Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Uniting ‘secular, democratic’ forces

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

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

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

© Frontline: Apr 5, 2016 4:18:49 PM

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Are Trinamool MPs harbouring Bangladeshi terrorists in WB?

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

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

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


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