Comrades’ West Bengal

Many a time I wondered how could West Bengal remain so poor and less developed even after 30 year of stable leftist rule. I did write about my experiences how the leftists spoiled the industries of West Bengal through trade unionism that basically terrorized the management. Any one in managerial staffs had to suffer and lead a life with fear or tow whatever the union representatives wanted. I had to pay for my bold management stands against the wishes of union many a time during HM days.

The whole world and particularly leftist intellectuals have painted the rosiest picture of the changes in rural Bengal. As much as I have noticed and conclude the local people in rural Bengal have started working very hard for getting the maximum of yields from the farming shaking off the older dogma. West Bengal didn’t use the workers from Bihar and other poor state for farming, other northern Indian states such as Haryana and Punjab did.

I don’t know how correct is Mukulika when she claims, ” Only under Left Front rule, the gorib (the sharecroppers and daily wage labourers) have gained a modicum of self-respect, a luxury no one in their families had ever experienced before. It is now possible to ride a bicycle or wear trousers without being ridiculed by members of wealthier castes.” I had friends from the rural areas since my school days and was very much in contact with the large number of local employees in HM with rural background.

Mukulika Banerjee, a reader in social anthropology, University College, London happens to write her experiences in two Muslim villages in Birbhum of West Bengal in Times of India on December 3, 2007.

After the left takeover in West Bengal, the comrades rule the state and all in administration including IPS or IAS officers are to keep the comrades in good humour. Union decides whom to employ, whom to promote, who gets the company quarters, and even who gets some advance payment.

I never knew that the grip is so intense in rural Bengal. Mukulika writes:

A ‘comrade’ controls all life in an average village of West Bengal today. In his sphere of influence, the local comrade reigns, his word is law. Successful comrades are those who are able to ingratiate themselves into every single village matter.

The comrade controls even personal lives of the people. No marriage transaction for a young girl can be made without the comrade’s consent, brothers cannot settle inheritance issues without the comrade’s support and no one can even dream of starting a new business without the comrade and his sons trying it out first.

The comrade’s lust, desire for control and greed rules the lives of the people. Any challenge to this power is met with disproportionate punishment. Access to the village lane can be cut off to the offending member’s household, a mysterious stampede of cows can ruin a standing harvest, a girl can be raped as she walks home in the dark or a young man is beaten up in front of his prospective in-laws.

Ironically, ministers, senior leaders in Kolkata and district capitals seem unaware of these happenings. They express surprise. Why should they bother if it means easy electoral victory for them election after election?

The reason for these repeated victories is complex calculus of consent among the voters, systematically and painstakingly created by a hard-working party organisation. And why do various section vote for the left?

The gorib vote for it because they genuinely think that their fragile self-respect could be taken away under a Congress regime, returning the village to the horrible old days of their fathers’ humiliation. The middle peasantry and upper castes vote for the LF in the hope that this will restrain the local comrade from raising the minimum wage. Families vote for the LF hoping that the comrade will allow them to resume negotiations for their daughter’s wedding.

For anyone who has lived in a village in West Bengal, an everyday phenomenon is: The roar of motorcycles, the constant violence and threats, the decimation of any nascent opposition party activities, the growing arrogance of party cadres.

And that is the genesis of Nandigram.

Electoral victory has been a remarkable success for the Left Front in West Bengal. But is it a democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people.

I wonder if Bengal and its people can take pride in it. Can other help? Perhaps, the answer is a big ‘NO’. The whole of India can only keep on watching from a distance and making their impressions about the changing Bengal from the high rising buildings and malls in Kolkata, and the announcement of many industrial houses about the setting up of factories.

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