People's Democracy

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


No. 47

November 22, 2009

Massive Kolkata Rally Calls For Development, Peace


B Prasant


A sea of humanity covered larger parts of downtown Kolkata spilling over Chowringhee, Lenin Sarani, and Dharamtolla around the venue at the Rani Rashmoni crossing, come the afternoon of 16 November.  Held at the behest of the Bengal Left Front, the rally highlighted the burning issues that confronted the people of Bengal for some time now.  The top leadership of the Bengal LF addressed the rally.


Bengal LF chairman Biman Basu explained the issues that touched the lives and livelihoods of the common people and said that the vast pace of price rise was brought about not by natural causes but were the result of the crass failure of initiative on the part of the Congress central government to address the issues in good time.


The promise that the Congress party had made to bring relief to the common man has backfired in the sense that it has been the common people who are now at the receiving end of the rapid escalation of the price ranges of essential commodities including food items.  Biman reminded the vast gathering that when the UPA was in office the earlier time with Left support from outside, such steps as would bring about price rise were not allowed to be undertaken by the government.


The increase in prices included 104 per cent for potato, 45 per cent for sugar, and 35 per cent for onions, with other items of common consumption racing ahead in terms of prices. At the same time, the daily wage for 77 per cent of the people remained a paltry Rs 20. The central ministers from Bengal remain strangely silent on the entire range of issues concerned with price rise.


The central government provides tax relief worth more than Rs four crore per year.  Yet, what the central government glosses over is the fact that a subsidy worth less than Re one lakh per annum shall provide 35 kilos of rice per head at the rate of Rs two per kilo.  The central government has not gone into the issue of food security.  It has also failed miserably to strengthen the public distribution system for the common man.  No effort is being made to create jobs for the crores of full and semi-employed persons.  Divestment of profit-earning PSUs goes on-and-on-and-on.  All this must be highlighted in an intense agit-prop drive throughout Bengal said the LF chairman.


Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharyya focussed attention of the rally to sad fact that after 60 years of political independence, the country yet lacked food surplus.  The decades-old demand of the left that 14 articles of essential consumption must be supplied at a concessional rate has been patently ignored by the central governments in succession, especially of late. 


It is the central government that must lead the drive to price-revision downwards�no state government is in a position to do so.  If the price rises countrywide, Bengal cannot remain an island of excellence for long, Buddhadeb reminded the huge audience.  Buddhadeb also highlighted the multi-faceted and pro-people, especially pro-poor achievements of the LF government over the past three decades and more.


Turning onto the law-and-order situation in Bengal, Buddhadeb firmly pointed out that there was tangible proof of the nexus between the Trinamul Congress and the �Maoists.�  The former abets violence, the latter feeds off from it.  Speaking in plain language, the chief minister said that the state government was in the know in which districts such contacts existed and who the Trinamuli leaders were who were involved in the entire schema against the LF government. 


Buddhadeb also dubbed the PCAPA (people�s committee against police atrocities) an out fit of the �Maoists,� created to throw up a fa�ade behind which the killers and the death squads operated, targeting poor villagers.  Buddhadeb continued to say that the recent events of murder and mayhem at places in south and western Bengal including Goaltore, Salboni, Lalgarh, Garbeta, Balarampur, and Sarenga were pointers to the nexus of anti-people and anti-poor spree of killings taking place in Bengal.  Buddhadeb regretted that the Trinamulis were irresponsible to the extent they would boycott all meetings convened by the chief minister towards finding ways-and-means for establishing peace and ending the bloodshed.


Biman Basu attacked the terroristic moves of the Trinamulis, the killing spree of the �Maoists,� and also pointed to the former�s indulging in politics based on caste and religion.  The Trinamulis also fomented separatism and fuelled divisive politics, Biman pointed out.  The Trinamulis are guilty of spreading rumour in the countryside that the Left Front government would be intent on usurping the land especially the religious places of the people for a particular community.  This was treading on explosive grounds, Biman opined.


The rally saw the LF leadership hand over to the chief minister Buddhadeb a charter of demands that included such issues as price control, strengthening the PDS, augmenting the rationing system, taking steps against terror and anarchy, revamping the centre-state relationship etc.