People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 09, 2007
Disingenuous Campaign On Nuke Deal
IF ever a reconfirmation were necessary that our detractors refuse to meet our critique of the Indo-US nuclear deal and the larger context in which it is placed, i.e., growing strategic relationship with US imperialism at this juncture of world politics, on the strength of our reasoning, such a reconfirmation has come once again. We had both the pleasure and the privilege to debunk in these columns last week the motivated canards describing our opposition as being undertaken at China’s behest. Also debunked was the claim to justify this deal as being both imperative and cost effective for India’s much required energy augmentation.
Now, a more disingenuous campaign is sought to be mounted. We are being told that as communists, our concerns need to concentrate on the uplift of the poor and the marginalised in the country and, hence, our energy should not be wasted on such opposition to US imperialism (Hindustan Times, September 3, 2007).
Such unsolicited advice to be “good communists” comes literally from the devil’s advocates who willingly would place India’s sovereignty under greater vulnerability to US imperialism’s strategic global interests. In the process, they hurl wild charges against the 30-year Left Front rule in West Bengal and the conditions of the people there. The CPI(M) has been and remains the first to admit its limitations and demonstrates continuously its willingness to correct its weaknesses in providing better living conditions to the people in West Bengal. It is precisely due to this that the Left Front has won seven consecutive elections in the state.
However, this does not mean that the charges levelled against us are sustainable. Let the facts of the economic development in West Bengal speak for themselves. In the post-reform decade between 1993 and 2003 the average growth of net state domestic product was 7.10 percent --- the highest among the 16 big states in India. This is well ahead of the media favourities like Maharashtra (4.74 percent), Gujarat (5.87 percent), Karnataka (6.27 percent), Andhra Pradesh (5.27 percent) and Tamilnadu (5.24 percent). This is from a study done by the Centre for Policy Alternatives quoting statistics from the Central Statistical Organisation, the Economic Survey and RBI bulletins. Studies by the World Bank (2000) and Montek Singh Ahluwalia (2000) corroborate such findings. In terms of per capita income, West Bengal has registered an average growth of 5.51 percent as opposed to the national average of 4.01 percent. This has happened despite the fact that the annual population growth was 1.64 percent, much higher than the high flying states like Tamilnadu (1.06 percent). The study notes “without doubt, the seemingly uncontrollable and unabated migration, particularly from Bangladesh but also from Nepal and neighbouring states like Bihar and Orissa, has contributed to this relatively high growth of population. Whatever are the reasons for this we can only surmise that the rise in per capita income could have been higher if there had been no population influx into Bengal.”
The more significant aspect of West Bengal’s performance is the fact that this is a growth led by agriculture in complete contrast to the national experience. Land reforms are often seen purely from the humanitarian aspect of providing a source of livelihood for those who otherwise have none. This is definitely an important aspect. But a proper and rational land distribution also contributes to a growth in productivity (both land and labour) and enhances the purchasing power in the hands of a vast majority of the people who are otherwise excluded from the market. All these three aspects are visible in Bengal today. Nearly 13 lakh acres of agricultural land were acquired by the Left Front government and distributed among the landless poor. Nearly 25 lakhs of people have benefited as a result. Even if one were to assume the value of one acre of land to be a conservative Rs 10 lakh, then this land distribution amounts to a resource transfer worth Rs 1 lakh 30 thousand crore worth of from the rich to the poor. Such a massive redistribution of wealth has contributed to making West Bengal the fastest growing rural economy today. In addition, nearly 20 lakh share croppers have been recorded, meaning that the landlord cannot now evict them. They have also been conferred hereditary rights to cultivation. Combined, these two measures have radically transformed the lives of nearly 50 lakh individuals or nearly two and a half crores of people if we include their families.
West Bengal is the third most intensely agricultural state in India with 76.61 percent of its land under cultivation. However, only 28.1 percent of this is irrigated, unlike say Punjab which has 89.72 percent. Despite this, Bengal today has the third highest average yield in India and its volume of foodgrains production is also third after Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. Today it is the country’s largest producer of rice. In the early eighties the per capita net agricultural product in West Bengal was 18 percent lower than the national average. Today it stands over 10 percent higher than the national average.
These being the facts, the hollowness of the reasoning of our detractors is there for all to see. However, they simply do not seem to give up. Editorials in national dailies and commentaries continue to parrot the 1942, 1962, 2007 syndrome. The allusion here is a fabrication that on all these occasions, we have acted not in India’s interests, but at the behest of some imaginary extra territorial forces.
Take for instance, the refrain of 1942. As regards the `role’ of the communists in the Quit India movement, it should suffice to note that when the country was celebrating its 50th anniversary on August 9, 1992, the then president of India, Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, addressing the midnight session of Indian parliament, said: “After large-scale strikes in mills in Kanpur, Jamshedpur and Ahmedabad, a despatch from Delhi dated September 5, 1942, to the secretary of state in London, reported about the Communist Party of India: The behaviour of many of its members proves what has always been clear, namely, that it is composed of anti-British revolutionaries.”
Need anything else be said? An elected president of independent India, speaking at an official celebration in Indian parliament, himself sets the record straight by establishing that communists were always “anti-British revolutionaries.”
As regards the border dispute with China, the CPI(M) had always maintained that it cannot be resolved through an armed conflict but only through talks and negotiations. It was precisely on the basis of such thinking that the government of India under Shri Rajiv Gandhi took in the 1980s an important initiative, leading to a thaw in the Sino-Indian standoff, and it is with precisely such an approach that both India and China are continuing such a dialogue. The current UPA government is not only committed to but is carrying on the efforts to further improve the relations. Thus, the charges against us can be sustained only by the fertile minds of motivated prejudices and not on the basis of facts.
May we once again suggest to our detractors to meet our arguments on their merit and not resort to such slander! Please tell us and the country: Does this nuclear does not come in the larger context of a strategic partnership with the USA that pressurises India to shift from its independent foreign policy positions, that seeks to draw India into strategic and military relationships like the current joint naval exercises being conducted alongwith USA, Australia, Japan and Singapore in the Bay of Bengal? But if joint military exercises are conducted by countries who perceive a common enemy, pray tell us who the common enemy of India and these countries is. If none, then why is India being drawn into a regional grouping when our declared objective is to seek friendly relations with all countries in our neighbourhood and indeed in the world? Why does the nuclear deal not fulfil the prime minister’s assurances to the Indian parliament on several counts? These and many other questions raised in these columns earlier need to be dispassionately evaluated for the sake of protecting and strengthening India’s sovereignty and Indian people’s welfare. If you cannot meet our critique on the strength of reasoning, then all we can say is to join us in the struggle to defend India’s sovereignty.