Firefight with guns pointing at Centre

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  • Published 18.09.07

Sept. 18: The CPM has launched a damage-control exercise in the wake of allegations that corrupt ration dealers were in league with party leaders.

Bankura party secretary Amiya Patra has asked panchayat leaders to start telling villagers that the party has nothing to do with the shop owners, but the fear of facing people’s fury is stalking them.

No rallies are being planned lest there is a repeat of Sonamukhi, where villagers beat up CPM leaders when they refused to listen to their complaints against non-availability of rice and wheat at the local ration shop.

“We know some ration dealers are corrupt and black market foodgrain. We don’t support them and our party is not run with their funds. We want to make this clear to the villagers. The food inspectors aren’t doing their job,” Patra said.

In Calcutta, the Left Front asked the government to crack down on hoarding but tried to link the people’s fury with rising prices, for which the Centre was blamed.

Two days after the ration rage erupted, front chairman and CPM state secretary Biman Bose broke his silence to deny any CPM-ration dealer nexus. “Many people didn’t collect ration for months as the prices were almost on a par with market rates. But they were forced to go to ration shops as the market prices soared.”

Bose added that the government has been told to act tough on corrupt ration dealers.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who attended the meeting, endorsed Bose’s explanation of the Bankura incidents, but promised inspection of ration shops and markets by the enforcement branch.

The CPI toed the CPM line. “The Centre is busy with the nuclear deal and hardly has time to think of prices,” it said.

At the grassroots, the leaders were aware that the rage was more because of the ration mess than anything else. The party will start a door-to-door campaign and paste posters with details of foodgrain villagers are entitled to. “If the people don’t get an item, they should report it to the panchayat or block office,” Patra said.

But Tapan Mondal, 35, a Sonamukhi farmer, was not convinced. “If they didn’t back the dealers, why didn’t they act against them? The leaders can afford to buy from the market.”

The police patrolled areas where houses of about a dozen ration dealers have been attacked since Sunday. Over 20 dealers have fled home.

Villagers caught ration dealer Chowdhury Moinudddin — a known CPM supporter — at Somsar in the Indus area when he was trying to flee with 20 sacks of rice last night. He has been arrested.

“Narayan Dutta, who fired at us on Sunday, had campaigned for the CPM during polls,” said Budhan Bagdi, 60, a tea stall owner at Kotalpukur.

The local CPM leader declined comment.