Since the days of fascist Red Terror unleashed in Singur and Nandigram by the ruling CPM, there is hardly any respite from miseries afflicted to the people in West Bengal. The Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, had replaced Jyoti Basu with the promise to offer ?better governance by a better Left Front Government? about eight years ago. His sermons to lackadaisical state government employees were ?Do it now? and be a humble servant of the people. But Bhattacharjee'sadvice seemed to have gone astray as his administration became more and more anti-people and insensitive to criticism.
This is evident from the series of incidents that took place during the past 13-month period between January, 2007 and January, 2008. The period witnessed faux pas of communist administration in deporting writer Taslima Nasreen from Kolkata for her bold views against Islamic fundamentalists, messing up with tragic death of Muslim boy Rizwanur Rahaman, ration riots in south Bengal villages, total destruction of small village poultry firms due to neglect in tackling bird flu and recently in Kolkata Book Fair fiasco due to highhandedness of the party and its government. A close examination of the incidents that occurred during the period under review will reveal that it is the time to change the government in order to save the state from further ruin.
Taslima Nasreen: The faux pas over deporting Bangladeshi writer, Taslima Nasrin and to keep her confined into a house under heavy security in Delhi for an indefinite period has clearly showed that so-called progressive and secular Bengali communists are actually most backward and religious fundamentalists in nature. They kneeled before the orthodox maulavis and mullahs following a street riot in Kolkata and deported the writer only to appease Muslim fundamentalists. The objective is to get the chunk of Muslim votes during the forthcoming panchayat elections in the state. In fact, the pressure to move Taslima Nasreen out of Kolkata began as early as August and involved the then Police Commissioner, Prasun Mukherjee who reportedly told the author that he was representing the Chief Minister.
Rizwanur Death Mystery: Rizwanur and Priyanka'smarriage and his death have been hitting the headlines of the dailies of Kolkata. However, never before there has been so much coverage by the national media. It is sad and painful that a young man meets his end under such tragic circumstances. For a mother to lose a son is something everybody is sorry about, regardless of caste, creed or religion. If it is murder the guilty must be punished. Leaders from various parties came forward to condemn and blame the Todis for the incident when the blame should actually go to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee'sloyal over-zealous police officers who have messed up a very sensitive family matter with their uncalled for interference. The CPM state secretary, Biman Bose and his party loyalists have condemned the parents of the girl, as they care only about minority votes by giving support to Rizwanur'sfamily. The Marxists would never understand the trauma of the Todis. Has anybody stopped to ponder on the pain and social embarrasement the Todis are facing? Would anyone of you welcome with open arms if your daughter eloped and married somebody below your status – it could be your cook or your driver? Yes, it is difficult to understand why the Marxists are blaming the Todis when the CBI report stated that Rizwanur committed suicide. The Marxists heaped humiliation on the Todis only to appease Muslims in the state.
Food Riots: The recent food riots in West Bengal were the result of a corrupt and privatised public distribution system running with political patronage of the Left parties, a survey conducted by Supreme Court appointed special commissioners on food security said. The scathing report has debunked the West Bengal government'sstand that the riots were a reaction to decreased allocation of wheat and rice for the above poverty line quota. The commissioners have concluded that this could not have been the provocation for people to agitate in rural West Bengal against lack of supply of essential food articles in ration shops. The reduced allocation still matched the highest level of PDS grain consumed by APL customers in the last three years.
The SC-appointed commissioners have instead laid the blame on the West Bengal government. Calling it the ?double burden of privatisation? of PDS in West Bengal, the report said that not only were fair price shops (FPS) run by private parties but the entire distribution of foodgrain was controlled by politically supported private contractors leading to high levels of corruption. Some of these distributors are also owners of rice mills and recycled their levy rice and changed good quality PDS rice with bad quality rice.
The report also blamed political patronage extended to the unionised ration dealers for corruption in the PDS supply chain. ?It is evident to us that they (FPS owners) enjoyed state patronage, especially political patronage at both local level and with the senior political leadership within the state. The All India Ration Dealers Association, which is the apex body of ration shop owners, has as its chief advisor a senior national leader of the ruling political party of West Bengal.? Owing to this double burden of a corrupt and privatised PDS, the report said studies conducted by the government had shown that 34.9 per cent of rice and 86.6 per cent of wheat meant for PDS got diverted. Worse still, 83 per cent of wheat meant for below poverty line people and 60 per cent of rice (the essential diet of the poorest of the BPL families) also got stolen.
For the CPM, which swears by the cause of the poor, the ration riots have come as a nightmare. The CPM state secretary Biman Bose is raising the bogey of a ?conspiracy? against the Left. A close examination of the agitation, however, gives a completely different picture. The first unrest took place in Bankura district on August 23. On September 14, angry mobs surrounded a CPM party conference (where the local ration dealer was present as a member-participant) and the first incident of firing took place. From mid-September, the agitation started in Birbhum and by early October, almost nine districts of south Bengal were seriously involved in these ?mass protests?. Significantly, Bankura, Burdwan and Birbhum, three districts where the movement gathered momentum, are strong CPM bases.
Kolkata Book Fair Fiasco: West Bengal PWD Minister and veteran RSP leader Kshiti Goswami held the Book Sellers? and Publishers? Guild, the organisers of the Kolkata Book Fair, responsible for this year'sfiasco. Calcutta High Court had ruled against holding of the annual event, which was to begin at the Park Circus Maidan. The court held that permission for the fair violated Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution and environmental rules. Earlier, the court had ordered against holding the book fair at its traditional venue of the Kolkata Maidan on grounds of environmental pollution. This had prompted the organisers to hold the fair at Salt Lake in January 2007. Later in November they decided to hold the fair in Park Circus following the Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee'sadvice. In fact, the Chief Minister was desperate to bring back writers and intellectuals who had bade adieu to him and his party after Nandigram carnage. But the Chief Minister'sdream was shattered by High Court'sruling.
Nandaram (Burrabazar) Market Fire: A devastating fire gutted thousands of shops in congested Burrabazar in central Kolkata in wee hours of January 15, 2008 morning. The fire in the market spread, the flames licking their way to eight homes including multi-storeyed buildings rendering many homeless. Wall of adjacent buildings began to develop deep cracks. The losses were estimated to be in thousands of crores.
Many, including the Trinamool Congress chief Mamata, who visited the spot, suspect the fire was started deliberately. However, the fire has thoroughly exposed the city'sinefficient fire protection service as the fire-fighters could not do much to douse the flames in the absence of fire-fighting equipment. Facing an all-round condemnation for its abject failure, the state government had to seek Army'shelp to control fire in Nandaram market. Apprehending public fury, neither the Chief Minister nor any of his senior cabinet colleagues visited the spot during the four days of the fire.
Bird Flu Epidemic: The deadly avian flu has virtually wiped out poultry stock in 14 districts of West Bengal and still spreading its tentacles to remaining other districts of the state. Experts on avian flu have blamed the state government for taking the outbreak casually. The CPM ministers were busy in organising the party'sstate convention on January 13 and did not bother to look into menace of the bird flu. In fact, bird flu was first reported at Margram village in Birbhum district on January 4. But the blood samples of the birds died in the disease were collected after four days and sent to laboratory for examination only on January 11. According to Central government'sdirectives, blood samples must be sent for examination within 24 hours of the outbreak of bird flu. There are reasons to believe that the government has deliberately neglected to prevent the outbreak only to get liberal financial assistance from the Centre for distributing relief to the distressed families on the eve of panchayat election scheduled to be held in May. The CPM did the same trick during the previous panchayat election in 2003 when it spent the Central flood assistance for buying votes.