Thursday, May 15, 2008

Buddhadeb Replies To Intellectual's Statement

`We Cannot Fail People's Expectations'

The following is the text of the letter written by West Bengal chief
minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to Professor Sumit Sarkar on January
11, 2007 in response to Professor Sarkar's statement on Singur and
Nandigram developments.

I HAVE seen the statement made by you and some other distinguished
intellectuals and activists on the Singur and Nandigram problems. I
would like to apprise you of the state government's position in
regard to West Bengal industrialisation.
In 1977, the Left Front government came to power in West Bengal.
Earlier in 1967 and 1968, two United Front governments were formed in
West Bengal but they lasted 90 and 13 months respectively. But during
these two short periods the land reform movement in the state rose to
a high pitch and the zamindari system faced a very big challenge
movement helped mobilise the peasants of West Bengal on a massive
scale under the leadership of the left forces. In the 1970s, the
political scene in West Bengal passed through many changes bringing
about a major shift in the situation with the installation of the
Left Front government in 1977. Because of the land reform measures of
our government, 78 per cent of the state's land now belongs to the
marginal and poor peasants. This is unprecedented in the entire
country. Owing to the land reform programme of the state government
and pro-people activities of Panchayats, important changes have taken
place in the rural sector of West Bengal. The purchasing power of the
rural people has gone up and the state has achieved a massive
increase in its agricultural production in recent years. West Bengal
is now regarded as a leader in the production of rice and vegetables.
It is time to assess the present situation of the state realistically
and objectively. The fragmentation of land has become inevitable with
the division of property among the children after the death of father
in a rural family. The prices of agricultural inputs are now
increasing. The rise in the agricultural production has led to a
situation in which the peasants do not get the remunerative prices.
At present, 68 per cent of the people are engaged in agricultural
work. The number of landless people has started increasing. In the
current turn of the situation there is reason to doubt whether our
success in the agricultural sector can be maintained if we follow the
same agenda. Faced with this situation, it is imperative for us to
accelerate the pace of industrial development in the state while
sustaining our success on the agricultural front.
In West Bengal, the contributions of agriculture, industry and
service sectors are 26 per cent, 24 per cent, and 50 per cent
respectively to SDP. We should create more favourable conditions for
generating employment through industrialisation. It is incumbent on
us to move ahead, otherwise there would be the end of history. The
process of economic development evolves from agriculture to industry.
The journey is from villages to cities. The process of change is true
for the Marxists also.
For setting up new industries West Bengal needs more land. But in our
state farmland constitutes 62 per cent of the total land, while the
fallow land is only 1 per cent and the forestland is 13 per cent. The
urban and industrial sectors constitute 24 per cent of the total
land. These figures show the constraint under which we are working to
pursue our objective of industrialisation in the state. Under the
circumstances, the farmland, in some measure, has to be utilised for
industrialisation. We are earnestly endeavouring to make the least
use of fertile land for the purpose of setting up industries.
Much is being talked about the land acquisition for the proposed
project at Singur. The economic benefit to be accrued from this
project will be much higher than that obtained now from several plots
of land used for agricultural purposes at Singur. We are giving
adequate compensation to the landowners for the acquisition of land.
It is our firm belief that the economically backward people of Singur
will be greatly benefited after the setting up of the proposed
project. An elaborate scheme for rehabilitation has been drawn up.
Besides the motor factory, a large number of ancillary units will be
set up. As a result, employment opportunities will be created there
on a vast scale. The move is on to employ a good number of villagers
to the projects after imparting technical training to them. It is the
moral responsibility of the state government to see to it that all
land-losers in Singur get direct and indirect employment.
To quicken the economic development of West Bengal we are making
efforts to set up SEZs in some areas of the state. Our priority is to
earmark 50 per cent of each SEZ for setting up industries. The SEZ
cannot primarily be meant for the real estate business. But in
various other parts of India, more than 300 SEZs are being set up
with the thrust on promoting the real estate business. We are opposed
to this move. In West Bengal, we have already received some proposals
for establishing Special Economic Zones. One chemical hub will be set
up at Nandigram in Southern Bengal and we are contemplating to set up
an electronics hub at Siliguri in North Bengal.
I have already made clear our stand regarding the Nandigram issue. We
seek cooperation from all concerned to sort out the problem. The
state government pays full respect to the democratic process.
At present, West Bengal needs more manufacturing industries. We are
attaching importance to such sectors as iron and steel, chemicals,
petrochemicals, engineering, leather, cement and food processing.
Emphasis is also being laid on promoting the labour intensive small
scale and medium industries. We are also according priority to the
setting up of knowledge-based industries (IT, bio-technology). It is
necessary to utilise our human and material resources in ample
Our government is stepping up efforts to develop the infrastructure
sector. West Bengal is a power surplus state. We are proceeding with
our plans for creating significant capacity addition to the power
sector. Three new satellite townships, world-class expressways,
ports, a sea-port, a logistics hub, construction of roads and bridges
are some of the important initiatives undertaken by us. Thousands of
young people are seeking jobs. They will shape the future of our
country. We cannot fail them. We must try our best to live up to the
people's expectations.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
People's Democracy qJanuary 21, 2007
People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India
(Marxist) Vol. XXXI No. 03January 21, 2007