Wednesday, July 30, 2008


'We Must Clearly Spell Out Our Policy Of
Land Acquisition & Rehabilitation': Buddhadeb

West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee recently spoke to Ganashakti on a variety of developmental issues that are reflected in the policies of the Left Front government. During the course of the interview given on the occasion of Left Front government completing 31 years in office, Buddhadeb also commented on the Darjeeling developments.

Special successes

The focal point of success of the Bengal Left Front government is the regime of redistributive land reforms because of which the rural poor is in possession of land parcels of varying sizes. The success has been achieved through a series of hard struggles and not merely through administrative regulations. The work of the administration also comprised the physical transfer of land rights in the shape of patta deeds to the rural poor and the landless.

Around 84 per cent of the total mass of agricultural land (amounting to 1.35 crore acres) is in the hands of the rural poor. There has also been the setting up and the running of panchayati raj institutions. The panchayats could be organised and run by the rural people because the land belongs to them now. This has in turn influenced the great success we have had in agricultural production. We lead the country in terms of producing rice, jute, potato, vegetables, fruits, flowers etc.

On the opposition to industrialisation

We gave a slogan that we shall consolidate our successes in agriculture and on that foundation shall build up industries. This was done as part of the pre-election call in 2006. Certainly, the people had agreed to the implicational content of the slogan that we raised. Nevertheless, the transition was never an easy task. We frankly expected opposition to be forthcoming as a compulsion from those whose land would be transferred. Thus, the task now is that we clear up further the issues affecting land acquisition and rehabilitation.

Consensus on the issue of development

The task of land reforms and transfer of land to the kisans and the rural poor was certainly done based on the widest possible consensus. The consensus was available because the programme was of anti-zamindar character and was also an exercise in democracy. However, on the issue of private capital that is connected with the process of industrialisation (we do not have any viable alternative to this) a confusion has been created amongst the ranks of the opposition parties, the LF constituents, and even amongst a section of the mass of the people.

At the same time, there is consensus in that everybody would say that they, too, would like to welcome industrialisation, and that they do not stand opposed to it. The debate is principally built up around the mode and method adopted. We have to reach a consensus here through discussion. We are fully seized of the indecision that the LF constituents are affected by on the question of private capital, big capital, and capital of the MNCs.

On the confusion among the poor

The orientation and direction of every programme of the LF government is towards the welfare of the working people who are poor. This is our major difference with other state governments.
We have always held that the Left alternatives of the Left Front government comprise:

* Land reforms, panchayati institutions etc
*Industrialisation aimed at increase of employment, with emphasis on the manufacturing sector and on the small and middle-level industries
*Total literacy, total health, self-help groups, social security especially for unorganised workers etc

These are the directions of our programmes. It is true nonetheless that despite all this, we are not able to reach out to every section of the poor. The state government, the panchayati raj bodies, the municipalities, and especially the Party must specially look to this on a basis of urgency.

On the reduction of mass support

We are presently in the midst of going about a comprehensive review of the results of the rural polls. The preliminary review has revealed that there are several common reasons why our support was eroded where it did. These include, for example, weaknesses of the Party and the mass organisations, the disunity amongst LF constituent partners, the weakness of our campaign against the propaganda of the opposition, and above all, the spread of a baseless fear on the issue of land acquisition. We have to discuss thoroughly all these issues before fixing our next steps.

Darjeeling issue

We have to proceed with great caution and patience in dealing with the Darjeeling problem for the issue is very sensitive and is also connected with the question of nationality. A political solution must be found through discussions. We can and shall remain, solidly bonded together - the people of the hills and the people of the plains.

The basic pre-condition of development is peace and amity. The avenues of discussion with the leadership of the Darjeeling agitation must be kept open. We have kept the union government aware of the issue on behalf of the state LF government. The resolution of the issue, as we have said, must be forthcoming through an amicable discourse.

PEOPLE’S DEMOCRACY, June 29 , 2008


Forward To A Much Closer Relationship With Masses

Biman Basu

THE Bengal Left Front government has stepped step into its 32nd year of pro-people, especially pro-poor existence. The precise date is June 21 and this is an important landmark this year for a rather different reason. I shall explain the 'reasons why' I say this.

Earlier in the year in May, the panchayat general elections were held in Bengal as per schedule. The flow of political events and developments that fulminated around the rural polls, however, were certainly a bit different from what had happened on similar occasions in the past.

We admit that during each of the rural elections held earlier, the compromise / understanding amongst Left Front constituents in the matter of 'adjustments' of seats is never finalised fully and comprehensively. This year was unique in a different way. First, the actual number of seats mostly at the level of the Gram Panchayats (GP), and less so at the other two tiers of Panchayat Samity (PS) and Zillah Parishad (ZP), had gone down.

This set up a regime of ground-level difficulties to some extent in the formation of a deep understanding amongst the Left Front constituents. Second, there did develop with persistence some political difference among the LF parties. As a result, the work of election campaign based on the consensually-adopted electoral manifesto of the LF faced some amount of impediment.
On the other hand, a strange 'cocktail' (if I may use the term) was mixed up to serve as the 'Bengal opposition' comprising the whole range of forces - from the extreme right to those on the sectarian left and almost everything in between, including forces of religious fundamentalism.

There was a conscious effort on the part of some of the opposition constituents to ensure that there was a one-against-one electoral fight for as many seats as possible, come the rural polls.
The strategy of 'one-against-one' did not quite succeed at the level of the ZP. Nevertheless, some amount of success in this matter could be chalked up in two other layers of the Panchayati structure. The opposition may not have had enough of popular support. Nonetheless, they could utilise to the hilt, in a desperate move, the lack of understanding at the electoral level amongst the LF constituents enough to mark up successes.


We have been fully seized of the situational reality. We have commenced right away the task of ameliorating the differences amongst the LF partners at the level of the districts as also to an extent at the state level. Meetings of the Left Front in the post-election situation have resolved that we must consolidate the agricultural achievements of Bengal, widen the arena of cropping, go in for more diversification - and continue with the policy of industrialisation.

Industries cannot very well be set up in the sky or produced in a vacuum. Thus, we must succeed in earning the trust and the confidence of the people of the area where such industries would be set up. In other words, we have to exert prudence and go forth without an undue rush in the task of identifying the industrial zones and implementing the policy of industrialisation.
Every constituent partner who goes to make up the Left Front must understand and realise the manner in which the principal opposition outfit and other opposition entities have based their anti-LF and anti-LF government campaign on fictitious tales, utter lies, and vile slandering. What led a section of the people to misunderstand the situational reality is the nature of lie campaign of the opposition to bolster which they even produced a plethora of CDs and had these widely distributed and put on show.

We have in the past heard of large sums of money being spent by the bourgeois parties during elections. We witnessed such an occurrence in Bengal this year during the rural polls.

Thus, what we have to do, all the Left Front constituents including our Party, is to keep in mind the experience of setting up rural governance in Bengal, and become involved in a wide programme aimed at building up an even more intimate relationship with the rural masses than at present. We must be also concerned in the endeavour to brighten our image by becoming a part-and-parcel of the daily lives and livelihoods, the sorrows and the happiness of the rural masses.

We must get over our faults and weaknesses and must never be self-satisfied at winning 13 of the 17 ZPs contested. Perhaps there is not a single district where the leadership has become self-satisfied. We have already commenced a serious analysis-and-review of the results of the panchayat elections. When the exercise is completed, we shall draw the correct lessons from it, and we shall bring about changes in our style of functioning as appropriate.


As the Left Front steps into its 32nd year we must not let slip from our consciousness even for a moment that the forces of reaction here and abroad do not want that the CPI(M)-led Left Front government in Bengal - the forward outpost of democratic movements of the country - implement its programme with success. Especially those who want to compromise India's national interests by acceding to the India-US nuclear agreement cannot digest or tolerate the fact that a large bulk of MPs representing the Left in the parliament are from Bengal.

That is the reason why these unholy forces would not hesitate to resort to various opportunistic tactics to weaken the support base of the Left amongst the people of Bengal. Former US ambassador to India, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has noted in his book, A Dangerous Place, that the US administration interfered twice in Indian political developments. Once by pouring in funds once to pull down the EMS Namboodiripad-led first Communist government on the country in Kerala in 1959, and again to curtail the strength of the communists in Bengal in 1971. Who knows that someone else may not write in the future about how funds were put in place through a variety of tactical moves via an array of institutions of various forms and norms, to chip away at the vigour of the communists and the Left in Bengal.

In all probability, very many foreign agencies and forces have joined in the merriment of the forces of reaction in the country at the creating of a kind of rift within the Bengal Left Front. The agitation now organised by Gurung's outfit in Darjeeling is a repeat of the same by Ghising's GNLF in the 1980s. When Jyoti Basu the then Bengal chief minister had convened an all-party meeting for resolution of the Darjeeling issue in 1986-1986, he would not invite the GNLF because the latter was not a political party. No questions were raised then.

Yet, some questions were in the offing when the present Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb convened an all-party meeting, and not invited the GJM precisely for the same reason. The principal opposition party absented itself from the meeting. Can anyone in his right mind think that these developments are spontaneous and are taking place without a conspiratorial background?

We have to keep in mind all the while that the Left Front has been in office for over three decades - a very long time. Those who had only seen the Left Front government in action while growing up did not have the opportunity to compare this pro-people government with the anti-people functioning of the governments that were in office earlier and which represented the forces of reaction.


The newer generation cannot know that during those dangerous years, there was an intense shortage of food, and strongly-organised food movements took place every year as the people's protest, and faced repression of the worst kind. It is very important to make the newer generation aware of the role of land reforms and agrarian development under the Left Front government that has led to the tangible success achieved in the field of agriculture.
How would the new generation, again, be aware of the fact that there had been in place earlier a policy that squeezed out rather than expand the scope and field of education. Whatever the drawback of the present health delivery system, can anyone deny the fact that the health services have had a wide expansion and that 70 per cent of the people receive treatment from government-run hospitals and health centres - something simply unimaginable earlier?

The media would make a huge brouhaha, conflate, and run as a principal theme any small mishap or unfortunate slip-up that might occur in the health delivery system. How can they compare the thousands of deaths earlier for lack of health facilities, and the present attempt to establish sad exceptions as the main subject to be headlined, again, and again! The present generation might well think that the newer precedence being set in the task of lessening of delivery death and the curing of sick children through proper scientific treatment under the LF governance had always been there. There is not enough publicity given to the programmes put in place for the nutritive growth of the mother and the child. The LF government has also succeeded in ensuring the supply of potable drinking water across Bengal.

In a word, not everyone is equally aware of the drive of the Left Front government towards improvement of the human development index. It is very important to organise a wide publicity campaign of the precedence-making work of the Bengal Left Front government in the light of, for example, Gunnar Myrdal's classical work, the Asian Drama, especially the chapter headed as the 'Poverty Challenge in India,' and the commentary of Dr Amartya Sen made from time-to-time on the human development index in general in India.

I have highlighted a few indices of successes, tangible, proven successes. Nevertheless, this must not be taken to construe the fact that we have not committed errors and mistakes during this long and struggling existence of over 30 years. We need to identify the real mistakes that we have committed, and we must correct them and prove thereby our transparency to the mass of the people of Bengal.

Instead of striving to display how transparent we are, it would be a much better alternative, I believe, to prove through action how we do function with transparency. This must be established in the hearts-and-minds of the people. We recall all the time that the society we evolve in contains filth, lust, and hankering. The main line of thinking appears to be that 'think only about yourself as an individual - there is really no need to spare even a moment for the country, for the people, and for the society.'

The people who observe the reality through a class perspective and who think and ponder about the exploited, the downtrodden, and the poor, are gradually straying on the fringe of minority. We cannot ignore the set of men and women who have seats of comfort atop ivory towers, spill occasionally a few good words posing as the friends of the immiserised and impoverished people, and argue fiercely in favour of a society based on the immutable laws of merciless exploitation.
Thus, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Left Front must pledge, in the whole range from the leadership to the workers, to make themselves part of the process to be more and more acceptable to the people. In order to achieve success in this line of tasks, we must not allow ourselves to be victims of the process of thinking that 'we understand everything, and it devolves on us to convince the people.' Our duty is to learn from the people. An appropriate ambience must be built up for this to be a reality.

We must take a solemn pledge as the Left Front and the Left Front government enter the 32nd year, that we have associated ourselves in the political process not for our own sake but for the sake and interest of the people and the nation. Thus, we need to shun all forms of egoistic thinking and behaviour, eschew self-importance, and win over the hearts-and-minds of the working class, the working people, and all sections of the poor through engaging them in conversational discourses in their daily struggles for existence, and proceed towards the greater tasks that lie ahead.

PEOPLE’S DEMOCRACY, June 29 , 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008


West Bengal charts its unique path
to progress and prosperity,
despite impediments.

IN 2001, when Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was chosen to succeed the veteran Marxist Jyoti Basu as the Chief Minister of West Bengal the change of guard itself was perceived as a change of government. And when the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front won the Assembly elections by an overwhelming majority for an unprecedented sixth consecutive time, defying the anti-incumbency factor, "do it now" became the new buzzword and the air was full of hope and promise.

Suddenly, West Bengal became the happening place; it was no longer a "graveyard for industries" or the last choice of an investor. Cynics just sat back and watched the process of transformation.

The State registered a consistent growth in real State Domestic Product (SDP) at over 7 per cent in the last few years. Despite being one of the most populous States in India, with the highest population density, it is ranked high in terms of growth in per capita income. In 2004-05, it achieved a growth in per capita income of 5.72 per cent, as against the national rate of 5.2 per cent recorded in the same period. A look at the industrial approvals and investments over the last 15 years will give a fair idea x about the rising popularity of the State among entrepreneurs.
The number of approvals of the Industry Entrepreneur Memorandum (EIM) indicates a rise from 99 in 1991 to 410 in 2005. The number of projects implemented has increased from 26 in 1991 to 227 in 2005. Foreign direct investment (FDI) in fiscal 2005-06, according to the Annual Report of the State government, was worth $119 million. The investors included those from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Significant achievements have been made in the traditional sectors of iron and steel and petrochemicals and in the sunrise sectors of Information Technology (IT) and IT-enabled services.

The growth of the iron and steel industry in the State can be attributed to certain inherent advantages it enjoys, that is, proximity to raw materials, skilled manpower, port facilities, sufficient availability of power and a huge market for steel products. From 1991 to 2004, as many as 243 new iron and steel units were set up in the State. In the past four years, 108 projects were implemented. Some of the major players in this sector are the Durgapur Steel Plant and the Alloy Steel Plant of the public sector giant Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL); Electro Steel Casting, the largest producer of spun-iron pipes in the subcontinent; Gontermann Peipers, the second largest producer of iron- and steel-based rolls in the country; Bhushan Ltd, and Vesuvius India Ltd. The State government has devised a number of policies to encourage the growth of this sector, with a focus to achieve global competitiveness not only in terms of cost, quality and product mix, but also in efficiency and productivity.


In Haldia, the port city which caters to national and international giants such as the Indian Oil Corporation, Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd, Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation, Hindustan Fertilizer Corporation Ltd, Tata Chemicals and Exide Industries, a mega chemical industrial estate, spread over 10,000 acres (1 acre = 0.4 hectare) has been proposed. The Salim Group of Indonesia is slated to start a multi-product Special Economic Zone (SEZ), spread over 12,500 acres, in near Haldia. The other industrial hubs of the State include the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Area, the mineral-rich Asansol-Durgapur region and Kharagpur, which is home to a large number of engineering industries.

Seeking to tap the enormous potential for growth in the biotechnology sector, the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) is planning to set up a Biotechnology Park in Kalaikunda near Kharagpur in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology -Kharagpur. The State has traditionally had a climate conducive for the growth of engineering industries. Apart from Hindustan Motors, which entered into a collaboration agreement with Mitsubishi of Japan recently, Tata Motors is expected to start its small car-manufacturing unit at Singur in Hooghly district. The Tata project is expected to give a shot in the arm to the State's industrialisation drive, by facilitating the development of first-tier ancillary units that will supply components necessary for x car production. The Tatas will be setting up an equipment-manufacturing unit in Kharagpur.

Other companies such as Ashok Leyland have also evinced interest in setting up manufacturing units in the State. Another important project is that of the Salim Group's motorcycle plant at Uluberia in Howrah district. The Calcutta Leather Complex, spread over 1,100 acres at Bantola, became operational in July 2005, with its infrastructure including a common effluent treatment plant and a common chrome recovery plant. More than 160 tanneries have either completed or are close to completing construction work. As of mid-2006, 75 tanneries were operational, of which 32 were new ones. It is important to note that West Bengal is one of the leading States in the export of finished leather goods, accounting for almost 25 per cent of the country's leather exports.

The State government is also actively promoting micro and small industries in handicraft, handlooms, textiles, sericulture, khadi and village industries. Over 314,000 registered small enterprises operate in the State, employing more than two million people. The State government has adopted a multi-pronged strategy that offers a mix of institutional, marketing and infrastructure support to the sector.

Apart from rail, road and air connectivity to the rest of the country and prime locations of the world, West Bengal has two modern ports located in Kolkata and Haldia. Together they handled 52.03 million tonnes of cargo in 2005-06, the second highest in the country. The ports are being modernised. A new 3,000-acre port-cum-SEZ, in collaboration with Peninsular & Oriental Ports Ltd, is being planned at Kulpi.


As far as social infrastructure is concerned, the State with its public and civic amenities, and its rich heritage of art, education and culture, offers several educational and social opportunities. West Bengal's educational network consists of more than 66,925 primary schools, 3,159 secondary schools and 9,659 high schools and higher secondary schools. The number of Sishu Siksha Kendras, as on November 2005, stands at 16,117. Apart from important institutions such as Calcutta University, Jadavpur University, the Presidency and St. Xaviers colleges, IIT-Kharagpur, The Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata, and the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, the State has eminent research institutes such as the Saha Institute, the Bose Institute, the Indian Association for Cultivation of Science and the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology.
Census 2001 estimated West Bengal's literacy rate at over 69 per cent as against the national average of 65 per cent.

The State's health care industry is competitive in terms of cost and quality, and is rapidly emerging as a destination for foreign medical tourists. West Bengal's network of health care facilities comprises 433 government and non-government hospitals, and 12,057 health units. There are nine medical colleges in the State and a Health City, which will have medical colleges, nursing institutions, technical training centres and hospital management schools, is being constructed near Kolkata. The State has performed x well in the area of improving life expectancy at birth. According to West Bengal Economic Review, 2005-06, life expectancy at birth stood at 66.08 per cent for males and 69.34 per cent for females, as against the national figures of 64.11 per cent and 65.43 per cent during 2005-06.


With the steady economic growth in terms of net SDP and per capita income, which has resulted in the creation of higher disposable incomes for a large number of people, it comes as little surprise that West Bengal is the third largest State in terms of savings with commercial banks x accounting for around Rs.854.8 billion. With 60 per cent of the population under 30 years of age, the trend is towards rapid urbanisation. As per Census 2001, the urban population of West Bengal is around 28 per cent, as against the national average of 27 per cent.

All these factors, along with the rise in income level and the unprecedented growth in the service sector, which alone accounts for 57.15 per cent of the SDP, have naturally created greater expectations among people for quality goods and services. Apart from Kolkata, which has a consumer profile of around 10 million, urban markets such as Siliguri, Durgapur, Asansol and Maldah have been showing an upward trend.

The growth in the retail sector has encouraged the mushrooming of swanky shopping complexes and malls, particularly in Kolkata. Retail giants such as Pantaloons Westside, Emami, Shoppers' Stop, Forum and Big Bazaar have set up shop in the State. This has not gone unnoticed by global players such as the French Carrefour, the German Metro AG, and Wal-Mart and McDonald's of the U.S., who are waiting to grab a piece of the retail pie.

There is also an upsurge in real estate business. New townships are being developed to meet the increasing demand in the urban housing sector. The State government has formed eight joint venture companies to expedite housing projects. Apart from New Town, a project spread over 3,075 acres and developed by the West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation, the Salim Group is setting up the Calcutta West International City, considered to be one of the largest foreign direct investments in township projects in the country.

The shift in the lifestyle of the urban population is evident in the array of entertainments on offer before them. The city abounds in coffee shops, multiplexes, health clubs, fitness centres and multigyms. Kolkata has a vibrant nightlife in discos, hookah bars and clubs. Large flyovers have come up to ease the pressure of vehicular traffic, which is growing at approximately 11 per cent a year. Kolkata is no longer a city of traffic snarls.


Some major changes are taking place in the rural markets too. The huge potential of this sector has started attracting investors, and the State government is examining proposals from corporates to take up procurement and marketing of produce in a big way.

This will throw open business opportunities in this emerging sector and result in an increase in the purchasing power and consumption profile of rural areas. Agriculture in West Bengal is characterised by two unique features x land reforms and devolution of effective executive and financial power to the elected panchayat bodies. This has revolutionised productivity and growth, leading to equitable distribution of rural wealth. The six agro-climatic zones of West Bengal offer extensive and varied environs for the development of temperate, subtropical and tropical produce, both agricultural and horticultural. The State has achieved significant growth in agriculture in the past decade. It is the largest producer of rice and the second largest producer of potato in the country. It also produces around 0.25 million tonnes of fruits and over 10 million tonnes of vegetables annually.

At the Mullickghat flower market near Howrah

Bridge, vendors arrange seasonal flowers.

The consulting firm McKinsey and Company has asserted in its Vision Document for West Bengal, that the State should aspire to be the food bowl of India by 2010 owing to the self-sufficiency it has achieved in critical food crops and the leadership it has assumed in the production of a wide range of agricultural produce. The State accounts for 10 per cent of the country's edible oil production; it is the largest producer of fish and produces substantial quantities of spices, coconut, cashew nut, arecanut, betel vine and oilseeds.

Agro and food processing industries form an important part of the State's economy. A study conducted by the Government of India estimated that the investment potential in the food processing industry in the State is Rs.154.52 billion over the next 10 years. The State government is devising policies and plans to increase production of vegetables, fruits, rice, poultry, dairy and floriculture.

Some of the key investors in the food processing industry are AsconAgro PE & B Pvt. Ltd, a Pailan Group company, which has entered into a joint venture with AFT/PB Counsiel of France to set up unit in Dhaniakhali, Hooghly, to produce potato flakes; Dabur Ltd, which has set up its unit in north Bengal; Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo, which has set up a potato processing unit in Howrah district; and Arambagh Hatcheries, which was set up in 1975 and has grown by over 30 per cent annually. Unilever and Nestle have also expressed interest in setting up food processing units in the State.

West Bengal is also a unique State in that it has practically all landscapes that are required to make it a tourist hub - the Himalayas, the beaches, forests, the Sunderbans, tea gardens, historical sites and places of worship. The State government is sparing no effort to tap this potential. West Bengal is a safe place to be in since the law and order situation is well under control. The State has a long tradition of tolerance, which has resulted in communal harmony and a near-total absence of caste prejudices.

published in FRONTLINE,
Volume 24 - Issue 02
:: Jan. 27-Feb. 09, 2007

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee: "It is not agriculture vs industry, it is from agriculture to industry' ,



Chief Minister

CHIEF Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has many facets to his personality. He is perceived as a man with a mission to overhaul West Bengal's economy and bring back its past glory. "It is my vision that West Bengal assumes its rightful place at the top in the fields of agriculture, industry, education, science and culture," he said in an interview to Frontline, published in Jan. 27-Feb. 09, 2007 issue. Interview taken by Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhay. Buddhadeb spoke about the recent problems and criticisms his government faced, its policies and the need to move quickly from an agrarian economy to an industrial one. Excerpts from the interview:

Q:Last year's Assembly elections set at rest all suspicions and allegations of electoral malpractices and rigging in the State. It was an overwhelming mandate for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Please share with us your vision for West Bengal.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee:
First of all, it was not a mandate for just Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. True, I led the election campaign and the electoral battle, but it was a mandate for the Left Front, for its programmes and policies. Individuals matter but only a little. Looking back on what we have accomplished so far, we realise we have consolidated our success in agriculture. We have attained self-sufficiency, particularly in rice, vegetables and fish, and have been able to guarantee food security. It is now high time we moved from agriculture to industry.

I would like to elaborate a little here. Some people think that we can continue with only our success in agriculture; we can improve the economy of the State only through agriculture; even the problem of unemployment can be solved through agriculture. I don't think this is possible. We are right now in a transitional stage; based on our success in agriculture we are moving towards rapid industrialisation. Agriculture alone cannot create new job opportunities and move the economy further. So, it is imperative to move from agriculture to industry; it is not agriculture versus industry.

It is my effort to develop both the manufacturing sector in the State and knowledge-based industries such as Information Technology and biotechnology. In the manufacturing sector, our priority should be SMEs [small and medium enterprises]. It is this sector that provides job opportunities, rather than big projects - take the case of ancillaries of automobile industries, or downstream industries related to the iron and steel major units. Although we are a bit of a late starter in industrialisation, we have managed to catch up with other States, and as far as IT is concerned, I think we are ahead of any other State. It is my vision that West Bengal assumes its rightful place at the top in agriculture, industry, education, science and culture.

Q:Is this vision shared by the other partners of the Left Front, notably the Revolutionary Socialist Party, the Communist Party of India, the Forward Bloc and all sections of the CPI(M)?

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee: There is opposition from different corners. There is the extreme right-wing like the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamool Congress, which are opposing us; on the other hand there is the extreme left-wing - the naxalites - who don't really understand anything and live in a fool's paradise. I do not take them seriously. And there is some opposition within the Left itself. Unfortunately, some of our friends in the Front fail to understand the situation. They don't have that vision. They feel what we have achieved is enough. They fail to understand that we cannot stand on that alone - landlessness is on the rise, it is getting difficult to get remunerative prices for agricultural produce because the cost of inputs in agriculture is increasing; in fact it is difficult to protect even the minimum support price. Therefore, it is now time to move from one stage to another. We must move towards industry; that is the general direction of all civilisations - from agriculture to industry, from villages to cities. Let me explain a little further - agriculture's contribution in the SDP [State Domestic Product] is around 26 per cent, that of industry is 24 per cent and the service sector 50 per cent. The service sector is doing fine. But the given ratio of agriculture and industry is not an indication of good health for the State's economy. Ideally, industry's contribution should gradually increase and that of agriculture decrease. This, my critics fail to understand. I am trying my best to convince them.

Q:It is not just your critics. A section of the general public, too, has not fully understood the reasons for the State's industrial drive. There is quite a lot of misinformation floating around too. What are you doing to allay these fears?

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee: I admit there is some information gap. We have to work carefully and patiently. We have to tell the people the whole truth and take them into confidence, or we will not be able to achieve anything. But as I told you, some extremist elements who don't understand the real problems of our economy or the political condition of our country, and who don't even bother to find out, are trying to cause mischief. But I am not bothered about them, or bothered about some unwanted guests visiting our State and making provocative speeches. What I am concerned about is that the people don't misunderstand us, as it happened at Nandigram [local farmers violently agitated on the basis of a mere rumour of land acquisition]. That was a failure of the local administration and we failed to explain to the people what is being proposed there. What is a chemical hub? How did it all start?

It was the Government of India's decision actually. Eight States participated in a presentation, in which West Bengal topped the list as a destination for such a hub. Why Nandigram? Because it is near the Haldia port. But the people [of Nandigram] didn't know what it was about and the local administration, without discussing with them, without taking them into confidence sent a circular that created havoc. We have to correct our mistakes. We have to make the people understand that this project will be good for them and that we are trying to help them improve their standard of living.

Q:The Nandigram imbroglio may have been, to some extent, responsible for the Central government's re-thinking on Special Economic Zones. Do you think the Chinese success with SEZs and export-led growth can be replicated in India, and in West Bengal, in particular?

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee: India should not follow any model or any country. The Centre evolved its SEZ policy without really giving much thought. It asked the State governments to decide how many SEZs they wanted. China started off with six SEZs, and the decision rested on the Central government there, not the provinces. In our case, each State sent a long list, and ultimately there were 400 SEZ proposals. Now the Prime Minister has realised that it was a mistake and hence a review has been called.

A question that should be asked is what is an SEZ for - real estate or industry? At least 50 per cent of the land in an SEZ should be earmarked for industry. It ended up becoming a real estate business and we are against that. The CPI(M) wants some amendments. In West Bengal we have at present three small SEZs - Manikanchan, Wipro and Falta Export Block. Now we are planning another four or five. For this, we first have to consider the land required and the rehabilitation package for the displaced, and ensure that at least 50 per cent of the land is used for industry.

Q:The problems in Singur and Nandigram seem to have given an opportunity for naxalites to find a foothold in the State. How do you propose to tackle this?

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee: I don't think so. First of all one should not equate what happened at Nandigram with Singur. As you know, Singur was the Tatas' choice. We showed them various sites, but they settled for Singur. We could not say no to such a project, otherwise it would have gone to Uttarakhand. It is important to note that in Singur, 95 per cent of the farmers voluntarily submitted their consent - it has never happened in any other part of the country. Some naxalites were trying to infiltrate into the villages. In Nandigram too, when the local farmers got agitated, naxalites tried to take advantage of the situation. I don't think we should take them seriously. They have no proper organisation, and ideologically, they are bankrupt.

Q:You had mentioned in an interview earlier that education and health care in the State needed further development. What is the position now?

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee: The overall situation has improved. The number of schools has increased and the number of dropouts has come down. We provide midday meals in all the schools. These are the good features. But last time, I remember telling you that it was the quality of teaching that was my main headache. We have started a project to provide on-the-job training for teachers in all the primary schools. This will be an in-built mechanism in all the schools, where Key Research Persons will impart training to teachers throughout the year. We have just embarked on this project so it will take a couple of years for the results to show.

As for health, we are trying our best. It is a huge infrastructure to overhaul. But if we can improve the quality of the primary health centres in the rural areas, we will have achieved quite a bit. We are working at improving the health infrastructure and administration at the district level, and at the same time, trying to create a few centres of excellence in Kolkata. There are also some proposals for opening private medical colleges in the State, but first they have to meet the required conditions as set down by the Indian Medical Council.

Q:Your passion for literature is well known. Your translation of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis was well received. Are you working on anything now?

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee: I am not writing anything now. Very difficult to find time. But I do still try to find time for my reading, mostly late at night. I am a late riser [smiles].

West Bengal Left Front Government Safeguards The Interests of the People: Buddhadeb

ON the 30th anniversary

of the West Bengal

Left Front government,

the chief minister



spoke at length to


Excerpts follow:

The electoral verdict of the people is quite clear. The earlier two-thirds majority is now converted, thanks to the people’s verdict, to a three-fourths majority in the Bengal Assembly. We are determined to respect the choice that the people have exercised. We must implement our programme in the rigours of specificity and make the government function in an improved manner and with swiftness.

The continuity of success of the Bengal Left Front in elections and the absence of the anti-incumbency factor here is a rare event replete with political significance. Yet, Bengal is not bereft of the national-level problems and dysfunctionalities plaguing the nation per se.

Unemployment bothers Bengal as it does the rest of India. There is no power supply in 20 per cent of the Bengal villages and hamlets. Road conditions are not ideal. Some amount of problem continues in the health sector, we know. Certainly, these constraints would give rise to the strain of anti-incumbency.

How do we tackle the issue? Well, thanks to the massive waves of organised peasant movements and struggles, the correlation of proprietor ship of the agricultural land parcels have changed, in manner that would allow us to resist and overcome the gusts of anti-incumbency often fomented across the state.


You will recall that the land movement in Bengal started with the historic Tebhaga movement. During the all-too-brief tenures of the UF governments in the late 1960’s, an organised peasant movement was able to take over large chunks of illegally-possessed and ceiling-surplus land reposed among the jotdars-zamindars of this state.

Land was occupied and tilled with the ubiquitous plough by the rural poor. Lives of kisans were sacrificed during this period. The zamindari juggernaut was finally stopped and successfully dismantled.

On assumption of office, the Left Front governments in succession established patta rights for the landless and thus provided the kisan with legal right on the land he possessed and tilled. The recording of barga has been an important component of the land movement. The khet mazdoors lead and participated in a strong movement in Bengal. Taken together, these factors have contributed to make correlation of political force come to such a pass that we are able, as I said to tackle and take care of any form of anti-incumbency.


This indeed is the base of the political power of the Bengal Left Front. No force is able to dominate the rural poor who have stood up for their rights. This is due to the sweeping, redistributive land reforms that Bengal has witnessed. Bengal enjoys unprecedented success in agricultural production. 65 per cent of the people of the state are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture.

Another base for the Left Front is the popularity it has roused among the youth, and among the workers, the peasants, and in general amongst the rural and urban populace. The support has come up through the experience they have had of the pro-people governance of the Left Front governments in succession. The vast majority of the people of Bengal believe that there is no alternative to Left Front.

The situation evolving there in Latin America and here in Bengal is essentially different. Bengal is not a sovereign nation and has to work within the existing centre-state restrictive framework. But we do appreciate the alternative the Latin American countries have boldly put forward to neo-liberalism and globalisation.

British prime minister Margaret Thatcher once put out the slogan that there was no alternative to capitalism, acronymed as TINA or ‘There Is No Alternative.’ Latin America has proved that a viable alternative is very much there.

The Central Committee of the CPI(M) in discussing the developments in Latin American nations recently has noted the growth of the Bolivarian Alternative. The Central Committee will set up a Study Group to observe and analyse the happenings there. We shall identify the essence of Leftism prevailing in Latin America.

It is very important to note that the Latin American nations like Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina, and Ecuador, among others, appear determined to be free of the political, economic, and military hegemony of the United States.

We have attached topmost priority to the task of providing security to the people being marginalised by the so-called liberalisation. We strive for increasing employment opportunities and enhancing levels of income. We do not agree to the view that market economy will run the government. We are against the concept that market economy is omnipotent.

We believe that the inevitable result of market economy is to immiserise especially the poorer sections of the people. Our government intervenes to protect the poor in the face of the onslaught of liberalisation because we are a government of the Left persuasion.

As alternative, we call attention to land reforms. The land belongs to the poor in the villages – 72 per cent of the agricultural land is under the possession of the rural poor. The rural poor also lead the three-tier Panchayat system and a series of diverse schemes of rural development are implemented.

We also lay emphasis on industrialisation, and on the extension of industries and trade-and-commerce. We welcome foreign capital in the realm of higher technology and for employment generation, militating against the jobless growth affecting the developed capitalist nations.

In stressing employment generation, we highlight the small and medium industries. We want to make the self-help groups improved micro enterprises. The principal aim is to involve the backward sections of the people, and scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and women in economic activities.

Other alternatives include total literacy. We have created 68 thousand primary schools. We provide the salary and emoluments to the teachers, and we supply books and exercise books as well as mid-day meals to the students. Government hospitals take care of the treatment of 70 per cent of the ailing people as an alternative to the sweeping privatisation of health services elsewhere in the country.

We are determined to bring up the 20 per cent of the populace who remain below the poverty line. We have been working for the uplift of the poorer villages. We also look into the plight of the workers of closed factories. We provide them with stipends.

We have started Provident Fund benefits for workers in the unorganised sector. Construction workers have been provided with security. The Bengal Left Front government has initiated and unleashed these and other measures as an alternative to the so-called liberalism.


West Bengal Chief Minister’s Intervention in NDC Meet

The following is the text of speech made by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal, at the National Development Council meeting held in New Delhi on December 19, 2007 for finalisation of the Eleventh Five Year Plan.

WE appreciate the convening of this 54th National Development Council meeting on finalisation of the document on Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-2012). While broadly endorsing the approach of “inclusive growth” as elaborated in this revised Eleventh Plan document, I take this opportunity of drawing your attention to a few areas which have not been given due importance in the document.

Although it has been recognised in this document that reasons behind poverty of a person is his limited endowment of land, capital, labour and skill, yet no substantial commitment, except for passing reference, has been made to increasing the land endowment for the poor, i.e., to land reforms. I must mention that the impressive growth rate of 4-5 per cent in agriculture achieved in West Bengal over a period spread over more than two decades has been largely contributed by our vigorous implementation of land reforms programme, supported by provision of other non-land inputs such as irrigation, improved seeds, etc., by involvement of the local people through the Panchayats.

The findings of the 59th round of National Sample Survey data, which have been referred to in the document, point out that only 27 per cent of the total number of cultivator households received credit from formal sources. This is a matter of serious concern. To achieve the targeted 4 per cent growth in agriculture during the Eleventh Plan, we must assure that the kisan credit card facility is extended to every agricultural household with adequate disbursement of credit.

The plan document has very correctly identified the specific constraint for increasing productivity in West Bengal as flood/water-logging and improper drainage. The funding pattern of AIBP should be modified so as to provide central assistance in the form of grant to the extent of 75 per cent of the project cost to tackle the flood and water-logging problem as well as to extend irrigation facilities.

The scheme for Special Economic Zones (SEZs) requires a fresh look. Industry groups should be identified in the first instance which are to be covered under the scheme, instead of extending it to all and sundry. As the minimum land requirement is prescribed, there should be an upper ceiling of land as well for a particular type of SEZ. Within that ceiling, percentage of land area to be compulsorily utilised for industries as against other uses should also be carefully worked out and prescribed.

It is high time that the industrial incentive scheme of the central government is kept limited to North-Eastern states and Jammu & Kashmir only, as otherwise the neighbouring states have not been getting a level-playing field.

The investment in infrastructure has been proposed to be increased from 5 per cent of GDP in 2006-07 to 9 per cent by 2011-12. To achieve an annual growth rate of 9 per cent, we have to invest much more in infrastructure. It has been estimated in the document that to achieve the targeted annual average growth rate of 9 per cent over the Eleventh Plan Period, the aggregate capital formation in infrastructure over the same period should be to the tune of Rs 20 lakh crore, of which 30 per cent is to come from the private sector, directly as well as through PPPs, where desirable and feasible. In this connection, I would mention that the construction of Delhi-Kolkata dedicated railway freight corridor, the deep sea port and the shipyard as well as the modernisation work of the existing airport in the state needs to be expedited.

To achieve 10 per cent growth in industries sector, the manufacturing sector and particularly the micro and small enterprises (MSE) sector has been projected to grow at 12 per cent. The working group has estimated terms loan and working capital requirement for the MSE sector to the tune of Rs 2.96 lakh crore during the Eleventh Plan. It has been mentioned in the document that the percentage of net bank credit available to MSE sector has been declining. To meet the projected credit requirement for this sector we are required to have sufficient number of specialised SSI bank branches in all potential areas and devise appropriate ways to incentivise lending to this sector. Otherwise, it would not be possible to achieve the target of creating 70 million employment opportunities during the Eleventh Plan.

In this context, I would strongly suggest the need for revising the policy of high interest rate regime of bank loans to industry, particularly to the SME sector, and agriculture. Since the rate of inflation has been reported by the government of India to have fallen over the last one year or so, the rate of interest on bank loan should also be correspondingly reduced together with ensuring adequate availability of credit particularly for agriculture and industry. Otherwise, supply-side bottlenecks will be created which will not only stand in the way of employment generation, but may, in fact, lead to ‘cost-push’ inflation.

I would also mention that National Small Savings Scheme, which is of special social significance in encouraging saving propensity, as well as providing protection to savings of common people, should be protected in terms of attractiveness of all the major small savings schemes in relation to competing saving instruments.

In this context, I would like to point out that while there is a need for limiting the fiscal deficit of the states for ensuring long-term sustainability of their finance, applying the limit mechanically to the states regardless of their initial conditions would unduly restrict the resources mobilisation by the states for financing their annual plans with concomitant adverse impact on growth and employment generation, more so when the states are making serious efforts to improve their finances and deploy additional resources for social and infrastructure sectors.

We appreciate the increase in the proposed outlay under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) programme envisaged during the Eleventh Plan period. It would have been better if, in the interest of universalisation of secondary education and employment generation, secondary, vocational and technical education could also be brought within the scope of SSA and the sharing pattern between the centre and states be restored to the ratio of 75:25.

There was a commitment in the NCMP of UPA government for transferring with funds, the centrally sponsored schemes to the state subjects. This commitment may be fulfilled without further delay. To begin with, at least state-specific flexibility should be provided in the guidelines of all these schemes for paying adequate attention to the local characteristics of each state.

There has been a frank admission in the document that the previous 5-year plans have failed to include many disadvantaged groups, especially the Muslims, into the development net. I had advocated a sub-plan approach for the minorities in my submission before the NDC on December 9, 2006. I would still insist on this, since any half-hearted attempt will fail to bring about a significant change to their lot.

Adequate focus has not been given in the document on reduction of abject urban poverty. The allocation under Swarna Jayanti Sahari Rojgar Yojana (SJSRY) and particularly that under the wage employment component of the programme has been too meagre. It requires massive enhancement to make even fractional dent on urban poverty.

While giving my response on the Approach Paper to the Draft Plan, I had mentioned that the Sunderban delta with its fragile eco-system and the three international rivers – the Ganga, the Teesta and the Ichamati should be treated on a separate footing. I had sought for central support for socio-economic development of Sunderban region, tackling the gigantic problem of Ganga-Padma erosion, the Ichamati drainage problem with cross-border implications and for early completion of Teesta project. I take the opportunity to reiterate my demand on these issues.

In the end, I would mention that if, with joint efforts of the centre and the states, Goods and Services Tax is introduced in the centre and in the states, then there may be revenue gains towards the end of the Plan period, with corresponding implication for the size of the Eleventh Plan.
Left Governance in Bengal: The Prize and the Price

Sakyajit Bhattacharya
Created 2008-06-15 18:14

There have been some debates and discussions about the role of the government and a communist party after the election setback in panchayat. This article tries to explore the issue, not as an isolated subject in post 2000 period, but as a continuum from the 1964 policy formulation of the CPI (M).

In this context we should not forget that protecting the Left Front government is itself part of the class struggle. Having to tackle bourgeois landlord state oppression and capitalist aggression all over the country, the party as well as the government formed by the party must play an exemplary role of an alternative social structure, because such a government could offer an alternative to the bourgeois-landlord ruling coalition at the centre, challenging the whole basis of the ruling classes' consensus on economy and policy represented by the present regime in power in the centre. It must be a pro-poor/ people's government, and hence protecting the government also means protection of the interests of the oppressed class. That has been the understanding of the party for long now.

The CPI (M) had visualised the possibility of forming governments at the state level which would be challenging the class policy of the bourgeois-landlord governments at the Centre. Here is the much discussed article 112 of the party programme in 1964:

The Party will obviously have to work out various interim slogans in order to meet the requirements of a rapidly changing political situation. Even while keeping before the people the task of dislodging the present ruling classes and establishing a new democratic state and government based on the firm alliance of the working class and peasantry, the Party will utilize all the opportunities that present themselves of bringing into existence governments pledged to carry out a modest programme of giving immediate relief to the people. The formation of such governments will give a great fillip to the revolutionary movement of the working people and thus help the process of building the democratic front. It, however, would not solve the economic and political problems of the nation in any fundamental manner. The Party, therefore, will continue to educate the mass of the people on the need for replacing the present bourgeois-landlord state and government headed by the big bourgeoisie, even while utilizing all opportunities for forming such governments of a transitional character which give immediate relief to the people and thus strengthen the mass movement. (Author’s emphasis)

The party acknowledged the government to be a transitional one and admitted that the government will not solve all fundamental economic and political problems. For that, we have to walk in the path of extra parliamentary struggle.

But the idea somewhat changed with the possibility of forming a new government in West Bengal in 1967. In 1967 the CPI (M) CC, in a report named ‘New Situations and New Tasks’ once again emphasized the possibilities and limitations of these governments. It was mentioned that:

Our ministries, without either entertaining undue illusions about giving relief in a big way, or courting despair that nothing can be done under the present set-up, should always bear in mind that they as the Party's representatives, should strive to tender our bonafides to the people. Any failure on this score compromises the Party's political line in the eyes of the people; adversely affects the independent mobilization of the people, and their activities; and all this in turn, will not help us to resist and overcome the vacillations, wobbling and sometimes even possible backsliding of some democratic parties in the UFs and their respective governments. In a word, the UF governments that we have now are to be treated and understood as instruments of struggle in the hands of our people, more than as governments that actually possess adequate power that can materially and substantially give relief to the people. In clear class terms, our Party's participation in such government is one specific form of struggle to win more and more people, and more and more allies for the proletariat and its allies in the struggle for the cause of People's Democracy and at a later stage for Socialism.
(Author’s emphasis)

Here the party formulated a twin struggle against the rightwing elements within the party who were under the illusion that relief could solve all existing political and economic problems and the ultra-left elements that utterly dismissed the idea of treading the parliamentary path.

Also, the party differed significantly from its 1964 formulation by acknowledging the role of the government as not only giving relief, but playing as an instrument of struggle in the hand of the oppressed people. So, relief, though the main and immediate task, is not the only purpose of the government. The long-term task is to further the struggle of PDR.

Now, what should be the party’s standpoint regarding a left government that emerges under its leadership? In Namboodiripad’s words:

These should, on the other hand, be seen as a stage in the process of the further intensification of the conflict between the mass of the people headed by the working class on the one hand and the ruling classes symbolized by the Congress government at the Centre on the other. There is no question of the ruling classes permitting the 'peaceful replacement' of their regime by a new popular democratic regime. The only question is the method through which the ruling classes would try to subvert the popular democratic governments. Marxist- Leninists should therefore carry on a simultaneous struggle both against the negative attitude to the struggle on the parliamentary arena as well as against the illusions of a 'smooth and peaceful' advance through the parliamentary path disseminated by right opportunism. (Chile and the Parliamentary Road to Socialism, 1973)

The insufficiency of the relief programme has always been stressed. The CPI (M) made it clear that relief can’t be a permanent solution to the existing problems, and the communists must pursue the extra-parliamentary struggle towards the goal of PDR.

But still, the party decided to join the government in 1977. The common understanding was that the government won’t last long due to the conspiracy of the bourgeois-landlord ruling class. The bitter experience of the two Namboodiripad governments in Kerala and Juktafront (United Front) was still recent. In the internal period, the task was to popularize the government as much as possible through the relief programme so that people could have an idea about an alternative system. People could have an idea of how oppression by the semi-capitalist semi-feudal state structure can be toned down by the relief activities carried by a Leftist government. It would not be the permanent solution, but a populist approach that remained a path not experimented by other bourgeois governments.
Even in the seventies, the party was not sure about forming a government and about the longevity of the government even if they were formed. Namboodiripad, in the above article, time and again drew parallels between the experience of Chile, of Allende, and his own experience in Kerala and concluded that an elected leftist government had high possibility of being bought down by the ruling class conspiracy. B.T Ranadive, in 1978, expressed his opinion that the bourgeois ruling class will never voluntarily hand over power, and if communists come into government without changing the semi feudal structure, the ruling class will positively put all its effort to topple the government (Carrillo’s “Eurocommunism and the State”, 1978). The general understanding, even after the formation of the left front government, was that the government will be short-lived, and so the party quite logically stressed on the task of providing the oppressed masses as much relief as it could with its limited power and tenure in the government. The understanding remained unchanged in the first few years of the Left Front government in West Bengal.

But the apprehensions of the communists were refuted by the people of West Bengal. The Left government remained in power for years. Each election was won with landslide margins, and the relief activities became so popular, especially in rural areas, that the opposition parties went on to become organizationally demobilized through the popular appeal of the Left Front government policies. Land redistribution programme, especially Operation Barga, and the restructuring of the Panchayat Raj, helped the government to concretise its position almost permanently in rural Bengal.

This might be looked upon as not only a story of immense success, but also a source of ideological problem. If mere relief activities can help the party stay in the government for years, then what is the need to talk of PDR, of extra-parliamentary activities? The party was now in a dilemma: it did not, for a single time, deny the necessity of PDR. But at the same time, relief proved to be a sustainable path to form an alternative system that was hoped to serve an exemplary role to the oppressed masses of the country. The party talked so much about the insufficiency of relief, about why relief or such kind of ‘transitional’ governments can’t bring the real solution-and now the relief showed to be sustainable, at least with regard to the vote bank, and the government perhaps remained no more transitional.

As a rational being, the party went on combining the path of relief with left-democratic governance within the existing set up. It acknowledged that relief was insufficient to solve the basic socioeconomic problems, and at the same time went to explore more and more the possibilities of gaining peoples’ support by left governance, even within this existing system and with limited power.
This was perhaps best described by Jyoti Basu in 1985:

The Left Front government in the state of West Bengal has limited powers. It has to operate within a capitalist federal economy. The constitution, contrary to federal principles, does not provide for the needed powers for the states and we suffer from a special disability because the union government is ill disposed towards our government. In such a situation, we have been explaining to the people why we cannot bring about fundamental changes even though the ideology and character of our government are different from those that characterize the government at the Centre. But we do hold that by forming the government through election it is possible for us to rule in a manner which is distinctly better and more democratic than the way followed by the Congress party at the centre and in many other States. It is also possible to give relief to the people, particularly the deprived section, through the minimum programme adopted by the Left Front. We have been attempting to do so by motivating the people and enlisting their support and sympathy. Our objective is to raise their political consciousness along with giving them relief so that they can distinguish between truth and falsehood and friends and enemies, and realize the alternative path which will free them from the shackles of Capitalism and Feudalism and usher in a new modern progressive society…..The left and democratic state governments can help and expedite this process even with their limited powers. It is with such a perspective and objective that we are functioning in West Bengal.
(Left Front Government’s Industrial Policy: Some Aspects, 1985)

So, there had been a fine shift from the 1964 stand. Twenty years ago a ‘modest’ relief programme was thought of which was admitted to not solve the basic problems. In 1967, the party document made the allusion of the feasibility of doing something ‘more’ than relief. In 1985, though relief was still looked upon as insufficient, it is admitted that state governments can do a considerable work in order to expedite the task of PDR. It is not only relief, but educating people so that they can identify the real danger and struggle to make a progressive society. While in 1964 the aim was to popularize the government within limited time span, the vision now widened. The relief is seen to be sustainable and the government is seen to be a powerful weapon to bolster the mass movement, even within the bourgeois-landlord structure, because now the government was not transitional anymore. Other factors were the hostile nature of the Centre and the discriminatory policies which made the government explain more and more to the people the odds against an elected left government. The common understanding prevailing was that the current set up and the bourgeois ruling class will block the activities of a left democratic government though there is much scope for development works (a significant shift from the 1964 formulation).

Time went by, a whole new neo-liberal arena opened up for the country, the one party dictatorship in the Centre went to oblivion, but still the Left Front continued its regime in West Bengal. Huge mass popularity, along with concrete organizational force and weak opposition, helped the government to continue its popular relief policy. But after 2000, the party programme aimed at something more than relief or task of PDR. It acknowledged the huge achievement of the Left Front government and admitted that an exemplary alternative social system can be formed even within the existing structure that will serve as a lighthouse to the toiling mass in the ocean of capitalistic and feudalistic repression.
The huge success story of the government made the following change in the party programme:

the Party will utilise the opportunities that present themselves of bringing into existence governments pledged to carry out a programme of providing relief to the people and strive to project and implement alternative policies within the existing limitations. The formation of such governments will strengthen the revolutionary movement of the working people and thus help the process of building the people’s democratic front. It, however, would not solve the economic and political problems of the nation in any fundamental manner. The Party, therefore, will continue to educate the mass of the people on the need for replacing the present bourgeois-landlord State and government headed by the big bourgeoisie even while utilising opportunities for forming such governments in the states or the Centre, depending on the concrete situation, and thus strengthen the mass movement.
(Change is shown in Italics)

So, the party now envisioned a left democratic alternative which is more than relief, or at least projected to be.

The problem is what task this alternative government will carry on. Can it set up any alternative structure in the existing set up, or any alternative social system? Within this bourgeois landlord set up and more so in the neo liberal arena, the state governments have very limited power to go in the path of human development. What a Left Front government can do at best is to consolidate the relief programme and strengthen the mass movement. It is only relief that can be possible within this existing structure. Without an entire change in the system no alternative governance can be set up. If a Left government is there, it would then go with mere alternative ways of relief which would popularize the party more and more, but it is certainly not an alternative set up.

The problem lies here. If we talk about alternative government in the current set up, we basically recognize the sustainability of the relief programme, (might be in some alternative way). The party, in post 2000 period, is perhaps not considering relief as a transitional phase (very natural formulation, because the government is no more transitional!!). Rather, through alternative governance, the party now theorizes the possibility of remaining in the government for a long term. That might be problematic. As long as we know that relief is transitional (1964 formulation) and so is the government, it is the path of revolution, through extra parliamentary struggle, that remains with us while the scope of relief gradually decreases in this neo-liberal regime. We could then explain to people that relief can’t ultimately solve the basic problems. It is the PDR that is the only solution.

But once we formulate that the immediate task is to remain in the government and thus make an alternative government, we in fact recognize the permanency of relief. The reality that relief is bound to fail is denied. No explanation on the ultimate fruitlessness of relief is floated in the grass root, and the realization of this fruitlessness in lower level is gradually lost. This is evident even in the party documents where no mention about the transitional character and ultimate failure of such state governments in the existing set up, which would compel the mass along the path of PDR, is penned down. The realization that protecting the Left Front government is itself a day to day class struggle for the interest of PDR, not for the interest of remaining in power or mere relief, is lost in the lower strata of the party.

The idea of relief has also changed significantly. In the first half of the Left Front governance, relief was something that was related to a regime better and more democratic than the Congress rule, as apparent from Jyoti Basu’s speech. But later, the idea was transformed in providing a human solution to the suffering of the masses under the neo liberal policies. The common idea is that there is no alternative of the New Economic Policy imposed by the Centre, but the Left government can work out a human face of the big capital which will provide the toiling mass limited relief. The TINA (There Is No Alternative) mentality is now deeply connected with the idea of alternative government. Previously, the alternative seemed to be the path of PDR when the transitional relief programme failed. But since the permanence of relief is given legitimacy, now the idea is how to work out a humane solution of the neo-liberal structure, without changing it.

Therefore, when big capital sharpens its aggression, no radical alternative comes out. The government goes on with consolidating relief which proves to be insufficient in the face of neo-liberal attack. A surrendering policy then becomes dominant in the entire socio-political sector, and the TINA (There Is No Alternative) mentality becomes triumphant. Then the government has to walk down the same path of the neo-liberal industrialization dictated by big capital. The mere difference lies in making it more human, more sensitive to the peoples’ cause. But no radical policy of rejecting the path and working out for some alternative policy comes out.

It is the task of the party, not the government, to be much more cautious in directing the government to educate people in identifying the basic problems. The Communist Party, we believe, will be ultimate victorious in the struggle of poor peoples’ quest for a better society. It is the duty of the CPI (M), as the vanguard of the proletariats, to aim its directives towards PDR and to not, at any rate, deviate from this goal. The Left government led by the CPI (M) is an instrument in the hand of poor people. The party must not sacrifice this powerful character. Each election, each path of the extra parliamentary struggle is a necessary stone in the path of PDR, a class struggle. The very essence of this class struggle must not be sacrificed.

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M K Pandhe

On June 20th 2007 the Left Front Government completed 30 years of continuous rule defending the interests of the toiling people in West Bengal. Within the framework of the capitalist system, no party in India could overcome the anti-incumbency factor for such a long time in any state since independence. There is no example of any left party remaining in power in a province of any capitalist country in the world for such a long time.

This unique experience in West Bengal needs to be studied properly. Despite discrimination by the ruling party or combination of parties at the centre, the Left Front Govt. continued to develop the economy of the state despite all limitations of the capitalist system and made a mark of its own in the national situation. Defeating all conspiracies to topple down or weaken, the Left Front Govt. in West Bengal could raise its head high with the determined support of the people of the state.

Left Front Govt came into being in the process of prolonged struggles by Left forces with the people and for the cause of common people's life, livelihood and democratic rights. With "Operation Barga" it introduced genuine land reforms in the state for the first time in the country. Lakhs of share coppers got their right to till the land which resulted in remarkable improvement in agricultural productivity as well as expansion of rural market. Since it came into being in the process of struggle by the toiling people, people remained with Left Front and It has been the massive support of the rural masses that sustained the Left Front Government in Bengal for three decades, mocking at the lousy noise of so called "scientific rigging". The successful introduction of Panchayati Raj empowered the rural poor to have a role in developmental activities in the State. It cannot be a fault of the Left Front Government that the opposition parties could not get even candidate to contest election against the left front candidates in some places! The Panchayati Raj in Bengal even attracted some foreign countries who sent representatives to study the operation of the system in the State.

The total number of beneficiaries of agricultural land distributed among the land less in Bengal is now 29.14 lakh. The total number of recorded share croppers have now reached 15.08 lakh.
In a memorandum to the 53rd meeting of the National Development Council on Food and Agriculture held on May 29, 2007 at New Delhi the Govt. of West Bengal noted, "In our state, the total production of rice, despite the adverse effects of floods, has been estimated to reach 144 lakh tones in 2006-07, which is higher than the requirement of the State (presently 139.6 lakh MT) and West Bengal occupies the first position in the States in production of rice. Moreover, the production of potato is also estimated to reach 77 lakh MT which is again much higher than the requirement of the State (43.4 lakh MT) and in this regard the States position is second among the states. In addition the total production of vegetables is estimated to increase to 125 lakh MT which is substantially higher than the states requirement (86.7 lakh MT) and in this case also, West Bengal occupies the highest position among the States".

The Left Front Government came in a wake of several struggles conducted by the working class and the toiling masses in defence of their rights. With intensification of class struggles in West Bengal the ruling Congress launched a severe repression on the trade union and democratic movement in early seventies. During the semi-fascist terror launched by the Congress party more than 1200 trade union activists had to lay down their lives braving the attacks by the gangsters and police. Several thousands of activists were evicted from their residential areas and had to take shelter in far away places.

The holding of regular elections in all elective organizations/institutions ensured the democratic process to empower the people and gave them a voice to elect representatives of their choice. The left front Government proved its growing popularity not only in Assembly and Parliamentary polls but in Municipalities and Gram Panchayats. Despite attempts to form Mahajot combining all anti-Left forces, the left front Government continue to win support of the people in the State. The bankruptcy of the Congress policies in the state has brought its strength down to a lowest possible level. The Congress party which ruled the state for several years has become a smaller force than even the Trinamul Congress.

The Trinamul Congress with the backing of lumpen elements and financed by dubious sources has repeatedly tried to destabilize the Govt but failed miserably. Instead of achieving the dream of entering writers building Ms. Mamata Banerjee lost her support among the people. Her ranks are deserting her seeing her maverick policies which only is making her more violent and resorting to gangster methods to prevent further erosion. Her unreliable political behaviour is making her allies skeptical about her policies. The BJP got some foothold in Bengal due to Mamata Banerjee's support to the communal outfit. Within erosion of her own influence in the state politics BJP is facing difficulties to mark its presence in the state politics.

When the Left Front came to power the opposition combine and the press in Bengal initiated a virulent campaign that due to the role of CITU in the state, the industries would not come to invest in West Bengal. They also were campaigning about sickness of large number of companies in the state which they ascribed to the militant trade union movement in Bengal. As a matter of fact most of the units became sick during the Congress regime and refusal of the Central Government to give orders to public sector units in the State and their discriminatory policy against the state.


Decades of Congress rule brought in widespread industrial stagnation in West Bengal. On the eve of independence West Bengal was second in industrial development which came down fifth due to this policy. After achieving land reforms it was now an urgent task before the Left Front Govt. to develop industrial base and generate employment for lakhs of new entrants in the employment market. Public sector investment came to a standstill due to the policy of neoliberal globalization adopted by the Central Governments. Naturally private sector investment came to the forefront. With the lack of resources with the state Govt. which is further aggravating owing to neoliberal policies, the Left Front Government had to rely on private sector investment. However when the Government adopted a policy of encouraging new investment in the state, the opposition parties made a common cause to oppose every proposal for starting new industrial activities in the state. Singur and Nandigram became symbol of opposition parties' resistance to industrial development. The unfortunate police firing on March 14 at Nandigram was regretted by all and the West Bengal Govt. gave up the proposal to establish a chemical hub in Nandigram; but still the violent agitation continued and law and order was thrown overboard. The proposal of the Left Front Govt. to hold talks to work out consensus on issues of development is being turned down only to continue a situation of lawlessness in the state.

The people will have to counteract such disruptive move of the opposition parties who have made a common cause to create difficulties in the process of industrial development. We are confident that the people of West Bengal will defeat the game of Congress Trinamul Congress, extremists and BJP to obstruct the process of industrial development without affecting the agricultural development.


While making serious effort for employment generating investments in the state, the Left front Government never hesitated in upholding the rights of the toiling people including right to organize and right to strike. It was the first Govt. to pass a legislation in the Legislative Assembly providing secret ballot for recognition of a union in the industry. The central Government took more than several years to endorse the Bill and obtain presidential assent to it.

Even now the central Government has not provided through legislation the right of workers to determine their representative union through the mechanism of secret ballot. The desire to impose scab unions on the working class by the management is still preventing such a legislation at the national level. The Govt. of West Bengal did this three decades ago and honoured the commitment given to the working class.

The scheme to pay Rs.500 rupees per month for 6 months for workers who became jobless due to closure of their unit is a pioneering scheme initiated by the left front Government. Despite severe financial constraints, the Left Front Govt introduced provident fund schemes for agricultural workers and unorganized sector workers. The provision of payment of contribution by the state Govt. to the lakhs of unorganized workers in West Bengal is the testimony of its pro-people commitment. This is yet to be implemented by most of the UPA or NDA sponsored Governments in other States. The welfare Scheme for construction workers has also provided much needed relief to these unorganized sector of workers is also another significant step taken by the left front Govt.

While the majority of the working people all over the country are being subjected to repression and widespread violation of labour laws being indulged by the both the state and central administration, the Left Front Govt of West Bengal has always taken forthright stand in support of all the struggles of working class against such repression and violations and also passed a legislation to plug the loopholes of the labour laws for effective implementation. The West Bengal Assembly has already passed legislation containing provision for Recovery Officers to be appointed by the Labour Department for recovery of money due from an employer through attachment of properties, arrest of the employer and detention in prison etc. The legislation is still awaiting assent from the President. The Left Front rule did always remain with the toiling people in all the sphere of its governance which demarcates it from other non-left governments and such demarcation is the source of its strength - the continued support of the mass of the people.


B.T. Ranadive characterised the Left Front Government as revolutionary outposts of our movements. They fight for alternative policies to the Central Government and oppose the policies of globalization by the Central Government.

However, formation of Left Front Government is only a passing phase of our revolutionary movement. Within the capitalist framework the State Govt. has limited powers since all financial powers are within the Central Government yet the Left Front government is trying to give maximum relief to the working class and the toiling masses.

The ultimate objective of the working class movement is to strive to organize a peoples' democratic revolution in which working class will play a leading role. This will pave the way for building a socialist society, which will abolish exploitation of man by man.

The workers peasant alliance has to play a crucial role in such a revolutionary social transformation. The policies and programmes of the Left Front Government has to encourage the people to move in that direction.

Formation of Left front Government in one state or in a couple of states will not automatically lead to such a revolutionary transformation. The democratic movement must be strengthened in other weaker states so that revolutionary forces become stronger in these weaker states.
There is urgent need to pay attention to these aspects if the left movement has to acquire an all India character in real terms. The people oriented alternate polices pursued by the left front Govt should continue to demarcate it from others. Working class in other states should popularize the achievements of the left front Govts of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura so that people are mobilized in defence of alternative policies. This alone will make the democratic movement achieve a popular character and develop a nationwide democratic movement for a real democratic change in the present exploitative social system. The strong movement in Left Front led states will be a powerful force to help strengthening of the left and democratic movement in other states.

The socio political developments in the country during last couple of decades point to that tremendous potential of the Left movement and the frontline role of the Left forces in the struggle against communal and divisive forces on the one hand and in combating the onslaught of neoliberal economic policies. In the present correlation of political forces, following defeat of the NDA regime and dependence of the UPA Govt on the Left parties, the contribution of the Left movement has been immense and our Left Front and Left Democratic Front Governments played crucial role in making such contribution effective. The Left-led governments in the three states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura are pursuing developmental strategies towards horizontal expansion of the economy based on simultaneous growth of agriculture and manufacturing; they are upholding the democratic rights of the toiling people. They are pursuing such a line, despite all limitations imposed by the policy framework of the government at the centre. Thus, they bear the stamp of clear demarcation from other non-Left-ruled states. This demarcation is the source of their strength to resolutely fight the designs of imperialism and neoliberalism.

In such a background, it is but natural that the right reactionaries, the real votaries of neoliberalism and their cronies, will not miss any opportunity of maligning the Left. Their design is to isolate the Left and weaken their opposition to disastrous neoliberal policies. We must analyse the post Nandigram developments in this backdrop. We have to realise in depth the real import of and the ulterior design behind the recent countrywide vigorous anti-Left tirade by the reactionary forces and counter the same. We must, however, patiently explain to the common people, the importance of the role of Left forces in maintaining and strengthening the democratic secular fabric of society and the political system and in advancing the struggle for a pro-people economic regime and the cruciality of the Left Front Govt's role in the same.

Let the left and democratic movement surge forward so that the objective of ending the present exploitative system by the toiling masses can be achieved as soon as possible.

Defence of the Left Front Govt. has become an important task before the revolutionary movement in our country!