Thursday, June 23, 2011

Journalism in Mamata land

Its not clear whether ‘Didi’, who had portrayed herself as a champion of democracy, approves of such behavior but it is obvious to the field reporters in Kolkata that the media is on its knees.

AJITHA MENON’s tales of the new media regime, Posted Wednesday, Jun 08 22:09:25, 2011

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee recently opened a new chapter in the media-government relationship when she publicly declared that she will “compensate” a news channel with a substitute story if they miss something. This was her official response to a question on why the State Higher Secondary Examination results were leaked by the concerned government department to a private news channel (Star Ananda), known for its close affiliation to the Trinamool Congress, ahead of the formal announcement.

The entire media fraternity gathered at Writers’ Building, the state secretariat, responded to the statement with scattered laughter, almost condoning the fact that the government will play favourites with the media on official matters – even at the cost of institutional breach of trust - and in case of objection from someone, there will be “compensation” in the form of another story. First your turn, then my turn – wait for the handouts.

The more serious issue of betrayal of trust by an institution reposed with the charge of conducting these examinations without bias and ensuring formal publication of results to the satisfaction of lakhs of students, their teachers and guardians, was ignored by the mainstream media almost as one.

As any professional journalist will vouch – an exclusive will be carried if the source is credible and the facts verifiable. So, the channel which carried the results ahead of schedule can hardly be blamed for “scooping” their rivals. However, the responsibility for the leak should have been fixed on the government department responsible for the examinations – in this case the Bengal Higher Secondary Education Council. Not because the results were handed out ahead of time – though one doubts that a similar media compliance would be witnessed if the UPSC results were given to one particular channel before the merit list is officially posted – but because of the breach in security of the entire process of conducting exams, correcting answer sheets, tallying the marks, preparing the merit list and publishing the results.

Interestingly, the Council President, Omkarsadhan Adhikary, when pushed to the wall on the issue admitted, “everything was done in accordance with the instructions of the state government”. He was mum on who in the state government ordered the disclosure.

If a breach can happen in this case, why then not for influencing results, adding or deducting marks of certain candidates, for even changing the merit list? Since the weak link in the department is already exposed – a link which is susceptible to media glamour or political interference, whatever it maybe in this case - why can’t the weak link be exploited for perpetration of more nefarious designs? Or for that matter, why should this remain restricted to one government department only? After all, the Chief Minister herself has sanctioned the weak link now, refusing to order an enquiry into the matter!

A pro-Left channel (Choubis Ghanta – Bengali) picked up the issue only to be categorically dismissed by the Chief Minister in the following words – “What can I do if a certain channel gets information. I can’t order an enquiry into what channels are doing. Choubis Ghanta is CPI(M)’ s channel. They are always saying bad things about me. Maybe they are sad that they missed the story. Don’t worry, I will give them another story to ‘compensate’.”

A case of missing the forest, as well as the trees and offering bribes to media to boot? The denizens of the fourth pillar of democracy in Bengal seemed extremely subdued on the matter. ‘The Bengal Post’ story with the headline “HS council ‘fails’ as channel leaks results”, had some teeth, while the Kolkata edition of ‘The Hindu’ had a small paragraph on the matter. The CPI(M) mouthpiece ‘Ganashakti’ of course went to town about it and the Bengali ‘Bartaman’ also had a story stating the Chief Minister had refused to order an enquiry into the leak.

It may be recalled that a similar leak of Secondary Board exam results ahead of the formal announcement had occurred in 2007 and the then government was forced to order an enquiry which led to the dismissal of the then President of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, Ujjwal Basu.

The low key response from mainstream media this time is worrying in the context that a new era of total media obeisance to both the Chief Minister and her council of ministers has been ushered into the state post Assembly elections.

That Mamata Banerjee has a select coterie of favourite journalists is common knowledge and acceptable in India where most politicians cultivate media persons to suit their ends, where journalists are more often than not “cultivable” and where “paid news” is norm. However, it is dangerous territory for democracy when journalists outside this coterie are not even allowed to ask questions – not just to any politician but even to the democratically elected Chief Minister in office.

A young agency reporter, who had the “ temerity” to ask Bimal Gurung, the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) leader “Have you dropped the demand for a separate Gorkhaland?”, after his first meeting with the new Chief Minister, was shot down by the Chief Minister who did not allow Gurung to reply and instead said “don’t insist, that may deteriorate the situation ”! However, the matter was tolerable till after the press conference, when a trio of senior reporters converged on the rookie and demanded to know “why did you ask such a question? ‘Didi’ was offended”.

The message was, don’t ask unpleasant questions, only ask what ‘didi’ wants to be asked, please her and her ministers at any cost. The media should in no way anger ‘didi’. Its not clear whether ‘didi’, who had portrayed herself as a champion of democracy, approves of such behavior but its obvious to the field reporters in Kolkata that the media is on its knees.

Notably, when Mamata Banerjee finally announced a tentative agreement with the GJMM on Tuesday (June 7), she repeatedly said the “Darjeeling” problem has been settled. The media obliged, and the word “Gorkhaland” was not even whispered, and the GJMM representatives were not asked anything about their long pending demand for a separate state – it was as though it never existed!

While giving an interview, Partha Chatterjee, the new industry minister, took it upon himself to order the ETV cameraman in the Assembly, “Keep us in two-frame” (meaning the newly elected Speaker Biman Banerjee and himself). When he realised that the cameraman had not kept a “two-frame”, zooming in to his own face alone, Chatterjee actually threatened “you think just because you hold the camera in your hand, you also hold your job? You think Hyderabad is far away? Don’t think that its that far”.

In another instance, a young reporter with NE Bangla channel angered the Mayor Shovan Chattopadhyay, who was criticizing the condition of Subhas Sarovar Lake a few days after the new government took charge, by asking “but this lake comes under Kolkata Corporation, which has been with TMC for over two years now, so why hasn’t something been done yet?” . The Mayor walked off in a huff without replying, while other journalists from R Plus Channel and Mahua TV charged her with, “why do you ask such things. You angered him and we lost our chance. Because of you we could not ask our questions”.

As the angry young reporter said, “their questions were, of course, of paramount importance as usual - how many bulbs will be put up to light the lake area and which other lake will you visit? This is what journalism has come to in Kolkata”!

Television viewers across the country saw the lead anchor of a 24-hour Bengali news channel sitting behind Mamata Banerjee on the day the election results were announced, while she was giving an interview to Barkha Dutt of NDTV. Even, Dutt, a journalist of some stature, had not dared to ask the “in-coterie celebrity anchor” to move out of her frame!

For young reporters working for the pro-Trinamool Channel 10, a nightmare is unfolding. One of them asked a question to the Mayor, which the later did not like. He picked up the phone and called the channel editor and complained. It was made clear to the hapless scribe, by his boss, that asking difficult questions to Trinamool leaders or ministers was a strict no-no. “Keep them happy. Anyway such stories will not be carried on our channel and you will surely lose your job”, the young reporter quoted his boss as saying. Most reporters of this channel admit that they are afraid of losing their jobs if Trinamool leaders complain to the editor.

Mamata’s coterie journalists belonging to Star Ananda, The Telegraph, etc., also interface between her and other media persons. A reporter from Indiavision Channel, Kerala details his experience outside Mamata Banerjee’s house - “I waited for six hours for a sound bite from her. She came out and called one journalist inside. He came out after sometime and showed us all an sms on his mobile from her which said “I will not talk to any reporters today, please ask them all to leave!”.

A Sahara TV reporter, who was desperately trying for a one-to-one interview with Mamata Banerjee on the day of the election results but categorically refused was told by a Star Ananda reporter, “You should have come to me. I would have fixed it up with her for you”. A broker?

The Indiavision reporter’s final comment on the matter - “I had also tried for an interview when she visited West Midnapore. I waited outside for almost four hours and sent in messages through the security personal and other Trinamool leaders. She refused to talk to us but journalists from Star Ananda and some Bengali papers were with her throughout. How can a politician be selectively accessible? Aren’t we part of a democracy? If it is like this now, I wonder what will be situation when she becomes Chief Minister” - is currently echoing down the powers of corridor in Bengal!

Besides interference in free and fair discharge of journalistic duties, stories of political leaders filling petrol/diesel for the cars owned by reporters, throwing parties for them and even paying EMI for their flats are doing the rounds now. A whole lot of journalists are also flexing their muscle now - showing off their closeness to ministers and the ability to save one from traffic fines, get a railway reservation at the nth hour, arrange school and college admissions, sanction the plan for a new house or extension, a government/railway job, a transfer to the preferred place of posting, a place on a committee etc – all with a mere telephone call.

This culture is new to Bengal. Is it more power to journalists at the cost of democracy?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Historic Legacy of the Left Front Government

By Prakash Karat

When the Left Front government headed by Comrade Jyoti Basu was sworn into office on June 21, 1977, no one had expected or known that history would be made by this government. If any one had predicted that the Left Front would continue to rule for more than 30 years, there would have been none to believe such a claim. Yet, this is what the Left Front government accomplished. It lasted for 34 years without a break. This, in itself, is a unique record.

The Left Front won the elections in 1977 after a prolonged period of struggles and repression of the Left. The 1972 Assembly elections were falsified and rigged by the Congress with the help of the police and the administration. Between 1971 and 1977, a reign of semi-fascist terror prevailed during which 1,400 members and supporters of the CPI (M) and the Left were killed. The country as a whole came under Emergency imposed by the Indira Gandhi government during which democratic rights were suppressed.

The repression on the CPI (M) and the Left was unleashed because of the militant struggles of the peasantry for land and the rising tide of movements of the working people. The CPI (M) and the Left Front won a big victory as the people swept away the hated Congress regime and voted wholeheartedly for the Left Front’s programme and policies.

This wave in favour of the Left Front still does not account for the longevity of the Left Front government for more than three decades. The Left Front won seven successive elections getting on each occasion two-thirds of the seats in the Assembly. This is a remarkable record of popular support and endorsement. Under the Left Front government, land reforms were implemented which benefited millions of peasants and bargadars; for the first time, panchayats were made into popular institutions with the participation of those who belong to the dispossessed rural classes; the rights of the working class and the working people were assured.

All these gave a new dignity and confidence to the working people. Left Front rule also began the fight back against the economic backwardness which had been imposed on West Bengal and Eastern India – a legacy of both colonial rule and the uneven nature of capitalist development in independent India. The Left Front showed in practice what secularism means in essence and spirit. West Bengal became a bastion of communal harmony. All these were achieved despite the serious limitations of running a state government within a system controlled by the big bourgeoisie and the landlords. Despite the fact that a state government has limited powers and State power rests with the Central government, the Left Front government had major achievements in the spheres like agriculture which is a state subject.

Further, the Left Front government was always under threat from the domestic and external reactionary forces. The Purulia arms drop of 1996 illustrates to what extent they could go to undermine the Left Front government. The Left Front government faced the hostility of successive governments at the Centre with a few exceptions. It survived and continued only because of the unstinted support to the people of West Bengal and the democratic consciousness which grew in the rest of the country which would not have tolerated any attempt to topple the Left Front government undemocratically.

After the defeat in the May 2011 Assembly elections, a concerted effort is being made to negate the achievements of the Left Front government in the past three decades. The electoral defeat is being interpreted as the people’s rejection of all that has been accomplished by the Left Front government. This is a motivated attack by the ideological and political opponents of the Left. It is necessary for them to paint the Left Front rule in dark colours if they are to try and reverse the gains made by the people. After the euphoria of the victory of the TMC led combine, efforts will be made to undo the gains of land reforms. The old dominant classes will try to reassert. With the Congress-TMC coalition at the Centre following neo-liberal policies, in West Bengal, behind the cloak of populism, efforts will be made to push through measures which will affect the livelihood of the people and erode their rights.

The present wave of violence unleashed against the CPI (M) and the Left Front in order to weaken it is a prelude to what can be expected to follow. The class forces which represent the TMC combine are making a systematic effort to kill, maim, intimidate and destroy the organisational framework that is the basis for the toiling people of West Bengal to struggle and assert their rights.

The gains made by the working people – the peasants, the bargadars, the agricultural workers, the working class and the lower middle classes – under Left Front rule have to be defended. It will not be easy for the ruling classes to rollback the land reforms and other gains as the past experience of Kerala shows. The struggles of the working class and other sections of the working people to defend their rights and livelihood, for democratic rights and to fight back the anti-people neo-liberal policies will constitute the next chapter in the history of the Left Front in West Bengal.

While organising the working people, advancing the class struggle and defending democracy, the historic legacy of the Left Front governments will always be a bulwark of support. Those who have written off the Left Front and declared its obituary will be proved wrong.


21st June, 2011

We Will Counter the Violence with Political Campaign: Biman Basu

By N S Arjun (INN)

Hyderabad: June 11, 2011: The ongoing physical attacks on the cadre and leaders of the Left Front in Bengal will be countered through intensive political campaign among the people in favour of peace and saving democracy. This campaign has already begun in the state and will be intensified in the coming period, said CPI(M) Bengal state secretary Biman Basu.

Speaking to INN on the sidelines of the Central Committee meetings here, Basu criticised the TMC-Congress government for not taking up any measures to stem these physical attacks despite repeated deputations by the leaders of the Left Front. Leader of Opposition in the state assembly, Surjya Kanta Mishra, along with Left Front MLAs submitted memorandums to the state Governor and CM on this issue but no action has been taken so far. He said since May 13, the day of results, a total of 13 comrades belonging to the CPI(M) and one to RSP have been brutally killed by the TMC-Congress goons in the state.

On June 25, the day Emergency was clamped on the nation by Indira Gandhi, a two day statewide campaign ‘Save Democracy, Ensure Peace’ will be launched by the Left Front against the terror tactics unleashed by the TMC-Congress combine, said Basu. About the weapons being regularly “found” in the vicinity of CPI(M) offices and residences of its leaders, Basu said that it was the TMC activists who are planting these in order to get the CPI(M) leaders arrested, most of whom have in fact been charged under non-bailable sections. They have gone so far as to plant the Maoists captured rifle (during their attack on EFR jawans camp) near a residence of CPI(M) leader in order to propagate that it was the CPI(M) which attacked the EFR camp!


Biman Basu termed the coverage of the corporate media in Bengal during the elections as ‘media terrorism’ and that it played a part in creating a positive impact for the TMC-Congress combine. “Corporate media always reported in a concocted fashion, putting out blatant lies about the functioning of the Left Front government while demonising the CPI(M) and the Left Front in general. We couldn’t assess properly how deeply this media had penetrated in different districts”, said Basu. He cited the mis-reporting of what he said yesterday about the ordinance brought out by TMC-Congress government relating to the giving back of 400 acres of land in Singur to farmers. He said that he had only pointed out the unconstitutionality of the ordinance route at a time when the assembly was still in session. But the media suppressed this part and only propagated that Biman Basu opposed the transfer of land. He said this was a blatant lie and is a stark example of media’s role in Bengal.


Biman Basu said that the deep penetration of the slogan of change given by TMC-Congress could not be assessed properly by Party activists in different districts. The campaign unleashed by TMC-Congress on this slogan, ably aided by the corporate media, did make inroads among the people in rural and urban areas, felt the preliminary review made by the Bengal state committee. Further reasons would be found out in the detailed reviews of district committees and in the next state committee meeting scheduled in mid July, said Basu.

One of the factors in not coming to a proper assessment was the fact of massive participation of people in the mobilisation either through road shows or public meetings. Some lacunae in organisational front also played a part, he felt.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

CPI(M) will Work Patiently to Reconnect with People

KOLKATA, 6th June: THE CPI(M) West Bengal state committee has called upon the Party members and activists to patiently work among the people in the new political situation. After its meeting on June 4-5, the state committee decided to consolidate the support base of the Party and streamline the organisation to win over more and more people. CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, who attended the meeting, advised the comrades to go back to people, adopt suitable tactics, reconnect with the masses and regroup.

The meeting conducted the review of election results. Though thorough and painstaking discussion took place to correctly identify the reasons for the electoral setback, comprehensive review would be finalised only after detailed discussion at all levels of the Party. In the discussion, political issues, government functioning, organisational weaknesses of the Party, slander campaign on behalf of the anti-Left forces, the role of money in elections, the blatant anti-Left role of dominant section of media have come under scanner.

CPI(M) state secretary Biman Basu, summing up the discussion, said that the Party was aware that this election was very tough. Large sections of people joined in Left Front’s election campaign. New sections of people also joined force with the Left. Finally, Left Front got the support from 1.95 crore voters, which was 41 per cent. However, the slogan of change raised by the anti-Left forces succeeded and the Left Front was defeated.

Basu said that the Party will review the reasons for this defeat thoroughly. After 2009 parliamentary elections, we identified political, organisational and administrative lapses and shortcomings. We could not overcome the deficiencies to the expected level.

About the post-poll situation, CPI(M) state secretary asserted that all was not lost through this defeat. We have confidence on the people who have supported us. Taking them along, we will move forward to win over those who have not supported us. In this new situation we have to move slowly, inch by inch, while upholding Communist ideology. The activity of the Party will be gradually developed. Party leaders at all levels have to work harder with dedication. It is important to merge with the people while consolidating the base of the Party. The unity of the Left Front should be strengthened.

Prakash Karat, in his observation, said that the CPI(M) and the Left Front began the journey in an untraveled path in 1977. “It was a part of our effort to build up a Left and democratic alternative in the country. We steered the boat through many storms. We knew from the very beginning the limitations of a state government in the present State structure of our country. The Left Front government, in 34 years, recorded historic achievements for the people. Though at this moment, we are facing the negative consequences, history will judge our achievements as unique, remarkable and historic, not only for the CPI(M) and the Left, not even only for the people of our country, but internationally. No one can underrate or undermine the gains of the people under Left Front government. CPI (M) will defend and carry forward those gains”, he asserted.

Karat said that in the post-poll situation, there is a concerted attack on our Party and the mass base. “We have lost a battle but our struggle has not ended. We have got the support of a large section of the people. We have to make this as the basis of our fight back.”

The state committee meeting has decided to observe some programme in the near future. The Left Front will submit deputations to local level and district authorities against the ongoing attacks and violence let loose by TMC. The anniversary of the declaration of internal emergency will be observed as a day to demand peace and democracy on June 25. The Party’s work among rural and urban poorer sections will be strengthened.

The West Bengal state committee, in a resolution, congratulated the Party, LDF and the people of Kerala for the outstanding election result, though LDF was defeated by a narrow margin.


CPI(M) West Bengal state committee has condoled the death of Comrade Baidyanath Majumdar, former secretary of Tripura state committee of CPI(M) and veteran leader of mass movement. Comrade Majumdar passed away on late night of Monday. He was 87.

In a statement, Biman Basu stated that Comrade Majumdar had a rich contribution in shaping the mass movement and strengthening the Party in Tripura.

“Comrade Majumdar got the membership of undivided party in 1943. In his long political life, he had to spend 15 months and 10 days in jail and for 22 months he was in underground. He was deputy chief minister of Tripura government. In 1995 he was elected as the member of Party’s Central Committee in the Chandigarh Party Congress.

“CPI(M) West Bengal state committee had a living contact with Comrade Majumdar. He always kept updated information about the political situation of the state. CPI(M) West Bengal state committee likes to express grief at his death. It also expresses sympathy to the Tripura state committee and Party activists and supporters in Tripura. The Red flag will remain half mast for the whole day on 7 June”, stated Basu.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Post-Poll Violence In West Bengal

Instances of Post-Poll Violence in West Bengal
(As Of May 16, 2011)

West Midnapore district:

1. Goaltore: TMC goons surrounded Hoomgarh Local Committee office. When the police arrived, they forced the police to conduct a search, despite the police explaining that they did not have a search warrant. Nothing could be found. The police then asked the TMC goons to move out. When they refused, there was a lathicharge. Goons also surrounded Hoomgarh Local Committee Secretary, Sunil Gayen’s house and asked his son to surrender. The police intervened and stopped that. They attacked Local Committee Member Balai Biswas’s house. Com. Biswas suffered head injuries. They also beat up the executive member, in-charge of power of the panchayat samiti. They surrounded Party activist Gautam Ghosh’s house and tried to put it on fire. In Pathapara (No. 4 Gram Panchyat), they asked Party activist, Subrata Ahir to surrender. He alongwith some others escaped and took refuge in Sarenga Zonal Committee office in Bankura district.

2. Salboni: In Sijua Gram Panchayat, Sudarshan Das of Sijua Memul was severely beaten while he was on his way to Salboni alongwith his daughter. In Sijua, TMC goons are threatening our people in all the villages and asking them to surrender. They forcibly searched Sudhir Mahato’s house in Pirakuli. They could not find anything. In No. 5 Gram Panchayat, in Bankishol, two of our comrades, including Rampada Mahato, were beaten up and kept in confinement in the TMC office. In Garhmal Gram Panchayat, they are threatening our supporters to surrender.

3. Belda: In Kunarpur Local Committee office, three activists alongwith Nirmal Singh were beaten up. They put up the TMC flag removing the CPI(M) flag. After the police intervened, they restored our flag. In Muradur, they are torturing our supporters from the minority community and imposing fines. In Manna Gram Panchayat, they hurled filthy abuses in front of our Local Committee office.

4. Midnapore Sadar: In No. 1 Panchkhuri Gram Panchayat – in Chherua, they are torturing families supporting our Party. They are threatening them to surrender. In No. 1 Gram Panchayat area of Sadar Block 1, which was affected by Maoist violence in the past – in Baghara and Shirshi, they are assembling their people to attack adjoining villages. In Gram Panchayat No. 4, our Party activist, Malay Barik, was severely beaten up.

5. Keshpur: In Mugbazar Gram Panchayat in Bajowara, Party activist Mobaitul was beaten. They attacked Bajowara Party office and forced our activists out of the office. In Amritpur, they attacked Tapan Das and beat him. He had to be hospitalised. In Neradeul Local Committee area – in the villages of Cherua, Shashagerra, Makul Chowk, Talkotai, Mahishagerra, Kashipota, they attacked our activists. Tapan Mondal of Kashipota village under No. 4 Golar Gram Panchayat was beaten up. They destroyed certain houses in Khetua, Taria and Rajgra.

6. Garbeta: In No. 7 Gram Panchayat area of Benachapra, Samadgayen was severely beaten up. Our Zonal Committee member, Jiten Nandi was severely beaten up. Later on, Jiten Nandi was killed and on 15th a state level Left Front delegation visited the place. Com. Surjyokanta Mishra and Mohd. Salim were of this. In No. 7 Gram Panchayat, in Bhattagram, Kanai Giri has been severely beaten up. Some houses have been destroyed in Saita and Sidir Dorra of Fatesinghpur. In the Uttarmil village, they forcibly took Biswanath Mondal to the TMC office. In Jadavbati village, they are destroying the houses of many of our Party activists. In Phulberia, they have beaten up Sanmura Jaba. In Chandabila, they have destroyed the houses of Ataul Mallik and Shahan Mallik.

7. Chandrakona Road: In Guai Daha, the Local Committee office was attacked. They beat up Zonal Committee member, Swapan Barik. They attacked the Party office functionary Shibu Ghosh. They surrounded the house of Zonal Committee member Ansar Mondal (counting agent) in Domahali village. They beat up his brother. Police arrived at the spot and conducted a search. Then the police removed the TMC goons. In No. 2 Gram Panchayat in Khagra, they are beating up our people. They forcibly closed down our Bahara Shol Party Local Committee office and attacked and threw stones at our comrades.

8. Chandrakona: TMC goons have destroyed two CPI(M) offices in Jhankra. They have beaten up quite a few of our members and supporters.

East Midnapore district:

1. Haldia: Our Trade Union offices have been destroyed and TMC flags have been hoisted on two of our offices here. One office was locked up. It was reopened after police intervention. Two Party branch offices have been destroyed. Threats are being handed out. There will be a victory procession by the TMC here, which raises apprehensions of further attacks.

2. Panskura West: On the night of the counting day, 13th May, in Maishora, two of our Party leaders, Shamsad Ali –Zonal Committee Member and Kishore Pande – Local Committee Member were severely beaten up. Their hands have been fractured and they suffered head injuries as well. They continue to remain admitted to the Midnapore College Hospital. Throughout 14th May, there have been major disturbances in the Maishora area. The Party leadership has been forced to leave their houses. Here also goons owing allegiance to the TMC are enforcing fines.

3. Bontai North: TMC goons have been threatening our Party supporters in No. 2 Gram Panchayat of Egra in Bathuari and attacking the houses of our activists and sympathisers. They have been going from house to house and intimidating our workers. Two families were forced to leave their homes.

4. Ramnagar: The TMC goons tried to put the Digha Local Committee and two other offices on fire. In Talgachhari, they beat up a Zonal Committee member, Com. Arabinda Patra.

5. Bhagwanpur: In Baroj Gram Panchayat – in Arjunnagar area, many of our sympathisers have been physically assaulted forcing them to leave their homes.

6. Nandigram: They have attacked and destroyed Reyapara Local Committee office. In Amdabad, they have carried out attacks on 5 to 6 houses while holding a procession. They have attacked the house of our district committee member, Com. Sujata Maity and put it on fire. They are assaulting our sympathisers and activists in Kanungochowk and West Birulia. About 65 people were forcibly vacated from their houses.

7. Tamluk: They have attacked, destroyed and locked up our Tamluk Rural Zonal Committee office. They have also destroyed our Gourangapur branch office under Nimtouri Local Committee.

8. Chandipur: TMC goons have occupied our Jagatitala branch office under Bibhishanpur Local Committee of Bhagwanpur Zonal Committee.

9. Khejuri: They have severely beaten up 7 to 8 people from Harijanpalli. Out of them, the condition of Paban Ghorai is critical. In Garrang village, they have severely beaten up people from eight families and are threatening them and asking them to leave the homes. Papers and documents at two Party offices in Sherkhanchowk and Dhangchurkunjatur, have been burnt. The Bartala Party Office has been locked by them.

10. Patashpur: In Barhat Gram Panchayat, two comrades including Shankar Majhi, in Paharpur 2 to 3 activists including Com. Goursamata, and two other activists from Vonara village were attacked. In villages of Madan Mohanpur, Chandan Khali, Mathura, Balyagovindpur of Patashpur 2 block and No. 12 Gram Panchayat, villages of Ichhabari Siari, Jabda, Kakhuria, Mangal Chowk, Laya of No. 14 Gram Panchayat and villages Mallikpur Sukakhola, Hinghibar and Bamanbar under No. 13 Gram Panchayat, widespread assault, arson and destruction have been carried out. They have locked our Southkhand Local Committee office.

Kolkata district: (13th & 14th May, 2011)

1. Beleghata ward No. 34 & 35 – TMC goons have put Trinamool flag on two clubs and one library belonging to a social organisation. They beat up and grievously injured a Zonal Committee member, Amal Khatua who is also the Headmaster at a local school.

2. Ward No. 60 – From 14th night, under the leadership of the Ward Councillor, 30 to 40 Trinamool workers attacked and locked a number of clubs and the ICDS Centre. They also intimidated a Local Committee Member.

3. Ward No. 32 – They have selectively attacked 4-5 petty shops and looted them. They also beat three persons.

4. Ward No. 31 – They have locked up a club here. People of the locality protested and held a meeting.

5. Ward No. 57 – They tried to forcibly put colour on an old Left sympathizer. When he resisted, he was beaten up. When men and women of the locality protested, they threw a bomb.

6. In Sealdah, they threatened the workers and members of the rail hawkers and the taxi union. They hoisted TMC flags with the help of outsiders on the union offices. They have threatened them to stop work and have also taken away the hawkers union’s flag.

7. They have forcibly occupied the autostand at Dhapa. At Badha-Battala (Garden reach) and Khidirpur Ram Nagar autostand, they tried to create disturbance in order to put Trinamool flag. In Badha Battola taxi stand, they tore the CITU flag.

8. At Hathibagan, TMC goons have occupied the local organisation office and removed furniture and other things from there. Even after the police intervened, their threats did not stop. They locked the local office. The key is with the police now.

9. Ward 34 – In Chaulpatti, they went from house to house and threatened our people and even beat some of them. Due to these threats, two Committee Members could not go to their houses.

10. In Narkaldanga, they have beaten up hawkers.

11. TMC goons have captured the Joka Party office and damaged furniture and other equipment inside the office. In Joka Jiyadar Gaud panchayat, they are forcing the woman panchayat member to resign. They attacked the house of panchayat Pradhan Anand Pattra (Joka – I). His father was beaten up. The panchayat Pradhan was forced to leave the locality. His whereabouts are not known and we have not been able to establish contact with him.

12. Bikas Bor, a sympathizer in Joka-I was beaten up. After tying his hands and feet he was thrown into a canal. Some local people after coming to know of this, rescued him from the canal. They have beaten a helper, Shyamal, in the auto stand, opposite Joka Local Committee office. Some drivers of the stand were also involved. Unable to bear this, Bikas Bor and Anando Patro have left the place.

13. In Behala West Ward No. 130, TMC goons beat up Local Committee Member Kishore Bhowmic and Party member Gour Senapati.

14. TMC goons have occupied the union office of Webel at Taratala Hyde Road and Esab India. They have also occupied the Webel union office at Salt Lake. This was done under the leadership of one Krishnendu Chatterjee.

15. In North Kolkata Ward No. 7, a Left sympathizer was severely beaten by heavily drunk TMC men. Local people protested against this. Police detained two persons but released them afterwards.

16. In Ward No. 1, Ratan Basu Road, one Party comrade was beaten. They tried to forcibly occupy the auto stand. They have threatened to occupy the BMPEU office and have forcibly put up the TMC flag.

17. Many medical students of NRS Medical College were forcibly evicted from the Dixon Lane Hostel under Muchipara PS.

Bardhaman district

On May 14, CPI(M) supporter at Raina in Bardhaman namely Purnima Ghoroi (F) (56) was killed by TMC goons.

On May 14, six-year old Pinki Majhi and her mother Chabi Majhi faced murderous attacks from Trinamool goons at Raina in Bardhaman. Both are battling for life in a private nursing home.

Bankura district

On May 15, CPI(M) local committee secretary Ajit Lohar was attacked at Saltora and brutally killed by TMC goondas.

North 24 Parganas district

On May 14, veteran Party leader Pradip Niyogi and youth leader Akash Sengupta were attacked at New Barrackpore.

South 24 Parganas district

On May 13, Joggeswar Das, Ex-MLA and contesting CPI(M) candidate was heinously attacked and injured at Kakdwip outside the counting centre. Das is battling for life at the sub divisional hospital in Kakdwip with serious injuries.

On May 15, wining CPI(M) candidate of Bhangar AC, Badal Jamadar was brutally attacked by TMC miscreants.

A bastion stormed


FRONTLINE, Volume 28 - Issue 11 :: May. 21-Jun. 03, 2011

The Trinamool Congress-led alliance scores a historic victory in West Bengal to end 34 years of Left Front rule.

IN what turned out to be a historic Assembly election in West Bengal, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front was swept out of power after a record seven consecutive terms in office by an alliance led by the Trinamool Congress and comprising the Congress and the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI). Of the 294 seats, the Trinamool Congress alliance won 227 and the Left Front only 62. Five seats went to others.

Riding a wave of anti-incumbency sentiment, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress won 184 seats (contested: 227). The Congress won 42 (contested: 65) and the SUCI one (contested: two). The CPI(M) could win only 40 seats, as against 176 in 2006. Of the 34 Ministers who contested, 26 lost, including Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Industries Minister and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Nirupam Sen, Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta, Housing Minister Gautam Deb, Municipal Affairs Minister and party strongman from North Bengal Ashok Bhattacharya, and Information Technology Minister Debesh Das.

Dedicating her victory to “Ma, Maati, Manush” (Mother, Earth and Humanity, the Trinamool Congress' slogan) Mamata Banerjee said: “People have been waiting for 35 years for this. It is like a freedom struggle…. It is the people who are the winners here.” Mamata herself did not contest in the elections, choosing instead to make a delayed entry into the Assembly once her party came to power.

As the trend became clear by the afternoon of May 13, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Biman Bose, CPI(M) State secretary and Left Front chairman, sent a joint statement to the press. It said: “The Left Front has humbly accepted the verdict of the people and will play the role of a constructive Opposition… and continue to strive to protect the rights of the people.”

Later in the day, Biman Bose, addressing a press conference, said: “We did not expect this kind of a result.” Until the day before the result, the Left Front was hopeful that it would be able to form the government, albeit with a greatly reduced majority. However, its progressive electoral decline in the past three elections had indicated otherwise. Though the enormity of the defeat may have come as a shock to many, the defeat itself was not unexpected, except perhaps to certain sections of the Left.

Since the 2008 panchayat elections the Left has rapidly lost ground to the Trinamool Congress, while its vote share has declined since the 2006 Assembly elections. According to CPI(M) sources, it dropped from 50.18 per cent in 2006 to 43.3 per cent in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, and preliminary estimates show it to be below 37 per cent in 2011.

On the other hand, the Trinamool Congress' political resurgence, through its violent agitations over land acquisition in Singur (2006) and Nandigram (2007) and its alliance with the Congress, led to an increase in its vote share from 45.96 per cent in 2009 to over 53 per cent in 2011.

The 2009 general elections also made it clear that it would be an uphill task for the Left Front in the Assembly election, given the fact that it could win only 15 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the State, as against 35 it won in 2004. A miserable performance by the Left Front in the municipal elections the following year, in which the Congress and the Trinamool Congress were not in alliance, indicated a further weakening of its position.

Another factor for the Left's loss has been its inability to win back its minority vote base, which has eroded over the years. The three main reasons cited for the Muslim voter's disenchantment with the Left Front government are: The land acquisition drive to set up industries; the revelation in the Sachar Committee report that the lot of Muslims in the State leaves much to be desired; and the mysterious death of Rizwanur Rahman, a computer graphics teacher, in Kolkata, which caused a huge public outcry and culminated in the transfer of top police officers.

The 2011 results put paid to the Left's insistence, all through the election process, that through intense personal contact with the masses at the grass-root level it had managed to retrieve most of the ground lost to the opposition. In fact, the Left has lost further ground, with its bastions in Bardhaman, Birbhum, Bankura, Purulia and Pashchim Medinipur broken. In Bardhaman the Trinamool Congress-led alliance won 16 of the 25 seats; in Birbhum eight out of 11; in Bankura nine out of 12; in Purulia seven out of nine; and in Pashchim Medinipur 10 out of 19. These districts were red citadels that no anti-incumbency wave, however strong, could penetrate for the past 34 years.

The desire for paribartan (change), Mamata's clarion call, was strong in Kolkata, too; the Left Front drew a blank in the 11 seats in the State capital. It could not win a single seat in the districts of Darjeeling, Purbo Medinipur and Howrah either. “It was a wave that just overwhelmed us completely. There was really nothing we could do about it. We can now only introspect and rectify,” a CPI(M) source said. The Left's attempt to ward off this “wind of change” by fielding 151 new faces failed, as only 27 of them managed to win.

The failure of the Left Front to gauge properly the ground situation is indicative of the growing disconnect between the leadership on Alimuddin Street and the cadre. “Clearly, our leaders have not been receiving the right information from the districts and villages. Our situation turned out to be far worse than we could even dream of,” a CPI(M) district leader said.

When the election results became clear by the afternoon of May 13, parts of Kolkata literally turned green (the Trinamool Congress' official colour) as thousands took to the streets with green abir (powder) all over them. The milling crowd outside Mamata Banerjee's house on a narrow lane in Kalighat spilled over to the main road. People came in waves, blowing conches and clanging bells, distributing sweets to announce the Trinamool Congress' victory, and eager to catch a glimpse of “Didi”. Mamata kept emerging from her house to acknowledge their cheers. “It is hot. Go home now,” she repeatedly told the crowd.

On the streets, Trinamool Congress supporters showed remarkable restraint on Mamata's specific instruction and kept the celebrations within reasonable limits of sound and exuberance. They would gently apply the colour on passersby only if they were permitted, otherwise they kept the greetings to a simple handshake or a friendly pat.

The CPI(M) State headquarters on Alimuddin Street had an air of defeat. The red abir, the motorbike processions, the exultant crowd that one was so used to seeing outside the party office after every election were all absent. Instead, Trinamool Congress supporters paraded up and down the narrow street twice, as if in mockery.


For the people across the State it was a strange feeling with a 34-year-old government going out of power. People under the age of 40 could not recall having seen a government other than the Left Front's. “The Left Front has been synonymous with government for the entirety of my life. Hence this change, albeit a welcome one, is nevertheless something new and strange for me. However, it's not very healthy for any State to have a single party in power for over three decades. At least in this case change for the sake of change was not just desirable but important,” said 30-year-old Arjun Sengupta, assistant professor of English in a Kolkata college.

However, there are those who are sceptical of the paribartan. “Having not seen any party other than the Left Front in power, the excitement is undermining the usual cynicism. The enthusiasm that the prospect of change has generated is hard to ignore. But the proof of the pudding lies in the eating. Let's see whether this is a real change or just a change in political leadership,” said 26-year-old Sucharita Ghosh, who works as editor, Niyogi Books.

It is not just the young but also the elderly who have welcomed the change. “At last Bengal has regained its lost freedom,” said Deepak Bhattacharjee, 70.

However, there are many who feel that the CPI(M)'s departure spells disaster for the State. “Trinamool is a ruthless, directionless party that has associations with ruffians and Maoists. I do not know what kind of administration we can look forward to here. The streets will not be safe any more,” said Debasis Das (name changed), a resident of Kalighat and a long-time supporter of the CPI(M).


For Mamata Banerjee, who will be the first woman Chief Minister of West Bengal, it has been a roller-coaster ride that has seen her ascend the heights of power and political glory and also plunge the depths of defeat and redundancy. But she has always managed to bounce back, and from being the eternal adversary she has finally emerged the champion. Whatever objections one may have to her brand of politics and style of functioning, there is no denying her steadfast and resolute opposition to the CPI(M) and her never-say-die spirit.

When she parted with the Congress in December 1997 and formed the Trinamool Congress in 1998, many political observers saw it as the beginning of the end of her political career. She proved them wrong by soon establishing herself as the principal opposition to the Left Front. In 2004, after several political somersaults that saw her leaving the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), tying up with the Congress in West Bengal, and then going back to the NDA fold, her career had reached its lowest point. She was perceived as whimsical and petulant and opportunistic, and in the general elections that year she alone won from her party. Her downward slide continued with the party losing control of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation in 2005 and winning only 29 seats in the 2006 Assembly polls, down from 60 in 2001.


Just when it seemed that her political career was all but over, Mamata found a way to bounce back – this time with her agitation against the acquisition of farmland for industry. This once again brought her into direct confrontation with the Left Front and its industrialisation drive.

Her violent agitation in Singur, which forced Tata Motors to shift its prestigious small car project – a showcase project of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government – from the State, and the bloody turf war in Nandigram in the garb of protesting against land acquisition, gave her a new lease of political life. She came to be seen as a protector of poor farmers even though it affected the industrial development of West Bengal and provided a foothold in the State for leftwing extremists, who claimed to be her ally during the Nandigram battles.

With this new image and the new slogan of “Ma, Maati, Manush” she staged her political comeback. She severed all ties with the NDA and joined forces with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. She was once again given the Railways portfolio – an opportunity she utilised fully to make inroads into the nooks and crannies of the State. Now, when the people have given her the chance to rule the State, the challenge for her and the Trinamool Congress will be to deliver on the promises made.

Bengal not in a debt trap, says Asim Dasgupta

Hindu Business Line, May 20, 2011

Kolkata, May 19: Former West Bengal Finance Minister, Mr Asim Dasgupta, on Thursday denied that the State had fallen in a debt trap or that it was heading for bankruptcy, as is alleged by the Trinamool Congress.

“Following a revision of wages by the Pay Commission, there was a temporary financial stress.

“But we have been able to tide over it,” Mr Dasgupta told newsmen adding that contrary to the allegations levelled the fiscal and revenue deficits of the State had come down during the last year.

Dip in fiscal deficit

An increase in State tax revenue has resulted in a dip in fiscal deficit in 2010-11 to 3.9 per cent from the 6.2 per cent in 2009-10.

Revenue deficit too came down from 5.4 per cent in 2009-10 to 3.1 per cent to 2010-11.
The State's accumulated borrowings now stand at Rs 1.86 lakh crore.

“The State's debt to GSDP (gross State domestic product) has come down from 50 per cent to 40 per cent during the last five years,” Mr Dasgupta said adding that even the country had higher fiscal and revenue deficit ratios.

The Trinamool Congress in its election manifesto had pointed out that the State was in a debt trap and had one of the highest debt to GDP (gross domestic product) ratio in the country.

According to him, during the first two months of the current fiscal, the West Bengal government raised Rs 5,173 crore through issue of bonds to compensate a sharp fall in loans against small savings.

Small savings was affected due to hike in deposit rates by the commercial banks.

“The total borrowings during April-May 2011 are lower than the corresponding period of 2010,” Mr Dasgupta said.

Fiscal Situation in West Bengal:Canard and Facts

SECTIONS of the media and the Trinamool Congress have repeatedly asserted that the reign of the Left Front government for the last 34 years has ruined the state finances and the burden of debt on the people of West Bengal is such that the new government will be in a difficult position to pay the salaries of the state government employees. Even after assuming power, the same canard is continuing. Amit Mitra, the new finance minister of state has himself joined in the campaign. The facts however show a completely different story.

Fact 1: The total debt of West Bengal currently stands at Rs 1,98,195 crore (2010-11). The total debt of Uttar Pradesh is Rs 2,34,581 crore while that of Maharashtra is Rs 2,36,526 crore in the same year. So, it is not the case that only West Bengal has a debt problem.

Fact 2: The fact of the matter is that the debt of all the states taken together has increased significantly over the last 20 years. In 1991, the total debt of all the states was Rs 1,28,155 crore which has increased to Rs 18,20,155 crore in 2011. In other words, the overall debt of all the states increased 14 times over the last 20 years. (Source: Study of State Finances, Reserve Bank of India)

Fact 3: The Debt-GSDP ratio, which is a better measure for the debt situation, has decreased significantly in West Bengal from 47 per cent in 2005-08 to 40.8 per cent in 2010-11. This signifies that the debt situation of West Bengal is actually improving rather than worsening.

Fact 4: Out of the total debt, 41.8 per cent comes from National Small Savings Fund (NSSF), because West Bengal has the highest mobilisation of Small Savings Fund. For all the states taken together, only 29.53 per cent of the total debt comes from NSSF. Now the central government has made it mandatory for state governments to borrow from NSSF. Since West Bengal has high NSSF deposits, so it has a higher debt burden. Moreover, the interest rate charged by the central government on NSSF loans is very high. This further aggravates the debt problem of West Bengal.

Fact 5: The monthly expenditure of the state government on salaries, pensions, subsidies and interest payments is Rs 3973 crore while the revenue mobilisation per month is Rs 4412 crore. Therefore, there is no question of non-payment of salaries to the employees. Over the last 34 years, the salaries of the employees have never been stopped. In fact, immediately after the new government took over, the chief minister announced that salaries for teachers funded by state government will be given on the first day of every month. This proves that there was no issue of non-payment of salaries because of fiscal problems.

Fact 6: The loan of the state government in April-May last year was Rs 5790crore, comprising of Rs 1790 crore from NSSF and Rs 4000 crore from the market. In April-May this year the loan of the state government is Rs 5678 crore, comprising of Rs 505 crore from NSSF and Rs 5173 crore from the market. In other words, the loan taken by the state government in the last two months is less than the amount taken as loan in the same months last year. In fact, within days of assuming power, the new government has decided to take loans of Rs 500 crore from NSSF and Rs 3000 crore from market.

The basic idea behind the charge against the erstwhile Left Front government is that it took too much responsibility in providing succour to wide sections of working people. The Left Front government, apart from paying all school and college teachers directly, also provided wages for all municipal and various local government administration. It also initiated the scheme of distribution of rice at Rs 2 per kg, shared the burden of provident fund of nearly 28 lakh unorganised workers. The Left Front government was the last to accept FRBM Act, causing much heartburn for neo-liberal proponents.