The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No teachers in panchayats

Calcutta, May 31: The CPM today announced that teachers as well as contractors would be kept outside the purview of new panchayat bodies, the formation of which have started in right earnest after the elections.

The decision was taken at the party’s two-day state committee meeting, which concluded at Alimuddin Street this afternoon. The meeting had been convened to assess the results of the just-concluded panchayat polls.

“No teachers or contractors will be appointed sabhadhipatis, sabhapatis and even pradhans of any panchayat body in the three-tier system,” CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said.

Though Biswas refused to elaborate, CPM functionaries felt that a caustic observation by the late Benoy Chowdhury — then land and land reforms minister — about contractors in the nineties may have prompted the leadership to arrive at the decision.

Addressing party workers in Burdwan in 1995, Chowdhury had described the Left Front as a “government of contractors”, creating a flutter in CPM circles as well as in the Opposition camp.

Caught on the wrong foot, the CPM has been working hard since then to keep contractors out of government bodies. The leadership has even stopped giving them tickets for contesting elections.

However, many contractors managed to contest the panchayat polls this time on CPM tickets. Some of them even won. Now, the party leadership is working hard to isolate and deny them any post in the three-tier structure.

Teachers in general earned the CPM’s wrath after some of their associations opposed the government’s move asking them to give written undertaking that they did not give private tuition. Following stiff resistance from several teachers’ associations, the government was forced to backtrack on the issue.

The CPM leadership said that teachers’ involvement in panchayat bodies would harm the academic atmosphere in the state and observed that they should confine themselves to the classrooms.

After the 1998 panchayat elections, teachers played a major role in running the panchayats and at least 25 per cent of the functionaries were teachers. But this time, the party is determined to keep them out.

Unveiling plans to improve the quality of work in panchayat bodies, Biswas said that newly-elected panchayat members would be trained so that they could run the rural bodies with efficiency and honesty.

The CPM secretary added that honesty and efficiency will be the two major criteria for inducting new members.

Commenting on poll performance, the leadership claimed that the party had increased its vote share by 7 per cent from the 1998 elections.

“We got 49.3 per cent of the total votes polled this time. During the 1998 polls, we had received 42. 94 per cent of the total votes polled. We consider this a huge success since all Opposition parties — the Trinamul Congress, the Congress and the BJP — had fought the elections together by forming a grand alliance,” Biswas said.

At least 26 CPM workers were killed since the panchayat polls were announced.

The CPM also took strong exception to the move initiated by some of the Front constituents to join forces with the opposition parties to ensure the defeat of the CPM nominees. The CPM will conduct a special probe for Malda and Murshidabad districts where the party had lost its control over the panchayats this time.

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