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Striking Comments: Article One

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Striking Comments_Article One

When we were young, late seventies that is, Bangla Bandh was an occasion of some importance, and rarity. It was also fun. It was a day when we could play football or cricket on the VIP Road, or ride to our school in Ganganagar on our cycles and then come back to Baguiati.. Ever since people began saying ‘yet another Bandh?’, strikes lost their political and sociological relevance. 

Everyone likes a surprise holiday – once in a while. Even lazy people like myself do not look forward to multiple Strikes in a year or sometimes even in the space of a month. This political instrument has been misused and abused to an absurd extent. Today Economists can talk about how Strikes do not change a darn thing about price hike. An irrelevant observation, if you ask me: Strikes are not for people who understand the intricacies of Economics. While we are on the topic, who understands the intricacies of Economics other than Economists? I certainly don’t. Strikes are a show of power and solidarity among people brought together by common interests. It is a way of showing the administration that no government can function without a work force, and so, it had better pay attention – or else. Strikes are a way of making your presence felt. It is unfortunate that today we all know what happens when such presence is felt too often. 

I personally support the Government’s initiative to end Strikes in West Bengal. However, the good intentions fall flat when you look at the methods adopted to ensure that. The Hon’ble Minister Shri Madan Mitra does not appear to have changed much from his questionably famous 1, 2, 3 days. He is still using the same tactics with regard to ‘illegal and unlicensed’ auto rickshaws. It is probably okay to force no work no pay on a Strike day on Government employees, and it would certainly be effective to drive home the point with a service break threat – if there were legal provisions for such a move. As it turns out, there is none. It is also rather disturbing that the representatives of the Government should keep referring to the Countrywide Strike as a plot hatched by a single political party which must be defeated. The challenge game, let us face it, is immature at best. 

As for ‘wasting’ fuel by keeping the Government buses plying: perfectly justified in view of the fact that there is no other way to assure the general populace that they have a choice. Why do most people not go out on a Bandh day after all? For one, they are not sure that there will be sufficient transport available, and then, they wonder if they are going to come back home in one piece or at all. Admirable move, then, by the State Government, to keep the buses plying even without passengers. No sarcasm here: if we are to banish the Strike Virus for good, some amount of initial loss is inevitable. Call it investment. That takes care of the first part of the problem. Unfortunately for us all, we are more uncertain than ever of coming back home safely when journalists are thrashed and the Chief Minister publicly dismisses it as a plot hatched by a certain news channel. Ransacking a Party Office of the Opposition is perhaps justified since we all know how the Left Front Government has done absolutely nothing useful in the last thirty four years. 

Anyway, the CP(I)M is getting what was coming to them, everyone knows that. They are the worst thing that could have happened to West Bengal in the last – that’s right, – the last thirty plus four years. Problem is, when the Opposition is murdered – let’s say the investigation will reveal that the Dewandighi victims were murdered by a combination of internal strife and spontaneous outburst of public rage – we are still not safe even though we are bhadralok who have nothing to do with politics. The Chief Minister and her Ministers have made enough well thought out comments to give the impression to a lot of people that explaining away any kind of act is easy. Which is why there is a distinct echo of Ms. Banerjee’s comment when the recent murder of Sagar Mete in Nanoor (http://ibnlive.in.com/generalnewsfeed/news/cpim-worker-beaten-to-death/970368.html ) is dismissed by TMC local spokesperson on camera as consequence of internal strife. It is either internal strife, or, in case of farmers’ deaths (who, incidentally, are not really farmers at all, we are told), problems within the family, and if all else fails, there is the conspiracy theory. How long before we are either in the wrong place at the proverbial wrong time or before we realize that there was a lot of internal strife within our family because of which nothing happened to us that was not fabricated?

Trinamool Victory Should Assure Another Three Decades of Left Front Rule & Beyond Politics

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Musings: 

Trinamool Victory Should Assure Another Three Decades of Left Front Rule


This one ought to have been titled ‘Musings’ in keeping with my blogging tradition, since I came up with it musing about my voting rights and choices. Actually, it was, until I reached the end and read it over. Now I want others to read it too, and that too, before they vote. Pity my brilliant ideas come so late. Still, better late than never. And so, the keyword dense eye catching (hopefully thought provoking) title.

I am serious, however. I really think that another Left Front rule is just waiting to happen, one with more audacity, more ‘Big Brother is Watching’ and ‘Big Brother Knows Best’ kind of attitude that has brought it to where it is now. This is not much of a puzzle to be figured out. How did the present Government last so long anyway? Apart from its unquestionably precise and efficient organizational skills, it is the Congress of the ’72 that assured this. Now, that memory has faded away and the apathy for the Left is so strong that people will vote for anyone but the Left. Trinamool offers itself as a choice, no matter the kind of choice, and people are willing to take it just to rub the Left’s nose in the dirt and say ‘how does that feel?’

Understandable, except for the fact that this time the Left was well and truly scared, and might have done a bit of house cleaning if they won. If they do not win, a Trinamool Government will convince the masses pretty soon that they were better off with the lesser evil, and the ’72 will be replaced by a 2011. Big Brother will know that they are the Biggest Brother of all. What will stop them from being even more smug, even more pretentious, even more interfering and even more everything else that is so despicable about them that people will right now opt for anyone but them? Nothing. They will know that people know now that there is no alternative. Finally the fact will be established, and a condescending Left will deign to come back in power and say ‘ok, lets see, where were we before ya’ll decided to start thinking for yourselves?’

Now TMC members will call me I don’t know what. TMC supporting intellectuals and common people will call this a subversive tactic to win votes for the Left, doubtless. All the rest will ask the well deserved question: How the heck do I know? Maybe the new Government will be better – after all, what could possibly be worse than the present one? May be, even if they are worse, the Left will do a house cleaning anyway when they come back. Maybe……… Right. I DO NOT KNOW.

I do have an imagination, however, which sometimes prompts me, on the basis of certain facts, to come to certain conclusions. Oh, and it takes the help of whatever logic my mind possesses. Lets come to the facts then. And by the way, this article is for self preservation. I want the Left to win this election. More importantly, I do not want TMC to come to power. I mean,really …!

The Facts

&

Beyond Politics


Before I got assigned to my current job there, Helencha was for me the name of a leafy vegetable akin to spinach, and Bagdah, a variety of crustacean.

In fact, Helencha Colony is a village and a Gram Panchayat in Bagdah Block, about nineteen kilometres away from Bongaon and seventeen short of the Bangladesh border. If you get off at Helencha Bajaar, you will find the road bifurcated: the one on your left goes towards Duttaphulia and the one straight ahead to Bagdah and Boyra.

About two and a half  kilometers beyond Helencha and about five kilometers to your right parallel to the road to Bagdah and Boyra is Ronghat Gram Panchayat comprising of villages Ronghat, Pulia and Rajkole and fourteen more. Pulia and Rajkole have the largest percentage of minority (read Muslim) population (read voter), approximately 55% and 45% respectively. Muslim population is indigenous to the region while the Hindus are mostly refugees from Bangladesh (or their descendants).

It is  significant that communal strife is the one thing that is missing in this politically active region.This used to be an area predominantly Congress. The Left Front somehow crept in and made a place for itself. With the disappearance of Congress from the Political scenario of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee has found a way in and now with a feeble presence of original Congress followers still sticking to their beliefs and ways, a major section of the populace is supportive of Trinamool, hateful of CPIM and generally disdainful of the Left Parties like the Forward Bloc.

In 2008, near Eid, the Trinamool found a novel way of attracting minority voters. There is a Government approved cow slaughterhouse in Hariyarpur,a village in Ronghat Gram Panchayat. A few leaders had a brainwave and promised the Muslim Community that if elected, they would arrange for the same in every village.

Among them were Kartick Bayne, who had shifted to TMC in late 2007, but was a candidate of TMC supported Nirdal Congress (I) in 2008; Ramesh Shikdar, also Trinamool, and our very own Dulal Bor. Rumour has it that Didi is rather displeased with this person and so Upen Biswas has been roped in this time. Whatever.

The trio, along with others, went to Pulia and Rajkole with their full contingent, organized the Qurbani to prove their point in about four places. Five cows were slaughtered in the name of politics between ten and twelve in the morning and noon. By the time Ganapati Biswas (CPIM), then Panchayat Pradhan of Ronghat had information of this, everything was over.

Now a word about Ganapati Biswas: he was awarded the President’s award Nirmal Gram Puroshkar as Panchayat Pradhan. With that came five lakh Rupees to Ronghat Gram Panchayat and Project Sajal Dhara to supply water via pipes to all of Bagdah.  Public Health Engineering heads this with three projects, one at Kola with 1 crore 46 lakh Rupees investment and covers 13 villages. The pipeline has been completed, and construction of overhead tank is under way. Central Government bears 75% cost and the rest is borne by the State.

After the Qurbani stunt, Ganapati Biswas lost his position as Panchayat Pradhan and Kamalakshmi Biswas also lost.

Apparently, the two incidents are related, and the TMC had played its cards well. The real story makes us a little hopeful, however. There was about 2% change in vote in favour of Trinamool because of the slaughters. The rest of the votes were lost due to various reasons including internal strife amongst the Left Front leaders and because of the fact that Ganapati Biswas was at that time given employment in a college in Helencha (Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Satabarshiki Mahavidyalaya)  and people were apprehensive that he may not be as effective as Panchayat Pradhan any longer.

The Motua, a sect on whom I would love to write something informative sometime later, were alienated by the Helencha Local Committee Secretary of the CP(I)M when he spoke disparagingly of their idols Thakur Harichand and Thakur Guruchand, both pioneers of education. This, and other minor reasons cost the Left the seat of MLA which was occupied for the last twenty five years by Sri Kamalakshmi Biswas (Forward Bloc).

Kamalakshmi babu, as I call him,is one of the most honest and perhaps for that very reason, eccentric individuals I have ever known. He has all along refused to put his name in plaques wherever he has done any work as an MLA, and so the people are generally under the impression that he has done nothing during his tenure. Well, that is a different story. Kamalakshmi babu was replaced by Sri Dulal Bar, whose claim to fame is breaking of furniture at the Assembly, and more recently, being accused of involvement in the murder of a housewife. My point being, even then, acting the Big Brother way by a half wit LCS who now is seen getting real friendly with the Motua, alienated a section of the masses so much so that they would vote for anyone but the Left. It did not matter to them who they would be replacing with what.(Ahem).

I was wondering: if this area where people wake up with politics in their mind and go to bed thinking and dreaming of politics can avoid getting communal, why can’t the rest of us? Perhaps we ought to conduct a research to find out if genes or regional anomaly or whatever is responsible for such conduct. Perhaps we could then mass produce an anti communal vaccine. And second, if only the Left Front were a little less full of mean minded high handed individuals, we could avoid such disturbing incidents in the name of politics.

Thankfully, the TMC is an unorganized body and could not conceive of Qurbani in all the villages of Ronghat Gram Panchayat at once. Thankfully they do not have that organizational capacity. On the other hand, thanks to the Left Front, we could very well be looking forward to a TMC government who are not organized enough to be as predictable a threat as the Leftists are. The common man is at stake while our so called leaders fight it out.

I cannot help but remember what Aristotle said about this common man: that whoever disdains politics and keeps his hands clean risks having an inferior man rule over him. I do not know how many people I am superior to, but I really wish more of us had kept our hands less clean. I might just make time from my usual schedule of eight hour daily commute to the workplace and taking care of forty odd cats and dogs, to join the Left Front as an official member if TMC comes to power this time. Not much use sitting on the sidelines and cribbing, hm?

Written by kapush

April 24, 2011 at 2:08 am

Then and Now…

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I was never in faovour of taking away farmlands to build industry. I still am not. However, the situation in Singur is not so cut and dried as Mamata may want to make it seem. A few days back, around the 28th of August or so, a friend of mine was in Lindsay Street in Blue Print (a medicine shop). There he was witness to a curioius exchange. The salespersons in the shop were talking to a man who was from Singur. They asked him what he was up to. He answered that he had been sitting with Didi to get his land back. The salespersons, perplexed, asked him if he hadn’t already been compensated for his land. He replied that he had indeed received the money, and now he would get his land back as well.

I wish the CM would think of reopening the many factories rotting away in weed and rust in Dum Dum instead of taking away farmlands. I wish he would focus on what we already have in abundance and turn it into a resource. I really wish people would see that industrialization is not the only inevitable path to salvation for West Bengal, especially when it is achieved at the expense of extensive streaches of extremely fertile farmland. I see only a kind of sorry desperation in jumping at the Tata’s offer by providing them with land wherever they (presumably) wanted. The Nano, in my opinion, would only add to the ever increasing congestion in the already overcrowded Kolkata roads. More than once and on various occasions car pools have suggested as a way out. It escapes me why in such a situation the Nano should shine as such a brilliant ray of hope for us. Driving ethics are a thing of the past, and no one realizes it more than us, who drive two wheelers. Anyone can buy a car on hire purchase these days, and there is simply no class left among those that wheeze along in those shiny boxes leaving us at the mercy of fate and their own moods. But I am digressing.

Question is whether Mamata is doing something selfless and at the request of the ‘victims’. Question, indeed, is whether there are victims that actually conform to Mamata’s definition of the term. I received something from a confidential source which I believe is reliable. It is reliable insofar as a Party Manifesto is reliable. However, the author of this piece belongs to the old guard, to the era when Communist Party members were educated and with morals and scruples. Unbelievable as it may seem, there still are a few of them still hanging on. I have double checked the facts and have found them authentic enough to publish in my own blog. I couldn’t care less if people call me names. It is after all fashionable to be anti CP(I)M these days. And never mind if Mamata has created a inexplicable figure of 400 acres. Has she actually provided anyone with an alternative rehabilitaion plan apart from her demand about the land return?

The relevant statistics against the 400 acre demands are:

the Government has acquired 997.11 acres of land in Singur. There are 10, 852 raiyats (cultivators) on the land parcel taken over. Of them, 8, 890 covering land area of 691. 64 acres have accepted the compensation package. 2251 have refused to accept compensation for a total area of 305.47 acres of land. Mamata has conveniently rounded that off to 400 acres.

The following are a) a letter from the CM to Mamata, which, as far as I know, she did not release to the Press ( I could be wrong: I am at present trying to deal with both local small time chameleon CPIM covert operators as well as a sub-inspector who ought to be stripped both of his skin and uniform) and b) a report on the curent situation at Singur with respect to Didi’s dharna.

a) Letter of the CM to Mamata:

DO No.  – 97/CM

25 August 2008

Respected,

Earlier we have discussed the problems arising out of the small car manufacturing factory at Singur with representatives sent by you, following my appeal.  We decided then at that meeting that there would be continued discussions towards a just and proper resolve of the impasse.

You are already aware that in view of Shri Ratan Tata’s statement on the issue, different state governments have called for the project to be shifted to their respective states.  You will surely realise from all this how important it is for the state to complete the project early.  Surely as a responsible leader of the opposition of the state, you would desire that the project should be completed in this state.

In view of this, keeping the project completely unaffected, acting within the legal framework of the land, and safeguarding the interests of the landless families affected adversely by the land acquisition, I would like to have a direct discussion with you to find out a formula that will be acceptable to all.

I hope that in the interest of the quick implementation and completion of the project and to ensure that the reflection of our state’s image remains untarnished, you would withdraw your present movement and agree to sit for a discussion again.

With best wishes,

(Signed)

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee

b) current report on Singur situation:

AN ISOLATED TRINAMUL CONGRESS PONDERS THE NEXT MOVE

The sit-in demonstration suddenly started to draw less men and women– discontented kisans or otherwise.  That happened on and from 2 September.  The reasons were clear for everyone to see.  Certainly, we had little trouble doing this.

An increasing number of the local populace, including the Trinamulis’ vaunted ‘disgruntled kisans,’ and all of them angry, hateful, and aggressively abusive of the Trinamuli chieftain and her Maoists-SUCI-Indira Congress cohorts – had started to organise a huge periphery, and densely peopled, as part of  what we can call a ‘counter-blockade’ around the Trinamuli blockade of the highway.

‘We shall not anyone of the gang that is out to bring an economic disaster to our state run away from Singur, and it is we who had voted for them.’  This was the common refrain of the young and the old, men and women, of the villages surrounding the motor vehicles project.

UNHEARD OF ANTI-MAMATA SLOGAN

An unheard of slogan rent the drippy, cold, and cloudy skyline of Singur from that day onwards: ‘Mamata Banerjee, Singur thekey dur hato, abhi hato, jaldi hato!’ The slogan-shouting brigade, none of them — we spoke to them and found to our great amazement — has ever voted for the Left.  Mamata does have cause to worry.

‘We have no quarrel with the truckers or indeed with any vehicular traffic – once we see a single Trinamul-flag wielding SUVs (ironically all Tata Sumo models of various vintage), we shall block its passage, and make it park on the grassy curb.

‘We shall feed them, allow them to take rest in our hutments in the villages — but they shall and must remain confined away from their beloved didi – whom we had loved too, once before, during the rural polls, but– never again.’

The speakers ranged from the 80 plus Ahsan Ali Mollah to the 20 something Raghu Majhi, from the elderly and purdaansheen, burqah-naqab-clad Nazma Biwi to the kurti-salwar-dupatta-wearing Rina Murmu – all, all of them former supporters of the Mamata brigade, but no longer.

DISTRESS LEADS TO SUICIDE

What was going through the mind of the 85-year-old Sushen Santra when he went to the small manohari dokaan (a tiny ‘variety store’ — very typical of rural Bengal, a shop that remains inevitably closed in the noon hours [and until sundown] when the owner-salesperson takes a dutiful nap), at Pakhirapara, knocked on the jhaanp or thatched hinged-on-top front shade of the shop, and hesitantly asked for a bottle of cheap, locally-produced pesticide.

The owner, mildly disturbed even disoriented at having his routine afternoon bhātghoom (or restful slumber after a rice-and-curry meal) being unsettled, sleepily handed over the small recycled bottle of the deadly chemical, yawned, accepted the currency notes, gave back the change in small coins, yawned again, and went to slumberland.  Dada, he was later to tell me, regret pouring out from his reedy voice, had I been a little more alert I would realised that Sushenkaka was upto something, something bad.  Sushenkaka had been in a very, very depressing mood for the past week or so.

TRAGEDY UNFOLDING

After all, please understand, dada, continued the dokaan-malik, kaka’s entire family cholto or ran on the wages, his three married sons brought home from the motor vehicles factory where they had found jobs in the ancillary sector, and they had given away their land, never paying heed to the local Trinamul toughs against doing it, and had not joined the oi jey ki sab krishi-rakkha samity korechhey Mamata didi.

The whole family, we were quick enough to learn, went on convincing others how the LF government’s rehabilitation-compensation package plus the high wages they would draw from the industrial set up and its peripheral units, would be nearly seven times the income they would squeeze out of their tiny plots of shariki-bibadi jomi (agri-land under internecine dispute within the family).

Then Sushen babu heard the bad news.  Mamata Banerjee has set up a road blockade.  The factory hands were being beaten up and their families harassed.  This was followed by the terrible news in the form of the distorted versions ran in the local dailies — about the entrepreneur of the factory leaving Singur and Bengal – for ever.

A BLACK MARK ON TRINAMULI ACTION

‘One man less would mean one mouth, less to feed, and at any rate I am getting decrepit, old, and constantly having to take pricey medicines – I am becoming an expensive luxury that my family should be rid of.’  Then he took the terrible decision, and took his own life.  His death remains a widening black mark on the Trinamul Congress’s anti-people foray of the worst kind.

Mamata must realise that if the impasse continues, and the factory entrepreneur does stick to his resolve to have the small car roll out from Panthnagar instead of Singur, if the future of the factory itself is made to confront a menacingly large question mark, then Sushen Santra’s death may well be followed by the death of others in the areas like Joymollah, Ratanpur, Singherbheri.

In the meanwhile a solicitous and sympathetique governor, after having quit his earlier programme of two hours of saving electricity — as the summer becomes muggy and stickily warm – has declared himself agreeable to Mamatadidi’s proposal of acting as the ‘facilitator and not the negotiator,’ as he was careful to explain to the media glare now pouring on him, to ‘solve the Singur problem.’

INTERNECINE SQUABBLING

The solution is, the governor must have realised by now, three sessions and four days later, far to seek, as different voices are heard from the Trinamulis, the Naxalites, the SUCI, and the various fractions of the ‘save farmland committee’s disparate and squabbling leadership.  The state government is as always quite open to suggestions from the opposition, provided such proposals materialise at all beyond the puerile clinging to the cry for ‘return the land — and let the entrepreneur go away, what we care if he does.’

Elsewhere, throughout the state, a vast people’s movement led by the Bengal unit of the CPI (M) and the Left Front has started to unwind like a coiled spring with mammoth participation by every cross section of the people including technologists, scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers, IT professionals (three of the latter when they had gone to seek a brief interview with the didi, had the experience of being verbally abused in unprintable words, called Communist spies, and shoved away), students-youth-women, in cities and towns, in villages and hamlets—every day — every morning, afternoon, and evening.

A different form of campaign, too, is going on via the internet and the cell phone network.  Dozens of websites with the theme ‘we want industrialisation,’ have been launched and they are drawing thousands of ‘hits’ every day.

PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT STATEWIDE

The irate people whose ranks cut cross political affiliations, leanings, sympathies, obsessions, have but a single slogan: ‘we want industrialisation in Bengal and we want the Singur factory to be made viable again.’  The entire state has witnessed large whiteboards come up at street crossings where people are putting on their signatures calling for industrialisation, and prevailing upon Mamata Banerjee and her underlings to end the anti-people sit-in.  Marches are taken out with lighted candles.  Artistes and performers have put on shows in solidarity with the people’s movement.

The people’s movement in Bengal for industrialisation based on an augmented agrarian foundation shall go on — and the people shall put in the final word, let no one doubt this—to their peril.

Written by kapush

September 6, 2008 at 6:04 pm

Posted in Singur

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