(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
November 30, 2008
Left Front Way Ahead In Jhargram Civic Polls
FROM what we saw during an extended stay at and around the Jhargram township in the run up to the civic elections scheduled for November 30, 2008, the CPI(M) and the Left Front may win an even greater number of seats on the Jhargram municipal board than it does now. The CPI(M) already possesses control over 14 of the 17 seats in the board that had been established in 1982. Also going to polls are Krishnagar municipality in Nadia, Berhampore in Murshidabad, and Howrah.
As we motored into Jhargram along the broad shiny boulevard of a spanking new route that had just been cleared of felled trees by the tribals themselves, the first thing that struck us was the absence of the sprawling Lodha community basti. In its place stood a series of two-storey buildings with neat front and backyards, and ‘in-house’ roads, water-supply lines, overhead tanks, and environment-friendly gardens and water bodies.
Gone were the familiar squalor, the foul smell of a malfunctioning sewerage system, and the babbling noise of quarrels going on all the time over water-gathering from the tubewell.
We felt sad to see the 200-odd Lodha families go. Where had they been packed off in the urbanisation hurry, we were a-wonder. The answer was a refreshing relief as well as a glowing tribute to the CPI(M)-run municipality under the direct political guidance of the district secretary of the CPI(M) Professor Dipak Sarkar.
The brick-red-and yellow-ochre-frontage housings set up over a large stretch of land with an underlay of boulders had been constructed by the municipality under a scheme of the state LF government housing project and it was the Lodha community persons who occupied the buildings. But then again, I was in Jhargram township itself after five years had passed me by.
Later, chairman Pradip Sarkar whom we met over several cups of steaming tea at the modest three story, unfurnished municipality office, quiet pride in his voice, informed the uninformed to note that 645 other basti dwellers too had been shifted of late to another cluster of single-storey pucca housings elsewhere in downtown Jhargram. He also narrated the impressive list of pro-people and pro-poor achievements of the municipality he heads over the past five years:
Every ward possesses at least one primary school
Four centralised free health centres are up and running
Field health volunteers with a primary health knowledge base and medicines and equipment visit households as a routine throughout the year
The former slum areas are now equipped with concrete-asphalt roads, pucca drainage pipes, perennial filtered water supply, community health centres, and community toilets
Nearly 150 self-help and DAKUA groups under the SJRY schemes have been established and made profit-bearing
To cope with the low-voltage from which Jhargram town had suffered for many years, a spanking new 132 KV sub-station has been set up by courtesy of the state electricity board
The municipality has also done a good and great thing as a political-social endeavour: a novelty if there is one. It has organised one hundred clubs and associations of the township under the banner of the ‘confederation of municipal clubs’ through which community activities are performed and more
The leaflet published by the municipality is incredibly detailed and extremely informative. It contains records of not just ward-wise developmental activities, but it also makes the slim publication come alive before our eyes with such entries as ‘dug-well built on the eastern side of Bhaku Bhukta’s house (ward 7) to ‘drainage work completed from Shankar Murmu’s kutcha house to Subhas Sarkar’s pucca residence (ward 13).
With such great attention to detail and such frankness in submitting what we in the CPI(M) would call a ‘work report,’ can there be any doubt that the rainbow opposition ranging from the Maoists to the BJP and everything else in between, despite managing to put up a one-on-one electoral battle have the slimmest of chances of improving on their miserable performance the last time around they were in the fray? We think an emphatic not.