People's Democracy

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


No. 18

May 02, 2010



All Likelihood of Yet Another

Clean Sweep for the Left Front

N S Arjun


THE Left Front in Tripura is all set to once again clean sweep the elections to the sixth Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) to be held on May 3, 2010. In the previous 2005 elections to this unique institution, the Left Front and its then ally, NSPT, had won the total 28 seats in the council with the opposition drawing a blank. A similar fate, or nearly similar fate, awaits the opposition comprising the Congress, INPT, IPFT and other small parties this time also.

A total of 160 candidates are in the fray for the 27 seats (election in one seat has been countermanded due to death of a candidate) that are spread over 527 villages in the ADC area, nearly two-third area of the state. The fight, if it can be called one, is mainly between the Left Front, INPT and Congress. In the Left Front, the CPI(M) is contesting 25 seats while CPI, Forward Bloc and RSP in one each. The INPT and Congress are fighting separately this time although there is a possibility of clandestine understanding between them against the Left Front. Also in the fray in some seats are BJP and the Trinamul Congress.

The election campaign is on in full swing and it is the Left Front's campaign that is visibly dominating in the ADC areas. The chief minister Manik Sarkar is attending two to three meetings each day, traversing the length and breadth of the state. CPI(M) state secretary Bijan Dhar, central committee members Bajuban Reang, Aghore Debbarma, Badal Choudhury, Khagen Das and Rama Das are also actively taking part in the campaign. Former state secretary and veteran leader Baidyanath Majumdar, who is around 85 years, has also attended a few meetings. The entire machinery of the Party, in both ADC and non-ADC areas, is fully involved in ensuring a massive success for the Left Front in these polls.




The main plank of the Left Front in these polls is development, and its pre-requisite � peace. Although peace and the unity among tribals and non-tribals have largely been restored with the successful tackling of the extremist problem, the Left Front leaders are underlining the need to be vigilant in protecting these in order to give a big thrust for development initiatives of the ADC and the state government. More so, given the nature of the campaign adopted by the opposition in these elections.

The Congress in a milder form and the INPT, IPFT in a brazen manner have put up demands in their election campaign that pose a threat to existing peace and unity among people. The Congress, living up to its history in the state, has sought separate police force for the ADC areas and also that funds must directly be given to ADC from the centre bypassing the state government. The INPT is seeking a state within the state and IPFT is seeking formation of a separate state comprising the ADC area, which is almost 70 per cent of the total state. Other chauvinistic demands intended to create fissures among the people include issuing of inner line permits for non-tribals to move in the ADC areas, teach Kokborok in Roman script instead of the present Bengali script etc. Not underestimating the danger of these sectarian slogans, the Left Front is ideologically countering these in the campaign and through the work on the ground that reflects its genuine concern for the development of tribals.

After partition in 1947, Tripura received a major setback infrastructurally and economically, apart from the totally altered social and demographic situation with the influx from the then East Pakistan. Before partition, the distance from Agartala to Kolkata was around 380 km, today it is around 1700 km. The state was totally cut off from the network of Indian Railways, becoming landlocked. The geographical terrain of the state was already a challenging one with over 60 per cent covered by hilly forest areas and the dramatic impact of partition made it more difficult. The pernicious role of the Congress to recklessly use the situation to weaken the Left only worsened it further. With the central government non-receptive to the situation of the state for most part, it was left to the Left Front government (now in power continuously since 1993) to grapple with the challenges of development and improvement of quality of life of the people. Formation of ADC by Constitutional mandate, after a long struggle by both tribals and non-tribals under the leadership of the Left, was one important aspect of progressing towards development.

What is the result today? The following quotation is from the Planning Commission review report of National Flagship programmes in Tripura, prepared after extensive meetings with central and state government officials as also field visits and meetings with beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries in the state during October 2009: Planned development by the state is helping in  improving the  quality of  life of the people living below the poverty line and the state is  giving specific attention to their needs, for inclusive growth.

The state was also appreciated for various health indicators - birth rate, death rate, infant morality rate and total fertility rate  which are 17.1, 5.7, 32 and 2.2 respectively and better than the all India indicators of  26, 8.7, 58 and 2.9 and for doing so well in agriculture, horticulture and fisheries.�

The 2007 Tripura Human Development Report emphatically states: �The key message of the Report is that the people of the state have experienced significant progress in the social, economic and political indicators of human development�




Not just in the above quoted reports, one can see the development glaringly in most of the villages in Tripura, where 73 per cent of total population live unlike the national average of 62 per cent. Except for the really inaccessible  ones, almost all are connected by proper roads and have electricity. The fields are lush green and it is hard to find barren agricultural land. The economy of tribal people of the State is built mainly upon agriculture, which is mostly characterised by rain-fed cultivation and jhum (shifting cultivation). The tribal farmers constitute about 30 per cent of the farming community and control 37 per cent of the agriculture holdings. As has been reported in these columns, it was the Left Front that waged struggles for restoration of tribal lands and did so immediately after assuming power in 1977. 

We came across Rammohan Debbarma, a 38 year old tribal farmer in Radha Mohanpur village, near the ADC headquarters Khumulwng. He owns one bigha land and grows paddy crop twice a year, getting a yield of around six tonnes. This suffices for his family of a wife, two kids and mother. The agricultural department under ADC provides him with inputs like seeds and fertiliser. Rammohan also goes for REGA work in the village and informs us that last year he got 85 mandays of work at the wage of Rs 100 per day. His 12 year old girl child has been put in a primary school, which stands prominently across the road from his field.  However, his 10 year old son is being sent to a school 10 km away in Jirania. Asked why so, he replied that the school in Jirania has more and better teachers. With the villages and hamlets scattered around the hilly region, supplying drinking water is a major challenge for the administration. This village, like many others, has a public mini-deep tube well for drinking water. But one is not sufficient and there is demand for more such public tube wells in the village.

Sukanto Debbarma, vice chairman of the Radha Mohanpur village committee (elections to 527 village committees under ADC were held for the first time in 2006) told us about how the yearly village development plan is proposed by the committee in the Gram Sabha. After discussion, suggestions and improvements are factored in and the plan is sent to the Block Advisory Committee, which presently is a nominated body of the ADC. The works are undertaken by the Implementing Officer once the plan is approved and the village committee oversees them. The vibrant role of the committees in all aspects concerning the lives of tribals can be gauged from the fact that the Radha Mohanpur village committee has taken up with the ADC the issue of lack of sufficient number of teachers for the primary school in the village. The ADC has promised to send in extra teachers from the next academic year starting in June. This is indeed an ideal example of self government.

The administrative structure of the ADC comprises a chairman, elected by the Council members, and a chief executive member who along with nine other executive members manage the executive functions of the Council. The chief executive officer belonging to IAS cadre is responsible for day to day administrative functions. The ADC currently has 19 departments under its purview, including the fully delegated departments of agriculture,  primary education, fisheries and animal husbandry. There are 1532 primary schools under the purview of ADC. To effectively run the functions of the Council, the ADC has 8635 employees, including officers and staff. The state government has deputed 3256 of these employees. The state government devolves funds to the ADC as per the Tribal Sub Plan requirements. 

Not that there are no problems facing the ADC. Kumar Alok, the chief executive officer of the ADC, acknowledges some of them, particularly the geographical and natural resource constraints. He however underlined that there is perfect synergy with the state government right from top to lower levels in carrying out the tasks of the ADC. He mentioned how the 20-bed hospital in  Khumulwng has been recently modernised and upgraded to a 50-bed one. This hospital is being attached to the Government Medical College in Agartala so that the students get to do their internship in the hospital and in the process the tribals get better medical care.

One of the key objectives of the formation of ADC has been the �protection of social, economic and cultural interests of the tribal population�. This task is being fulfilled despite various obstacles, both natural and from vested interests. The ADC in conjunction with the state government has organised many workshops with budding tribal authors in the native Kokborok language with the intention of promoting original writings. There has been compilation and publication of primary school level textbooks in Kokborok. Also an orientation programme has been conducted for Kokborok teachers. A library has been established in the Museum building at  Khumulwng and 2897 books on tribal life and culture of Tripura have so far been collected. A total of 40 books have been published by the ADC in Kokborok language during the last five years, among which include 10 translations of novels and short stories by renowned Indian and international authors.

The other notable successes of the ADC have been relating to intensive development of agriculture, income generation and settlement of jhumia farmers into permanent cultivation through rubber plantation, extension of irrigation facilities, provision of education, development of roads and road transport, rural health and sanitation, safe drinking water, fisheries, piggery etc. The ADC has also increased hugely tribal women's political participation in the state. The sincere efforts for development have also strengthened the tribal-non tribal unity in the state with the ADC itself standing as a shining example. Out of total 40 blocks under ADC area, only 17 are exclusively under its purview while the remaining 23 are having mixed area. That ADC is able to carry on its tasks smoothly in all these block has evinced the interest of neighbouring Assam. Recently the Congress ruled state government's tribal affairs minister along with revenue minister and their ADC officials visited Khumulwng to see first hand the work being done by the Tripura ADC, particularly in mixed areas so that they can replicate. It is an irony that the very same party does everything possible to sabotage the work of the ADC in Tripura.

Given this impressive track record of the ADC and the Left Front government in improving the lives of tribals, particularly since 2005 after overcoming the extremist problem, it is no wonder that the opposition parties are fighting for a distant second place in these elections.