A lot is being talked about the ongoing Assembly election in Bengal. The ruling party is not ready to give the Opposition the slightest of chance while the latter is not ready to give up so easily. The Election Commission is also hell-bent to make the election a fair one while there is no dearth of media channels and experts sitting in their air-conditioned studios analysing the outcome of the election---in terms of seat and vote shares.
But do elections only mean votes and seats? Do the people of Bengal think that only change of guards in the state secretariat the only aim an election serves? In an era when negative verdict rules the roost, have we given up the thought that an election should be treated as an opportunity to better our condition and not take a bullet-less revenge? [High-profile candidates of April 30 phase]
Heckling of a child in polls violence has brought tears to our eyes: Are those tears real?
Take one aspect of our social life and try to connect it with the ongoing election in Bengal, often said to be inhabited by progressive-minded people. How many parties contesting this election are sparing a thought for the children and their conditions? The heckling of a three-year-old girl in North 24 Parganas district by goons allegedly backed by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) rocked the conscience of the state on Monday when the fourth phase of the election was held. Has our conscience really been rocked?
Enough of govt initiatives but what about their implementation on the ground?
The children have been a part of this election but only as petty pawns in a big game of serving the self-interest. The Mamata Banerjee government has intended to show enough 'mamata' (kindness) to the schoolgoers by giving them bicycles or create a lot of noise over the pet Kanyashree project to improve the girls' lot, especially those from families that are socio-economically not well off, through conditional cash transfer. But there are reports about the money not getting utilised in the way it should.
BJP was seen using children in ad campaign which is terrible
The government has done it right to back the children and girls through these initiatives but is it doing enough for these innocent lives to genuinely help them and not extract a mileage during the election? The BJP, for instance, used children in its election ad for Bengal by means of a teacher making them learn that 34 plus five gives us zero (34 years of Left rule added with five years of TMC rule has given the state nothing). The poll panel later asked the party to withdraw this ad but why should a party, which is in power at the Centre and has the responsibility to look after the nation's children, take such a shameful step?
The parties though have mentioned about their plans and programmes for the children in their manifestos for this election, but how far will they be implemented is the million-dollar question.
Stats show how poor the state of children in Bengal still is
There are thousands of questions related to the condition of children in West Bengal: be it education infrastructure, drop outs, health status, etc. To give some examples, 31 per cent of schools are yet to have separate toilets for the girl students and that has pushed many of them to drop out in higher-primary and secondary levels. Twenty-eight per cent schools do not have kitchen for cooking midday meal. The state of electricity supply and drinking water is poor in a good number of schools.
As per the latest national family health survey, only 47 per cent of children in Bengal get mother's milk after birth while only 52 per cent have been fed only breast milk for the first six months. Thirty-one per cent children are still underweight while 54 per cent of children below five years are anaemic. The count of women getting married below is as as high as 40 per cent.
What's the parties' plans for this menace? Do any one of them have any whole-hearted vision to better the picture, apart from aiming to grab 148 seats in the Assembly on May 19?
Or have they been conveniently forgotten since they don't vote?