Since the publication of an article in the Economic and Political Weekly by Suranjan Das recently, the chattering classes have been pondering over the emergence of "New Left".
Some observers had described the Left's electoral success in the state as an achievement of the "new Left that will have to please everybody now".
However, Biman Bose, member, CPI(M) politburo, does not regard the installation of the sixth Left Front Ministry in West Bengal as a triumph of the "new Left". Bose told Outlookindia.com that even earlier some observers had equated the CPI(M)'s policies with those of the "new", more often the "neo" Left.
"This is not correct. In fact such comments are a slur on the Indian Left. I am quite familiar with the works fashionable among neo or new Left circles, whether by Cohn-bendit, Danny the Red, Regis Debray and others. We maintain that while Marxism-Leninism is no dogma, its applicability depends on the socio-economic realities in a specific areas at a specific time. The record of the so-called new left in Europe or elsewhere, who pursue a different ideology, does not seem inspiring to us," Bose said.
An architect of the literacy movement in Bengal, Bose outlined some new changes that would be introduced to improve literacy in the state. At the same time, he criticised the existing census data relating to literacy in West Bengal.
Elaborating, he said "Census officials who came to my house and visited our neighbours, did not list as literate anyone who had not been to a school .This approach is strange in that there is also a well-known category for non-formally educated people. What about them, in case they can read and write, should they be not treated as literates?"
In general there has been a disagreement between the census authorities and state authorities over the census figures with the latter claiming that there was an element of underestimation relating to state education data provided by the census authorities. The census department sources deny this, saying they apply the same criteria for every state.
Bose admitted that especially for neo-literates and illiterates, continuance of programmes was a pre-requisite for success. There have been instances of people suffering because of breaks in their learning schedule in the villages, whether owing to work or economic reasons.
The state government was determined to extend the Total Literacy Scheme (TLC) to remote areas, through district and village panchayat agencies, state government personnel as well as volunteer agencies. The primary objective behind the literacy programmes was not only to bring the rural population educationally at par with their urban counterparts, but to enable them to make full use of existing literature and other material that would help them economically.
Turning to the problem of dropouts from urban and rural schools by neo-literates, Bose said the extent of the problem had been reduced. "Whereas in 1980s, we had around 150,000 students or so appearing for their secondary and HS exams, the figures these days is well over 6,00,000, which shows how education has spread over the years," he added. There have been instances of students passing secondary and higher secondary examinations after joining literacy classes in districts like Birbhum, he pointed out.