People's Democracy

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


No. 10

March  06, 2011


Left Front and Left Front Government


Biman Basu


BENGAL has quite a long history of joint movements. Communists played an important part in building up those movements. In the earlier days, leaders of Socialist Party and other Left parties too contributed in the process. The Left parties in West Bengal, through their experience, started united movements against the anti-people policies of the government after independence. During the general elections in 1952, there was no united front of the Left parties and there was virtually no effort to jointly contest elections. But from 1957, with initiatives from Communists and the other Left forces, one after another united front was formed. It started with United Left Alternative Front, and then Peoples’ United Left Front, United Left Front, United Front and finally ended with formation of the Left Front. 


We are not narrating the history of the formation of Left Front here. But it is a fact that the history of formation of Left Front is the history of protracted and glorious struggle against anti-people policies of Congress governments. Sometimes, the Left forces fought against Congress in separate streams and forged unity later. It is also true that the history of forging unity was not always very smooth. At times, the Congress governments used the conflicts and divisions among the Leftists and carried out inhuman attacks against the people. In the first half of 1970s, the Congress regime unleashed semi-fascist terror and imposed undeclared emergency in West Bengal. The Left parties, who were the victims of this barbarous attack, through real life experiences have again build up unity. The Left movement in West Bengal, gaining experiences in the many twists and turns, finally formed the Left Front. It started a new journey and became the engineer of a new history in the state by winning first in parliamentary elections, and then in state assembly elections in 1977.


In 1977, the Left Front got a massive mandate from the people and formed the government with Comrade Jyoti Basu as chief minister. As is well known, he carried out this responsibility till November 2000. After the first Left Front government was established, the workers, peasants, employees, students and youth of West Bengal could clearly see that the Left parties sincerely implement the programme announced in the election manifesto. This tradition has been maintained for the last 34 years. The Left Front tried to implement with dedication the pro-people programmes of its election manifesto, which have been supported by the people. 


After the Left Front government came to office, political prisoners who were jailed without trial were released. The government withdrew false cases against thousands of left activists. It established democracy, the rule of law and successfully created a peaceful atmosphere in the state. To expand democracy, for the first time in the country  the Left Front government established a three-tier panchayat system. The municipalities were formed through direct elections, after the law was amended. In a similar fashion, cooperatives and other bodies were formed through elections. For the first time in the whole country, the minimum age for voting was brought down to 18 years by the Left Front government in the local bodies. West Bengal created an example of integrity and harmony for the whole country by creating unity of the people irrespective of caste, religion and language.


The Left Front government initiated a frontal attack on dominance of landlords in agricultural sector. Keeping the history of the land struggles in perspective, the land reforms measures were effectively implemented by the government. Almost 13 lakh acres of land, which were under illegal possession of landlords were vested and distributed among 30 lakh poor peasant and agricultural workers. Around 37 per cent of beneficiaries belong to scheduled castes, 18 per cent to scheduled tribes and almost 18 per cent to  minority community.


‘Operation Barga’ was initiated to give ‘patta’ or legal rights to sharecroppers which freed them from the whims of landowners and stopped their evictions. The Left Front government gave importance to the growth of agricultural production. While peasants were freed from the clutches of landlords, the food production began to rise in a steady manner. For some years now, the state has become self reliant in foodgrains production.


The Left Front government rejuvenated the small and village industries which resulted in the fact that West Bengal today has the highest number of running small and village industries units in the entire country. In the case of medium and big industries, the first two Left Front governments faced some problems. One of the major reasons was the license policy which was dependent either on centre’s unilateral intentions, or partially on the bias of the industrialists. After this policy was diluted, the Left Front government initiated various plans for establishing big industries and adopted a new industrial policy in 1994. From then on, the environment of investment was created and many big industries have been established in the state. West Bengal is next only to Gujarat and Maharashtra in the matter of implementation of Industrial Entrepreneur Memorandums (IEMs) during the period from August 1991 to March 2009. During 2005-2009, West Bengal received 1362 IEMs involving investment proposal of Rs 2,37,000 crore. 


West Bengal needs many more industries to generate more employment. The state government is consciously determined to go forward with this programme of industrialisation. The automobile factory in Singur was part of that programme that  could generate jobs. A large steel unit in Shalboni along with other units in this sector is also aimed at that. Much progress has been achieved in technology-intensive industries, many opportunities are still there. However, in these industries, employment generation is comparatively lower. Therefore, the state government is emphasising on building heavy and modern industries which can create more jobs for our youth. 


After the Left Front government was formed, the expansion of education was one of the priority areas. There has been massive increase in number of students in primary education; dropout rate has come down considerably. Nearly 65,000 schools have been established and 16,000 SSKs under Panchayat and Rural development have catered to the educational needs. The number of junior and secondary schools has seen a rapid increase. In this year’s secondary examinations, the number of examinees is over 10,04,000. We have been successful in bringing tens of thousands of first generation students as well as expanding education among the girls. Around 51 per cent of secondary examinees in this year’s Secondary examination are girls. Nearly 2,15,000  examinees are from Muslim minority section and 59,000 are tribals. The number of colleges, universities and vocational institutions has increased hugely. But more will be necessary in future.


More than 70 per cent of the population in the state avail treatment facilities from public hospitals. Be it big hospitals or the village health centres, services are provided throughout the day. West Bengal has improved the life expectancy at birth for both the sexes over the years. The life expectancy at birth in West Bengal is higher than the national average for both the sexes for the latest year. West Bengal has performed better in this indicator than the so called fast growing states like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana etc.


West Bengal has improved its performance on the Infant Mortality Rate index dramatically, from 62 in 1981 to 35 in 2008. Various rounds of the National Family Health Surveys have found the gender gap in IMR to be either the lowest or among the lowest in the country. A similar improvement has been witnessed in terms of the Maternal Mortality Rate which was much lower in West Bengal than the national average.


The Left Front government has extended the opportunities for Other Backward Classes in the Muslim minorities who lag behind in economic, social and educational spheres. This is designed to defend the interests of the minorities. Various new schemes have been initiated for the expansion of education among tribals and helping them to find employment through training. Tribal students get the facilities of education, residing in hostels free of cost. Those who go to educational institutions from home get monthly allowance. These steps are aimed at lifting the tribal population from its extremely backward condition. The Left Front government has given serious importance for the educational development of the scheduled castes. That has resulted not only in the growth of SC students, but a large number of them are now involved as teachers in various levels of education. 


But one should remember that West Bengal is not an isolated island or a sovereign State. Therefore it cannot be free from negative effects of anti-people, dangerous policies of the centre. However, West Bengal, being a province and with limited powers, has recorded shining examples in implementing pro-people programmes despite obstacles.


The anti-Left forces are now trying to dismantle democratic rights of the people of West Bengal. The reactionary forces, both within and outside the country, are unleashing incessant attacks against the Left Front. By this design, they are helping the anti-Left Front political forces in the state. The opposition forces, in tandem with so-called Maoists, are conspiring to create anarchy and terror in the state. Naturally, the crucial task before all constituents of the Left Front at this moment is to work unitedly to defeat the unholy nexus of anti-Left Front forces and the 'Maoists' and defend the Left Front. To achieve that, the establishment of eighth Left Front government is very important politically. The formation of eighth Left Front government is urgently needed to consolidate and expand the enormous development in various sectors in the state and to defend the democratic rights of the people. We must all take an oath to achieve this goal. Because, the only alternative to Left Front is Left Front itself.