Can Communists Run The Country?

With my experience of working in the largest industrial unit of its time in West Bengal since 1961, and a longer association because of my education in Presidency College and IIT, Kharagpur, I feel pained with both the political and economic conditions of the state. Nandigram episode was almost the climax of the system. I was very happy when during my February 2006 stay in Bidhannagar, I heard communists addressing the issue of acquisitions of agriculture land for industries at various rallies and public meetings to create an acceptable atmosphere through education of the need of the industrial development. It was the right step for implementation. But perhaps, it was not sufficient a preparation or not carried out with the people concerned. I was amazed, when I heard about the protest by the farmers, and the field-labourers against the acquisition of land for the Tata Motors Singur. I got shocked the way police and cadre of CPM attacked Nandigram. That could never be a solution. Many and me too will go by his honest attempts to pull up West Bengal with fast track industrial development, but the means adopted were wrong and unjustified. The CM lost his face. “What happened in Nandigram was unfortunate. We apologise for the incident.”

It is interesting to hear the CM and the minister of industry saying boldly, “Rapid industrialisation was the only option left for the all-round development of the state and tackle the rising problem of unemployment. Agriculture is not a “viable option for growth any more.”

Both the hawks as well as doves in the party at the recent Delhi meet have endorsed the decision. CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose has announced: “The state government would not succumb to any pressure or any misinformation campaign. At least Rs 20,000 crore industrial projects are in pipeline at this juncture.”

All news pertaining to West Bengal in the business newspapers are positive with increasingly high confidence. But my question is related to the outcome of 30 years and more of the rule in West Bengal by CPM led- United Front. Perhaps no other state of the country, not even Kearat (that is the point of difference) is lucky enough to have so long of political stability (rule of a single party and one chief minister). Why couldn’t it produce the expected results both on human development index and social equity?

Education for which West Bengal was almost at the top in India seems to be miserably neglected by the government. According too a former vice-chancellor, Calcutta University, “Most school teachers belong to the CPI(M)-affiliated unions and don’t feel the need to deliver. Teachers are highly paid and highly pampered. Thus, absenteeism is rife and when teachers take classes, they don’t teach properly.” A 2002 survey by the state government itself found that most of the primary and upper primary schools lacked infrastructure and they faced consistently low teacher attendance. What can be the government’s answer for this?

The Pratichi Trust, founded by Amartya Sen, carried out a survey in Purulia, Birbhum and West Midnapore districts in 2001 and reported: “We realised that 30 per cent of the students didn’t attend classes. Only 7 per cent of those who didn’t take private tuitions (since they couldn’t afford to) could write their names. So, the poor continued to be excluded from education.”

It is surprising that even after this long a period of Marxists rule in West Bengal, some other economic indicators are equally poor for the state. The percentage difference of per capita income in rural and urban West Bengal is almost the highest at 171.75%, and only 28.53% pf households have been provided with electricity connections (NCAER data)

According to the latest report of National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), West Bengal tops the hunger list of India, with at least 71.6 lakh suffering from food shortage and over 8.8 lakh of these not getting two square meals a day, all through the year. At least 10.6% of the rural population and 0.7% of the urban population in West Bengal do not get adequate food in some months of the year.

While we all agree that industrialization is the only way, can someone from CPM such as very vocal and media savvy SitaramYachuri and Karats explain why did it take 30 years and more to realize that? Are they not misleading the simple countrymen, the ‘aam aadmi’ about the advantages of the communist’ model of governance?
Kolkata has more jobs than Delhi, Chennai

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