The Comrades and their sins—II
The Comrades and their sins—II
The food grain distribution system in the proletariat’s paradise was allowed to remain pyramidal ‘with a handful of very large traders sitting at the top and controlling the entire trade’. It was these sections of traders who receiving party patronage allowed the entire PDS system to gradually disintegrate. The CPI(M) politbureau at first denied the riots and then blamed the opposition for the entire situation. (Abhirup Sarkar, Only Industrialisation Can Solve Bengal’s Food Problem, The Telegraph, October 25, 2007).
The firing on helpless farmers at Nandigram was but just one instance that became public, throughout their record in governance the Communists have, except perhaps at the beginning, gone against everything that they professed to stand for. Again, their record in the area of food inadequacy, poverty and hunger in the state is equally pathetic. The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in its report entitled, ‘Perceived Adequacy of Food Consumption in Indian Households 2004-2005’ talks about the non-availability of food to the rural households throughout the year in various states of the country. Referring to the idyllic West Bengal where the proletariat was seen to have triumphed for all times to come, the report observed that: ‘The percentage of rural household not getting enough food every day in some months of the year was the highest in West Bengal (10.6 per cent)’ while among the least affected then was Rajasthan. In the report the proportion of those households which did not get ‘enough food every day in any month of the year was highest in the State of Assam (3.6 per cent)’ and in West Bengal it was (1.3 per cent).’ If the two figures —of food inadequacy in some months of the year and every day in every month of the year – were merged then ‘West Bengal’s was the highest with 12 per cent of the rural households facing occasional or continuous hunger and starvation followed by acute morbidity and mortality.’ (D.Bandyopadhayay, ‘On Poverty, Food Inadequacy and Hunger in West Bengal’ in Mainstream, Vol XLV No 26, June 16, 2007) Large scale starvation deaths among tea-planters of North Bengal in 2006 had been consistently denied and downplayed by the state administration and party honchos. When the then West Bengal Governor, himself a distinguished former diplomat and civil servant, Gopal Krishna Gandhi visited these areas and empathised with the starving out of work workers, the comrades chose to make snide remarks and criticise the role of the Governor. The starvation deaths and hunger suicides in 2004-2005 were also at first stoutly denied by comrades. Their proletarian paradise was such that it allowed the 65-year old tribal woman Patu Mura of Paturdih village in Purulia to die even after she had written to the BDO and the panchayat head pleading for 10 kilograms of food grain under the Annapurna Yojana which she was told provided for old people who had no one to care for them. Mura had written that she needed this quantity to live and that she was all alone. Amlashole and Kankrajore in West Midnapore saw at least 23 people die of starvation and malnutrition, most of these were children between the age of one and four. An investigative team visiting Amlashole had found then that the area under three decades of Communist rule still did not have the six basic requirements of life, ‘food, drinking water, light, roads, a school and a medical centre.’ The comrades conveniently choose to forget the hunger-suicides that their system facilitated and tolerated. Recall the pathetic case of the 16 years old Rumpa Sharma of Jalangi, Murshidabad, who committed suicide because she was unable to bear hunger. Her father had received ‘nine-and-a-half kilos of rice after a rare day’s labour under the food-for- work programme’ but was denied another half a kilo and two rupees due to him and could not meet the food requirement of the entire family. The senior comrades of the state simply replied that in any case there was plenty of food available, ‘wild oats, ant’s eggs, snails, roots’ etc. and the question of starving did not arise. (Shaswati Chakravorty, The Hunger Game, The Telegraph, April 26, 2005) The Communist concern for the downtrodden are at best meant for display at Jantar Mantar or within the precincts of Parliament. The reality in their own backyard on the other hand has always been a rather sordid tale of apathy, neglect, denial and suppression.
The present condition of governance and the present situation in West Bengal is merely a reflection of the past Communist record, to expect an immediate sea-change is to ask for the impossible.
While referring to these my only submission is that, friends beware of the comrades; don’t rejoice just because the mercurial Mamata Banerjee appears to be fumbling in West Bengal. Hold back and reflect on the record of the nearly three and a half decade old Communist empire in West Bengal and you’ll realise what a sordid, derelict and degenerative saga of party rule initially and crony and contractor raj finally it really was. The system in West Bengal has been so badly subverted that a mere nine months of change or a single lady surrounded by a motley crowd of followers can do no wonder. Can comrades effectively answer, as to why they allowed the system of governance to gradually fall apart brick by brick? Can, all that has been allowed to degenerate over the past three odd decades be set right in half a year? Who or what allowed the habit of non-accountability and subversion of the state apparatus’ to grow in those who were expected to work for their efficacious functioning? Can comrades give an effective reply to these fundamental questions that face the people of West Bengal! The woe of litany is, as I have always said, rather long. Simply by a diversionary chest thumping and calling for accountability, or seeing spectres of right-wing ‘saffron terror’ where non-exists the comrades cannot escape responsibility or divert attention from what has been their role in one of the longest and most excruciating process of the subversion of democracy in post-independent India.
It would do the comrades a world of good if instead of farcically remembering ‘10 Years of Gujarat 2002 – Bol Ke Sach Zinda Hai Ab Tak’ in the manicured lawns of the elite Constitution Club at the national capital they started moving around with some humility among the helpless and mute victims of their arrogance and mis-governance and in silent introspection tried atoning for their own political sins. (Concluded)