People's Democracy

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


No. 29

July 27 , 2008


People March Across Bengal Protesting

 The Nuclear Deal And The Price Rise


B Prasant


THE processions seem never-ending in the programme of protests being held under the aegis of the Bengal Left Front.  Every day, especially every evening, come rain or shine, people march across Bengal carrying banners, festoons, and placards that deride the proposed India-US nuclear deal, condemn the failure, indeed the reluctance, of the UPA government to curb the price rise. The campaign also exposed the betrayal to the nation, wrought by the Congress and its new-found ally, the Samajwadi Party (SP). 


On his return from Delhi where he had gone to attend the Polit Bureau and central committee meetings of the CPI(M), Bengal Left Front chairman Biman Basu stressed while speaking to PD that the perfidy of a section of the SP must be exposed to the people – and thoroughly – everywhere in the country.




The rains had come down in a deluge as cloudburst after cloudburst resulted from the constant low pressure trough that Bengal finds itself in – nothing new – just typical monsoon weather, and we encountered the middling aged but resolute Aparna carefully negotiating the puddles and trying to keep steady as she carried a large placard holding it carefully aloft with both arms, a hoarding that exposed the deceit of the Congress behind the ‘deal’ with the US imperialists.  A housewife from Behala, Aparna would not hesitate to keep responding in refrain to the slogans that arose from the serpentine procession that travelled across Behala and Tollygunj.


‘I look after the family as the earning member and I have realised the enormity of the adverse effect the price rise has had on my very limited budget.’  ‘Would you believe,’ said Aparna, ‘I have had to cut exactly in half my marketing list of daily necessities?’  ‘I walk among the marchers -- and this is something I have only done with any frequency long, long back as a student activist, and not after I had married and settled down -- because everyone should take to the streets to subsume the Congress-led UPA government in a deluge of protest across Bengal, across India,’ was her stout response to our question ‘why are you out in the rain,’ as she marched resolutely off, the placard held high and the thin arms held firm.





The marchers ranks also included the thoroughly wet rickshaw puller Aftab, wearing what must have once been a bright yellow tee shirt, now rendered as colourless as his daily life as he groans under the price rise, ‘yeh sattu ki daam bhi gaye huye kaal se phir barha, dada,’ was his most potent lament, and understandably so. Accompanying him was another rickshaw puller, Nakul, who hails from as far as Midnapore east, and stays alone at a bustee abutting the Adarshanagar refugee colony in south Kolkata. 


Vigorously nodding approval to Aftab’s sad lament, Nakul added to say as rain - blinding, whiplash-like rain poured down on and across his body - that he had his family way back home, and home was hundreds of miles from Kolkata - at Khejuri.  ‘Tell me,  what shall I send my wife and my two kids in terms of money as I find it hard-pressed as it is to feed myself and to keep body-and-soul together in the harsh world the Congress party has mercilessly pressed upon us poor.’


We also witnessed at close quarters another such long procession down south in Midnapore – the Kolkata march was held in the morning hours, the Midnapore marchers strode across the townships late in the evening of Sunday, July 20. We encountered the same enthusiasm and the same fervour - and the same fulmination against the mis-governance and betrayal of Congress. The difference was that the Midnapore marchers were dominated by a large number of middle class professionals, who, too, have started to feel the pinch, and who also are hard hit by the rising price levels. 





Walking shoulder-to-shoulder were teachers, doctors, engineers, software professionals, education employees, littératures, those employed in the public and private sectors, along with a large number of Left student-youth-women mass frontal workers.  Senior CPI(M) leader Dipak Sarkar defied his age and led the procession from the front as the drizzle turned into a sharp shower, and then the rain came pouring down from a very dark evening sky, obliterating objects in a sea of gray – a colour that reflective of the conditions that the Congress government up in Delhi had rendered the daily lives of the working people into. 


Similar marches have been reported from nearly all the districts with the procession as in Siliguri up north standing out for its colourful appearance and the resoluteness against the anti-people endeavours of the UPA central government including the hike in petroleum goods, and the runaway inflation, plus the disastrous deal being struck with the US on the nuclear energy affecting country’s sovereign status itself.  There was a vast rally of the youth at Jalpaiguri also.  The district of south 24 Parganas saw marchers striding across places as far apart as Kulpi, Diamond Harbour, Joynagar, Majilpur, Kultali, and Satgetchia.  Two large mass rallies were taken out in Howrah and at Singur in Hooghly – the latter procession was a notable success despite the torrential rain and the whipping wind.  Rallies were also held at Burdwan, the two Dinajpores- and in Bankura and Birbhum in the red clay zone of Bengal.





In a meet-the-press programme held at the Muzaffar Ahmad Bhavan during the late afternoon hours of July 22, Bengal Left Front chairman, and senior CPI(M) leader Biman Basu stated that the campaign-movement being conducted in every district in Bengal against the proposed nuclear deal with the US, and against the rampant price rise, would continue apace.  ‘The movement organised by the Bengal LF has nothing to do with the stay or otherwise of the anti-people, anti-poor, and anti-worker UPA government,’ he told the newspersons.


The Bengal Left Front has declared the following slogans to be representative of the demands of the LF:


l                    Ration card and PDS for all

l                    Down with forward trading especially in essential commodities

l                    Down with hoarding and racketeering

l                    Reduction of the burden of taxes on petro-goods

l                    Increase of taxes on private-sector oil refineries

l                    Tax the rich more

l                    Cut down the rate of increase of inflation


In a statement the Bengal Left Front chairman noted that ‘it has become known through news highlighted in the media that a political leader of state abutting Bengal who also happens to be a member of parliament, has assured the UPA government that he will support them in the confidence motion in exchange of an unreal and unreasonable proposal whereby three districts of Bengal shall be included in Jharkhand, and the HQs of Coal India and DVC would be shifted to that state.’  Biman Basu said that ‘we on behalf of the Bengal Left Front strongly condemn this move and also call upon the people of Bengal to be vigilant and cautious.’


Asked to comment on the production of bundles of currency notes in the Lok Sabha, Biman Basu said that the disgusting act of attempted bribery ‘must be probed, and the guilty found and punished, and that the entire noxious show has put to shame parliamentary norm and form.’  


On the Left’s withdrawal of support from the UPA government, Biman Basu iterated that the Left had stood in opposition to the nuclear deal right from the beginning of 2006 when the issue was first broached, and since had issued stern warnings continuously to the central government of dire consequences if it chose to go ahead with the ‘strategic partnership with US imperialism.’


On the recent floating of a new ‘Indira Congress’ platform by the Pradesh Congress veteran Somen Mitra and his loudly expressed  wishes to blend his outfit with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress, Biman Basu merely asked the newspersons to ‘await farther developments.’