People's Democracy

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


No. 10

March  06, 2011


West Bengal LF Govt

 And The Working Class


Shyamal Chakraborty



W    WHILE addressing the rally of the workers and employees on the occasion of taking the responsibility of chief ministership of the First Left Front government of West Bengal, Comrade Jyoti Basu declared that the government would not be run from Writers’ Building (state secretariat) alone. The people would be very much part of it. The people of West Bengal witnessed the implementation of this policy in the last 34 years. The Left Front government has remained in favour of the just and lawful demands of the workers. The government has always taken up issues of the toiling people and sided with their legitimate demands in their struggle against the employers and anti-people, anti-worker policies of the government of India.


The Left Front government gave even the government employees the right to strike, a right that exists nowhere else in India for them. Never for once did the LF government invoke the draconian ESMA against the workers and employees.


As per the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, the employers cannot suo moto declare lock out, lay off, closure in their establishment to avoid settlement of demands raised by the union. Prior to the formation of the Left Front government, the employers used to handle the labour laws in their own interest and to their sweet will. Cases of such violation have stopped forthwith with the formation of Left Front government in 1977. The government has
played a significant role in enacting several labour-friendly laws.

Tea industry is one of the major traditional industries of the state. About 50 tea estates were closed by the owners of the companies. The government of West Bengal took immense initiative and care towards subsistence and support of the workers for the total period of closure by providing food, fuel, treatment and health care. Now almost all the tea estates except for four have been opened. Workers got back their jobs and their wages were also raised in several instances.


The labour department has taken a major initiative to support the job seekers of the state by providing suitable training to enhance their employability. Under this scheme, 50 per cent of the cost of training is borne by the government. Registered unemployed youth are given this opportunity. This scheme is in addition to the facilities provided by the department of technical education.

Industries become sick due to various reasons. Whenever those industries are sent to BIFR, the Left Front government stood firmly to protect the interests of the workers. Due to the earnest efforts of the Left Front government, some industries could be revitalised even after sending them to the BIFR. Dunlop is one of the major examples. In order to resolve the industrial disputes raised by the trade unions, the labour department took up the matter with utmost level of sincerity. Right from the assistant labour commissioners, district collectors, labour commissioner and labour minister himself intervene to settle the disputes depending upon the magnitude of the problem. Disputes of the workers of jute industry, Hind Motor, Dunlop have been settled through amicable discussions at the level of labour minister besides thousands of disputes settled at lower stages. By this process, trade unions have become more responsible. Industrial peace and harmony is established in all over the state to an exemplary level.


Whenever an industrial unit is closed through the legal process of closure, the state government came forward with financial support at Rs 1,500 per month for each of the workers of these closed industries.





Not only the workers of organised industry, the government’s major area of concern also includes the unorganised sector as well. The unorganised workers account for about 93 per cent of the total workforce in India. The largest segment of India's unorganised sector is still the agricultural workers. The vigorous pursuit of neo-liberal policies in the case of agriculture in India has resulted in dire distress situation in rural India. In the rural areas, working people related to agriculture especially the
agricultural workers are forming the bulk of the unorganised sector or the service sector. The number of workers engaged in agriculture is gradually going down. Going by successive census reports, the all -India data is as follows:



Percentage of Working

 People in Rural Areas













West Bengal







It is now a proven fact that the central government has never suitably taken into account the issue of social security of the unorganised workers. The schemes that were declared did not have substantial financial support. The proposed schemes do not provide for efficient legal safeguards to workers if the employers go back on their commitments.

 In Bengal, at present, there are about two crore fifty lakh unorganised workers. Of them, there are around one crore seventy lakh workers engaged purely in informal and service sectors, and eighty lakh agricultural workers (approximately). In West Bengal the social security schemes introduced for the unorganised sector may be broadly subdivided under four categories:

a.                              construction workers (40 lakh)

b.                             transport workers      (15 lakh)

c.                             beedi workers            (20 lakh)

d.                             rest of the unorganised workers including the agricultural workers.


The ambit of the labour department has been extended to community development block level to facilitate the unorganised sector workers to get enrolled and enjoy the benefits of numerous social security schemes as well as to provide for effective resolution of disputes between employers and employees in the informal sector.




The West Bengal building and other construction workers' welfare board extends a bunch of facilities to the unorganised construction workers within the age group of 18 to 60 years. The construction-workers may enroll their names for the scheme against Rs 20 only, which will be his/her monthly contribution towards the scheme. The worker will get back the accrued amount on attainment of 60 years of age. A financial assistance of Rs 2,00,000 will be extended to the family of the worker, if he/she dies prematurely. Rs 500 to Rs 870 as the case may be, will be paid to the worker as pension if he/she is incapacitated for work permanently. Financial help will also be given for medical treatment to the workers and his /her sons and /or daughters. The worker is entitled to get up to Rs 50,000 as house building loan.


The children (not more than two of a particular worker) will enjoy the benefits of scholarship (from class IX to the highest level of formal education). Financial assistance for the marriage of daughters etc will also be available.




Under the scheme each worker will get a pension on monthly basis after retirement, from 60 years of age till his death. But in case of disability of permanent nature caused by an accident, the worker will be entitled to get the pension since the occurrence of the accident. Apart from this, in case of accidental death, the family of the worker will receive a sum of Rs One lakh as financial assistance under the scheme. Any transport worker may avail of this scheme by paying Rs 30 a year.


Among other facilities and support provided by this scheme include:  

Rs 50,000 for permanent disability, Rs 25,000 for partial disability, Rs 10,000 for treatment of diseases like tuberculosis, cancer, leprosy, cardiac problems, renal disorders, AIDS, thalassemia etc, Rs 30,000 for surgical purpose, Rs 3,000 as maternity assistance (maximum two times), educational assistance for children includes Rs 2,000 for higher secondary level, Rs 3,000 for graduation level, Rs 5,000 for post graduate level and Rs 10,000 for studies either engineering or medical, Rs 5,000 as assistance for marriage of their daughters, Rs 30,000 as a financial assistance for normal death of the worker.




The state government has come forward with programmes of installing domestic power-connections at the worker's residences and assisting in building their houses. Existing Bidi Board provides Rs 30,000 for construction of bidi workers’ houses for its beneficiaries. But the workers concerned have to pay Rs 10,000. Again for electrical connection, a bidi worker has to pay Rs 2,500. The state government now is contributing to the workers share of Rs 10,000 and Rs 2,500 respectively for the workers. The state government also pays Rs 10,000 to each of the member of a co-operative housing scheme for infrastructure development like drinking water, roads, sanitation etc.





This scheme (SASPFUW) is being pursued from 2001 by the West Bengal Unorganised Workers' Welfare Board under the labour department, government of West Bengal. Workers within the age group of 18-60 years and engaged in the profession for 61 numbers of services or are self-employed come under the purview of the scheme. The plan of the scheme envisages a contribution of Rs 20 on the part of the worker and the same amount along with the interest accrued on the total amount on the part of the state government. The whole amount, contributed by the worker and the state government as well as the interest on the total amount is reposed in the hands of the concerned worker as he turns 60. The nominee gets the amount in case of premature death of the worker. Workers with a personal income of less than  Rs 6,500 per month are eligible for the scheme.


If a worker at the age of 18 becomes a member of the scheme and continues upto 60 years,  his total contribution of money of Rs 10,080 will be paid by him. At the time of retirement, he will get back Rs 1,52,000 (including the state government’s contribution of Rs 1,00,000). This is unique in the whole country.


A worker after joining the scheme will get the benefit of Rastriya Bima Jogana automatically.




The union government’s attitude towards evading social and constitutional responsibilities and West Bengal’s Left Front government’s pro-people attitude can further be construed when we look at the implementation of Sarva Siksha (mass literacy) Mission. When the mission was announced, the government of India took the financial responsibility of 85 per cent of the cost and 15 per cent was to be borne by the state government. They are continuously trying to get rid of their responsibility. They have reduced their cost burden to the extent of 65 per cent and imposed 35 per cent cost upon the state governments. Persons engaged for propagating the extension of education both in formal and non-formal sectors are paid meager wages without any social security. In West Bengal, Left Front government, besides sharing its enhanced cost burden raised the wages of the teachers of formal sector to the extent of 35 per cent and lump sum quantum to others, last year. Teachers of formal sector have been assured engagement up to 60 years and an amount of Rs One lakh on attainment of age superannuation. On the contrary, the government of India is planning to wind up the mission by March 31, 2011      




Similarly, community health guides engaged in West Bengal under this project were terminated without having any responsibility towards them. The Left front government is continuing the project in the interests of the social benefit of rural people and keeping the community health guides engaged. Due to the withdrawal of the government of India, the entire cost burden is borne by the government of West Bengal.


ASHA workers also engaged in government of India’s projects are paid only Rupees Five Hundred a month. Even with its limited resources, the government of West Bengal is paying an additional sum of Rupees Three Hundred as partial relief to these categories of women workers hailing from poor rural families.




Working in a constituent state of a federal set up which itself is essentially semi-feudal and semi-capitalist and consequently concentrated in its anti-labour outlook is like an arduous journey on an untrodden path. But the measures undertaken by the West Bengal LF government have deepened its links with the mass of the people in West Bengal. It has never been an easy way. Every major pro-people achievement is the outcome of decisive struggle against all kinds of reactionary forces. Any major advance in favour of the working people cannot be achieved without difficulties and trials. But the Left Front government has always kept in its heart the words of Rabindranath Tagore who, filled with unshakable faith in the power of the working people, wrote:
“They go on working 
In Anga, in Banga, in Kalinga's seas and river-ghats,
In Punjab, Bombay and Gujarat”.
He also said about the workers:
“The farmer ploughs the field 
The weaver is busy at his loom. 
The fisherman makes his net, 
Their manifold work stretches far and wide 
It is their labour that makes the world move”.