People's Democracy

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


No. 21

May 27, 2012

A Year of Disillusionment in West Bengal


From Our Special Correspondent in Kolkata


ON the first anniversary of the TMC-Congress government in West Bengal, the chief minister boasted that she had honoured 100 per cent of her commitments to the people. With almost nothing left to be done, one wonders what the government will do for the coming years!




However, there are perceptible signs of disenchantment and frustration even among those who supported the TMC and helped to form a government a year ago.


The attack on CPI(M) and Left activists and supporters continued throughout the year: 67 CPI(M) and Left Front activists were killed, some in broad daylight, as in Burdwan where two CPI(M) district committee members were brutally killed when they were campaigning in support of the February 28 strike. The attack is more intense in rural areas and more than 5000 people are still away from their homes in Hooghly, West Midnapore, East Midnapore, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas. People in rural areas are being barred from participating in any CPI(M) programme. Hundreds of party and mass organisation offices were destroyed or forcibly occupied. In many areas, red flags are proscribed, and two CPI(M) activists were killed in West Midnapore recently as they dared to defy the dictate and put up the red flags.




The nature of ‘democracy’ now perpetrated in West Bengal is evident from attacks on and intimidation of opposition candidates in municipal elections due to be held on June 3. A number of Left Front candidates in Haldia and Panshkura were physically assaulted and barred from campaigning, their houses attacked, their relatives beaten up.  Even the ruling alliance partner, the Congress, has asked the state election commissioner to ensure security of its candidates in the face of “repeated and consistent threats and intimidation..... by miscreants and political activists of Trinamul Congress.” The Congress alleged that their nominees would be forced out of the election by securing their 'withdrawal' from the election, and this actually happened. It said they could not file nominations due to the general lawlessness and fear psychosis.


The attacks, which started with the Left, have now spread to other sections of society. The principals, professors and teachers are being regularly heckled. The incidents which attracted attention of the entire country included the attack on a lady lecturer in Bhangar. Arabul Islam, a former MLA of TMC and president of the governing body of the Bhangar College, assaulted Debjani De within the college premises. Ambikesh Mahapatra, professor in Jadavpur University, was beaten up by TMC goons and was arrested by the police for posting a cartoon. The latest incident was the CNN-IBN talk show in which the chief minister crudely attacked the students for asking uncomfortable questions and stormed out. This exposed the level of intolerance and autocratic attitude of the entire ruling establishment. ‘Thou Shalt Not Ask Questions,’ has now become the common refrain in the state.


Institutions are also being attacked. Panchayats, which were a living example of the most decentralised democracy in the country, have been made virtually non-functional through systematic attack on elected members, transfer of the authorities and bureaucracy, leading to their gradual collapse. Worst affected are the villages where rural development programmes have virtually stopped. TMC leaders are dictating the administration and a reign of loot has already set in. There is apprehension in all quarters that the panchayat elections, due to be held next year or even earlier, will witness a reign of terror.




Over the last 15 years, more than two lakh farmers have committed suicide in the country due to the debt problem and an acute agrarian crisis. But these took place mostly outside the living experience of West Bengal people and came only as news from distant places. But with the Trinamul Congress led government coming to power in West Bengal, there is a significant change in West Bengal countryside where the phenomenon of farmer suicides have now become a part of rural life. In the last eight months, 55 farmers have committed suicide in the state due to debt related problems and non-remunerative crop prices. Most of them were poor or marginal peasants, and some of them were poor agricultural labourers. Most of these farmers were paddy and potato growers who took loans to cultivate their land but did not get any remunerative price for their produce, which left them indebted without any prospect of repaying these loans. The failure of the state government in procurement added to their woes.


In contrast to the hullabaloo of the first anniversary of TMC government, it is a harsh reality in rural areas. Boro producing areas have come down sharply as the cultivators are afraid of another loss. There may be a 40 per cent reduction in jute cropping. The new government has failed to implement the MGNREGA, and the number of workdays have decreased by more than one crore in the last one year.




So is the state of industrialisation. The state government has trumpeted that one window system has been initiated. In one year, however, only one investment proposal came through that window. The campaign of “one lakh crores of investment proposals” has proved to be a great hoax. Out of these so called proposals, 74 were finalised during the Left Front period. 


The neo-liberal policy is in full steam in West Bengal. The state government has already started a drive to dismantle the state owned transport corporations. Casual workers are being laid off. In the name of rationalisation, hundreds of transport workers are now facing the axe of job loss. Privatisation in water supply has been mooted. The state government has issued strong warnings to the working class against strikes and demonstrations. Hundreds of employees and teachers have already been punished for participating in the February 28 strike.  




Attacks on women have become a routine affair in last one year. This was underlined recently by the National Women Commission. Incidents of crime against women in West Bengal have witnessed a sudden huge spurt in offences against women under the present government, especially in the last couple of months, NCW reported. A recent NCW report showed that increase in reported rape cases in the state was twice the national average. A three-member NCW team visited the state last month and, in its report, took exception to transfer of officers investigating rape cases, besides demanding a "neutral" investigation and financial and other assistance to rape victims. The commission took note, with dismay, of the transfer of two key officers involved in investigations of Park Street gang rape case and Bankura case, for reasons best known to the state government. The chief minister herself said the rape cases were "cooked up to malign" her government.


One can see big hoardings in streets of Kolkata now: ‘The hills are smiling.’ In reality, an unprecedented level of tension between different ethnic groups has emerged not only in hills but in Doars and Terai areas as well. Divisive forces are in full swing due to the state government’s directionless and opportunist exercises. The TMC government’s hasty decision to placate the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha has fired up apprehensions among tribals and other people, leading to clashes and violence.


The most important paradigm shift in education sector is the changeover to nominations in the administration of elected democratic bodies. Students, research scholars, alumnus and non-teaching staff would now have no place in the administrative bodies of universities. Instead of democratic decision-making and social accountability, established by Left Front, arbitrary powers are being exercised by the minister and the nominated few. In most of the universities in the state, vice chancellors are ‘interim’ ones. The pandemonium continues. TMC leaders or persons with strong TMC connections are being put in charge of educational bodies, reflecting a brazen partisan attitude. Colleges and universities have become free roaming grounds for anti-socials. In more than 70 colleges, student unions were forcibly captured by TMC activists and no democratic election process is being allowed. In many colleges and universities, SFI activists and supporters were denied even the right to enter or to sit for examinations. The spectre of mass copying, a horrible phenomena during the early 1970s, has come back.