People's Democracy

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


No. 27

July 07, 2013


Left Front Starts Month-Long Campaign in Tripura

                                                                                                     Rahul Sinha


AS the month of July set in, the entire state of Tripura once again witnessed the beginning of a month long programme of campaign and agitation at the call of the Left Front for speedy realisation of five urgent and important demands of public importance for all round development of the state. Earlier, division level mass conventions were organised by the Left Front at the headquarters of different subdivisions. Now these are to be followed by an intense campaign up to the grassroots level and then peaceful mass sit-in and other protest programmes in front of railway stations and offices of the Border Road Organisation as the concluding part of the campaign programme.


The five demands which this Left Front campaign and agitation seeks to achieve are as below.


1) Double-laning of the National Highway 44 (NH44) from Dharmanagar to Sabroom should start immediately, pending the four-laning of the highway. The work for an alternative highway from Kukitol (Assam) to Sabroom should be taken up without delay.


2) Completion of the broad-gauging of railway line from Lumding to Sabroom via Agartala by 2014, introduction of a new pair of trains in the existing metre gauge track between Agartala and Dharmanagar, improvement of passenger amenities and safety, change in the existing time schedule of the rail service between Agartala and Silchar (Assam) and creation of a separate railway division in Tripura.


3) The decision to do away with government control over the price and distribution of sugar should be revoked. The proposed national food security bill must provide for universal public distribution and 35 kg of foodgrains to every family at two rupees per kg.


4) Financial sanction for the proposed project of the state government for economic rehabilitation of the receivers of land pattas under the Forest Right Act should be given immediately and the present act must be suitably amended to give land pattas to the non-tribal inhabitants who have been residing in forestlands since before 1971.


5) The central government must immediately take steps to fill up a few lakh of posts lying vacant in its different departments. A separate interview centre should be set up in Tripura for recruitments in the central government and semi-government departments.




As part of the campaign the Left Front has prepared a leaflet in which it has discussed the immediacy and importance of the demands. In this leaflet the Left Front blamed the centre for the delay in four-laning of the NH44, the only national highway in Tripura. In 2005, the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, had declared during his visit to Tripura that this highway would be converted into a four-lane highway. But even after eight years of this promise, nothing has been done. The condition of the road has become pathetic due to lack of maintenance. Now the centre says it will be a two-lane road instead of a four-lane one. However, even for that, financial sanction has been given only for a tiny stretch of 10 km. If this is the trend, the question is: how many years it will take for double-laning of the almost 330 km long road from Churaibari to Sabroom?


Moreover, the centre wants to shift the burden of maintenance of the Agartala-Sabroom stretch of the highway on to the state government. This, the Lerft Front said, is completely unacceptable. It has demanded that the centre must fulfil its promise of converting the highway into a four-lane road and, pending that, double-laning of the NH44 should start immediately and adequate money should be granted for the purpose.


At the same time the centre must also keep its promise by initiating the work for an alternative national highway from Sabroom to Kukitol in Assam.  The state has already done the work of road formation. Now the onus of developing it into an alternative national highway lies with the centre.


In case of the railways too, Tripura has been a victim of similar reluctance from the centre. After a long and arduous struggle of the masses, Agartala was connected by rail in 2008. But the service is far from satisfactory. There are no facilities of light, water or lavatory in the compartments. The engines and the coaches are outdated. People boarding a train from Agartala land in Silchar at the midnight and face innumerable sufferings. Another pair of trains between Agartala and Dharmanagar is immediately needed.  Most pitiable is the poor progress in the gauge conversion of the track --- from the metre gauge to broad gauge --- between Lumding and Agartala and construction of a broad gauge line from Agartala to Sabroom. This too was declared a national project by the prime minister himself. But the project started in 1996-97 is far from completion even today. The gauge conversion project which started 17 years ago is yet to cross the border of Assam. Now the centre is giving a lame-duck excuse of lack of funds. So the people of Tripura are demanding that the project be completed positively by 2014.




The next is the issue of food security. The centre seems to be in a dilemma about what to do on the issue. At different times, they talked of promulgating an ordinance or convening a special session of the parliament on the issue. But whatever route they may choose, the proposed food security bill does not provide for universal public distribution. In its election manifesto in 2009, the Congress had promised 35 kg of foodgrains for every family at two rupees per kg. But now the UPA government is talking of providing only 25 kg of foodgrains and at three rupees per kg.


There is in fact no dearth of foodgrains or of money. What matters is the political outlook of the ruling classes, which is committed to the big business. This outlook is reflected in the decision to do away with the system of levy sugar. Now the sugar mill owners will no more be bound to sell 10 per cent of their produce at a lower price to the centre and the centre will in turn stop supplying sugar through the public distribution system. This will result in unabated control of the open market on the price of sugar, which will continue to rise, and the state shall be burdened with a huge amount needed to supply sugar to the people.


It was the Left parties whose relentless struggle had led to the passage of the Forest Right Act for tribal people. The Left Front government of Tripura has also topped in the implementation of the act. Joint pattas have been issued to 1.2 lakh tribal families for 1.70 lakh hectares of forest land. But the centre has till date taken no initiative for economic rehabilitation of these families. The state government had sent an integrated scheme for this purpose to the centre almost three years ago. But approval and financial grant for the scheme is still awaited.


Also, the Left Front has been constantly demanding that the present law must be amended in order to give pattas to the non-tribal families who have occupied and have been residing in the forest areas prior to 1971. The present legislation does not have any provision for issuance of pattas to the non-tribal families residing in forestlands unless they have documentary proof of residing in these areas for 75 years. This excludes a large number of non-tribal families from the chance of getting pattas. But these families account for at least 33 per cent of the total population residing in the forestlands. This is a legitimate demand not only for their livelihood but also for maintaining and strengthening the tribal-non-tribal unity.




The next demand is on employment. Lakhs of posts are lying vacant in various central government departments. At the same time, even profit making central public sector undertakings are being privatised through disinvestment, thus blocking the avenue of reservation in employment for SC, ST and OBC. The centre is asking the states not to make fresh recruitments. As the Left Front government did not comply with these diktats, the state has been punished by depriving it through negative recommendations of the 13th Finance Commission which awarded the state Rs 10,500 crore less than its due requirement. Because of a letter from the former PCC president, recruitment in 5000 posts of primary teachers have been stopped and schools are suffering from teacher shortages. Hence the demand for filling up the vacant posts in central departments and setting up of an interview centre for these recruitments in Tripura.


The Left Front has called upon the masses to participate in the movement in large numbers. After the division level conventions were completed, the Left Front is taking the campaign to the grassroots level --- up to about 14,000 parra committees spread across the state --- in order to involve the maximum possible number of people in it. On July 20, peaceful demonstrations and sit-in programmes will be organised in front of all the railway stations in the state. Similar actions will be organised in front of the offices of Border Road Organisation on July 31.