Socio-economic change in rural West Bengal required implementation of social welfare programs as well as the redistribution of income from the surplus-producing farmers. The intent and effectiveness of these policies was at the outset determined by the class orientation of the policies concerned. Given the difficulty of categorizing the rural poor, Scheduled Caste and Tribe statistics can be used as a fair approximation of the poorer classes and for this reason they have been singled out for particular analysis. The property redistribution programs were conceived to redistribute a surplus but ultimately provided the primary benefits to those with the surplus production capacity.
While these policies were conceived to assist the poor, in their actual implementation propertied classes were to obtain disproportionately greater benefits. The ability of influential groups to obtain preferential access to government goods and services was hardly unique to West Bengal. However, some observers have assumed that, having a Communist government, West Bengal would circumvent these rural elites, thereby providing a unique experiment in Indian development policies. Ultimately, however, traditional values, dependency relationships, and lack of Left Front mobilization were to prevent the changes that had been initially expected.
With South African desegregation, the Indian untouchables will be the only segregated population left in the world. As 2.4 percent of humanity and 1/7th of India's population, they have been by far the largest segregated population. Though Bengal has the third highest percentage of untouchables in India, I have been told by Bengali professors that Bengali untouchables are not segregated, unlike in some other parts of India.