Saturday, July 16, 2016

“Come and See Blood on the Streets”

By Nilotpal Basu

Peoples Democracy, 5th June, 2016

THE playing out of gruesome violence in post-poll West Bengal will put many a horrific nightmare to shame. What makes this violence almost inexplicable to the uninitiated in the `hell-hole’ of the present political landscape of the state is the `massive mandate’, which columnists and contributors are so eloquent in articulating. No wonder! We have been tutored since our childhood to believe that `victors’ have to be forgiving; there is no room for vengeance in triumph.

But, obviously, not so in present West Bengal. In fact, what is playing out is quite the contrary. The TMC chief and the re-elected chief minister had held out the threat in the run-up to the election in repeated public meetings that once re-elected, the new administration would see to it `inch by inch’ that the efforts of the people and the opposition to defeat the TMC is ‘taken care of’. The campaign had highlighted quite blatant threats to the Election Commission and sections of the administration who were active under the `model code of conduct’ for ensuring a free and fair polls to the assembly. It may otherwise escape the attention of the ‘columnists’ but only 32 lakhs separate the popular support of the TMC front from that of the opposition; but the TMC is most acutely aware of this reality. So, even though it may appear to be otherwise inexplicable, the violence can only be decoded by the special, if not obnoxious, nature of the regime that lords over West Bengal. It is an out and out authoritarian regime that runs the state. It was the same before the elections; now even more so.

That the rule of law is at best a notional idea in the state is clear. Despite the efforts of holding free and fair poll, the fact remains that four CPI(M) activists were killed in the run-up to the elections. And, each of these killings were directly linked to undermine the opposition and, in particular, the CPI(M) and the Left. The violence was linked to targeting of polling agents and potential polling agents and specifically aimed at scaring away voters. In most of these cases, the killers who have been named in the police complaints have not been arrested.

Despite the atmosphere of terror and intimidation, popular urge for exercising the franchise was visible. That the `MCC’ regime of the couple of months since the announcement of the election dates could not completely neutralise the affects of terror is also equally true. Therefore, the present spate of violence is particularly targeting the `resistance’ and its nucleus – CPI(M) and the Left. The clear design is to dismantle and decimate the Party and the Left, as well as, all other opposition forces.

In these pages, details of the violence have been chronicled in the last few issues. For sure, given the current trend, it will continue to be reported for quite some time in the future. But what has to be noted is not just the physical description of the violence; but the pattern which reveals this sinister design.

Notwithstanding the spread of the violence across the length and breadth of the 20 districts of the state, what is particularly noteworthy is the fact that violence and terror has been more intense and focused in areas where the opposition has managed to register an electoral victory over the TMC, be it an assembly segment, or a municipal ward or panchayat or even a single polling booth. The basic idea is to stifle the spirit of resistance and rupture the links with the people which have resulted in the electoral reverse of the ruling party in these places.

That areas which need to be specially noted to understand this cynical plot takes us to the Jadavpur assembly constituency. In 2011 assembly elections, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya was defeated by over 30,000 votes. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the CPI(M) candidate trailed substantially. In most of the municipal wards, massive rigging led to the defeat of the Left candidates in the Kolkata municipal elections. However, this time around, Sujan Chakraborty, CPI(M) state secretariat member, won by nearly 15,000 votes. Not only that, he scored a lead in each of the ten municipal wards. This was made possible by both popular resistance as well as the measures initiated by the EC. Chakraborty defeated the incumbent power minister and former home secretary who was the TMC nominee. The chief minister herself had cast doubts about the results and expressed the need for `going into the matter’. Naturally, that is now playing out in the most medieval violence that has been let loose on not only the Party and the Left but even common voters. Attacks on houses and capture of Party offices is now the every day reality.

Another such area is Haldia, the industrial hub which adjoins Nandigram. In this area, the Party and the Left not only faced the violence by the TMC but also attempted disruption by the newly-formed party of Lakshman Seth, former MP and former Party state committee member who had been expelled for his anti-people and anti-Party activities. But braving all these, a woman, Tapasi Mondal of the CPI(M) was elected by over 10,000 votes. Therefore, this area has also come as a special target where indiscriminate violence including that on the house of the newly elected MLA is for all there to see. One could go on with countless similar instances.

Countless offices of the CPI(M), different mass and class organisations across the state have been forcibly occupied, gutted, demolished. Party leaders, mass organisation leaders, elected members at the local level, candidates and, of course, voters, none are being spared. Areas in which the TMC had to suffer reverse, voters are asked to pay an exorbitant amount as fines for carrying on their life and livelihood in their home and hearth.

The most cynical aspect of this violence is the complete inaction of the police administration in dealing with offences which stem from political vendetta. The reasons are not hard to find. Officers of the civil and the police administration who had been transferred out by the Election Commission during the pendency of MCC have been reverted back to their earlier positions immediately on the assumption of office, notwithstanding the public approval of officers who had covered themselves with positive impact on the fairness of the election process. Similarly, number of ministers who had lost the elections had been appointed in high level positions in their respective erstwhile departments. This is to send out a clear message that these defeats are of no consequence, so far as the ruling party is concerned!

The intense orchestrated violence is accompanied with another major threat of communal polarisation. The repeated visits of prime minister Modi in West Bengal in the run up to the assembly elections and his `intended’ attacks on the TMC was to create an atmosphere of polarisation and to cut down the possible electoral loss for the TMC. The North Bengal districts which were considered a strong ground for the Left and secular opposition saw a more pronounced presence of the BJP. Two of its three seats where they have won falls in this region. The votes polled by BJP in North Bengal is 16 percent as compared to 8 percent in the south Bengal districts. Overall, the BJP’s vote share has come down from 17 percent in 2014 Lok Sabha elections to 10 percent in the 2016 assembly elections. It is also clear that the victories were registered due to unusual decrease of the TMC votes in these seats.

Naturally, this selective presence of the BJP and the accompanying communal campaign is complemented by the TMC’s pandering to minority communal forces. The latest evidence of this is in the form of inclusion of Siddiqullah Chaudhury who was till the other day associated with Jamaat-e-Ulema and had openly supported the activities of fundamentalist groups in Bangladesh.
Therefore, it is the continuous quid-pro-quo between the ruling party in the centre and that in the state will loom large.

The authoritarian build-up during the last five years will be further accentuated is a fact which is becoming increasingly clear.

While it is clear that the violence that we are witnessing is far more intense and widespread than in the `hoodlum days’ of the seventies and the semi-fascist regime of Siddharth Shankar Ray, the growing unity of the people is also something which one cannot miss. Braving the violence in the very initial days of these post-poll violence are signs of resistance in certain areas. Villagers, poor people who have got together, chased away miscreants and attackers. There has been widespread revulsion against an incident where a pregnant woman had to suffer a miscarriage of her unborn foetus when she was pushed and kicked while attempting to save her husband and his companions from the attacks launched by the TMC goons. There is major protest particularly in the social media over the lynching of a girl student in Ashutosh College in South Kolkata when she went to collect her admit card for the examination simply because she happens to be an SFI activist.

Therefore, unity and resistance, is the way forward. Authoritarianism cannot be permanent. Issues of policy of both the central and state governments will definitely adversely affect the life and livelihood of the people. Struggle for restoration of democracy and against these anti-people policies will go hand-in-hand to restore civil rights. It is with this in mind that the CPI(M) Polit Bureau, in its recently-held meeting, has given a clarion call: “Under these circumstances, the CPI(M) calls upon the people of West Bengal to unitedly resist this murder of democracy and civil liberties in the state. The strength of the people’s unity is the answer to meet this unprecedented unleashing of violence.”


INTENSIVE political violence against the opposition is continuing after election results have been declared in West Bengal. Ten Left Front activists have been killed during and after the election process, four of them after the declaration of results. But the magnitude of the attack cannot be comprehended only through the number of the killed. 1,924 activists and supporters have been injured in the attack; many of them were admitted in hospitals. More than 9,200 persons have been rendered homeless, 2,876 houses were ransacked, destroyed or burnt. At least in 12 cases, cluster of houses in the villages were put to flames. In a clear message that opposition parties will not be allowed to function in a normal manner, offices of Left parties and mass organisations were attacked, destroyed, ransacked, seized or burnt in large numbers. 575 offices of the CPI(M) or Left parties and 128 offices of mass organisations were attacked in these ways. Another feature is the direct attack on livelihood. Hundreds of shops, mostly small, belonging to Left supporters were looted and ransacked. In villages, ‘suspected’ Left voters are being denied jobs including MNREGA. In industrial areas or in construction sites casual and contract workers are sacked. There is all-pervasive atmosphere of fear in government offices, municipalities and rural level administration.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Victor’s violence

Victor’s violence: The repeated attacks on the oppostion after the Trinamool Congress scored a huge victory vindicate the allegation that the ruling party wants an opposition-free political scenario in the State. By SUHRID SANKAR CHATTOPADHYAY

CPI(M) Will Fight Back Terror in West Bengal

KOLKATA, 13th June: THE CPI(M) has decided to develop broader unity to resist violent attacks on people in West Bengal after the elections. The state committee meeting of the Party, on June 11-12 called upon the Party workers and people to stand in unison against murderous attacks. Party will also focus on issues of livelihood to build up class and mass movements.

Eight Left Front activists have been killed during and after the election process, two of them after the declaration of results. But the magnitude of the attack cannot be comprehended only through the number of the killed. 1,924 activists and supporters have been injured in the attack; many of them were admitted in hospitals. More than 9,200 persons have been rendered homeless, 2,876 houses were ransacked, destroyed or burnt. At least in 12 cases, cluster of houses in the villages were put to flames.

In a clear message that opposition parties will not be allowed to function in a normal manner, offices of Left parties and mass organisations were attacked, destroyed, ransacked, seized or burnt in large numbers. 575 offices of the CPI(M) or Left parties and 128 offices of mass organisations were attacked in these ways.

Another feature is the direct attack on livelihood. Hundreds of shops, mostly small, belonging to Left supporters were looted and ransacked. In villages, ‘suspected’ Left voters are being denied jobs including MNREGA. In industrial areas or in construction sites casual and contract workers are sacked. There is all-pervasive atmosphere of fear in government offices, municipalities and rural level administration.

CPI(M) has decided to launch movement to defend democratic, civil rights at four levels. Firstly, Party will build up movements with independent strength. There will be resistance keeping in mind the objective situation of the area, mobilising people. Secondly, the Left Front will initiate programmes, discussing the details in the Front. Thirdly, CPI(M) will strive for united action with Left parties outside the Left Front, on issues. The Party wants to build up broader Left unity. And, lastly, broader mobilisation will be done including the friendly parties of Left Front like RJD, JD(U), NCP and other secular parties. This may include Congress too in different localities. CPI(M) will try to build up broadest possible peoples unity in the process. It is urgently needed to develop broad platforms to resist fascistic onslaught on rights and livelihood of the people.

In the state committee meeting of the Party, primary review of the election results was conducted. After the meeting, state secretary Surjyakanta Misra briefed media on some of the aspects of this review. The entire election process was conducted in an atmosphere of terror. The reign of terror, prevailing in the state for last five years have impacted organisational strength of the Party too. In many areas, proper organisational activities could not be stepped up during elections because of this atmosphere. While it was true that voting was more peaceful than 2014 Lok Sabha elections, many distortions took place. In many constituencies, 20 to 60 booths witnessed rampant false voting, capturing, and ouster of opposition polling agents. Peoples’ verdict was not reflected properly in these areas, making an overall impact on the results. Election Commission has not been able to implement corrective measures in such cases. In fact, the EC has taken steps in five percent of allegations filed by Left parties.

Review also identified organisational weakness of the Party. In many areas, proper organisational work could not be conducted at booth level. Despite large gatherings in public meeting, door to door contact was weak. Alienation with people in different areas could not be overcome yet. But, it was clear that wherever organisational activities were regular and relations with people was maintained, the result was comparatively better. As Left, democratic, secular forces fought this election together, it is difficult to separate vote share among them. In 169 assembly constituencies, votes for these candidates have increased. Within assembly constituencies, aggregate vote and share of Left candidates have increased in large number of booths as well. Booth level detail review will be done to ascertain the reasons of increase or decline of votes.

Misra said the discussion in the state committee has shown that enthusiasm and spontaneous response among Left supporters grew during the election process. However, it could not be translated into increase of votes proportionately everywhere.

Misra has categorically asserted that Left Front will remain united and will continue to fight on peoples’ issues. There may be some difference in perceptions among the constituents, which has happened in the past too. But these differences will be resolved through discussion within the front. 



Widespread Attack Continues in West Bengal

KOLKATA, 30th May, 2016: INTENSIVE political violence against the opposition is continuing after election results have been declared in West Bengal.

Nine Left Front activists have been killed during and after the election process, two of them after the declaration of results. But the magnitude of the attack cannot be comprehended only through the number of the killed. 1,924 activists and supporters have been injured in the attack; many of them were admitted in hospitals.

More than 9,200 persons have been rendered homeless, 2,876 houses were ransacked, destroyed or burnt. At least in 12 cases, cluster of houses in the villages were put to flames.

In a clear message that opposition parties will not be allowed to function in a normal manner, offices of Left parties and mass organisations were attacked, destroyed, ransacked, seized or burnt in large numbers. 575 offices of the CPI(M) or Left parties and 128 offices of mass organisations were attacked in these ways. Another feature is the direct attack on livelihood.

Hundreds of shops, mostly small, belonging to Left supporters were looted and ransacked. In villages, ‘suspected’ Left voters are being denied jobs including MNREGA. In industrial areas or in construction sites casual and contract workers are sacked. There is all-pervasive atmosphere of fear in government offices, municipalities and rural level administration.

In Basudebpur village in Purba Medinipur district, CPI(M) activist Amit Pradhan was brutally killed by the TMC gang. His only ‘fault’ was that he was a polling agent of the CPI(M) in Bhagabanpur assembly constituency. Pradhan, along with his father was kidnapped by the TMC miscreants. Amit, 32 and father of a child, was mercilessly beaten to death. Even after this brutality, the TMC activists tried to snatch his body, probably to cover up murder. However, the villagers were able to send his body to Medinipur district hospital.

Amit Pradhan was martyred. But thousand others who were the polling agents of Left parties and opposition like him have become special targets of the TMC attack after polls. Many of them have suffered serious injuries, their houses attacked and ransacked, family members tortured. Many have been forced to leave their residences. Hundred others have been ordered to pay ‘fine’ to stay at their home.

After the election results were out in the state, the attacks organised by the ruling party  are widespread but they are meticulously planned too. They have particularly targeted areas where the Left and the opposition got wide support. TMC has also targeted particular booth areas, booth level activists and important functionaries at local level. Apart from physical attack, all-out assault on houses are designed to instill fear among people.

CPI(M) state secretary Surjyakanta Mishra has alleged that the target of the ruling party is to eliminate the opposition as a whole. Even after a big win, they are afraid of people.

In Basirhat, barbaric attack took place in village Panigobra. CPI(M) has won in Basirhat (North) constituency, defeating the TMC. The defeated MLA of the TMC led the attack in the village which has mostly supported the Left Front in the elections. TMC goons went to Panigobra and tried to disrupt a meeting of CPI(M) supporters there. But initially they were chased away by the villagers. After some time,  TMC mobilised armed gangs from many places in the area and cordoned Panigobra. They attacked and ransacked houses, looted many shops too and then set fire to houses. TMC gangs blocked the road to the village so that police and fire tenders could not reach. When the police managed to enter the village, TMC miscreants attacked police too and some of the policemen suffered injuries. Hundreds of villagers were forced to flee the village. Panigobra remained deserted for a week. The villagers have lost almost everything, from household materials to utensils. Burnt houses, remnants of structures reflect the wrath of the ruling party in post poll West Bengal.

The residents of a neighbouring village extended their help and it was they who started feeding women and children from 250 families of Panigobra who were forced to leave . CPI(M) organised a relief camp for all – including the TMC supporters. But once again this effort at peace was disturbed as the TMC leaders threatened to dismantle the camp.

In Narayangarh in West Midnapore, TMC attacked and looted the houses of CPI(M) district secretariat member Anil Patra and Party’s Narayangarh local committee secretary Sushen Sahu. They ransacked both houses, looted cycles, household materials, damaged doors and windows. CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Surjyakanta Mishra contested from Narayangarh.

Newly elected MLA of Bishnupur in Bankura, Tushar Kanti Bhattacharya was attacked.

In Barjora, TMC gangs attacked and destroyed a number of CPI(M) offices in Pakhanna, Tajpur and other villages. Newly elected CPI(M) MLA Sujit Chakraborty along with other Party leaders went to the affected villages. When they were returning, TMC gangs gheraoed  their car. The car of Chakraborty was ransacked. The miscreants tried to drag him out of the car. He suffered an injury in right hand but could leave the place somehow.

Newly elected CPI(M) MLA Tapashi Mondal’s house was attacked in Haldia. Her house was ransacked.

As the attack continues, the resistance is also growing.

In Patrasayar in Bankura, TMC forced the villagers in Kantor to join their victory rally though the Left Front candidate was ahead in this village in the election. Naturally the villagers were not enthusiastic to join the TMC rally. Later a TMC gang attacked houses but villagers came out in numbers and resisted the attack. Some of the villagers were injured.

In Gotan village in Raina in Burdwan district, TMC organised armed gangs from neighbouring Hooghly district and attacked the houses of CPI(M) supporters. They began to loot the houses. First voice of protest came from Minati Roy, a 35 year old housewife. The miscreants assaulted her, snatched her earrings leaving her bleeding. This incident ignited women of the village who came out with whatever they could gather. They chased TMC miscreants and villagers joined in united resistance. TMC miscreants hurled bombs and one villager Mritunjoy Bag was injured. He was hospitalised.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Uniting ‘secular, democratic’ forces

Interview with Surjya Kanta Mishra, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly. By SUHRID SANKAR CHATTOPADHYAY

FRONTLINE, Published: March 30, 2016 12:30 IST | Updated: April 5, 2016 13:18 IST

SURJYA KANTA MISHRA, Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and State secretary of the party, is the face of the opposition in the State. In this exclusive interview with Frontline, Mishra says that it is the people’s urge to replace the Trinamool Congress government that has prompted different secular democratic political parties to come together. Excerpts:
You are the face of the opposition in West Bengal and you are leading the electoral battle against the ruling Trinamool Congress. Though premature at this moment, how do you think the elections will span out?
First, I do not believe that I am the face either of the opposition or of the party. We believe, as Jyotibabu [Jyoti Basu] used to say, it is the people who make history. It is the people who are our face ultimately. We have been reiterating from time to time that the Left and democratic front is possible only by the change of the correlation of class forces.
As for the election battle, I think it is spanning out on the lines we had envisaged. What we have is a new challenge that we have never faced before. In the 1970s we faced a challenge when the question of democracy had become the foremost question. Today, added to the attack on democracy is the threat to the secular fabric of West Bengal.
The unholy alliance between the ruling party in the State and the BJP at the Centre has been instrumental in fuelling communal passions, resulting in communal polarisation. This is to their mutual benefit. Their basic economic policies remain the same so far as livelihood of the poor is concerned.
Theirs is a three-pronged attack—on democracy, on secularism, and on the livelihood of the masses. Our foremost task is to oust this government—our call is to oust the TMC to save Bengal and to oust the BJP to save India.
There have been no free and fair elections after 2011 and it is of utmost importance for all secular democratic forces to unite to fight the coming battle. The battle has to be organised at the grass-roots level irrespective of political affiliations as all sections are under attack. It is the urge of the people to replace the government that has prompted different secular democratic political parties to discuss with each other how this objective can be realised.
How is the opposition combine working out?
The fundamental change in the situation now [from 2011 when the Trinamool Congress-Congress alliance came to power] is that the constituents of the rainbow alliance with which Mamata Banerjee came to power have all deserted her and her party. They realised how impossible it is to stay with her as they were repeatedly subjected to attacks. Even people within her own party are not spared. There is turf war happening everywhere and Trinamool members are killing each other regularly. Most of the constituents which deserted her approached us and asked us to take the initiative and lead the battle for democracy. Ultimately it was the urge of the people.
I must also add that one cannot manufacture anything in a vacuum, and the situation for the secular democratic forces to come together was created by the Left through its different political programmes. People began to think that it was possible to defeat this government provided the votes were not divided.
How far is the opposition likely to capitalise on this latest setback for the ruling party brought about by the Narada News sting operation?
To us it is a political battle. It is not about simply capitalising on an issue. This new global order, and the neoliberal economy pursued in the country, itself breeds corruption. The sting vindicates how corrupt the top levels of the Trinamool party are. Such a thing has never happened in Bengal before and it is our shame. Imagine the police chief of a district taking money authorised by the ruling party! What role can be expected from such police to ensure proper voting? This is a manifestation of the economic system that we live in.
But there is no denying that there is match-fixing between the BJP and the Trinamool on the Narada issue. The BJP referred the matter to the Ethics Committee in the Lok Sabha, but then in the Rajya Sabha, the Chair had to say that the government does not want an investigation. We do not know what kind of an understanding the Trinamool and the BJP have reached. But we do know that the Trinamool is nervous now.
How do you assess the performance of the government in the areas of agriculture and industry?
In the unforeseen agrarian crisis in the State, 167 farmers committed suicide, and the Chief Minister sent a report to the Centre saying that there have been no suicides. Take the case of the tea industry where there have been hundreds of starvation deaths, and she sent a report stating that there have been no starvation deaths. Not just the tea industry, see the condition of other industries as well, particularly the jute industry, the engineering industry, the SMEs [small and medium enterprises], etc. In the last seven years of Left Front rule, job creation in West Bengal in the manufacturing sector was the highest in the country according to NSS [National Sample Survey] data. Gujarat was a distant second.
Now there is drastic reduction in employment in the manufacturing sector in the State. This reflects the health of the industry. Industries are simply running away from the State.
What is the Left’s strategy in this election?
We have highlighted the achievements of 34 years of Left rule; and, of course, we looked into our weaknesses too, so we can learn from them. We are comparing that with what has been happening in the last five years under the Trinamool. Our point is to go to the people and learn from them, find out what they want. That is our strategy.

© Frontline: Apr 5, 2016 4:18:49 PM

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Are Trinamool MPs harbouring Bangladeshi terrorists in WB?

February 12, 2014 15:36 IST  » News » Are Trinamool MPs harbouring Bangladeshi terrorists in WB?

Several politicians from West Bengal are under scrutiny for sheltering Jammat-e-Islami and Chaatra Shibir operatives, says a Intelligence Bureau note to the Home Ministry. Vicky Nanjappa reports
An Intelligence Bureau note to Minister of State for Home, R P N Singh, states that terrorist groups plan to bring in arms and ammunition to India across the porous Bangladesh border. The consignment is expected to land in West Bengal.
This information is significant as several leaders from the Trinamool Congress face allegations of sheltering Jammat-e-Islami and Chaatra Shibir operatives. 
IB officials say that members of these outfits are being driven out of Bangladesh and are taking refuge in West Bengal. Several politicians from the state are under scrutiny for sheltering these operatives. The IB is monitoring these links and a couple of names, including one who was recently elected to the Rajya Sabha, have surfaced.
The IB says that some MP’s who have had close links with the SIMI are shielding the Jamaat militants in India, who have local support.
Nearly 40 militants, who fled Bangladesh, are hiding in West Bengal, says the IB.
Like in Bihar, the agencies have found it extremely hard to track down militants of the Jamaat in West Bengal. While in Bihar it was the Indian Mujahideen, in West Bengal it is the Jamaat and the SIMI that is a cause of worry.
They land in West Bengal and are then whisked away to remote areas of the state. Even the local police do not appear to be doing much. Often it has been found that the police are deliberately tightlipped due to pressure from the top, an officer with the IB said.
The TMC has often been accused of patronising the politics of religious fundamentalism. Biman Bose of the Left Front had said that the TMC was shielding Islamic fundamentalists who have been rejected by Bangladesh.
“When Bangladesh police operate in Satkhira, and Jamaat cadres have to flee, they get shelter from the Trinamool MP in Basirhat,” Biman Bose had alleged.
Bose also made an allegation against Ahmed Hassan, who was sent to the Rajya Sabha and said that he was close to the Jamaat and was a correspondent of the Jamaat’s newspaper, Naya Diganta.
He feels that this is an attempt deliberately made to disrupt a drive undertaken by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
A few days ago Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, a member of the Awami League in Bangladesh, had raised the same issue. He made a request to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to hand over Jamaat-e-Islami terrorists who had taken shelter in India.
Selim urged India not to harbour these terrorists, who he said fled to the neighbouring country during the joint force's recent operation in Satkhira.
Security agencies say that the situation appears to be going from bad to worse and there are clear instructions to put anyone supporting Bangladeshi militants on the radar.
The SIMI which has taken refuge in Bangladesh has already shown what it is capable of. The operations of the Indian Mujahideen, thanks to Amir Reza Khan, were largely witnessed in Bangladesh.
The protecting of Jamaat operatives who naturally ally with the radical wing of the SIMI only adds to the problem.
The Home Ministry says that West Bengal is the easiest route for Bangladeshi militants to smuggle in arms and ammunition. The radical SIMI on the other hand will aide this as they have a lot of benefit and are looking to carry out strikes in India.
There is a sizeable SIMI cadre that relies on political support as a result of which the Bangladesh militants issue has blown out of proportion, Intelligence Bureau officials point out.
It is important for India to share a good rapport with Bangladesh since we face a common terrorism problem. Bangladesh expects us to hand over these militants and also cooperate to expect the same from them, IB officials also point out. 
Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru

Gujarat behind West Bengal in new factory jobs from 2004-2011


National Sample Survey data poses a challenge to ‘Gujarat growth model’
The latest National Sample Survey data show West Bengal topped in creation of new jobs in the manufacturing sector among all States.
During the six years between 2004 and 2011, more than 40 per cent of new manufacturing jobs created in India were generated in the then Left-ruled West Bengal.
In all, 58.7 lakh manufacturing jobs were created across India.
Of these, 24 lakh were in West Bengal. With 14.9 lakh jobs, BJP-ruled Gujarat was a distant second, shows the state-wise data accessed exclusively by The Hindu.
The data is significant as the widespread resistance in 2008 to the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government’s acquisition of farmland in Singur for a small car factory was believed to have hit West Bengal’s attractiveness to industry. The State eventually lost the Tata Nano factory project to Gujarat.
Even during the anti-industrial campaign by the Trinamool Congress, allegedly with the help of Maoists in 2007-08, the State achieved 12 per cent industrial growth, West Bengal’s Finance Minister from 1987 to 2012 Asim Dasgupta toldThe Hindu.
It also assumes significance as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, is touting “manufacturing” and “jobs” amongst his main planks in his election campaign and also the ‘Gujarat model’.
“Our objective in successive budgets was to increase the State Domestic Product in a manner that will generate maximum possible employment. Even in our last year, 2010-11, close to a lakh jobs were generated,” said Mr. Dasgupta.
“It is widely known that the Assembly election victory of the Left Front in 2006 was seen by Mr. Bhattacharjee as a vote for his emphasis on industrialisation,” said a West Bengal-based Left leader.
Dr. Dasgupta attributes the jobs performance to his government’s push to small-scale industry.
West Bengal has the largest number of small-scale manufacturing units, he said.
“Between 1991 and 2011— when we revised our industrial policy under Jyoti Basu — 2,531 new big and medium units were set up.”
Best period of industrialisation
A Communist Party of India(Marxist) source said that after the 1960s, the State saw its best period of industrialisation during 2004-2011.
Small-scale manufacturing enterprises were developed at the district level and all this culminated in Singur.
Prior to Singur, 1,872 middle and big industrial projects were developed during the period. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Valley of Starvation Deaths

By J S Majumdar

THE undulating lush valleys of tea estates in West Bengal’s Darjeeling hills, Dooars and Terai regions are turning into valleys of death.

“Nearly 100 people died of starvation and acute malnutrition in the five closed tea gardens in Dooars since January this year with at least 10 of them dying last month itself”, reported Times of India on July 30, 2014, “The workers are paid only Rs 90 for eight hours a day to produce the expensive Darjeeling tea, while in Terai and Dooars the figure is Rs 95 a day.”

West Bengal Left Front meeting on November 4 condemned the ‘death rally’ of tea garden workers under the present regime. During the Left Front government’s time, the tea workers used to get support from the government, but now even their ration is getting closed, LF chairman Biman Basu said and called upon the Left trade unions to stand by the tea workers at this time of their acute distress.

Left Front government introduced payment of Rs 1500 each month to every worker, work under rural job scheme and ration consisting of food grains, pulses, oil and salt to the workers of tea gardens affected by closure.

G P Goenka’s 16 Duncan tea gardens in Dooars and Darjeeling "are in a state of limbo. They are neither closed nor open in the usual sense of the terms, with frightening consequences for the workers in the estates. This situation has added one more chapter to the shameful history of hunger in the tea industry," stated the report submitted to West Bengal government in September 2015 by Harsh Mandar, the Supreme Court's special commissioner on right to food. The report further states, "As far as medical facilities go, none of the estates had a functioning hospital…no medicines and/or other facilities in the hospital…Minimum first aid is also not available."

"Since April this year, the situation has become miserable in all these gardens. Wage payment and disbursement of bonus became irregular and yet, the state did not take any step,” said Ziaur Alam, general secretary of All India Plantation Workers Federation.

Out of the total 273 tea gardens in northern part of West Bengal, 22 tea gardens, including the largest conglomerate Duncan Group, are now closed affecting more than 35,000 workers. CITU general secretary Tapan Sen, MP during the Zero Hour in Rajya Sabha had raised the issue of closed and abandoned tea gardens in West Bengal. In reply, the minister of state for commerce and industry, Nirmala Sitharaman replied on September 30 that only 5 tea estates are closed and that the central government, state government and Tea Board had been working in coordination for re-opening of the estates and for the welfare of the workers. Since majority of the tea estates are illegally closed, hence, those are not counted by the governments and the workers are deprived of the relief introduced by the Left Front government for closed tea gardens.

The sorry state of affairs in the Tea Board, which has a substantial role to play in tea industry and workers welfare with a planned outlay of Rs 1425 Crs during the 12th Five Year Plan, can be gauged from Tapan Sen’s letter of October 14 to the minister Sitharaman saying that he, as an MP was elected as a member of the Tea Board in June, 2015; that since then the Tea Board has not been reconstituted with inclusion of MPs when half of the year has gone. The minister’s written assurance on October 21 of “necessary action will be taken” is yet to be implemented by the Modi government.

Non-payment of wages and starvation deaths led to another problem of large scale migration of workers from these closed tea gardens to states like Assam, Karnataka and Kerala. As Duncan gardens are remaining closed since late May, between 25-40 percent of workers have left tea gardens and their families in search of jobs elsewhere, reported Anisur Haque of Zilla Cha Bagan Worker’s Union of AITUC. Some of the workers’ colonies within the Duncan gardens have hardly any men left leaving behind starving women, children and the old.

G P Goenka’s Duncan tea gardens are unofficially closed since last May. At least 11 workers died of starvation in these tea gardens in few weeks since closure. Deccan Herald reported 26 such starvation deaths.

Goenka said that only one person had died at his Bagrakote tea estate and the rest of the allegations are “baseless canards”. Goenka “blamed the closure of his plantations in Dooars on non-availability of workers,” (!) reported the live mint.

Mamta Banerjee government shirked off all responsibilities by handing over to CID the entire matter of closure of 13 tea estates of Duncans Industries Ltd of G P Goenka and the starvation deaths. It is a cover up exercise and for continuation of status quo position in these tea gardens. After a prolong investigation, these cases will be thrown out by the criminal court saying that these come under labour laws and are to be dealt by special courts for labour.

For tea workers the minimum wage per day is Rs 97 in West Bengal; Rs 115 in Assam, Rs 206.22 in Tamil Nadu, Rs 228 in Karnataka and, after 17 days strike and settlement in October 2015 (Working Class, November, 2015), it is Rs 301 in Kerala. Wage revision is due in West Bengal in December 2015.

A survey report of all 273 tea estates in West Bengal has been kept under wraps by the labour department of the TMC government since May 2013. However, the gist of the reports has already been published by a number of organisations. The report reveals the deplorable conditions of the workers and their families leading to large number of starvation deaths while demand for tea and prices are soaring and prized gardens of Darjeeling tea are mostly exporting at high prices.

The survey shows that workmen of 35 tea estates are yet to be paid arrear wages as per last wage settlement. Workers of two tea estates are not paid their wages as per existing agreement.

11.25 lakh persons of 1.87 lakh families reside in these 273 tea estates in the Hills, Terai and Dooars region of North Bengal; of them 2.62 lakh plus are permanent workers.

During survey, 87 tea estates could not produce registration certificate or numbers under Plantation Labour Act, 1951. 185 tea estates could not provide certified standing orders under Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946. One DLC posted at Kolkata functions as certifying officer under Standing Orders Act. There is no labour welfare officer in 175 tea estates.

Under Employees Provident Fund Act, 1952, workers’ total EPF contribution, not deposited by 46 tea estates, amounts to more than Rs 17.14 Cr and due management’s EPF contribution in 55 estates amounts to more than Rs 33.79 Cr for the period 2009-10 and 2012-13.

Under the Plantation Labour Act, 1951 there are provisions for the employers, apart from wages, to provide housing, drinking water, conservancy, medical, educational, canteen, crèche, recreational facilities and compensation to members of families in case of housing accidents.

Out of 2.62 lakh permanent workers, only 1.66 lakh workers have been provided houses; 95,835 workers have not been provided houses. 6 tea estates have not provided even a single house to their workers; 51 tea estates could not provide houses to 50 percent or more of their workers. In 2012, 62 tea estates did not spend a single rupee on housing.

The permanent workers are considered as industrial workers and, hence, listed in APL category and not eligible for Indira Awas Yojana. 44 tea estates do not have latrines. Houses in 12 tea estates in Dooars have no electricity connection.

The workers suffer badly in the absence of supply of drinking water. The workers in the tea estates of hill areas in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong sub-divisions have severe scarcity of drinking water as most of the tea estates do not distribute water through pipelines and the workers rely mostly on spring water and Jhora as the only sources of water.

Out of 273 tea estates, 107 estates do not have any hospital, 166 estates have no nurse, 85 estates do not have any dispensary and 10 estates neither have hospital nor dispensary. Only 56 estates have full time residential doctors, other 110 estates depend on visiting doctors. Primary health centres (PHC) exist only in 160. 113 estates do not have any PHC.

In this background, in one of the biggest mobilisations in action, 4.5 lakh tea garden workers are expected to participate in 96 hours relay fast at 45 places on November 27-30 and strike on December 1 in response to the call of the united forum of tea trade unions in West Bengal.

The Bengal Platform of Mass Organisations (BPMO) in their current statewide jathas in November, while covering each electoral booth area, are also raising the issues of the plight of tea garden workers.