Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Our development policies are oriented towards poorest of the poor: BUDDHADEB

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Talks to CPI(M) West Bengal unit Website

West Bengal Assembly poll is due in nearly six months from now. In this situation what are the areas of development you have taken as priority task?

Buddhadeb: All of our developmental programmes are being directed towards alleviation of poverty and unemployment and improving the quality of life of the poorest of the poor. In this direction, a programme of land reforms is continuing. We distributed 16000 acres of land to landless poor in last one year. We have initiated a new scheme of home stead land to the homeless people in both rural and urban areas. The programme of REGA has been undertaken vigorously in the villages. State govt. has launched similar progammes in municipal areas. Different schemes for SC and ST people are being implemented. There is also special emphasis on education and training for skill development. Government has recently declared a policy to accommodate Muslim families as OBC on the basis of their family income. More than 1.4 crore minority population in West Bengal will get this benefit. More than 11 lakh self help groups, especially of women are active in various economic activities. Most of them are getting bank loans for doing business and earning money. Education was always in the priority list of the governmental function. On the one side we have tried to expand our base in primary education recruiting all school going children in government run schools. On the other hand we are trying our best to improve the quality of education and develop the higher educational institutions as centres of excellence.

What is the status of the slogan “Agriculture is our base, Industry is our future”?

Buddhadeb: During the Assembly Elections in 2006, we raised the slogan that agriculture is our base and industry would be our future. It is not simply a political slogan but a well planned development perspective. There is a considerable success in agricultural production with regard to rise in the production of rice, jute, vegetables, potatoes, etc. Farmers, poor and marginal farmers, of this state are better off than any other part of the country. On the other hand investments for setting up the industries are also coming. It was more than Rs 7060 crores last year. This year will be no exception. Steel, Chemicals, Fertilizers, Agro processing and IT are major areas of investment in West Bengal. No doubt Govt. is facing many obstacles from opposition in many parts of the state but we cannot stop industrialization. Because it is the need of the hour, industries are particularly necessary for the young generations.

How do you consider the danger of Maoists in West Bengal?

Buddhadeb: Maoists are operating in very difficult terrain not because of the fact that poor people, particularly tribals are living there. They operate in those areas simply for the topographical advantage to implement their politics of terror and so called armed struggle. Their programme is to destroy the democratic structure, constitution and the Indian state. It is a threat to all right thinking Indian citizens.

Do you think Maoists became active in West Bengal because of under-development?

Buddhadeb: Under-development is one of the problem but not the main problem. I would like to remind you that Khalistani movement took place in Punjab where the then per capita income was highest in the country. In West Bengal land reforms has been implemented in Jungle Mahal, like other parts of the state. As a result no big land owners have big junk of the land in that area. Vast areas of land belong to poor and tribals. They have right to enter forest and collect forest products for their livelihood. Area development schemes are going on to create more facilities in irrigations, drinking water, rural roads, electricity etc. Primary and secondary schools are operational and most of the children attend those schools regularly.

How do you view TMC- Maoists nexus in the state?

Buddhadeb: The main opposition party wants to be the ruling party in state by hook or crook. Therefore, they support Maoists annihilation programme in Jungle Mahal where they have no following. They want to enter into Jungal Mahal with the help of Maoists. A section of big press is always supporting the cause of Maoists. Some of the journalists may be sympathetic to Maoists cause without having a concrete idea about their ideology. The owner of the big press know very well that left extremism always help the right wing politics against main stream left opposition in the country. The Trinamool Congress always gives statements alleging our party for ‘sabotage’ and other crimes. Trinamool is actually based on lies and false propaganda. They think if they repeat the lies again and again it will confuse the ordinary people. But I believe that good sense will finally prevail.

What is your opinion about the policy of the second UPA Govt.?

Buddhadeb: Second UPA Govt. has failed to improve the life of aam admi. India is now virtually divided into two countries. One is for a few rich millionaires, and other is for millions of hungry poor. There is a serious setback in agricultural production which is threatening the food security of the country. Number of people living below poverty line has increased during UPA regime. Growth in rate of GDP has failed to solve the miseries of the common people.

14th September, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010



The Left Front government in West Bengal completed 33 years in office on June 21, 2010. This record of remaining uninterruptedly in office for three decades by winning 7 successive state assembly elections is unparalleled in the country and indeed a record for any elected Government in the world. The government could achieve this by winning the trust of the people of West Bengal, especially the trust of the working class and the peasantry, through its propeople programme and policies.

Ever since it assumed office in 1977, the Left Front government has pursued a programme of providing relief to the people and adopted alternative policies, despite the constraints faced by a State government functioning within India’s bourgeois-landlord set up. The Left Front government has implemented thoroughgoing land reforms and established a vibrant Panchayati Raj. These historic initiatives have broken the back of landlordism in the rural areas of West Bengal, invigorated the agrarian economy, empowered the poor peasants and agricultural workers and brought lakhs of rural families out of abject poverty.

Several other pro-people policies have been undertaken in regard to strengthening workers’ rights and social sector development, which have benefited different sections of the people: factory workers, unorganised workers, government employees, school and college teachers, students, youth and women. Initiatives have been taken to uplift the conditions of the dalits, adivasis and minorities. Through their experience, the people came to recognize the Left Front government as a pro-people government and a custodian of their rights. The unstinted support of the people for the Left Front has made West Bengal the bastion of the Left movement in the country.

Attack by Anti-Left Forces

During the recent period, this bastion has come under intense attack. Ever since the Left Front won the assembly elections in 2006 with a big majority, the anti-Left forces have launched a counter-offensive. On the one hand, there is a political gang-up of all anti-Left forces in the state under the leadership of the reactionary Trinamul Congress. On the other hand, there is a concerted effort to physically target, terrorise and annihilate Left cadres in the rural areas, particularly those from poor and socially deprived background. Over 250 activists and sympathisers of the Left, mainly belonging to the CPI (M), have been killed in West Bengal since May 2009. Those killed include comrades from the most oppressed sections of society, brave cadres from the adivasis, scheduled castes, minorities. Most of these gruesome killings are being carried out by the Trinamul Congress (TMC) in league with the Maoists. The Congress party, a junior partner of the anti-Left alliance in the state, is also extending support to this murderous campaign and is directly involved in these attacks in some districts.

Clearly, the ruling classes in India and their political representatives cannot tolerate the alternative policies that the West Bengal Left Front government pursues. Another basic reason behind the intensified attacks is the crucial role that the Left movement in West Bengal has played in enabling the Left movement in the country as a whole to mount a strong resistance against the proimperialist anti people policies of the Central Government.

While supporting the Congress led Government from outside during the period of 2004 to 2008, the Left played a crucial role in blocking rightwing policies like disinvestment in PSUs, opening up sectors like banking, insurance, retail, higher education etc. to foreign capital and further liberalization/deregulation of sectors like food, agriculture, petroleum and mining. The Left forced the Government to raise more taxes from the rich and spend on social welfare schemes for the poor like the NREGA. The Left also resolutely opposed India’s strategic alliance with US imperialism, which was being cemented through the nuclear deal. This has hurt the interests of international finance capital, MNCs – mainly the American ones – and big corporates in India. It is therefore in the interest of these sections of the imperialists and Indian ruling classes to weaken the Left, so that the pro-imperialist, neoliberal policies can be implemented in the country without hindrances. And weakening the Left is not possible without attacking the strongest bastion of the Left in West Bengal.

Ire of Communal and Fundamentalist Forces

The Left Front government in West Bengal and the Left movement have emerged as a bulwark against the communal and fundamentalist forces, in defence of secularism and the rights of minority communities. In a state, which has historically been afflicted by communal violence and strife, the Left Front government’s policies and movements led by the Left have strengthened secularism and made West Bengal the safest and most secure state for the minority communities. Communal and fundamentalist forces have therefore always been hostile to the Left in West Bengal. These forces are actively backing the anti-Left forces today to weaken the Left, in order to expand their political space in the state.

TMC-Maoist led Offensive

The issue of industrialization in West Bengal was used by the opposition to mount a vicious campaign against the left Front. Although not an inch of land was acquired in Nandigram, misgivings were created among sections of the peasantry that their land will be forcibly taken away. The TMC has used the situation to bring in the Maoists, mobilise all the anti-Left forces around this TMC-Maoist axis and launch a violent offensive against the Left Front. This TMC-Maoist led offensive has the backing of imperialist forces and Indian big business on the one hand and the erstwhile rural elites in West Bengal on the other, who seek to regain their hegemony by rolling back land reforms. Anti-democratic separatist forces in West Bengal like the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha and Kamtapur Liberation Organisation have also joined the anti-Left offensive in North Bengal. The Congress led Government at the Centre, while paying lip service against Maoist violence, has chosen to turn a blind eye to the open collusion between the Union Railway Minister and the Maoists. Alongside physical attacks on the cadres of the Left, the anti-Left forces have also unleashed a vicious campaign against the CPI (M) and the LeftFront government in West Bengal to tarnish its image and record. In this, they have found a set of willing allies in sections of the corporate media as well as some anti-Communist NGOs. These entities are working overtime, spreading canards against the Left and trying to paint a progressive mask for the TMC leader, in order to spread confusion among the allies of the Left and cover up for the violent, semi-fascist character of the anti-Left forces. The entire effort is geared towards demonizing and vilifying the Left Front government and dehumanizing the CPI (M) cadres with grotesque lies, so as to justify the barbaric slaughter of over 250 innocent and poor people!

Slander on Land Acquisition

The slander campaign against the Left Front government is mainly based on land acquisition. An impression has been created as if the government is forcibly acquiring huge tracts of farmland for building SEZs and other private industries. What is the reality? Let us take the example of SEZs. Since the SEZ Act was notified in 2006, only 11 SEZs have been built in West Bengal till date, out of which 9 are IT/ITES SEZs mostly built on 10 to 20 hectares of land, with the largest one built on 48.5 hectares. Altogether, these 11 SEZs have required 210 hectares of land. Contrast this with the fact that in Goa, 3 SEZs have been built on 250 hectares. Therefore, the reality is that the area of land under SEZs in West Bengal is even lower than that of a small state like Goa! Moreover, during the same period, out of the 363 SEZs built across the country, Andhra Pradesh has built 74 SEZs - the largest number in a state - that have come up on 12300 hectares of land. The table below shows how other states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu etc. have built SEZs on large tracts of land:

Special Economic Zones in Selected States

Notified Since 2006


Number of SEZs

Total Area under SEZs (in hectares)

Size of Largest SEZ (in hectares)

Andhra Pradesh 74 12300 2206

Maharashtra 62 9150 1597

Tamil Nadu 57 4470 1019

Karnataka 32 2160 588

Haryana 32 1380 440

Gujarat 30 8600 6214

West Bengal 11 210 48

Goa 3 250 123

Thus, while the baseless calumny against the Left Front government regarding acquisition of large tracts of land has continued unabated despite the West Bengal government not allowing large SEZs to come up, states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Haryana have handed over thousands of acres of land to big corporates and real estate developers for SEZs. Those who have been crying themselves hoarse about supposed land acquisition for SEZs in West Bengal have not cared to protest against the proliferation of SEZs in these states.

Moreover, at a time when forests in various states are being destroyed through indiscriminate commercial exploitation and illegal mining, West Bengal has not only prevented such predatory exploitation of the environment but has succeeded in enhancing the forest cover in the state from around 14% in the 1980s to over 16.6% presently. While states like Uttarachal, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra etc. have been granting forest clearances for commercial projects on a large scale, the West Bengal government has the record of granting the least number of forest clearances among the major states of the country (along with Bihar). It is even more ironical that the Left Front government was being castigated for taking away farmers’ land precisely at a time when the government was redistributing significant amount of land to the landless families in rural areas. 16700 acres (6760 hectares) of land was distributed by the government between 2007 and 2010. The government is also distributing homestead land worth Rs.20000 (0.1 to 0.5 acre), free of cost to each landless family in rural areas. Besides, over 26000 pattas have already been distributed to adivasis and other forest dwellers for 15300 acres under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA). The Maoists in league with the TMC has held up the process of FRA implementation in districts like Paschim Medinipur by threatening adivasis who want to claim their rights under the Act.

Best Record in Land Reforms

West Bengal continues to hold the foremost position in land reforms in the country. Total agricultural land distributed in West Bengal amounts to over 11.28 lakh acres upto February 2010. Over 30.1 lakh farmers have benefited from the land reforms programme, 55% of whom belong to dalit or adivasi households. With a view to empowering women, 6.15 lakh joint pattas and 1.62 lakh female pattas have been distributed. Through recording of sharecroppers (barga), which forms an important component of land reforms, another 15.13 lakh farmers have benefited. West Bengal accounts for 54% of all land reform beneficiaries in the entire country till date.

Pro-Peasant Policies

The land reforms initiative have ensured that 84% of agricultural land in West Bengal is owned by small and marginal peasants. Promotion of small and micro irrigation projects, has increased the net irrigated area as a proportion of total agricultural land in the state from only 32% in 1977-78 to 72% at present, even as the national average is only 45% at present. At a time when the neoliberal policies of withdrawal of the state from agriculture pursued by the Centre has spelled doom for the peasantry across the country, the Left Front government in West Bengal has continued to extend state support to the small and marginal peasants through provision of subsidised inputs – especially improved seeds and organic fertiliser–and ensuring adequate procurement at fair prices. The daily wage rate for agricultural workers has been increased to Rs. 82. The results can be seen in the steady agricultural growth registered in the state. While agricultural growth rate for the country as a whole in 2008-09 and 2009-10 was 1.6% and 0.2% respectively, agricultural growth in West Bengal in the last two years was 4.4% and 4.2% respectively.

Under the Left Front government, West Bengal has emerged from being a rice deficit state to the topmost producer of rice in the country (148 lakh tone production in 2009-10). West Bengal also occupies the first position among all Indian states in the production of vegetables and fish. Despite being the highest producer of rice, Central procurement of rice from West Bengal remains to be very low at less than 5% of total central procurement (FCI procurement of rice is concentrated in AP, Punjab and UP). In this backdrop, the Left Front government has stepped up procurement of rice from the farmers at its own initiative from 2007. In 2009-10, a total of 17.4 lakh tonnes rice was procured and distributed at a subsidised rate of Rs. 2 per kg to 2.64 crore BPL persons in the state. This year, the state government has decided to further increase procurement and expand the scope of Rs. 2 per kg rice to the lowest 20% of APL families over and above all BPL families.

Strengthening Panchayats

Besides undertaking such pro-people initiatives in land reforms and agriculture, another major success of the Left Front government has been the decentralization of power and deepening of democracy to the grassroots through the establishment and efficient functioning of panchayats and municipalities. The three-tier panchayat system established in 1977 in West Bengal has achieved successes that is unprecedented elsewhere in the country. It was a full 16 years after this initiative by the Left Front in West Bengal that the panchayati raj system was adopted for the entire country through the 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments in 1992-93.

As a result of successful implementation of panchayati raj, social power has shifted from the rural elite to the rural poor through empowerment of peasants and agricultural workers, mostly belonging to dalit, adivasi and minority households. It is because of this empowerment that regressive practices like untouchability, atrocities against dalits and adivasis and phenomena like khap panchayats – which are still prevalent across the country – are virtually absent in Bengal. The government has recently implemented 50% reservation for women in panchayats and other local bodies.

Workers’ Rights

Many significant steps have been initiated by the Left Front government for the working class, especially in regard to social security for the workers in the unorganised sector. 17 lakhs unorganised workers have been enrolled in the Provident Fund Scheme till date. The government also provides financial assistance of Rs. 1500 per month to workers of closed factories and tea gardens. Pension of Rs. 1000 per month is paid to old age persons, widows, the disabled, artisans, handloom weavers, farmers and fishermen. The government has recently extended the Employment Guarantee scheme to the urban poor at a minimum wage of Rs. 100 per day. West Bengal has the largest number of functioning small manufacturing units in the country (27 lakhs) as well as the largest number of employment in them (58 lakhs). 10.4 lakh Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are also functioning in West Bengal today, employing over 1 crore persons. The Government is providing interest subsidy to the SHGs to ensure loans at only 4% interest.

Improvement in Social Indicators

Human Development indicators have also improved in West Bengal under the Left Front government. The infant mortality rate measured per 1,000 live births in 2006 was 38 in West Bengal, compared to the all India rate of 57. Life expectancy has improved considerably in West Bengal to 64.5 years for males and 67.2 for females, compared to the all India average of 61 for males and 62.5 for females. As against the all India average of 7.4 per thousand, the death rate in West Bengal is 6.2. West Bengal has a literacy rate of 72 per cent against the all-India average of 63.4. Nearly 100 per cent of all girls and boys of age six are enrolled in schools and the school drop out rate has fallen considerably. The government is currently recruiting 60000 primary school teachers in the ongoing year, which will bring down the student teacher ratio and strengthen the primary education system.

Minority Rights

Steadfast defence of secularism and communal harmony has been the hallmark of the Left Front government in West Bengal. It is a matter of great pride, that West Bengal has remained free from any form of communal violence and riots in the three-decade long rule by the Left. Critics often question the record of the government vis-à-vis minority welfare in view of the findings of the Sachar Committee. However, the Sachar Committee ignored the record of land reforms in West Bengal which greatly benefited the poor Muslims. The share of cultivable land owned by Muslims in West Bengal is 25.6%, which is the highest in the country after Jammu and Kashmir (which is a Muslim majority state).

The Sachar Committee also ignored the fact that the West Bengal government takes the financial responsibility of paying salaries to all Madrasah teachers. The West Bengal Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (WBMDFC) has the best record among all states in disbursing scholarships and loans to the minority students and youth at subsidised interest. In 2009-10, nearly 3.5 lakh Muslims benefited from the WBMDFC schemes, which is the best record in the country as per the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs.

Besides strengthening and modernizing madrasah education, the government has upgraded the famous Calcutta Madrasah (set up by Warren Hastings in 1780) to Aliah University in 2007, which will teach modern subjects like engineering, science, management, physical sciences, humanities, social sciences etc. alongwith Islamic studies. A centre of the Aligarh Muslim University is also being set up in Murshidabad.

The Left Front government in West Bengal has recently decided to implement the recommendations of the Ranganath Mishra Commission Report to grant 10% reservations in jobs for Muslims belonging to OBCs. The process of identification of the OBC Muslim communities has been completed and over 1.4 crore Muslims out of a total of 2.2 crore in the state are being given OBC certificates, which will lead to a big increase in government job opportunities for Muslims.

Trinamul Congress: Destructive Force

While the Left Front government in West Bengal is trying to implement all these pro-people steps and striving to provide an alternative to the exploitative neoliberal order, the anti-Left opposition is hell bent on stalling the progress of the state. The CPI(M) and the Left Front government are acutely aware of their own limitations and shortcomings and are determinedly addressing the issues. The TMC, however, cannot offer any progressive alternative to the programmes and policies of the Left Front. Beneath the veneer of the populist slogan of ‘ma, mati, manush’, lies the bankrupt ideology of rabid anti-Communism and extreme political opportunism epitomized by the TMC supremo. One cannot forget that during her earlier stint as a Cabinet Minister in the NDA government, she had sent a bouquet of flowers to greet Narendra Modi for his victory in Gujarat assembly elections in 2002, after the state sponsored carnage of Muslims in the state.

During her present tenure, she has presided over a spate of railway accidents leading to the loss of precious lives. While 64 persons died in railway accidents across the country in 2009-10, 218 persons have died since April 2010. The Minister has shown no initiative in filling up nearly two lakh vacancies in the Railways, half of which are in departments connected to safety and maintenance. At the same time in the name of public-private partnership (PPP), railway infrastructure is being privatised and functions of the railways are being outsourced. The interests of the Railways are being sacrificed to meet the narrow political interests of the TMC. The Union Railway Minister had no qualms in addressing the PCPA-Maoist organised rally in Lalgarh on 9th August 2010, despite the PCPA being directly responsible for the sabotage and derailment of Jnaneshwari Express in Paschim Medinipur on 28th May 2010, which killed 150 innocent persons. After thoroughly exposing her incompetence and opportunism, the Minister is now offering to negotiate between the Central government and the Maoists.

Character of Maoists

Sections of the intelligentsia suffer from illusions regarding the Maoists. The CPI (Maoist) claims its lineage from the naxalite movement of the 1960-70s, which had sought to blindly imitate the Chinese revolution in India by taking up arms against the state and mouthing slogans like “China’s Chairman is our Chairman”. Following the collapse of the naxalite movement, a large section of the naxalites realised their left adventurist folly and parties like the CPI (ML) Liberation, CPI (ML) New Democracy etc. abandoned armed struggle and joined the parliamentary democratic process.

The Maoists in Nepal have also realised the importance of democratic institutions and are today participating in elections and engaging with the process of framing a republican constitution in Nepal.

In contrast, the Indian Maoists have degenerated, indulging in mindless violence, brutal killings of innocent poor people by labeling them as ‘police informers’, extorting money from forest contractors and illegal miners and striking deals with corrupt bourgeois politicians for protection and patronage. While mouthing pseudo-revolutionary slogans, these nihilist anarchists exploit the tribals and prevent democratic mass mobilisation of the tribal people on their just and democratic demands.

In West Bengal, the Maoists have openly allied with the reactionary TMC to target the grassroot activists of the CPI (M) in the tribal populated forest areas of Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia districts. The Maoists alone have killed over 150 CPI (M) activists and sympathisers in these three districts since May 2009, most of whom were poor peasants and agricultural workers from dalit or adivasi households. They had tried to assassinate the West Bengal Chief Minister through a mine blast during his visit to Paschim Medinipur in November 2008.

While conducting security operations against the Maoists, the Left Front government has ensured that innocent people are not harassed or victimized. The government has launched several developmental initiatives in the tribal areas like granting pattas to forest dwelling people, expanding NREGA, opening PDS outlets, providing scholarships for tribal students and promoting tribal language and culture. As a result, the local people are spontaneously resisting the Maoists and cooperating with the security operations. Today the Maoists are on the run with many of their cadres either surrendering or being arrested.

Defend the Left in West Bengal

In the name of ‘poriborton’ (change) in West Bengal, what the TMC-Maoist combine has to offer is anarchy and socio-economic retrogression. The success of these forces will negate the advances made by the democratic movement and pave the way for the restoration of the earlier forms of exploitative order in West Bengal.

Already, incidents of former landlords attempting to recapture their illegally held land that was acquired and distributed to the landless have occurred in some areas where the TMC has gained foothold.

The assembly elections in May 2011 in West Bengal will be a major battle between the forces representing the interests of the working people, social justice, secularism and our country’s sovereignty and the forces which are representing the interest of the big capitalists, landlords, the rich and vested interests who seek to forge a strategic alliance with US imperialism and who use communalism, ultra-Left anarchy and divisive politics to achieve their objectives.

CPI (M) appeals to all secular, democratic and progressive sections of the country to see through the reactionary and undemocratic character of the anti-Left opposition in West Bengal, rally behind the Left Front to defend the bastion of the Left in West Bengal and further the left and democratic movement in India.

September 01, 2010

* CPI(M) central committee published this pamphlet for campaign.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bengal Left Front Govt Stands for Democracy & Development

By Biman Basu

THE Left Front government of Bengal had created history by winning the popular verdict of the people of Bengal for the seventh consecutive term in 2006. But it is found that after the electoral reversal of the Communists and the Left in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the reactionary forces led by the Trinamul Congress (TMC), the main opposition in the Bengal Assembly, have started a nefarious game plan attacking the democratic initiatives of the CPI(M) and the Left front parties. TMC has the patronage of the corporate media barons in its ugly campaign against the Left based on sheer lies and slander in the state as well as in the rest of the country.

Since the Bengal Left Front government is trying to resist the imperialist patronised neo-liberal economic policies through alternative policies in the state, the imperialist-patronised agencies have become super active involving their energy and finances to spearhead the heinous campaign of TMC against the Communists and Left parties. Serious violent activities are perpetrated by the right reactionaries and ‘left’ sectarian so-called ‘Maoists,’ along with TMC in different parts of Bengal. In certain areas, these undemocratic activities are unleashed by the Indian National Congress (INC). Now it seems that the TMC and the INC want to move jointly together.


It is known to all that the LF government came to office through long and protracted struggles of the toiling people through an arduous journey in the 1950s, the 1960s and part of the 1970s. The journey of struggle was unleashed by the people under the stewardship of Communists, and the Left and the democratic parties in the state. Those years were not the days of happiness and comfort. They were marked by bitterness, oppression on the people, and assaults on the democratic masses and their democratic rights.

My intention is not to narrate the history of the last three-and-a-half-decades. I want to mention the beginning of the 1970s when Bengal witnessed subversion of Indian democracy in our state. The people of Bengal were confronted from all corners with the imperialist-patronised reactionary cliques and by right-wing, left sectarian political forces to make the common people’s lives miserable. As a result, 20,000 thousand families had to face eviction from home-and-hearth, 80,000 people had to move around different parts of Bengal under threat from fake cases lodged by the Congress party, and more than 1400 men and women of CPI(M), Left parties and sympathisers were martyred. During this period, 350 trade union offices were forcibly closed by the reactionaries; students’ union elections were not allowed to be held; 927 teachers of different tiers of education were forcibly driven out of the institutions they served. The situation in the then Bengal was just like a ‘semi-fascist terror,’ and an undeclared emergency.

Although Bengal faced an undeclared emergency in the first half of the 1970s, the entire country experienced the declared emergency in the mid-1970s. During these days, the democratic people of Bengal and the Communists learnt new methods of maintaining contact with the struggling people and mobilise them in a quite different manner. When the right opportunity and scope for the choosing of their representatives came, the people utilised that scope by electing the representative of their own choice. After the first Left Front government was constituted, the chief minister, Jyoti Basu, declared that the Left Front government would work for the interest of the masses of the people and move forward towards election of the local self-government, which will maintain close linkages with the people.


The achievements of the Left Front government also cannot be narrated in complete length in the present essay. To focus upon only the highlights, the first major work was to form the three-tier Panchayati system in rural Bengal. Second responsibility was to revive the moribund municipalities in urban Bengal. It took some time to amend the Municipal Act, but after the formation of the Panchayati system, the major task undertaken was to implement land reforms. It may be noted that 54 per cent of the farmers of the country, who have benefited from distribution of surplus and benami land, belong to Bengal. The total agricultural land distributed in Bengal is the highest in any state of the country. It was 11.28 lakh acres upto February 2010. This figure constitutes 22 per cent of the total land redistributed in the whole of the country. By now, 30.12 lakh farmers have benefited in the state, over 73 per cent of them belonging to scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and religious minorities. With a view to empowering women, 6.15 lakh joint pattas and 1.62 lakh individual pattas have been distributed. This apart, through the recording of sharecroppers (‘operation barga’), which forms an important component of land reforms, 15.13 lakh farmers have benefited. Implementing the recently passed tribal forest rights act, the state government has started allotting land for the tribals to the tune of 1549.65 acres in the tribal-dominated districts, with total pattas distributed amounting to 26,061. Over one lakh claims are under enquiry and are in the process for distribution of more land parcel amongst members of the tribal community. Scrutiny is being held up due to Maoist violence and terror in tribal dominated areas like Jangalmahal.

Further, the state government has introduced a scheme of purchasing land from willing farmers at a price, which may be 25 per cent higher than the market price, and distribute the same free of cost to landless agricultural labourers. These land reform measures have been supported by the spread of irrigation, use of improved seeds, a mix of chemical, organic, and bio-fertilisers as well as setting of seed villages and bio-villages. Using improved seeds and balanced use of fertilisers in the line of an alternative technology, Bengal has now reached first position in the production of rice, second position in potato, first position in all vegetables together, and also in a comparatively better position in the production of major fruits. In the year 2009-10, the overall rate of growth of agricultural production has been 4.2 per cent in Bengal, which is much higher than the rate of growth of agriculture for the country as a whole (-0.2 per cent). As a result, the purchasing capacity of rural Bengal families has gone up. About Rs 27,000 crore of industrial goods are being sold out in rural Bengal per annum, which has pushed up the internal market for industrial goods.


In the sphere of large and medium scale industries over the period between 1991 and December 2009, more than 2000 units with materialised investment of about Rs 50,000 crore has started production. In the current year, the materialised investment in the large and medium sectors has once again nearly doubled to cross Rs 7000 crore compared to the previous year. In the field of small scale and cottage industries, the achievements of the Bengal Left Front government have been excellent: Bengal’s position over many years was at the very front in the country. In the cooperative sector, the performance of the state government is noteworthy. The cooperatives have received the spadework and they are active in different nooks and corners of the state. There are even cooperatives of the tribal people, which are known as Large Size Multipurpose Societies (LAMPS), and about 151 LAMPS are working at the present moment in the state, among the tribal population. These LAMPS also organised 9000 self-help groups. The state Left Front government. out of its own procurement of rice for internal production involving the state agencies, FCI, cooperatives, and self-help groups, could distribute rice at Rs 2 per kg for all the BPL families of Bengal, incurring an additional subsidy cost. About 12 lakh self-help groups with a membership of more than one crore are playing a remarkable role in the field of generation of employment. More than 90 per cent of the members are women.

The state Left Front government has been providing financial assistance to the workers of closed factories and closed tea gardens. A Provident Fund scheme for the workers has been introduced which is the first of its kind in the country. The total number of beneficiaries will cross 30 lakh in the current year. There is scheme for agri-workers’ benefiting 8 lakh workers. In addition to this, the welfare schemes for construction workers, bidi workers, and for transport workers have been undertaken. The total figure of beneficiaries may cross 60 lakh in the current year. Another important scheme of providing old age pension, disability pension, widow pension, as well as pension for artisans, handloom weavers, farmers and fishermen has been introduced which has already benefited 4 lakh people. In addition to this, the pension scheme has already been introduced to cover all the SC and ST groups in the state.


In the sphere of public health, the state has a wide coverage, right from state hospitals to health centres, and sub-health centres in rural Bengal. About 73 per cent of the Bengal population are getting service from all these centres. Serious emphasis is given to preventive health care and decentralisation of curative health care, which has lowered the death rate to 6.2 per thousand in Bengal, which is the lowest in the country. In the sphere of education, major achievement is the large-scale financial allocation and wide increase in availing of the scope in all the realms of education, right from the primary level to that of the higher education. At present, initiative is taken to increase the participation in vocational and technical education from school upwards with incentives given.


Since the Left Front government was formed in 1977 in Bengal, it is trying to implement a pro-people programme in the state. However, the state government is to function within the framework of federal polity of the Indian Constitution where the government of India is to discharge its constitutional obligation in providing finances for the states. Unfortunately, on many occasions, the central government's share to the state reached very late - sometimes even forcing non-utilisation of the said funds. For example, the state government has recently asked for the due share under constitutional obligation for Rs 1400 crore, which has not yet been released. The state government demanded funds for Aila cyclone victims and their rehabilitation, reconstruction, and repair of mud dams and construction of concrete dams in the Sunderbans area. A small quantum of fund was released, which is far, far less than what is needed and demanded. Our state is now passing through drought-like situation, and already 11 districts are declared as drought-afflicted districts. To combat drought, a minimum amount of Rs 1713 crore is required urgently and where the state government allotted Rs 613 crore, as per constitutional obligation the central government has to release Rs 1100 crore. Discussions favouring the release of the funds have yet to start. It is found that the Trinamul Congress (TMC), as a constituent of the UPA-II government, is creating obstacles in the release of the due share to the people of Bengal in all possible manners. The TMC is doing everything possible to conceal its anti-people, anti-democratic and anti-development attitude from the people of Bengal.

Further, the TMC since 2007 in particular, started a nefarious game plan forming a rainbow alliance combining right wing forces with the left sectarian so-called ‘Maoists’ to beat back CPI(M) and the Left as well as the Left Front government. These ugly forces concentrated their attacks on the democratic rights of the people and democracy itself to create anarchy, lawlessness, and terror-stricken situations. Since the Lok Sabha elections, these anti-democratic forces killed 279 CPI(M) and Left workers and leaders. These martyrs are mostly poor agricultural workers, daily wage earners, and many of them are from the tribal community. Democratic people of Bengal, under the leadership of the CPI(M) and the Left Front are continuing a serious campaign-movement against the anti-democratic violent activities of TMC and 'Maoist' joint forces, and Congress. Since the people of Bengal are fighting against the exploitative system, campaigning against the strategic relationship with the US, which may jeopardise the sovereignty of India, and fighting for the workers’-peasants’ interests and for the interest of the democratic people, the reactionary forces of all hues are bent upon attacking the Communists and Left forces for their own class interests.

We are all aware of the democratic movement of the Bengal people but we should realise also that the movement is a part-and-parcel of the larger democratic movement of the country as well. With the assistance of UPA-II government, TMC as a part of the central government, takes the advantage of all anti-democratic forces and continues their slanderous campaign against the achievements of the Bengal Left Front government. At this juncture, workers-peasants, employees, students-youth, women, teachers, and other sections of the society all over the country are to take a bold stand in exposing the lies-slanders of the Bengal opposition and firmly express their solidarity with the people of Bengal since the Left Front government of Bengal stands for democracy and development.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Campaign to Defend CPI(M) and Left in West Bengal

By Prakash Karat

The Extended Meeting of the Central Committee held in Vijayawada had given a call for a countrywide week-long campaign against the attacks on the Party and the Left Front in West Bengal. This campaign will be held from September 12 to 18. The entire Party should go amongst the people to expose the nature of the violent attacks on the CPI(M) and the Left Front in West Bengal and to mobilise the people to express solidarity with the Left and democratic movement in the state.

For more than two years, there has been a concerted attack on the CPI(M) and the Left in West Bengal. After the electoral reverses in the Lok Sabha election in May 2009, this attack has been intensified. All the rightwing and anti-Communist forces have united under the leadership of the Trinamul Congress to weaken the Party and the Left. They are doing so by resorting to continuous violence and attacks designed to sever the links of the Party and the Left Front with the people.

Till August 31, 270 members and supporters of the CPI(M) and the Left have been killed. The toll continues to rise daily. There is a two-pronged attack – one is led by the TMC combine and the other by the Maoists. The TMC-Maoist collaboration is an open fact. The Congress party acts as a junior partner of the TMC and its ministers in the Union Cabinet seek to cover-up the TMC leaders’ pro-Maoist stance.

Why is there such an attack on West Bengal? West Bengal is the strongest base of the CPI(M) and the Left in the country. The Left Front government has existed for 33 years after winning seven successive assembly elections. The distribution of surplus land under land reforms in West Bengal constitute 22 per cent of the total land distributed in the country. The gains made by the working class over the last three decades due to their organized movement are substantial. The Left Front government has stood with the working people and sought to protect their livelihood and living standards in the face of the neo-liberal policies pursued by successive governments in the last two decades. The attack on West Bengal represents an effort to weaken the Left Front which will help the ruling classes to consolidate their neo-liberal project.

On top of this, the role played by the CPI(M) and the Left in national politics in the last few years has been marked by two specific features. Firstly, the Left’s consistent opposition to the neo-liberal policies. This is seen as an obstacle to the realization of the goals set out by big business and the ruling classes. Secondly, the Left is the only force which opposes the strategic alliance with the United States which has been unfolding in the last one decade. It is this role of the Left which has invited the attack on its strongest base in West Bengal. Weakening the CPI(M) and the Left Front in West Bengal would mean weakening the fight against the neo-liberal policies which are being promoted under the aegis of the strategic tie up with the United States.

In West Bengal, the aim of the anti-Communist combine is to oust the Left Front government and reverse the progressive measures which have been taken over the last three decades. The old landed interests wish to rollback the land reforms and get their power restored.

West Bengal has an exemplary record of defending secularism and isolating the communal forces. Weakening the Left will be the precursor for the rise of the communal and sectarian politics. Already we have seen how the divisive forces and identity politics are being fostered by the anti-Left gang up – whether it be the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha or the Kamatapuri movement.

The targeting of the CPI(M) by the Maoists is part of the overall gameplan. The brutal killings of the CPI(M) members by the Maoist gangs are intended to cripple the Party in some of its strongest base – in West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. Those killed are Party members and supporters from the adivasis, school teachers, agricultural workers and poor peasants. In a recent incident on September 4, a school teacher who was a member of the CPI(M) local committee was dragged out of a class room in Salboni primary school where he was teaching children and shot dead. Even those who do not belong to the CPI(M) but refuse to cooperate with the Maoists are killed.

It is necessary to expose this brutality and vicious character of the Maoists – how they have become the instrument of the most reactionary and rightwing forces in West Bengal. The rally held in Lalgarh by Mamata Banerjee and the Maoists jointly on August 7 was a public display of this nefarious partnership.

The campaign to be conducted should expose those intellectuals, social activists and so-called civil libertarians who are supporting this murderous partnership. The likes of Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar are condoning the inhuman killings indulged in by the Maoist gangs by extending support to the Trinamul-Maoist gang-up. Many dubious NGOs are involved in this anti-Left enterprise. This is a common tactic of the rightwing forces, they enlist the support of the ultra-Left to provide a cover for their reactionary platform.

The campaign should highlight how the Party and the Left are fighting back this anti-Communist offensive in West Bengal. The CPI(M) is going amongst the people and is taking up their issues by launching movements and struggles. The Left Front government has initiated a number of measures to provide relief to the people suffering from price rise, unemployment and the agrarian crisis. Special attention is being paid to the poorest sections. In the areas affected by the Maoist violence, the people are mobilizing and resisting the Maoist depredations and intimidation. Thousands of people are now coming out in rallies and processions against the Maoists in the affected areas.

Though the Party and the Left have paid a heavy price with the loss of so many valuable comrades, their sacrifices will not go in vain. The CPI(M) and the Left in West Bengal cannot be suppressed by killings and violent repression. The defence of the Left in West Bengal is the defence of the gains made by the working people.

It is incumbent upon the entire Party to go amongst the people and rally them against the attacks on the Party and the Left in West Bengal. We should explain how for the working class, the peasantry and all democratic sections of the people throughout the country, the defence of the West Bengal movement will be a defence of their own rights and movements.
India News Network (INN)
New Delhi, September 7, 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fair-weather friends


FRONTLINE, Volume 27 - Issue 18 :: Aug. 28-Sep. 10, 2010

West Bengal: The PCPA's support of Mamata Banerjee's Lalgarh rally points to a covert Trinamool Congress-Maoist understanding.

UNION Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee's rally in the Maoist stronghold of Lalgarh in Paschim Medinipur district of West Bengal on August 9 could not have come at a better time for the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). At a time when its influence was seen to be waning in the forested Jangalmahal region spread across the three districts of Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia, it found a sympathetic friend in the Trinamool Congress, a key constituent of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre. Mamata's “apolitical” rally calling for peace and development in the region becomes significant when viewed in the backdrop of the recent reverses the Maoists received at the hands of the Central forces and increasing resistance to them from the local population.

Addressing a large gathering on the Ramkrishna Vidyalaya grounds in Lalgarh, with social activists Medha Patkar and Swami Agnivesh sharing the dais with her, Mamata appealed for an end to the violence in the region and asked the Maoists to come to the negotiating table. “I want you to give me a date for talks. Let this politics of terror stop. If necessary, the joint operations [of the Central and State forces] will also cease during negotiations,” she said at the rally, which had the full support of the Maoists and the Maoist-backed People's Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA).

This was the first time in over one and a half years that a mainstream political leader had held a rally in the trouble-torn region, and the first time that Mamata openly admitted to the presence of Maoists in West Bengal. Not long ago, she had even refused to attribute the violence and murders in the region to the Maoists, claiming it was activists of different factions of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) that were killing each other.


From openly supporting the PCPA and even sharing the dais with former PCPA convener Chhatradhar Mahato in February last year, Mamata was seen to be distancing herself from the organisation as the violence perpetrated by it in the region began spiralling out of control. Initially, she did object to Central and State police forces carrying out joint operations in Jangalmahal, but her subsequent silence on the situation, supposedly out of political compulsions, led to considerable resentment among the Maoist leadership. However, on August 9, for the first time she publicly acknowledged their hand in the violence. “I appeal to everyone, including Maoist friends, to abjure violence and come to the dialogue table,” she said.

Mamata's reference to Maoists as “Maobadi bandhu” (Maoist friends) is significant. Koteswar Rao alias Kishenji, polit bureau member in charge of the CPI (Maoist)'s operations in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa, had earlier exhorted Mamata to “choose a side”. He had at one point even accused her of indulging in “political opportunism”, pointing out that the Trinamool Congress accepted the Maoists' help in fighting the CPI(M) in Nandigram and Singur and turned its back on them when Mamata's political fortunes soared after a series of electoral successes in the State. But things have now changed between the two parties, with Kishenji welcoming her initiative for “restoring peace” and extending his full support to the rally and Mamata in turn resuming her call for the withdrawal of the joint forces once the Maoists declared a ceasefire.


Apart from the irony that the very perpetrators of violence have now welcomed the process of peace, there is also the matter of Maoist strategy to be considered here. Violence is central to the Maoist political ideology. “Prepare for peace during war, prepare for war during peace, because war and peace are essential parts to the art of war,” a military manual of the Maoists says, quoting from Sun Tzu's “The Art of War”. The call for peace at a time when their hold on the region is seen to be weakening may have come as a welcome breather to the Maoists and allows them valuable time to regroup and reassess the situation. “They do not believe in renouncing violence. Experience shows that they are very unlikely to lay down arms, and all this talk of peace and negotiations may be tactical measures, perhaps to buy time or create confusion, as their military manual suggests,” A.K. Maliwal, Additional Director General of Police and Director, Security, told Frontline. The fact that Maoists killed six people in the region in less than a week after the rally serves as an indication of the little regard they have for Mamata's call for peace.
The turnout of around 40,000 people at the rally may not be truly reflective of the political mood in the region, if police reports are to be considered. “We had information three days before the rally that PCPA and Maoist activists were mobilising villagers at gunpoint,” said a source in the police.

The people of Dalilpur Chowk, Chhotopelia and Boropelia, the villages where the PCPA movement originated, refused to attend the rally, while a procession of barely 20 people came from Mahato's Amelia village. “It is clear that the Maoists are under tremendous pressure as people are fed up with them and want to come out of their influence. The number of villages that were once with them and which now did not join the rally is a pointer in that direction,” said Manoj Verma, Superintendent of Police, Paschim Medinipur. Though there have been reports of armed Maoists and members of the PCPA, including its new chief Manoj Mahato and spokesperson Asit Mahato, roaming the interior villages of Lalgarh, marshalling people and leading processions on the day of the rally, they were conspicuous by their absence at the venue itself.


Another shot in the arm for Mamata's “Maoist friends” came when she, in her speech, denounced the killing of top Maoist leader and spokesperson Azad in a supposed encounter with the police in July in Andhra Pradesh. She called it “khoon” (murder), a point that did not escape the CPI (Maoist). “There is no doubt that Azad was killed in a fake encounter. Mamata Banerjee spoke the truth and there is no reason for the furore over the issue in Parliament,” Kishenji reportedly said. The “furore” in Parliament that he referred to, putting the Congress in a very uncomfortable spot, was the offensive launched by the Opposition parties, including the CPI(M) and the Bharatiya Janata Party, in both the Houses against Mamata's statements.

Though the State-level leadership of the Congress has lauded Mamata's endeavour to “create an atmosphere for negotiation”, it has been guarded in its response to certain comments by her pertaining to the withdrawal of the security forces and Azad's “khoon”. “It is certainly somewhat embarrassing for us, and the leadership is a little concerned where this is heading and whether in the long run it will help the Maoists to spread their influence or actually persuade them to come for talks,” a senior Congress leader in the State told Frontline.

On August 18, Kishenji reportedly suggested a ceasefire for 72 days and indicated the Maoists' willingness to sit down for talks with Mamata as mediator. “The President and the Prime Minister in their Independence Day speeches have appealed to the Maoists to abjure violence. We are never for violence, but the government has instigated us to take up arms,” he said.
However, he made it clear that if the government was keen to end violence and establish normality in the disturbed areas, then it would have to take the initiative and withdraw the joint forces and order a judicial inquiry into Azad's murder. Kishenji also apparently demanded the resignation of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram. Asked Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member: “When the Trinamool and the Maoists are in collaboration, how can one party serve as a mediator?”


While it is true that Mamata was careful not to have any Trinamool colours flying at the Lalgarh rally in order to emphasise the “apolitical” nature of it, in truth it turned out to be yet another exercise in vitriol against the ruling CPI(M). The speeches of Medha Patkar and Swami Agnivesh sounded more like an election campaign; Medha Patkar accused West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee of “playing the politics of bloodshed” and Agnivesh announced that the time had run out for the CPI(M)-led Left Front government in West Bengal and that “the new era is that of Mamata Banerjee”. Mamata too, after showing initial restraint, lapsed into her usual aggression and warned the CPI(M) that it would not even get one seat from Jangalmahal in the Assembly elections due next year.
The inconsistencies were glaring. On the one hand she acknowledged the killings by the Maoists and implored them to lay down their arms. On the other, she said, “Who is benefiting from these murders? CPI(M) cadre are taking advantage of the situation and murdering people and blaming the Maoists.”

Police statistics tell a different story. “So far, of the 200-odd people who were murdered, three or four belonged to the Trinamool and around 180 were from the CPI(M),” said Manoj Verma. “The killings have served to set an example to others to fall in line or be eliminated. It is clear that there is a design to create a political vacuum.”
Whoever fills this vacuum will politically benefit from it.

Mamata's dangerous game

The Hindu, Editorial, August 11, 2010
In her eagerness to mobilise every dissenting section and use every available weapon against the Left Front government in West Bengal, Trinamool Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee is playing a dangerous game fraught with major, long-term implications for the internal security of the country.
First, Monday's rally in Lalgarh was a joint Trinamool-Maoist enterprise, with the latter dominant in the mobilisation. Ms Banerjee not only called for the resumption of negotiations with the Maoists, but also pressed for withdrawal of security operations in the Jangalmahal region (though this time she set a condition: the extremists should declare a ceasefire). This is in direct opposition to the stance of the central government, which is struggling to meet the Maoist armed threat in West Bengal and other parts of the country. Although the Railways under her charge have been repeatedly targeted by the Maoists, the Trinamool chief spoke up for the Maoist front, the ‘People's Committee Against Police Atrocities,' whose members are known to take the law into their own hands.
Ms Banerjee also managed to enlist the support of ‘social activists' Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar in this politically loaded endeavour. Both extended vocal support to the Trinamool Congress and the Maoists in the name of protecting the rights of Adivasis — speciously asking the ultra-left outfit to abjure violence and take to the democratic path. In such a situation, arms-wielding Maoists have seamlessly merged with Trinamool cadre in West Bengal, posing a serious threat to public order in the region.
Political India knows Ms Banerjee to be a law unto herself, and her politics to be irresponsible. But this cannot be a rationalisation for the United Progressive Alliance government to allow one of its important constituents and a senior Minister to publicly support, and collaborate on the ground with, armed extremism that does not have any compunction in unleashing terror against political opponents as well as civilians. The Congress, which heads the UPA, is itself mired in contradictions on this vital issue. Although Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Naxalites as the “greatest internal security threat to our country,” his party extended moral support to the rally. Not surprisingly, the issue has rocked Parliament with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties questioning the commitment of the government in tackling the Maoist violence when one of its constituents is deeply enmeshed with Naxalite groups.
With Assembly elections in West Bengal due in less than a year, political opportunism has given short shrift to internal security considerations. There will be a huge price to pay if the central government continues to look the other way as Ms Banerjee pursues her akratic course for power at any cost.