The CPI(M) had undertaken an agitation on the issue of price rise and demanding removal of glaring irregularities in the Public Distribution System (PDS) and strengthening of the system. As a part of this struggle, the party had launched an indefinite hunger strike on 2nd June, at various locations across Maharashtra, including Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Jalgaon etc.
The hunger strike in Mumbai (staged at the Azad maidan in the city) was led by Com. Ashok Davle, State Secretary of CPI (M). Prominent leaders like Com, Mahendra Singh (Mumbai Secretary), Com. Shailendra Kamble, State Sec. of the DYFI et al were among the 25 - member team that comprised of leaders (including a couple of Keralites) on strike.
As the hunger strike reached 4th day, Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh, the State chief minister, called for a meeting with the striking comrades. Com. Ashok Davle, Com, K L Bajaj (CC member), Com. Mahendra Singh, Com. Shailendra Kamble, Com. Marium Davle (State Secretariat) and Com. Adam Narzia, MLA represented the party in the talks.
The CPI(M) had undertaken an agitation on the issue of price rise and demanding removal of glaring irregularities in the Public Distribution System (PDS) and strengthening of the system. As a part of this struggle, the Party had launched an indefinite hunger strike on 2nd June, at various locations across Maharashtra, including Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Jalgaon etc.
Some of the major demands which pertained to the PDS system and the government's response to the same are detailed below. Inputs were from Dr. Vivek Monteiro, secretary, CITU, Maharashtra State Committee.
a) One of the demands was for APL card holders to be given the APL quota of 35 kilos (20 kilos of wheat + 15 kilos of rice) at APL rate in the ration shops. The Chief Minister, in principle agreed for the implementation of a quota of 25 kilos (15 kilos of wheat + 10 kilos of rice) at the APL rate. The decision was subject to cabinet approval in a meeting scheduled for the 12th of this month.
b) The Chief Minister also agreed to meet up with representatives of various vigilance committee members in charge of invigilation of fair price, ration and PDS schemes in various districts in the state apart from meeting up with representatives of Janwati Mahila Sanghatana to understand the problems in the schemes.
c) Leakages in implementation of the kerosene quota in various districts would be plugged, the Chief Minister promised and assured the CPI(M) delegation that the minimum quota of 70% distribution will be maintained. In Nashik, due to the party's intervention, the leakages were sufficiently plugged and the quota was successfully distributed to the tune of 82%.
d) A demand was made for increasing the salary limit to Rs 50,000 from 15,000 per annum for BPL card holders. The CM agreed to an increase to Rs 30,000 subjecting the decision to cabinet approval.
e) The CPI(M) demanded that the people were informed about the presence of a Gazette Record that detailed the names and addresses of officers in charge of the PDS, through publicity campaigns and advertisements launched by the government. The Chief Minister agreed to the demand and assured that such a campaign will be underway very soon.
f) A separate demand was made for assured delivery of 13 components in the PDS basket to which the CM suggested that the government was not in a position to give the assurance rightaway.
Apart from these core common demands, the party launched agitations in local areas over other local issues as well:
In Nandurbarg, for example, many people had lost their ration cards due to a flood situation. The party had demanded re-instation of all ration cards to such people, a demand which was agreed to by the collector. In Sholapur, with the construction of the Godavari Parulekar residential complex, the party agitated for shifting of work factories (beedi units) to this complex. The demand was approved after a staunch agitation.
The promises effectively mark the acceptance of the demands and proved to be a commendable victory for the CPI(M). Based on these promises, the party decided to call off the strike. The strike was formally called off at around 12.30 PM on the 6th of June.
Mahendra Singh of the DYFI said that the strike is being withdrawn taking the CM's promises at face value. He also said that the agitations will be intensified if the government acts complacent and promises are not fulfilled. Hunger strikes at various other locations across Maharshtra were also withdrawn subsequently.