Six decades after Independence, the situation of the poor has worsened to such an extent that district after district is being taken over by the Marxists. In the Year 2002, only 55 districts were under Maoist control. Five years later, Maoists are controlling 125 districts. Out of these 62 years of Independence the Congress has been in power at the Centre for some 50 years. The country has a right to demand what the Congress had done to improve the standards of living of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes people in the districts now controlled by the Maoists. Isn’t it time to demand a White Paper on the subject?
When the CPM and allied Leftist first came to power in West Bengal 32 years ago, much was expected of them by way of alleviating poverty. Not all expectations have been fulfilled. According to one expert, Kripa Shankar, a Fellow of the Govind Vallabh Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad, half of the rural households are now landless in West Bengal and the land held by the top one per cent is equal to the land held by the bottom 60 per cent of the households. Besides, the younger generation, after getting higher education is reportedly moving out of agriculture as the latter is no longer a paying proposition.
According to another source, in the two periods of United Front rule and in the first 15 years following 1977, 40 per cent of Bengal’s population received land titles. The CPM also presided over almost a quarter century of agrarian growth, which would explain its former popularity. But the situation has now changed drastically. And West Bengal is in a bad state. It has borrowed so heavily that the interest payment alone takes away 45 per cent of the state revenue and there is little left for development. Lawlessness besides has increased to such an extent that after interest payment, expenditure on police is the fastest rising item of expenditure. West Bengal is under-policed. The Left Front is in great trouble. According to AK Biswas, former Vice Chancellor, BR Ambedkar Bihar University, writing in Mainstream (June 18, 2009), the 1991 census showed that there were 1,77,701 Scheduled Castes graduates and post-graduates in arts, commerce, technical and management put together of whom only 66,993 (37.7 per cent) were employed, many of them only as unskilled and illiterate labourers.
The 2001 census revealed that there were 2,36,667 graduates out of a SC population of 1,84,52,667 and 20,566 ST graduates out of an ST population of 44,06,794 in West Bengal. But it is clear that these were graduates only in name considering that in the last three years, while the West Bengal School Service Commission recruited thousands of school teachers, SC and ST graduates hardly figured in that number. That itself is revealing. Obviously SC and ST students get pass marks, their incompetence notwithstanding.
According to Biswas, West Bengal boasts of the highest registered unemployed youth in India. And much the same can be said about youth in all those districts where Maoists hold sway. It is clear that this matter of educated but unemployable youth among SCs and STs is not attended to. Biswas provided another example of government indifference to the fate of the SCs and STs. It would seem that the West Bengal Public Service Commission had recommended 33 SC and just one ST candidates against 107 and 54 vacancies respectively reserved for them out of 461 vacancies for posts of clerks, way back in 1983. Yet the Commission did not find what they called “qualified candidates” among the SCs and STs, and, in the circumstances, a total of 121 reserved vacancies were de-reserved and filled up by general candidates. What wonder, then, that the young ‘educated’ SCs and STs are now up in arms? The growth of Maoism is well-known but to this day there has not been a single government explanation of why this has happened. And if the government has indeed provided some explanation, it is being kept a top secret. The public is completely ignorant of what is happening in the country.
Why is the nation being kept in the dark? The tribal people have hardly any representation in the Leftist West Bengal Government. It would seem, for instance, that the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government has a cabinet of 33 Ministers out of whom sixteen are brahmins but not one Bengali tribal representative has been considered fit to handle a cabinet portfolio. Is it because, according to the Left Front government in Kolkata, tribals are not competent to handle cabinet posts?
But the major question that is perturbing is how come a Left Wing government that claims to speak for the people has the very people up in revolt against it? In the first four Five-Year Plans, welfare plans aimed to help the SCs and STs had been drawn up. By the end of the Fifth Five-Year Plan it came to be realised that the strategy for development would have to be based on intensive social and economic efforts.
As a result, a Special Component Plan (SCP) re-named Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan (SCSP) was adopted in the Sixth Five-Year Plan. Later, a Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) was formed during the Nineth Five-Year Plan (1997-2002) which was still further enhanced to Rs 32,429 lakh for the Tenth Five-Year Plan. The TSP proposed for the Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2007-2012) is Rs 129,570 lakh. Directions were laid down that to mitigate regional disparities, the governments must decentralise participation in plan formulation, implementation and monitoring to assess and incorporate local needs. If, despite all this, there is still a lot of unrest among tribals it means that at fault is the style of implementation. May one suggest, in the circumstances, the establishment of Special Indian Tribal Service (SITS) meant exclusively to serve tribal areas, totally separated from the Indian Administrative Service, capable of competing with, and excelling in service, all Maoist leaders, thereby making them redundant? This calls for a dedicated set of men and women willing to live among tribal and be part of their daily lives.
Maoists leaders must be beaten at their own game. Even RSS volunteers fully trained, can take on the Maoists in sheer dedication to tribal service. What this calls for is not bureaucratisation of service but commitment to service. Terrorism is being sought to be fought through counter-terrorism but what ultimately calls for is not conflict but care and devotion. Has our government, whether at the Centre or in the states, tried it? Isn’t it time that they did? Revolution is an old-fashioned concept and Maoists must be taught just that.