Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Massive Strike in West Bengal

KOLKATA: WEST Bengal came to a halt on February 20th. It was the rejoinder by the people of this state on the most debated and opposed general strike of recent times. Dictatorial ultimatums of the state government found no shore on the day except popular denunciation. Every sounds and even silence of the people of the people proclaimed popular rejection of the anti-people, anti-labour agenda of the UPA-II government as they along with millions of others across the country participated in the first day of the Two-Day Nationwide General Strike on February 20th and 21st .

The West Bengal state committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), extending its full support to the two-day long nationwide strike call of 11 central trade unions, had appealed to the people of this state to observe all out strike. Various peasant organizations have also supported the strike which is aimed at betterment of lives of the working people. By not overlooking the historic importance of International Mother Language Day and showing confidence to the popular sentiments, the CPI(M) had asked the trade unions to allow partial discharge on the second day of strike in this state. And the trade unions responded positively to that appeal. Along with the popular rejection to the ruling strata’s intimidation, this strike marked a vivid instance of successful cooperation and understanding of the Party with the trade unions.


West Bengal witnessed a massive participation of people in the strike refuting incessant intimidation from the TMC-led government. The government had taken multiple measures to attack the strike in various ways:

i. Police used opposing the strike: The government unprecedentedly used its police administration to propagate against strike. The police was engaged in mike campaign in different localities for the last two days.

ii. Ministers’ threats: The chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her council of special two-three ministers applied every measure to intimidate people just to oppose the strike.

iii.    Punitive Order: The West Bengal government issued a brutal order from the finance department where the state government employees were threatened to join the office on both days to avoid punitive measures like service break and salary-cut. The order even violates the Right to Strike.

iv.   Direct attacks: A series of attacks had been perpetrated in different localities for the last two weeks particularly in areas where people and left workers were campaigning for the strike.

But West Bengal, upholding its tradition of protest against all tyrannical measures against the common people, has made the strike a great success. From North to extreme South Bengal, the scenario of the state remained ‘stand still’ when the state private transport, factories, agricultural fields, shops across localities, shopping centres were completely disrupted due to not having enough commuters and workers.

The private transport workers rendered full support to the strike. Out of more than 5000 mini buses, just less than even 120 were plying on the streets; out of total 37,000 private buses, less than 1500 appeared on roads; most Tea Estates of North Bengal remained closed.

Industrial regions of the state witnessed a complete seize of work. Barrakpore Industrial belt was no less than a no man’s land where most of the labour and working people observed all out strike. Taratalla Industrial region observed strike in decisive manner with most of the industries and factories shut down. Coal mine areas and Durgapore Industrial region observed the first day of strike withstanding numerous threats and attacks from the authorities and the ruling party. Kalyani Industrial region was partially in action as the government and authority nexus had the workers forcefully locked in the factories overnight. Hoogly and Haldia Industrial belt observed strike in best possible way as they are in constant threat from ruling party goons and job insecurity.


(i) Hazra, Minister Instigates: The state transport minister Madan Mitra overtly instigated the police to start a rampant lathicharge on February 20 on the innocent strike campaigners at Hajra Crossing. The police did not even spare senior citizens and women while arresting them.

(ii) Nimta, Left workers attacked and injured: A CPI(M) local committee secretary Ashok Sarkar was attacked and injured by Trinamool hooligans at Nimta; a primary school teacher was beaten brutally by the Trinamool hooligans in Halishshar, North 24 Parganas.

(iii) Asansol, Henious attempt to oppose the strike: Numerous events of attacks on the strike observers took place throughout Asansol along with two massive attacks by the ruling party goons, one at the Asansol Bazar and another at the BNR more. The hooliganism of the ruling party led to complete shutdown of all facilities in Asansol town.

(iv) West Midnapore, CPI(M) office vandalised: TMC workers unleashed massive attack at Narayangar and vandalised the CPI(M) local committee office situated there. Another event of attacking the strike observers and area Party office of CPI(M) occurred at Dantan.


At the end of the first day strike, the trade unions in a joint statement congratulated the working class in organised and unorganised sectors for making the strike successful, inspite of the threats given by the state chief minister. They condemned the death of AITUC leader Narendra Singh in Ambala, who was murdered by being crushed under the wheels. The organisers have called for all out rallies in the state in protest.

While confronting the various statements made to foil the two day general strike call, CITU West Bengal state president Shyamal Chakrabarty said at a press conference that despite the state government holding repeated talks to ply transport on the days of the strike, the working class rebuffed her attempts. Responding to her call to Election Commission to ban political parties that called for strike, Chakraborthy advised her to at least now read the Constitution and see what the Article on fundamental rights states.

Shyamal Chakrabarty has also spoken of dragging to the court those who have gone beyond their constitutional powers and have issued circulars to the emloyees compelling them to join duties to make the strike unsuccessful against their wish.

February 24, 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

“People Support Us from Core of their Hearts” : MANIK SARKAR


Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar is the lead campaigner for the Left Front in the assembly elections. With few days left for polling, he is addressing around two to three meetings a day across the state.

Manik Sarkar, who came into politics through the student movement, emerged as a key leader of the state after becoming chief minister for the first time in 1998 when Dasarath Deb stepped down due to old age. Since then Manik Sarkar's record as chief minister has been exceptional to say the least. Tripura today is a role model for not only entire North East but to many bigger states also in terms of pro-people governance.

In an interview to N S Arjun of People’s Democracy at the CPI(M) state committee office on February 7, Manik Sarkar expressed full confidence about forming the Seventh Left Front government after the polls as people were supporting the Left Front from the core of their hearts.

Below are excerpts from that interview:

(Q) With polling to take place in a week's time, what is your assessment of the election scenario?

Manik Sarkar: The response from the common masses to Left Front's election campaign has been unprecedented. Rival parties supporters and workers are coming and joining our Party in big numbers. Even today in Sabroom sub-division, 64 persons joined our Party, among whom included one PCC member. People are supporting us from the core of their hearts due to their own experiences in terms of bringing peace in the state, strengthening democracy by decentralisation, improvement in their quality of life etc. There is also their experience of the Congress-led UPA II government's anti-people, pro-rich policies. That is why they are responding positively to our appeal to vote for Left Front for peace, democracy and continuity of pro-people developmental works.

(Q) What are the major achievements of the Left Front government in the last five years?

Manik Sarkar: The most important achievement has been the complete restoration of peace that had been shattered due to extremism. At one point of time Tripura and terrorism were synonymous. People had lost confidence and those with ability were deserting the state by migrating to other states. It was a continuous and tough struggle. Many of our ministers, MLAs, block samithi chairpersons, Party cadre, sympathisers and also commoners lost their precious lives in this struggle. The vigorous development work undertaken by us even in interior tribal areas has helped in countering extremists with the help of people. Now, Tripura is identified as a state of peace in the entire North East. The President of India decorated Tripura Police with President's Colours for outstanding success in combating three-decade old insurgency and ensuring there were no human rights abuses. Tripura is only the fourth state to receive this honour since Independence. This successful overcoming of extremist problem has been possible because of the role played by common people, both tribals and non-tribals.

Another major achievement has been the protection of the secular fabric of our state. Although Tripura is a small state, it is home to people belonging to Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist religions apart from tribals. We have ensured people's right to free expression of their religious beliefs. The Left Front government has no religion and therefore it treats all religions equal. We try our best to help and cooperate with them during their functions. This is very important because today this sort of secularism is under attack at the national level.

(Q) During our tour in interior parts of Tripura, we found good infrastructure in terms of schools, health centres, office buildings, bio-gas plants etc. In many places, construction activity is going on. Being a small state, how has the Left Front government been able to achieve this?

Manik Sarkar: This has been possible due to strengthening of democracy by taking it to grassroots. We decentralised power which was concentrated at ministers and bureaucrats level and placed it in the hands of grassroots bodies. I can claim with humility that our 3-tier panchayat system is one of the best performing panchayat systems in the country. We have empowered people through decentralisation of power. Other than this, the formation of Tripura Tribal Autonomous District Council (TTADC) has been an important vehicle for empowerment of people at grassroots level. One can well understand the democratic atmosphere prevailing and the political consciousness of people by the fact that there is over 90 per cent polling during elections. In this the role of women has been very very important.

The quality of life of our people has been improving day by day due to the development work carried out by the Left Front government. We have made progress in agriculture and allied sectors, power generation, connectivity, health care and education, safe drinking water, modern sanitation etc. As per a survey conducted by union finance ministry and Central Statistical Office in 2004, the per capita income in Tripura was Rs 24,394. The same organisations in their survey in 2011 found that it had increased to Rs 50,750. This increased purchasing power of people is reflecting in different aspects of our society like trade, commerce, agriculture, food consumption etc. However, we are telling people that the state is developing fast but we are not yet satisfied with this. We need to improve further the quality of life of people, particularly the rural poor.

The disadvantaged sections of our society, the SC, ST, OBCs suffered the most during Congress regime. We have implemented special programmes to overcome their social, economic and cultural problems and these have yielded good results.

(Q) In the neo-liberal economic regime, the state governments have in general experienced a squeeze on their finances. In such a situation how has the Left Front government managed to achieve so much in terms of infrastructure development and welfare schemes for the people?

Manik Sarkar: The main reason is the Left Front government has ensured strict financial discipline.We are managing our finances and resources in a very cautious manner. We had  austerity measures right from the beginning. Salaries of our ministers and MLAs  are perhaps the lowest in the country. Whatever resources we have, we are utilising to the last penny with all seriousness. There is full transparency in spending and if there is any charge of corruption, we jump on it and take strict action if it is found true. Misuse of money is not tolerated. Empowerment of people through decentralisation has also helped in preventing leakages of scheme funds.  Another important reason is that our good performance is helping us to force the central government to release our share of funds.

(Q) We found educated graduates without job in some of the villages we visited. With a vibrant education system in the state, how big is unemployment problem a challenge for the Left Front government?

Manik Sarkar: Generation of employment is a burning national problem now. Here in Tripura there was no development of infrastructure during Congress regimes and it set us back by many years. Without infrastructure in place, industrialisation that provides jobs cannot happen. And unemployment problem cannot be solved just by providing jobs in the government sector. As you know the centre has a ban on recruitment for many years and today there are over 40 lakh central government jobs lying vacant and which would lapse in the coming years. The Left Front government, despite pressure from centre against recruitment, has provided many jobs in the government sector.  In the last four years alone we provided over 25,000 jobs. In 1972 at the formation of Tripura state, there were only 27,000 government jobs. Today, we have over 1,61,000 employed in government sector.

Apart from this, we are eagerly waiting for the road linkage to Chittagong port in Bangladesh from Sabroom in Tripura, which is a distance of around 70 km. Discussions are going on between governments of India and Bangladesh regarding this and we are hopeful it will fructify in the coming period. Once this access to port comes, it will be a big thing for Tripura. Discussions about the proposed 11 km rail linkage between Agartala and Akhaura in Bangladesh are also in final stages and will improve connectivity further. There is also a move to have air connectivity between Agartala and Dhaka. If all these things happen, and I am hopeful that they will happen, then all our locational disadvantages will be turned into advantages. Tripura will become the gateway to East Asia.

(Q) About the recent natural gas finds in Tripura, what is the situation?

Manik Sarkar: Tripura is a big reservoir of natural gas. ONGC, GAIL and one private corporation are currently carrying out further exploration work in the state. The quality of gas found here is also very good. On the basis of these gas finds, ONGC has set up a 730 MW power generation project. Some private parties have come forward to set up more gas-based power projects. But we are discouraging it as we want to use gas for fertiliser industry and other purposes also. When we combine these developments with the quality human resources, highest literacy rate and increased purchasing power among people, we have a strong basis for industrialisation in the state. Investors are now coming forward to set up industries in the state and this process will strengthen in the coming period.

(Q) Lastly, your comment on the recent incidents linking Congress to extremist elements in the effort to disrupt peace in the state.

Manik Sarkar: Well, you see Congress is getting isolated at national level and here in our state. They are unable to keep their house in order and at the same time they are unable to remain out of power for so many years. So, they tried to repeat what they did in 1988 election this time also by promoting extremists. But they have been caught red-handed trying to incite extremists to strike terror before elections. Their alliance with INPT, which is nothing but a political mask of extremists, also exposed their intention. After they have been caught red-handed, we are also keeping our people on high alert.  There is no room for complacency in this regard.
 People's Democracy
 February 17, 2013