06/01/2011, 00.00
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A tsunami called "Mamata." High hopes for the new government of West Bengal.

by Nirmala Carvalho
After the historic defeat of the Communist Party in the last elections, expectations and hopes of the poor and marginalized are high, but for Jesuit Father Jothi SJ, the new government must move beyond the big talk and focus on "education, health and entitlements on a priority basis" for his people.

Calcutta (AsiaNews) - The defeat of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in the last elections was "a clear verdict against oppression and underdevelopment for the past 34 years," said Jesuit Father Jothi, SJ, director of the Udayani Social Action Forum in Calcutta. "Now, we are waiting to see what the new government will do." On 13 May the Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee, Minister of Railways, beat the Communist Party that had ruled the country since 1977.

The result of great historical significance has created high expectations among the people, especially among the poor. "In 34 years, the Marxist government was able to avoid too many people dying of hunger and ignored the problems, to safeguard their interests," said the Jesuit. Everything was controlled by party cadres, from family problems to the government projects: "Social workers and activists were blocked and even branded Maoists."

"The so called grassroots movement, with socialist ideology, lost everything about socialism and lost touch with people." This, for the priest, has paved the way for the "tsunami called Mamata."

Immediately after the election victory of Mamata Banerjee, the leader of the Trinamool Congress made great proclamations, promising sweeping changes at every level and in a short amount of time. However, Father Jothi is cautious in judging the new prime minister of West Bengal: "Her manifesto talks about a 200-day action plan and a 1000-day action plan. It is very interesting and she is ambitious with this vision plan. But some of the basic rights do not figure in her action plans - which are very important for the poor and rural Bengal.”

The expectations of the people of West Bengal are high. Also in the field of human rights. “In these 34 years the people have experienced real violations of human rights, some made public, but most passed in silence. Now people want justice. But in recent years,” says the priest, “the harassers of the Communist Party have passed to the Trinamool Congress, and will continue to torment people." Quoting the Gospel, he warns, "No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Let’s wait and see what happens."

As director of Udayani (which means "awakening"), Father Jothi wants to work with members of civil society in order to negotiate with the new government to contribute to the development and reconstruction of the country. "More freedom for ordinary people, rural sector development and enforcement of fundamental rights so that the poorest do not have to emigrate to survive. These are the challenges in West Bengal,” says the priest.

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