Bengal Diary

Inside Out


Officially there is no “lock-down” in Bengal but there were restrictions in every aspect of public life—there was night curfew, severe restrictions in public movement, no railway services for the masses, but shopping Malls, Gyms were open, public and private offices were open with 50% attendance. But there is no public transport! And daily wage earners and self employed ones would have to come from far off places, away from the city of Kolkata, those who earn a paltry sum of 5 thousand rupees a month working as a sales girl in a shopping Mall, a cleaning staff, coming from Baharu in the southern part of Bengal, some 50 km away from the city centre is connected only by train service, which was reserved for persons engaged in “emergency services”. One day, the patience of the working people ran out, they staged demonstrations at a number of stations in the South 24 Paraganas districts of Bengal. They wanted to board on the trains, meant for persons engaged in providing “emergency” services. The number of such train services are few and far between, and these daily wage earners usually had to wait for hours end to board on, if they can manage at all! There were “surprise checks”, extortions, beating and other coercions meted out to the female folks.

Similar thing had happened in the North 24 Parganas, the daily commuters had staged a series of demonstrations, even on a bigger scale, but this time, the Railway authorities, in collusion with local goons, blessed with their connection with the ruling party, did not budge in. On 28th June, 2021, in one such blockade at Dumdum Cantonment station in north 24 Paraganas, daily commuters were joined by the railway hawkers who lost their livelihood and some shanty-dwellers. The train services had to be suspended for quite some time and with a lot of persuasion on the part of railway administration, the squatters agreed to withdraw the demonstration. Unlike the similar occasion in the south 24 Paraganas, where the railways administration kept their promise of allowing the ordinary commuters to board on the so-called special trains, here, in the north counterpart, the railway authorities had unleashed a reign of terror to those local people who had joined the squatters. First, the railway police conducted a mid-night raid and mopped up some youths from the shanties, barged into their home and snatched away their Adhaar cards and rudely asked them to collect the same from the GRP office with a tacit hint that without this card, they are “un-citizen” in the perfect Orwellian drama; they were served with summons to meet SI/RPF. They were booked with U/s 174(a)/147/146/145 of Railway Act. These British Acts are a hallmark of oppressing the ordinary commuters to board on a train by the natives, “disturbing the tranquility” of the British Administrators!

Bengal is full of political magicians and magicians never tell the truth. They do miracles in the name of democracy. Didn’t we witness a troupe of persons shamelessly crossing the floor and joined a rival political party while they remained as elected representatives of a contending political party, provided a red-carpeted gala welcome violating the Peoples’ Representative Act?

One can never forget the real life drama when one of the founders of Trinomool Congress (TMC), Mr Mukul Roy joined the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) and became an all-India leader overnight in the new party. In the last Assembly election, held in the month of April, 2021, he was elected defeating his nearest rival from TMC by a hefty margin and was declared as a BJP MLA by the State Election Commission. The state assembly took its oath duly in the first week of May, 2021 where Mr Mukul Roy was an opposition MLA. So far, so good! But on June 11, 2021, about more than a month after he was elected, he joined the TMC back once again! Yes, he did not bother to resign as the member of the state legislative assembly, which is morally and constitutionally he was bound to do, as there is something called “Anti-Defection Law” and also “Peoples’ Represen-tation Act”. Despite violating two laws of the land, Mr Roy continues to be an “elected representative” of the people of Krishnanagar Uttar!

Meanwhile the speaker of the Assembly, appointed Mr Mukul Roy, MLA, belonging to the opposition party BJP, as the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, in July 2021. For one thing the state BJP unit had already asked Mr Roy to resign from his position before this appointment as he deserted the party. The BJP forwarded 6 names, among these six names, Mr Roy’s name was obviously not there, while TMC forwarded 14 names, and in this list, Mr Roy’s name was there, of course as one of the prospective TMC candidate. When asked about the unconstitutionality and the violation of all moral norms in appointing the PAC this time, the innocence of respected Speaker beats mocks at parliamentary tradition—he declared proudly that nobody informed him “officially” that Mr Roy had joined back TMC, and he would go by his own record, howsoever it marked with undesirable colour!

In a way, this is a repeat telecast of what had happened in in the earlier rule of TMC. One may recall the case of Mr Shankar Singha, elected as a Congress MLA, and like Mr Roy, switched his loyalty to TMC without resigning as an MLA. He was appointed as the PAC Chairperson in August, 2017, by the same speaker, Mr Biman Banerjee, proudly declaring that the TMC government has “every respect for the constitutional process”.

When asked that Mr Singha was no longer a Congress MLA as he left the party and picked up the TMC flag and denounced his party who had allotted him the assembly ticket, the PTI faithfully quoted him saying, “Nobody has given me any intimation or any official communi-cation saying that he has joined TMC. Officially he is still an MLA of Congress,"

There would not have been any surprise, had the matter ended here. In 2017, the Chairman post of PAC became vacant? Simple, Mr Manas Bhuinya, the state leader of the Congress for many years, decided to join TMC and he had to be rewarded. So he was nominated as the Rajya Sabha Member by the TMC and unfortunately he had to resign from the Chairmanship of PAC, as his status would be made known the moment he would be elected as a TMC candidate! Thus he was forced to resign as the Chairman of PAC.

One is once again surprised to see who are the crusaders defending this splendid examples of practising democracy this time. First in the line is the erstwhile Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr Partho Chatterjee. He asserted, when the journalists pointed out the impropriety of such an action, "Roy's appointment did not involve any impropriety. BJP leaders have been appointed as heads of nine other Assembly panels. The TMC believes in giving due respect to its opposition parties. Work won't suffer even if the BJP refuses to take responsibility of other panels". Next in the line was the veteran TMC MLA, Mr Subrata Mukherjee, serving the West Bengal assembly for 50 years. He himself had a very murky history. Once he was a Congress MLA, TMC Councilor, holding both the posts simultaneously. His remark about this affair was remarkable in many respect, when he said, "Mr Roy continues to be a BJP member in the Assembly. It has been a long-established tradition to appoint a senior leader of the opposition camp, who has experience in Parliament, as the PAC chairman. The speaker has simply followed that norm". And what did Mr Manas Bhuinya had to say in this episode? He simply said, what he said four years back, when he refused to step down as PAC Chairman, losing the status of an opposition MLA. What he said speaks volumes about the biggest showcase of this functional democracy: "That way, Mukul Roy fitted the bill in every aspect. He is a very senior leader and a former MP. And he is still a legislator of the BJP."

Back to Home Page

Vol. 54, No. 8, Aug 22 - 28, 2021