Monday, January 25, 2010


An irreparable loss.



If the passing away of an individual leader can very correctly be described as 'the end of an era,' it is the demise of Shri Jyoti Basu. A great stalwart of the Marxist movement has passed away. I offer my respectful homage to him, to all his party colleagues, to his son and other family members. My pranams.


Jyoti Basu was the greatest socialist and most successful administrator in the socialist secular Bharat. In his death, India has lost a powerful Leftist thinker and administrator with a socialist perspective. The development of Bengal, particularly the village owes, its crimson march due to the genius of Jyoti. Indeed, socialist Bengal was invulnerable as a Marxist state because of the vision and scrupulous integrity, simplicity and identity with the masses of Jyoti Basu. It is a pity that Kerala, apart from EMS, has never seen a socialist of his stature. While I pay my homage to this leftist wonder, I feel that leftists all over India must unite to build passionately socialist Bharat in the villages of the country. Death has deprived him of his body but Basu’s thoughts and actions will continue to inspire the common people to make India’s swaraj a crimson economy and spread social justice in planning its development and involving the villages a basic structure of impregnable socialism.



It is an end of an era.



There will be no second Jyoti Basu.



On behalf of my party and my own behalf, I deeply mourn the demise of Comrade Basu, a great leader of great vision, political realism, conviction and dedication. He served his people, country and party with a great sense of objective selflessness.



In the sad demise of Shri Jyoti Basu, our country has lost a great son who was a great statesman and a great patriot. I convey my deepest condolences to the members of the bereaved family and countless admirers, comrades and followers of Shri Basu.



The country mourns the passing away of a patriot and a great statesman.


Shri Jyoti Basu, a towering personality in his own right, was one of the most eminent political figures in post-independent India. Shri Basu was a leader whose appeal was limited not to his state only. As his political career progressed, he was looked upon with great admiration as a statesman, whose advice was sought and respected.

His passing away marks the end of an era and the Nation has suffered an irreparable loss.



JYOTI Basu is no more. Though he was 95 and was becoming fragile by the day, his departure is traumatic for the entire Party and has saddened people all over the country. The people of West Bengal feel bereaved. This is because Jyoti Basu was woven into the very fabric of the Communist movement. When we recall the Tebhaga movement, the struggle against the communal carnage during partition, the great mass movements after independence such as the food movement of 1959, the land struggles of the sixties, the fight against semi-fascist terror, Jyoti Basu is inseparable from all these events.

When the CPI(M) was formed in 1964, West Bengal was not the strongest unit of the Party. It was built up by the correct strategy and tactics adopted, in which Jyoti Basu alongwith Promode Dasgupta, played a key role. If Promode Dasgupta worked to build the Party organisation, brick by brick, Jyoti Basu provided the leadership for the political campaigns, the mass movements and the leadership in the legislature.

Jyoti Basu was the last surviving member of the original nine-member Polit Bureau constituted in 1964. He saw his colleagues departing one by one. A K Gopalan, Promode Dasgupta, P Sundarayya, P Ramamurthi, M Basavapunniah, B T Ranadive, EMS Namboodiripad and finally Harkishan Singh Surjeet. They were all leaders who belonged to the generation which began their political life in the anti-imperialist struggle.

Jyoti Basu became acquainted with Marxism through the British Communist Party, while studying abroad. He came back and joined the Communist Party and straight away began work in the trade union movement of the railway workers. 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 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 the 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.

One saw the same calmness and demeanour when there was an assassination attempt at the Patna railway station in 1970. When bullets were fired at him, a comrade who had come to receive him at the station and was standing next to him was killed.

After the pioneering role of the first Communist ministry headed by EMS Namboodiripad in Kerala in 1957-59, 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 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 instituted, the three-tier panchayat system was revitalised by decentralisation of powers. Much before 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 rise 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.

By the 1980s, Jyoti Basu's stature as a national leader saw him playing a major role in implementing the CPI(M) political line. By the 1990s, no other leader among the non-Congress secular parties commanded as much respect as Jyoti Basu did.

Throughout, Jyoti Basu remained a dedicated Communist. He was an extremely disciplined person. It reflected in small details. Whenever he attended Polit Bureau or Central Committee meetings, if he had to leave the meeting early for some official work in Kolkata, he would always request permission to do so.

Jyoti Basu spoke out on issues he felt strongly about in the Party forums but would always abide by the collective decision. In 1996, after the Central Committee decided not to join the government, he repeatedly stated in Party meetings that the decision taken should be accepted as the minority has to abide by the majority decision. This, he said, was the principle of democratic centralism adhered to by our Party.

Jyoti Basu was clear that a person should not continue in positions for ever. He repeatedly asked the Party, from 1998, to relieve him from the chief ministership due to his advancing age and ill-health. It was only in 2000, six months before the assembly elections, that the Party agreed to his request. He also insisted that the Party relieve him from the Polit Bureau, a request that was not acceded to till the 19th Congress of the Party. Even then, the Central Committee decided he should continue as a special invitee to the Polit Bureau.

His absence will be felt most of all in the Polit Bureau of which he was a part for nearly 45 years. For those of us who came into the Party leadership three decades later and thereafter, there was much to learn from him. Even when he could not attend meetings in the recent years, we used to seek his advice.

During the past few years, Jyoti Basu would often pose the question why the Party is not developing outside the three states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. He would constantly stress the need to build the Party and the mass organisations in the states where we are weak. This should be taken as his last wish and desire. It is upto us to fulfill his direction.

Jyoti Basu has passed into history. But he will remain alive in the hearts of the people – the workers, peasants, agricultural workers and employees for whom he ceaselessly worked. Few leaders in independent India, can claim to have contributed to deepening democracy and strengthening the secular edifice as much as Jyoti Basu has done.

For the CPI(M), he will always remain a leader to be emulated and a Communist par excellence.



ON behalf of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, we convey our heartfelt condolences on the demise of Comrade Jyoti Basu, an outstanding and legendary leader of the communist movement in India and the subcontinent.

Comrade Basu dedicated his entire life to the people’s struggle against colonialism, imperialism, capitalist exploitation and communalism, for democracy, freedom, peace and progress.

The Communist Party of Bangladesh remembers with his activities in the same party and in Bangladesh territory, particularly his contribution in building the trade union movement and Railway Workers Union during the British colonial rule. Comrade Jyoti Basu efficiently and successfully led the communist and Left movement in the state of West Bengal, in the challenging and complex task of running a government for decades in a bourgeois state system.

As a Marxist-Leninist and a true internationalist, Comrade Basu played a significant role in the process of water sharing agreement between Bangladesh and India. He took positive initiative for mutual friendship and cooperation between our two countries. The people of Bangladesh will always remember Comrade Jyoti Basu with great respect for the good feelings he had for our country and people.

We give our revolutionary red salute to Comrade Jyoti Basu who will continue to live amongst us in our struggle for peace, freedom and socialism.

We also extend our deep sympathy to his bereaved family, friends, comrades and his beloved party.



WE express our deepest grief at the passing away of Comrade Jyoti Basu, one of the pioneers of Indian communist movement and a leader of the CPI (M). Comrade Jyoti Basu was an outstanding leader who dedicated his whole life to the cause of the working class and oppressed people, fighting valiantly against all kinds of exploitation and oppression incessantly. He led the elected Left Front government of West Bengal for more than two decades, setting an unprecedented example in the history of parliamentary democracy. He all through his life had been steadfast and loyal to the Communist Party of India (Marxist). His wisdom and vision in combating the reactionary and communal forces of India and the imperialist forces of the world will be remembered in the days to come. His role and contribution in the Liberation War of Bangladesh will be remembered by the people of Bangladesh. His demise is an irreparable loss to the CPI (M) and the communist movement of India as well as the world communist movement. We express our solidarity with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in this moment of grief and would also like to convey our deepest condolence and sympathy to the bereaved family of Comrade Jyoti Basu.



WE are deeply shocked at the news of the sad demise of Comrade Jyoti Bose, the leader of your party and a legendary figure of our time. Bangladesh has lost its great friend and the Indian people have lost their dear leader. We remember with great respect his long struggling life, his struggle for the emancipation of the working people and for socialism, and his struggle against imperialism. We remember with gratitude the role of Comrade Jyoti Bose during our liberation war in 1971, the support and the help he rendered to the people and the freedom fighters of Bangladesh.

He was chief minister of West Bengal for long 24 years. During this period he made immense contribution to the society such as land reform, barga operation, industrialisation and the empowerment of the poor people through panchayat system introduced for the purpose of decentralisation of power, all of which can be considered as exemplary acts to be followed not only by the other states of India but also countries like ours.

The death of such a great, revolutionary leader with profound knowledge of Marxism and great sense of practical wisdom is a great loss for the communist and democratic movement of our subcontinent. We express our sympathy with the members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the people of India.


WE are deeply saddened to hear about the news of the passing away of Comrade Jyoti Basu, one of the great stalwarts of the communist movement of the world as well as of India.

At the time when capitalists and their advocates were trying to give fatal blows to the international communist movement after the collapse of the Soviet Union, leaders and cadres the working class parties, including Comrade Jyoti Basu, stood firm and dealt blow after blow to the conceited bourgeoisie. Thus, the communist movement the world over remained intact and now we can see a resurgence of the movement dawning upon the whole world.

Demise of a leader like him is not only a loss to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the people of India; it is also a loss to the proletarians and the people of the world. His memory will be etched in the hearts of the proletarians and the oppressed people.

Comrade Jyoti Basu was one of the leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), who led struggles against imperialism, fascism and international capital. His contemporaries in our party have also passed away. But we believe that our generation can inherit and strengthen the long-tested relationship between our two parties.

Lastly, but not least, please allow us to convey our deepest sympathy to Comrade Jyoti Basu’s family members.



ON behalf of our Political Bureau, we express to you and to all comrades of the CPI (M) our sympathy and sorrow.

We believe that Comrade Jyoti Basu has left a very militant party to you and you will continue to lead the Indian people for a new society.



WE regret to learn the demise of Comrade Jyoti Basu, a great leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

On my own behalf and that of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Mauritius, we hereby transmit our sincere condolences to the bereaved family and to all comrades of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

His body has left this material world but his soul will shine for ever in the midst of the Left movements in India.

May the relations between our two organisations blossom in the near future.



THE Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist) has been stunned hearing the sad news of the demise of Comrade Jyoti Basu, a veteran and prominent leader of the communist and democratic movements in India. Paying homage to the highly valued personality of Comrade Basu with profound grief and sorrow, our party expresses its heartfelt condolence to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and through it to the bereaved family and friends of the late Comrade Basu.

The beloved Indian leader, Comrade Basu, was a dependable and reliable friend of the Nepalese people and of the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist Left and democratic movement in Nepal. Our party shall never forget his participation and the inspiring speech as chief gust of the programme organised by our party in 1990 after the restoration of multiparty democracy, on the eve of 12th memorial day of the late leader Comrade Puspalal, the founder general secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal.

Comrade Basu’s remark on the need to protect, promote and strengthen the nascent democracy of our country is still equally valid and significant in the present context of Nepalese politics.

Long Live Comrade Jyoti Basu!
Red Salute to Comrade Basu!



OUR party has been stunned on hearing the heart rendering news of the death of Jyoti Basu, senior leader of Communist Party of India (Marxist) at the age of 95. Comrade Jyoti Basu was not only in the forefront of the communist movement in India; he was also one of the renowned leaders of the world. He had extended significant support to the democratic movement of Nepal. He discharged his duty as a clean and capable chief minister for more than two decades amidst the corruption prevailed in South Asia. His demise is an irreparable loss not only to the Indian communist movement but also in the international communist movement.

We, on behalf of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) as well as Nepalese communists, extend our heartfelt tribute to Comrade Jyoti Basu and profound condolence to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and his aggrieved family.



WE were saddened to hear the news of the demise of Mr Jyoti Basu, one of the founding leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), who long served as the chief minister of the Left Front government of West Bengal. We express our deepest condolences.

We have fond memories of having fruitful discussions with him when we visited your country in 1988 and 2002. He told us about the struggle to establish the Left Front government overcoming semi-fascist terror in the state. As well, he told us about the implementation of various progressive policies, including distributing agricultural land to farmers and establishing grassroots democracy through the introduction of panchayat institutions, bringing about great improvement in people’s living conditions.

Please convey our heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family.



WE would like to express our profound grief over the death of Jyoti Basu, historic leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and prominent figure of the communist movement in India with broad reputation and recognition.

Jyoti Basu died on Sunday, January 17, at the age of 95. For 70 years he had been committed to the labour and communist movement. He had been a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India and one of the founding cadres of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). He was a member of the Polit Bureau from the time of the party's founding in 1964 until 2008 and remained a member of the Central Committee until his death.

He was assigned several areas of the party work under various conditions; he experienced prison and illegality. He served as the chief minister of the state of West Bengal from 1977 to 2000 and his name has been linked with the agrarian reform, a landmark for the Indians taken by the government of the state under communist guidance.

The working class and the communist movement in India have lost a great fighter, committed to the struggle for the abolition of exploitation and for socialism.

The Central Committee of KKE expresses its sincere condolences to the CPI (M), the members and friends of the party in West Bengal, to the family and the familiars of the deceased comrade.



THE Marxist-Leninists from the Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain convey their deepest condolences on the death of your historic leader, Comrade Jyoti Basu.

Veteran communist activists and leaders like Jyoti Basu should be for us an example of life devoted to the struggle for the emancipation of the working class and other people, and source of inspiration for new generations of communists in India and worldwide.

Comrade Jyoti Basu fought tirelessly for democracy and socialism in the legal framework and in the underground, and was therefore subject to persecution and imprisonment. Now, with the dangerous rise of fascism and the resurgence of the dictatorship of capital around the globe as the only possible reaction of senile and decaying capitalism to its own systemic crisis, many communist fighters and fighters are constantly being persecuted, and their symbols and organisations criminalised and outlawed in many countries.

The unity and cooperation of the Communist and Workers' Parties has grown tighter in order to provide a backbone to the anti-imperialist front that is able to cope with this brutal imperialist capitalist offensive against the workers and peoples.

The communist Jyoti Basu will be present in the heroic history of the Indian people and the international communist movement, surrounded by his comrades and the red flags of work and the revolution.

Victory is yours, Comrade Jyoti Basu!



UPON learning that Comrade Jyoti Basu, a founder and historic leader of your party and, recognisably, one of the great figures of Indian politics and of the communist movement has passed away, we wish to convey the most heartfelt condolences of the Portuguese communists.

Comrade Jyoti Basu will be remembered by our party as one of the most remarkable Indian communist leaders, tireless fighter for the independence of your country, an intellectual profoundly committed to the interests and yearnings of Indian working class, to the worker and trade union movement and a historic leader of the people of West Bengal state that he led for many years as the chief minister.

As this time of his disappearance, we recall the accessibility, energy and joy with which Comrade Jyoti Basu received, in his house in Calcutta, the PCP delegation led by Comrade Jeronimo de Sousa in September 2006.

Paying tribute to one of the great figures of the Indian communist movement, we kindly ask you, dear comrades, to convey to Comrade Jyoti Basu’s family, to other comrades and friends our condolences and the solidarity of the Portuguese Communist Party.



WE are very much in sorrow over the passing away of Comrade Jyoit Basu, veteran leader of the CPI (M), who played a very important role in the communist movement in region. His demise is an irreparable loss not only for the CPI (M), but also a great loss for the people of India.

On behalf of the leadership and the militants of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), we express deep sorrow on the demise of Comrade Jyoti Basu, pay profound tribute to the deceased leader and also express condolences to his family, the Central Committee and all members of the CPI (M).



THE French Communist Party would like to extend to you its sincere condolences after the great Indian Communist leader Joyti Basu passed away. His life as an activist, trade unionist, political leader, minister and head of the government in West Bengal mingles with the history of India and of your party. A great figure of the fight for human emancipation is gone. The leadership of the French Communist Party would like to take this painful occasion to reaffirm all its warm solidarity.

Dear Comrades,

Our solidarity is even deeper in light of the ignominious and criminal terrorist aggressions against numerous activists and leaders of your party, as well as from police agents. The French Communist Party condemns these shocking murders committed, even against women and children, by a Maoist organisation who wants to spread terror and death.

The French Communist Party stands firmly by your side and we give you all our support.



IT is with great sadness that we have received the news of the demise of Comrade Jyoti Basu. His outstanding record of service in the Indian working-class movement is too long for us to cover in this brief message. We shall, however, be carrying an obituary in the next issue of our party’s journal Proletarian in which we hope to be able to do justice to his important contribution to the proletarian movement. His absence from the political scene, which he had so long dominated, will leave a void, which we hope the collective leadership of the CPM will be able to fill. His will be a hard act to follow. He set an example for the whole of India as to how the role of a chief minister should be performed.

Please accept our sincerest condolences for the loss of this outstanding comrade. Can we, through you, convey the same to the Central Committee of the CPI (M), its cadres and the family of Comrade Basu.



WITH profound grief we came to know that Comrade Jyoti Basu has passed away. He was one of the founders of the Communist Party. In your country he enjoyed the vast authority and love among the majority of popular masses and was one of the most prominent and influential Indian politicians. For many years he was the chief minister of West Bengal. We know Comrade Jyoti Basu as a truthful friend of the Soviet Union and the communists of our country.

We express our deep condolences to the family of Comrade Jyoti Basu, to all friends and comrades, to Indian communists.



WE are deeply grieved to learn of the demise of a luminary of the Indian communist movement and former CPI (M) Polit Bureau member, Comrade Jyoti Basu.

As one of the vanguards of the communist movement in India, the founders and outstanding leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Comrade Jyoti Basu made great contribution to the national independence, construction, economic and social development of India. As an old friend to the Chinese people, Comrade Jyoti Basu devoted his whole life to intensifying the communication and cooperation between the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of China, strengthening the people-to-people friendship and state-to-state relationship between China and India.

The International Department of CPC Central Committee mourns the demise of Comrade Jyoti Basu and expresses sympathy for his bereaved family.



WE express our most heartfelt condolences for the physical disappearance of Comrade Jyoti Basu, a committed communist, historical leader, a founder of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and a tireless fighter for the wellbeing of the Indian people, the just causes and peace.

Because of his fruitful life, his seventy years devoted to the Marxist cause, in which he suffered the hardship of prison and underground life, he became a symbol of the Left and progressive forces, and won respect and acknowledgement outside his own country.

He admired the Cuban Revolution and our leaders, and on the occasion of his several visits to our country, he offered his support and love to our people, something which we will never forget.

At this sad moment, we convey our solidarity to the cadres and leaders of the CPI (M) which become a vibrant force to continue the struggle for a better and possible world for all.



From Indian Workers Association (Great Britain), Association of Indian Communists, (Great Britain), Association of Indian Women (Great Britain)

THE Indian community in Great Britain mourns the passing away of the beloved leader of the people of India, the former chief minister of West Bengal and founding member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Comrade Jyoti Basu.

Jyoti Basu was born on July 8, 1914, studied law in London from 1934 to 1939 and returned to India to participate in the freedom struggle. He was elected to the Bengal state legislative assembly in 1946. He became the deputy chief minister in the sixties and chief minister in 1977. He held this post uninterrupted for 23 years before stepping down in November 2000. The administration and coalition established under his and Comrade Pramod Dasgupta’s leadership continues to serve the people of West Bengal even today.

His immense contribution to the Left and democratic movement and to the strengthening the federal structure of India by championing the centre-state relations through an involvement of all the chief ministers will be a part of his immeasurable legacy. Jyoti Basu was truly a statesman without parallel.

Comrade Basu led by example and became a pillar for democracy; he challenged the extremes of Left adventurism and the fascistic communalism on the right. His courage and conviction in trusting the people were perhaps best illustrated when he personally went on to the streets and neighbourhoods of Calcutta to protect the Sikhs and other minorities from the attacks following the Indian prime minister Mrs Indira Gandhi’s assassination in New Delhi in October 1984.

Comrade Jyoti Basu visited Britain many times and addressed rallies and public meetings organised by the IWA.

In dipping our scarlet banner, we pay our humble respects to this giant of India’s progressive, democratic history and pass on our condolences to his family, the CPI(M) and the people of India.

From Bangladesh Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO)

ON behalf of the Bangladesh Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO), we convey our heartfelt condolence on the demise of Comrade Jyoti Basu, a legendary leader of the progressive and communist movement of India and the subcontinent.

Comrade Jyoti Basu dedicated his entire life to the people’s struggle against colonialism, imperialism, capitalist exploitation and communalism, and for democracy, peace and progress. The Bangladesh AAPSO remembers his tremendous contribution in building communal harmony following the heinous incident of the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.

The Bangladesh Afro-Asian People Solidarity Organisation recalls with pride his activities in building peace, harmony and tolerance in India and in this whole region as well. Comrade Jyoti Basu became a symbol of the Left, democratic and secular forces not only in India but also in all the South Asian countries.

As a true internationalist, Comrade Jyoti Basu played a significant role in the process of water sharing agreement between Bangladesh and India. He took a positive initiative for mutual friendship and cooperation between our two countries. The people of Bangladesh will always remember Comrade Jyoti Basu with great respect for the positive feelings he had for our country and people.

We pay our revolutionary red salute to Comrade Jyoti Basu who will continue to live amongst us in our struggle for peace, freedom and progress.

We also extend our deep sympathy to his bereaved family, friends, comrades and his beloved party.

From Indo-Canadian Workers Association of Canada

ALL members of the Indo-Canadian Workers Association of Canada are deeply saddened over the passing away of our beloved Comrade Jyoti Basu and express their heartfelt condolences to his party and his family members. Comrade Jyoti Basu will remain in our hearts forever.


COMRADE Jyoti Basu was born on July 8, 1914 at Kolkata. His father, Nishikanta Basu, and mother, Hemlata Devi, lived in Kolkata though their ancestral home was in village Bardi in Dhaka. Nishikanta Basu was an eminent homeopath doctor. Jyoti Basu spent his childhood in Kolkata, mostly in their house in Hindustan Park in South Kolkata, where he lived the most part of his life too.

Jyoti Basu passed his Senior Cambridge and Intermediate from St Xaviers’ school and later was admitted to the Presidency College with Honours in English. Though not an active political family, Basu’s father was supportive of the national struggle. While in school, Basu was inspired by the Chittagong armed rebellion led by Surya Sen in 1930.

In 1935, Basu went to England to study law. In a volatile international situation, during his university days, his political thoughts were shaped in ideological debates against fascism. Basu became an active member of the India League, a body of Indian students, led by V K Krishna Menon. Among others, Bhupesh Gupta and Snehangshukanta Acharya were his friends in student days. Jyoti Basu gradually came into contact with leaders of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). He began to participate in the Marxist study circles and joined in the activities of the communist groups in London, Oxford and Cambridge. He came in close contact with Harry Pollit, Rajni Palme Dutt, Ben Bradley and other leaders of the CPGB. They had a great influencing role in shaping the ideas and life of young Basu. Jyoti Basu became the first secretary of London Majlis, an association of Indians. They felicitated Jawharlal Nehru in London. Basu decided that he would join the Communist Party after returning to India.

Basu returned to India in 1940 and immediately contacted the party leaders. Though he enrolled himself as a barrister in Calcutta High Court, he never practised simply because he was determined to become a wholetimer of the party.
Basu became the secretary of Friends of Soviet Union and Anti-Fascist Writers’ Association in Kolkata. As member of the party, the initial task of Basu was to maintain liaison with underground party leaders. He was entrusted responsibilities in the trade union front from 1944. In that year, Bengal Assam Railroad Workers’ Union was formed and Basu became its first secretary. Basu was elected to the Bengal Provincial Assembly in 1946 from the railway workers constituency. Ratanlal Bramhan and Rupnarayan Roy were the other two communists who were elected. From that day on, Basu became one of the most popular and influential legislators for decades to come. He showed how the communists can use the legislative forums for strengthening struggles.

Basu played a very active role in stormy days of 1946-47 when Bengal witnessed the Tebhaga movement, workers’ strikes and even communal riots. Everywhere the struggling people found Basu by their side.

Jyoti Basu was the secretary of the West Bengal provincial committee of the party from 1953 to January 1961. He was elected to the Central Committee of the party in 1951. He was a member of the Polit Bureau from 1964 onwards. He was elected as a special invitee to the Polit Bureau by the 19th congress of the party in 2008.

After the country gained independence, he was elected to the assembly from Baranagar in 1952. He was elected to the West Bengal legislative assembly in 1952, 1957, 1962, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1991 and 1996. Though an elected member, Basu was arrested several times during the 1950s and 1960s, and for certain periods he went underground to evade arrest by the police.

In 1962, Jyoti Basu was one amongst the 32 members of the National Council who walked out of its meeting. When the CPI(M) was formed in 1964 as a result of the ideological struggle within the communist movement, Basu became a member of the Polit Bureau. He was, in fact, the last surviving member of the “Navaratnas,” the nine members of the first Polit Bureau.

During the days of the India-China border conflict, Basu and other leaders of the party were accused of being the “agents of China” and faced attacks from the ruling class parties and the anti-communist media.

1n 1967, Basu became the deputy chief minister in the first United Front ministry, and again in 1969. These two governments provided a great stimulus in unleashing the mass and class struggles in West Bengal. Jyoti Basu played an important role in intertwining the struggle and running the government. In 1970, he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt at the Patna railway station, organised by the Anandmargis. In 1971, Basu’s car and public meeting were attacked by Congress miscreants at least twice. Though the CPI(M) became the single largest party in the assembly elections in 1971, it was refused the chance to form a ministry and president’s rule was imposed in West Bengal. The 1972 elections were rigged and the party was forced to boycott the elections. Basu famously declared the new assembly as “assembly of the frauds” and the CPI(M) boycotted the assembly for the next five years. West Bengal faced severe repression and terror during the semi-fascist Congress regime in this period. The CPI(M) and the Left forces courageously fought the onslaught, and Basu was one of the leading figures of that heroic resistance by the people.

In 1977, the Left Front government was formed as a product of the democratic and mass struggles, and Basu became the chief minister. He was 63 then. A new, vigorous era in his life began. The very first announcement by Basu after he was sworn in, was that the government would not be run from Writers’ Building alone; the people would be very much part of it. Under Basu’s leadership, the Left Front government initiated far reaching measures in the interests of toiling people. The land reforms, decentralisation through panchayats, guaranteeing trade union rights of the workers, giving widespread relief to different sections of the society, spread of education marked a radical departure in governance in our country. Under the Left Front government, West Bengal witnessed excellent advancement in agriculture and later it was under his leadership that the state government took serious initiative in industrialisation of the state. In office continuously for 24 years, Basu was the longest serving chief minister in the country.

One of the major contributions of Basu as the chief minister was to raise the issue of centre-state relations at the all-India level. On the one hand, Basu led the struggle against discrimination against West Bengal and successfully built the Haldia petrochemicals complex, Bakreswar thermal power station etc. On the other hand, he could mobilise other state governments and various political parties on the issue.

Jyoti Basu played a significant role in national politics and his intervention at important junctures proved to be crucial. Basu played a prominent role in mobilising the anti-Congress secular opposition forces during the regimes of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao. He also played an important role in mobilising the secular forces against the communal BJP. In 1996, his name was proposed by the secular allies for the prime ministership. But the CPI(M) Central Committee decided to support the government from outside.

Jyoti Basu was one of the main campaigners for the party at the national level. He visited all the states and areas a number of times to address public meetings and rallies. He was particular about attending the open sessions of the CITU’s all-India conferences.

Basu was all along associated with the trade union movement and was a champion of the cause of working class. He was a vice president of the CITU since its inception in 1970.

In November 2000, Basu voluntarily retired from the chief ministership but he continued to lead the party in West Bengal. Despite his ill health, Basu participated in party meetings and in election campaign in 2006 also.
Basu’s wife Kamal Basu died some years ago. He is survived by his only son Chandan and three grandchildren.



By K Veeraiah

THE state of Andhra Pradesh recently plunged into a severe political crisis following the centre’s mishandling of the developments. The statements made by the union home minister fuelled a prolonged agitation in the state, with those demanding a separate Telangana on the one hand and those standing for continuation of the existing state of Andhra Pradesh on the other. With occasional statements coming about the viability and validity of a new commission for reorganisation of states, these developments have led many to question the linguistic basis of states itself. In this background, in order to have a proper perspective on the ongoing developments, it will not be out of place to go through the processes and circumstances in which the concept of linguistic states emerged and the role the then Congress government played in this regard.


The language question in India goes back at least to the last decade of the 19th century when people agitated against the Act of 1894 and the viceroy’s notification curtailing the freedom of expression in vernacular languages. Inspired by the role language played in the emergence of nationalism in European countries, stalwarts of the freedom movement grasped the efficacy of Indian languages for mass communication in the very early phase of the struggle. In Europe, by carving out monolingual nation states, nationalism helped in the speedy expansion of the capitalist system of economy and the nation states’ integration into it. Capitalism used language as a tool to unite vast swathes of land into one administrative territory. At the same time, in the mid-19th century, these linguistic linkages caused the mass mobilisation to develop into revolutionary movements by enabling the people to share their grievances and make common cause.

In India, Lokmanya Tilak was perhaps the first national leader to appreciate the diversity of languages and urge the Congress to commence working in vernacular languages; he also advocated reorganisation of the provinces on a linguistic basis. As early as in 1891, he wrote in Kesari, “The present administrative division of India is the result of a certain historical process and in some cases purely result of accident… if they are replaced by units formed on a linguistic basis, each of them will have some measure of homogeneity and will provide encouragement to the people and languages of the respective regions.”

The unity of nationalities in the freedom movement laid a strong foundation not only for the success of the movement but also for consolidation of the multi-national mosaic of India into an Indian nation. In this process the language of each region played an important role by defining nationality in the Indian context. As defined by Stalin, “A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” In colonial India, all these elements of nationhood gradually developed in each linguistic region and got consolidated during the freedom movement, thus laying the foundation for the demand of reorganization on India into linguistic states. That is why the CPI(M), in its note submitted to National Integration Council at its Srinagar meeting, reminded the government, “our country comprises of several developed and developing nationalities with their distinct and separate languages and corresponding cultural frames of mind.”

The first generation of freedom fighters realised the importance of linguistic states at the time of the partition of Bengal in 1905. As said above, European capitalism had had good experience of the democratic effects of language based administrative units. As they did not have in India anything like the militant proletarian struggles and national liberation struggles of Europe in the mid-19th century, the British colonial rule skilfully crafted multilingual administrative territories in India. In pursuit of this policy, H S Risley, the then home secretary, submitted a note to the Crown in December 1903, suggesting the division of Bengal, and then Lord Curzon did divide Bengal, a linguistically homogenous unit, into two religiously heterogeneous units, in order to stem the freedom movement. But this colonial administrative action helped the Bengali speaking people to learn to think in terms of linguistic unity. The movement for reunification of Bengal also gave an impetus to a movement to reorganise the provinces on the basis of language in the eastern region of India. Reflecting this popular sentiment, at its Calcutta session in 1905, Indian National Congress opposed Curzon’s decision. Its resolution stated, “This congress recommends the adoption of some arrangement which would be consistent with administrative efficiency and would place the entire Bengali speaking community under an undivided administration.”

Finally, colonial administration was forced to undo the bifurcation of Bengal on religious basis, but at the same time it carved out Assam and Bihar as separate provinces in 1911 on a linguistic basis. However, the acceptance of federalism by the Lucknow session of the Indian National Congress in 1916 inspired the demands for several such states. On April 8, 1917, on the basis of its Lucknow session’s recommendation, the AICC demanded a Telugu-speaking state carved out of the Madras Presidency. The Home Rule movement also emphasised the need for creation of linguistic provinces. In fact, this movement served as an important milestone in the reorganisation of linguistically homogenous areas. In her presidential address in the Calcutta Congress session in 1917, Annie Besant said, “Sooner or later, preferably sooner, provinces will have to be re-delimited on a linguistic basis.” Subsequently, in its 1920 Nagpur session, the Congress accepted in principle the creation of linguistic states. With this spirit, first the Congress took initiatives to organise their provincial committees on linguistic basis, as did the Communist Party later.

The emerging idea of federalism forced the colonial administration in India to appoint a commission on linguistic reorganisation of provinces, headed by Sir John Simon, in 1927. Though diverse claims were put forward before the commission for redistribution of the provincial territories on linguistic basis, the commission followed the legacy of colonialism and observed, “…in no case the linguistic or racial principle can be accepted as the sole test.” But it was in response to this observation that the Nehru Committee submitted its own report in 1928. Consisting of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Sir Ali Imam, Subhash Chandra Bose etc and presided over by Motilal Nehru, this committee represented various trends in the freedom movement, and its report for the first time formally incorporated the demand for linguistic reorganisation of the provinces. The report provided an elaborate justification of the demand, “Partly geographical and partly economic and financial, but the main considerations must necessarily be the wishes of the people and the linguistic unity of the area concerned… Hence, it becomes most desirable for provinces to be regrouped on a linguistic basis.” Meanwhile, at the ground level, aspirations for such states within the territory of India caught the people’s imagination. As B Shiva Rao, a member of the Constituent Assembly, later observed, “This principle was subsequently officially adopted by the Congress and included in its election manifesto. On November 27, 1947, in the Constituent Assembly (Legislative) Prime Minister Nehru on behalf of the government of India accepted the principle underlying the demand for linguistic provinces.”


In the interregnum, movements for Ayikya Kerala, Samyukta Maharashtra and Vishalandhra picked up momentum. The Communist Part of India took the lead in forging these movements and popularising the concept of linguistic states in India and its efficacy in democratisation of independent India. A separate linguistic state of Andhra turned out to be a hot issue. In the Constituent Assembly itself, the government of India made a statement that Andhra could be mentioned as a separate unit in the new constitution, thus prompting the drafting committee to constitute a separate committee to inquire into the demands of linguistic states.

It was thus that the Dhar commission came into existence with a mandate to examine and report on the formation of new provinces of Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala, and Maharashtra. The commission submitted its report on December 10, 1948, stating, “The formation of provinces on exclusively or even mainly linguistic considerations is not in the larger interests of the Indian nation and should not be taken in hand.” The commission went on to say, “bilingual districts in border areas, which have developed an economic and organic life of their own, should not be broken up and should be disposed of on considerations of their own special needs.” The commission asked the government of India to reorganise the states on the basis of geographical continuity, financial self-sufficiency, administrative convenience and capacity for future development. At the same time, the Nehru-Vallabhbhai-Pattabhi committee, appointed by the Congress, shifted the emphasis from language as the basis to security, unity and economic prosperity, thus backtracking on the party’s own election manifesto. This was perhaps influenced by the situation prevailing immediately after the partition. The three-member committee felt that, in Patel’s words, supporting “such federal demands will come in the way of growth of India as a nation.”

This was the time when the Communist Party of India and Andhra Mahasabha were mobilising the masses in the princely state of Hyderabad against the Nizam’s rule. Formation of a separate state of Vishalandhra, consisting of all Telugu speaking people scattered across three regions, was one of the slogans of Andhra Mahasabha. As the movement progressed, this slogan caught the people’s imagination, with figures like Ramananda Teertha, Boorgula Ramakrishna Rao (the first elected chief minister of Hyderabad state) supporting the demand of Vishalandhra. Following the police action, the Nizam’s domain was trifurcated and Telangana was clubbed with the already existing Andhra Rashtram. Rao, as the chief minister, piloted a resolution for merger of Telangana with Andhra Rashtram to become Andhra Pradesh. Thus, history does not support the notion that Telangana was always a separate entity and was unified with Andhra Rashtram against the will of the people. A majority of the landlords and razakars opposed the formation of Vishalandhra and supported the Hyderabad commissionery as it could protect their proprietary interests. The Telangana struggle of 1946-51 brought the key issues of land reforms and linguistic states back on the agenda and the central government had to finally take note of these issues.


The whole development proved very costly for the Congress. In the first general elections held in 1952, the Telugu people elected with thumping majorities those who had fought for Vishalandhra. In the Madras legislative assembly, the Congress could get a mere 43 out of the 140 seats falling in the Andhra region, while the Communist Party bagged as many as 40 seats out of the 60 it contested. In these polls, communists had allied with Tanguturi Prakasam and formed the United Democratic Front which bagged 163 seats while the Congress could garner 152 seats only.. Thus Prakasam was the majority leader and should have been invited to form a government. In its stead, however, the Congress dominated centre refused to recognise the UDF’s claim, even though it was a pre-poll alliance, and invited the Congress to form a government on the plea that it was the single largest party in the assembly. The Congress foisted upon the province Rajagopalachari as the chief minister, and thus was scuttled the chances for the formation of a non-Congress government in undivided Madras, which would have been the first non-Congress government in independent India.

Backed by the tremendous support from Telugu people for Vishalandhra, on July 16, 1952, P Sundarayya moved a private member’s bill in parliament seeking the formation of a linguistic Andhra state. In this speech, Sundarayya said, “Rather than with this kind of multilingual states, the country will be more united once the linguistic reorganisation of states is done... If these demands are not met, the situation will be more volatile… Even if for the time being the central government accepted the demand of Andhra State, that is not the end of the matter. As my friend Kotamraju Rama Rao said, we won’t relent until and unless Vishalandhra is formed with Hyderabad as its capital.” Sundarayya also tried to assuage Nehru’s fears about security and integrity of the newly independent India by saying, “The linguistic states, instead of being a threat to the integrity of the country, can support and consolidate national security and integrity in a much more effective way.” But Nehru and the Congress were not convinced and Nehru refused to concede the demand.

On the other hand, dissatisfied with Congress inaction on the demand, Potti Sri Ramulu, a prominent Congress leader from Andhra region, died after 58 days of fast. Sri Ramulu’s death engulfed the entire Andhra in a chaos. The spontaneous protests were so widespread and intense that the central government was forced to give in to the demand and for this purpose brought a bill in parliament on September 2, 1953. The government at that time took enough caution not to use the word “linguistic state.” Speaking in Rajya Sabha on this occasion, Sundarayya criticised the Nehru government severely. He said, “even after 30 years of experience, the government is trying to negate the principle of linguistic states by merely refuting it. People will succeed in getting the linguistic states formed…. The government announced that they will be appointing another commission on this issue. Now the issue is whether the government will announce the formation of Andhra state on the 1st of October or not. Noting short will solve the problem.”
Finally, Nehru had to come to terms with the popular sentiments and announce on the floor of Lok Sabha the formation of Andhra Rashtram with undisputed 14 districts. Thus on October 1, 1953, the new state of Andhra Rashtram came into being through bifurcation of Madras province. This strengthened the struggle for Vishalandhra and also for United Kerala and Samyukta Maharashtra under the leadership of the Communist Party which had been waging the struggle outside as well as inside the parliament. During this struggle, Sundarayya gave a clarion call for Vishalandhralo Prajarajyam. With the same title, he published a book substantiating the party’s argument for Vishalandhra in particular and for linguistic states in general.

In accordance with its viewpoint, the fourth congress of the Communist Party (Palghat, April 19-29, 1956) adopted a resolution demanding the linguistic reorganisation of states. It said, “the struggle for linguistic states is an integral part for better life and democracy.” The resolution warned, “under no circumstances, therefore, can the masses be allowed to be divided by such disruptive activities. Such disruptive activities not only weaken the cause of linguistic reorganisation of states, but disrupt the unity of our people so essential for democratic and economic advance.” Yielding to such pressures and mass mobilisation, the Nehru government set up a States Reorganisation Commission (SRC), also known as Fazal Ali commission. The commission went into the details of demands for clubbing Telangana and Andhra into a single unit. In paragraphs 369-389 of its report, the commission dealt with the problems and advantages of the two scenarios --- with Andhra and Telangana as independent states and as a united state.


The advantages of Vishalandhra, in the words of the SRC, are as follows: “The advantages of a larger Andhra state including Telangana are that it will bring into existence a state of about 32 millions with a considerable hinterland, with large water and power resources, adequate mineral wealth and valuable raw materials. This will also solve the difficulty and vexing problem of finding a permanent capital for Andhra; the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secundarabad are very well suited to be the capital of Vishalandhra” (para 371). The commission said, “The creation of Vishalandhra is an ideal to which numerous individuals and public bodies, both in Andhra and Telangana, have been passionately attached over a long period of time and unless there are strong reasons to the contrary, this sentiment is entitled to consideration.” Further, “The advantages of the formation of Vishalandhra are obvious. The desirability of bringing the Krishna and Godavari river basins under unified control, the trade affiliations between Telangana and Andhra and the suitability of Hyderabad as the capital for the entire region are in the brief the arguments” (para 381).

At the same time, the commission’s recommendations in favour of Vishalandhra are not without a word of caution. In a chapter titled “The Case for Telangana,” the report dealt in detail with the apprehensions and probable hurdles. It said, “Whatever the explanation may be, some Telangana leaders seem to fear that the result of unification will be to exchange some settled sources of revenue, out of which development schemes may be financed, for financial uncertainty similar to that which Andhra is now faced” (para 376). “Telangana does not wish to lose its present independent rights in relation to the utilisation of the waters of Krishna and Godavari” (para 377). “One of the principle causes of opposition to Vishalandhra also seems to be the apprehension felt by the educationally backward people of Telangana” (para 378). At the same time, it thus warned the central government, “anything short of supervision by the central government over the measures intended to meet the special needs of Telangana will be found ineffective, and we are not disposed to suggest any such arrangement in regard to Telangana.”

The commission also suggested a way out in favour of Vishalandhra: “We have come to the conclusion that it will be in the interest of Andhra and Telangana if, for the present, the Telangana area is to constitute into a separate state, which may be known as the Hyderabad state with a provision for its unification with Andhra after the general elections likely to be held in or about 1961, if by a two third majority the legislature of the residency of Hyderabad state expresses itself in favour of such unification.” It also explained the advantages of this arrangement, “while the objective of the unification of the Andhras will neither be blurred nor impeded during a period of five or six years, the two governments may have stabilised their administrative machinery and, if possible, also reviewed their land revenue systems, etc, the object in view being the attainment of uniformity. The intervening period may incidentally provide an opportunity for allaying apprehensions and achieving the consensus of opinion necessary for a real union between the two states.” Thus the commission did not stand in favour of a separate Andhra or separate Telangana. It favoured Vishalandhra with necessary cautions and care.


But the Nehru government preferred Telangana as a separate state. In protest, communist members of Hyderabad assembly threatened to resign. Not the communist Party legislators alone, even a majority of the Hyderabad assembly supported the cause of Vishalandhra. This is the background in which the first Telugu chief minister, Boorgula Ramakrishna Rao, was forced to pass a resolution for the merger of the state of Hyderabad with Andhra Rashtram to form a new Andhra Pradesh. The latter thus came into existence on November 1, 1956. Though he was a critic of the idea of linguistic states, union law minister Dr B R Ambedkar strongly supported it at the fag end of his life. In his book “Thoughts on Linguistic States,” he wrote in December 1955, “The idea of having a mixed state must be abandoned. Every state must be a unilingual state.”

The formation of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka on the basis of language propelled a powerful movement for Samyukta Maharashtra, part of a second series of movements for linguistic states. Refusing to see the reason behind such an upsurge, however, the government tried to suppress this movement by killing 90 agitators on a single day in Mumbai, as Indian bourgeoisie supported Nehru’s idea of keeping Bombay as a separate state. Soon after this issue was settled, the Punjab problem cropped up, finally resulting in the formation of Haryana and Punjab as separate states. As the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Sundarayya submitted a note to the Srinagar meeting of the National Integration Council in 1968. It strongly demanded that the government complete the process of linguistic reorganisation of India, and also warned against denouncing the democratic demand of nationalities for linguistic states as a force of national disruption and disunity and against clubbing it with casteism and communalism. The linguistic reorganisation of India came to a conclusion only after the separation of north eastern states on the basis of language and ethnicity.


By G Mamatha

“WE recognise health as an inalienable human right that every individual can justly claim. So long as wide health inequalities exist in our country and access to essential health care is not universally assured, we would fall short in both economic planning and in our moral obligation to all citizens”. This is not a part of the speech given by a leader belonging to either the CPI(M) or to any other Left party demanding the Right to Health. This is quoted from the speech given by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2005, delivering the convocation address at the All India Institute for Medical Sciences in New Delhi. Manmohan Singh further said that he believed the bulk of the provision of basic health services and medical care, especially for the poor, would continue to remain in the public domain in the near future. “Private care”, he added, “cannot be the immediate answer to the needs of those who do not have basic purchasing power”. Even recently addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the 63rd Independence Day, the prime minister said, “Good health is one of our basic needs”. So much so for the words! Alas, one can be liberal with words as the one who utters them feels that they will not be audited. Comparing statistics with the words uttered reveals the gap between the actions that the mouth and the hand do.

Let us look at the present ground reality. India has one of the most privatised healthcare systems in the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has shockingly revealed recently that in 2007-08, India ranked 171 in a list of 175 countries in the world in terms of public health spending. If you take public expenditure on health as a percentage of GDP, in India it is a mere 0.9 per cent, among the lowest in the world and ahead of only five countries --- Burundi, Myanmar, Pakistan, Guinea and Laos. If you take the share of the government in total health expenditure, again India figures at the bottom of the pile with government spending accounting for just 25 per cent of the total health expenditure in the country.

Compare this with the share of government in health spending which is 76 per cent in Europe and 34 per cent in South-East Asia. India’s spending falls below the lowest even in this range. If you were to consider the share of health expenditure in total government expenditure, India again has among the lowest proportions in the world – a mere 3.4 per cent. Only Pakistan (1.3 per cent) and Burundi (2.3 per cent) allocate a lower portion of total expenditure on health.

In India, private spending on health is 4.2 per cent of GDP. More than 70 per cent of all health expenditure in India is paid for by people from their own pockets and this expenditure has been rising, especially for the poorest with increasing privatisation of healthcare.

According to a Planning Commission paper of May 2009, several studies conducted in villages showed that healthcare expense was responsible for over half of all the cases of decline into poverty. It is estimated that in 2004-05 (for which latest data is availabe), an additional 39 million people were pushed into poverty due to out-of-pocket payments for the costly health care.

NSSO data for 2004-05 shows that of the total medical expenditure per capita, medicines alone accounted for 74 per cent of the expenses in rural areas and 67 per cent in urban areas. If we were to consider only non-institutional medical care, which constitutes the bulk of health expenses, drugs constitute over 80 per cent of people’s expenditure. Think of it, the government intends to further deregularise the prices of drugs and allow the pharma companies to increase the prices stating that our country is home to 'cheap drugs' compared to other parts of the world. 'Cheap' they are indeed! Routinely, 900 people die every day due to Tuberculosis (TB). Over 1000 children die every day in India, due to malnutrition or diseases that can be completely preventable.

The majority of the people are forced to turn to private health systems that are often beyond their reach. For the poor, the choice is sometimes between treatment or death. That is a choice no citizen should be forced to make. India is home to more than 230 million undernourished people, more than any other country. The ever rising food prices are already adding millions more to this list. The government has completely failed to control the food prices and ensure that basic food items providing essential nutrients are made available to the people - to live if not a healthy life, at least a life! The absence of essential nutrients in diet is further decreasing the inbuilt resistance power of the majority of the people and is making them more disease prone. To improve on the dismal record, Indian government needs to increase its social and public expenditure and ensure better healthcare facilities and make its regulatory functions effective.

In 2004, when the UPA-1 government was formed, under Left's pressure, the Common Minimum Programme promised to raise the levels of public health spending from 0.9 to at least 3 per cent of the GDP. Six years later, this continues to remain at the same miserable level of 0.9 per cent. If the Congress party led UPA- 2 government is really serious in providing universal health care as promised in its election manifesto and reiterated on many instances by the prime minister, it needs to get its act together. Its lofty words should reflect in the allocations for health, atleast in the coming budget. It should remember that it cannot escape people’s audit the next time around if it continues with the same policies. Alas, you cannot fool all the people all the time!



By Naresh ‘Nadeem’

ONLY a few days before the year 2009 expired, Havana representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Cuba is among the countries that have best implemented the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and that other countries in the world should learn from Cuba about how to ensure the protection of children's rights.

On this occasion, the UN diplomat, Jose Juan Ortiz, further said though Cuba is still under an economic embargo and suffers frequent natural disasters too, it has significantly reduced child mortality and improved child nutrition. The levels it has reached in this regard can well rival those attained by the most developed countries.


The secret of Cuba’s amazing progress in protecting its children lies in the government's political will, Ortiz added. He was of the frank opinion that all governments in the world should follow Havana's example and strive to provide better conditions for their children in education, health and other fields of social welfare. This way, he said, most countries of the world would be able to meet the targets set by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

There lies a story behind what Ortiz said. Quoting Prensa Latina, as Lisa Karpova reported in Pravda on January 4, a recent report from the UNICEF pointed out --- in unambiguous terms --- that Cuba is the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean that has eliminated child malnutrition.

According to this UNICEF report titled Progress for Children: A Report Card on Nutrition, released at the UN headquarters in September 2009, the reality of Cuban infants is in sharp contrast to the fact that as many as 146 million under-five children in the developing world are underweight. In fact, Cuban children are free from this curse, and this is recognised worldwide.

According to the figures given in the document, the percentages of underweight children below five years of age are 28 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa, 17 in Middle East and North Africa, 15 in East Asia and the Pacific, and seven per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean. Added to these figures, the countries in Central and Eastern Europe have five per cent and other developing countries have 27 per cent of child malnutrition. But Cuba has no such problem. In fact, in Latin America and the Caribbean it is the only country that has zero per cent rate of child malnutrition.

The UNICEF report was very categorical in accepting that the credit for it goes to the Cuban government’s efforts to improve the diet of the people, especially of those who are considered vulnerable.


It is a harsh reality of the world that as many as 852 million people suffer from hunger and that 53 million of these live in Latin America. There are about 5,200,000 malnourished people in Mexico alone while their number is 3,800,000 in Haiti. Across the globe, more than five million children die of hunger every year.

Going by the United Nations estimates, moreover, it would be very difficult to eliminate this scourge in the near future, more so in the third world. Ensuring basic health and nutrition for all people would require an amount of 13 billion dollars a year in addition to what is being spent now. But this is a figure that has never been achieved so far, though it is quite meagre in comparison to the trillions of dollars being spent every year on commercial advertising. We cannot afford to forget either that, in the United States, over 40 billion dollars are being spent today on narcotics or eight billion dollars on cosmetics.

To the credit of Cuba and its socialist system, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) too has acknowledged that Cuba is a nation which has, in the fight against malnutrition, made more progress than what other countries in Latin America have done.


Despite the criminal and crippling US sanctions against Cuba, in place for about half a century, the island country has made this achievement because its socialist government guarantees the basic food basket that gives sufficient nutrition to its population. This is made possible because of regulated distribution of essential products. Far-reaching steps and adjustments have been made in the “special period” to regulate the markets and services, so as to improve the Cuban people’s status on the scale of nutrition and to mitigate the food shortage. The Cuban state especially keeps a constant watch on the food requirements of children and adolescents. This attention to the nutrition issue has given the Cuban people a better standard of living and way of life natural for humankind.

At the same time, from the earliest days of the revolution, Cubans have realised the incalculable benefits of breastfeeding, which multiplies the effects of all the efforts made in Cuba for the health and development of its children. The result is that a large number of the newborns remain exclusively on breastfeeding till the fourth month of their life. Moreover, they continue to consume milk, supplemented with other food items, until they are six months old.

Currently, in Cuba, 99 per cent of newborns leave the maternity homes while still exclusively on breastfeeding. This figure is higher than the proposed UN goal, which is 95 per cent. This indicates that all the provinces of Cuba have been able to meet their targets.

In the next stage of these infants’ life, despite the difficult economic conditions the island nation is facing, the Cuban government ensures for them enough food and nutrition, including the daily delivery of a litre of milk, till they are seven years old. Added to this, it also delivers them supplementary food items like jams, juices and meat. In the quantities permitted by the fund available in the country, these are distributed equally and free among small children across various age groups.

Then, till they reach the age of 13, the government has prioritised for them the subsidised distribution of complementary products such as soy yogurt. Moreover, in case of a natural disaster, the government protects its children by providing them staple food free of cost. The government has incorporated child-care centres into the nurseries and primary schools that are full time regimes, and is continuing its efforts to improve the children’s diets by providing these centres milk protein and other dietary components.


With the support of its own agricultural production as well as increased food imports in conditions of severe drought, the government has taken the level of nutrient intake to above the standards set by the FAO. In Cuba, in addition, the official category of social consumption includes the school lunch that is distributed free of cost to hundreds of thousands of students as well as education workers. Then, in the eastern provinces, there are special supplies of food to the children up to the age of 15 and to the people over 60. Similar provisions have been made for the pregnant women, nursing mothers, the elderly and the disabled, and for the low-weight low-height children.

Currently, special food supply provisions are being made for the municipalities of Pinar del Rio, Havana and Isla de la Juventud which were hit by hurricanes last year, and for five municipalities in the provinces of Holguin, Las Tunas and Camaguey which are currently experiencing a drought. With the help of the World Food Programme (WFP), the government is making efforts to improve the nutritional status of more than 6,31,000 vulnerable people in the eastern region. Yet, no doubt, Cuba has certainly come much ahead compared to 1963 when it had to cry for emergency WFP assistance for the victims of Hurricane Flora.

The progress registered by Cuba in abolishing malnutrition is significant in the background of the strenuous UN efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. As we know, along with the goals to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger by that date, elimination of malnutrition prominently figures in these MDGs which a summit of heads of state and government adopted in 2000. Though nobody can be sure about how many countries will fail to achieve these MDGs by 2015 --- many such pious intentions after all remained only intentions because of the lack of political will or because of the operation of crassest class interests --- the UN reckons Cuba as one in the forefront of head-on confrontation with such challenges of human development.

Though the Cuban progress in the field of health and nutrition has its own share of shortcomings, difficulties and limitations, it is a recognised fact that the progress would have been much more dramatic but for the severe economic, commercial and financial embargo the US has imposed. It is another thing that the Cubans are by no means desperate or alarmed. As they say, the millennium development goals do not frighten anyone in the country.

This is perhaps what Ortiz meant when he said that Cuba leads and that others can profitably learn from Cuba.


On the other hand, a number of prominent non-government organisations (NGOs) have also confirmed that despite its much lower GDP per capita, Cuba keeps beating much richer countries on economic, social and environmental indicators. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, for instance, Oxfam America contrasted the carnage in New Orleans with Cuba’s extraordinarily effective disaster response. Then, in its Living Planet report in 2006, the Worldwide Fund for Nature identified Cuba as the only country that has achieved high levels of human development while fulfilling the requirements of development with environment protection.

Still more importantly, Save the Children UK has developed a new Child Development Index (CDI), which has Cuba at number 20 in the comity of nations. In other words, on this index, Cuba is not only in the highest place among the developing countries; it is three slots above the US.

It is notable that the recently launched CDI builds upon the UNDP’s work on the Human Development Index and Terry McKinley, formerly of the UNDP’s International Poverty Centre, has been involved in the development of both indices. To give the various countries an overall score, the CDI combines three indices of child deprivation --- non-enrolment rate in primary schools, moderate or severe malnutrition, and infant mortality. Out of the 137 countries represented on the CDI, Japan is at the top and Niger at the bottom.

David Mepham, policy division head of Save the Children UK, has thus interpreted these results:

1) Nutrition is a massively neglected issue in development; progress on malnutrition is slower than on the other two indicators. Malnutrition accounts for 3.5 million out of the 9.2 million child deaths every year, and some countries perform worse on this score than what their GDP per capita would suggest. Mepham, in this context, quotes the example of India where malnutrition rate is close to one child in every two.

2) Growth alone is not enough. Mepham says growth is a very blunt instrument for improving the children’s wellbeing and, in this context, he refers to the Cuba versus US case.

3) Equity does matter. Mepham bluntly says issues of rights, power, discrimination and exclusion are crucial in deciding the level of children’s wellbeing or a lack of it.

But who will doubt that adding the parameters of equity would place Cuba still further ahead of the USA!




THE Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) strongly condemns the killing of four CPI(M) activists in Narayanpur under the Canning police station of South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal.

In a dastardly incident anti-social and criminal elements of the Trinamul Congress launched a murderous assault on a peaceful and unarmed group of CPI(M) supporters who were returning after filing nomination papers for the elections to the managing committee of a local madrasa. CPI(M) activists Dinesh Haldar, Khairul Jamadar, Biswanath Gayen and Salim Jamadar were killed on the spot. The gruesome nature of the killings is revealed by the fact that two of them were killed after being fired with the revolver placed inside their mouths. Seven other CPI(M) activists were grievously injured in the attack and are in critical condition and are fighting for their lives.

This incident shows the extent of violence that is being unleashed against the CPI(M) and the Left in West Bengal while the Trinamul Congress and its leader Mamata Banerjee campaigns that there is no law and order in the state of West Bengal. The CPI(M) along with other Left parties had earlier presented a memorandum to the prime minister listing out the more than 150 CPI(M) leaders and activists who had been killed by the opposition since the Lok Sabha election results. Hardly a day passes in Junglemahal area especially in West Midnapur district when CPI(M) activists are not killed by Maoist marauders. In the rest of the state it is the Trinamul which carries on the campaign of violence.

Yesterday's incident is a major development in this continued spree of violence. The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) calls upon all peace loving people in West Bengal and elsewhere in the country to join in condemnation of these murders. The PB calls upon all its Party units to redouble their efforts in expressing solidarity with the struggle for defence of peace and democracy that the CPI(M) and the Left is conducting in such trying circumstances in West Bengal.



In Defence of the Struggle for Democracy in West Bengal

THE 32nd conference of All India Kisan Sabha condemns the semi-fascist attack on Left and democratic forces and the Left Front government of West Bengal let loose by the Trinamool Congress-led alliance of reactionary forces, comprising extreme rightists and pseudo-Left terrorists, that is, the self-styled Maoists. Between May 16, 2006, i.e., after the Left Front government was returned to office with well above three-fourths majority for a seventh consecutive term, and January 10, 2010, 371 comrades have been killed. Of them, 146 were murdered after the last parliamentary elections. A large number of them are from the poorest and socially deprived sections. Of these victims, 28 are tribal comrades, 42 OBCs and scheduled castes and 22 are from the Muslim minority community. Thousands of Left Front supporters were forced to leave their villages, their houses torched to ashes or demolished to dust. Hundreds of sharecroppers and patta holders were evicted from their lands and even peasants were forced to transfer their rayyati land free of cost by means of registered deeds with the stamp duties paid from their own pockets.

It may be recalled that these attacks started from Nandigram and then Singur, followed by the so-called mass resistance against police atrocities in Lalgarh. According to the twisted reasoning of these criminals, to plant mines designed to carry out the “death penalty” against the chief minister is “democratic” and attempts to apprehend these criminals is “anti-democratic.” They received overt and covert support from the hired hands of the right wing bourgeois media and from assorted self-styled “intellectuals.” The demand of the TMC chief and union railway minister that president’s rule be promulgated by invoking article 356 in West Bengal and for withdrawal of central paramilitary forces from Lalgarh is designed to make it a liberated zone for Kishanji alias Koteswar Rao and his mercenaries. “Kishanji” himself is not ashamed to take the name of Mao Zedong and then ask people to boycott elections in which they want the TMC supremo to get elected and become the chief minister of West Bengal. For her part, the railway minister, like her double-speaking counterparts among her “Maoist” allies, refuses to recognise the Maoist hand in blowing up railway lines and stations. Although the prime minister and the union home minister have declared that they consider the Maoists to be the single biggest threat to internal security, responsible for around 4,000 killings in the last five years, they do not, of course, utter a word against their new-found ally in the UPA-2 government. They kept such silence in order to get rid of their dependence on the Left during the UPA-1 government, a dependence that was much to the dislike of their imperialist mentor and strategic partner in Washington.

The union home minister has, of late, written a long letter to express his dismay in public at the “inability” of the chief minister of West Bengal to contain the insurgency in Lalgarh. Where the TMC or their past allies are not a major force, his partymen in West Bengal in some districts have themselves joined the killing spree directed against Left Front workers. The TMC has also joined hands and gone for electoral alliance with the separatist forces in Darjeeling and the Kamtapuris in the districts of North Bengal.

Such are the diabolical designs of this unprincipled alliance. However, as history has proved time and again, these allies have contradictions among themselves and their alliance therefore cannot be a permanent phenomenon. Fissures have already started appearing here and there.

The AIKS takes pride in the fact that it is the Kisan Sabha that has made most of the sacrifices in the brave mass resistance put up by its West Bengal detachment. It has done so along with its fraternal mass organisations and the Left and democratic forces by organising movements and struggles and mobilising millions of peasants under its banner.

The 32nd conference also takes note of the fact that it is the mighty movement of the peasantry and the political will of the Left Front government that has made it possible to distribute 1.97 lakh acres of land among 1.76 lakh tribal families in West Medinipur district. This district alone accounts for about half of the martyrs in the state in the post-Lok Sabha election period. The Left Front won all the parliament seats in the three districts bordering Jharkhand, which has been the main target of attack. In the Jhargram parliamentary seat, the main focus of attack, the CPI(M) candidate won over 59 per cent of the votes, and won in all assembly segments with massive margins, including the Binpur assembly constituency, in which Lalgarh is located.

The 32nd conference of the AIKS, which is being held in the land of the mightiest movement of peasantry in the country, resolves to extend its solidarity and all possible support to the heroic struggle of the peasantry and all democratic forces in West Bengal against the heinous attacks of the reactionary combine. The AIKS resolves to take up a countrywide campaign in February 2010 to mobilise the working masses and all democratic and patriotic forces in defence of this advanced outpost of democracy in order that democracy, secularism, national integration, self reliance and sovereignty of our country are defended at all costs. This conference firmly believes that, as in the seventies of the last century --- when the semi-fascist terror in West Bengal culminated in the proclamation of Emergency all over the country --- reaction will not have the final say. It is the movement of the working people and democratic forces that will become victorious, in the battle for democracy, and emerge ever stronger than before.





AS we go to press, a massive peaceful bandh is being observed in the South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal at the call of the Left Front in protest against the gruesome killing of four CPI(M) activists in Narayanpur on January 11, 2010 (details are carried in the Polit Bureau statement). All the seven others grievously injured are currently battling for their life in a critical condition. The politics of terror unleashed by the Trinamul Congress continues to claim the lives of CPI(M) activists and other progressive elements in the state.

While Trinamul Congress is unleashing this politics of terror in its aim to capture power in the state, it is continuing to provide patronage and cover to the Maoists, who, in turn, continue their rampage against CPI(M) activists. Since the Lok Sabha elections, nearly 200 CPI(M) leaders and activists have been martyred by these TMC and Maoist marauders acting in concert. In the districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia, the Maoists are continuing to target the CPI(M). On January 7, Haren Baske, a member of the Jhilimili CPI(M) local committee, was murdered by the Maoists in Bankura district. Earlier, Rameshwar Murmu, branch secretary of Bhuladara was shot dead on December 25, 2009. Three days later, on December 28, Comrade Kalidas Hembram was hacked to death. In the neighbouring Purulia district, CPI(M) leader Dhanu Rajak, local committee secretary in the Dhadka village was shot dead on January 9.

In the meanwhile, police operations in the Lalgarh area have yielded a large haul of weapons that had been amassed by the Maoists in the past for their murderous attacks on the CPI(M). The joint operations by the centre and the state government against the Maoists had to be reduced due to the elections to the state assembly in Jharkhand where the central forces were deployed. With these now completed, central and the state forces have now re-launched the operations.

This has earned a sharp rebuke from the TMC supremo. Confirming the connection between the TMC and the Maoists and, in a way, also confirming that the TMC had patronised and facilitated the entry of the Maoists into West Bengal in order to use the terror that they unleash to facilitate the TMC's electoral fortunes, Ms. Mamata Banerjee came out strongly against the central government and the union home minister. On January 9, she said: “The centre has surrendered to the CPI(M) by agreeing to launch the anti-Maoist offensive by the joint forces”. She went on to accuse the centre of “surrendering to the CPI(M)” by sending central forces to Lalgarh. She went to the extent of announcing an agitation to highlight the “ineffectiveness” of anti-Maoist offensive.

Once again, the TMC, in its urge to reap electoral benefit in West Bengal, is openly protecting and facilitating Maoist terror and violence in the state. This is a stand that runs into direct contradiction with the prime minister and the union home minister's repeated articulation that Maoist violence constitutes the gravest threat to India's internal security. How can the Congress continue with this untenable situation of having TMC members in the very same cabinet presided over by prime minister? This is a question whose answer the country and the people need to know.

In a brazen display of anti-democratic attitude, the central ministers belonging to the TMC continue to boycott public functions where the chief minister and other ministers of West Bengal are present. This is, in fact, anti-constitutional. The Indian constitution provides for legitimate authority to both the central and state governments and in the discharge of their responsibilities, the central ministers are bound to interact with the state government and its ministers. The railway minister has announced that she will be boycotting two important functions – the 150th anniversary of St. Xavier's College and a union culture ministry function at the Science City Auditorium – that the prime minister will be attending in Kolkata on January 16 since the state chief minister will also be present.

Such brazen anti-democratic stance coupled with the politics of terror, in their desperate bid to capture power in the state, is leading to situation where innocent people suffer and innocent life consumed. On January 9, a blazing fire broke out at noon in a slum of 450 shanties on railway land (as claimed by the railway minister) in Ultadanga in Kolkata. The TMC had called for a bandh that afternoon from 2 pm. Despite the raging fire that destroyed all the shanties and claimed one life, the TMC refused to allow the fire engines to reach the spot to protect the life and property of the slum dwellers. Such is their concern for the poor! Speculation is rife that there is more in this incident than that which meets the eye. A few days earlier, railway officials had conducted a survey exploring the possibilities for constructing a multi-purpose complex on this land as a follow-up of the fanciful announcement made in the railway budget. This fire and the Trinamul Congress's bandh preventing the fire engines from protecting the shanties has made the task much easier for the railway authorities, who, otherwise would have had to make a great deal of effort for clearing the slum. Only time will tell the truth.

As 2010 begins, these developments are, indeed, very ominous signs not only for West Bengal but for the very democratic polity in our country. Such cynical and anti-human methods of unleashing terror, violence and callousness in the pursuit of electoral benefits is not only irresponsible but gravely injurious to the health of Indian democracy and democratic institutions. The people of Bengal had, four decades ago, courageously faced and defeated such anti-democratic anarchic forces and the politics of terror unleashed by an earlier avatar of the Maoists – the naxalites. The people of Bengal had to pay a very heavy price. Unfortunately, Bengal is being pushed into such a direction, once again! For the sake of protecting and strengthening Indian democracy and social harmony, such a diabolical agenda should not be allowed to succeed.