The Trinamool Congress-led government in West Bengal appears to have set in motion an “agrarian counter-reform,” N. Ram, former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, said here on Wednesday pointing out that there have already been attempts to undo the achievements of the Left Front.
Speaking at a seminar to commemorate the 35th Anniversary of the setting up of the first Left Front government in the State, Mr. Ram said that before the Left Front came to power, “West Bengal presented the picture of a State in prolonged decline.” He said that in the early days of the Trinamool Congress-led government there have been reports of 61 farmer suicides — “a symptom of the agrarian counter-attack.” He pointed out that since its arrival in 1977, the Left Front government had managed a turnaround in the prevailing situation of a long period of great distress.“An example of what agrarian counter-reforms mean for the people of this State is that much of the development of the State can be compromised,” he said.
Loss of lives
Speaking on a range of issues including attacks on the freedom of expression, efforts by anti-Left forces “to tap into Communalism” in recent years and attempts to “bureaucratise the panchayats,” Mr. Ram also drew attention to the large number of people who were killed or wounded in attacks. “We are concerned about the loss of lives. We want political parties to function freely; the way they functioned earlier — the way Mamata Banerjee was allowed to function in the State, campaign militantly — we want the same rights to be enjoyed by all political parties in the State,” he said.
Mr. Ram also cautioned that there have been “early signals of intolerance towards those who are critical of the government and the Chief Minister in the State” — a dangerous trend that must be “arrested at the start.”
The seminar was also addressed by eminent economist C. P. Chandrasekhar and the State’s former Finance Minister, Ashok Mitra, who was among the five Ministers who took the oath of office on June 21, 1977 when the first Left Front government was formed in the State. The session was moderated by Marxist scholar Shovanlal Duttagupta.
“The fact that there was a fundamental transformation in the nature of India’s political economy with the coming of the Left Front in 1977 cannot be denied. It placed on the agenda — the last three years notwithstanding — an alternative way to take this country forward in the direction where we will finally be able to mobilise the support for its structural transformation,” Mr. Chandrasekhar said.