In a conversation with rediff.com's Indrani Roy Mitra, the eminent writer speaks her mind about Singur, Nandigram, Bengal's politics, its ills and a possible cure.
Everybody is talking of bringing about a change in Bengal. How necessary is that change?
Without a change, the state will be doomed. For 32 long years, the Left leaders have dragged the state back to the dark ages. There has been no improvement whatsoever in the field of education or literacy, health or infrastructure.
Statistics say that of all the Indian states, our state only leads in three areas: child mortality rate, violence against women and girl trafficking.
More than 55,000 factories in the state have closed down, rendering 15 lakh (1.5 million) people jobless. There are millions of registered unemployed at the employment exchange. In primary education, our state ranks 33rd, tailed only by Bihar and Jharkhand
In Bengal, a meager 27.9 per cent of the population gets filtered drinking water whereas in Maharashtra, this figure stands at 78.4 per cent and in Tamil Nadu 84.2 per cent. It's a sad state of affairs.
What if the change is for the worse?
I understand your concern. When the Left Front came to power in 1977, we supported them. I never thought we would have to oppose them. But I witnessed how the state government turned anti-people over the years. It is a pity that it took us 32 long years to see through the uselessness of the present government.
However, now that the people have raised their voices, they would not tolerate another misrule for such a long time. All that they want now is to get rid of a useless government and the one that comes to power has to deliver the goods. Otherwise that government also would have to go.
What went wrong with the Left Front government?
The Left Front government of Bengal is rotten to the core. I think unlimited power and money made them lose their minds. They became monsters.
Take the example of the Singur factory. In this age of Right to Information, no one knows anything about the pact the government signed with the Tatas. Why is that?
But the Nano factory would have generated jobs, isn't it?
If the Nano factory stayed in Bengal, how many people would have got jobs? Maximum 300. And how many farmers lost their livelihood? 20,000. Do the statistics justify the Nano factory?
Moreover, for the Singur factory, the state government spent billions to make roads, to provide electricity and deploy 10,000 police officers to protect the factory on a daily basis. Who gave them the right to squander people's money?
The Left Front government publicises the Haldia Petrochemical so much.
Do you know, the government, which had promised jobs to 100,000 people at the project's inception, could offer jobs only to 670?
The Singur issue was a joke, a cruel one.
If Singur was a cruel joke, how will you define the Nandigram incident?
Nandigram is a blotch on Indian history. Nandigram is the only place in India where on March 14, 2008, Communist Party of India-Marxist cadres gangraped women.
Though these women made repeated complaints to the authorities, no one was punished -- the offenders haven't even been apprehended. I shudder to even recount the March 14 incident.
Did the Left Front perform better under Jyoti Basu?
I don't think so.
Do you feel Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is more of an intellectual than an efficient politician?
I think the entire Left Front system is to blame. It's not any individual's fault as such.
What is your opinion about Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee as a leader?
She is a thoroughly transparent person. No one can bring any charge of corruption against her. She is an extremely hardworking person with an acceptable personality. Any distressed soul can rest on her shoulders and cry.
Mamata is the only one who has the heart to go on a 26-day hunger strike for a cause. After Mahatma Gandhi, she is the sole leader who is thoroughly transparent, brave, bold and a darling of the masses.
Just compare her to our so-called Communist leaders. Take the case of Communist Party of India-Marxist Politburo member Brinda Karat, for instance. Clad in an expensive sari, she hardly makes an attempt to visit Nandigram or any trouble-prone areas. She can only sit in air-conditioned rooms and compile reports. Is this Communism?
Of late, there has been a sharp divide among the intellectuals in Bengal. There is a section that supports the Left and there is another that does not.
I can't tell you anything about those that support the Left. But if you ask me, we are for a change in governance. We want the people of Bengal to have better lives.
Having worked for the welfare of the tribals for years, I want them to have water, electricity, better health facilities and sanitation.
Image:Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee touches Mahasweta Devi's feet.