People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 04, 2007
Organise A Massive Campaign Against
The Anti-Development Forces
THE Bengal Left Front in its election manifesto to the fourteenth Assembly polls pointed out to the people of the state in a wide and important manner that the process of industrialisation would be built up on the base of the agricultural successes and that the developmental programme will ensure a continuing growth of agriculture. It was widely campaigned that to increase employment opportunities, the pace of the developmental work must be accelerated.
The people of Bengal placed their trust in this exposition and ensured a win for the Left Front in 235 out of 294 seats contested, with more than 50 percent electoral support in 127 seats. In the process, the Left Front could win the support of 50.18 percent of the electorate. It is quite in the order of things that in the subsequent period, the Left Front government has taken up the implementation of developmental programme as per the people’s expectations. Towards this end, positive steps have been initiated towards increasing agricultural productivity, bringing in agricultural diversification and increasing employment opportunities.
A PRO-PEOPLE LAND REFORMS PROGRAMME
The fact is well known that despite having just 2.55 percent of the total agricultural land in the country, the land reforms ensured that in Bengal, 20 percent of the total land of India could be redistributed amongst the landless and poor kisans. According to the records of 1995 -1996, 72 percent of the land in Bengal has been marked as agricultural land parcels. In 2001-2002, the figure increased and stood at 78.78 percent.
As per the election manifesto of the first Left Front (1977), a land reforms programme was effectively implemented, and at the same time, the democratic process of the rural development was ensured through setting up of the three-tier panchayat system. Added to this was the ‘operation barga.’ The legal right of the bargadars was recognised. The drive to increase the amount of irrigated land was set in motion. Because of this drive, nearly 69 per cent of the agricultural land is now under irrigation.
Yet, it would not do to let slip the fact that while land reforms programme was in the process of being implemented, especially when land was redistributed, all anti-Left Front forces joined hands with elements of reaction to oppose the effort and engaged themselves in violent strife. However, no ‘famous personalities’ or NGOs came up then to plead for land reforms. Those who pose as kisan sympathisers have been actively engaged in the task of opposing the redistribution of land amongst the kisans.
Nearly thirty years back, landless peasants and poor kisans received land chunks and utilised their manual force to put this small opportunity to good use and to engage themselves in the task of enhancing agricultural growth, implementing in the process the policy of the state LF government in this regard. Consequently, and with the assistance of the panchayati system, Bengal occupies the position of primacy in agricultural production in India.
THE REALITY IN AGRICULTURE TODAY
Nevertheless, if we are not in a position to bring in agricultural diversification, and without increasing the offtake of improved seeds, bio-fertilisers, and organic fertilisers, the present rate of agricultural growth cannot be sustained. Another real problem has appeared side by side. The people who had been the early recipients of agricultural land chunks consequent to the land reforms are now old men. They have children and grand children. The increase in the number of family members means that land has started to fragment.
In these split land parcels agricultural productivity can never be enhanced since implements for the enhanced production rate could not be put in place with such small-sized holdings. Nor could these small kisans and marginal farmers can afford high cost of advanced technology for cultivation. In the reality of the evolved situation, we must ensure that the kisans fit in to the alternative flow of living or they will be pushed into crisis, and the overall economic development will be affected.
The money that the owners of the split land parcels will get after reckoning with the agricultural expenses will never be able to make living and livelihood feasible throughout the year. The realisation will gradually dawn amongst the kisans tilling small land chunks and the marginal farmers, if we continue to convince them that they cannot survive if they function in the old ways. In accordance with the laws of the market, the produce marketed will not be enough to match in any manner production costs. Sale of crops will also be accompanied by real losses.
Thus, if this section of the kisans continue to depend on agricultural work alone, life will become very difficult for them. However, the realisation will not dawn automatically since the feudal mental make-up will prevent from switching over. It is a fact, however, that kisans treat the piece of holding they own, as their progeny and are very sensitive about it. As a result, we must interact with the small and marginal farmers per se with a great degree of patience. This form of campaign alone will bear fruits and be effective.
On the other side, the purchasing power of the rural folk has increased in general. Now, the rural market for industrial goods has a size of Rs 20 thousand crore—something that was unimaginable earlier. Communications in the districts has improved; the developmental programme for building infrastructure continues apace. Many new roads have come up, as have been bypasses, bridges, some new railway links for superior connectivity, markets and haats, and housings. Fresh plans are in place for electrification and the use of non-conventional energy sources.
When we keep in mind the developmental features summarised above, it is not hard to imagine how the Bengal Left Front government has created an ambience of stability here. Earlier in 1994, the then chief minister Jyoti Basu announced an industrial policy and invited entrepreneurs to invest in Bengal and to commence joint ventures with the participation of the departments of the state LF government. This was not an easy task, for the Bengal opposition were against the industrial development of Bengal even when Jyoti Basu convened an all-party meeting and raised the issue of preferring a representation to the then Congress prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on the question of industrialisation.
The Bengal opposition did not agree to participate in the delegation. In these circumstances, there were some isolated investments, but there was no enthusiasm evident for concerted investment. The state LF government and the people of Bengal had to build up and organise a wide movement in order to set up the Haldia Petrochemicals. A similar movement was launched in the case of the Bakreswar thermal power project. The union government on logic that was hardly faultless would keep delaying the Salt Lake electronics project citing closeness to the neighbouring Bangladesh. Ultimately, the Salt Lake project took off. All three of the units have been in operation for some years now and have contributed substantially to the economic development of Bengal.
The investment earmarked at first for the Haldia project was Rs Five thousand crore. However, a delay of 12 years occurred and this pushed up the project cost to close to Rs Six thousand crore. Now there has been an investment of Rs 15 thousand crore in the project. As a result, Haldia port has been set up in what had been a village of fishing folk. Factories and production units are running, and more than a lakh of people benefited economically from the developmental change. The industries have been set up on both non-agricultural and agricultural land. Even then, the opposition launched a virulent opposition to stop the process of industrialisation. Conspiracies were launched to ensure that the Bakreswar project did not come up. After a long and arduous movement, the project work at Bakreswar started 10 years behind schedule. The central electricity authority cleared the project after a great period of delay.
Today in a different situation, opposition is organised against the coming up of an automobile factory at Singur in Hooghly. The people of Bengal are a witness to the joint opposition of all sorts of right reactionary forces who have joined hands with the forces of left sectarianism. We do believe that the same forces will operate to oppose the steel project scheduled to come up at Salboni. They will also oppose the developmental projects that will come up at Salanpore in Burdwan, Barjora in Bankura, the steel industry at Raghunathpur-Neturia in Purulia, and the television and electronics complex at Siliguri.
The question is why this mindless opposition? Let us recall that when the Congress chief minister Dr B C Roy took over thousands of acres of land to set up the Durgapur complex, or the Kalyani township, or the Salt Lake city, the then leader of the opposition Jyoti Basu or the Communists and the Left never stood up in opposition. In fact, they supported the plan for industrialisation and urbanisation.
It is perfectly normal to expect that employment opportunities would not grow without industrialisation. As we have noted earlier, if land gets to be fragmented and number of family members grow, agriculture would no longer be supportive of livelihood. Where would the new generation go, then? They will certainly become transformed into industrial workers. One need not be a specialist in economics nor a social scientist to grasp and realise this fundamental truth. Unfortunately, a small segment of the ‘intellectuals,’ is not willing to pass comments commensurate with the actual reality of the economic, agricultural, and industrial scenario in the state.
A new and fresh opportunity for industrialisation in Bengal has been created of late, because of the geographical location of the state, the existence of the flourishing ports of Kolkata and Haldia, and the ‘Look East’ policy of prime minister Manmohan Singh. The Bengal Left Front government’s chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has taken an initiative to implement the realities of the situation and it is necessary to carry out a campaign in its favour in all the 19 districts at the levels of villages, blocks, sub-divisions, and districts.
At the same time, a solid base of unity must be built up amongst the democratic, patriotic, and secular people while campaigning patiently amongst the people against the efforts by the forces of the right and the sectarian left to create an atmosphere of conflict among the poor cleverly utilising religious sentiments and vitiating the mind of the people through a lie campaign.
A MINDLESS OPPOSITION
On January 3 at Nandigram, all sorts of reactionary forces joined hands, and launched assaults on the Left in the villages, especially workers, supporters, and sympathisers of the CPI (M), torching dwelling places, and killing people. Against this dastardly rampage, January 27 was observed as Nandigram divas. On that day, the people were told what the reality was, and a drive was launched to collect funds for the affected people of Nandigram. The developmental programme that has to be carried out in the nearby Khejuri and Haldia is not a matter of a few months or even a few years. The people have been apprised of the projects.
It is to be noted that those who are anti-peasant to the core are engaged in floating so-called ‘save agricultural committees’ associating some NGOs with the process, and they appear desperate to grab the limelight. Their aim is quite clear. Once their ‘programmes’ are publicised in the print and audio-visual media, they would sent out the clippings and the CDs abroad, earning plenty of money. We cannot but comment on the fact that these so-called ‘kisan friendly’ people of ‘repute’ move about in a luxurious and expensive manner (a flotilla of vehicles is always seen when these worthies move).
Thus, the imperative task for all of us now is to organise a wide and continuous campaign movement across Bengal against the evil forces that are frankly opportunist, driven by self-interest, aggressively anti-development, and hell-bent on impeding the process of industrialisation in Bengal.
Nonetheless, we are to be firm and cautious in dealing with what the opposition in Bengal would spread and with patience and fortitude mingle deeply and widely with the mass of the people to win over each and every individual and clear their minds of all the confusion that may have arisen. This immediate task is not an easy one at all. Yet, this has become a paramount duty before all of us.