Anath Bandhu Das
The fate of secularism in India depends on non-secular rulers. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) always refers to the saying of the 'Ramayana'. They think that it would meet their target of promoting 'Rama Rajya', when their favourite corporate houses involve in big scams.

Does this group know about Anath Bandhu Das, a solo dramatist who devoted his whole life through performing solo drama on the 'Ramayana Kahini'. He was such a performer of this particular subject by whom 'Rama' was publicised and symbolised as a dutiful son, dutiful husband, older brother of family and a dutiful ruler of state. He established 'Sita' as a great woman of symbol of sacrifice. His performance integrated family bonding and family relation. His solo drama made a bridge of rural and urban cultural integrity. All religious groups bind with a common thread of love, peace and harmony. His act was remarkable for secular society.

Anath Bandhu Das was born at the end of the second decade of 19th century in British India in East Midnapore district of West Bengal. His family was poor and backward (Scheduled Caste) and he had to survive in empty stomach from his early childhood. So, he had no formal education and he had to join a folk cultural team in his early childhood. From this, he learned the 'Saying of Ramayana' and how to perform it. He learnt to mimicry women's voice and child's voice.

His contribution to his society was remarkable. He established a primary school in his village named 'Pora Chingra' of East Midnapore through collection of donation from Kolkata through his performance. Once he served the refugees of East Bengal during Bangladesh War in 70's. He collected food by his performance and shared it with the suffering people of Kolkata.

But due to continuous pressure of modern entertainment media, his solo drama is missing at present. His contribution for religious harmony is forgotten now. If RSS takes the lesson from this forgotten performer, they would learn how to keep secular nature of the country and 'Ramayana' is not for a particular religious group. It is for a social discipline, peace and integrated society.
Harasankar Adhikari, Kolkata

Zuma is Gone
The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) warmly welcomes President Jacob Zuma's resignation. This is long overdue!

Zuma betrayed the working class of this country. He conned many into believing that he had the working class's interests in his heart, but he proved through his actions that he is the most self-centered and self-serving leader only concerned about his self-preservation.

As people close the Jacob Zuma chapter, SAFTU is fully cognitive of the reality that the nightmare the working class faced remains! Unemployment was a huge problem during the colonial and apartheid era; it is a problem that worsened under the 24 years of the ANC rule.

Jacob Zuma inherited a catastrophic unemployment rate at 23.7%, when only counting workers actively searching for work. He worsened that already terrible situation, leaving office when the unemployment rate is 26.7%. This alone underlined the correctness of the SAFTU position that there is an ANC problem and not necessarily a Zuma problem per se. Zuma is a creation of the ANC, not the other way around.

Poverty was a huge problem facing the black working class during the colonial and apartheid era. But poverty worsened during the last 24 years, not 10 years, of ANC rule. In 2011, 27 million South Africans were living in poverty. In 2015 that number increased to 30 million. This can't be possibly blamed on one member of the ANC who enjoyed a total and unconditional support from his party throughout his misrule.

Colonialism and apartheid created inequalities as a deliberate policy to the subjugated black majority, yet inequality worsened over the past 24 years of ANC rule. Today South Africa has infamous title of being the country with worst inequality in the whole world! This has little to do with the disastrous Zuma presidency, but ANC policies that produced these conditions in the first place.

Workers face the reality of a deepening deindustrialisation. Farm-workers face the reality of R1380 minimum wage; informal sector workers return to their pauper status. Overall it's business as usual. Those with property and land keep their positions and those facing property hunger and landlessness face that reality.

The introduction of minimum wages of R20 an hour, R18 for farm-workers, R15 for domestic workers and R11 per hour for EPWP workers is a reality South Africans will continue to face. The threat to undermine the hard-won right to strike remains.

Working people will go to bed in their gang-infested townships and villages where justice is a pipe dream. They will wake up to the reality of the lack of public transport system that is reliable, accessible, safe and affordable. They will continue to be asked to pay for using the best infrastructure through e-tolls!

Their children will continue to attend dysfunctional public schools. The reality of the dysfunctional public health that results in many preventable death; as South Africans saw in the Life Esidimeni saga will continue.
Zwelinzima Vavi, Moleko Phakedi, Patrick Craven, SAFTU

A Literacy Conference
The Antarjatik Banga Sahitya Sammelon (International Bangali Literacy Conference) held its latest annual meet on 4 March, 2018 at Indian Association Hall, Kolkata. Nirmal Brahmachari, founder of the 'Sammelon' and editor of bilingual journal Purbasa Ekhon, was the chief organiser of the meet. This year, the conference felicitated four distinguished persons, namely Timir Basu (Editor, Frontier) Rishin Mitra (musician), Dr Timir Baran Chakraborty (literacy critic) and Krishna Basu (poet). There were recitals, songs and brief speeches. Tagore Songs sung by Swapan Gupta were particularly enchanting; so were the folk songs sung by Nitish Roy.
A Participant, Kolkata

Vol. 50, No.39, Apr 1 - 7, 2018