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Swaminomics? No Thanks

Swaminomics is a series i really enjoy reading in the otherwise dull advertisement journal with news (read Times of India). The ideas expressed by economist Swaminathan Aiyer are a treat to read and learn. Hence, the shocking not so pleasant surprise when he tried to put forth his “analysis” that lack of development is a cause of rising maoist menace in tribal areas.

While Swamy gleefully quoted statistics of Chhattisgarh to support his stand, he left quite a few gaping holes in the arguments he put forward. I wish to reflect a few silent zones in his articles, and am eager to hear opposing ideas from my readers –

1. Swami cites data that tribal infested areas voted en masse for the BJP in the last elections. Despite the so called lack of development. I wonder if Swami has heard of a state called West Bengal. Appalling lack of  development did not stop the Left Front from coming to power for seven successive terms. And with overwhelming votes from the tribal regions, every time. Even, in Vidarbha, Congress has a good presence. Despite the abject misery of the farmers. Muslims in Gujarat vote en masse for Narendra Modi despite the haunting memories of 2002. Can election results be treated as a mandate for governance? I do not think so.

2. Swami next points out at the “folly” of critics who cite lack of economic development as a result of growth of Naxalism. He says

“Economist Shankar Acharya recently showed that Chhattisgarh is India’s no. 2 in agricultural growth. Between 2000-01 and 2008-09, its agricultural growth was a fabulous 9.4% per year, thrice the national average! Besides, fast industrialization has reduced the share of agriculture in state GDP to just 17% in Chhattisgarh (and to just 8.6% in Jharkhand).”

Let me remind Swami of a Maoist hotbed state West Bengal. In terms of GSDP, Bengal is the 6th largest contributing state in India (according to the latest economic survey of the Ministry of Finance), Chhattisgarh is 9th. Industrial growth in Bengal had been more than the national average between 2001-2006 and Bengal is deemed as the 4th most viable destination in India for industry. Do these facts take away the glaring truth that lives of citizens is hardly affected by a few numbers? Had it been the case, there would not have been the most number of farmer suicides in the most industrialised state in India – Maharashtra.

The basic amenities like water, electricity and food are unavailable to the tribals, and more often than not, they are evicted from their soil for big ticket industrialisation. Do tribals get the fruits of Industrialisation? Does Rural India get the benefits of economic growth? If they did, two India’s would not be in existence sir.

The third argument put forward by Swami was the most laughable one. He quoted that

“Literacy in Chhattisgarh is 71%, not far below the national average (74%) and well above that of Andhra Pradesh (66.8%).”

Since when did literacy rate become a signpost for progress? Knowing the alphabets and being able to write your name, makes one educated? Literacy rate in Bengal is 78% well above the national average. Does Mr Swami have any idea how many schools are there in the tribal regions? What is the teacher-student ratio? Has he any idea on the drop-out rates?

The true reason of rise of anti-state forces in Chhattisgarh or any other part of the country is the sheer indifference shown by the corridors of power and the rampant corruption in the system. Development has failed to reach the people, struggle for existence forces citizens to turn against their own government. However, as long as the battle is fought democratically, it is welcome. The recent assembly polls in West Bengal has shown, the clamour for development is growing strong. And people are willing to trust the government. Those in power should reciprocate or else face the music.

Armed struggle is no solution to the already existing mess in this great nation. Anyone waging war on the nation should be brought to book, but also, be made to taste the fruits of development and become a part of the mainstream. The initiative of the West Bengal government is a welcome gesture to this effect. Now it is for the Maoists to return the favour. Tribals are tired of violence – both by maoists and security forces – let us give peace a chance.

Realities vis a vis Biases

It is known to my readers that i had decided to quit the pen (much to the chagrin of Sukhi) because i was of the opinion my purpose of writing was dead. Fate, if it exists, had other plans for me. As is known to many, i am a politically outspoken person and keep tweeting about political developments in my home state of West Bengal. And by virtue of being connected, they get posted to Facebook too. As a comment to one of my posts on Facebook a friend of mine  commented about Jyoti Basu, which led to a series of comments and counter comments. AT this point it would be opportune to declare that this friend of mine is anti Mamata Bannerjee for personal biases of which only she has knowledge of. So much so she seems to have lost her rationale thoughts.

Being politically ignorant is no crime. I do not claim to be aware of all happenings in this country either. But i do try to read up and support my ideas with facts. What outraged me was Rituparna’s claim that the “Education system” and “administration” under Left rule was worth appreciating and “Railways was under 2000 crore debt to government”. God bless her. I seriously wish to know where she got her facts from.

All i would like to state in this post are some facts i read up o the internet after reading her hilariously pathetic comment.

1. The Indian Railways as on July 2010 had a turnover of 2.13 trillion USD and made a profit of 1328 crore in fiscal year 2009-2010. Not only is the Railways on the positive side of the spectrum, it has already planned to convene a meeting to discuss strategies to increase revenue to keep pace with rising inflation without hiking passenger fares. Development with a human face i would term that. Most recent news says that BHEL and SAIL have signed MoU with the Railways.

2. The goodwill of the administration of West Bengal is for the people to decide in 2011 assembly polls. The Netai carnage is just a tip of the iceberg on the incompetence of the administration. The butchering of villagers started at 9.20am in the morning while the police (P.S. located 3km away) took more than 12 hours to “walk” to the village. In their affidavit to the Court, the SP said they were convinced (without showing what drove them to the conclusion) calls from villagers were actually hoax calls from Maoists. A joint military offensive is in place in the state, but still the CPI-M has to maintain armed cadre camps (accepted by various leaders of the Communist Alliance). Says a lot about the competence of state administration. Why, have we forgotten Rizwanur incident when even the Commissioner of Police, Kolkata was “bought” by a rich businessman.

Is this the fate of all those who oppose CPI-M?

3. Mamata Bannerjee has always been touted anti industrialisation. I hope Rituparna has heard of Haldia Petrochemicals. It was brandished as “CPM’s showpiece industry”. The much celebrated Haldi Petrochemicals is in tatters now. So is Bakreswar Thermal Power Project. More than 66000 industries (as on the 25th year of Left Front in power) are locked out in Bengal thanks to the militant trade union wing CITU. Mamata simply demanded fair rehabilitation for land losers in Singur. With almost identical land lying (except that it was unfertile) on the other side of the Durgapur expressway it is a mystery why Tatas were adamant on taking the fertile land, and why the WB Land Reforms Dept had to make FALSE documents to show the land was actually unfertile. Why not mention Teat industry? What about tourism? Despite being blessed with such a great biodiversity the tourism industry has suffered in the state. Most tea estates in north Bengal locked out and sold to realtors for big budget housing projects (Chandmari for example. really CPI-M is “peoples government”).

3. Let us not even talk about the economy of Bengal. The Finance Minister of West Bengal recently borrowed 5000 crore from the market, although signals are rare that the debt can be cleared off. Populism in their initial years and nepotism thereafter harmed the state economy so much so that the official debt of West bengal is now about Rs 192000 crores. Central funds (most recently the NREGA) had to be returned because of non utilisation. The “government of the people” had to burden the people with a 1% hike in VAT to meet the debt. West Bengal is on the verge of bankruptcy.

4. Education. The less said the better. Having studied in a government college, the sorry state of education in this province lay bare in front of our eyes for three years. Most recently, district head of CPI-M in Jalpaiguri had been indicted for “recommending” “known” people for posts of primary teachers. This is rampant all over. Posts in most government institutions are filled with members of the “Coordination Committee”.

5. Health – Need i say anything? Would Rituparna go to SSKM hospital if she fell ill? Leave aside personal comments. When my grandmother met with a fatal accident in June 2010, the ward boy at a local hospital near Digha demanded Rs 100 or else he would not even touch the stretcher. This is nothing new. Such stories are heard everyday in almost every govt. hospital in West Bengal.

this is the place for patients

6. Employment – West Bengal is officially the most debt ridden state in India with the number of registered unemployed youths in this state amounting to 4.14 crore in 2004-2005 (the figure sadly hasn’t had a downward slope). With elections looming in the horizon, the West Bengal govt decided to put 66000 teachers position up for grabs. After more than a decade. What stopped them from doing the same before? And with the state of economy, may i ask how the government plans to pay the teachers?

Usual scene at a government office/university: No Work

7. Rituparna also accused that since i enjoyed the luxuries of a city life i would not understand the trials of a small town life, of how people there suffered because of “Mamata”. I wonder if she forgot that i was born and brought up in a small town called Jalpaiguri. And let me also remind her that the Indian National Congress is in power in my town for the third consecutive term and with every passing year the civic amenities are getting better. TMC is their ally in the municipality. And what “sufferings” is she referring to? Does she not have a TV to scream news of CITU or CPM’s choking traffic almost everyday under some pretext (despite being in power in the state).

Has she forgotten in the last two years NOT a SINGLE BANDH was called by TMC. Instead the CPM, BJP and INC had troubled people of Bengal with strikes at the slightest of reasons. Right from Marichjhapi in 1979 to Keshpur in 2000, Dalgaon in 2003, Nandigram in 2007, it is the Marxist party which has violated human rights and killed people. Any such incident about TMC? I am all ears!

8. The present unrest in North Bengal was created by none other than the Left. Subhash Ghishing and GNLF are their products. DGHC which introduced corruption in the hills was just a barter by the ruling govt back in 1987 to keep control on the hills and the votebank. Now that a rival faction GJM has assumed reigns, they put up a communal organisation “Bangla Bhasha Bachao Committee” which is no less violent than GJM to put whole of North Bengal into brink of civil war.

Same with naxalism. Born in 1970’s against the anti populist policies of then United Front govt, Maoists recieved patronage from CPI-M. (Remember Buddhadeb banned maoists in Bengal as late as 2009).

8. Let us come to the last point. About Jyoti Basu. Yes i have no qualms in saying that Jyoti Basu was the architect of the fall of Bengal. There can never be doubts about that. His policies since mid 1990’s (only to be aggravated by the arrogance of his successor) has brought Bengal to the brink of bankruptcy. The ban on English, computers left a full generation uneducated while bright minds left the state for “greener” pastures. The present CM of Bengal had himself quit Basu’s cabinet saying it was “chor cabinet” (only to rejoin as the prospect of becoming CM loomed large). The same Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharya were indicted by Supreme court of India for irregularities in allotment of land in Salt Lake. Death can not rid him of the charges. History will question his leadership.

We all agree TMC is not the perfect alternative to CPI-M. It is not an alternative at all. But when history has given us the opportunity to rid ourselves of a government which has pushed a state to extinction for 34 years, we should use it fully.  Things cannot get any worse. We are at the bottom of an abysmal pit. And if TMC cannot live upto expectations we can throw them out of power 5 years hence. But if Left Front is allowed to come to power for 8th time, we shall never be take up the resolve to stand up against their (mis)rule. So let us give Mamata Bannerjee a chance. She is a woman with a lot of promise. A street fighter that she is, she is much closer to people than the leaders in Alimuddin. Their incompetence cannot be hidden in their mask of culture.

Its time we rose above personal biases and accepted the realities.

All figures stated in the blog post can be googled and obtained from websites of Central Government of India as well as State Government of West Bengal. They are also quoted from blogs and articles in the websites of various newspapers like The Hindu, Indian Express, Anandabazar Patrika, and Business Standard. This post has nothing to do with favouritism and is purely based on facts and observations. If people still choose to side with Communist Party of India (Marxist) i would term it as unfortunate for Bengal.


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