January 22, 2023

The appeal of Jyoti Basu is Still Relevant Today’ Panel discussion at JBCSSR

Subinoy Moulik

“WE sent out a call to the people: ‘Wake up the village and drive away the thieves.' People have started waking up to the truth about how they've been deceived and manipulated. Now no kavach (amour) will work. The thieves have to face the consequences.  We and our people face the challenge of rebuilding the society and economy of a shattered state. We will strive to build a New Bengal. And for this purpose, the unity of the people should be kept strong. We have to take the alternative to the people.” The CPI(M) leadership made this statement at a discussion organised by the Jyoti Basu Centre for Social Studies and Research on Tuesday, 17 January17,  JyotiBasu’s 14th death anniversary . The topic of the discussion was 'Panchayati System — Jyoti Basu's Thoughts, Today's Predicament and Future Outline'.

The seminar was held at Jyoti Basu Nagar (Newtown) where the centre is under construction. Former panchayat and rural development minister of the state and Party Polit Bureau member Surya Mishra along with CPI (M) state secretary, Mohammad Salim were the discussants. The meeting was chaired by Left Front chairman, Biman Basu.

Before the meeting, Biman Basu visited the rural area near the venue and talked to the villagers. He shared some of his personal experiences with the audience, pertaining to this visit. He said, "I was talking to people. They said that paved roads and electricity were made available by the zilla parishad during the Left Front period. I told this to the then president Aparna Gupta. Gupta said that micro - level planning was done through the participation of the gram sansad, not the zilla parishad. This is what we mean by fulfilment of Jyoti Basu’s dream. Jyoti Basu, before entering Writers’ Building (then the state administrative headquarters) onJune21,  1977, had announced: “We shall not run the government from Writers’ Building; it will be a people's government”.   The decision taken on May 31, 1984, to lower the minimum voting age to 18 years from the earlier 21 years  inpanchayats, municipalities was also a result of the progressive outlook of the  Jyoti Basu-led government and a part of Left Front's vision of building a greater partnership with the people.'

Surya Mishra elaborated on Jyoti Basu's role in running the panchayat system and the Left Front government. He said, "Jyoti Basu was the leader of the opposition, he was the chief minister, he could have been the prime minister – but just judging like this will not do. We have to remember that we could have had a government under his leadership in 1971 as well. We were not allowed. In 1972, the vote was lost due to widespread looting and rigging. After that vote, our MLAs did not go to the assembly for a single day. We boycotted the assembly. In other words, even at that time we had no representative in the legislative assembly in that sense. But still in 1977 the government was formed under the leadership of Jyoti Basu with an absolute majority.”

Referring to the various successes of the Left Front government, Mishra said, "To understand what to do, you have to go back to Jyoti Basu. We have to reach people with alternatives. We need to re-establish our success factors. Everything will not be the same as it was then. But we have to unite people on the basis of alternative policies. We don't have a government. How to run panchayat, municipality in this situation—the question often comes up. The example of Taherpur (the municipality Left Front still retains) should be highlighted. Even though we are not in the government, panchayat or   municipality, we have to use the experience of how we worked during the epidemic to spread our base among the people. We have to find a way. We must place our trust in the people.”

Mohammad Salim said, "The central teams are coming now to supervise the state of affairs; 27 union ministry projects are managed through panchayats. Since 2014, BJP has been running the government at the centre. They could check the implementation of these 27 projects. We have written several letters. They never thought to interfere. This is because they have no intention to oppose the Trinamool government. It is their franchisee. Sometimes there is a fight over sharing of booties. But on the whole, they are okay with each other.''

Salim also said, "I congratulate the ongoing movement. it has been a while that we said, wake up the village with the red flag, chase the thief, catch the thief, fill the jails. Even though it took a while, today reports of people's plight are coming out. Many people are forced to say what a huge robbery, corruption has happened at the panchayat level. Now people have come out with a flag that is why the powers at the helm, have started to fear the rise of the masses. Villagers have not yet come out with torches in their hands.   Earlier we saw the 'Tell Didi' programme. Tell so and so on a phone about your grievances. Now they are talking about rakshakavach meaning   body armour. The philosophy behind it is I will strike. But your attack will not touch me. This is the protective shield of theirs. The way the panchayat polls of 2018 were looted, mothers and sisters molested, booths rigged, then finally panchayat captured is now a thing of the past.  Today no kavach, or mantra (charm or chant) will work.   People seek trust. People want courage. Leftists have to take the responsibility of providing that trust and courage. We will take that responsibility.   Once people turn around, conquer fear, those who frighten them shall be forced to flee .''

Mohammad Salim said, “Modi and Mamata want to take over the judiciary. Centralisation of power is the doing of the ‘right’. This is what brings about autocracy. This is the path to fascism in Delhi,Nagpur or Kalighat.   Leftism means decentralisation of power. More power in the hands of the people. People’s share in governance. The ‘right’ want that people will not have a voice in the organisation. So, they want the Left to have no representation. They want the Gram Sabha to remain voiceless. They want all power in the hands of the bureaucracy. Elected representatives shall have no role. Our demand is, discuss everything in the Gram Sabha. The ‘right’ wants bureaucrats to rule. We are seeing the results — we are seeing 43 percent of the wealth in the hands of 1 percent of people. Development will be based on need. People in remote villages understand what bureaucrats in cold chambers do not. We shall bring back the rule of the people.”

On this occasion two research papers- one on the state of Bengal’s economy in the last 12 years and another on the present condition of the panchayati system in West Bengal, were handed over to Biman Basu, Chairman JyotiBasu Centre of Social Studies. Handing over the draft research paper to the chairman of the two centres, Mohammad Salim said, "Many people are helping to build this centre. More help is needed. We have met on Jyoti Basu's death anniversary. The main work of this centre will be research, social studies, and studies in various subjects. We have started some of it. Infrastructure will be developed. It will take time. But work will continue. But our main work cannot stop. A small research team has started working as part of it. And two draft papers have been produced over the last few months in that effort. We will carry on.”