IN the recent period, some positive changes are discernible in the movements and struggles in the state and in the participation of workers, peasants and many sections of the people in them. Even though threats and terror perpetrated by the ruling party and the police administration persisted, the response and participation of the people increased substantially.
The kisan conferences in different districts and the presence of people in big gatherings at the open sessions of these conferences have set the pace for these movements and struggles after the last assembly elections. Apart from this, participation has noticeably increased in the programme of movements launched by the Party and the Left Front.
The mafia of the ruling party continues to plague the campuses of educational institutions. In spite of that, the student community is now more motivated in fighting the students’ union elections. Wherever fair elections have been held, students’ organisations of the Left have been successful to a large extent. For this, student-activists have been victims of violence and false cases have been filed to harass them. Protests in varying degrees, have been heard everywhere against such terror and malevolence.
DEFENCE OF WORKERS’ INTERESTS
The Modi government’s attacks on public sector units go on mounting. Surrendering national interest and the responsibility of protecting PSUs, the government has taken the dangerous path of quickly selling equity shares of these units. A list of 74 central PSUs to be privatised has been already finalised by the centre’s ‘Niti Ayog’. The current central budget has also fixed a maximum target of 72,500 crores of rupees to be earned by privatising PSUs wholly or partially. It has already been decided to place 25 coal mines under the auctioneer’s hammer. The damaging impact of this policy is being felt in West Bengal too. This destructive policy is now being adopted by the state government to add to its reverses. The trade union front is attempting to launch different types of movements against this. The protest-movement organised in the Asansol-Durgapur industrial belt is worth mentioning. Industrial workers and other sections of working people have participated in large numbers in this continuous movement. The wide base of this movement covers demands to protect the steel plants of Durgapur, the coal industry, Hindustan Cables, Durgapur Chemicals etc, to reopen closed factories and the demands of peasants and agricultural workers as well. This has elicited a huge response and generated enthusiasm in the movements of workers and peasants throughout the state.
Struggles and movements on the land question have also seen new dimensions during this period. In spite of its drawbacks, the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 ensured some rights of people connected with agriculture. After repeated attempts to amend the Act failed, the Modi government now intends to render the Act ineffectual in a roundabout way, through the state governments. This intention of the Modi government now guides the BJP-led state governments and some other states and they are launching attacks on peasants under the pretext of land acquisition and illegal use of land. The Trinamul government in West Bengal is moving along the same path. Without paying any heed to law concerning land and other legal provisions, this onslaught has continued in the state since 2011 with the help of agents protected by the ruling party and with the support of the state government. This danger is also possible in the case of the acquired land at Singur. To protect the interests of land sharks, the state government has initiated a move to change the character of the land.
Examples are there, in various numbers, in each district. It is worth noticing that in three places, spontaneous protests of the people against this have been manifest recently. At Bolpur in Birbhum district, land acquired and allocated for industries during Left Front rule was sought to be occupied by force in the name of a housing project and the so-called “Biswabangla University.” People belonging to different layers of society have joined in protest against these moves, both locally and all over the district. At the behest of the ruling party, land belonging to a school was occupied for illegal construction at Ausgram in Bardhaman district. Different sections of the local population, including tribal people, assembled in spontaneous resistance. The police, under instructions from the ruling party, launched a brutal attack to curb this protest.
The ruling party’s use of land sharks to rob peasants of their rights reached its cruellest point at Bhangar in North 24 Parganas and was subjected to mass condemnation all over the country and in the state in particular. From 2011 the ruling party has maintained a reign of terror after forcibly driving out all forces of opposition from the Bhangar area. Trinamul leaders and land sharks forced peasants to part with 13 acres of land for a song and pocketed a fat compensation when handing it over to the government for a projected power grid. TMC received its share as well. No discussion was held with peasants or the public; no heed was paid to the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act. People burst out in protest against this loot and terror. Policemen and Trinamul thugs beat them up repeatedly, two innocent youths including a student died of bullet wounds.
The state government went on suppressing all investigations into the murders until an inquiry under the supervision of the high court was ordered. The land loot continued for several years with the knowledge of the government and the ruling party, and with their support. Those who got the contract for filling the land and build a power grid there had to yield to the pressure of Trinamul leaders who pocketed several millions by procuring orders forcibly. Earth dug out of agricultural land by force was used to fill up the land for the power grid. The Trinamul people took every penny of this work from the contractors who then filed a complaint at the court when the police refused to accept it; this litigation revealed many details of the loot.
The Party and the Left stood in support of the local people in their valiant resistance. In spite of hostile terror the local people did not yield in their protest. The whole state stood in solidarity with the peasants and the common people of Bhangar. Such movements bring a message of hope in the present suffocating circumstances.
In connection with the chit fund scam, the leader of the Trinamul in the Lok Sabha, Sudip Bandopadhya and another MP Tapas Pal were arrested. The leadership of the ruling party in the state, including the chief minister, were at first vocal in their protests over the incident but later retreated indirectly. The state BJP office was raided by a group of Trinamul workers in presence of the police. The uproar of the BJP leaders over this issue lasted for a day or two and then subsided into silence. The changing pace and nature of the investigation into the Sarada-Narada scams leave little room for doubt that this investigation is being used and controlled politically by the Modi government. The investigation script also clearly reveals the collusion and entente between the Trinamul and the BJP.
The campaign launched by the Party and the Left in an immediate reaction to these arrests demanded full-scale enquiry about the Trinamul party and government, compensation for those who lost money in the ponzi scheme and highlighted the disastrous consequences of the understanding between the BJP and the Trinamul. The response of the common people to the campaign exceeded previous ones.
The BJP/RSS activities have been on a rapid rise in the recent period. Behind signboards of organisations like ‘Hindu Jagaran Manch’, ‘Hindu Sanhati Manch’ etc they have amplified their communal politics a great deal in the state and the border areas through false propaganda and various programmes. People who had assembled in Kolkata on February 14 at the rally of this ‘Manch’ provoked communal feelings in South 24 Parganas and elsewhere. The ‘Sangh Parivar’ is considerably active in enlisting those followers and supporters of the ruling party who are disillusioned and disgusted. Just when the arrest of the two Trinamul MPs in the chit fund scam had provided intensity to the state-wide campaign against Trinamul corruption and the Modi government’s procrastination in investigating the Sarada-Narada scandals, communal tension and rumours escalated in several areas; the state government’s inactivity created a kind of instability in some areas. Communal clashes took place in Dhulagarh of Howrah district last December. In these clashes and subsequent incidents, the ruling party of the state and communal forces from both sides were involved.
Therefore the important task at the moment is to widen and intensify the struggle against communalism in the state.
Notably, the ruling party or the government adopts terror tactics against any Left and democratic movement of protest. Armed clashes between factions of the ruling party to capture areas, shares of the loot and power are also on the rise. The violent clash of interests within this bankrupt, unprincipled, authoritarian party tends to stretch beyond the control of its leadership, outwitted by factional conflicts.
LOOT OF THE STATE
The ruling party has also destabilised the state’s economy by narrowing down the food security system and discarding eligible recipients. Unemployment has reached a horrendous stage, with further limits imposed on urban and rural employment by sick industries and mounting economic attacks on peasants, agricultural workers and unorganised labour. The state has been further burdened by debts. The current year will see the debt mounting up to 3 lakh 66 thousand crores of rupees.
The promises made regarding the development of industrial and agricultural infrastructure by the Trinamul Congress before the 2011 elections were not only broken but also reversed by the present orientation of the government. Instead of rejuvenating closed and sick factories and building industries on industrial land, a move has already been made to close down 46 of the 90 government undertakings, affecting more than 50 thousand employees and an equal number of vacancies. This government has adopted a policy of earning revenue by selling the prime land and property of these units. The function and scope of public corporations are being arbitrarily reduced in the name of reforms. The budget for public welfare projects is being cut down to accommodate festivities and publicity; this practice is on the rise. The demonetisation drive of the centre affected many workers of unorganised and small industries and women of the self-help groups. The state government refuses to accept any responsibility for their relief.
The autonomy of educational institutions has been destroyed and the party hegemony of Trinamul Congress established in them through government and party mafia. This has now been regularised by the education bill passed in the assembly. Ostensibly, the black act speaks of government control instead of autonomy; actually, this authoritarian move aims at party control which is embedded in the substance of the act.
Ever since they came to power in 2011, the Trinamul government has continuously followed a fascistic method of all-pervasive terror in order to suppress the rights to criticise, protest and launch movements. Apart from murdering, injuring, throwing out of work, imposing fines, issuing threats from door to door, thousands of Left activists and ordinary people who protested have been imprisoned on false charges as part of a planned suppression.
FEROCIOUS ATTACKS ON WOMEN
Even oppression and rape of women have surpassed all limits under Trinamul reign. As many as 96 incidents of rape have taken place in the last few months. Victims’ families are being prevented by threats from filing complaints. In most cases, the criminals are connected with the ruling party. Recently several cases of child trafficking have come to light. In these cases also, people connected with the ruling parties of the centre and the state are allegedly involved.
Usual political programmes of our Party and other Left parties are being subjected to various measures and hurdles. Very recently, the ruling party has pushed a black bill through in the assembly to rob people of their democratic right to protest.
While vacancies are not filled up, part-time and temporary appointments have increased heedlessly, party interests and corrupt financial transactions being the only considerations. Service commissions are also used arbitrarily for party interests, throwing all rules to the wind. Corruption and irregularity have taken a fearful shape in the appointments of primary school teachers. Hundreds of thousands of young men and women, seeking jobs, are under attack. The corruption and scandal involved in the TET examination have exceeded all limits. Instead of publishing merit-based lists, appointments are made by SMS under a new procedure. The time-honoured process of employments through the Public Service Commission to ensure administrative efficiency and impartiality now lies crippled under the present government.
No sector is exempted by this government from the loot. The economic situation of the state moves more and more into a general collapse. To tackle the political situation in such a context, the government and the ruling party are doing away with even a semblance of democracy. They are growing more violent, more autocratic. This unbearable condition must be changed and movements must be intensified right away on local issues and the main demands of livelihood, so that a strong struggle all over the state can be built up within the next few months. Both the central and the state governments have forged sharper attacks on people’s livelihood. Both ruling parties are sponsors of crony capitalism and corruption. Both of them are levelling their attacks at democracy and secularism. To divide the people they have adopted the simultaneous strategies of religious polarisation and caste fragmentation. If we are lax in the struggle against any one of the two parties, BJP or Trinamul, the other will benefit from the laxity. The necessity of uniting all sections of people against authoritarianism and communalism has increased more than ever.