April 9, 2009


KOLKATA, 6TH APRIL: The desperate attempts of Pradesh Congress chief Pranab Mukherjee recently to ‘prove’ that Bengal was in bad straits were effectively nailed on 6 April by Left Front chairman and senior CPI (M) leader Biman Basu. Biman Basu said that Mukherjee was fanciful with the truth when he addressed the media with facts that were concocted. Biman quoted reports of the UN and of central government’s agencies to nail Mukherjee’s arguments.

Biman started off by saying that lying about Bengal under the Left Front was not something that was new or surprising. This has happened in the past repeatedly, and every time the attempts were found as based on falsification of the reality. Biman reminded the media that in February earlier this year Mukherjee while in Bengal had heaped praises on the Bengal government for the ‘vast improvement’ in health care, and the progress made in rural development especially in terns of rural employment generation.

In Delhi, Mukherjee accused the LF government with the ‘fact’ that the rate of malnutrition and anaemia amongst women in Bengal was very high. UN and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in a joint report have stated that in India itself more that 50% women suffered from anaemia and that so did 75% of the children. The states where anaemia amongst women and children has increased recently are all non-Left-ruled states, viz., Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh. The highest growth from 51% to 54% is in Andhra Pradesh.

Responding to Mukherjee’s allegation that Bengal has the highest indices in hunger and malnutrition, the CPI (M) leader pointed out that according to the report published by the FAO, 21% of the people of India suffers from hunger and malnutrition. IFPRI states that of the 88 developing countries, India holds the 66th position in terms of hunger reaching a dangerous level. The figure shows that even poorer sub-Saharan African nations fare better than ‘incredible’ India. Of the states where such dangerous hunger levels exist are all non-Left rules states like Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, and Jharkhand.

In relevance, Biman mentioned the fact acknowledged by the government that Mukherjee serves as the foreign minister that the rate of neo-natal death in India is 55% compared to 37% in Bengal. In the country, the number of Primary Health centres (PHC) has gone down by 3% between 2002 and 2007. Only 13% of the target PHC figure mentioned in the 10th Plan could be reached. Of one thousand rural patients, 583 are forced to seek the aid of private sector health institutions. In Bengal 786 out of one thousand patients go to government hospitals when they fall ill. In Indian urban areas, 383 out of one thousand patients can have access to government health institutions whereas in Bengal the figure stands at 658.

Mukherjee has also been a purveyor of the untruth as far as employment is concerned. Contrary to what the Congress leader has said the rate of rural employment in Bengal is greater than the national average. Those below the poverty line comprised nearly 74% of the population in 1973-1974. The figure now stands at just over 28% (2004-2005). In the same period, urban poverty has gone down from 34.7% to 14.7%. The 11th Plan document states that poverty has increased most in such non-Left-ruled states as Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar. All the figures concerning poverty are underwritten by the UNO.

Mukherjee has also been fanciful with his figure work as far as education is concerned, noted Biman Basu. Quoting figures out of context, Mukherjee has sought desperately to prove that there was ‘big’ number of school-drop-outs in Bengal. The drop-out rate, one of the most welcome aspects of the progress made in Bengal in the realm of education under the LF government is just over 8% between classes V and VIII. The rate gets lower every year. The NCERT itself can be quoted to refute Mukherjee’s comments on the school education scene in Bengal. The NCERT report states that in recent years the rate of successful candidature in school examination is among the highest in the country, much above the national average.

Biman concluded by saying that while lambasting Bengal’s development, Mukherjee would not for reasons not difficult to guess bring up two issues: land reforms and rate of growth in agriculture. Bengal tops the list in both cases nationwide.

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