Jyoti Basu criticises Sonia Gandhi!
Will Prakash Karat lad behind?
He takes on the Maoist rebels for the woes of West Bengal!
Do these persons understand rural India? Rural realities?
Zilla Parishads are a must to end the British days-type exploitation
and oppression of the people by the government machinery.
Change the names of the Collectors and tahsildars!
Abolish the tahsildar offices!
Peoples must be delivered services at their doorsteps!
We have to recognise the need for more number of institutional safeguards for enlarging the autonomy and freedoms of the people at the grass roots.
We have just to see how much people still suffer whenever they go to a local hospital or a local revenue office. Not to speak of the number of institutions that operates at the district and talk levels.
There are first the old British day legacies, the district collector and his subordinates, the district revenue officer(DRO),the revenue divisional officer(RDO, the tahsildars and the village-level revenue collecting humble but still very powerful fellows.
The life for the villagers is still very cumbersome, they have to contend everyday with the local government officials.
Add to the old British legacy officialdom, the newly created panchayat raj institutions, the 33 per cent reservation to women and the quota of seats for the SC/ST candidates in the panchayat.
Speaking from our local direct knowledge and experience from Tamil Nadu, supposed to be an advanced state in terms of education, health and even the level of socio-economic advances, we see still today some of the worst types of British days’ exploitation of the common man.
Even if we take the local taluk office, we see the worst type of exploitation. There is always a crowd of people waiting for sundry jobs, from the very poor and the weak to the supposed very powerful and influential local party heavyweights.
he DMK took power, the situation was the worst. The tahsildar considered he the very source of all power.
After some 40 years of the DMK/ADMK rule, what is the situation?
Yes, there has been progress in many areas. Yet, as per our latest experiences and encounters, we see there is still a pathetic side to the grass roots democracy. Corruption is the very root of the situation! Nothing moves without bribes and bribes take various forms!
Yes, the tahsildar is the very root of this high degree of arbitrary power. Power to deny justice at the whim of a very low level official who is still holding to his undefined limits to his power.
No registration of land documents can take place without what is locally called “patta book”. This title for the land is denied owing to some very ingenious reasons. Land document registration can’t take place and there is almost a standstill at the local levels. The sight of green towel wearing local farmer’s leaders and activists only adds poignancy to the tragedy.
The village officer’s posts were abolished by the late MGR in a fit of anger one fine day. But then he couldn’t foresee the monster’s true dimensions! Yes, the DMK was also the first to abolish the much-touted Revenue Board! But the regional party is not a great party with any serious ideology. So, its economic and administrative acumen was thin and the result is that the much oppressive colonial day practices the regimes couldn’t reform or recast.
So, there is this continuing oppression.
One sad legacy of the panchayat raj is that except in Karnataka, we see the panchayat raj is again has come to mean, as in West Bengal or Kerala, either the dominance of the local party fellows or as in TN there is still the oppression of the revenue dept on the panchayat raj and the result is that the power is still concentrated at the state-level secretariat. With the result, we see even the minimum powers have to exercise only from the state headquarters.
The block development official also had become a cog in the machine of the district collector who under the current realities is a much harassed official, hard pressed for time, to receive the visiting local ministers and others and hardly has any time to concentrate on the development of the district’s various development targets.
So, it is rightly observed that the panchayat raj institutions are not in perfect health, they are not free or spontaneous to rise to the local challenges, be it the abolition of the untouchability, a thorny issue in TN and where you see the most atrocities are committed in the villages, as in the southern districts, where some of the most curious developments have been noted by visitors. There are village panchayats where the dalit presidents cant sit in the president’s chair, as there are non-dalit, upper caste men, members and therefore how can the dalit panchayat chief can sit in a chair and preside over the panchayat meeting?
There are the two tumbler systems in the village tea stalls and also there are physical barriers, as in a local news report, village socially upper castes had constructed wall barriers to block the sight of the dalits walking in some streets and even sitting at the village bus stop, which is supposed to be a public place the dalits are not allowed by the local social groups.
These instances are not to be taken or talked about in any sense as in a neutral sense only. For there are certain hard socio-economic and superstitious beliefs in the villages and even in Karnataka and nay, Kerala and West Bengal there are such social and cultural barriers to village integrations.
The point is that the so-called public media, the mainstream press in India is also partial to the socio-economic and cultural and caste barriers to the village realities.
Thus, we won’t find that the grass roots realities in the Communist-ruled states like W.Bengal and Kerala are reported in all their prevailing fullness of the realities. The doctrinaire type of reporting hides many of the ground level realities in the Communist-held bastions.
Thus, when we read that Jyoti Basu criticising Sonia Gandhi as she doesn’t know West Bengal realities he is right and also wrong. Does Jyoti Basu know the realities in rural Bengal? There are now Maoists operating in Bengal villages. As per the latest reports, as per Jyoti Basu’s own admission, to quote Mr.Prakash Karat, the CPI(M)boss in New Delhi, the” anti-Marxist forces are getting together at the grass roots levels to thwart the Left front, which will fight back to rip off this mahajot. What is most disturbing is that the self-styled Maoists have started their activities again. CPI(M)cadres in 2008 so far 13 persons were kiled, all CPI(M) cadres. From 2006 to 2007,19 were killed”. Fine. Is this not the rights of every other political leader, leave alone Sonia Gandhi, to point out the state of affairs in rural Bengal?
The Communists justify their failures to provide growth at the grass roots levels. They use all sorts of jargon and theory. But what is their practice? They can agitate, they can take out rallies, in much comfort, through the Delhi roads and the watchful eyes of media and that might give them some satisfaction. This price rise business the CPI(M) makes much of! Poor comrades!
They have nothing in constructive counter poise.
They are the poverty-stricken intellectuals of the lot!
The time has come for the more serious among the Left to think of the Indian poor.
We need to reform local institutions. A series of reforms are overdue.
60 years of freedoms haven’t brought about any dignity to the rural India. In West Bengal, you can travel just outside Calcutta and you can find for yourself the state of the countryside! It would be heart-breaking for a South Indian! Yes, such the is deplorable state of affairs. Jyoti babu must learn to appreciate other points of view.
He must become more silent and calmly take criticism for Bengal’s own good.
Let us all think seriously what needs to be done. As we see it, we need a look at the many panchayat raj reforms we have introduced.
As we see it, we need a decentralisation of the panchayat raj institutions on the Karnataka model. We need district level zilla parishads. Where the district collector would be accountable to the zilla parishads.
This is a minimum reform that would bring in peoples’ reps to represent the people at the district level.
The revenue offices must function like any modern day private office. There must be a telephone booth, a secretary-like telephone assistant to take the calls from the public and answer in a prompt and polite anner. That in it would be a great relief and a revolution in the official ,babu culture!
There must be like the RTI laws certain rules. Any applicant must get his reply within, say two weeks or a penalty for the clerk concerned for the delay.
There has to be Lok Ayuktas, as in Karnataka, to instill confidence in the governance.
There have to be state-level human rights commission, women’s commission and also the state and district level consumers redressal courts and also other latest reforms many states have introduced.
These are reforms that must command attention and also such reforms also can help to win elections more and more in the days to come.
The old caste-dominated vote banks are becoming more blurred with new parties like the BSP coming to other states. New and lower level social and other caste affiliations are targeting more on their self-respect and self identities in terms of castes and also other socio-economic indicators.
But only district level new institutional counter poise, counervailing powers can liberate the people from the clutches of the local officialdom as well as from the local party bosses’ domination of people.
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