Interview with Shri.V. S. Achuthanandan

When Dream Reddens Again

The golden jubilee of the first cabinet of the united Kerala is celebrated in continuation of the golden jubilee celebration of the united Kerala. This is the land which Swami Vivekananda attributed as a lunatic asylum in the first half of the previous century. The mutual animosity of caste, religion and sectarianism and the related bad rituals prompted Vivekananda to attribute the land of Malayali in such a way.

It was the Renaissance movements and the subsequent leftist activities, which lifted up Kerala from such a condition to present day state. The Left fraction in Congress, the Farmers’Movement organised in 1936 as part of it, Communist Party formed in1937, Agricultural Labourers’ Union formed in 1940 – legendry agitations against feudalism and kingship and the culture of both of them, the agitations of industrial labourers since the beginning of the 40s, the supreme sacrificial battles against imperialism and the rule of Divan – as a result of all these Kerala shook off the state of being addressed as a lunatic asylum and leaped into prosperity. The sum total of that progress is the Communist Government that came into power in 1957. In 1959 communal, religious and retrogressive forces joined hands with Congress in the liberation agitation to coup that Government. The feudal power and right fraction conducted the liberation agitation with the aim of leading Kerala back to the state similar to a lunatic asylumas attributed by Vivekandanda.

Succeeding the liberation agitation, the Union Government sacked the EMS Ministry employing Article 356. That was a heavy blow inflicted on the real developmental progress of Kerala. The later history is the mixture of the brilliant fights to resist that retracing and the attempts by retrogressive forces to block that move.

What it means to celebrate the golden jubilee of the first ministry of united Kerala is, reminding the ebbs and flows of the progress of Kerala, and to learn and teach it.

On the very day of assuming power, EMS declared the policy of Communist ministry. That oration is a manifesto of our State’s developmental progress in the democratic way. The policy declaration made it clear how the promises Party put forth in its election manifesto would be materialised, what would be the obstacles and what would be the code of conduct of the Communist ministers.

EMS asserted the importance of bringing many private establishments under public ownerships and nationalisation of plantation, which are owned by foreigners. EM’s very famous policy declaration hints the scientific activities of future development of Kerala like friendly labour relationship, three party meeting in the case of labour dispute not using police force to suppress labour strikes, handing over of agricultural land to farmer, right on land by tenants, prevention of evacuation, popularisation of educational and health sector etc.

EMS told to the Opposition: “ Criticise our government as being an opposition, expose the flaws in the laws presented or steps taken and injustice or unrighteousness done by government collectively or a minister personally. These activities are the duty of these parties and organisations. We will welcome that with absolute sincerity too.

At the same time, these criticisms are to be performed with the aim to correct the mistakes of the Government and for the same reason I request them to remember that it is the responsibility of the opposition to render support for the good deeds we perform.”

By pointing out that Communist Party took same stand towards the Congress – PSP Government in Travancore – Cochin Legislature, EMS continued, “ If other parties decide to take such a stand, I have no doubt that the new government can start and carry ahead, at a certain extent, the job to build up a democratic and prosperous Kerala.”

The people of Kerala welcomed the policy declaration with great enthusiasm. The message was highly democratic. The Government is moving ahead very disciplined considering the opinions and suggestions of both the Opposition and the public. But in what the Opposition engrossed in the very beginning is trying to coup the government by propagations in the opposite direction.

The opposition engaged in relentless activities both inside and outside legislative assembly to destroy Communist Ministry. It was unbearable to them that a government, standing for the interest of the working class and farmers, was ruling the State. What they tried was to make a beeline of all retrogressive, vested-interested and conformist people and then turn them against the Communist Government. Thus, Opposition as leader, a communal, sectarian and retrogressive form of organisation originated.

For that there were three key fundamental reasons. Declaration of prevention of eviction was the first action EMS Government had taken. An ordinance preventing eviction of anybody. That emergency law came into force just within one week (April 11) of the ministry assuming power. That was the demand raised by Karshaka Sangh since 1936 and Farmers’ and Labourers’Movement since 1940. Farmers’ and Labourers’ Movement had been conducting very strong agitations along the State against eviction. The progressive background formed out of those agitations – the Communist Rule that came into existence on that background; the order issued immediately after taking power against the eviction of farmers from the lands they cultivate. That rule was a heavy blow on landlords and retrogressive forces.

Subsequent to that, the Land Reforms Bill was introduced. The Land Reforms Bill suggested giving land to the possessor after fixing a customs lease. A fair limit was fixed for the volume of land that could be in one’s possession. How could the giant landlords who kept in their custody thousands and tens of thousands acres of land, bear that?

Detailed discussion occurred before preparing the Land Reforms Bill. The Bill was prepared with group discussions. What made those discussions live was not the expertise in law but on the other side, the experience in working among farmers and agricultural labourers for a long period.

By passing Land Reform Bill on June 10th, 1959, feudalism was destroyed legally. A step towards realising the slogan, ‘Agricultural land for the Farmer.’ But there were a few hurdles before bringing that law into force. Moreover, there was strong protest also.

Revenue Department was handled by P.T. Chacko during the R. Shankar Ministry in 1963. What was done on that time was deforming the Land Reforms Bill. Later, when EMS came into power again in 1967, a comprehensive Land Reform Act was introduced. By then agricultural labourers became owners of the land. It was directed that the land beyond the ceiling should be declined as excess land. It was also decided to hand over the excess land to the landless. Ten cents in village and five cents in cities became tenants’ right. The tenant became owner of the land by giving customs lease on instalment basis.

But the landless will not become landlords just because a law is introduced. The Land Rule passed by the Legislature was a result of the strong public agitation. Strong agitation was also needed to implement it in proper way. Remember the legendry agitations taken place in two terms since the last of the year 1969.By fencing their land by both farmers and tenants in terms the first phase of agitation and by trespassing excess land, buildings and huts, and by performing cultivation and harvesting in the second phase of agitation. AKG’s brilliant fight in parliament. As a result of all these Central Government was resorted to include the Land Reforms Act in the ninth schedule of the Indian Constitution – all those made Kerala what it is. That means conflict and rule are a pursuit or are reciprocal. The 1957 Communist Government was nothing but a form of agitation. Communist governments working under the bourgeois set up are a genuine form of agitation even while they are being governments also.

The Education Bill introduced and passed by Education Minister Joseph Mundassery in 1957 June is the one, which created revolution in the educational arena. As in the case of land, in the field of education also a kind of feudalism was in existence. Education Act provided facility for education for all; introduced the practice of giving salary to the teachers directly by the Government. The Education Bill was introduced in a democratic way to restructure the educational sector, which was declined to a trade zone of communal and racial forces. Against that Bill, forces of communal, racial and the vested interests agitated in a frenzied manner. Suggestions such as the recruitment of teachers to management schools should be done from PSC list could not be implemented.

Like Educational policy and Land Reforms Rules, the Police Policy of EMS Government also was one that marked the fundamental changes. EMS declared that police would not interfere in labour disputes and labour agitations. Till that day police were used to suppress ordinary people, labourers and those who agitate. The declaration, “The duty of police is to keep law and order and investigation. Not suppressing agitations’ created a havoc. Capitalists and persons with vested interests yelled, “ The law and order is about to break down!” But that was a declaration, which poured confidence to all the working class.

Land Reform, Education Law, change in the bonded labour system, acknowledgement of service and salary terms – all these are steps are reciprocal in the development of Kerala; the basement of a comprehensive development. Self-respect and confidence were transmitted to the vast majority of laymen and the backward classes. Inferiority complex could be kept away. The road to the progress of life opened. The present government is going ahead by holding up the good tradition of that government.

Let this article be concluded by recollecting the last portion of policy declaration delivered by the Governor R.L. Bhatya’s in this year’s Legislature Assembly Meeting:

“This is the Golden Jubilee year ofthe assumption of office by the first communist Government led by EMS Namboothirippad in 1957, which laid the foundation for the modern State of Kerala. The development and welfare programmes initiated by that Government is taken as the model for us. My Government will vigorously pursue these policies and promise the people of Kerala that our march forward will be guided by the Left Democratic principles and polices. In this, my Government seeks the support and cooperation of all sections of society.”