Mamata's cheap populism hurting Bengal, Railways

By: Shubham Ghosh
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Are women least bothered about other women? One wonders after witnessing Mamata Banerjee's style of functioning.

Woman molested, cop tells 'go and see a doctor'!

A horrible incident occurred near the Kona Expressway at Santragacchi in West Bengal on Wednesday morning. A 38-year-old woman from the Bankra area, who works as a cook, was going to her duty around 5 am when a man caught hold of her and dragged her behind a bush and allegedly raped her. The woman, who was also beaten up while resisting the attack, tried to draw attention of the passers-by and even pointed at the fleeing culprit. But none came to her rescue, leave alone chasing the criminal.

The injured woman also tried to stop vehicles on the highway but none obliged. Finally, she approached a policeman who was walking past. To her horror, the policeman asked her 'to see the doctor' and went away. She walked to the Jagaccha police station, located about 3 kilometres away in such condition to file a complaint. "The officer on duty was unmoved even seeing me in tatters. He did not even want to lodge an FIR," she said.

After she returned home, her family took her again to the police station in an ambulance and later admitted her to Howrah District Hospital. The sister of the victim said the police just registered a general diary when they asked them a second time. It was only in the afternoon that the police registered a rape complaint and asked the hospital authorities to examine the victim.

Teenage girl thrown out of train

On the same day down south, a 19-year-old girl was pushed off from a moving train after she resisted four men who allegedly molested her. "They made indecent proposals for Rs 300 and when I refused, they abused me and pushed me off the moving train. I am still alive for the train was moving slowly," she said, adding that none came to her rescue. The victim, who works in a garment factory in Bangalore, was returning home in Mysore. She fell into a dry river-bed after being thrown out from the train and was immediately rescued by the railway police and admitted to a hospital. The culprits were later sent to 15-days of judicial custody by a local court at Maddur, where the incident took place. Even the minister of state for railways said he was clueless about the incident.

Both these incidents suggest how today's political leadership, which only banks on populism as a saleable ideology, ignores the real issues. The standard of women safety in the days of Mamata Banerjee is a testimony to the fact. Ask the women of West Bengal and those travelling by trains.

Safety standards in West Bengal have deteriorated steeply ever since the Trinamool Congress formed the government with the Congress last year. Women across the social strata are being targeted and the administration has failed to take any decisive step to resolve the problem. Mamata Banerjee decided to set up new police commissionerates and stations to tighten security but that has done nothing apart from putting stress on the current police manpower. Without any infrastructural development, it is futile to expect that the law and order scenario will improve overnight in the state. Mamata is just concerned with petty symbolic politics and not establishing any solid administrative foundation.

The same curse has affected the railways. Wednesday's incident showed how dangerous it has become for the women to travel alone in the trains, which is the biggest mode of transportation in the country. Mamata Banerjee is equally responsible, if not alone, for the current state of security in the railways.

Populism hurts people, never shield them

These incidents reflect how populist leaders like Mamata Banerjee cause damage to the nation. In Bengal, Mamata's populism has made the state suffer in key sector like transportation. The sector, which is already a struggling one, has been hit all the more by a new government which decided against hiking fare rates, saying it will be against the Ma-Mati-Manush (mother, earth and people). The number of public transport vehicles on Bengal roads is decreasing with each passing day for the transport bodies are finding it difficult to continue with the services but yet the government has not woken up from its slumber.

In the name of shielding the people, the Mamata-led government is actually putting the economically weaker classes into a bigger trouble for the lack of public transportation is forcing them to use more expensive modes of transportation.

The story is same with the railways also. Last year, Mamata Banerjee got the Railway Minister, Dinesh Trivedi, who is from her Trinamool Congress, for he tried to increase the train fares so that the struggling public sector can be maintained in a better way and its users can be served better. The new Railway Minister, Mukul Roy, can be considered a 'better' Mamata loyalist and would never lock horns with his boss, one can be sure about. And why blame Mamata only? The railways have been successively exploited by various populist leaders from eastern India over time and they have not given anything in return. When one tried to break the shackles, he was removed by a political power which always tries to use public sentiment to its own advantage. Mamata's biggest fault is that she sacrificed public interest for petty gains.

Little regard for economic realities and social consequences

Mamata Banerjee's administrative skills little match the belligerent street-smart politician in her. She has no regard for economics and the possible social consequences, either in case of her state or the railways. Her own brand of politics, that is to oppose the Left (she even finds a conspiracy against her in a rape case), needs a new orientation today. Only a comprehensive economic development, engineered through all possible means irrespective of petty ego clashes, can ensure that West Bengal makes a turnaround today and it can help a lot in dealing with law and order problems in the society.

The same model, if applied to the railway, will see improvements as a severe cash-crunch caused by blocking of revenues has crippled the authorities to ensure proper safety and maintenance measures for this massive industry.

But when will the paranoid give way to sanity?

(With inputs from Anandabazar Patrika)

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