People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 02, 2006
Bengal Left Front Government Safeguards The
Interests Of The People: Buddhadeb
ON the thirtieth anniversary of the Bengal Left Front government, the state Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee spoke at length to Ganashakti. Excerpts follow:
ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ELECTORAL TRIUMPH
The electoral verdict of the people is quite clear. The earlier two-thirds majority is now converted, thanks to the people’s verdict, to a three-fourths majority in the Bengal Assembly. We are determined to respect the choice that the people have exercised. We must implement our programme in the rigours of specificity and make the government function in an improved manner and with swiftness.
The continuity of success of the Bengal Left Front in elections and the absence of the anti-incumbency factor here is a rare event replete with political significance. Yet, Bengal is not bereft of the national-level problems and dysfunctionalities plaguing the nation per se.
Unemployment bothers Bengal as it does the rest of India. There is no power supply in 20 per cent of the Bengal villages and hamlets. Road conditions are not ideal. Some amount of problem continues in the health sector, we know. Certainly, these constraints would give rise to the strain of anti-incumbency.
How do we tackle the issue? Well, thanks to the massive waves of organised peasant movements and struggles, the correlation of proprietor ship of the agricultural land parcels have changed, in manner that would allow us to resist and overcome the gusts of anti-incumbency often fomented across the state.
LAND AND LAND REFORMS
You will recall that the land movement in Bengal started with the historic Tebhaga movement. During the all-too-brief tenures of the UF governments in the late 1960’s, an organised peasant movement was able to take over large chunks of illegally-possessed and ceiling-surplus land reposed among the jotdars-zamindars of this state.
Land was occupied and tilled with the ubiquitous plough by the rural poor. Lives of kisans were sacrificed during this period. The zamindari juggernaut was finally stopped and successfully dismantled.
On assumption of office, the Left Front governments in succession established patta rights for the landless and thus provided the kisan with legal right on the land he possessed and tilled. The recording of barga has been an important component of the land movement. The khet mazdoors lead and participated in a strong movement in Bengal. Taken together, these factors have contributed to make correlation of political force come to such a pass that we are able, as I said to tackle and take care of any form of anti-incumbency.
This indeed is the base of the political power of the Bengal Left Front. No force is able to dominate the rural poor who have stood up for their rights. This is due to the sweeping, redistributive land reforms that Bengal has witnessed. Bengal enjoys unprecedented success in agricultural production. 65 per cent of the people of the state are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture.
Another base for the Left Front is the popularity it has roused among the youth, and among the workers, the peasants, and in general amongst the rural and urban populace. The support has come up through the experience they have had of the pro-people governance of the Left Front governments in succession. The vast majority of the people of Bengal believe that there is no alternative to Left Front.
INTER-CONNECT BETWEEN LATIN AMERICA AND BENGAL
The situation evolving there in Latin America and here in Bengal is essentially different. Bengal is not a sovereign nation and has to work within the existing centre-state restrictive framework. But we do appreciate the alternative the Latin American countries have boldly put forward to neo-liberalism and globalisation.
British prime minister Margaret Thatcher once put out the slogan that there was no alternative to capitalism, acronymed as TINA or ‘There Is No Alternative.’ Latin America has proved that a viable alternative is very much there.
The Central Committee of the CPI(M) in discussing the developments in Latin American nations recently has noted the growth of the Bolivarian Alternative. The Central Committee will set up a Study Group to observe and analyse the happenings there. We shall identify the essence of Leftism prevailing in Latin America.
It is very important to note that the Latin American nations like Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina, and Ecuador, among others, appear determined to be free of the political, economic, and military hegemony of the United States.
LIBERALISATION AND BENGAL LF GOVERNMENT’S ALTERNATIVE
We have attached topmost priority to the task of providing security to the people being marginalised by the so-called liberalisation. We strive for increasing employment opportunities and enhancing levels of income. We do not agree to the view that market economy will run the government. We are against the concept that market economy is omnipotent.
We believe that the inevitable result of market economy is to immiserise especially the poorer sections of the people. Our government intervenes to protect the poor in the face of the onslaught of liberalisation because we are a government of the Left persuasion.
As alternative, we call attention to land reforms. The land belongs to the poor in the villages – 72 per cent of the agricultural land is under the possession of the rural poor. The rural poor also lead the three-tier Panchayat system and a series of diverse schemes of rural development are implemented.
We also lay emphasis on industrialisation, and on the extension of industries and trade-and-commerce. We welcome foreign capital in the realm of higher technology and for employment generation, militating against the jobless growth affecting the developed capitalist nations.
In stressing employment generation, we highlight the small and medium industries. We want to make the self-help groups improved micro enterprises. The principal aim is to involve the backward sections of the people, and scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and women in economic activities.
Other alternatives include total literacy. We have created 68 thousand primary schools. We provide the salary and emoluments to the teachers, and we supply books and exercise books as well as mid-day meals to the students. Government hospitals take care of the treatment of 70 per cent of the ailing people as an alternative to the sweeping privatisation of health services elsewhere in the country.
We are determined to bring up the 20 per cent of the populace who remain below the poverty line. We have been working for the uplift of the poorer villages. We also look into the plight of the workers of closed factories. We provide them with stipends.
We have started Provident Fund benefits for workers in the unorganised sector. Construction workers have been provided with security. The Bengal Left Front government has initiated and unleashed these and other measures as an alternative to the so-called liberalism.