People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 14, 2007
`BUDDHADEB’S SPEECH AT GANASHAKTI FUNCTION
‘We Are Committed To Making Industrial Progress’
The following is the full text of the speech made by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at the function commemorating 40 years of Ganashakti newspaper, held recently in Kolkata.
TODAY is truly an important day for our Party and for the Left movement. Our Party organ Ganashakti has crossed forty years. At the very beginning, I would like to pay my homage to Comrades Muzaffar Ahmad, Promode Dasgupta, Saroj Mukherjee, and Anil Biswas. We have come through traversing difficult roads, through much blood, sweat, and tears. We have not bowed our heads low. We have kept our head high. The people of the state know that Ganashakti is afraid of neither spirits nor God. Ganashakti is committed to the people. We shall keep our head high for the interest of the people.
I shall keep my address limited to the discussion that has been held by the Party on the recent developments in agriculture and industry in the country and in the state.
The Left Front government in Bengal was not built up in a day. Our Front is neither the UPA nor the NDA. The Left Front has been built up through many struggles. We have to go back to the past developments. The two United Front governments of 1967 and 1969 lasted respectively for nine and 13 months. However, the most important event of the state took place then. There were statewide land movements, a strike against landlordism, and land struggle in the fields. We recall with regard Comrade Harekrishna Konar. He was then our Party leader, leader of the Krishak Sabha, and a minister in the government. The struggle organised and brought together the kisans of Bengal. There was a change in the political situation. We recall where the land struggle sent the Congress and with what strength the Left arose. Having achieved this success, we could hold on to it and safeguard it.
CONSOLIDATING THE SUCCESSES
We have consolidated the success of the Left Front government set up in 1977, and we must give it a legal characteristic. Today 78 per cent of the land in Bengal is with the marginal farmers. There is no parallel instance in the whole of the country. There are landlords who own hundreds and thousands of acres of land in Rajasthan, Bihar and in north India. We could organise land reforms through united struggles. We have also been benefited by the results. Not that it has changed the political equation, and the power balance, but it has also brought success to the agricultural system. We are the topmost in the country in the production of paddy and vegetables. The success has been brought in by the struggle of the kisans. The Left Front government has consolidated this success further.
When in abroad I am asked from time-to-time, what is the secret behind the seven consecutive electoral successes? I tell them, ‘come to Bengal. It is better if you move around the villages during election.’ Election is like a festival to the rural poor in the villages. They know what Left is and what Congress is. This frame of mind cannot be changed. This is our political power. More than the success in increasing paddy production, it is the fact of our having been able to rouse this power.
Nevertheless, gradually with the passage of time, we have come to realise that how long can we cling on to the successes of the land movement and of the agricultural production. Land is being gradually fragmented. With the death of the father, the land is divided among the successors. Thus, land reforms are coming to halt at one place. Kisans find it difficult to receive remunerative prices. Prices of seeds, fertilisers, and of irrigated water are all going up. Will kisans get the proper prices? The state will see 15 million MT of paddy produced. We shall procure 2.1 million MT of paddy to give support price. Potato crop will be ready, so will be vegetables: will the kisan get the remunerative price? There is an uncertainty.
68 per cent of the state’s population are engaged in agriculture. This is certainly in excess. Thus, we shall not be able to stand on the agricultural success alone. If we do, we shall not be able to hold on to the success. We have to move forward. We have to transform our economic thinking. That would be to consolidate our agricultural success and go forward towards industrialisation.
The role of agriculture in the state production is 26 per cent, that of industry 24 per cent, and that of services 50 per cent. Shall we stand only here? Is this the end of history? Can we hold on to our success if we stand here? We think not! We have to consolidate the success in agriculture and go quickly towards industrialisation. There are thousands of men and women in need of jobs in towns and villages. There is a surplus manpower in agriculture. There would no new employment created if we do not go in for industrialisation.
The question that would come in on the issue of setting up industries is where shall the industries be set up? There is 62 per cent of agricultural land in our state. The opposition talk about fallow land for factories. The land where there is no cropping in this state is a mere one per cent while there is 17 per cent fallow land in the country. The state has 13 per cent forest cover where interference neither will be nor ought to be possible. The rest 24 per cent comprises townships and industries. Shall we stand here at one place with 62 per cent agricultural land and 24 per cent urban and industrial land? Do we not want new cities and industries? From agriculture to industry, from villages to cities — this is civilisation. We Marxists never deny this aim. We too want this to happen.
There is 62 per cent agricultural land in the state. The total area is 5.4 million hectares or 13.5 million acres. Agricultural land would have to be utilised if we want to set up industries. The attempt should be to use as little fertile land as possible. The self-dependence on food that we have achieved must be maintained. The rice we eat is produced in this state. We must not lag behind in pisciculture, and in the production of vegetables. If we say that we would not venture into agricultural land, the history of Bengal will end here and now. History never stands still. If we stand in one place, history will never absolve us. Go forward we must.
Many of you have heard what the opposition have to say about Singur. You know about Singur that this car manufacturing unit was to have been set up in Uttaranchal. After the project was brought over here, and after having a look at several potential places, it has been decided to set up the factory at Singur. Some amount of agricultural land is being needed. What is the basic issue? What is the price of the agricultural crop produced in those land plots, and how many are the man-days created, and how many man-days will be created once the factory starts production, and what will be the price generated? This is the yardstick. The factory of the future will produce many more man-days than the agricultural economy of the present. This is something our opposition would not realise and understand. They would not understand the basics of economics because they want to oppose for the sake of opposition.
That 68 per cent of the population is yet involved with agriculture is a sign of backwardness of the society. We must rise above this. However, we have to do this by maintaining balance. What we lose, and what we gain —this must be considered. We must try to provide the maximum amount of price for the land he loses and the maximum possible rehabilitation. They are happy at the compensation they have received at Singur. Nine lakh of rupees for a single crop land per acre, and 12 lakh of rupees of a double-crop land per acre — this is a rate that has never been given or shall be given anywhere in the country. However, what do we do on the question of rehabilitation? There are so many people who are dependent on land at Singur, and how many of them can be provided employment at Singur, directly or indirectly, and ensure that their income goes up?
A survey work that is going on is almost completed. It is being seen how many are involved with the agricultural economy at Singur, what are the levels of income of small landholders, recorded and unrecorded bargadars, khet mazdoors, rickshaw van pullers, and of the people of every level, and how to bring in a section of them directly through providing training in factories. It is not easy to become a worker from having been a peasant —but this is progress. The main factory will stand on 700 acres of land. There would ancillary industries in 300 acres.
Many would receive hands-on training for employment. Many new jobs will be created in the factory. Those who do not have the opportunity to receive hands-on employment in the factory will find jobs in the economic activities that shall commence in the surrounding area including in the shops and establishments that would grow up. It is the moral responsibility of the state government to see that every person in the area where land has been taken over is employed.
There has been much publicity given to Singur. You have heard from Comrade Prakash Karat regarding our standpoint on SEZs. On December 9, I said during discussion with the prime minister at a meeting of the NDC that there are hundreds of SEZs being set in the country, why so many. China started with six. We have already exceeded 300. The government of India must think and decide on where and how many SEZs should be set up in such sectors as iron-and-steel, petrochemical, shipping, and basic industries. In Bengal, we have thought about the Haldia Petrochemicals where we see a possibility.
However, SEZs are not for the business of real estates. SEZs are for industries. Thus, 50 per cent of the area must be kept aside for factories. There should be such social infrastructure for the employees like schools, residential blocks, hospitals, and playing grounds. The question here is if there are SEZs set up all over the country, must we not set up SEZs here too. Shall we not move forward? Thus, we have plans to set up SEZs in a measured way. There would be a chemical hub. There would be an electronics complex in north Bengal. There are four-five proposals pending with us. We would not go beyond this. The SEZs would see industrial work alone.
What Bengal needs most today is manufacturing industries. We have emphasised on iron-and-steel, chemicals, petrochemicals, leather, cement, engineering, and other industries. We are attaching importance to small and medium industries because there would be more employment generated. However, this is the 21st century. Manufacturing industries alone would not do here. We additionally need knowledge-based industry. If such knowledge-based industries as information-technology and bio-technology lag behind, we shall fall behind as well. We have started out on information technology late in the state. However, the rate of progress that we have chalked up is greater than that at the national level. The new generation of the state will hold aloft the torch of the 21st century. We can change the look of the state with the help of these human resources. That is why big concerns evince interest in information technology and bio-technology in our state. We have stressed on manufacturing industries but we do not belittle knowledge-based industries.
Certainly, there is need for improved infrastructure for industries. We need lots of big roads and bridges. We require sea ports and new airports. We cannot avoid the West, but East has brought before us many possibilities. The new policy of the government of India is ‘Look East.’ Japan and China are coming. China is setting up a big thermal power-plant at Sagardighi. Singapore and Indonesia are coming. If want to work with East and South-East Asia, we shall need more ports, and more airports. The Dumdum airport is proving insufficient, we need a new airport. We need many high-standard roads. We need road connectivity in all the industrial centres. We need roads linking up north with south Bengal, Kolkata with Haldia, Kolkata, with Kalyani, and Kolkata and Uluberia. Why is China in a position to attract so much foreign investment? This is because they have been able to set up huge infrastructural facilities. India lags quite a way behind.
Thus, we have to preserve the success of the long peasants’ movement, consolidate the success emanating out of it, and go in for industrialisation on its basis. That is our future. Thousands upon thousands of young men and women looking for employment look to us: they will build this century. We are committed to the people who have supported us and have put us to office. The trust they have reposed in us must be honoured. We have to do whatever it is possible for us to do. With this pledge, and with best wishes to you all, I end my address.