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Posted Online on Wednesday 20, April 2005 01:30 IST

MG's third report from Jalangi

Comrades loot starving poor's wages in Murshidabad

By Nadim Ahmad, The Milli Gazette

Jalangi, Murshidabad, 18 April: Local influential leaders, read comrades, have evolved a novel way of earning subscriptions for the party. On the face of it, they appear as helping the poor by supporting the Panchayat Beneficiary Committee but actually the force the poor and starving workers to cough up two rupees for every working day wage. They also compel the starving workers to take home 300 grams of rice less than is actually due to each worker for a day's wage. Those who do not pay this donation to the party are either made to wait for two to three weeks to collect their wages or are denied further work under the Food for Work (FFW) project which has been recently started in the Jalangi area after the Murshidabad District Magistrate Mr N.M. Prasad surveyed the area of the displaced poor people who are starving.

On the one hand, the poor homeless are dying of starvation and on the other, the so-called social workers, rather CPIM cadres, are enriching party coffers out of the sweat of workers who are on the verge of death. 

Social activist Mr. Gopen Sharma who has protested against the malpractice is already facing the wrath of both the CPIM and Police. He was implicated in a criminal case and a few days earlier was attacked by a gang of armed criminals who raided his home, beat up and injured his family members and decamped with valuables and cash.

The modus operandi, as a villager disclosed, on the condition that he is not named for fear of losing his wages and chance to work in future, is to pay the wages through coupons which are exchanged at the ration dealer for rice. This has to be done by the workers themselves. But the ruling comrades due to their influence collect the rice on behalf of the contractors and workers and later distribute the same as they wish. In the process they keep 300 grams out of the rice payable to each of the worker for each day's wage. Moreover they also take a cut of two rupees from each day's cash wage, which is fixed at 7 kg of rice and Rs 32 for each working day. 

Local Grampanchayat member of the Congress Party alleged that the CPIM members are extorting money out of the wages of the poor and starving workers. “But the Panchayat member belonging to the CPIM, Husna Ara Begum, forcefully denied the allegation. 

A young worker of Dayarampur, Biswajeet, complained that he was paid only Rs. 60 and 13.4 kg of rice for two days of work instead of Rupees 64 and 14 kg rice which is due to him officially. Idris Ali, a CPIM cadre, accepted the allegation and said that he was doing it at the instruction of the ration shop dealer in order to make up the cost of the cartage and the weight of the rice bags. As of the Rs 2 cut, he said that we are going to hold ‘Padyatra’ against the soil erosion of the Padma and to welcome the dignitaries of the party we are collecting a meager amount of Rs 2 and even that from willing person only. The ration dealer refused to comment. 

The same was the allegation of people of the locality of Jaykrishnapur near Jalangi. Babu Sheik, a resident of Muradpur, said that he had worked for two days during the last three months under the project and he had to give two rupees into the party fund. When asked whether he had complained about this to the authorities, he expressed his fear that if he protested he would not get even two days in future. Kazak Sheik, Rehjan Mondal and Chanchal Sheik also alleged the same. Another person, Amjad Ali Sheik of Biswaspara, said that he is being lured to illegal activities because of non-availability of work.

When this was reported to the local BDO (block development officer) Mr Kanchan Chaudhary, he told the crowd at Dayarampur while he was inspecting the area, to give a written complaint to him. But none dared to complain for fear of reprisals by the party cadres.

Babu Shiekh, Rahejan Sheikh, Kazak Sheikh, Tabsher Sheikh & Chanchal Hoque of Muradpur, Jaykrishnapur, who had lost their houses five years ago to Padma river said that at the time the then local BDO had promised each victim family 5000 rupees as compensation and 6 months work in each year but they did not see the cash or the work. Kazak Sheikh said that her daughter has not been issued her ration card for the last five years. Officials at the local block every time ask her to come next day. Chanchal Hoque, 19, said that his family is settled at other's land and the landlord had filed an eviction suit in the Kolkata High Court so his family has to move out of the land, but does not know where to go. These persons also said that Rs 2 is deducted for the party fund from their wages. They also said that they have got only two days work in a moth.

Hazrat Biswas, Jamal Biswas, Ahiruddin, Saiful Mondal, Alauddin Bissau, Harajul Sheikh and sevral other persons who were digging a pond at Daksin Gosper said that they would get Rs 30 and five kg of rice for a day's work. There were 41 of them in all. The pond is being dug in the private land of Sajidul Rahman, Panchayat member belonging to the CPIM. This was taking place on the pretext of non- availability of suitable government land to dig a pond. When I visited the place today, a local Congress cadre, Hakim Sheikh told me, “There is a project to dig ponds at every booth of the Gosper Panchayat and for every pond four to four and a half lakh rupees is estimated to be spent. For this pond, a CPIM member had offered his land and would draw the whole amount himself and then will pay the workers as he likes.”

Today I also met Abdul Salam, Nobir Ali Mondal and Shehedul Mondal, all residents of Muradpur Jaikrishnapur, who told me that 10 to 12 days earlier we had gone to find work at Jaikrishnapur East where a pond was being dug under the FFW project. When we reached there and wanted to enlist ourselves as workers, the supporter of the CPIM told us that you cannot work here because you are from opposite party. So we were denied work, they said. They further said that they failed to get work under the project. 

This attitude of the officials and the self-interest of local politicians are compelling the local people to migrate out of the district. A few of them who could not afford to move out have settled on government land wherever they could find it. Such group of persons from the Bhagwangola held a protest today before the West Bengal agriculture minister when he visited the area. 

The day before yesterday a medical camp was organised at the instructions of the Murshidabad DM at Dayarampur in Gosper panchayat. Around 14 doctors from Kolkata and Murshidabad took part and checked patients and also distributed medicines. One Majeda Bibi and her daughter were given fifteen days of medicine and vitamin supplements. «

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