Manik Sarkar Obstructed in Gandachharra
THE opposition leader and former chief minister Manik Sarkar was obstructed from entering the Government Dak Bungalow on June 11, by 15-20 goons of BJP in Gandachharra of Dhalai district. Sarkar is on a four-day tour of Dhalai and North Tripura districts with opposition's chief whip Tapan Chakraborty and MLA Prabhat Choudhury to visit the areas of Gandachharra, Langtaraivalley and Kanchanpur subdivisions where people, especially in tribal areas, are facing an acute problem of food and joblessness. The entire tour programme was informed in detail to the police and the Revenue Dak Bungalow was booked accordingly for them. In the evening on June 11, as the legislative delegation of the Left Front arrived in Gandachharra, 15-20 hooligans of the BJP and IPFT blocked the entrance of the bungalow and shouted slogans against Manik Sarkar. All these took place in front of the SDPO, OC and other police officials. The delegation went to the CPI(M) Gandachharra subdivision committee office. Manik Sarkar tried to talk to the DGP over telephone but he was informed that DGP was busy in a meeting with the CM. Later MP Jitendra Choudhury talked to the CM over phone. The police acted and the blockade was removed at around 8.30 in the night. The entire episode was pre-planned by the BJP as they clearly didn't want the Left legislative delegation to meet the people in distress. They are trying to suppress the reality that in the tribal areas people are starving as there is no job and food. The CPI(M) state secretariat in a statement condemned this undemocratic act of the BJP and the IPFT and urged upon all sections of democratic people to come forward to re-establish rule of law and constitution in the state.
Monitoring Committee: Attack on Democratic Institutions Continues
A clear attempt to undermine the people's elected bodies is going on in the state. The IPFT has been sending names of nominated "monitoring committees" to the BDOs of different blocks to look after the development works in village committees under the ADC area of the state. One such instance was from Gangananagar RD block of Dhalai district. Here, one Jibanjoy Reang, assistant general secretary of IPFT in a letter to the BDO on May 7, sent a list of monitoring committees to look after the development works in the block area. This list was sent while the elected village committees still have their tenure. The BDO on May 22,accepted the letter and sent it to the rural programme secretaries (a post equivalent to the panchayat secretary in three tier panchayat bodies). In another letter to the manager of the Tripura state cooperative bank, Ambassa branch of Dhalai, the same Jibanjoy Reang introduced himself as the chairman of Ganganagar block advisory committee and instructed the bank manager that no payment of wage in MGNREGA or other government schemes should be done without the consent of the chairman of the nominated committee of the concerned village and also the payment should be done in cash and not through biometric machine.
On June 8, CPI(M) Tripura state committee secretary Bijan Dhar wrote a letter to the secretary, department of rural development, government of Tripura. In the letter he enclosed these communications from Jibanjoy Reang and the BDO of Ganganagar. Bijan Dhar put forth the following queries to the government: 1) Has the government of Tripura taken any such decision to form “monitoring committee” in wards of villages and gram panchayats; 2) If there is any government decision to this effect, then how are the members of the monitoring committee selected and who is the appointing authority in the government level? 3) How the list of members of so called ‘monitoring committee’ prepared by the IPFT could be given cognizance and circulated by the BDO? 4) Is there any gazette notification about formation of ‘monitoring committees” and appointment of nominated chairman of BAC, as claimed by Jibanjoy Reang in his letter? 5) If such is the decision, then what is the official status of the elected members including BAC and PS chairmen who are still holding the office defying threats and terror from the ruling party supporters? 6) Village committees are elected administrative bodies of TTAADC. Without consultation and consent of TTAADC, whether any officer has the authority to supersede the elected VCs through formation of such type of shadow committees? 7) In three-tier panchayat areas also, this type of shadow committees are being formed and allowed to function overlapping the elected bodies. Is this not totally in violation of the provisions of 73rd amendment of the constitution that empowers PRIs ?"
While even after four days there is no reply from the government, it is crystal clear that there is a very insidious attempt to undermine all the elected local bodies and make them ineffective while installing unconstitutional and undemocratic nominated bodies in place of them. This invariably reminds one of the 1988-92 Congress-TUJS coalition government which had dismantled all the elected panchayats and urban local bodies of the state and had nominated "development committees" which were popularly called "Lootpaat (plundering) committees" as they were the instruments of looting public money.
AIKS rally and GMP deputation
On June 9, AIKS organised a rally in Agartala. The rally was quite successful despite scorching heat of June and the overall atmosphere of saffron terror. Hundreds of tribal and Bengali people joined the rally. It started near the CPI(M) West Tripura district committee office and covered the main roads of the city before assembling in a brief meeting at Paradise Chowmohoni. The slogans of the rally demanded immediate restoration of democratic atmosphere in the state, a complete halt of the reign of saffron terror, immediate measures to ensure food and work in the distressed rural and hilly areas of the state, speedy steps to provide relief and compensation to the farmers affected in the recent cyclones and floods and expressed solidarity to the ongoing peasant struggles across the country. The meeting was addressed by AIKS state secretary Narayan Kar, MP and GMP president Jitendra Choudhury. While criticising the Modi government for its failed promises and apathy towards the growing misery of the peasantry, the leaders came down heavily on the BJP-IPFT coalition government of the state for the continuing saffron terror and attacks on the democratic rights of the people. It’s a government of the cowards alleged Jitendra Choudhury as the administration is being used to demolish the offices of the CPI(M) and deny permission to the opposition even to hold peaceful rallies and meetings.
On the same day morning, a delegation of GMP consisting of its president Jitendra Choudhury, joint secretaries Naresh Jamatia and Pranab Debbarma, central committee members Ramendra Debbarma and Bhaswati Debbarma met the chief minister Biplab Deb at his official residence and submitted a memorandum of 13 point charter of demands. These included restoration of democratic rights and rule of law in the state and immediate measures to tackle the scarcity of food and work in rural areas especially the hills. They submitted video footage of the statement of people who are now forced to go across the international border in search of food. The GMP demanded that the government must fulfill its election promise of giving 100 days of work and 340 rupees of wage. It must ensure that at least 4 lakh beneficiaries of social pension schemes get their dues pending from March 2018.
The "Austerity Measures" and the CA Travelling on Government Expenses
On June 3-4, the 64th Annual General Meeting of the School Games Federation of India was held in Goa. From Tripura the general secretary and joint secretaries of Tripura School Sports Board participated in the meeting. There was nothing unusual in it. But in an unprecedented decision one Suresh Khushwaha, CA to Manoj Kanti Deb the minister of youth affairs and sports too was nominated to participate in the meeting and the government in an order said he shall journey by air and the costs thereof shall be admissible for reimbursement from his concerned office.
A CA who is not a regular employee of the government and is recruited purely on political consideration is allowed to attend a meeting of an all India body and the government bears his entire cost of travel. This has happened at a time when the government has curtailed the security cover of CPI(M) MLAs including the former chief minister Manik Sarkar. Firstly the government ordered that the PSOs of the persons having Z+ and Z category security cover can travel with the VIP outside the state, only by railways and on vehicle. No PSO shall be allowed to travel by air on government expenses. Hence Manik Sarkar had to attend the last Polit Bureau meeting in Delhi all alone. Secondly his security cover was decreased from 6 PSOs to merely two and the number of police vehicles was also reduced. None of the ex ministers or sitting MLAs are provided with police security when they travel inside the state. All these were done in the name of austerity measures, just to expose them to threats of attacks. But that same yardstick of austerity doesn't seem to be applicable for CAs of ministers or the kin of ministers. Neither does it hold good for the special adviser or number of OSDs, mostly RSS cadres appointed from outside the state without following any recruitment procedure and are being paid salaries from public exchequer for reasons best known to the political executives of the government, while the people in hills and rural areas face a famine like situation because of acute scarcity of food and work.
Tripura High Court Bar Association, A significant victory
On June 9, the panel of All India Lawyers Union, a Left organisation of the legal practitioners of the state won 6 out of the 11 posts of the Tripura High Court Bar Association. The AILU candidates won the posts of president, assistant secretary and four executive members. The candidate from Congress legal cell won the post of vice president while an independent won the post of secretary. The lawyers organisation affiliated to BJP could win only the post of treasurer and two other executive members. Earlier in the election of the Bar Council and Tripura Bar Association too, BJP failed to dominate. In the election to the Tripura Bar Association which is a body of lawyers practicing in all the subdivisions, the post of secretary and three other key posts were won by AILU. In the High Court Bar Association election too, the Left won a clear majority and in eight of the seats, the BJP candidates were defeated. AILU victory may look insignificant given the number of voters involved, but this is a clear sign of anguish among the educated and professionals against the three months of misrule of BJP in the state. This victory will strengthen the struggle for restoration of democracy in the state, hoped AILU.