrai has told Nepal's International Chamber of Commerce that the promised strike ban will soon be operational;
"We are in a new political set-up and it demands a new outlook in business and industries also," said Bhattrai. He assured entrepreneurs that the private sector would remain a key economic player in the country. He asked business communities to explore fields of competitive advantage.
Nepal is in political transition and there are many problems in trade and commerce sector. "The government knows the problems and is working to solve them," Dr Bhattarai said. The government has been providing subsidies in fuel to industries from the second half of March.
Furthermore, the government is planning to restrict bandhs [street protests] and strikes in industries and essential commodities. "Such regulations will come soon," he assured.
(Himalayan Times online - Apr 10 2009)
That seems clear enough, even for pro-Maoist leftists.
Masters and slaves - bonded labourers return to masters for support.
The Maoist-led government in 2008 officially abolished the Haliya system of bonded labour that survived in the more remote parts of Nepal. "Haliya also refers to the bonded labourers and the literal translation means 'one who ploughs'. Labourers have to work as haliya to pay off loans to their moneylender-landlord. Once in debt they lose all control over their conditions and through exorbitant interest rates and other charges become trapped and unable to pay off their debt." (Anti-Slavery International.) The Haliyas largely belong to three categories: the traditional ones, born into Haliya families; Haliyas who spend their lives trying to pay off debt inherited from their forefathers; and those who till their masters’ land. A majority belong to the second category. Haliya predominantly affects the Dalit untouchable Hindu caste of western Nepal.
But since abolition the government have provided no infrastructure to replace the former means of subsistence, leaving the 'Haliyas' (bonded labourers) and their dependents with no means of support.
“The government did precious little to ensure our rehabilitation,” said a frustrated Dhani, who had little option but to opt for servility to fend for a large family of 10 members.
His life story resonates with social ills that are yet to be weeded out in this day and age.
Dhani was released from Gore Saud’s household last year. Subsequently, he submitted a plea in the District Office, Doti, claiming his freedom.
But, in retrospect, the longing for a better secured future has backfired.
“I’ve to depend on my old master again since the government has failed to come up alternative means of livelihood for me,” lamented Dhani.
For some, things are even worse;
Dhani has a brother-in-arms in Tula Ram Mul of Barbata of Doti, who, too, is seeking a bonded existence all over again. He had gained freedom a good three years ago. But, even human bondage is not finding any taker these days as Tula Ram found out to his dismay.
Nar Bahadur Sarki, a freed Haliya from Chhatiban, is also in the horns of a dilemma. He has been denied an opportunity to serve his old master.
(Himalayan Times online - Apr 9 2009)
Matrika Yadav, a former leading Maoist, has split from the ruling Unified CPN (Maoist) party - claiming that leader Prachanda/Kamal and co have abandoned socialist principles and are living in luxurious corruption. (Maoist ministers have chauffeur driven cars and salaries 40 times the average Nepali wage.) He has organised a new party - CPN-Maoist - with other disaffected Maoists.
On Wednesday night (8th Apr) these two factions clashed in Biratnagar bazaar, south-east Nepal. Matrika's faction torched a bus in which the Unified Maoist cadres were travellng. Shots were fired, with some casualties including police. Since then the police are patrolling in large numbers and have had to use baton charges and tear gas to break up clashes. Things are now reported to have quietened down.
Across Nepal such clashes are occurring regularly between different political rivals - disputing various political, ethnic, separatist and other territorial claims. One legacy of the Maoist civil war is that the gun is becoming the first resort in settling rival claims - bullets have become the dominant mode of political discourse.