By Jyoti Basu
January 29, 2006
THE Republic Day 26 January is replete with historic significance. It marked the adoption of the Constitution of India. The Constitution declared that India would be a democratic republic. The Constitution has been modelled on the Constitutions in force in several countries abroad including Great Britain, USA, and USSR as well as Switzerland. The crux of the Constitution is the set of principles known as the directive principles of state policy.
These principles include: adequate means of livelihood for every citizen and the right to work; an economic system which does not result in the concentration of wealth; right to education and provision for free and compulsory education for children; living wage for workers and equal work for equal pay for men and women.
As our Party Programme points out, none of these principles could be implemented thanks to the class-bias of the bourgeois-landlord system that has prevailed in the country. The gap between the pious intentions and the actuality of practice, stares us in the face, 55 years since the adoption of the Constitution.
The period since independence has been marked by a continuing crisis in the nation’s economy. India is principally an agrarian country with a superstructure of industries. After we gained freedom from British colonial rule, the Indian ruling classes refuse to go in for land reforms. Concentration of land and rural inequalities continue unabated. A central legislation on minimum wages in the rural stretches is yet a far cry.
The policy of liberalisation and the imperialism-driven globalisation have opened up the economy to the marauding forays of multi-national corporations. The bureaucracy, the education system, the media, and the realm of culture are now subject to the penetration of finance capital.
The advent of the BJP government at the centre and in some states, saw the beginning of a new form of anti-people oppression when religious fundamentalism was patronised officially. Already there was a concerted attempt by the bourgeoisie and the landlords to distort secular values as enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
The Congress is not a communal party but it does make compromises with religious fundamentalism. The BJP and its ideological patron the RSS have been engaged in the onerous task of communalising instruments of the state including the administration, the education system and the media.
Communal riots became a frequent feature. While we defend the religious freedom of every religious community, we stand firm against the intrusion of religion into the realms of the economy, education, polity, and administration. Caste oppression, and oppression on the tribal people (the Kalinganagar incident is the most recent example) has been allowed to continue.
The Indian Constitution is a federal instrument. However, right from its inception, the Indian ruling classes have been engaged in ensuring that a unitary structure is allowed to overwhelm the political scenario. This is evident in the realm of centre-state relations in particular. On our India-wide campaign and movement for correct centre-state relations, the H S Sarkaria Commission was set up by Mrs Indira Gandhi. Its recommendations were not fully satisfactory, but even so its views with regard to financial relations have not been implemented.
The Union list is bigger and exudes much more power than the concurrent list and the State list put together. Over the years, the power and the prestige of the states have been allowed to get eroded. Such has been the bias of the succession of union government that the states have suffered grievously because of lack of administrative and financial powers.
In the present capitalist set up, Left Front governance in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, with limited powers, has been travelling along the path of alternative governance. In West Bengal, the Left Front government has been in office for six consecutive times. During this period, the succession of Congress-run and BJP-led union governments have been riding roughshod over the state’s rights, administrative and financial. We had formulated the case for providing more power to the states in the document of the Srinagar conference quite a few years ago.
Discrimination against the Left Front government had been manifest in the freight equalisation policy and the licensing system. Planning also favoured a few states and West Bengal was deliberately ignored, allowing the state to lose its leading position in the sphere of industrial production and expansion.
Under the freight equalisation policy, while the comparative advantage of the location of raw materials like coal and iron-ore in West Bengal was effectively nullified, there was no freight equalisation for the raw materials we needed. Under the licence-permit raj, the Congress governments would tell potential investors that industrial licence would only be issued if they chose to invest in states other than West Bengal.
An example of this frame of mind has been the Haldia Petro Chemical project. We had to wait for 11 years because of lack of cooperation of the union government, although we had repeatedly approached the union government for clearance of the project, clearance which was never forthcoming.
Then when Rajiv Gandhi became prime minister, he hurriedly organised a foundation stone laying ceremony with me for the project, more probably, with an eye to the ensuing elections. He, of course, lost the elections. There are many such examples like this. Only after internal and external pressure, the policy of freight equalisation and of licensing system was ended, which has been of great help both to West Bengal as well as other states.
There was also a sustained campaign against West Bengal that propogated that no work gets to be done here because of ‘labour troubles.’ This myth we had to counter not only here in India but also abroad. In the mid-1980s there was an RBI report wherein it was clearly stated that only 3-4 per cent of factory closures were due to the workers’ actions like strike’ and, in fact, the vast majority of the closures were due to the outlook and policy of the management.
A PRO-PEOPLE GOVERNMENT
In West Bengal under Left Front governance, a pro-people, especially pro-poor outlook, has permeated policies. Democracy has flourished and we have recognised even government employees’ right to strike, although emphasised that strike should be used as the weapon of last resort. We have called upon all workers to take an active interest in production and productivity.
Communal harmony has long been a part of the glorious heritage of this state. The rights of people belonging to the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and the dalits have been well secured.
While a great conundrum of economic progress was chalked up in the country as a whole, we in West Bengal have managed to achieved outstanding figures in agricultural production, social forestry, pisciculture, and horticulture, topping all-India figures.
Fast progress has also been noted in the sphere of industries. Back in 1994 the Left Front government, on the floor of the Assembly enunciated its industrial policy on the demand of the Chambers of Commerce. Industrialisation is being pursued on with especial emphasis on the ‘sunrise industries’ of information technology, food processing, and electronics, generating a high level of employment, especially in downstream units. Attempts are being made to revive sick industries both in the joint sector and in the private sector.
We recall how several years ago, we had approached the then prime minister Mrs Indira Gandhi for investment in electronics in West Bengal. She set up a committee, and for a one full year the committee did nothing. Then she informed me that her officers had told her not to invest in West Bengal since it was a border state, and decided instead to invest in an electronics complex in north India. We told her that the security threat was from Pakistan and not Bangladesh, but she would not listen. We acted on our own and at present there is a flourishing electronics complex at Salt Lake.
To give a few examples of our achievements, the very first Left Front government not only initiated land reforms, but made education free up to the Higher Secondary level. Later 50 engineering colleges were set up from the three existing ones. The sixth Left Front government is determined to achieve a position of primacy in industry nationwide, based on the agricultural advancement already made.
However, we brook no complacency anywhere. We tell the people what we have achieved and what we have not. A great deal of work has been done, but plenty more is left which the seventh Left Front government, we are sure, will tackle as soon as it assumes office.
Politically, we have triumphed in elections at all levels, from the Panchayat and the Municipalities to the assembly and the Lok Sabha in West Bengal. We have no doubt that the people who reside trust in us, will again rally to make the Left Front win the assembly polls later this year, for the seventh time in succession. People create history, and as we always say, they have created history here in West Bengal. We deeply respect the heightened political consciousness of the people.
NEW POLITICAL SITUATION
There is a new political situation prevailing in the country at the present moment. Following the defeat of the anti-people and communal BJP-led forces of right reaction, a Congress-led UPA government took office with outside support from the Left. We chose to lend outside support to the Congress-led government, because we wanted to keep the evil BJP out of office.
However, our support is not unconditional. We are not quite satisfied with all the policies of the Congress-led UPA government and there are some policy matters that we do take exception to. We hope that the two committees the Left and the Congress committees, will sit down and sort matters out for the sake of the nation and the mass of the people. We have reserved the right to organise and build up struggles and movements on important issues in the interest of the people. We call upon the Union government to implement the Common Minimum Programme.
I would like to end this article on a rather personal note. I remember how many decades back, during the pre-independence years, every year there would be a great procession in London to Trafalgar Square and a meeting held there on 26 January, calling for independence. The London Majlis, an association of Indian students, of which I was the general secretary, organised the rally every year. Ignoring the bitter cold of London in January large numbers would congregate and participate in the march and the meeting, such was the enthusiasm.
STRENGTHEN THE PARTY AND THE MASS ORGANISATIONS
Looking back on the decades of independent India, I do believe that much remains to be done especially for the interests of the mass of the people. The strengthening of the Left parties and the mass organisations throughout India is essential for the task of advancing to our goals.
SOURCE: PEOPLES DEMOCRACY, January 29, 2006,
Republic Day Special Number
By Jyoti Basu
Published in People’s Democracy, April 03, 2005
ON the occasion of the 18th Party Congress of the CPI (M), I would like to highlight some of the important activities of the Left Front government in West Bengal.
Let us have a look at the past. The Congress party ruled West Bengal for 27 years. Our Party and some other Left and democratic parties were in opposition. Before 1952, the Communist Party had only two representatives in the West Bengal legislative assembly. Gradually, the strength of our Party grew as the communist movement gained momentum. We stood by the people when they agitated against the government on several issues. The Communist Party championed the rights of peasants, workers, employees of government and non-government sectors, women, students, teachers, refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan, SC, ST and other economically backward people, the poor and the oppressed. The Congress government pursued anti-people policies and resorted to lathicharge and firing to suppress mass movements. The political opponents of the Congress government were subjected to oppression in various ways. Time and again, we suffered imprisonment without trial. The conscious people of West Bengal appreciated the role of the Communist Party in strengthening democratic movements.
After the split of the former party, the CPI (M) addressed itself to the task of intensifying mass movements. In 1967 and 1969, the Congress party was defeated in state assembly elections and two United Front governments with the CPI (M) as the major partner were formed. In those two elections, our Party won the largest number of seats among non-Congress parties, yet we conceded the post of chief minister to the Bangla Congress leader, Ajoy Mukherjee. But those two UF governments could not function for more than 22 months because of internal dissensions and conspiracies hatched against them by some reactionary political forces and vested interests. In the elections to the state assembly in 1971, the CPI (M) became the single largest party. In 1972, the Congress party formed the government in West Bengal through the rigged elections to the state assembly. After the elections, West Bengal passed through a dark phase of its history. Democratic rights of the people were severely curtailed and anarchy prevailed in all vital sectors of activity. Thousands of our comrades and supporters were injured and killed. Many others were put in jail without trial or on concocted charges. Our supporters and workers were evicted from their houses and driven out of their areas. Our offices were ransacked and destroyed. In fact, a one-party semi-fascist regime was forced on the people of West Bengal. In 1975, Indira Gandhi declared a state of Emergency in India. During that period the agony of the people became intense.
The significant change in the political scenario came with the defeat of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha elections in 1977. Subsequently, the elections to the West Bengal assembly were held. The unity among most of the Left parties became a reality. The CPI, however, joined the Left Front later.
In the state assembly elections in 1977, the Left Front won a massive victory and the Congress party was routed. The first Left Front government was formed on June 21, 1977. After taking the oath of office as chief minister, I said that our government would not be run from the Writers’ Buildings alone; it would maintain a close touch with the representative organisations of the people. We laid emphasis on alleviating the hardship of the people by implementing public welfare schemes and programmes. We asserted that better governance and adequate relief would be provided to the people. Our government took prompt steps to ensure democratic rights and civil liberty to all sections of the community.
Since 1977 the Left Front government has been elected for six consecutive terms and has been endeavouring earnestly to accelerate the pace of development in West Bengal. Through the implementation of land reform measures and the introduction of the three-tier Panchayati Raj system the Left Front government has been able to achieve a major breakthrough in agriculture and allied sectors. West Bengal has created a new record in the vesting and distribution of surplus land. So far 15 lakh bargadars (sharecroppers) have been recorded. The rights of agricultural workers have been ensured. The administration has been decentralised down to the village level. Till March, 2004, the production of foodgrains reached 159.54 lakh tonnes from 89.77 lakh tonnes in 1977. The significant rise in the agricultural production and the growing purchasing power of the people living in villages indicate the progress of West Bengal in the rural sector. The requisite social base has been created for the rapid industrialisation of the state.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the state’s industrial sector had been plagued by serious difficulties because of the central government’s licensing policy and the freight equalisation scheme for coal, iron and steel. We strongly protested against those two polices. The government of India ultimately made policy changes on those two issues under both external and internal pressures. In September 1994, the state government issued a statement reiterating its industrial policy. The statement emphasised, “we are all for new technology and investment in selective spheres where they help our economy and which are of mutual interest. The goal of self-reliance, however, is as needed today as earlier. We have the state sector, the private sector and also the joint sector. All these have a role to play”.
After the reiteration, the industrial investment in the state started increasing. Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd. (HPL) was commissioned in April 2000. It may be recalled that the state government had to wait for 11 years to obtain the letter of intent from the government of India. HPL and its downstream industries have been effectively functioning for the last five years. At present, the number of downstream units of Haldia is 684. These units employ about 31,770 persons. Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation PTA Plant at Haldia and other important industrial units have been operating with considerable success. It is worth mentioning that iron and steel, chemicals, leather and cement industries have been growing steadily in West Bengal. The recent spurt of industrial investment has raised new hopes among our people. I am sure that more modern industries will be set up in the state in the near future.
West Bengal has been making steady progress in sectors such as cottage and small-scale industries, fisheries, social forestry, education and culture. The percentage of literacy in the state increased from 57.70 in 1991 to 69.22 in 2001. New schools, colleges and universities have been set up. The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences and the West Bengal University of Technology are recent additions to the field of higher education in the state. The number of engineering colleges in West Bengal has now increased to 52 from 10 in 1997. The state government run hospitals cater to the healthcare needs of more than 70 per cent of patients.
Steps are being taken to develop the infrastructure sector. Power situation in the state is now comfortable with the addition of installed capacity. So far as the rural electrification is concerned, the state government intends to bring all villages under electrification by 2006-2007. A number of bridges and flyovers have been built in the state. Efforts are going on to strengthen and expand the road network. New townships are coming up while facilities in the social sector are being augmented.
The construction of flyovers in Kolkata with Japanese cooperation in some of these projects, and the provision of other amenities has brought about a distinct improvement in the metropolis. Many other urban areas are also being provided with new facilities.
In West Bengal, the percentage of people living below the poverty line has now come down to 26 from 52 in 1978. Unemployment, which is very acute all over the country, is also a matter of major concern for us in West Bengal. For several years the Left Front government, despite its constraints, has been trying to tackle this problem by encouraging self-employment schemes and facilitating activities in the labour intensive medium and small-scale industries.
The sixth Left Front government has been placing emphasis on the rapid growth of information technology. At present, 210 IT units operate and employ about 24,000 IT professionals in the state. Many leading foreign and domestic companies such as IBM, Computer Associates, Wipro, TCS, Cognizant Technology and PWC have set up units in the state. The new town in Kolkata will be next IT hub after Bidhannagar (Salt Lake).
The expansion of the agri-business sector is a significant development. Five Agri Export Zones for five important crops have been set up. New food processing units are being established. Appropriate infrastructure is being developed.
It is a matter of comfort that some misgivings about the state government in certain quarters are being dispelled. So there are distinct possibilities of opening up further avenues of development. The state government is conscious that there is no room for complacence. It is constantly engaged in identifying its weakness and adopting corrective measures.
The people’s verdict went overwhelmingly in favour of the Left Front candidates in the successive elections to the urban local bodies and panchayats in the state. In the Lok Sabha elections, too, the front performed creditably in West Bengal.
West Bengal has been maintaining political stability and peace for the last 27 years. The democratic-minded people of the state with their strong commitment to national integration are determined to preserve communal harmony. I am confident that the Left Front government will continue to act according to its well-defined objectives and priorities.
By Jyoti Basu
Seventh G V Mavalankar Memorial Lecture
May 18, 2002
Following is the full text of the seventh G V Mavalankar Memorial Lecture delivered by Jyoti Basu, former chief minister of West Bengal and Polit Bureau member of CPI(M) on May 18, 2002 at the Constitution Club in New Delhi. The lecture meeting was organised by the Institute of Constitutional and Parliamentary Studies. Former speakers of the Lok Sabha, Rabi Ray and Shivraj Patil, veteran Congress leader Ram Niwas Mirdha, retired judge of Supreme Court, Justice A B Wadhwa - all associated with the Institute- spoke on this occasion. The meeting was attended in large numbers by MPs, leaders of various mass organisations, ministers, intellectuals and others. The speaker of West Bengal assembly Hashim Abdul Halim also attended this lecture.
I FEEL honoured to have been invited to speak on ‘Left experience in Indian democracy’ in a lecture series named after Shri Mavlankar, the first speaker of the Lok Sabha whose pioneering leadership established many healthy conventions that helped India to chart its course towards parliamentary democracy. I gratefully recall today his contribution in shaping our fragile parliamentary democracy in those early days.
I cannot say that I speak for the entire Left because there are differences within the Left partners in regard to the experience of working in parliamentary democracy in India after independence. But my views do represent in a large measure that of the united Communist Party and later the Communist Party of India (Marxist) from 1964 after the split in the party.
Before independence during the Muslim League regime in Bengal, I was elected to the assembly along with two other colleagues of mine. We sat in the opposition and implemented our well known policy of participating in legislatures along with work outside among the people. We are guided by the same outlook and policy even now in legislatures where we are in the opposition. In those days, I gathered a lot of experience which helped me later on. After independence when India adopted the Westminister pattern of parliamentary democracy and capitalist path of development, our party decided to participate in the legislatures along with our extra-legislative activities. In all these years we have had varied experience, both positive and negative in regard to democracy in our country. On the morrow of freedom in 1948 our party was declared illegal in West Bengal and some other parts of India. Many of us, including myself although still a member of the assembly, were detained in free India without trial.
After the adoption of the Constitution our party was legalised under orders of the High Court in Kolkata and many of us were released, although the Constitution permitted legislation to detain people without trial. In independent India I have been a member of the West Bengal assembly since the first general election in 1952, along with my trade union and other political activities. I have been a leader of the opposition for many years as well as deputy chief minister twice in 1967 and 1969-70, and chief minister since 1977 heading a Left Front government for 23-1/2 years. This is a record in parliamentary democracy. For the sixth time continuously the Left Front was voted to power with two-thirds majority, same as last time. Now it is 25 years old. This is no mean achievement in view of the limited powers of states, discriminatory attitude of central governments most of the time and role of some major newspapers denigrating our party and government based on falsehoods or half truths.
Within this entire period since independence, I, along with large number of our party members and supporters, have been imprisoned without trial on several occasions and many were arrested on various charges to stifle movements of the workers, peasants, middle classes, for their legitimate demands and for democratic rights.
I cite a few examples from West Bengal to illustrate the kind of experience we went through in our democratic polity. In 1967, with the formation of a new party under some important leaders of the Congress, that party was defeated in the election and our party along with some other parties formed for the first time the United Front government with a minimum common programme. Considering the interest of the people, our party conceded the chief ministership to ex-Congress leader Shri Ajoy Mukherjee despite the fact that the majority of the MLAs belonged to our party. But in the absence of democratic and pro-people outlook, dissentions among the ex-congressmen wrecked the government within 9 months. The chief minister Shri Ajoy Mukherjee was still for the continuation of the government and he fixed a date for summoning the assembly to test our government's right to continue in office. But contrary to democratic norms, the governor directed us to hold the assembly session on an earlier date which we naturally rejected. Hence he dismissed our government and imposed president's rule. Fortunately the people’s anger and annoyance against the undemocratic act of the governor helped the United Front to sweep the election in 1969. But once again after 13 months in office, we the partners fell out and with the chief minister's resignation the government collapsed and president's rule was imposed after the governor’s efforts to prop up a minority government failed.
In 1971, the next general election was held in the background of the support to the Bangladesh liberation struggle by prime minister Indira Gandhi. Our party was in full support of her on this issue. Our party became the first party but the governor refused to invite me to form the government and test our majority in the House. Discussing with different parties, he decided to call upon the Congress, the second largest party, to form a government which it did but it lasted for only 3 months and president's rule was imposed.
A serious blow to parliamentary democracy was dealt in the 1972 general election when in connivance with the central government, large scale rigging and terror were resorted to, turning the election into a farce. The army was also called out, like in 1971, to patrol the streets. This was a unique experience for the people and our party was reduced to 14 MLAs from 111. I withdrew from the election at about 11 am after I saw the terror that was unleashed right from the morning and people were unable to vote. In numerous constituencies the same methods were resorted to as we had apprehended. The Election Commissioner expressed his inability to help us. Smt Indira Gandhi dismissed our apprehensions when we met her on a deputation earlier before the election.
After 1972, the subversion of democratic processes was such that thousands of our supporters and members were arrested and 1100 of our members and supporters killed, but no action was taken against the culprits. In this situation we took the unprecedented decision of boycotting the assembly for 5 years and went more determinedly to the people for organising struggles to restore democracy. From 1972 to 1976, West Bengal faced what we described as semi-fascist terror with more severe repression after declaration of emergency in 1975 by Smt Indira Gandi, when all liberties were obliterated, including the right to life. We however never surrendered to the enemies of the people. We reposed faith in the people. In 1977, when the emergency was lifted, the people gave a befitting reply to the autocratic rulers in the centre and many states including West Bengal.
However, we witnessed thereafter how once again they, who subverted democracy returned to power in the centre because of lack of proper political and ideological consciousness of the people. We, the Left and the democratic forces failed to give the leadership in most parts of India that was needed to bolster democracy.
The next experience I wish to place before you is that of Kerala where the first Communist-led government came into existence in 1957. It was dismissed in 1959 by prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru even though we had a majority in the house. You can well understand our apprehension thereafter about the future of democracy. But we did not lose hope and carried on mass agitation rousing the people against this grave injustice. In 1964, under the government of India's orders, all our central committee members attending the central committee meeting in Trichy, Tamilnadu were arrested except myself and EMS and detained without trial.
Throughout the state large scale arrests were made and our party was maligned and slandered by the central government. This was a desperate move to prevent us from winning the 1965 assembly election in Kerala. Democracy was of least concern to the central rulers. Even under such conditions, our party got the largest numbers of MLAs elected and some from prison and it became the largest party in the assembly. This was certainly a significant contribution of people of Kerala to democracy. But as no government could be formed, the House was dissolved and president's rule imposed. In 1967, again election was held and the United Front government was formed defeating the Congress party.
In the small North East state of Tripura where because of influx of refugees from East Pakistan, the tribals were reduced to a minority, there arose a serious political situation. However, the local Congress party based mainly on the Bengalees adopted a domineering attitude and suppressed the rights of the minorities leading to a great divide. Our party along with some other Left parties played a major role in uniting the two sections and could form our LF governments and look after the interest of the both groups. The Congress party and its government at the centre, paying scant regard to democracy, instigated a section of the armed tribals and tried to use them against the Left Front. Once, on the eve of the election, when a massacre of Bengalees had taken place, armed police forces were landed in Agartala by the central government to demonstrate that only a Congress government can save Tripura. A letter by the armed terrorists to the then prime minister revealed that they promised support to the Congress, if the communists who represented the major sections of the tribals are removed from power. For a time the situation did go against us and we were defeated. But later LF came back to power and by its programme, along with providing autonomy to the predominant tribal area, regained its position and was able to unite the Bengalees and the tribals. But even now some insurgency is there and the Congress party is trying to use sections of the armed tribals against our government which is rehabilitating those who are surrendering.
I have been dealing mainly with our experience in regard to the working of parliamentary democracy. It has also been our experience how legitimate and peaceful movements of various sections of the people for their demands have been sought to be suppressed by some central and state governments by violent means and use of draconian laws.
I need not to go into details of our experience all over India of how attempts had been made to block democratic processes. The states which stand out in this respect, as far as I remember, are Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir.
I take this opportunity to tell you in summary how we have learnt from experience about democracy in practice and adjusted our policies as the reality unfolded itself in the Indian polity. Right at the beginning of independence we were doubtful whether the Left forces and parties would have the freedom to form governments in the states let alone in the centre. But after the formation of the first communist-led government in Kerala in 1957, we incorporated in our party programme the possibility of formation of state governments by the Left parties along with democratic parties. But such governments at the centre were beyond our conception. Later situations arose when we did support non-Congress governments at the centre from outside three times and once during the United Front government, which even received the support of the Congress for sometime when the danger of the BJP arose. Later it irresponsibly withdrew support giving advantage to the BJP. Taking the reality into consideration in updating our party programme we have now clarified that our party will consider participating in a government at the centre depending on the concrete situation. This decision is a tactical question which has to be taken into account as it can be helpful for our country and people. In fact, there has come into existence a Third Front consisting of Left and some democratic parties with a common minimum programme. But it needs to be strengthened to present it as a viable alternative.
We have also reiterated in the Programme that our ultimate goal is people's democracy leading on to socialism - a classless and non-exploitative society. To reach that goal it is necessary to change the correlation of class forces by taking advantage of opportunities under the Constitution and parliamentary democracy. We have called upon the people to be eternally vigilant to preserve the democratic rights guaranteed in our Constitution and its basic features which includes secularism. Some of the Supreme Court decisions have helped to strengthen democracy. We have been suggesting certain amendments to further enhance the rights of the people to alter the centre-state relations with more power for the states, which alone can strengthen Indian unity. We need also to delete or change certain negative provisions such as Article 356 and powers to impose emergency. These are illustrative and not comprehensive.
We believe that is the people who create history and we have firm faith in them. They may make mistakes but ultimately they will take the correct path. Along with struggles in political, economic, social spheres we are of the view that ideological confrontation with communal, fundamentalist, obscurantist, undemocratic and pro-imperialist forces are of prime interest in today's situation.
I reiterate that we do believe that our Constitution, despite its limitations, is a document of great relevance to the advance of our people. But it does need changes keeping in view the experience and demands of the people.
We reiterate in our updated programme that the threat to parliamentary democracy comes not from the working people and the parties which represent their interests. The threat comes from the exploiting classes and the parties which represent their interests. We also state that it is of utmost importance that parliamentary and democratic institutions are defended in the interest of the people against such threats and skillfully utilised in combination with extra-parliamentary activities.
I do not deal with corruption and criminalisation of politics which are eating into the vitals of Indian democracy. It is a separate subject. But I think all right-thinking people feel seriously concerned. It is a matter of satisfaction that despite all travails, democracy, however imperfect, has survived. The necessity of electoral reform, also came on the agenda during the Congress regime but was put in the cold storage. It needs to be taken up in parliament and consultation held with the Election Commission. The latest view of the Supreme Court is worthy of consideration.
I think it is necessary to clarify, in brief, our stand on a particular point on which some confusion prevails in regard to our stand in the complicated situation which has arisen in our parliamentary democratic system in the state and in the centre. Our party may consider participation in such governments or lend them support from outside. We try sincerely in both cases to help to implement a common minimum programme whilst advocating changes necessary to take our country forward. When we do not support governments at the centre and states, we act as responsible opposition party to serve the interests of the people.
Through our participation in parliamentary democracy which includes as I have said carrying on extra-parliamentary activities, we try to raise the consciousness of the people so that they understand through their experience the necessity of bringing about fundamental change and advance towards the establishment of people's democracy and socialism, a non-exploitative and classless society.
In the end, I wish to place before you some thoughts which have relevance to the topic I have been speaking on.
In the evening of my life after 64 years in politics, on my return from London, in 1940 when I became a whole time worker of the Communist Party, I feel satisfied that people have acted again and again to counter reaction and to assert democratic processes, though continuity has been lacking. I particularly feel perturbed at the situation which has arisen today with communal and fundamentalist forces trying to destroy our grand concept of unity in diversity, to alter the secular nature of our Constitution and its basic features. These forces leading a government at the centre are weakening our economy by blindly accepting the World Bank and IMF prescriptions and making it more and more dependent on foreign countries particularly America and inviting it in the defence and intelligence sectors. Today, our country's foreign policy of non-alignment has been given the go-by reducing India to a non-entity. However, I cannot but think that such a disastrous state of affairs is a temporary phenomenon.
I am amazed to see that the Congress party which got isolated from the people after long years because of its various policies but is yet the biggest opposition party in parliament and still adhering to secularism, is not making any self-criticism about its mistaken policies in the political, economic and social spheres which hurt India's interest.
It is unfortunate that the Left and democratic forces all over India have been unequal to the task despite their attempts to counter reaction. But efforts are on to present a viable alternative. It is heartening to see massive struggles of various sections of the people breaking out. These have to be given proper direction and a correct political perspective.
I have a few comments to make on the Gujarat happenings after all that have been revealed by most of the newspapers, various delegations and debates in both houses of parliament. I feel sad, ashamed and also angry but I refuse to be overwhelmed by the forces of darkness. It is welcome to see a kind of consensus which has arisen all over our country in condemning barbarism let loose under the patronage of the state BJP government and acquiesced in by the BJP-led central government, on the entire Muslim community after the diabolic attack on the karsevaks in Godhra by some criminal elements. Democracy and civilisation will prevail.
By Jyoti Basu
13 November 1998
New Delhi, India
As the world awaits the dawn of the next millennium, India is poised for her next historic tryst with destiny. The 21st century means new hopes and fresh aspirations amongst people everywhere. For India, the 20th century was of momentous significance. We took giant strides that released the people and the country from the shackles of colonialism, which had not only squeezed the wealth of India but also fettered our freedom. The spirit of India, the genius of her people, we thought, had been released from subjugation and exploitation and we had assumed control over our destiny. It was a hard-won independence, the 50th year of which we celebrated in1997.
The promises and commitment that India made to her people over 50 years ago remain unfulfilled and there are incomplete and urgent tasks that we have to finish soon. To identify the challenges of the next millennium, India will have to clear the huge backlog of unredeemed promises. She has to fight hunger, poverty and unemployment and cater to such needs of the people as education, health, potable drinking water, housing and rural electrification. The farmer has to be able to use his land and labour to not merely sustain himself and his family, but to earn the wealth that lies in his land. The working class, especially labour in the factories, should be able to share the prosperity that is now confined to a very thin layer of the population. India will have to meet the challenges of liberating and empowering women, as the country has to release the backward and the exploited from the age-old bonds of caste and conflicts.
I joined the political arena very early in my life. I chose Marxism and scientific socialism as my political philosophy. Throughout my political life I have been practicing these principles. My vision of India for the21st century will largely be influenced by what I perceived, through my personal experiences and the successes and failures of the 20th century to which I have been a witness.
In history, the 20th century will be recorded as a century marked by contradictions. Periods of optimism and hope were followed by despair and despondency. The past hundred years saw tremendous advances in science and technology and witnessed two global wars which caused sufferings of unprecedented proportions to humanity The century welcomed the triumph of liberation struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin America vitiating the process of de-colonisation. We saw the end of social apartheid in South Africa and the awakening of progressive forces demanding the establishment of a democratic order based on the primacy of human values and socio-economic justice. We experienced the establishment of socialist governments and the creation of a socialist bloc, which at one point encompassed one-fifth of the world population. This tide that had swept through the world radiating outwards from the Soviet Union to China, Vietnam and far away Cuba seemed to recede. Rampant capitalism in the garb of essential economic structural re-engineering took over and plunged the Russian Republic into chaos. From the high point of hope, we witnessed the decline and the break-up of the Soviet Union and the socialist forces in the world received a major setback. I am hopeful that this situation will be altered in the early part of the next century. Fortunately, there still exist some socialist countries including China, the most populous country in the world. We have to closely follow their policies and developments and draw appropriate lessons. There is hope that disquieting trends will be reversed and a new situation will emerge in the next century.
The 20th century has been the story of a dialectical ebb and flow in the tide of human progress. Much of what we are expected to experience in the next millennium would be shaped by the developments of our century. The same paradigm is applicable to India, too. I would like to discuss the prospects of India in the next century and place them in the historical perspective of the present.
Any discourse on political leadership in contemporary India should focus on the role and contribution of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Along with Mahatma Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose and many others, he played a major role in the shaping of modern India. It is, perhaps, appropriate that I touch on some of his contributions at this address organized by the trustees of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund.
Nehru occupies a significant place in our history. Between 1947 and 1964, he, as the first Prime Minister of independent India, guided her destiny. Throughout the nationalist struggle, Nehru symbolised the left and secular forces within the Indian National Congress. His presidential address at the 1936 session, especially, inspired this country's youth. What singled him out was his intellectual ability to combine his commitment to the cause of national liberation with other progressive forces in world politics. His visit to the USSR in 1927 gave him a first hand experience that he cherished. Pandit Nehru condemned, in no uncertain terms, the invasion of China by Japan and took prompt steps to send a medical team to China as a mark of solidarity. He was one of the staunchest critics of fascism and went to Spain to boost the morale of the Republicans fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Nehru also unequivocally disapproved of the Munich Pact of 1938. His vision of India's role in the international order gave birth to the non-aligned movement, which has been a major contribution to the structuring of international affairs in the post-colonial period.
I went to England to study Law in 1935 and during those days Nehru was a source of inspiration to all of us. My interest in Marxism and leftist politics drew me towards such progressive political forums in England as the India League, the London Majlis and the Student Federation that sought to mobilise public opinion in favour of Indian independence. I was Secretary of the London Majlis, which emerged as one of the foremost political organisations of the Indian left forces in Britain. Nehru lent his support to all these bodies. I remember that Pandit Nehru visited England twice and on both occasions, the London Majlis organised receptions in his honour. While Vijay Lakshmi Pandit was with him during the first visit, Indira accompanied him on the second. Since those days in London, I met Pandit Nehru on many occasions both before and after independence. He had a profound knowledge of history and felt an earnest desire to build a strong India.
Impressed by the erstwhile Soviet Union's achievements through five-year plans, Pandit Nehru adopted centralised planning as the best strategy for India's economic and social development and initiated the process of industrialization. He was an ardent believer in the development of India based on democracy and secularism. As a founding father of non-alignment, he made the country a force to reckon with in international politics. India began her career with much promise but half a century after independence much of what Jawaharlal Nehru had visualized has been belied.
Nehru wanted to put into practice his concept of 'mixed economy' with a view to reducing social and economic distress. In reality, the feudal-capitalistic system continues. Even here, much could have been done if the political will to change had been stronger. But the general scenario today is far from satisfactory. Without land reforms and democratic decentralisation, there persists a high degree of concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few. An unwieldy bureaucracy has flourished, while the vast masses are steeped in poverty. Distortions in the functioning of the Constitution have led to inequalities in economic advance, a centralized political structure and regional disparities, which, at times, trigger centrifugal outbursts.
The Indian polity betrays disturbing signs of political centralism. The centrist and authoritarian tendencies of the central government reached its peak during the emergency of 1975 when the people of India were deprived of the fundamental rights that are enshrined in the country's Constitution. Indian federalism, with its strong centralising tendencies, allowed on many occasions the ruling parties in Delhi to not only intervene but also destabilise state governments, which were of a different political hue. India's democratic tradition re-asserted itself by rejecting authoritarianism and the emergency ended in two years. I asked Mrs. Gandhi later why she had taken such an undemocratic and extreme step. Her answer was that the country was going to pieces and the people were in no mood to listen to the advice of the government. She thought that a shock therapy was necessary to bring back the people on the right track. However, they registered their strong protest when the opportunity came. The Congress as a ruling party enjoyed a virtual monopoly of power for 46 years. Unfortunately it failed to combat the politics of religious sectarianism and fundamentalism.
The need to look at things afresh and to reorient ourselves for the next century is becoming increasingly urgent. The restructuring of Centre-State relations on a healthy note has been hanging fire for a long time. The Sarkaria Commission has not helped to resolve this issue. It is of the view that the nation can be made powerful by making only the centre more powerful. The Commission has recommended, by and large, status quo in the Centre-State relations, especially in the areas, relating to legislative matters, role of Governors, use of Article 356etc. My differences on major aspects of the Sarkaria Commission's report have been made known to all. Article 6 was misused in the past by different central governments to serve their partisan purposes. Both Article 356 and 357 need to be amended to preclude further possibilities of such misuse. It is, however, necessary to mention that even those recommendations of the Sarkaria commission that have gone in favour of the states are yet to be implemented.
I would like to emphasize the need for across the board decentralization of financial and other powers from the centre to the states. I also believe in democratizing the entire system of government down to the village level. We need to develop a system of government, which is truly federal. In order to build a strong centre, the country needs strong states. There is an urgent necessity for transferring far more powers from the centre to the states and only fundamental realignment can form the basis of a strong nation. If necessary, this should be brought about by enacting further constitutional amendments. Creating smaller states as proof of federalist commitment is not the answer. This is a political weapon that the BJP is using to create constituencies for itself. By this, it will further encourage disunity and conflict in the country and help reactionary forces. What is required is to adopt the policy of granting greater autonomy within the state wherever necessary. The faltering development of a full-fledged civil society in India has undermined the working of political democracy in the country. Creation of casteist and religious vote-banks, use of money, corruption in high places, muscle-power and the criminal-political nexus are only some of our socio-political ills. The events since the eighties have been causing serious concern to all right-thinking forces.
The despicable act of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 perpetrated by the fundamentalists, and its communal fall-out tarnished the image of India. The BJP-led Government proclaimed in its National Agenda that it would uphold what it called real secularism, which is in reality a call for changing the accepted concept of secularism. As we all know, secularism connotes equal respect for all religions. But the BJP's actions flagrantly flout the very basic principles of secularism. It is a matter of deep concern that the politics of communalism and sectarianism is threatening to undermine India's long-cherished tradition of eclecticism and tolerance. The Hindu religion is misrepresented by the BJP. Hindu religious preachers have not advocated hatred towards other religions and destruction of their places of worship. The Sangh Parivar has been venting its wrath on the Muslims for long; in recent times, it has also been directing its ire against the Christian community. Such acts violate the norms of any civilized society. The BJP is now seeking to replace the ideal of 'Unity in Diversity'--extolled by Rabindranath Tagore--by the false concept of Hindu nationalism. This move would surely tear the national fabric to pieces. If India has to survive as a national entity we need to frontally combat sectarian politics. The old equations are rapidly changing and a new consensus is emerging as the political space gets more sharply divided. Now, political parties, be they national or regional, are required to take decisions on major policies and issues in order to ensure political stability at the centre.
While the country is searching for an alternative path for nation building, it needs to look at the model of administration provided by the Left Front Governments in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. Despite limited constitutional powers and acts of glaring injustice by the predominant regimes at the centre, these governments have ensured a popular participation in the implementation of different schemes and programmer to alleviate the hardship of the common people and uplift the economic condition of the poor and the deprived section of society. We started with comprehensive tenancy reforms, which aimed at combining distributive justice with increased productivity. A decade ago, the late Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, while addressing the Panchayati Raj Sammelan for the Eastern Zone, lauded our efforts in the rural sector. There is no denying the fact that West Bengal has created a new record in the recovery and distribution of surplus land. We have now decentralized our administration through municipalities and panchayats down to the village level. Today 50% of the State's annual outlay is spent through the three-tier Panchayati Raj system.
Administrative decentralization has facilitated the emergence of a new generation of leadership. It has also opened up political opportunities for women who have a 33 per cent reservation in the local government. This provision was later incorporated in the Central Panchayat Act. As an inevitable result of the qualitative transformation of the rural scenario, the purchasing power of the people of West Bengal, especially in the villages, has recorded a significant growth. This has created the requisite social base for a new spirit of industrialization based on a partnership of the public and private sectors, foreign and indigenous capital. The changes in the countryside have been made possible through massive movements of the people against vested interests. It is important to note that by supporting and encouraging healthy cultural movements, we have been able to uphold the democratic and secular tradition of India.
Indian industry and agriculture have many shortcomings owing to wrong priorities in the planning process. Regional disparities have increased with some states remaining unpardonably underdeveloped though they have enough natural resources The regime of controls, licenses and of freight equalisation has taken their toll on states in the eastern region. Bihar and Orissa are a case in point where in spite of an abundance of natural resources, there are abysmal levels of poverty and deprivation, including starvation. The small northeastern states have suffered neglect over the years. The system of controls and Delhi's clout in dispensing favours through licensing have been relaxed due to external and internal pressures. The old system has been replaced by the new economic programme, which is a mix of liberalization from controls and integration of the Indian economy with global markets. The belief, however, that reforms advocated by the World Bank-IMF for structural adjustment would almost overnight unleash the Indian tiger and usher in prosperity, has not worked in reality. Recently, the World Bank President, Mr. James Wolfensohn observed that stabilization measures alone would not be effective in arresting the current global meltdown. He stressed the need of longer-term plans for strong institutions, greater equity and social justice in the interest of ensuring political stability without which, he felt, financial stability would remain a distant goal. Poverty reduction should be at the heart of the Bank's mission, he asserted. These views are in conformity with what we have been stating all these years. The IMF, Managing Director, Mr. Michael Camdessus, also admitted to mistakes and asked for introspection on the fund's role in a new world-order with unpredictable capital flows and cautioned the world about the onrush of wide-spread recession.
I believe that the public sector, the joint sector and the private sector have a role to play in our economy. Since the state sector and the private sector will co-exist remedial steps should be taken to eliminate the ills of the afflicted public sector units by studying them on a case by case basis. Technological upgradation, modernization and other rehabilitation measures have to be applied to bring them back to health. The public sector units need to be run professionally and made accountable to the people. But, the way-out is not to weaken and close down important units. This disastrous course of action has to be reversed. The private sector, too, should shed its negative features and act with greater social commitment.
While India cannot isolate itself from the global trends, it is undeniable that in 1991, the country went in for liberalization without preparing itself. The failure to provide a safety net to take care of the poor and the vulnerable, including industrial labour, has since extracted a price from the people of India. The country's financial sector reforms which were meant to take advantage of the economic reform agenda have not worked. The financial markets are witnessing a downturn that has been compounded by the problems of the global economy. One of the symbols of India's financial stability--UTI's Unit '64 Scheme has suffered erosion shaking the confidence of the middle class, in particular, in India's economic management. These are indications of some of the burgeoning problems that India will have to face as we enter the 21st century. The planned development of the country has to continue but priorities have to be redefined based on our experiences. We need to reassess the prescriptive World Bank-IMF blueprint, which has not helped our economy. This is not the forum where I can propose a fresh master plan for our development. I would say that discussions and introspection are necessary to arrive at some consensus. In assessing the performance of the economy, the condition of the vast masses should be the criterion and not that of the tiny few at the top.
I realise that the present system in India will continue. But within that system if the negative facets are eliminated, much better results will follow. We need to welcome investment from abroad and bring technology from the advanced nations. At the same time, India's achievements in the last 50 years, especially in science and technology, cannot be dismissed. We have to create conditions to harness our own resources for productive purposes and to provide adequate opportunities to the country's brilliant scientists, technologists, engineers, doctors and skilled labour so that India can march forward. We should not lose faith in ourselves and must pursue the objective of self-reliance.
A unique feature of India's foreign policy has been its reliance on an underlying domestic political consensus. The Nehruvian foreign policy had its strength in the principles of non-alignment and peace, which formed its corner stone. But this tradition was disrupted by the nuclear explosions conducted by the present central government in May this year. While the invention of the atom bomb by the United States of America was a significant and dangerous feature of the 20th century, the use of the bomb by that country on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan led to a harrowing tragedy. For a long time, we believed that Japan was the first and last country to experience a nuclear holocaust. The revival of the nuclear arms race in the Indian sub-continent and the five super-powers' failure to chalk out a timetable for the elimination of atomic and hydrogen bombs make us afraid for the future. India did undertake a nuclear explosion in 1974, and soon earned the accolade from the peace-loving people all over the world by restraining himself from further tests and advocating elimination of such weapons. India's stand of using atomic energy for peaceful purposes also evoked wide acclaim. The current tests have triggered a widespread apprehension that they have been motivated not so much by threats to national security as by internal political compulsions of generating jingoism to bolster a dithering coalition regime. Pakistan also appears to have followed the same path on identical perceptions. These explosions would surely provoke an arms race that would be economically disastrous for both India and Pakistan. I would like to see the peoples of both countries jointly working for the common objective of preventing a nuclear war. It is the people who should have the last say.
As India enters the 21st century, dark clouds hover over her political and economic horizons.
After 50 years of independence, we have created a society where only10 to 15 per cent of the population has benefited. This itself in real terms is large and provides a huge market that attracts foreigners. But we have to cater to the need of the remaining 80 to 85 per cent of the masses who have been neglected. Though India has been bruised, battered and threatened over the last 50 years, she has, nevertheless, managed to protect the rich diversities that characterize a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious society, unique in its own way. The newest threat is from a peculiar ideological perversion of attempting a homogenisation of the Hindu society. This concept of the Sangh Parivar of a Hindu Rashtra is meant to demolish the democratic fabric of our society. We must be on our guard.
The situation, however, is not irretrievable. What is imperative is to cleanse our socio-political environment of polluting influences. Morality in public life has become a casualty and politicians are primarily responsible for this situation. The people's consciousness has to be raised in order to confront this trend. All responsible political parties should come forward to play a leading role to stop this rot. Pay-offs and corruption scandals should not have any place in this system. Stern measures will have to be adopted to deal with the black-money operations, which have now assumed colossal proportions. Even within the existing socio-political milieu, significant changes can be brought about, if the necessary political will is there. Our policies must be so directed that India can achieve freedom from want and hunger. Conditions will have to be made conducive to channelise the fruits of modern science and technology for the benefit of the common man. Stress will have to be placed on pursuing a development strategy that encompasses growth with equity and social justice to meet the basic needs of our people, such as food, clothing, shelter, education, jobs and safe drinking water. It is a sad fact that India, standing on the brink of the new millennium, has a population, 40 per cent of whom live below the poverty line.
Here, I would like to touch upon some of the issues that have been highlighted by the Nobel Laureate, Dr. Amartya Sen. The award conferred on him is a belated recognition of the position taken by him to swim against the currents of mainstream economics and to focus on improving the quality of life and prioritizing distributive justice. Dr. Sen upholds the need for developing societies like India to direct far more resources to education, healthcare, poverty alleviation, programmes for reduction of gender disparities and a cleaner environment. He rightly points out that economic take-off requires an educated, healthy and socially secure population. Without investments in human capital, investments in every other form of capital fail to yield optimal results. Human capital is the link with the future and so is central to growth and development, and also the very heart of the typical modern economy.
The country, with its history of 'Unity in Diversity', has been able to maintain its democratic apparatus, despite many challenges. What we now need is to mobilise the broad left, democratic and secular forces to expose the bankruptcy of the present regime in Delhi. With optimism, we also notice healthy political developments in this context. The fact that the organisers have invited me to deliver this address, knowing very well that my views may not be in line with theirs, is encouraging.
As we turn our attention to the world-scene, it is evident that the catchwords of today's economic reorganisation are liberalization and globalization. But globalization, as the Human Development Report of 1997, published by the UN, states, "is proceeding largely for the benefit of the dynamic and powerful countries. While in international commerce, it has increased the subordination of the developing to the developed world in the internal functioning of nation-states, globalisation has led to shrinkage in state involvement in national life which has exposed the poor to sudden shocks especially in the third world countries".
The report further states: "Since the publication of last year's Human Development Report the recorded number of billionaires in the world has increased from358 to 447, with the value of their combined assets now exceeding the combined incomes for the poorest 50% of the world's people, up from 45% of the year before. These are obscenities of excesses in a world where 160 million children are malnourished, 840 million people live without secure sources of water and 1.2 billion lack access to safe drinking water."
I am sure that as we approach the next century, the world will become more and more aware of the negative effects of globalization. However, in an increasingly multi-polar world, we shall have to ultimately adjust to the New World order of globalisation and mutual inter-dependence of economies. The nation-states, particularly in the developing world, need more time for preparation so that local industries, commerce and the financial markets can meet the challenges in the face of unequal competition that has suddenly been thrust on them. Competition must be there, but among equals.
As a Marxist, I am interested not merely in interpreting the world but also in changing it. Karl Marx has aptly reminded us in 'The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte':
"Men make their own history but they do not make it just as they please: they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past."
It is no use my taking a subjective view of our country's development. In the background of the reality and objective conditions prevailing in the 20th century, I have to view our entry into the next millennium. But, I, as a Marxist, would like to add that capitalism is not the ultimate system of human civilization. In the 21st century, we look forward to the emergence of a socialist, non-exploitative and humane society, the first stage of a communist society. The socialist society which we envisage will not only ensure changes in the economic and social spheres but also create a new man and establish a higher civilization where love, sympathy and altruism for fellow human beings reign supreme.
We have to raise the people's consciousness to work for such a society, while endeavouring to complete the unfulfilled tasks. Let us hope for a world-situation where wars, big or small, will have no place, where disputes will be resolved through negotiations and where peaceful co-existence among nations will prevail.
Jyoti Basu, Chief Minister, in a message broadcast from the Calcutta Station
of All India Radio, on June 22, 1977, stressed the need for “the people’s
co-operation in abundance in order to fulfill the tasks” of the new
Excerpts from the Message:
After the last Lok Sabha election, the vast majority of the people of this state have given their unmistakable and historic verdict in the state assembly election. In this election, you have given a fitting reply to the terror, repression, corruption and bankrupt economic policies pursued for the last seven years. You have also rejected the divisive forces. An overwhelming majority of the people of West Bengal have indicated their choice for the programmes of the Left Front and given expression to their desire for a left government in this state.
The Left Front Government has commenced its journey with enormous support and goodwill of the people of the state.
The people have successfully fought back the conspiracies and attacks designed to obliterate the left forces.
The erstwhile ruling party and government had subverted parliamentary democracy in 1972 through massive rigging operations. You have won back the right to vote in freedom after a long and arduous struggle. This time, you have voted in freedom and we are proud that you have elected us by an overwhelming majority of the seats.
Hundreds of our compatriots laid down their lives in the state during the last seven years in the cause of democratic rights and struggles of the toiling masses; they had been victims of the terror launched by the then government and ruling party. We remember them all in this hour of victory, and pay our respects to their sacred memory. We pledge to fight for the cause for which they made the supreme sacrifice.
We are conscious that the people of West Bengal have shown great political maturity in voting for a left government and they expect a change in the interest of the people and our state. We shall strive to the best of our ability to be worthy of the trust and confidence reposed in us.
In the past few years, there had been massive attacks on the freedoms and rights of the people of the state and plans were afoot to take them away altogether. I want to assure you on behalf of the Left Front Government that we shall give due priority to the task of restoring and protecting these freedoms and rights. Following a decision taken at the first meeting of our cabinet, we have declared a general amnesty for all political prisoners, detained without trial, under trial or convicted. The new situation in India demands that an opportunity be given to all political forces to operate in freedom and seek the judgment of the people.”
The common people of our state face grave problems in meeting the basic needs of life. Problems have accumulated over the years in all spheres --- food, clothing, housing, transport, power, education, health and even with regard to drinking water facilities. The economy of the state is in a moribund condition and the people’s suffering knows no bounds. Massive unemployment, closed factories, retrenchments, absence of investment, power shortage ---- all these problems have assumed frightful proportions. The condition of the countryside beggars description. We shall make serious and sincere efforts to tackle these problems.
The state governments in India have to function amidst severe political, constitutional and financial constraints. We will seek to do our best to provide relief and to advance the cause of the state even within these limitations. Our tasks are arduous, but given your support and goodwill, I believe, we shall be able to take these in hand and achieve success. We shall surely overcome all obstacles with the co-operation of the masses.
The Left Front Government shall not be guided by a bureaucratic outlook. We shall try to move with the active cooperation of the common people and their organizations. This government will not put down democratic movements through repressive measures, but will help them advance. It is the sincere desire of the Left Front Government that new horizons will open up with regard to the movements of the democratic masses.
In this connection, it is necessary to put in a word or two on the role of the police. We shall not allow the police to be used to suppress democratic movements, nor shall we allow the police to launch terror and repression on the common people. However, the police will have to be firm in protecting the interests of the people and bringing criminals and anti-socials to book. None will interfere with the police in the performance of this task.
If the reactionary and vested interests seek to create chaos and disorder, and the enemies of the left forces and the people conspire to create difficulties for this government, they will be put down with a firm hand.
The government and the ruling party of the days past had misguided and corrupted a section of our youth and turned them into anti-socials to serve their partisan ends. We shall appeal to these young men to put their past behind them and take up normal healthy and useful roles in society. All political parties and organizations must help our youth to pursue a healthy role.
We want to build up friendly relations with the central government, though we reserve the right to oppose any measure of the centre which may go against the interest of the masses. I hope the central government will cooperate with the West Bengal government in a friendly spirit although ours is a government of the left. I also hope the Centre will go by the norms of a federal democratic set up.
Let me tell you that this government is your own. You have installed it in office, and it is for you to give it necessary direction and guidance through your democratic organizations. We shall do our best to serve the interests of the people in the political, economic and social spheres and to protect their living standards. We will offer you relief from the disastrous consequences of the misrule of the previous government. We shall spare no efforts to move forward to a new future basing ourselves on our past successes and failures.
We are aware that for future developments all over India, the left and democratic forces throughout the country wish us well. Once again I wish to state that we require the people’s cooperation in abundance in order to fulfill the tasks ahead.
Basu was admitted to Loreto School (Dharmatala) in 1920 when he was a boy of six. At that time his father shortened his name and he became Jyoti Basu. He studied there for three years and one year more with girl students. In 1925, he was admitted to St. Xaviers School in the 2nd standard. After passing the Matriculation Exam he entered the Hindu College (now Presidency College) in English honours class. He preferred to sit in the back row with his friend Rahaman. After graduation in 1935 he set for UK for becoming a Barrister.
In 1940, CPI was declared illegal. He, however, contacted the then leaders of CPI. They gave Basu responsibility to arrange shelter for underground leaders, meetings etc. In fact he was a liaison between underground and outside leaders. He did the job neatly. In the first legal conference of CPI – which was held in 1943 in Indian Association Hall, Basu was selected as a P.C.O. (Provincial Committee Organiser). In the fourth state conference of the party he was elected to the Provincial Committee. In 1946, during the communal riot Gandhiji came to Beliaghata. Basu accompanied by Bhupesh Gupta, met Gandhiji and sought his advice for formation of an all party peace committee and organising a Peace March.
In 1944, Basu was entrusted with the responsibility of organising workers of Bengal – Assam Railway. He became the Secretary of the B.A. Railway workers union in 1941. Beside this he gained some experience in working with Port & Dock workers. In 1948, he was elected as Vice-President of AIRF in its conference held at Lilooah. In BPTUC Conference held in Calcutta on March 21, 1953 he placed the report of the Secretary.
When the CITU was formed he joined the organisation and was elected as one of its Vice-Presidents in the W.B. State Committee moreover he is also one of the Vice-Presidents of All India CITU Committee. In the foundation conference of CITU, in 1970, he was chairman of the Reception Committee.
In 1946, he was elected to the Bengal Assembly from the Railway Constituency which comprised B.N. Rly. Except Assam. Since then he was in the W.B. State Assembly in a row except for a small gap between 1972 – 77 when the election was rigged by congress. He retained his Barranagar Assembly seat upto 1971. In 1977, he changed his constituency and contested from Satgachia, South 24 Parganas. In 1967, he became Deputy Chief Minister of W.B. with Finance and Transport portfolios. For the first time he sat in the treasury bench since 1946. In the 2nd UF Ministry formed after election in 1969 he became Deputy Chief Minister in Charge of General Administration and Home Department including Police. After 1977 election, Basu headed the Left Front Ministry and remain there upto Nov. 03, 2000.
He was elected Secretary of Friends of Soviet Union (FSU) and Anti-Facist Writers and Artists Association. He travelled different parts of the World representing party or CITU. Some times he travelled specially the Western world in search of investment in West Bengal.
He penned large number of articles published in party journals. He wrote his Memories – a Political Biography, Moreover his essays mainly in Bengali were compiled and published in five volumes.
Basu believed and still believes that “it is man and man alone who creates history. Despite many crest and thrust people will finally emerge victorious and go in freedom in a classless society free from exploitation of any form.”
After getting done with this in 1935, Basu set for England for higher studies of Law. Its told Basu attended lectures of Harold Laski in late 1930s. It was England where Basu was introduced to the activities of politics through the Communist Party of Great Britain.There Shri[stands for Mr. in Bengali]Basu was inspired by noted Communist Philosopher and prolific writer Rajani Pam Dutt. In 1940 he completed his studies and qualified as a Barrister at the Middle Temple. In the same year he returned to India. In 1944 Basu became involved in trade union activities when CPI delegated him to work amongst the railway labourers. When B.N. Railway Workers Union and B.D. Rail Road Workers Union merged, Basu became the general secretary of the union.
Entry into politics
Basu’s first track in politics was his efforts to organize the Indian students studying in United Kingdom, mostly for the cause of Indian Independence. While studying in England, Basu subsequently joined India League and London Majlis, both the organizations being communities of overseas Indian students. Basu was given the responsibility for arranging a meeting with Jawaharlal Nehru during Nehru's visit to London in 1938. The same was done after Subhas Chandra Bose went to England. As a member of London Majlis, Basu introduced the visiting Indian political figures to the leaders of Labour Party.
Basu was introduced to the Communist Party of Great Britain by another communist leader and Basu’s friend in England Bhupesh Gupta. It’s told Basu showed interest to join CPGB but the then Secretary General Harry Pollitt suggested him to not do so, possibly because CPGB was then banned in India and Pollitt speculated Basu could have difficulties in returning to India as a member of CPGB.
However Basu returned to India in 1940 after the completion of studies. He let his parents know about his future plan to join leftist politics which was vehemently dissuaded by them. Moreover the Communist Party of India which Basu intended to join was then banned by the British Government. Still Basu made contacts with the CPI leadership and made his way to join the party.
Later Political Career
Basu was elected to the Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1946, contesting the Railway constituency. He served as the Leader of Opposition for a long time when Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy was the Chief Minister of West Bengal. Basu's admirable eloquence both as an M.L.A and the Leader of Opposition drew the attention of Dr. B.C Roy and he had a strong affection for this young leader though his stand was completely against the policies of the then State Govt. run by Dr. Roy. Jyoti Basu led one after another agitations against the State Govt. and earned enviable popularity as a politician particularly among the students and youth. Beside organising the movements of the Railway Labourers, he led a historical movement by the Teachers who were protesting against the meagre salary and demanded for the hike in salary. Thus Jyoti Basu took away the sleep of the State Govt. by one after another movements against the State Govt. When the Communist Party of India split in 1964, Basu became one of the first nine members of the Politburo of the newly-formed Communist Party of India (Marxist).
In 1967 and 1969, Basu became Deputy Chief Minister of West Bengal in the United Front governments. In 1967, after the defeat of the Congress Govt., Jyoti Basu was sworn-in as the Deputy Chief Minister under the Chief Ministership of Mr. Ajay Mukhopadhay. When Congress returned to power in West Bengal in 1972 and Mr. Siddhartha Shankar Roy [ Grandson of DeshBandhy Chiita Ranjan Dash], Jyoti Basu was defeated from Baranagar Assembly Constituency and complained about unprecedented rigging. His Party CPI(M), decided to boycott the Assembly till the fresh election was conducted in 1977.
From June 21, 1977 to November 6, 2000, Basu served as the Chief Minister of West Bengal for the Left Front government. In 1996 Jyoti Basu seemed all set to be the consensus leader of the United Front for the post of Prime Minister of India. However, the CPI(M) Politburo decided not to participate in the government, a decision that Jyoti Basu later termed a historic blunder. H.D. Deve Gowda from the Janata Dal instead became Prime Minister. Basu resigned from the Chief Ministership of West Bengal in 2000 for health reasons, and was succeeded by fellow CPI(M) politician Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. As of 2009[update], Basu holds the record for being the longest-serving Chief Minister in Indian political history.
The 18th congress of CPI(M), held in Delhi in 2005, re-elected Basu to its Politburo, although he had asked to be allowed to retire from it. On September 13, 2006, Basu entreated the CPI(M) to allow his retirement due to his age, but was turned down. General Secretary Prakash Karat said that the party wanted Basu to continue until its 2008 congress, at which point it would reconsider. At the 19th congress in early April 2008, Basu was not included on the Politburo, although he remained a member of the Central Committee and was designated as Special Invitee to the Politburo.
On January 1, 2010, Basu was admitted to a Calcutta hospital after feeling unwell. As of 9 January 2010 (2010 -01-09)[update], his health condition is critical and has signs of multiple organ "involvement". 
^ a b "Jyoti Basu will continue on Central Committee". The Hindu (Kolkata: The Hindu). April 4, 2008. http://www.hindu.com/2008/04/04/stories/2008040460771200.htm. Retrieved January 6, 2010.
^ a b c Chatterjee, Manini (April 3, 2008). "Nine to none, founders’ era ends in CPM". The Telegraph (Calcutta: The Telegraph). http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080404/jsp/frontpage/story_9094771.jsp. Retrieved January 6, 2010.
^ Basu, Jyoti. Jatadur Mone Pare: Rajnaitik Atmakathan. Calcutta: National Book Agency.
^ Biography of Jyoti Basu, Website of Jyoti Basu by the Government of West Bengal
^ Political biography : Jyoti Basu
^ Biography of Jyoti Basu, Website of Jyoti Basu by the Government of West Bengal
^ Bhaumik, Subir (September 11, 2006). "Left veteran just wants to retire". BBC News (Calcutta: BBC). http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/5343190.stm. Retrieved January 6, 2010.
^ "Jyoti Basu admitted to hospital". NDTV (Kolkata: NDTV). January 1, 2010. http://www.ndtv.com/news/india/jyoti_basu_unwell.php. Retrieved January 6, 2010.
^ "Jyoti Basu put on ventilator, condition serious". Hindustan Times. Press Trust Of India (Kolkata: HT Media). January 06, 2010. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Jyoti-Basu-put-on-ventilator-condition-serious/H1-Article1-494282.aspx. Retrieved January 6, 2010.
^ "Former West Bengal CM Jyoti Basu on ventilator due to breathing trouble". The Times of India (Kolkata: Bennett, Coleman & Co). January 6, 2010,. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Former-West-Bengal-CM-Jyoti-Basu-on-ventilator-due-to-breathing-trouble/articleshow/5415413.cms. Retrieved January 6, 2010.
^ "Basu's on ventilator, condition 'very critical'". The Press Trust of India (Kolkata: The Press Trust of India). January 6, 2010. http://www.ptinews.com/news/455231_Basu-s-on-ventilator--condition--very-critical-. Retrieved January 6, 2010.
^ "Court notice to Jyoti Basu". The Hindu (New Delhi: The Hindu). January 24, 2006. http://www.hindu.com/2006/01/24/stories/2006012405351200.htm. Retrieved January 6, 2010.