Vol. XLIII No. 12 March 24, 2019
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Meanwhile in Tripura

Rahul Sinha

CM Enjoys Lutyens’ Luxury While a Mother Sells her Girl Child

OFTEN such news reaches the newsrooms late, but however delayed they don’t lose the news value. We are talking about Binata Chakma of Kalagang-Charki ADC village of Pecharthal RD block, North Tripura. Parents of five children, Shek Chakma and Binata Chakma were forced to sell their fifth child, barely of 25 days to Sumanjoy Reang of Dainchharra ADC village on December 6 for a mere 2,500 rupees to feed their four children. This speaks of the distress, poverty and hunger that have cast their dark shadows in the tribal areas of Tripura since the BJP-IPFT assumed office. Earlier in these columns, we have reported death due to starvation, tribal people mortgaging their ration cards for few hundred rupees, migrating to neighbouring Bangladesh in search of forest products to sell as there is no job in the tribal areas. The state of MGNREGA is at its worst. The government figures themselves admit there have been barely 10 days of work in the entire financial year. The CPI(M) and GMP have repeatedly demanded that the government must wake up and take urgent measures to provide job and food. But these are falling on deaf ears. This incident reminds one of the dark days of Congress era in 1960s and 1970s where such instances of mothers selling off their own children for few kgs of rice were a common phenomenon. The Left Front in its tenure was successful to ensure that no starvation deaths or selling off children happened in the state. But those dark days have made a comeback with BJP’s Cholo Paltai (Lets bring about a change). The administration however remains apathetic and in a mood of denial. Though the local police admit of the incident, no minister of the state government till date has even visited the family.

While in these distress pockets of the state people go jobless and hungry, the chief minister is enjoying the fruits of power at his luxurious bungalow at the Lutyens’ Delhi. A recent RTI by India Today revealed that the CM of Tripura is one of the seven CMs who have been allotted bungalows at the posh and high profile Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone of Delhi. “Chief Minister of Tripura Biplab Kumar Deb has been allotted 6, Talkatora Road in Delhi. 6, Talkatora Road is a posh, type VI B Lutyens’ Bungalow that was allocated to Deb on 24 April 2018 ‘on vacation basis’", India Today reported on December 24. Quoting the replies by union urban development ministry, the report says Mr Deb has been allotted this bungalow on April 24, barely within 45 days he took oath as the CM as he applied for it “on the ground that his spouse and children would continue to stay in New Delhi and it would be necessary to have appropriate government accommodation for them, from the security point of view". This is in addition to the suits exclusive for the CM in the two Tripura Bhavans of New Delhi. No CM is ever required to stay in Delhi for more than 15-20 days in a year. But for the luxury of the CM’s family, the bungalow has been allotted and the report remains silent about who pays the rent for this prized accommodation at the elite zone of the national capital region. This remains to be revealed if the payment is made from the state exchequer. But even if the CM himself is paying for it, this ugly show of wealth only highlights his apathy towards the people of the state and the shameful hollowness of the BJP’s slogan of sab ka sath, sab ka vikas, as people remain hungry and helpless to the point of selling off  their beloved children.

CPI(M) Demands Security of Candidates and Voters

As we go press, on December 27, polling is scheduled for the by-elections to the 67 vacant seats of Agartala Municipal Corporation and other local urban bodies of Tripura in an abnormal and unprecedented atmosphere of terror and threat by BJP hoodlums. The entire process of nomination filing, scrutiny and withdrawal was marked with BJP not allowing the opposition, mainly CPI(M) to file nominations and forcing the candidates to withdraw. 58 per cent of the seats have been captured by the ruling party as their candidates were elected unopposed. In Kamalpur, Khowai, Teliamurra, Ranirbazar and Jirania, no opposition party could submit nomination. In all the seats of Udaypur, Melaghar and in a seat of Bishalgarh where CPI(M) had submitted nomination, the candidates have been compelled to withdraw in the face of severe attacks on their houses. Even in the 53 seats where CPI(M) is contesting, the ruling party tried to stop the opposition from campaigning by unleashing attacks. The latest of such attacks were on December 22 in the ward number 4 of AMC where BJP hoodlums attacked the CPI(M) workers as  they had gone for door-to-door campaign. In several areas, police has denied CPI(M) permission to hold election meetings. In most of the places there are reports of BJP hoodlums threatening the voters not to go to the booths on the day of polling.

Under the circumstances, the CPI(M) has demanded that the police ensure security of the candidates and the electorates. In a letter to A K Shukla, DG, Police, on December 25, CPI(M) state secretary Gautam Das made it clear that no free, fair and peaceful atmosphere is prevailing in the run up to the civic by-elections. He said, it is a fact that where by-elections are taking place, in almost 99 per cent seats, present ruling party of the state, BJP’s leaders and workers have forced the elected members belonging to the CPI(M) and other Left parties to resign. When these undemocratic fascistic attacks had taken place, police were informed. But no action had been taken. He further mentioned that after the declaration of by-election schedule by the State Election Commission, CPI(M) delegation met the DGP and urged him  to ensure adequate security for the opposition party candidates so that they can file their nomination papers and can campaign freely. Again, the state police has utterly failed in providing minimum security to the Left Front candidates. In spite of assurance by the ADGP and SP (West), CPI(M) candidates escorted by our senior party leaders were prevented to reach the office of the returning officer of Jirania and Ranirbazar. Four of their cars were attacked and vandalised in the presence of police and para-military forces.  Giving a detail of the attacks on the Left Front candidates and workers, Gautam Das reminded the DGP that as per the law of the land, it is the primary duty of the police to maintain law and order and provide security to citizens and particularly the candidates who are under threat. It is a very sorry state of affairs that the police did not take any action against the attackers. He has demanded that even after all these attacks in the places where CPI(M) candidates are contesting, all necessary and adequate security measures should be taken by the police for the electors and the candidates during the poll and counting.