NOW that the Leftist Front led by the CPM in West Bengal has been thrown out and ordinary Bengalis who had fled the state during its devastating regime are now returning in droves, it is time to assess the Front’s record of over four decades of misrule. According to knowledgeable sources, in 1965 industry contributed 30 per cent of the total income of the state. That, in 2011, has been reduced to 11 per cent. Frightened by the terrorism unleashed by the Leftist Front many industries just closed down. The terrorism was ruthless. Factory Managers would often be surrounded by Communist Union workers in their very office and kept standing for hours, in what came to be known as gherao. The officers often would not even be allowed to go to the toilet to relieve themselves. It was cruel. Inevitable industry got to be crippled. Nation wide West Bengal’s contribution to industrial output which was 18 per cent got reduced to a meagre four per cent in about four decades. West Bengal’s agricultural production contributed to 30 per cent of the state’s revenue in the 1960s. It has now been reduced to around 20 per cent.
Such industries as continued to function mostly located in the five districts of Howrah, Hoogly, Burdwan, North & South 24 Paraganas and Kolkata are now becoming unviable and are on their way to being shut down permanently. The CPI(M)’s record has been such that Mamata Banerjee is now faced with a Rs two lakh crore debt which she now wants the Centre to help clear. The Leftist Government simply looted the state’s wealth.
According to a senior editor of The Pioneer (July 1) Udayan Namboodiri, various Central contributions to the Government were eaten up by the CPI(M). Says Namboodiri: “Rajiv Gandhi’s famous statement about only 15 paise from every government rupee actually reaching aam aadmi, was actually a national average. In Communist West Bengal it was only 1.5 paise. The rest of the money was sucked up by an efficient siphon which transported these funds to the CPI(M)s private coffers, which made the party the most propertied entity in India – and also the biggest employer, considering there are over 2.6 lakh ‘whole-timers’ who have to be paid”. And who are these ‘whole-timers’? They are the CPI(M) cadres who run the state at every level from the village panchayat upwards. They decided every panchayat step with none daring to question them.
According to Sumanta Banerjee, a well-known commentator on West Bengal politics, Mamata Banerjee’s triumph can be attributed to “the reservoir of accumulated mass anger against the outrages committed by CPI(M)’s arrogant leaders, cadres and panchayat heads. Corruption was endemic at the Panchayat level. Out of 3,242 panchayats, only1,160 had submitted audit reports even as late as 1982.
In his contribution to Economic and Political Weekly (June 4), Banerjee writes: “The years that followed were marked by further moral and political degeneration of the Left-run panchayats, the bulk of which were controlled by the CPI(M)”. Also, adds Banerjee: “During all these years, while factories closed down throwing thousands of workers on the streets, the Left Front government remained a passive spectator. The CPI(M) leaders and their minions “destroyed the state’s educational and health infrastructure by usurping the administration of prestigious institutions like the Calcutta Medical College….” A lot of money was spent in subsidising salaries of idle employees (of CPI-M cadre) whether in Writers Building, schools and colleges. And nobody dared complain. Now these very cadres are on the run. According to Namboodiri who quotes CPI(M)’s all-powerful state secretary, “thousands” have become ‘ghor chara’ (refugees) and “are fleeing from place to place. Often with wives and children, in search of shelter”. The Trinamool Congress workers are allegedly seeking revenge and they have reason to. When the Leftist Front was in power, killing of Trinamool workers was common. It would appear that on September 22, 2002 “a large number of Mamata’s supporters simply vanished”. They had been reportedly caught and shot and their decapitated bodies were buried in a ditch close to the ancestral home of a former Minister.
Now, according to CPI(M) secretary Biman Bose, more than 13,000 ‘comrades’ are in exile of whom 19 have been murdered just in the past one month. During the CPI(M) regime, to quote Mao Tse-tung, power flowed “from the barrel of a gun”. Now, apparently, the reverse is happening. CPI(M) cardres are paying for past follies. As Namboodiri put it: “Between 1977 and May 2011, the CPI(M) carried out unspeakable crimes against humanity” while Delhi’s chatterati cheered. Leftist administration reduced West Bengal to a basket case. Worse, as another writer in The Pioneer (Saugor Sengupta) notes, a CPM Minister’s “guerillas surrounded villages, who went from door to door seeking out political opponents who they dragged to close by ditches and executed”. There was no question of police intervention in Marxist West Bengal. The force was 100 per cent politicised and there was no way a political activist opposing the CPI(M) could get justice”. These facts are coming out only now.
For over four decades the media maintained silence. There is still no record of how many Bengalis fled their home state. In his EPW article Banerjee says Prakash Karat “has refused to own responsibility for the acts of omission and commission” and the CPI(M) leadership “despite being disgraced…. is in no mood to step down”. It is important that Mamata Banerjee brings out a white paper disclosing all the crimes committed by the Left Front in the name of the poor and dispossessed. The Leftists dragged the fair name of Bengal into the mud. It chose murder and terrorism to rule. Information is now available on the arms that the CPI(M) cadres bought illegally.
Writes Saugor Sengupta: “An initial (police) estimate puts the total find of firearms to about 8,000 found from or around CPM party offices. Hand cannons and stinger missiles were also found. Police also found 19,000 rounds of ammunition in five districts, and this is considered “the tip of the iceberg”. Isn’t it time for the UPA Government, with, of course, the assistance of the Trinamool Congress, to provide the country a full account of CPI(M) misrule in West Bengal? Can any responsible government at the Centre allow any criminal activity – like hoarding arms and ammunition – go unpunished? If that is the case, what is a government for?