Tapas Sutradhar, The Fourth Martyr
EVEN after 100 days of the new government assuming office in Tripura, physical attacks on the Left continue unabated. The latest victim of this spree of murders is Comrade Sutradhar. In the night of June 18th, Comrade Tapas Sutradhar, CPI(M) Panisagar subdivisional committee member, member of AIKS state committee and a former member of North Tripura Zilla Parishad was brutally murdered when he was on the way back home after attending a marriage ceremony. He was attacked by the BJP-IPFT goons and killed with a sharp weapon. A pal of grief and anger cast all over the Panisagar subdivision as it observed a dawn to dusk strike in protest. CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and leader of opposition Manik Sarkar, along with MP and CPI(M) Central Committee member Jitendra Choudhury, and a team of CPI(M) MLAs visited the house of the slain comrade where hundreds of people gathered. Manik Sarkar talked to the people and consoled the family. He said, this murder is an act of cowardice. We have to be brave and fight back the situation. On June 20, opposition chief whip and CPI(M) Central Committee member Tapan Chakraborty raised the issue in the floor of the state legislative assembly. He demanded a proper, high level inquiry into this brutal murder so that the murderers are punished. Chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb said the SP has been entrusted with the task of investigation. However, not a single arrest was made as we go to the press. Tapas Sutradhar is the fourth martyr in the BJP- IPFT regime. Before him, Comrades Rakesh Dhar, Ajendra Reang and Paresh Debbarma have been murdered.
The First Budget: A Neoliberal Offensive on the Masses
On June 19, deputy chief minister and finance minister Jishnu Debbarma presented the maiden budget of the new government in the assembly. The total budget proposal of Rs 16,387.21crores infallibly reflected the neoliberal economic trajectory that this government intends to follow. This was a zero deficit budget which means the government shall be spending less, if necessary slashing expenditures on development. Because, in a federal structure like India, a revenue deficit state like Tripura cannot have a zero deficit budget if it wants to continue with the role of a welfare state. This was evident from the fact that the outlay for capital account expenditure (aimed at long term development initiative) has been slashed to 20 percent compared to 35 percent in the budget of 2017-18.
For the first time in the last 25 years, the state budget increased the tax and cess on petrol, diesel and domestic pipeline gas. There has been a hike in road taxes and excise duty as well. This means while the government will be spending less, it will increase its revenue earnings by imposing burden on the people leading to a cascading effect of price rise of every commodity.
In the budget speech, the finance minister didn't spell out the exact time when the government plans to implement the recommendations of the 7th Central Pay Commission which the BJP had promised in the vision document and its leaders had said shall be clinched at the first cabinet meeting itself. But the budget emphatically said that in future, the employees of the state government shall not have the facility of universal pension, instead new pension scheme shall come to effect for the prospective employees. Thus the post retirement social security that till now the employees of Tripura enjoyed shall cease to exist. The budget decided to exclude the population who are not covered by the NFSA from the universal cash subsidy for lentil and mustard oil introduced by the Left Front government. Neither of the election promises of giving Rs 2000 as social pension or increasing the wage of MNREGA workers to Rs 340 found any mention in the budget speech, it evaded how many person days of work shall be given under REGA. The sum allocated for social pension was a paltry Rs 300 crores. If all the present 4,32,000 beneficiaries of social pension are retained, the amount for each shall be mere Rs 578 while the amount was minimum Rs 700 in the period of Left Front.
The budget posed a grave question mark on the future of the state public sector units and various autonomous boards, societies. It decided to merge the Tripura Agricultural and Land Development bank with Tripura State Cooperative Bank. Further it said that most of these are sick and totally dependent on government, hence a professional help shall be sought to determine their future.
In the budget discussion, the leader of opposition Manik Sarkar said, imposing increased tax and cess on petroleum products will burden the common people while decreased allocation in capital account, agriculture, rural development and primary education shall not help and the government should relook into it.
Increased Fee in Tripura Medical College
Close on the heels of the change of government, an overall attack on people has started in a number of ways. The admission fee and the total course fee for MBBS in Tripura Medical College increased by lakhs of rupees. While the admission fee has gone up by almost four lakhs, the total course fee has been hiked by around Rs 16 lakhs. This will virtually close the doors of medical education for the poor but meritorious students. The SFI and TSU met the director, medical education and demanded that this steep rise in the course fee must be reconsidered. CPI(M) MLAs including former health minister Badal Choudhury said the college may be run by a society but it runs solely on government exchequer. Hence the logic of the present health minister that the government can request the society to reconsider the fees but can't dictate it, is flawed. He demanded an assurance from the health minister and CM that the students belonging to SC, ST and BPL category will be allowed to study at the pre-revised course fee. Though they said the government will ensure no eligible student opts out due to financial reasons, but stopped short of giving any concrete assurance.
Deteriorating Law and Order Situation
Despite all the tall talks of achievement, the sorry state of affairs in terms of general law and order is out in the open. In the night of June 23rd, Biswajit Paul, a medical representative by profession and a local BJP leader was shot dead very near his house at Milan Chakra area of Agartala. The police on the next day arrested one Pranjit Bhowmik, the ward president of BJP Yuva Morcha in connection with the murder, recovered a pistol and 5 rounds of cartridges from behind Bhowmik's house. According to the family of the murdered person, the motive may be a quarrel regarding government tender for works. Just a few days ago, a young businessman was shot by a bike-borne assailant near inter-state bus terminus of Chandrapur. In reply to a question asked in the assembly, the chief minister said that during March, April and May there have been 30 cases of murder; the number will be 33 if the incidents of June are taken into consideration. There have been 199 cases of suicide from March to May. The figure of January and February stands at 81. Total 34 cases of rape, 2 cases of gang rape and 39 cases of outrage of modesty of women have been recorded in the last two months of this government.