Wednesday, November 27, 2013

CITU Observes Jyoti Basu Birth Centenary

By R Karumalaiyan
People's Democracy, November 24, 2013

HELD at Kannur in Kerala, the last national conference of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) had called upon all its affiliates to observe Comrade Jyoti Basu Birth Centenary in a fitting manner throughout the year, starting from July 8, 2013. Accordingly, the Tamilnadu state unit of the CITU has chalked out a series of programmes to take the Comrade Basu’s message to the mass of workers.

On July 8, a state level seminar was organised in Chennai to flag off the celebrations. Here, eminent parliamentarian Era Sezhian, Justice K Chandru, senior advocate R Vaigai, former West Bengal chief secretary B S Raghavan and CPI(M) Central Committee member T K Rangarajan, MP, spoke on different facets of Comrade Jyoti Basu’s life and work.  CITU state president A Soundararajan, MLA, chaired the seminar.

It was followed by a series of district level seminars and intensive political ideological classes for leading functionaries at various levels of the organisation.

The port city of Tuticorin is the place where Comrade Basu attended the national conference of Water Transport Workers Federation on October 31, 1984, the fateful day when Smt Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her own bodyguards. Here the centenary celebrations comprised multifarious activities. The CITU formed a Comrade Jyoti Basu birth centenary celebration committee, involving several class and mass organisations. former VOC College principal Prof Maragathasundaram and CITU district secretary V Balasubramanian were elected its chairman and secretary respectively. 

The activities here included drawing, elocution and essay writing competitions for school and college students in the district, with students from 82 schools and four colleges participating therein. On November 8, there was a marathon race in which around 1,100 students participated.  Dr (Prof) Seethalakshmi, principal of the APCV Mahalakshmi College, inaugurated the race.

On November 10, CITU national president A K Padmanabhan, state CITU general secretary G Sukumaran and secretary R Russell addressed a well attended seminar in Tuticorin. The centenary committee also brought out a souvenir documenting the life of Comrade Jyoti Basu and carrying articles from CITU leaders.

Similar programmes were organised in Tirunelveli, Virudhunagar and Madurai on November 11 and 12, addressed by A K Padmanabhan and R Karumalayan, assistant general secretary of state CITU. At Tirunelveli noted Tamil literary critic and SahityaAcademy award winner K A Sivasankaran, aged 90, participated with all enthusiasm, recalling Comrade Basu’s finest qualities as a role model for public life in independent India, along with E M S Namboodiripad. He added, “I would be failing in my duty if I didn’t recall Comrade Basu’s contributions to Bengal art and literature which has one of the finest traditions in Indian diaspora.” 

In all these events Cultural troupes from the AIIEA and transport union along with local groups enthralled the audiences with their creative performance. A K Padmanabhan took part in all these events, urging the workers from this part of our country to carry forward the great legacy of Comrade Basu and his unflinching ideological commitment to the working class. He said contemporaryIndia has no parallel to him.

In the context of opposition to the neo-liberal policies, the CITU president said the Left Front government of West Bengal, under Comrade Basu, all along supported the national strikes called by central trade unions since 1991.

CPI(M) district secretaries K S Arjunan (Tuticorin), A Sekar (Virudhunagar), K G Baskaran (Thirunelveli) and B Vikraman (Madurai Urban) and CITU leaders M Asokan, S Balasubramaniyan and Kovilpatti town’s former chairperson Ms R Mallika also participated in these programmes.

In the first phase of the CITU state committee’s intensive ideological political training programme for its leading functionaries during the Basu birth centenary year, a three-day school was organised for the CITU state committee members and federation leaders at Virudhunagar on November 9-11. A K Padmanabhan took a class on ‘The History of Working Class Movement in India with Specific Reference to the Post-Independence Period.’ T K Rangarajan spoke on ‘Contemporary Capitalism’ while noted economist Dr Venkatesh Aathreya explained the political economy of Indian planning. Madukkur Ramalingam, editor incharge of TheekathirMadurai edition spoke on communalism. CITU state general secretary G Sukumaran inaugurated the session and state president A Soundararajan concluded with his remarks on how to face the current challenges.

Earlier, a two-day camp was organised in Dindigul on September 4 and 5 exclusively for women cadres working in trade unions. Some state level federations also conducted separate educational programmes as a part of Comrade Basu Centenary. TASMAC employees federation and auto workers federation took the lead. Thiruvarur district unit of the CITU organised a programme in September, in which A Soundararajan and state CITU’s assistant general secretary Thiruchelvan participated. 

Convention at COIMBATORE Remembers Comrade Jyoti Basu

By M Girija

People's Democracy, November 24, 2013

COMMEMORATING the birth centenary of Comrade Jyoti Basu, a great communist leader, the Coimbatore district committee of the CPI(M) organised a convention on November 18, with the party’s general secretary, Prakash Karat, delivering the main address. While celebrating the birth centenary of Comrade Jyoti Basu, Karat said, we should draw lessons from the life and work of this great revolutionary. India has seen many communist leaders who made great contributions and sacrifices. But Comrade Jyoti Basu was one of the few leaders who stand tall among them. He spent 70 years in the communist movement. He joined the Communist Party in 1940 and passed into history in 2010. In these seven decades of communist life, this great leader made very significant and pioneering contributions. He returned from London as a barrister but began to work as a trade union functionary among the railway workers in Bengal, becoming the secretary of the railway workers’ union of Bengal. Though he was the chief minister of West Bengal for about three decades, he had his association with the trade union movement intact, and remained a leader of the CITU till the end.

The second major contribution of Comrade Basu was in legislative sphere. He got elected to the Bengal Assembly in 1946, before independence, from the railway workers’ constituency. From 1946 to 2010, except for a period of five years following the rigged elections in West Bengal in 1972, he remained a member of the West Bengal assembly, and showed how a communist should function in a legislature. While he was a leader of the opposition, he led many struggles and echoed the voices of struggling workers and others inside the assembly. In all the major struggles, Comrade Basu made it a point to personally lead them, both within and outside the legislature. Once he stayed inside the premises of the assembly for three days lest the police should arrest him, in case he came out, for leading the teachers’ struggle.

When he became the chief minister of West Bengal in 1977, we saw how he carried forward the land reforms there. After being a part of continuous struggles when he was the deputy chief minister in United Front government earlier, he told the peasants and Kisan Sabha members to go and occupy the lands the landlords were holding illegally. Through this combination of outside struggles and legislative action, Jyoti Basu showed the way as to how communists could utilise such avenues. Between 1967 and 1969, when he was the home minister of West Bengal, he told the police would not interfere with any strike conducted by workers, nor it would be used to stop the peasants from occupying the surplus lands in landlords’ illegal possession. His lasting legacy as the chief minister of Left Front government is of the land reforms that were implemented in Bengal, when 11 lakh acres of surplus land were taken over and distributed among the landless farmers and 1.5 crore tenants got security of tenure by registration.

Karat further said: “History will also remember him as a leader who was most consistent in the defence of secularism. Everyone knows that after the assassination of Smt Indira Gandhi in 1984, Sikhs were killed in thousands in the whole of North India. But Comrade Basu did not allow a single attack on the Sikh community in Calcutta or West Bengal. Similarly, in the 1990s, when communal forces began the movement for Ram temple in Ayodhya and communal riots broke out all over the country after Advani’s rathyatra, Jyoti Basu said not a single person would be allowed to be attacked in West Bengal, and that he was ready to invite the army if necessary.” Comrade Basu was not only a communist leader; he was a symbol of the Left, democratic and secular forces in our country. That is why today, when we are observing his birth centenary, we must pledge to continue to uphold the values, principles, politics and ideologies which he represented, Karat added.  

Speaking on the current politics, Karat said today in our country we have a government which is following policies that are causing great sufferings and distress to the people of the country. In this context, he touched upon issues like the excruciating and unabated price rise, especially in case of food items and other essentials; favours being meted out to the big capitalists and foreign multinationals; agrarian crisis and the farmers’ sufferings, rising unemployment etc, with education, housing, healthcare etc all going beyond the reach of the common man. Unless we are able to reverse these harmful neo-liberal and anti-people policies being pursued by the UPA government, there can be no real relief and no real development and progress for the people of our country. “That is why the CPI(M) and other Left parties have put forth alternative policies,” Karat added. 

In the context of the Lok Sabha elections which are nearing, Karat also attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party which claims to be an alternative to the UPA and the Congress, while Narendra Modi is going around the country posing as if he is already the prime minister elect of the country. But, Karat said, the BJP is not a whit different from the Congress in terms of policies, and that we have seen in practice, e.g. in the BJP’s support to the UPA government on the issue of banking laws, privatisation of the pension funds etc.

Karat further said if the BJP today, under the leadership of Narendra Modi, is claiming to be better than the Congress, it is better in only one way --- Narendra Modi is a more ardent and vigorous supporter of the big business houses of our country. They talk about the Gujarat model of development for the country. But what does the Gujarat model mean?  Under Modi, all the big business houses – from Ambanis to the Tatas, Essars, Adanis –have been given huge concessions, free land, free electricity, tax exemptions and other concessions so that they could make super profits. This is the model of development which Narendra Modi wants to implement in the whole country. Another aspect of the Gujarat model, which Modi and BJP do not talk about, is how they organised attacks on and carried out the most heinous pogrom against the Muslim minorities in Gujarat in 2002, under the auspices of the Gujarat government. 

The CPI(M) leader also pointed out that even though the Congress and the BJP both say they would lead the government after the Lok Sabha elections, they have, taken together, not been able to get 50 percent of the votes in the last two Lok Sabha elections. As for the non-Congress, non-BJP parties, they command substantial support among the people and are successfully running many state governments. So we are confident that in the coming days the people will reject the UPA for its wrong policies and massive corruption and also the BJP for its equally corrupt practices in the states it is ruling and its communal politics. What is required is people’s mobilisation and struggle to demand alternative policies that are different from those of the Congress and the BJP. In this context, Karat also referred to the recent Delhi convention of 14 non-Congress secular parties and its significance.

Referring again to Comrade Jyoti Basu as an architect of land reforms in West Bengal, Karat said more and more people are losing their land today. According to the latest census figures of 2011, in the last ten years 35 percent of peasants have become agricultural workers, which means 35 percent more people have lost their land. That is why we say we have to still implement the land reforms and distribute lakhs of hectares of surplus land among the landless people and give housesites to lakhs of families. These are some of the alternative policies required in the country today.

Talking of the contours of a policy alternative, Karat included in it a minimum wage of Rs 10,000 per month for unskilled workers, more government spending on education and health, and taxing the rich for adequate resource mobilisation, among other things. It is through struggles on these issues that a political alternative to the Congress and the BJP would emerge, he added.

Concluding, Prakash Karat expressed confidence that the efforts of the CPI(M) and other Left parties would find a reflection in the coming Lok Sabha elections, and the non-Congress, non-BJP forces would get substantial electoral support.

CPI(M)’s Tamilnadu state secretary G Ramakrishnan and its Central Committee member A Soundararajan, MLA, also addressed the convention. Both of them recalled the memories of Comrade Jyoti Basu.  

The convention was presided over by U K Vellingiri and inaugurated by V Ramamurthi, secretary of the CPI(M)’s Coimbatore district committee. S Krishnamurthi welcomed the participants and Kesavamani proposed the vote of thanks.  

Earlier, a sum of Rs 10,08,500 was handed over to Prakash Karat by the Coimbatore district committee as the second instalment of the election fund donated by the people.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Amartya Sen on Jyoti Basu centenary panel advisory board

KOLKATA: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen will be a member of the advisory board of the Jyoti Basu Birth Centenary Celebration Committee, said Rabin Deb, CPI(M) State Committee member here on Monday.

He was speaking at a discussion to finalise the names of the members of the committee.

Other eminent members of the committee include the former Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee; the former Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee; film director Mrinal Sen; poet Sankha Ghosh; and former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly. State CPI(M) Secretary Biman Bose will be its general secretary.

Pointing out that Jyoti Basu had created an impression at the personal level too, with the various people he interacted and worked with, Mr. Bose said the aim was to highlight “milestones” of the political career of the Marxist leader.

Mr. Chatterjee said: “I believe the committee will be able to bring into focus Basu’s work for the public and his faith in the people.”

Samaresh Banerjee, retired judge of the Calcutta High Court, recalling the administrative capabilities of Basu, said “He was not only a politician, but a real statesman.”

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I voted against Jyoti Basu's candidature as PM: Manik Sarkar

TNN Jul 31, 2013, 03.45AM IST

AGARTALA: After 17 years, Tripura chief minister and CPM politburo member Manik Sarkar on Tuesday said he had voted against the move of making Jyoti Basu the Prime Minister in 1996.

Sarkar said this during a condolence meeting of CPM leader Samar Mukherjee who died Kolkata on July 18.

"The CPM central committee had decided not to take part in the central government with Jyoti Basu as prime minister through voting in 1996 and I had also voted against participation in the central government," said Sarkar.

"I voted against the party's participation in the government but did not disclose it to others because several veterans, including former Tripura CM Dasarath Debbarma, was also a CPM central committee member," he added.

It shows that he was not dared to disclose the decision because his political mentor and former Tripura CM Nripen Chakraborty was expelled from the party in 1995 for criticizing the CPM leadership, including Basu.

In 1996, Basu might have become the PM of a United Front government but the CPM didn't allow him to accept the high office that paved the way for HD Deve Gowda of Janata Dal to become PM for 10 months. 

I voted against Jyoti Basu's candidature as PM: Manik Sarkar

Friday, August 2, 2013

Tussauds-like wax tribute in Asansol

In Asansol’s Mahishila Colony, believe it or not, you can meet Jyoti Basu, Maradona, Mithun Chakraborty and Uttam Kumar in one room.

Of course, not alive and kicking, but as life-like wax models, all made by Sushanta Roy.

A better reference point to what Roy has done would be the wax statues in Madame Tussauds in London, where many a Bollywood star has found place.

On July 8, Sushanta celebrated Jyoti Basu’s birth centenary. He made offerings of food and flowers, as if to a god — which perhaps would have displeased the communist leader.

Roy, 50, has been making the wax sculptures for decades. He had been an admirer of Basu and had the privilege — if it can be termed so — to take his measurements at Indira Bhavan for the statue.

The Basu statue had been at Indira Bhavan from 2003 to 2011 — a gift on the then chief minister’s 89th birthday. But after the leader’s death, Roy was requested to take it back to Asansol. The statue, he said, was “melting for lack of care”.

Now in an air-conditioned room, Jyoti Basu has found a place beside Manna De, who plays a harmonium — the singer is in wax, not the harmonium, by the way.

Roy said he had been visiting Indira Bhavan since 2003 and would “congratulate Jyotibabu always on his birthdays”.

“The last time too I had gone to attend his birthday celebration organised by Pather Panchali,” Roy said.

Pather Panchali, an NGO run by Ramola Chakraborty, widow of former transport minister Subhash Chakraborty, had decided to set up a museum like the one of Madam Tussauds in London and had asked Roy, who trained in sculpture in Calcutta, to make 100 wax idols of well-known personalities — for the proposed museum in Salt Lake.

The proposal came to naught after Subhash Chakraborty’s death.

Roy, a former employee of the Indian Museum, completed 18 wax idols. “among them are Basu, Vidyasagar, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Kazi Nazrul, Kishore Kumar, Manna De, Uttam Kumar, Sourav Ganguly, Amitabh Bachchan, Maradona, Kapil Dev, M. Karunanidhi and Sachin Tendulkar,” he said.

He took care to include props to signify what each celebrity did. So, Sachin is seen holding aloft a bat and Sailen Manna, though old and bald, kicking a football. Mithun has a mike in his hand.

Amitabh Bachchan’s wax model was the first one that Roy made. It was commissioned by a fan club.

For some of the stars and politicians, Roy got a chance to take measurements. Madame Tussauds, too, takes measurements of celebrities which become much-photographed events leading to the opening of the statue at the museum.

For those whom Roy could not meet, “I had to make to with pictures,” he said.

Asked about the quantity of wax he need for each statue, Roy gave an example: “It took around 50kg of wax to make Subhash Chakraborty.”

Roy said the idea of making life-size wax models was prompted by a popular Nazrul song Momer putul (doll of wax).

Roy said he first makes the stuffing. “For that several kilos of cotton and paper are required. The wax is used after that.”

Also, all the statues are foldable to allow transporting convenience.

A finished sculpture could cost anywhere between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh. Some of the statues he made were sold to clubs of Bollywood fans.

Roy himself takes care of the statues, cleaning them every day in the air-conditioned room where they have to be kept. He runs a school near his house where he teaches children to sculpt wax idols.

After Basu’s death, the leader’s aide Joy Krishna Ghosh had called up Roy and requested him to take the statue back.

Roy got the statue back to his Asansol home in September 2011.

“I discussed the matter with Bimanbabu (Left Front chairman Biman Bose) and called up Sushanta Roy who had gifted the idol to our beloved Jyotibabu. I requested him to take it back for its better preservation,” Ghosh told Metro over phone.

On Basu’s birth anniversary on July 8, around 20 to 25 friends and neighbours of Roy gathered on the ground floor of his house to celebrate.

A two-pound cake was cut and lunch was served to the statue. “Basu’s favourites — pabda and tengra machher jhaal, flavoured rice, muger dal and payesh were served,” Roy said. There was also raj bhog, mihidana and sitabhog, all traditional sweets of Burdwan, to round up the feast.

What will happen to this collection after Roy? The wax sculptor thinks his grandchildren “Arnab and Sanjib, two toddlers who take great interest when I work”, would keep the collection in shape. 

Tussauds-like wax tribute in Asansol

Jyoti Basu Birth Centenary Observances Begin in Maharashtra

By Mahendra Singh

MUMBAI: ON July 8, 2013, the Mumbai committees of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) flagged off the Jyoti Basu birth centenary celebrations with a joint public commemorative meeting in Venmali Hall in Dadar (West). The hall was fully packed on the occasion. A photo of late Comrade Jyoti Basu adorned the dais, along with a photo of late Comrade Ahilyatai Rangnekar, a beloved party leader, whose birthday also falls on July 8. Mahendra Singh, the CPI (M)’s Mumbai committee secretary presided. Seated on the dais were CPI (M) Central Committee member and state secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale, Central Committee member K L Bajaj, and all-India vice president of the CITU, CPI(M) state committee member and the CITU’s all-India working committee member Sayeed Ahmed, CPI(M) state secretariat member Professor Krishna Theckedath, state committee members Dr S K Rege and Shailendra Kamble, and CITU Mumbai secretary Dr Vivek Monterio. Dr Ashok Dhawale and K L Bajaj garlanded the photo of Jyoti Basu and Ahilyatai Rangnekar respectively. While Dr Dhawale, K L Bajaj, Sayeed Ahmed and Vivek Monterio highlighted Comrade Jyoti Basu’s outstanding contribution, they also dwelt on the purpose of the meeting. Shailendra Kamble conducted the proceedings.

The CPI (M) state committee’s organ, Jeevan Marg (Marathi weekly), had published a special issue to commemorate the Jyoti Birth centenary. K L Bajaj released the new issue at the meeting.

In his introductory remarks, Sayeed Ahmed praised the invaluable contribution of Jyoti Basu to the Indian working class movement and to the work done by the Left Front government of West Bengal in the interest of the toiling masses and common people including the workers, peasants and agricultural workers, under his chief ministerial tenure. K L Bajaj dwelt on the important role played by Jyoti Basu in founding and building the CITU. He also highlighted the stellar contribution of Jyoti Basu in the Indian working class and communist movements. Addressing the audience, Dr Vivek Monterio pointed to the 50 years long membership of Jyoti Basu of the West Bengal legislative assembly; he said Comrade Basu’s ideal style of functioning in it as a communist is a guide for communists for all the time to come. Dr Ashoke Dhawale, in his detailed speech, threw light on various aspects of the outstanding personality of Comrade Jyoti Basu and his invaluable contribution in the Indian communist movement and in building of the CPI(M). He referred to the police lathi blows faced by Jyoti Basu as a school student while participating in a public meeting addressed by Netaji Subhash Chandra; his participation in the activities of India League and London Majlis while studying in London; his stellar performance as a legislator, opposition leader, deputy chief minister, home minister and chief minister; the pro-people activities of the first Left led government of West Bengal under his stewardship; his immense contribution in strengthening the Left politics in India and raising the issue of restructuring of centre-state relations; his unique party loyalty and adherence to party discipline; his firm belief in Marxism-Leninism; his daily visit to the party’s state committee office even when he was discharging onerous responsibilities as the chief minister; his unshakeable faith in the toiling masses; and his exhortation to the party members to increasingly strengthen contacts with the masses. In his speech Mahendra Singh urged upon the audience to plan various programmes during the year long observance to take the message of Comrade Jyoti Basu to the wider masses and to take pledge to advance the cause for which Jyoti Basu worked for almost seven decades.

All the speakers also paid tributes to Comrade Ahilyatai Rangnekar.

The meeting ended with slogans like “Jyoti Basu Lal Salaam,” “Comrade Jyoti Basu Amar Rahe” and “Long Live Marxism-Leninism!”

Friday, July 12, 2013

Social media users pledges allegiance to Jyoti Basu's politics

IANS; Updated: Tuesday, July 9, 2013, 12:55 [IST]

Kolkata, July 9: Hundreds of social media loyalists of Jyoti Basu renewed their allegiance to the late Marxist patriarch's ideologies Monday - the launch of the former West Bengal chief minister's centenary celebrations.

Legions of loyalists paid tribute to their celebrated "Comrade" through comments and poems on the social networking site Facebook.

Pledging support to Basu's philosophy, many dubbed the "leader of masses" as an inspiration.

A post said: "Aj amader priyo jononeta Comrade Jyoti Basu er Jonmo Sotoborsho....Tumi aj o acho amader majhe Onuprerona hoye...Tomar dekhano poth e amra chilam, achi & thakbo ei sopoth nilam...(Today is our beloved people's leader's birth live among us an inspiration..we are and always will be on the path that you have shown us..)".

Some vowed to undo the "deviation from the ideologies of Comrade".

"Comrade Jyoti Basu'r jonmosotobarshiki upolokkhe 1ti bishoye protiggabodho hoya khub joruri,,seta holo adorso-goto jetuku bicchuti hoyeche, setak sudre naoya..setai hobe COMRADE sothik sroddha janano (On the centenary celebrations of Comrade Jyoti Basu we have to pledge our return to the ideologies of Basu.. from which we have deviated..that will be the true way to to pay respect to him)".

The Communist Party of India-Marxist has lined up year-long programmes throughout the state, highlighting his life and philosophy to mark the centenary celebrations.

Born July 8, 1914, Basu joined the Communist Party of India in 1940 and began his work in the railway trade union movement. In 1946, he was elected to the Bengal legislative assembly from the Railway constituency.

He played a key role in the development of the communist party in India and was the secretary of the CPI's provincial committee from 1954 to 1960. He became a member of its central committee of in 1951. When the CPI-M was formed, he became one of the founder politburo and central committee members. 

Calls for Defending Democracy

Jyoti Basu’s Centenary Observance

Kolkata, 8th July:  THE birth centenary of Comrade Jyoti Basu began on July 8 with a call to defend the ideology he represented and tirelessly worked for.

The CPI(M) state committee organised a public meeting in Mahajati Sadan in Kolkata which was addressed by Prakash Karat, general secretary of the CPI(M) Biman Basu, state secretary and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M). Leaders of the Left Front and other Left parties were present in the meeting. Thousands of people gathered to attend and had to listen to speakers standing outside on the road.

Speakers recalled the contributions of Jyoti Basu in the Left movement and in Indian politics.

The question of democracy, for which Jyoti Basu fought a long battle, came to the forefront.  Prakash Karat said, ‘’West Bengal blazed a new trail in democratic decentralisation under the leadership of Basu through panchayati raj which was institutionalised much before the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution. The spirit of democracy and the great experiment of democratic decentralisation which developed and flourished under Basu is now under severe and vicious attack.  We are in the midst of a panchayat election that was sought to be scuttled and sabotaged by the powers that today are ruling West Bengal. The people, the Left Front and the democratic forces in the state will defend the legacy of Basu, who made the greatest contribution to the deepening of democracy in the country. They will fight back all these anti-democratic onslaughts that have been launched over the past two years in the state.”

“If you look back at the career of Basu, there is no other leader, irrespective of political party who has shown such a capacity, vision and determination to show that India remains and will be a democratic, federal and secular country,” Karat pointed out.

Describing Basu as a leader who knew how to work in parliamentary arena, Karat said he showed how a Communist Party should integrate work in the parliamentary forum with the movement outside.

“The birth centenary of Basu should not be just an occasion for us to commemorate and pay tribute to his glorious life,” he said. It would be more meaningful to utilise the year-long observance of the leader’s birth centenary to spread the ideas he stood for, Karat suggested.

 “Whether it is a question of defence of democracy, defence of secularism or defence of working people, all contributing to a social transformation that will make India a more equitable and just society, this is what Basu stood for,” Karat said.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee recalled the early life of Jyoti Basu and said that after returning from abroad, he decided that the path of India’s liberation lied in liberation of the working class. Basu joined in the working class movement and worked among the dock and railway workers. Throughout his life, the ideology of working class was his ideological commitment.

Bhattacharjee said, Jyoti Basu brought the question of workers and peasants to the centrestage even within the legislature. His speeches within state assembly in support of peasants’ and workers’ struggles were historic.

Bhattacharjee recalled how steadfastly Basu defended secularism and thwarted any attempts by communal forces when the Left Front government was in office. He said, ‘’We are faced with a new danger again. On the one hand, it is Congress with neoliberal policies and on the other hand, BJP with neoliberal policies plus Narendra Modi”.  He added, the doors of this state have been opened to the BJP and Modi. This is frightening.

Bhattacharjee pointed out that the panchayats, which empowered the poor are under serious threat. He called upon the people and the Left activists to work hard to keep the panchayats in the hands of the poor.

Biman Basu, presiding over the meeting, outlined the struggling life of Jyoti Basu and how he built working class organisations despite heavy odds. He also reflected upon Jyoti Basu’s contribution to the cause of federalism in the country. It was Jyoti Basu who raised the demand of more powers to the states and brought the agenda to the centrestage of Indian politics.

CPI(M)  also announced a year-long programme on the occasion of the birth centenary of Jyoti Basu. ''A wider programme cannot be chalked out initially as panchayat election is round the corner and also considering the fact that people will be busy in campaigns and polls,'' Biman Basu said. He said the Party would project the life and activities of Jyoti Basu through seminars, posters, documentaries and an effort for political education.

On July 8, red flags were hoisted in all parts of the state. In some districts, processions with Jyoti Basu’s portrait were organised. In many areas, blood donation camps were organised.

Respects were showered on Jyoti Basu in state assembly too. Leaders of different political parties paid rich tributes to Basu, particularly recalling his democratic way of functioning both as the opposition leader and chief minister and how he used to treat criticisms respectfully.

But the longest serving chief minister's centenary celebrations were surprisingly missing from the Writers' Buildings, where the present government has been observing birth anniversaries of luminaries throughout the year.

People's Democracy,

July 14, 2013

Jyoti Basu’s Centenary Observed at A K G Bhavan

New Delhi: Comrade Jyoti Basu’s birth centenary was observed at the Party headquarters, A K G Bhawan in New Delhi on July 8. Polit Bureau members, S Ramachandran Pillai, Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat addressed the meeting. K Varadarajan, Polit Bureau member was present on the dais. A large number of members from the Central Committee units and from the Delhi unit of the Party attended the meeting.

People's Democracy,

July 14, 2013

CITU Observes Comrade Jyoti Basu’s Birth Centenary

New Delhi: AS part of the decision of its 14th All India Conference to celebrate the birth centenary of Comrade Jyoti Basu, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions has organised programmes in different parts of the country on July 8. A K Padmanabhan, president of the CITU inaugurated the year-long celebration of the birth centenary of Comrade Jyoti Basu at the CITU headquarters, BTR Bhawan in New Delhi on July 8. The CITU has planned year-long programmes at various levels all over the country to celebrate the birth centenary of Jyoti Basu, from July 8, 2013 to July 8, 2014.

After offering floral tributes to the great revolutionary leader, a meeting was held at the CITU centre. In his speech, A K Padmanabhan said Comrade Jyoti Basu started his trade union activities in the 1940’s, mobilising the railway workers. He made a remarkable contribution to the Indian trade union movement. He was a teacher, orator, ruler, trade union leader, internationally known communist leader from India, and was the longest serving chief minister in the country. Jibon Roy, ex-MP and general secretary of the All India Coal Workers Federation also addressed the meeting. S Dev Roye, A R Sindhu, national secretaries of the CITU and Ranjana Nirula, treasurer, CITU attended the programme.

People's Democracy,
July 14, 2013 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Democracy under vicious attack in Bengal, says Karat

KOLKATA: The spirit of democracy and the great experiment of democratic decentralisation through the panchayati raj system is “under a severe and vicious attack” in West Bengal, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Prakash Karat said here on Monday.
“We are in the midst of a panchayat election, an election that was sought to be scuttled and sabotaged by the powers that today are ruling West Bengal,” he said at a memorial meeting to mark the launch of the birth centenary celebrations of the former Chief Minister and veteran Communist leader Jyoti Basu.
The people, the Left Front and all the democratic forces in the State will defend the legacy of Basu, who made the “greatest contribution to the deepening of democracy in the country… They will fight back all these anti-democratic onslaughts that have been launched over the past two years in the State,” Mr. Karat said.
West Bengal blazed a new trail in democratic decentralisation under the leadership of Basu through a panchayati raj syststem institutionalised much before the 73 and 74 amendments of the Constitution, he said.
“If you look back at the career of Basu, there is no other leader… irrespective of political party who has shown such a capacity, vision and determination to show that Indian remains and will be a democratic, federal and secular country,” he pointed out.
Describing Basu as a leader who knew how to work in Parliamentary fora, Mr. Karat said he showed how a Communist Party should integrate work in the Parliamentary forum with the rest of the country.
“The birth centenary of Basu should not be just an occasion for us to commemorate and pay tribute to his glorious life,” he said. It would be more meaningful to utilise year-long observance of the leader’s birth centenary to spread the ideas he stood for, he suggested.

Prakash Karat pays homage to the former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu 

on his birth centenary anniversary in Kolkata on Monday.
“Whether it is a question of defence of democracy, defence of secularism, defence of working people all contributing to a social transformation that will make India a more equitable and just society, this is what comrade Basu stood for,” Mr. Karat said.
He added that there would be a centenary campaign by the party to spread the leader’s message to the people.

West Bengal pays tribute to its longest-serving CM Jyoti Basu on his birth centenary

The West Bengal Assembly on Monday paid glowing tributes to Jyoti Basu, who was the longest-serving chief minister of the country, on the occasion of his birth centenary.

Paying his tribute, Speaker of the Assembly Biman Bandopadhyay said that Basu was a truly national leader with a great personality.

Basu actually elevated the CPI(M) to the national level, for which he was asked to occupy the chair of Prime Minister in 1996, but he had refused for the sake of maintaining party discipline, Bandopadyay said.

The former Lok Sabha speaker and a long-time colleague of late Basu, Somnath Chatterjee, said that he used to speak in the language of the common people.

"Today his absence is felt very much. Basu used to say that politics is the best method for serving people and our Assembly and Parliament are meant for the people. let us take the pledge to serve people. Basu always used to raise people's problems in the House," Chatterjee said.

He also noted that Basu could easily align himself with the masses and displayed an aura of great personality. He was not rigid and adapted himself to the changing times.

Among those who garlanded the portrait of Basu were former West Bengal speaker Hasim Abdul Halim, Leader of the Opposition Surya Kant Mishra, Deputy Leader of the House Partha Chatterjee and members of the Assembly.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


A Glorious Life and Example

By Prakash Karat

THE birth centenary of an outstanding Communist leader like Jyoti Basu should be an occasion to make an appraisal of the significant contributions made through the life and work of the leader and to draw up a balance sheet of the lessons and achievements of his political career.  It must then be used to educate the new generation of Communists and progressives, so that it helps them in their ongoing endeavour for a social transformation.

Jyoti Basu became a legend as a Communist leader  in his life time. No other leader of the Communist movement was known and respected by the people all over the country as much as Jyoti Basu. How did this come about?

Jyoti Basu’s name was synonymous with all the major currents of Left politics and the basic class movements.  Throughout his life as a Communist, he was associated with the working class movement.  After he came back from Britain, he joined the Communist Party and straight away began work in the railway workers trade union. Till his last years, he remained a leader of the CITU.

He became a symbol of the peasant movement when he utilised the United Front government of 1967-70 to unleash the land struggles and when he, as chief minister of the Left Front government, undertook the extreme land reform measures.  So his political activity involved both the  worker and peasant movements.

One of the distinctive contributions of Jyoti Basu was the way he integrated work  in the legislature with the people's movements  and workers struggles outside.  Jyoti Basu was elected to the Bengal legislature from a railway constituency in 1946 before independence.  From then onwards, for more than five decades, he effectively utilised his presence in the legislature for developing and strengthening the Party's influence and movements outside. When the Tebhaga movement of the peasantry began in 1947, Jyoti Basu extensively toured the districts where the movement was taking place for a first hand report and raised the issue effectively in the assembly.

In 1953, he became the secretary of the Provincial Committee of the CPI and continued in this post till 1961.  During these eight years, big movements took place such as the food movement of 1959 in which 80 people were killed in police firing and lathicharges.  Jyoti Basu, as secretary of the Party, was in the forefront of this movement while relentlessly raising the demands of the people on food inside the assembly.

Earlier, when the school teachers' strike took place in February 1954, many leaders of the school teachers association and the Party were arrested.  There was a warrant for the arrest of Jyoti Basu and the police kept a vigil outside the assembly on the opening day of the session to arrest him.  Jyoti Basu managed to enter the assembly and stayed for around a week inside the premises  where the police could not  enter.  He was able to raise the issue of the teachers strike inside the assembly and came out to attend the teachers rally and got arrested.  Here was a striking example of how Jyoti Basu, as a legislator, utilised the assembly to champion the cause of the working people.

Jyoti Basu was a man of great personal courage.  In July 1969, when he was the home minister, a mob of policeman invaded the assembly building, having been instigated to do so after a policeman was killed in a clash.  They smashed up furniture inside the assembly and entered Jyoti Basu's room. Jyoti Basu calmly faced the rampaging policemen and firmly told them to stop such behaviour.  Taken aback by his composure,  the policemen quietly left his room.

It was Jyoti Basu who showed how Communist participation in the state government should be utilised to strengthen the democratic movement.  During the two stints of the United Front government between 1967-1970, as the home minister, he did not allow the police to intervene in the struggles of the workers and the peasants.  During the land struggle which swept West Bengal, Jyoti Basu declared that  the government would not obstruct the peasants who were identifying the benami lands and taking them over. It is this experience which helped the CPI(M) to formulate its approach and tactics while working in the state governments.

The biggest contribution of Jyoti Basu came with the formation of the Left Front government in 1977, of which he became the chief minister.  The remarkable record of the Left Front government for over three decades owes a lot to  Jyoti Basu's leadership  of the government for an unbroken 23 years. It was under his stewardship that the road map for land reforms was chalked out and implemented.  These path-breaking reforms led to 1.1 million acres of land being  distributed to 2.5 million landless and marginal farmers and 1.53 million bargadars (sharecroppers) being registered and provided  security of tenure.

Side by side with the land reforms, the three-tier panchayat system revitalised by decentralisation of powers was instituted.  Much before the 73rd  and 74th  constitutional amendments, West Bengal showed the way in democratising the panchayat system.

An achievement which is taken for granted today is the establishment of a secular atmosphere in the state.  Bengal, before independence, witnessed the rise of communal politics and partition saw large-scale communal violence. But the advance of the Left movement and the establishment of the Left Front government laid the basis for a major transformation.  Jyoti Basu symbolised the firm adherence to secularism not only in West Bengal but the entire country.  All minorities felt protected and lived free from communal attacks.  The whole country praised the firm stand of Jyoti Basu which prevented any attack on the Sikh minority in West Bengal after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

Semi-fascist terror was unleashed in West Bengal during the 1970s. More than 1200 comrades were killed during this period and thousands were forced to leave their homes.  Repression by the class enemies have to be faced by the Communist movement at various times. How successfully such repression and violence is faced determines the future of the movement.  Under the leadership of Jyoti Basu and Promode Dasgupta, the Party withstood this severe attack and did not get isolated from the people.  Today, when the Party and the Left Front is again facing severe attacks in West Bengal, the example of Jyoti Basu’s mature leadership at such a juncture should be a guiding light.

For seven decades, Jyoti Basu as a Communist saw various ups and downs in the international Communist movement.  But his commitment to Marxism never wavered.  Till the end he believed that socialism is the only alternative for humanity.

In the practice and development of the Communist movement in India, Jyoti Basu played a key role in many aspects. On how Communists should work  in legislatures; in implementing land reforms; in decentralising power through the panchayati raj system; in defending secularism and democracy.  Few leaders in independent India can claim to have  contributed to defending the rights of the working people,  deepening democracy and strengthening the secular principle as much as Jyoti Basu has done.

The year long birth centenary celebrations should commemorate this glorious life and work. 

Lal Salam Comrade Jyoti Basu

By Sitaram Yechury

July 8, 2013 marks the beginning of the birth centenary of Comrade Jyoti Basu. 

Even though all of us are aware of the inviolable law of Nature that once life is born, it has to cease to exist one day, this remains, universally, the most difficult inevitability to come to terms with.  Comrade Jyoti Basu’s absence, particularly in today’s circumstances, is felt in every turn and twist. Yet, in his absence, it is incumbent on our part to carry forward his legacy to advance the objective for which he contributed all his life – the establishment of socialism in India and eventually in the world. 

The Legacy

Jyoti Basu’s seven decade long political life is synchronous with the evolution of modern India.  For this very reason, he was always a source of inspiration  and a `role model’ for the younger generation.  His legacy will continue to be such a source.  He, truly, was one of the legends of modern India, not only of the Communist movement. 

Having gone to England to return as a Bar-at-Law, he was attracted to the Communist worldview, embraced the ideology and returned to India in 1940 not to don the black robes but to plunge directly into the freedom struggle by joining the Communist Party.   Karl Marx had once said that when an idea grips the minds of the masses, it becomes a material force.  The desire for independence from British rule had gripped the Indian masses when Jyoti Basu joined the Communist movement.    He, however, was thinking ahead of what should be the character and content of independent India.  The political independence that would be achieved needed to be  converted into the true economic independence of every Indian.  This meant the creation of a socialist society where exploitation of man by man simply ceases to exist.  It is with this passion that remained undiluted till the end that he served the  Indian people.  During the course of his long and illustrious life, he had to face many trials and tribulations but the commitment to the cause, however, never wavered.  He is a `role model’ precisely for this reason: sheer power of his commitment to his convictions.

Modern India, post independence, was evolving through major struggles that led eventually to the integration of the feudal princely States into the Indian Union.  The struggles led by the Communists brought to the fore the agenda of land reforms and the abolition of feudal zamindari and other land tenure systems.  This was also the period when the various linguistic nationalities in India who had united in the struggle for freedom, were seeking their distinct identity.  A process that finally led to the linguistic reorganisation of the Indian States in 1956. 

Jyoti Basu's political evolution converged  with the evolution of modern India based irrevocably on the premise that the recognition and celebration of India's diversity can only be on the basis of its secular democratic foundations.  

Jyoti Basu's firm commitment to our country's secular democratic character and administrative structures  remained a constant feature of his work and activities.  As communal forces represent the very antithesis of this evolution of modern India, Jyoti Basu worked to isolate and defeat the communal forces and strengthen the secular polity. 

Simultaneously, his entire concentration was on  carrying forward the struggle to convert India's political independence into economic independence for its people – socialism.  Within the Indian Communist movement, however, a very intense ideological battle erupted on how this was to be achieved.  Steering clear and battling against both the  right and left deviations, Jyoti Basu, alongwith his other comrades who eventually formed the CPI(M), adopted the correct line of combining parliamentary and extra parliamentary activity and struggles to achieve this objective.    Jyoti Basu excelled in using parliamentary democracy, its institutions and fora for both advancing this struggle and simultaneously providing greater relief to the people.

The implementation of land reforms, the deepening of democracy by developing the panchayati raj institutions and the articulation of the need for better Centre-State relations to strengthen India's federal character were some of his  important contributions to the process of the consolidation of modern India.  These apart, he was  one of the first to constitute separate ministries for environment and science and technology. 

Apart from all these, the main facet of Jyoti Basu's personality that attracted people towards him was his unassailable faith in them.  He would always urge the Party and its cadre to go to the people and explain to them what we are doing and take them into confidence.  This faith in the people was the strength of his credibility. They never questioned or even doubted his integrity. 

Jyoti Basu as CM

Jyoti Basu voluntarily demitted office of the Chief Ministership in West Bengal, in 2000, after a record tenure of 23 long years setting new standards of political culture and morality in India. The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) had accepted his desire to step down since he was not satisfied with not being able to discharge his administrative responsibilities as he was  capable of doing earlier. In an atmosphere where the lust for power has seldom seen people demitting office on such considerations,  this had come as a breath of fresh air.

When Jyoti Basu took over as Chief Minister in 1977, the poverty ratio in West Bengal was nearly 52 per cent. In 1994, this had come down to 26 per cent, a decline of 4.2 per cent per year. West Bengal thus ranked the first, in poverty reduction, amongst all states in India. Incidentally, the state ranking second is Kerala, with 3.7 per cent decline per year. (source: India: Policies to Reduce Poverty, World Bank, 2000).  In comparison, the rate for Maharashtra was 2.7 percent and in 1994 43.5 per cent of its population lived in poverty.

Similarly, in terms of annual rates of growth of the Gross state Domestic Product, West Bengal ranked No. 3, behind Gujarat and Maharashtra with a 6.9 per cent growth per annum. Between 1991-92 and 1997-98 in per capita terms, it stood once again in third place following Gujarat and Maharashtra with a 5.04 per annum increase. (source: Montek Singh Ahluwalia, EPW, May 6, 2000).

Phenomenal advances have been made in the sphere of  agriculture. During this period, West Bengal was transformed from being a chronic heavy food deficit state into one with surplus. By the time Jyoti Basu demitted office, it became the highest rice producing state in the country. West Bengal contributed nearly 20 per cent of the increase in rice production in the entire country. The yield per hectare has also shown substantial increase. More than 90 per cent of the state's agricultural holdings belong to marginal and small farmers, as a result of the success of Operation BargaAs a result of the successful implementation of land reforms, noted economist Dr. Nilakant Rath then analysed that the growth in per capita net domestic product of the agricultural production between 1981-82 and 1994-95 went up by 22 per cent for the whole of India but in West Bengal it went up by a whopping 70 per cent. In 1981-82, West Bengal was amongst the lowest in the country with its per capita net agricultural product being 18 per cent lower than the all India average. By 1994-95, it was above the all India average by about 10 per cent.

These phenomenal achievements in agriculture have once again validated the position that land reforms are not an exercise meant only to achieve distributive rights. While achieving this they also unleashed rapid leaps in productivity which go a long way in reducing the overall levels of poverty.

In terms of distributive justice, it merits repetition that during Jyoti Basu's tenure as Chief Minister 13 lakh acres of agricultural land were distributed amongst the landless. These were illegally held by vested interests in the past. Even if a nominal value of Rs. one lakh per hectare is considered, then the value of the land distributed would be to the tune of  Rs. 13 crore. Such has been the dimension of asset redistribution in West Bengal in favour of the poor and landless.

Thus by all counts, West Bengal during these 23 years under Jyoti Basu's stewardship had shown that it is possible to both alleviate poverty and stimulate growth. But, one should not miss the wood for the trees. All this was possible not because Jyoti Basu or the Left Front government blindly embraced the economic policies of liberalisation. This was possible because they made one fundamental departure from the economic philosophy of liberalisation. And that is in the decisive role of State intervention in achieving the objectives and priorities. Contrary to the liberalisation pundits who advocate the withdrawal of the State from the economic sphere and abdication by the State of its social responsibilities, the Left Front government in West Bengal has played the role of the catalyst in stimulating economic development and the role of the initiator in generating sweeping agrarian reforms.

Sterling Personal Qualities

During my association with Comrade Jyoti Basu in our Party’s Central Committee for over two and a half decades, there are many admirable qualities of his that need to be emulated.  One, is his unassailable faith in the power of reasoning based on the Marxist outlook.  No argument can ever be won with him on the basis of passion or emotions. 

The other facet of his personality is humaneness.   During these years, I had on a few occasions travelled abroad with him, when he held the office of the Chief Minister.  Being the Chief Minister of West Bengal, he, naturally, was entitled to a preferential treatment. But, he always preferred to travel with other comrades and, till his last day in office, travelled only in the economy class of Indian Airlines.  During  such visits, he would, forever, be concerned about the welfare of the other comrades always by taking interest in their comforts and needs. I have, for instance, never seen him loosing his patience even once!

Another enduring quality of his was a self-imposed discipline with which he conducted his personal and political life.  He displayed the rearest of soldier-like quality when his opinion in 1996 to accept the offer to become the Prime Minister in the United Front government  was rejected by a majority of the Central Committee.  Subsequently, the Party Congress at Kolkata in 1998 had endorsed the Central Committee majority opinion.  Notwithstanding his personal opinion, he, till the end, upheld the majority view and worked steadfastly discharging his responsibilities.  Such steadfast loyalty to the organisational principles of a Communist Party and its strict norms of discipline is a quality that the younger generation needs to emulate. 

Comrade Jyoti Basu had a unique sense of humour.  In September 1993, both of us traveled to Cuba at the invitation of the Communist Party of Cuba for meetings with Fidel Castro and the Party leadership.  We traveled via the Spanish capital, Madrid. On our return journey, we had a full day waiting to catch the flight back to India.  The Indian Ambassador to Spain asked if there was anything in particular we would like to see in Madrid.  Com. Jyoti Basu looked at me. I said that since the original `Guernica’ of Picasso was in a museum in Madrid, it would be nice to see that.  This conversation was on our way to Cuba. However, when we returned to Madrid, Com. Jyoti Basu was not really feeling up to the mark to visit the museum. He suggested that I should however go. Upon which the Indian Ambassador said that the museum was being specially opened, on its scheduled off day, for Jyoti Basu.  Hearing this, JB said, “How would they recognize Jyoti Basu as they had never seen him before! Let Sitaram go, they would not know the difference!”  Eventually I did go alone, the museum was opened and I saw the `Guernica’!

Carry Forward the Struggles

The consolidation of the modern Indian Republic and elevating the much required bar of political morality can be achieved only by pursuing this course as  lived by Jyoti Basu.  The strengthening of the secular democratic foundations and, importantly, to complete the unfinished task of converting  the political independence of the country into the true economic emancipation of the people, will define the contours  of such a consolidation.  The widening hiatus between `shining' and `suffering' India needs to be overcome.

This, in turn, requires, from all of us, the strengthening of the spirit of selfless service to the people and the country.  Pledging his body to serve medical science, Jyoti Basu on April 4, 2003, wrote : “As a Communist, I am pledged to serve humanity till my last breath.  I am happy that now I will continue to serve even after my death.”

Jyoti Basu's indomitable fighting spirit that he displayed all his life was there to be seen in death as well.  Running his 96th year when he was brought to the hospital with pneumonia, medical science and doctors, naturally, saw not much hope.  Jyoti Basu, as always, was to surprise everybody.  For 17 days, the fight continued.  `Never say give up' sums up  the spirit of his life.

He is the last of the original nine member Polit Bureau to leave us – the navaratnas that founded the CPI(M) and steered it  through very troubling and exacting times.  The only homage that we can pay to Comrade Jyoti Basu is by redoubling our resolve to carry forward the struggle for human emancipation and liberty to its logical conclusion. 

Lal Salam Comrade Jyoti Basu.