Summer of 2011 saw ‘Poriborton’(change) in the state of West Bengal. A collective sigh of relief was heard from people of all various walks of life. The people all over the state had placed their faith in the power of ‘Maa, Maati and Manush’, believing that, finally there will be an end to the widespread corruption, unprofessionalism and exploitation in the state as was practised by the incumbent Left Front Government. But, now 3 years down the line, critics of the Left Front Government are most certainly going back on their words. And over the three years, people of the state have seen enough to realise that their relief after ‘Poriborton’ was excruciatingly short-lived.
Probably the first instance in the public eye that, highlighted the flip-side of the new and inspiring government were Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s comments regarding the ‘Park Street Rape Case’ in February, 2012. Even before any official investigation could be carried out into the case, the CM smelled conspiracy and went ahead to deem the case a ‘shajano ghotona’ (fabricated lie) planted by the CPI(M). When, Chief Detective - Damayanti Sen – of the Kolkata Police Department, tried carrying out an unbiased investigation into the case, she was immediately transferred out of Kolkata and only brought back recently to look into another gruesome rape incident in December, 2013.
‘Poriborton’ also saw the end of democratic elections being held in colleges all over the state. Gun-wielding mobsters became a common sight. Two instances immediately come up while discussing students’ politics under the new regime. Firstly, the death of Kolkata police personnel on duty, in Garden Reach, when clashes broke out between two opposing Trinamool Student Groups, in February, 2013. The police officer succumbed to a gunshot wound, fired by local Trinamool Leader. Secondly, the vandalism in Presidency University, in April 2013, taken up by hooligans who gained entry into the campus from outside. They destroyed the historic Baker Laboratory. Both of these incidents were topic of numerous panel discussions and ‘tea-shop addas’ but, the culprits till date have not been tried.
April, 2013 saw shocking events unfold. The existence of the only scam that, the present West Bengal Government takes credit for (but, by no means can the value of the scam be undermined), i.e. the Saradha Scam revealed itself. Saradha’s head honcho – Sudipto Sen – was arrested in April, 2013 and then slowly but surely links of senior Trinamool Leaders to this expansive corrupt web came to emerge. Even though officially evaluation of this scam has not been done but it will easily run into a few thousand crores. Another instance which left everyone shocked was the arrest of Jadavpur University Professor, Ambikesh Mahapatra, in the late hours of the night, for sharing a cartoon on his Facebook wall. The cartoon took a shot at the removal of Dinesh Trivedi from the post of Cabinet Railway Minister in the centre and handing it over to Mukul Roy. This ‘Big Brother-esque’ approach of the government outraged people all over the state.
In June 2013, the gruesome rape and murder of a college student of Kamduni, Barasat; shook the state once more. But, what was more appalling was the Chief Minister’s reaction when, two young women ran towards her claiming answers and demanding action to be taken against the accused. When, Tumpa and Moushumi Koyal, ran towards Ms. Mamata Banerjee (when she had come to meet the victim’s family in Kamduni), the latter ended up screaming at the women to “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” and deemed the two young women and the other 190 odd women protesting CPM
members and Maoists. Later when, the Chief Minister was cornered regarding her evident over-reaction, she justified herself by claiming that, the CPM, Congress and the Maoists were trying to destabilise the state and were conspiring together to murder her.
All the instances are only but a few of the incidents taking place every day, wherein the common people, the people who voted for ‘Poriborton’ are being hassled and exploited. And most often people are being unable to raise their voices and when they do finally gather the courage to raise their voice, these people are deemed CPI(M) members or Maoists and often thrown into jail or avenged in some way or the other.
In the face of such oppression the Taxi Unions’ Movement against the unfair hike of the no-refusal fine from Rs.200 to Rs.3000, is inspiring for everyone fighting against the unjust implementation of various rules and regulations in the state and also the vengeance this new government seeks. On 7th August, 2014 when, the taxi drivers took to the streets unannounced, to demand that the unfair hike in the fine be withdrawn, 22 taxi drivers were arrested. Following this action by the government, the taxi drivers continued to remain on the streets and now along with their earlier demand, also asked for the bail of these taxi drivers. Finally the court ruled in favour of the protesting taxi drivers and those arrested were granted bail. The government has now moved to higher courts to contest the bail given to these 22 taxi drivers. But, the taxi drivers’ unions have decided to stay away from the roads in spite of the threats issued by the State Government and against its policies and have chosen to continue their fight against the police atrocities the taxi drivers are subjected to.
The Students’ Federation of India of West Bengal salutes the fighting spirit of these Taxi drivers and urges them to continue to keep at their demands and also be inspiration for everyone’s fight who have been victimised by the state.