People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 16

April 27, 2008




'Strengthen The Panchayat System And Make It Development-Oriented'

B Prasant

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee made Midnapore east his first stop for his lengthy election campaign. He addressed big rallies at Egra, Khejuri, Mahisadal, and Tamluk in the district. The rallies were held in the early afternoons, and the heat wave was dissipated somehow in lower Bengal with a strong, cool, and swirling southerly breeze that made the podium sway. Presence of women was marked in each of the programmes.

The Khejuri rally was interesting in the sense that the ongoing road re-construction and the putting up of a two-lane overhead transit road had virtually put the bus services - the life line of the entire stretch - at a standstill. We noted that villagers from as far as Patashpur and Pani Parul, Dubda and Manjushree had started to foot it towards the rallying point from where the marches would take off from early in the morning. No less than 200 columns of Red flag-waving CPI(M) supporters were seen marching to the rally carefully across the fields that were full of green-and-yellow rice paddies ready for harvesting.

As the heat mounted and the sky became more metallic blue, the grounds would start to fill up to capacity. Large numbers of big Red flags started to flutter in the freshening breeze as Buddhadeb mounted the dais. He began by calling upon the massive assemblage to thwart all conspiracies, squash all rumour-mongering, isolate the opposition, ignore the dire predictions of the media, and make sure that the Panchayat of the poor returns with a greater majority of votes and seats. This brought about a reverberating response form the 30 thousand strong rallyists.

One recalled the tension that was still on the air when in February of last year when Buddhadeb had addressed a rally at Khejuri and had declared that ‘the state government will not acquire any land for industrial or other purposes at Nandigram.’ A statement of trust and a promise of good-will – that was subsequently trampled underfoot by the right-left combination of the opposition forces who had responded by stepping up violence.



Buddhadeb iterated that while land would not be taken over at Nandigram, a short distance away, the petro-chemical hub would come up at Nayachar, creating jobs, accelerating development, bringing to bear a faster rate of balanced urbanisation even as the agricultural base elsewhere in the district was continuously upgraded, diversified, and provided to state-assisted tools of quicker growth.

Speaking later at Mahisadal, Buddhadeb said that the state LF government had made strenuous efforts to bring in proposal for a shipbuilding yard at Mahisadal. The shipyard would automatically mean the growth of a series of tiers of ancillary and downstream industrial units. The range of people who would get direct and indirect employment would stretch from the neo-literate to the professionals. With population pressure mounting on agriculture, Bengal needed many more such industrial units, asserted the CPI(M) leader. Pointing to the fact that Bengal possessed 600 colleges, 80 engineering and technical institutions, and 17 universities, Buddhadeb said that the students, the torch-bearers of the 21st century, must be suitably accommodated for jobs in industrial and infrastructural sectors.



The single agendum of the opposition, emphasised Buddhadeb was to create trouble and impede the path of development. ‘No!’ was the refrain of the right-left opposition elements. ‘Roads?’ ‘No!’ ‘Industry?’ ‘No!’ ‘Infrastructure?’ ‘No!’ ‘Urbanisation?’ ‘No!’ ‘Then how,’ queried Buddhadeb, ‘do they expect Bengal to develop?’ ‘Agriculture,’ Buddhadeb acquiesced, ‘is very important and food security must be ensured all the way, all the while. However, must we seal ourselves in a time-bubble of the past centuries and ignore the imperatives of employment-generating growthpro-people and pro-poor growth?

Buddhadeb explained at length the outlook that drove the CPI(M) - and LF-run panchayats. He pointed out that the basis of the Panchayat system has been the wide array of redistributive land reforms that allowed more than 84 per cent of the land to be in possession of mall and marginal farmers. This has been the consequence of the decades of struggle of the Left across the villages of Bengal, beginning strongly in the mid-1960s. The work is not yet completed. More and more land plots are redistributed as they are brought out of the complexity of court cases, and more patta documents are provided to the landless and the bargadars or sharecroppers.

Buddhadeb praised the Midnapore east district as a whole for topping the country in terms of ‘Nirmal’ village – all the villages here having fully functional modern toilet systems. Buddhadeb also urged upon the people in the district to prevent early marriage of girl children and allow them to take advantage of the flourishing school system run by the Panchayats where mid-day meals are supplied, and there are no tuition fees. Buddhadeb was also emphatic on accelerating the growth of self-groups run by women that not only empower them but also provide them with dignity and honour in the household.

Other speakers at the rallies were CPI(M) leaders Kanu Sahoo, Luxman Seth, Nirmal Jana, Prasanta Pradhan, Chakradhar Meikap, Tamalika Panda Seth, Amiya Sahoo, and Mujibar Rahaman.