People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 11, 2007
AGRICULTURAL & INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT
Bengal For Overcoming Obstacles
THE last Assembly elections have seen a greater victory for the Left Front and a bigger defeat of the opposition. The policy and programme of the Left Front government for the advancement of West Bengal, for the development of agriculture and industry, for the task of improving services in cities and villages have been appreciated in a greater measure.
When equipped with this welcome verdict of the people the Left Front government has taken an all-out initiative to cater to the hopes and aspirations of the mass of the people by accelerating the developmental programme with transparency. The forces, big and small, of the ultra right, the ultra left, the fundamentalists, the separatists, and the reactionaries have cobbled themselves together to impede the developmental activities. As they are alienated from the people, they have chosen as the weapon of impediment the creation of anarchy, disorder, and of violent acts of commission.
One-and-a-half decades ago, the union government began following the Fund-Bank directed policy of neo-liberalism to tackle the economic and financial crisis. As a result, the problems of daily life and livelihood have increased, economic problems have grown as well, the rate of increase of employment has fallen and crisis in agriculture has escalated. In the past, West Bengal and quite a few other states were victims of discrimination because of the license-permit system and the injudicious freight equalisation policy of the union government.
The opposition has created all kinds of obstacles on the path of development and of industrial growth over the past thirty years. The list of the conspiracies they have hatched to create anarchy and disorder misusing the democratic rights in the state is long. Overcoming these obstacles, West Bengal has succeeded unprecedentedly in various sectors utilising an alternative policy and outlook.
FRESH PROSPECT FOR INDUSTRIALISATION
The freight equalisation policy and the license-permit raj became infructuous because of the neo-liberal policy. As a result, a new prospect of industrialisation has come up before West Bengal. One of the principal aims of our alternative policy is to increase production in agriculture and industry, basing ourselves firmly on the massive success achieved in agriculture, and to increase employment by an expansion of trade-and commerce and of the service sector.
The success of West Bengal in achieving the highest rate of production of food crops has its roots in land reforms and in the firm stand taken up by the decentralised panchayats and the state government in support of the peasants. In West Bengal, almost 80 percent of land belongs to marginal (less than 2.5 acres) and small (2.5 to 5 acres) peasants whereas the rate is at most 35 percent in the rest of the country.
West Bengal possesses only 2.5 percent of cultivable land of the country, but it has 20 percent or one-fifth of the total land redistributed in the country. There is no trace of any land reforms in states under Congress, BJP, and non-Left governments. In West Bengal, the anti-LF Congress and other reactionary forces organised violent impediments on the path of land reforms that were in the interests of agriculture and peasants.
At a time when these enemies of the peasants have organised themselves together and have raised the plea of peasants’ interests to impede and oppose development of agriculture, industrialisation, employment generation, and development, it devolves on the people of West Bengal to come forward unitedly and strongly to defeat their intention and expose their conspiracy.
In West Bengal alone, there has been a stable government for 30 years. It is here that the law-and-order situation, peaceful ambience, democratic rights, and communal harmony are safe and secure. Here, there is an upward rise of agricultural success, a responsible trade union movement, and a corruption-free, pro-people, and pro-development government. That is why in a competitive market, the industrial investors are becoming interested about this state.
Only a few years back, Haldia in Midnapore was a neglected village of the fishingfolk, and now with the industrial richness it occupies a special place in India and abroad. Investors are continuously coming to Haldia. Besides the industrially advanced districts, the state government is also encouraging investors to invest in the backward districts including those in north Bengal. Haldia and the nearby area have become one of the chief attractions for investment because of the presence of the port.
Here there has been a total investment of 11.5 thousand rupees in 33 industrial units, including Rs 6 thousand crore in Petrochemicals, Rs 1.5 thousand crore in the Indian Oil Corporation Project, and more than Rs 1.5 thousand crore in the MCC factories. Eight industrial concerns have taken the initiative for investment. Between 1991 and 2005, there has been a total investment of Rs 29,195 crores in 1218 industrial units.
Utilising modern science and technology and knowledge technology, the challenge of industrialisation with an alternative policy approach has resulted in once-industrially backward West Bengal moving forward relentlessly to capture the position of primacy in India. Based on per capita growth, West Bengal is second on the all-India scene right behind Karnataka. The average rate of national growth is 4.2 percent and that of West Bengal far surpasses that figure.
The industrial development has been made possible because of the massive success in agriculture. Then again, industrialisation is essential to consolidate the development of agriculture. Otherwise, despite all efforts, agricultural development will be endangered. In the development of agriculture, industry, and services, the priority of the Left Front is to develop economically the poorest section of the society and to secure and protect the interests of the mass of the people of the state.
Added to the overall industrialisation has been the biggest automobile factory of the country at Singur in Hooghly and the biggest steel industry at Salboni in Midnapore west.
SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONES
In the meanwhile, in the year 2000 it was decided to set up ‘Special Economic Zones’ (SEZs) as an ancillary to the import-export policy to establish infrastructure equal to the international standards, export of industrial goods, and for the generation of employment. The central legislation was framed in 2005. Besides the central legislation, several states framed their own regulations in this regard.
In 2003, West Bengal took a leading role in the framing of the legislation. Recently, the union government has decided to put a stop to all proposals for the setting up of SEZs. Welcoming the step, we have demanded that the present central legislation must be fundamentally changed so that a proviso is added for fixing a land ceiling for land utilisation, a complete rehabilitation of the affected people has to be ensured, no tax and other concessions should be given, and labour laws have to be ensured in the SEZs.
Of the several SEZs, some have been established in West Bengal: two at Bidhannagar on the outskirts of Kolkata, one at Falta in south 24 Parganas, while work is going on for multi-faceted production at Kulpi and for leather goods at Bantala. 17 more SEZs would be set up and work has been taken up. Included in this list are information technology, electronics, chemicals, and automobile parts. Of the proposals received by the union government from states for setting up big chemical hubs, the competitive choice has been areas abutting Haldia.
The choice was made by the specialists deputed by the chemicals and fertilisers department of the union government. The principal entrepreneur selected for this project is Indian Oil Corporation, a government of India enterprise. The industrial area when set up will certainly transform the life of the backward Nandigram and of the whole surrounding area. It will make the economy of the district and of the state enjoy a faster growth. Over and above the large chemical industry, there are developmental projects in the offing, like ship building and ship repair factories and port improvement schemes.
Realising the purpose and significance of industrialisation, the peasants of the Singur block, along with the people of West Bengal and Hooghly, have come forward to help set up a big automobile industry. In order to open cracks in the deep trust of the workers-peasants and of the mass of the people in the Left that has been the dedicated torch-bearer as the traditional upholder of their interests, the anti-Left forces of every political colour have united to spread slander and confusion, indulging in acts of violence.
LAND POLICY FOR INDUSTRIALISATION
The landowners have transferred their land to the state government, the state government in turn has fully secured their interests, and a vista has been opened out in the days ahead for employment from amongst the agriculture-dependent families. At this, the votaries of anarchy and disorder have become pushed into a corner and they have opted for a path of violence to disrupt the Nandigram project in despair.
It is not the general policy of the Left Front government to take over agricultural land, especially fertile agricultural land. If a continuous and contiguous area of several hundred or several thousand acres is needed for a project, such may not be available in the area marked for the industrial unit. Even if such area is located, the investors may not consider it suitable on the score of ports, infrastructure, and other concerned matters. The factors that must be prioritised in this respect are to take over as little fertile land as feasible, to protect places of religion, and to provide ample assistance to the land-loser etc. No other state government and not even the union government consider these factors save and except the Left Front government—there are innumerable examples of this aspect.
When industries had been set up during the Congress regimes, we had welcomed industrialisation but had insisted on the securing of the peasants’ interests and rehabilitation. We are for industrialisation and all kinds of development without forcing the decision on the peasants and the mass of the people and incorporating the assistance of all concerned. No other state government other than the Left Front government bothers about these processes and concerns about security.
Over and above land under forest cover, cities-towns-market places, and roads, the agricultural land of West Bengal works out at 62 percent of the total landmass, with less than one per cent being used for industrial purposes. A big industry cannot be set up on island-like pieces of land parcels. In the process of development of industries, it is the peasants and the mass of the people who will stand to benefit. Thus, the campaign that once the less-fertile land of Nandigram is utilised for a large industrial township, food production will fall, and religious places will be taken over is palpably slanderous and aimed at creating confusion.
On the strength of spreading the dastardly rumour that the state government is forcefully occupying and taking over land at Nandigram, for the past two months the forces of religious fundamentalism, Naxalites, Congress, and Trinamul Congress and their running mate the SUCI have united to spread incitement in the area. They have organised a cache of deadly arms, demolished bridges and cut up roads to isolate the area, torched Party offices, attacked the police, burnt police vehicles, extracted several lakhs of rupees from the people through force and loot and attacked the houses of CPI (M) leaders and workers. Nearly 500 families were dislodged from home and hearth, of whom 219 families are still in the shelter of relief camps.
Early in the morning of January 7, these violent rampaging elements attacked the relief camps, looted the house of CPI (M) panchayat member Shankar Samanta, and burned him alive in a stack of hay. Four people in all died in this unfortunate incident. The attackers themselves gave a call for a Bangla bandh on January 8 to create disorder. The state government repeatedly asked everybody concerned to sit across the table for discussion. A large industrial complex will be set up in this area with the comprehensive support of the mass of the people and the peasants. The state government is determined to set up the industry with the cooperation of the people and to do away with the impediments being created through anarchy and chaos.
The violent anti-Left Front elements alienated from the people have been up and about indulging with impunity in violent acts like those at Singur, organised blockades and bandhs, attacked police, issued threats creating fear and carried out dastardly rampage in the state Assembly. The cruelty perpetrated on CPI (M) workers and the mass of the people at Nandigram, torching of houses, offices, and vehicles along with the communal incitement of the fundamentalists are some of the acts of these anti-Left Front elements. They are out to put up a falsely unpleasant picture of the development of West Bengal before the entire country through these anarchic acts. We issue an earnest appeal to all sections of the people of the state to be united in vociferous protest and resistance against the conspiracy, and to make sure in a bigger way the continuance of the trend of development of West Bengal.