Monday, December 31, 2007

Eye on rural test, farm on CPM lips

Eye on rural test, farm on CPM lips

Calcutta, Dec. 30: Panchayat polls in sight, the CPM has decided to lay stress on “balanced development” to counter suggestions that the party was pursuing industrialisation at the cost of agriculture.

The decision was taken by the CPM Bengal committee, which finished today its two-day discussion on the political and organisational report for the party state conference in March.

The party congress, which will finalise the CPM’s course for the next three years, will follow the state conference.

“Development for us means not only industrialisation but also development of agriculture and other rural resources, food security and people’s security. Our campaign will focus on all these,” state secretariat member and convener of the party’s panchayat subcommittee, Madan Ghosh, said.

The party, he added, would try to win over rural voters “confused” over the controversy on land acquisition for industry. “Nandigram and Singur may have confused some people. But our policy is that we will not acquire fertile land unless it is unavoidable. Our campaign would stress that and the need for development on the basis of consensus.”

The party labelled the “Opposition’s pro-farmer cry as a political ploy”.

“They (the Opposition) are opposed to industry on non-farm land, too.”

The CPM is opposed to the Centre’s move to restrain governments from acquiring land. It feels the fragmented holdings in post-land reforms Bengal would make direct deals almost impossible for investors. They would have to deal with thousands of owners, the state government had said.

The party promised a “better compensation package” for landloser farmers. “So far, ours is the best package. We have found some lacunae in it through our own experience and would mend it to make development more inclusive,’’ Ghosh said.

Land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah was among the state committee members who urged the meeting to include investment — by private firms and the state — in agriculture as part of its development strategy.

“We call agriculture our base, so the government should look for investors to modernise agriculture and improve marketing facilities for the export and domestic markets.”

The party directed its rank and file to “accelerate rural development projects”. Instructions were given to distribute “on a war footing” ration cards among below-poverty-line consumers and job cards under the national employment guarantee scheme.

The chief minister will hold a meeting on ration cards at Writers’ Buildings tomorrow.

Ghosh said the “war-footing” message was necessary as the party and the government would slip into election mode soon. The panchayat polls are due in May.