Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Interview: KG Das, State Secretary, CPIM | Trying to Keep the Flock Together

Interview: KG Das, State Secretary, CPIM
Trying to Keep the Flock Together

By Zubair Ahmed

The All-party combine, which had all ingredients for a perfect blast however could not make a mark, as it was purely a marriage of inconvenience from agendas varying from party to party. CPIM, which had successfully inserted the agenda of Assembly from day one, when Chamber of Commerce had called an All Party meeting to take the Admn head-on on major contentious issues, however could not keep the flock together focused on its common minimum agenda. The Light of Andamans confronted K G Das, State Secretary, CPIM on issues, which were discussed on the sidelines of the public meeting and token dharna held last fortnight. Excerpts from a free-wheeling talk:

Why such a move at this point?
We are tired of this Administration and the arbitrary actions of the Administrator. After Tsunami, soon after LG Bhopinder Singh took charge, he had announced a freshwater lake at Sippighat, heightening of Dhanikhari Dam, Pipeline from Rutland. Nothing is happening on the ground and its clear manifestation of inefficiency. We had sent a memorandum to Home Ministry on various issues.
When MM Lakhera was the Administrator, in an all party meeting he had openly said that popular and elected leaders should not work under the bureaucrats and should be always above them. Whatever work or development takes place without a democratic setup will remain aimless and directionless. Lakhera had even approached the PMO and raised this issue for a democratic setup for the Islands.
There is a limitation for the bureaucrats to take up the issues. For eg. Do the Deputy Resident Commissioner (DRC), a junior level officer posted at Delhi have the guts to go and meet the Ministers or Secretaries in the Capital?

Is it not surprising to note that CPIM is with the Chamber of Commerce to pursue their agenda?
You are right. Sometime back, Chamber of Commerce used to exert same kind of power which the leader of a particular party wields today. There was a time when like the corporate sector used to act in Mainland, camouflaged Chamber used to do it in the Islands.

Assembly has been your agenda for a long time. But, Bhakta was on the helm of affairs when Pradesh Parishad was abolished. How can you justify his demand now?
When Left and Democratic Front was in power at Pradesh Parishad, and people started approaching the Councillors for redressal of their problems, the Member of Parliament's popularity and need started to dwindle and became marginal, which forced him to support the damaging step. Entry of Vakkom Purushottaman as Lieutenant Governor was to wipe out all opposition and prepare a clear ground for Congress. And it succeeded to an extent.  The first step was abolishing of Pradesh Parishad, the fore-runner to Assembly and introduction of 3-tier Panchayati Raj Institution an unjustified democratic institution functioning under the shadows of bureaucracy. But, he realized the folly soon after Vakkom started to sideline him. Vakkom-Bhakta duo also took another decision on modifying the RR for direct recruitment of HGC, which was however, dropped after resistance from various quarters. He has faltered at different points. But, he was very vocal about Assembly which was his foremost demand, when he sat on an indefinite hunger strike as an MP.

Do you think this unholy alliance of parties with varied interests can remain focused on this issue?
First of all, this is not a political front, but a platform with a common minimum programme. We are not averse to the idea of other civil society organizations and eminent people joining this platform and demanding Assembly for the Islands.
As far as varied interests are concerned, its natural that all parties have different shades and have diverse agenda. If you take the freedom struggle, it was a huge alliance of various parties and ideologies with a common minimum agenda of achieving freedom from foreign yoke.  But, most of the groups had their own agendas too, which they started to pursue soon after Independence.
We met the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, who was also the Head of the Ministerial Group on Assembly for the Islands. All the leaders, we met have shown very positive attitude. But we strongly feel that until and unless, people of Island raise their voice for an Assembly, it's not going to materialize.

But, except CPM, all other major parties were harping on a single agenda of release of those jailed in the Explosive Seizure Case, citing it as the cause for the stagnated developmental activities in the Islands?
Our stand is very clear in this issue. We know that most of them are highlighting the Explosive case. We have already demanded a full-fledged CBI enquiry into this matter. We have some apprehensions like Admn is shying away from an explicit enquiry as import of huge quantity of explosives have been going on for last fifteen years. It will also implicate many powerful persons in the Administration, who were in connivance running the whole show.
I have gone through the charge sheet and the statement of Arumugam. When asked they informed us that it was a politically vindictive action against the quarry lobby, who were on the wrong side of Congress during the last General Elections. Moreover, they also mentioned that the switching of wholesale trader at Chennai too went against them.
However, our party is not going to interfere at any point on this issue. It's a matter under sub-judice but, we feel that concentration of power at any level is very dangerous.

What is the response you are getting after the All-Party Meeting at Tiranga Park?
The response is quite encouraging. However, many parties could not stick to the determined path and faltered here and there. Many of them were focusing on individuals and got down to slandering and smear, which is unwarranted. However, it is learnt that Lieutenant Governor has started to collect profiles and bio-data of the leaders, as if it's going to intimidate us.

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