Kabir Suman speaks to Dr Sthabir Dasgupta, his long time friend
SDG: Can you tell me in just one sentence, what is the main issue in this parliamentary Election in West Bengal?
KS: Remove the CPI-M.
SDG. But why? Is it because this party has destroyed the concept of Democracy for their sectarian outlook or partisanism, so to say?
KS: No, No; it is not partisanism. The word partisan carries a separate political definition.
SDG: But political parties are partisan to a varied extent, and particularly a party like the CPIM. This is a sectarian party also, and as such it has no respect even to a semblance of democracy. Do you want to remove this party from power that it enjoys, due to this reason?
KS: Now it’s no longer possible to give an answer in one sentence!
SDG: Well, please elaborate.
KS: Well, the first and foremost question that may be raised is that in a parliamentary election the issues must be related to the Central Governance. In West Bengal however, the ground reality at the present moment dictates that all the citizens from all walks of life must exert their power in order to achieve a single goal: To oust the CPIM.
SDG: But what about an individual who happens to be an admirer of the CPIM? How would you tell him that he should not admire this party any more?
KS: Think about the last 32 years: What have they done? First, they had come to the power by proclaiming that they were pro-peasants and pro-workers. Tarai naki janaganer prakrito bandhu chhilo! The word CPIM was claimed to be synonymous to pro-people. History has now proved that they are not. 56000 factories have been closed. Many factories were built up in West Bengal since the British period, as a result of which millions of people were employed. In your regime all these entrepreneurs have been forced to either leave this state or to remain idle. Millions of workers have lost their jobs. It was because of your policy as well as your shabby treatment that all these have taken place.
Let me show the instances in my own constituency, Jadavpur. First, the Usha factory on Anwar Shah Road. Although it does not fall in my constituency I must give this example for this has hurt the sentiment of the local people so much. Usha factory has been closed down. So much so that the Usha Bus stoppage has been renamed after some shopping mall, whatever you call it. Ki jeno ekta naam oi shopping malltar! Bengal Lamp is closed, Krishna Glass is closed, Annapurna has been replaced by some hi-fi residential estate. Factories have been replaced by real estate business, in short. Go further down and you will come to see that Noakhali Machine Tools, Precision Tools and so many other factories where life used to throb just decades ago are all closed now. Silence prevails there. Dabur now maintains its skeleton only with no sign of activities whatsoever. The number of enlisted unemployed people is now 78000, what to talk about the unlisted ones! If you add the enlisted number with the unlisted one it must be not less than a several lakhs. How could this happen in your regime? It is a glaring truth and it simply signifies that you are not pro-worker. Still, you feign to be so. In the last election here in this region, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and Sujan Chakrabarty had promised that they would reopen the Annapurna Glass and Tiles factory. They had reopened it indeed, only to shut it down again after a shortwhile, in exactly a few months. Add to this scenario the issue of retrenchment. Therefore, people remain ever unemployed.
Now, let us come to the positive aspects for we should not deal with the negative scenario only. Positive jaygata to bala darker. Ekhane ki ki hote parto!
First, take for instance, Baruipur. It happens to be rich in fruits. Lichu, koromcha, aam, peyera especially. Although the mangoes are not of Malda quality, but they are good enough. Miles of fruit gardens are there. You could have built up a Food Precessing Zone here. You did not do it. The Government of India distributes krishi rin as a major incentive. You could not even think of that. You don’t have to import machinery for Food processing Zones. Those machineries are available in our own country. If we could consume Druk, we can as well consume jam, jelly and achar, – made in Baruipur. We can export them also. Where was the problem? None, whatsoever.
Second, as you know Sthabir, the whole world have opened up to a very interesting thing in medicine. Herbal. Bangladesh is also doing that. You know about Ginseng, a herbal product meant for maintaing vitality.
SDG: Ginseng is not a new product. It is at least 20-25 years old, previously marketed by China.
KS: Yes, but now it is being made in Bangladesh also and this Bangladeshi product is very popular. This is an example only. If we could think about that we could have built not only one but three Daburs in a row. Some good research work is going on in Narendropur Ramkrishno Mission Ayurvedic Medicine. And they are only too willing to part with the know-how. We can build up factories for Ayurvedic medicine which is in popular demand. And what is interesting is that the machineries that would be required for this would not involve a major finance at all. The products are less expensive also. It is highly sustainable too. I think one can do it by two to three years time. One could generate employment and capital in this way. Profits also would be generated. You see, this is an entire reservoir that has been kept untouched.
Now let us come to another point. Prithibi Bharotke chene kon kon bhabe? Poverty, Gandhi, and mind you, not by Robindranath or Bibekanando, but by Rovishankar and Satyajit Roy – Pather pNachali. We have Boral here, the place where Satyajit Ray had shot for his Pather Panchali. Remember? Could we not build up a tourist spot there? We could use technologies like sun illuminating in order to make it interesting one. It is not at all difficult. Hordes of visitors could be attracted here only for its historical importance. The cruel fact is that you have never thought of it. There was a bust of Satyajit Ray once upon a time; that has been destroyed. This is the state of affairs. We can re-cultivate the propositions; can’t we?
There are many other things that can be or must be explored; but one has to have a vision first. The river Gangur used to flow over here only. Amader CNad Sadagar and entire Mongol kavyota ei jaygatake kendro kore. We could re-cultivate it once again in order to make an interesting tourist spot, with the help of the historians and anthropologists. We could make interesting shows for the visitors. It would have had cultural value as well as business value.
Apart from all these there are poshu hut in this region, the animal market. They are enormous in size and quantity. That only means that there is a tremendous requirement of animal food as well. However, there is none. Poultry business was rampant in Tollygunje area once upon a time. It is no more now. All these can surely be cultivated. It would be a sheer stupidity if you say that these industries are obsolete now.
One only needs the political will. Khub important jayga egulo. With political will you can do this. You can develop indigenous market in this way. The produce can be exported or it can be sent to the other parts of India.
SDG: Tumi je kathagulo bolle…
KS: Ami ekdom positive jaygagulo bollam. Jegulo CPIM koreni.
SDG: Yes, these are extremely important. We always talk about the development of indigenous capital, indigenous industry and indigenous work force … the human resource development, in short…
KS: In different forms…
SDG: In million forms, so to say. And that would be the ideal development. In this perspective, I want to ask you the second question. Do you concur with the basic political and economic policy of the UPA Government that has ruled during the last 5 yrs?
SDG: Well. Now tell me, why don’t you stand by its policies?
KS: I don’t concur with its policies, because the direction in which the shift has occurred … You see, in Nehru Parliament, many things might not have been very right, but the roles of the capitalists were pretty insignificant. From the regime of Indira Gandhi, the role of the private capitalists became rather prominent. At the present time, in the name of Globalization, the Indian Government has become defunct, so to say, even though, there isn’t much reason to be so. Due to lack of farsightedness in planning, they have become totally defocused. They are unable to provide Water, Electricity and Roads to all (bidyut, rashta, jal… bijli, saRak, pani). Kono karon nei dite na parar. Huge capital is being generated, but where does it go?
One important thing in here is Defence. Defence eats into the major share of capital, so much so that you have very little left to look after the other compulsions. The problem is that the so-called Lefts who were the part of this government did not raise their voice of dissent. Why must we spend so much in Defence, what is that political compulsion, and why? They had never stood up to say that they were not in support of such kind of governance. They say that they are against capital. Then why didn’t they oppose the policies of modernization of the airports? It is capital only that has entered in these zones.
SDG: In which other internal policies they have protested at all?
KS: Of course they have protested in the Insurance sector, although in a very meek voice; but it was insignificant, for we know that the big Insurance Companies have already entered into our markets.
Another thing of the UPA is a lack of vision, or in other words, a convoluted vision. Look at the share market… the Blue Chip Companies…Quick buck… They have taken away the interests… The planners of India failed to realize that. Look at China. The Balance of Trade is much more steady there which allows her to offer a higher rate of interest. This is a question of simple arithmetic. India, say for a year or a year and a half, generated interest following the deposit of a huge amount of US dollar, yen or whatever. The Government failed to realize that soon China would be a better destination for capital. This, the Indian Economists should have foreseen but they did n’t. Hence the result, – a collapse of the share market. Suddenly there was no money at all. But then, because of the fact that Indian economy is more resilient because of its agricultural base, a devastating crisis did not occur… I mean, that is as compared to Singapore, for instance… and Malaysia… no, not so much in Malaysia, but definitely in Singapore. So, the UPA government has failed to realize all these only due to lack of vision. They have chalked out the policies that are simply anti-people.
However, they had certain proposals. Although to my mind they are insulting… still then, for example, the proposals for the people Below Poverty Line… BPL… 100 days of work if not more, for at least one per family. Noyto bekar bhata pabe. It has worked well in other parts of the country but failed miserably in West Bengal because here the CPI-M was there to decide, who should belong to the BPL category and who should n’t. This was a very good way of alleviation, of course this is no alleviation, just a method of sustenance, but then, a sort of alleviation if one could understand this metaphor, a way of sustenance. But it failed due to the existence of corrupt CPIM. Even the mid-day meal project has failed in West Bengal . Most of the rice meant for this mid-day meal was sold in the open market by all sorts of strange people who belong to the CPI-M.
I was working on a Study material for a university in Ireland with a friend of mine. There is a place called Mohammad bajar in Birbhum district. Oi jaygatake dhore we are trying to see and study the effects of our socioeconomic measures that fall upon the children of the Dalits, the Christians, the Muslims and the Santhals. Or, you can say all those marginalized strata were the subjects of our study. I have seen abject poverty among the Adivasis and the Muslims. The Dalits are somewhat better off. The Christians, are even better through the help of some church. At least they are introduced to the concept of Love which is unknown to an Adivasi or a Muslim or even a Dalit child. They don’t know what love is. A Father or a Nun has at least held the hand of a Christian child. And they give money also. The Christian children wear uniforms… and shoes. But their parents do not wear shoes! The Santhal ladies ask, what is this BPL at all? CPN decides that. I asked them about the BDO. They said, ‘BDO abar ke? Ora to CPN.’ Note that they say CPN instead of CPM! You just walk 10 km from this city, into the villages…. Sabai CPN bole, CPM na…. Ta ei ‘CPN’ namok shoytan, ba udvat utpat… they have successfully diluted the somewhat positive measures taken by the UPA Government.
Hence, this UPA Government, in spite of its very reactionary role, anti-people role, all the projects that they had in their agenda were all radically misused and abused by the CPIM.