Tuesday, December 28, 2010

West Bengal 2006-2010:Touching New Milestones(6)

Helping the Downtrodden

· Pension: The amount of monthly pension offered by the Government to the Disabled, Senior Citizens, Tribal Pensioners, Fishermen, Farmers and Widows has been revised upwards from Rs. 500/- to Rs.1000/- during the tenure of this Seventh Left Front Government. The number of beneficiaries have also increased manifold.

· The Social Welfare Department offers Disability Pension (since 1980), Widow Pension and Old Age Pension (since 1979) to more than 160300 recipients. The number of beneficiaries of Disability Pension has increased 5 times, recipients of Widow Pension has increased 3-1/2 times and the number of Old Age Pensioners have been enhanced by 90% in the last five years.

· PROFLAL & AAM AADMI PLAN: Beneficiaries of the Provident Fund Scheme for Landless Farmers (PROFLAL) have also swelled in number. About 25 lakh landless agricultural labourers would benefit from the provisions of PROFLAL and Aam Aadmi Schemes this year. The age limit for eligibility of the schemes has also been raised from 50 to 60 years.

· Financial Assistance to the workers of closed factories :- Even in 2006, the monthly financial assistance to the workers of closed down factories and Tea-gardens was Rs.500/- only, which has been increased to Rs.1,500/- at present.

· Beside the Transport Workers :- The State Government has extended a consolatory assistance of Rs.2000/- per head to transport workers rendered jobless due to withdrawal and non-replacement of vehicles with registrations prior to April 1, 1993. The decision is unprecedented in the country.

· The State Government spent about Rs. 400 Crore in the last financial year so that the farmers do not have to bear the brunt of surplus production of potatoes. The objective was to protect the interests of potato-growers.

· Welfare of Hawkers: The Seventh Left Front Government adopted the West Bengal Urban Street Vendor Policy in October 2010. Adoption of the Policy was an unprecedented step towards legalizing the Hawkers and safeguarding their interests. The Government will now consider adopting welfare measures like education, health security, training, loan assistance etc. for hawkers in consonance with the Policy.

· Indira Awaas Yojana: 111512 houses were constructed under the programme in the year 2008-09 while in 2009-10 214827 houses have been constructed. The number has almost doubled.

· Total Sanitation Campaign: The number of Sanitary Toilets constructed in 2008-09 was 448120 while in 2009-10 529663 Sanitary Toilets have been constructed. That is 81543 more than the previous year's total.

· Pucca houses for the Economically Weaker Sections: A number of programmes are being implemented in West Bengal for the Economically Weaker Sections. The Housing Department has launched its Aamar Bari Project in December 2009. A beneficiary in possession of 2 decimals of land whose monthly income does not exceed Rs. 6000/- may get a Pucca house under the scheme. This project is being implemented through the Fisheries, Forest, Sunderban Affairs, Minority Affairs, Backward Classes Welfare, Paschimanchal Unnayan and the Panchayats and Rural Development Departments and the Asansol-Durgapur Development Authority.

· Houses for Slum Dwellers:- The Urban Development Department has been constructing 142000 new houses in accordance with the Basic Services for Urban Poor Programme for 47 municipalities within the Kolkata and Asansol Mission City Areas under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. These apart, work for the overall development of slums has been going on. Moreover, the Municipal Affairs Department has been constructing 52000 dwelling units for the urban poor in 80 towns, under the Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme. According to a report published by the Union Government in 2010 West Bengal is among the 3 best performing States in provision of Housing for Rural Poor. West Bengal also ranks 2nd in the country in providing Houses for Poor Families belonging to Minority Communities.

· Subsidy for averting Bus Fare hike: West Bengal has set a glaring example by not increasing Bus Fares despite the steep hike in petrol and diesel prices imposed by the Union Government. Even the private mass-transport system is thus being provided indirect subsidies by the Government. The Left Front Government was compelled to take such a decision to protect the interest lower and middle income groups, notwithstanding the resultant strain on the public exchequer. The decision entailed an expenditure of about Rs.100 Crore this year.

· Employment through Animal Resources: Department of Animal Resources Development of the Government of West Bengal has been distributing 20 lakh chicks free of cost every year among the female members of the Self-Help Groups. By setting a rare example par se across the country, the State Government offered a one-time grant of Rs. 500/- initially to every family affected by the Bird Flu epidemic. A Goat-Rearing Unit worth Rs.1500/- was provided to them later, over and above the compensation provided by the Centre. Nearly 27 lakh cows were artificially inseminated across the State in 2009-10. This is also a record achievement. Nearly 76 lakh people in the State come under the purview of direct or indirect employment opportunities created through Animal Resources Development activities.

· The allocation made in the financial year 2006-07 for Development of Forests and Adjoining areas has been enhanced to more than 3 times in 2010-11. The Plan Allocation under the above-mentioned head has increased to Rs.103.88 Crore from Rs.31.70 Crore.
Rice at only Rs. 2/- per Kg.

· The State Government has been supplying rice at the rate of Rs. 2/- per kg only to 26400000 people, reeling under the burden of poverty. This facility has been extended not only to the people living below the poverty line, but also to the poorer people living above the poverty line. The Left Front Government is avowedly beside the common people, who are badly affected by the steep price rise.

100-Days Job

786.62 Lakh man-days were created in 2008-09 in the State under NREGA. In 2009-10, 1551.71 Lakh man-days have been created. Between 2006-07 and August 2010, 4516.9 Lakh man-days have been created under the Programme. On an average a family got 26 days job in 2008-09, which increased to 45 days in 2009-10. Till October this year the count has already crossed 30 days.

Subsidy in Power Tariff for the Low and Middle Income Families

· The frequent upward revision of power tariffs can broadly be attributed to the policy of indiscriminate privatization adopted by the Government at the Centre. In this perspective, the Government of West Bengal has been thriving hard to safeguard the common interest of the in the lower and middle rungs of the society. In the wake of the upward revision of the power-tariff by the State Electricity Regulatory Commission in July 2010, the State Government has been extending a subsidy of Rs.120 Crore to relieve the consumers from the low and middle income groups. Nearly 20 Lakh consumers would now pay lesser charges for each unit consumed. The tariff will remain unchanged for 22 lakh consumers and for 36 lakh consumers, the charges actually payable now would be less than the revised tariff.

West Bengal 2006 - 2010:Touching New Milestones(5)

History in the making in Minority Welfare

· Apart from ensuring reservations, the Left Front Government is committed to holistic development of the minority community in the State. In 1976-77, the then State Government used to spend a meagre amount of Rs. 560000 for the development of Madrasah Education. The allocation under the same head in 2009-10 is a whooping Rs.610 Crore!

· 105 New Madrasahs have been set-up in the tenure of the Seventh Left Front Government alone. 400 Madrasah Education Centres have also come into being in the same period. Construction work of 300 more MSKs and 200 SSKs is under progress.

· The Seventh Left Front Government has accorded recognition to the Madrasahs as Institutions for Minorities.

· The Madrasah Service Commission was constituted in 2008. This Commission has appointed more than 4000 Teachers between 2007 and 2009, of whom 93% belong to Minority Communities.

· The West Bengal Minority Development and Finance Corporation have assisted 345000 beneficiaries in 2009-10 by granting Rs.116.50 Crore in their favour, for Self Employment and Training of entrepreneurs belonging to Minority Communities. The Corporation’s performance is the best in the country.

· The amounts earmarked for payment of scholarships, financial grants etc. to minority students have been largely enhanced. The number of beneficiaries has multiplied accordingly.

· District level offices of the Minority Welfare Department have started functioning in 11 districts of the State from the last year. A Minority Cell is operational in the remaining districts.

· Alia University was established in 2007. The State Government has declared it as an Institution for the Minorities. Altogether 327 posts in various disciplines have been created for the Alia University within the last one year.

· A new Haj House has been constructed near Kolkata Airport in the tenure of the present State Government. There are in all 9 Haj Houses in the whole country. 2 of those are in West Bengal.

· 158 Police Constables out of 612 recruited in October 2009 belong to minority communities.

· Inclusion of at least one member of minority community in Selection Committees constituted for supervising public recruitment has been made mandatory.

· Empowerment of women belonging to minority communities is one of the exceptional areas of success of the State Government. The project for empowering women envisages implementation of various programmes, besides assisting SHGs.

· Nowhere in India but in West Bengal are the SHGs comprising of women from minority communities, provided with a 50% subsidy.

· The work for establishing English-medium Madrasahs has taken off only during the regime of the Seventh Left Front Government.

· This Government has initiated the popular West Bengal State Madrasah Sports Meet.
Muslims as OBCs enjoy Reservation – West Bengal is the Pioneer

· In a historic move, the Seventh Left Front Government has brought 53 Muslim communities within the ambit of reservation quota as OBCs on the basis of their backwardness. Among the 53 more backward communities identified, 49 are Muslims. The remaining 4 Muslim communities have been identified as Backward. About 172 Lakh out of the 202 Lakh strong Muslim population of the State are now in the reservation list. This is totally unprecedented in the country.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

West Bengal 2006-2010:Touching New Milestones(4)

5 New Universities and 73 New Degree Colleges

· 5 new Universities (West Bengal State University, Gour Banga University, Alia University, Presidency University and Sidhu-Kanu-Birsa University) and 73 new Degree Colleges have been set up during the tenure of the Seventh Left Front Government alone.

· A campus of the Aligarh University is coming up at Murshidabad. Another campus of the North Bengal University is being built up at Jalpaiguri. Similarly, a campus of Rabindra Bharati University is coming up at Siliguri.

· The State Government has sanctioned 3500 posts of lecturers for colleges and universities in the last four and a half years. This excludes Universities not directly under the Department of Higher Education.

· University Grants Commission has declared the Calcutta and Jadavpur Universities as 'Potential for Excellence'. 16 Colleges of the State have also been conferred upon with the same status.

· 2 new Medical Colleges have been established at Kalyani and Jadavpur. The Cabinet has recently approved establishment of 3 more Medical Colleges in the State. The scope of Post Graduate studies in Medical Sciences has widened substantially.

· 36 new Engineering Colleges have so far been set-up within the tenure of the Seventh Left Front Government, since 2006.

· Legislation for establishment of a private university titled 'Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology' has been passed in 2008, with the objective of imparting advanced education in 'Information and Communication Technology'.

· The Union Government has very recently decided to recognize 'Bengal Engineering and Science University' as an Institute of National Significance. BESU is the first institution in the country to have acquired this distinction.

· The Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India decided to set up 'Indian Institute of Science Education and Research' - world-class centres for cultivation of science and research following the pattern of IIT and IIM at various places of the country. The Hon’ble Prime Minister of India laid the foundation stone of the Kolkata Centre in 2006 under the initiative of Government of West Bengal. The Institute’s new campus is under construction at Kalyani. Activities are being carried out from Salt Lake till the new campus at Kalyani comes up. It has opened up a new horizon in talent development of the State. This would never have been possible without the pro-active role of the State Government.

· Work for establishing 'Rabindra Udyan' - which will be a full fledged institute for Tagore Research has been initiated at Jyoti Basu Nagar (Rajarhat) to commemorate the 150th Birth Anniversary of the poet this year.

· Primary Education: Primary Education in West Bengal is on the verge of universalisation. 99.25% children of the State are now enrolled in primary schools, much ahead of the Pan-Indian enrolment ratio. A hundred percent success is imminent with active cooperation of all concerned. The drop-out rate has swooped down to 6.85%, which is less than the national average of 7.8%. Coverage under Mid-day Meal programme has been extended to 95%.

· A separate authority is being set-up to monitor and manage the Sishu Siksha Kendras (SSK) and Madhyamik Siksha Kendras (MSK) running under the aegis of the Panchayats and Rural Development Department. The uncertainties concerning job security of teachers have since been resolved.
· More than 3000 vocational training centres at Secondary School level have been set up under the initiative of the Technical Education and Training Department during the tenure of the Seventh Left Front Government alone. 2 Lakh new students have been enrolled. More than 200 Vocational Training Providers (VTP) have been established under the Skill Development Initiative Project, and among them they have covered another 35000 students. Apart from these 24 ITIs and 22 Polytechnics have been rendered operational during the last 5 years. 50 more ITIs are expected to be commissioned in the current financial year.
Helping Poor students

· Left Front Governments have always been keen to extend the scope of education to the poorer and backward sections of the society. But the contribution of the Seventh Left Front Government in the area is very special.

· The State Government issues grants to nearly 26 lakh students belonging to the scheduled castes/ tribes reading in Classes V to X towards purchase of books and examination fees. Only 15352 students got the benefit in 1977-78.

· The State Government offers maintenance grants to about 6 lakh Scheduled Caste / Tribe day scholar students reading in Classes V to X. The quantum of this grant has been enhanced from Rs. 600/- to Rs.750/- from this year.

· The State Government grants Pre-Matric Scholarship to about 5 lakh students reading in Classes I to X and belonging to minority communities. In the Post-Matric level 90000 minority students are awarded scholarships. 4000 students get merit based scholarships, and 10000 minority students are awarded Hazi Mohammad Mohsin Scholarships from the State Government. 30% of these scholarships are reserved for female candidates.
· A monthly incentive of Rs.100/- is offered to every girl student reading in Classes IX to XII in Madrasahs.

· West Bengal Urdu Academy has also enhanced the value of the scholarships it offers.

· The State Government has started giving incentives to female graduate and post-graduates coming from financially weaker minority families from this year itself. Any female student securing 40% marks would be entitled for this incentive. Female students at the Graduate level get Rs. 9000/- and students at the Post Graduate level get Rs.14400/- per year.

· Government of West Bengal has introduced Ambedkar Medha Puraskar from 2010 to encourage meritorious students belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
· Financial assistance under the Merit-cum-Means Project is being extended to students through the Department of Higher Education. 3657 students were benefited in 2008-09 and 7343 students benefited in 2009-10 under the project.
· Financial Assistance of Rs.343.88497 Lakh was released to 4588 students from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund till September 2010.

· The minority students enrolled for vocational training in Alia University are required to pay only 10% of their tuition fees. The State Government pays the remaining 90% on their behalf.
Job Security for Part-time and Contractual Teachers

· The Seventh Left Front Government has conferred due dignity upon those attached with the noble teaching profession. The list includes Teachers of SSK/ MSK, Para-Teachers of Primary and Madhyamik Schools, VRP, Shiksabandhu etc. and Part-time and Contractual Lecturers serving in Degree Colleges. This is the first time that any State Government in the country has adopted such a step, putting an end to the yearly hassle of renewal of contract. The salary hike for now would be around 35%. Pay would be revised every three years and a one-time payment of Rs.1 lakh would be admissible at the time of superannuation. About 140000 Teachers would benefit from the scheme.

West Bengal 2006-2010: Touching New Milestones (3)

Record Investment in Industries

· West Bengal is forging ahead towards industrialization, notwithstanding Singur and Nandigram. An amount of Rs. 8400 Crore has been invested in the State in 2009 alone, this being the largest investment in a year over the last two decades. It is expected that investments would escalate to the tune of Rs.10000 Crore in 2010.

· Information Technology: West Bengal as a State has encountered the recent global economic recession most deftly. Investments pumped into the IT Sector multiplied manifold. West Bengal earned Rs.2700 Crore from exports in Information Technology Sector in 2005-06. The amount has gone up to Rs. 6,400 Crore now. Scope of employment has simultaneously increased. In 2005-06 only 32000 employees served in the Sector. More than 1 lakh young people are serving the IT Sector. This number is expected to escalate to twice the number in 3 years.

· Second Financial Hub of the Country: Hon’ble Union Finance Minister, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, inaugurated the Second Financial Hub of the country at Jyoti Basu Nagar (Rajarhat) on the 13th October 2010 last, thereby acknowledging success of the industrialization process and economic prowess of West Bengal. The first financial hub in the country was commissioned at the Bandra-Kurla Complex in Mumbai. It is expected that the activities of Banks and other Financial Institutions would increase manifold with commissioning of the Financial Hub. Total investment in the Financial Hub would exceed Rs.1500 Crore creating employment opportunities for about 2 Lakh people directly or indirectly.

· Leader in Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises: West Bengal has been maintaining its supremacy in Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises in the Country– both in terms of the number of established units and the employment opportunities generated. As of now, nearly 28 Lakh MSMEs are operational in the State and almost 55 Lakh people have been gainfully employed therein. The State Government has a budgetary allocation of Rs.200 Crore in 2010-11 for the development of MSMEs in the State.

· PCPIR: Haldia is already established as a Petrochemical Hub. In 2009, the State Government decided to set up a Petroleum Chemical Petrochemical Investment Region (PCPIR) comprising a part of Haldia Municipal Area and Nayachar. The decision is historic in the backdrop of the commitment of the State Government for employment-intensive industrialization. Investment in the PCPIR is expected to be around Rs.15000 Crore and employment opportunities for 10 lakh people would be created.

· Haldia Petrochemicals is an icon of West Bengal's industrial resurrection. It happens to be the second largest polythene producer in the whole country, meeting 70% of the demands for polythene in Eastern India and 30% of the national demand. More than 654 ancillary industries have come up in the State, opening up nearly 2 Lakh employment opportunities in 2009-10.

· Steel: A number of steel industries are coming up in the State. M/s Gas Seal Industries Ltd. is investing around Rs.3000 Crore in Purulia for the production of steel, cement and electricity generation and 2500 persons would be employed in this project. The corporate entity Joy Balaji has chosen Purulia for setting up its steel, cement factories and power station at an investment of about Rs.16,000 Crore. JSW Bengal Steel is establishing a steel project with an investment of around Rs.35000 Crore and. 18000 people are expected to find employment opportunities in this project. This apart, M/s Bhusan Steel Limited has proposed investment of Rs.15000 Crore and the Adhunik Corporation is investing Rs.7200 Crore for their steel, power and cement manufacturing units coming up at Purulia.

Financial Condition

· Some interested quarters often scandalize the West Bengal Government in regard to the quantum of borrowings of the State. The fact is that at the close of 2009-10 the accrued loans of the State stood at Rs. 169000 Crore. This includes the cumulative effect of borrowings since the 1950s - much before the Left Front Government took over. Moreover, such loan accumulations are inevitable in the context of the economic policies pursued by the Union Government.

· The accrued Loans of the Union Government in the corresponding period is estimated to be around Rs. 3500000 Crore (Source: Economic Review, Government of India – 2009-10).

· Information released by the Reserve Bank of India in February 2010 indicates that the loan burden of the U.P. Government is Rs.221000 Crore. Maharashtra has a loan burden of Rs. 208000 Crore. Substantial Loans have also been secured by the Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat Governments.

· According to Reserve Bank of India, West Bengal ranks fourth among the large states in regard to the Credit-Revenue Ratio and it occupies the eleventh position among 28 States.

· The Credit-Revenue Ratio was 48% five years ago, but it has now subsided to 41% only. The corresponding figure for Government of India is as high as 56%.

West Bengal 2006 - 2010: Touching New Milestones (2)

Land for the Urban Poor

The Seventh Left Front Government has offered the security of a shelter not only to the rural poverty-stricken, but also to the Urban Poor. Refugees are getting unconditional rights of possession. Even Non-Refugees dwelling on plots of land earmarked for refugees are being endowed with long-term lease. Urban poor residing on plots of unused vested land for more than 20 years are being offered long-term lease for 99 years against a token Salami of Re 1/- only. Thus the urban poor in West Bengal have been provided with the security of a shelter, from where they would not be evicted. The Thika Tenancy Act has been amended for the purpose. Nearly 5 lakh Urban Poor would benefit form the programme. West Bengal shows the way!


· The overwhelming success of the State in agriculture can be primarily attributed to safeguarding the interests of tilling hands through land reforms. The pan Indian rate of growth of agricultural production was 1.6% in 2008-09 and 0.2% in 2009-10 while the corresponding rates for West Bengal were 4.4% and 4.2%.

· Less than 3% of the total cultivable land in the country is in West Bengal, but it produces 8% of India’s total agricultural produce. (Source: Assocham 2010)

· Increase in the agricultural production in the State is coupled with increase of the Cropping Intensity. This signifies a tendency of cultivation of more than one crop on a single plot. Cropping Intensity of the State was only 155% in 1992-93 and it has now gone up to 192%. The Cropping Intensity of the State ranks second in the country.

· The State produced 74 Lakh Metric Tons of food grains in 1976-77. The quantity has now gone up to 170 Lakh Metric Tons.

· West Bengal was a deficit State in food grain production prior to 1977. West Bengal now tops the list among rice producing States. Currently, the Average Annual Rice-production is 148 Lakh MT, which translates to an increase of 98% over the production of 1977-78.

· West Bengal is also the leading jute producer in the country. Jute production in the State is estimated to be 7842.6 MT per year on average.

· West Bengal ranks first in production of vegetables in the country. The quantity has risen to 130 lakh MT now, excluding potato.

· By producing 35% of national yield of potatoes West Bengal is the second leading producer with an annual production of about 95 Lakh Metric Tons.

· West Bengal ranks 1st, 2nd and 8th respectively in production of pineapple, litchi and mangoes.

· West Bengal produces 15% of the fruits and vegetables produced in the country.

· West Bengal ranks 3rd in the country in overall flower production.

· Production of edible oil in the State is equivalent to 10% of the national production.

· West Bengal produces one-fourth of total tea-production of the country and it accounts for 45% of the national income from tea-export.

· West Bengal has retained its leading position in fish-production in the country by continuously stepping up the across the years.

· The State has attracted record amounts of investments in food-processing during the last four and a half years. 1426 projects were approved during the financial years from 2006-07 to 2009-10. A whopping amount of Rs.3305.13 Crore has been invested for these projects. The number of employment opportunities generated directly or indirectly through these initiatives, stand at 117325.

West Bengal 2006-2010: Touching New Milestones-(1)

An Overview of Achievements
The Seventh Left Front Government assumed office in May 2006. In the span of the last four and half years, the Government led by Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has achieved unprecedented milestones through successful implementation of its alternative policies, which are progressive on one hand and protected the common people's interest on the other. Obstacles en route were many, agents of regression were increasingly plentiful and it was not therefore an easy task to steer the governance - inter alia striking a balance between agricultural growth and industrialization, upgrading the infrastructure for and quality of education, development of physical infrastructure, improving the physical quality of life for backward classes and minorities and ensuring social security for the economically weaker sections, thereby setting exemplary benchmarks in excellence. This is neither an attempt to analyze this success, nor to portray the success stories prior to 2006. It is a rather humble attempt to present a few relevant facts in a nutshell.

New Benchmark in Assignment of Ceiling Surplus Land

· Assignment of Ceiling Surplus land to landless farmers has continued unabated for the last 33 years in West Bengal through Distribution of Patta. This is acclaimed as the best job ever done in the country to protect the interest of the agrarian community.

· More than 1127000 acres of land has already been distributed free of cost among 30 Lakh farmers in West Bengal. About 37% of the benefactors belong to Scheduled Castes, 18% to Scheduled Tribes and another 18% come from Minorities.

· Women from peasant families share ownership of plots in West Bengal. More than 618000 Joint Pattas have so far been handed over. Female Patta Holders alone exceed 161000 in number.

· While only 3% of the total landed area of the country is comprised in West Bengal, as much as 22% of the total land distributed through land-reforms is from this State.

· Small and marginal farmers own 84% of the total cultivable land in our State, courtesy land reforms. The national average is just a shade above 34%.

· The State amended the Land Reforms Act in 1977 to thwart any attempt to evict bargadars. The legal rights of 1513000 registered Bargadars have thus been firmly secured. About 1115000 Acres are recorded as Barga in the State.

· Patta for 16700 acres of land have already been distributed in the tenure of the Seventh Left Front Government- between the years 2006-2010. Another 6000 Acres are expected to be distributed during the remaining period of 2010-11. One wonders whether the volume of this land-distribution, accomplished within just 4 1/2 years of the term of the Seventh Left Front Government can match any similar effort undertaken in 20 years elsewhere in India.

· As a first-ever endeavour in the country, the Seventh Left Front Government has launched a unique 'Project for Bestowal of Agricultural and Homestead Land' in order to consolidate further the benefits of land reforms. Plots of land measuring 5(five) Cottah each, are being offered free of cost under the programme, to Land Labourers, Rural Artisans and Fishermen. The earnestness of the State Government about procuring land for implementation of the project is such that it has been buying plots from willing sellers offering a premium of 25% above the current market-rate. Nearly 2 lakh families are expected to be benefited from this project.

· About 27 thousand tribal families in the State have already received Patta in terms of the provisions of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. It has been observed that tribals have on the whole, benefited more through land-reforms in relative proportion to the total population of the State.

'Maoist' or 'Mamata': Dial 'M' for Murder

By Subhanil

Sat, 2010-12-18 11:55

Swapan Koley used to get up at 4am in the morning to collect his share of newspapers which he distributed to various households. This was his source of earning to continue his studies in the college. He also had a dream. A dream of changing the world where all students like him will be guaranteed the benefit of education, where man will not oppress man for higher and higher profits. It is this dream that the murderers of Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) wanted to destroy when they brutally killed Swapan Koley on 16th December.

He was beaten with rods and swords in his college. When he took shelter on the roof of a house near his college, he was thrown down from this roof. When he was trying to reach hospital on a rickshaw with the help of his friends, he was attacked again by the TMCP goons. Swapan Koley could not take it any more and died. His only crime was that he was an activist of SFI.

Shouvik Hazra is a bright student of English Honours at Asutosh College, Kolkata. Like any other day he went to college on 16th December. On that day, the SFI along with the non-teaching and teaching staff of the college were participating in a procession protesting against the violence unleashed by TMCP. The procession was attacked by the TMCP goons and Shouvik Hazra lost his left eye when a stone hit his eye.

This scale of violence unleashed in educational institutions is being orchestrated by the TMCP under the direct instigation of Ms. Mamata Banerjee and her cohorts to terrorize the youth and students who fight for a left cause and dream about making a better society. This is however not something very surprising. Ultimately the modus operandi of the Trinamool since its inception has been a politics of provocation and violence with which they have mobilized a large section of the anti-socials under their banner. It is this politics that has killed Swapan Koley and has blinded Shouvik Hazra.

Skirmishes and stray incidents of violence has been a part of student politics all over India. It is also a common sight that the students who were fighting yesterday joke about the incident the next day over a cup of tea or coffee. What Mamata Banerjee has done through her brand of politics is to shred away the romanticism of student politics, the passionate appeal for one's ideology and politics, the liberal space of debates and discussions in college campuses. Instead with her brand of politics student politics has been hijacked by local goons and thugs, campuses are being turned into graveyards of students, politics is being turned into an arena where students will not dare to tread. In other words, Ms. Banerjee and her goons want to destroy the culture of politics within students. This is not mere speculation. The President of TMCP said that they believe that there should be no politics in campuses, in a program in the Bengali News Channel Star Ananda. This is the real agenda of the violent attacks on the student community in West Bengal. It is the compulsion of Ms Banerjee to pursue this agenda since devoid of any constructive politics she is the first person to know that thinking students can never be part of the TMCP. This agenda is being driven with full speed keeping in mind the forthcoming Assembly Elections in West Bengal.

The criminal activities of the TMCP in the college campuses is nothing but an echo of the larger murderous game plan of the Trinamool. Their leaders openly proclaim that if they win the Assembly Elections in West Bengal, they will drive out all the left supporters and will uproot the children of Lenin! It is their vision that in West Bengal they will not allow the red flag to fly with brute force. In their pronouncements we are clearly hearing the footsteps of fascistic politics.

What she and her followers have forgotten is a simple truth that dreams cannot be murdered, ideas cannot be suppressed and the left ideology cannot be physically exterminated. Swapan Koley's cold blooded murder is an assault on the idea of free speech, of the right to dream and think differently. With his murder however many more Swapan Koley will be born ready to carry forward the red flag and the ideology of Independence, Democracy and Socialism.

While the people of West Bengal were trying to grapple with the death of a student, news came from Purulia that 7 Forward Bloc workers have been brutally murdered by the Maoists. This is the first time that such a big number of killings of political activists has taken place in West Bengal. Moreover, most of the activists were tribals, whom the Maoists claim to fight for. Gopeshwar Mahato, aged 70 was not spared by the Maoists. The Maoists also did not spare Ms. Chopola Gorait, a wife of a rickshaw puller and head of a panchayat. All these people were poor and supported the Left Front in West Bengal because of which they were brutally killed by the Maoists. The so-called revolution that the Maoists want to bring in India is basically a charade. What they are doing in West Bengal today is acting as mercenaries of the Trinamool. That is why Ms. Banerjee till date has not condemned any murder that the Maoists have committed in West Bengal.

The current situation prevalent in West Bengal is one of intense attack against the CPI(M) and the Left Front, which is reminiscent of the semi-fascist terror of the 1970s. In this situation the party must ensure that all sections of the population are mobilized against the fascistic tactics of the Trinamool-Maoist combine. Already in the jungle-mahal area we have witnessed how thousands of people mobilized themselves and ensured that Maoists are sent on the back-foot. The heroic struggle of the people of jungle-mahal should inspire people across West Bengal to rise up in unison against the violence unleashed by the goons of Ms. Banerjee.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It is either the Left or death for West Bengal: Buddhadeb Bhattacharya

KOLKATA,30November,2010: Claiming there was no alternative to the Left Front in West Bengal, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said the state would not survive without the alliance.

"There is no alternative to the Left in West Bengal. If the Left goes, the state would not survive. It is either the Left or death," Bhattacharjee said at a rally here.

Reactionary forces, communal forces and some foreign forces did not want the Leftists to remain in power in the state, he said.

"What will be the future of the state if the Left goes? In West Bengal, the Left stands for the peasants' movement, the workers' movement and the movement of the poor."

In an apparent dig at Trinamool Congress which is eyeing a change of government in the state, he said "what change? We took land away from the zamindars and distributed it to the poor farmers. Will they give land back to the zamindars? They do not want a government of peasants and workers".


Friday, November 26, 2010

Financial Crunch of West Bengal-An Analysis

It is already declared in the West Bengal state financial budget 2010-11, that the state economy is bearing a burden of debt of Rs. 1.69 lakhs Crores. But this can never be a rationale economic parameter to identify the state as a ‘bankrupt’. If so, then the central government had to declare more than a dozen of states as bankrupt far ago. At the end of the last financial year, the amount of entire debt formulated in stae economy was 1.69lakh crores. And the amount started to consolidate since 1950’s. it is also very important to state in this juncture that, when our state economy is bearing a burden of debt of Rs. 1.69lakh crores, at the same time Indian economy is bearing a burden of debt of Rs. 35lakhs crores too (Source : Central Financial Survey, 2009-10).

According to the available data of RBI (Feb 2010) West Bengal is holding the third place in the context of debt burden out of all the states in our country. Uttarpradesh is holding the first place with Rs. 2.21lakhs crores and Maharastra is following UP by 2.08 lakhs crores. Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat are existing in the consecutive positions. But it is also pertinent to say, that as the amount of debt burden is varying among the states, the variations in income are also present within it. So the comparative study is done by debt-income ratio (GSDP). The RBI data reveals that , though West Bengal is holding the third place in the context of debt formation, but the state holds the 11th place in the country as well as 4th out of the large states in the country in terms of GSDP ratio.

Five years back, the GSDP ratio was 48% in the state, and, presently it decreased to 41%. But the data of GSDP ratio of Indian economy is fairly greater (56%) than our state economy in the same time frame.

It is very important to analyze the economic situation of our state economy now. The important feature of the debt formation in our state reveals that the major portion of it is generated from the micro savings schemes. Actually, the difference between the amount saved by the people of any state in post-office schemes in a specific financial year and the entire withdrawal out of it produces the debt of micro savings sector. For example, if in a a specific financial year if people save Rs 6,000 crores under micro savings scheme, and withdraw Rs.1,000 crores, then (6000crores-1000crores)= Rs. 5000crores is the net amount of debt generation under micro savings schemes. As bond papers of the micro savings schemes are provided by the central government, so essentially the burden goes to it. But according to the financial policy of our central government, the above said generation of debt is actually imposed on the corresponding state governments by the Central government. More than that, the state governments have to pay the rate of interest on this debt, which is 2% higher than that of the public rate of interest. To save the people of West Bengal from the traps of the Cheat Funds, the Left Front government started to emphasize on the micro savings schemes, and this is still going on by the declared principle of LF government in our state. Now West Bengal stands first in the country in the context of micro savings. This form of savings becomes boomerang in the form of debt to the states with more rate of interest. As the state governments do not limit on the amount of the small savings, so the amount of the debt is not also fixed by the concerned state governments. It is also seen that as Maharastra and UP is holding two highest position in the debt formation within the country, the advancement in micro savings schemes is much better in both those states.apart from micro savings the debt formation in the states depend on two more aspects- i) the state government bonds , ii) the deposits in the local funds.the states government bonds are usually purchased by the Public Sector Banks or by the Insurance companies. And the deposits in the local funds does not produce debt at all. The remitted or better to say the unspent amount of the Panchayats etc. are trated as the the debt of states by the mechanical procedure of of the central governments and the CAG. After repeated protests aginst this financial policy, the 13th Finance Commission started to impose a little lower rate of interest under micro saving schemes of the states than before.

The amount of debt of all states are fixed in the Planning Commission meeting by a uniform policy. The yardstick of measuring debt is, 3.5% of the gross revenue of corresponding state will be the amount of its debt. In this process the target is fixed 21,900 crores in this financial year. Out of which 15,500 crores can be earned by selling the bonds to the banks or insurance companies. But, West Bengal government has decided only to take Rs. 7,500crores out of the entire amount formed by selling the bonds. So at the end of this financial year, consolidation of debt may reach 10.92lakhs crores in our state. The borrowings will also decrease from this financial year too. One surprising statistics is pertinent in this context that, when GSDP ratio of our country is 56% now, the GSDP ratio is 80% for most of the advanced economies for several years.

If one feature of debt formation is due to the micro savings schemes, the important feature of state expenditure is to take the responsibility of paying salry and retirement benefit to all levels of teachers as well as the employee of the Panchayat and Municipalities. This expenditure is the part of beyond planned expenditure. Comparatively the other states do not take this responsibilities as well, even they have taken, it is purely partial.

In the current financial year the entire budgetary amount is Rs. 75,803 crores . Out of it the planned expenditure is 19,069crores. Rs. 56,744crores is the amount of beyond plan expenditure. If the expenditure in developmental activities (the total expenditure in social sector) are considered then the amount reached 42,000crores. Planned expenditure is a part of Developmental expenditure. Sometimes, the low allotment of planned expenditure of West Bengal comes into the unjustified debate of the oppositions. A comparative analysis is required to discuss upon this matter. In 1976-77 the planned expenditure of West Bengal was Rs.200crores under the Congress ruled government. In the periods of Left front Government the allotment increased in a continuous manner, in 2003-04 it reached 4,397crores, and in 2007-08 it reached up to 12,469crores, and in 2010-11 it is 19,069crores that implies , in the last 3 to 4 years it is enhanced by several times.

Most of the beyond plan expenditure is used to meet the salaries and the retirement benefits. In the time of 2nd Left Front Government it was decided that the state will take the responsibility to pay the salaries and retirement benefits to the State Government Employees, and the teachers from primary to university level, which is not at all practiced by most of the states. The salaries and other perquisites of the teachers are far increased than earlier days. Left Front Government has also taken the responsibility of paying salary and retirement benefits to the municipal as well as the Panchayat employees too. Presently total number of state government employees and teachers in our state is 4lakhs consecutively. Except it, there exists huge number of municipal and Panchayat employees. In each 7 to 8 years interval Central government restructures the pay scale. Taking all these factors the state government is now under a situation to take more financial responsibility than before.

The revenue side of the state government is also to be discussed with immense importance. It is expected in the state budget that VAT collection will be increased by18% and other taxes like stamp duty registration fee, excise fee will also icrease 15%. But in reality the VAT revenue increased 33% and stamp duty registration fees and excise duty increased by 40% and 21% respectively. So revenue earned more than that of the anticipative earnings. Computerization of tax collection resulted in a good note. West Bengal usually earns least from the wine industry in comparison to the relevant states in this particular sector. The excise duty earned by West Bengal is only 1,800crores. By selling only foreign liquor Andhra Pradesh is earning12,000crores. The government critically wants to deal the matter of reopening the wine shops in some publicly granted areas for further excise duty earnings considering the social issues relating with it. In this particular matter all party consensus is mostly needed. Introduction of VAT reduces the impact of tax evasion in the industries closely related with employment. Though Service sector is developing in West Bengal day by day, but still it is impossible to earn tax revenue from it. On the other hand, all the agro-products are out of the VAT and Sales Tax regime by the directives of the government. The rate of VAT on essential agricultural and industrial products is just 4%. When GST will be implied, state will definitely more than now.

All the problems are created due to the policy of the central government, which is full of disparities. According to the constitution of India, article 49&50 of State list depicts that state will have the right to collect the cess and will earn the royalty on coal sector. Since 1987 the rate of royalty increased five times but state did not receive the increased royalty ever. In this context, the amount of dues regarding royalty is generated by 4,800crores excluding the interest , which is still unpaid to the state by the central government. It is also important to note that, by the directives of 13th FC when the rate of interest on micro savings decreased by 2%, so by this way of evasion Rs. 700crores is still unpaid to the state by the central government. Regarding the imposition of GST, when it was decided that the inter state sales tax will be reduced by steps, then states will be given to power to impose some new taxes and an amout of subsidy will be given-on this very basis West Bengal is yet to receive Rs. 900crores from the central government. In the purpose of reconstruction regarding Ayla disaster Finance Commission allotted a scheme of Rs. 5,032crores, out of which Rs. 672State is still unpaid to the government for this financial year. Apart feom it central government did not disburse Rs. 776crores for drought recovery which was proposed by the National Disaster Management Commission under the recommendation of 13th Finance Commission. Summing up all these unpaid dues, West Bengal Government is yet to receive Rs. 7000crores from the Central government.

So to carry on the post drought financial processes and all the developmental activities in condition of huge dues , a financial problem is created in our state. In this perspective government of West Bengal has decided to reduce unnecessary unplanned expenditure by 10 % and to impose a 1% increase in VAT on the luxury goods excluding agro-products and raw materials used in agriculture and industry. It is expected that reduction in expenditure will definitely produce extra 1,000crores savings and the VAT increase will produce extra 200crores revenue earnings. It is an utopia that, State government will wipe out the all problems by receiving 7,000crores from the Central Government, but it will definitely help the state government easier to tackle this financial crunch. On the issue of overdraft, one thing has to be clear that, budgetary allocation is made for the one financial year. But in practice, the accounts of revenue earnings and expenditure is accounted in daily basis. The days, when revenue is greater than that of the expenditure, the extra amount is held by the state government in the form of treasury bills by the directives of RBI. The days, when expenditure becomes greater than than the revenue earnings within a limit, government has to take overdraft from RBI. In this year the number of days, where surplus generated is nearly 5 times greater than that of the days of the deficit.

It is also pertinent to note that in the year 2008-09 the deficit came to 3.8% in respect of income, but it raise up to 4.7% after restructuring of the pay scales. In the next year it will again fall up to 3.5%. Consisting the target of 8lakhs employment per year and maintaining all the production sectors unabated, government is highly optimistic to sail the economy smoothly, which in turn will reduce GSDP ratio. On the other hand it will increase VAT earnings. Implementation of GST will further benefit the state.



Bengal’s hopes ride on a pie in the sky


THE TELEGRAPH, Issue Date: Monday , November 15 , 2010

Calcutta, Nov. 14: Bengal finance minister Asim Dasgupta today dismissed Opposition allegations that the state was heading towards bankruptcy and claimed that a few favourable developments could “significantly” reduce the debt burden of the state, estimated at Rs 1.69 lakh crore at the end of the last fiscal year.

With the ratio of debt and gross state domestic product (GSDP) — value of goods and services produced in the state in a year — at 42.9 per cent (as of March 31, 2010), the debt burden of the state is the third highest in the country after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

“One cannot forget that the debt has been accumulating since the 1950s,” Dasgupta told The Telegraph this afternoon while pointing out that the same ratio for the Centre stood at 56 per cent.

“Net small savings collected in Bengal is the biggest part of the debt burden…. Our government had championed the cause of small savings to save people from chit funds,” added Dasgupta, sitting in his office in the Writers’ Buildings this afternoon and criticising the Centre’s policy of treating it as part of the state’s total debt.

The Trinamul Congress, the state’s main Opposition party, is crying itself hoarse over the rising debt burden of the state and has sought the governor’s intervention in Bengal’s money matters.

Of its total budget of over Rs 75,000 crore, the state spends around Rs 30,000 crore — part of a bigger non-plan expenditure bill — in paying salaries and pensions. (See chart)

Many believe that the high volume of salaries and wages — for over 4 lakh government employees and an equal number of teachers, from primary schools to universities — is one of the major reasons behind the fiscal mess.

“The Left government has its arguments for pursuing such a policy and there can be debates on the subject, but no other Indian state takes so much liability on paying salaries and wages of teachers,” said Ratan Khasnabis, professor of economics in Calcutta University’s business management department.

Amid the concerns over the sustainability of the debt burden, Dasgupta stressed that he was confident of bringing down the debt-to-GSDP ratio to around 30 per cent and ending the fiscal with lower borrowing than predicted in the budget.

He did not set any timetable for reaching the target but rolled out a set of likely favourable developments that would “significantly” bring down the debt burden.

Even as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-educated finance minister contested the use of the debt-to-GSDP ratio as a measure of the state’s indebtedness — the debt figure is cumulative while the GSDP measures a year’s performance — he was hopeful of a “few percentage points’ reduction” in the ratio.

“We will have a comfortable position as the debt component will continue coming down while the GSDP will keep growing at around 9 per cent,” said Dasgupta while explaining the central and state factors that would play a role in debt reduction.

The finance minister’s comfort depends largely on another Bengali at the helm of affairs in Delhi, Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who, unlike Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee, has maintained silence on Bengal’s fiscal position.

According to Dasgupta, a staggered repayment of the Rs 7,000-crore due from the Centre, regular interest relief due on account of the state’s adherence to fiscal discipline, a rise in the state’s earnings on excise and value added tax, and reduction in wasteful expenditure will result in improvement in the ratio. (See chart)

These estimates — against the backdrop of over 33 per cent growth in VAT collections, 40 per cent growth in stamp duty mop-up and 21 per cent growth in excise earnings — will give his cabinet colleagues a chance to present a better fiscal future for the state.

Economists aware of Bengal’s finances, however, want to see the improvement first. Many of them also stress that the debt-to-GSDP ratio is a standard measure of indebtedness, that cumulative debt is a problem not unique to Bengal and that the rule of including small savings as part of debt affects all the states.

“One of the major components of the dues from the Centre is coal cess to the tune of Rs 4,883 crore, but the Centre has to agree to settle this claim. No other Indian state has any dispute over coal cess,” said M. Govinda Rao, director, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.

Insiders in the state government were also not hopeful of any central largesse on account of coal cess even as Dasgupta stressed that the Supreme Court had upheld the “constitutional validity of levy and collection of cess on coal-bearing land by the state government”.

The finance minister’s estimates of higher collection —through excise and VAT — and significant reduction in wasteful expenditure are “unreal”, said a government official.

“The target of saving Rs 1,200 crore by keeping a tab on expenses is unreal as we are less than five months from the end of this financial year. Additional earning of Rs 200 crore by increasing VAT by 1 per cent on non-essential and luxury items is not feasible as the festive season of buying is already over,” said the official.

Dasgupta’s other bet —higher excise collection from the existing level of Rs 1,505.64 crore — can turn into a political hot potato in an election year as it is linked to higher sale of alcoholic beverages. The finance minister is hoping for an all-party consensus on allowing opening up of liquor shops to shore up revenues — Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have excise revenues in excess of Rs 9,000 crore — but that seems to be a distant dream.

“This government pursued stringent policies on opening of liquor shops for over 25 years. Now it is very difficult to suddenly increase the number of liquor shops across the state,” said a senior official.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Importance of Left Front Government is immense: Chief Minister

June 21, 2010. The Left Front Government in West Bengal turned 34. On the occasion, state Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, in an interview, answered several questions on varied topics pertaining to the state’s development as well as the Left Front Government’s contributions to it. The text of the Chief Minister’s interview follows.

Q: The Left Front Government steps on to its 34th year. The seventh Left Front Government has completed its 4th year. Could you focus on the main features of the socio-economic change that has been brought about in the life of people in the state by the Left Front Government in 33 years?

Ans: The Left Front Government has been able to make a qualitative change in the life of people in this state in 33 years. The main socio-economic features of this change may be summed up in the following manner.

In rural areas, the standard in the life of the poor farmers has changed radically because of the land reforms and the panchayat system as a whole. The most important factor is that their purchasing power has increased.

The demand for industrial commodities equivalent to nearly 27,000 crore has been generated. Market for consumer goods has expanded in rural as well as urban areas alike. Sale of items, ranging from garments, shoes, umbrellas, medicines, foodstuff to television, telephone, mobile phones and computers have phenomenally multiplied both in Kolkata and in the rest of the state.

Literacy has gained wide ground. The scope of education has expanded from the primary level to the university level. This is a significant aspect of human resources development. Health is another important factor. The state has crested to peak of success in the country in so far as its position in the determination of life and death ratio, increase in average life span, and reduction in the rate of infant mortality is concerned.

A widespread change is perceptible in the spate of urbanization also. This process of urbanisation has been carried forward by Siliguri-Jalpaiguri, Durgapur-Asansol, Bolpur-Santiniketan, Haldia, Digha, Midnapore Development Authorities. The Rajarhat Township is coming up following Bidhannagar. There are 127 municipal bodies in the state. The state is among the leaders in building up the urban infrastructure.

Q: How do you perceive the four years of the seventh Left Front government? This government was formed with a massive mandate in its favour by projecting the slogan, 'Agriculture is our base and industry our prospect'. How much success have you achieved to put it into action?

Ans: 'Agriculture is our base and industry our prospect' is not a mere slogan. It is a well-contemplated holistic approach. It will never be possible to bring about further economic development in the state in future if we fail to stride forward on the vehicle of industrial growth by consolidating our agricultural achievement. Everyone realises the potential urgency in this fact. This is the only alternative before our educated young generation. We could only initiate the process braving many obstacles. It is an inevitable pre-condition of the state's passage onto the next economic stage. In that sense, we could only initiate.

Q: It was mentioned in the Left Front election manifesto during the last polls that the achievements of land reforms would be consolidated and the unfinished programmes in regard to land reforms would be delivered with finishing touches within the framework of the system. How much, do you think, has the seventh Left Front government been able to follow up? What are the future plans of the state government?

Ans: It is very urgent to consolidate the success of the land reforms. A total of 11.277 lakh acres of land have been allotted to poor and marginal farmers. A total of 15.33 lakh bargadars have been registered. It is important to keep these lands under the possession of poor farmers as these land yield bumper crops, and if production increases gradually, the income of the farmers gets enhanced. Our unfinished job is to distribute litigation-free plots of land among the landless farmers. We are at it. Our future plan is to offer homestead land measuring up to 5 cottah to the homeless by augmenting the provisions of the laws of 1975 to 2009. We have started doing it. About 2 lakh families will be benefited. We have one more programme to cover. We shall obtain lands from willing sellers, buy those plots with a premium of 25 per cent over the market rate and distribute the same among the landless poor. We would like to carry forward the land reform programme along this line of action.

Q: How much, do you think, West Bengal could fare in agricultural aspect?

Ans: The picture of success in agricultural development is clear. We are the leaders in production of rice (148 lakh MT), jute (7872.6 ton), vegetables (119 lakh MT) in the country. Our achievements are no less remarkable in production of fruits and flowers. We have been trying to extend the area under irrigation especially in the arid western region of the state. We have attached importance to the factors like procuring advanced quality seeds, bio-fertilizers, bio-pesticides etc so that production can be made more bountiful and intensive. We have some problem areas too regarding the productions of pulses, oil seeds and wheat. These fall short of the demand. We have to strike at it urgently.

Q: It is a fact that investments up to 7060 crore and 40 lakh have been made in 2009 in the large and medium scale industries in West Bengal despite economic recession. How do you account for this success despite many obstacles?

Ans: This figure of investment, i.e.,7060 crore and 40 lakh is very rejuvenating in recent times. We are recovering from the ill effects of recession of 2008 in tandem with the rest of the country. This also proves that the events that occurred in Singur and Nandigram are stray exceptions. The process of industrialisation will continue. No one can stop it.

Q: What is our state's performance in agro-based industries? What are the future plans?

Ans: A larger portion of the investments that have been made in recent times has gone to the food-processing sector. Most of the industrial units, which grew up at various places-pineapple processing at Siliguri, mango at Malda, potato at Howrah-Hooghly-are either small or medium in size. There are wider prospects for more such industries if we can improve our infrastructure and ensure a steady supply of raw materials.

Q: What are the plans of the Left Front government for the future development of industries concertedly with the achievements of agriculture?

Ans: The first task for the growth of industries in the state is to sort out all the land-related problems. It is not our intent to acquire fertile agricultural land. We have worked out a land-use map in the state. We have particularised and specified matters related to compensation for land and rehabilitation packages, by dint of which more than 6000 acres of land have been acquired in recent times for industrial use. We have bettered the incentive schemes of the state government. We have been striving to fulfill the demands for roads, communication, power, water supply etc as infrastructural amenities in this regard. Proposals for setting up industries including those of steel, fertilizers, petrochemicals etc are rushing in. Information technology also enjoys similar investment-friendliness. A plan has been taken up to form nearly 38 clusters of medium and small industries. We have to move forward to this direction.

Q: It was stated in 2006 that steps would be taken to increase the number of Self-Help Groups to 10 lakh during the next five years. The number has now exceeded the stipulation and it now stands at 10 lakh 46 thousand. Your observation please.

Ans: The self-help groups may be termed as micro enterprises.SHGs are a boon to those who have reached a stage of positional marginality, especially women, owing mainly to the romping market economy. To keep those groups lively and more developed, we are maintaining a key watch on three matters: (1) training for male and female beneficiaries, (2) ensuring bank loans for them and (3) opening up opportunities for marketing their produce. We have been giving thought to the idea of extending the activities of SHGs to newer horizon, i.e., procuring paddy grains and making rice out of it, dealing in vegetables, eggs, fish or meat as these have a secure market. These SHGs will rise to the occasion and contribute significantly to the State economy in the days to come.

Q: What are the steps that the government proposes to adopt in order to improve power generation?

Ans: In order to improve the power situation, maintenance of stations in more sophisticated method has been prioritised so that the plant load factor can be improved gradually. The major problem we face is that many of the power-generating stations, like Santaldihi, Bandel etc, have been outdated. It is now urgent to set up new power-generating stations without delay. The Bakreswar as well as the Sagardihi Thermal Power Stations are in the process of construction. We have recently decided that there would be a mega project at Katwa in collaboration with BHEL. Another joint venture power project with NTPC is on the cards at the present site of Santaldihi. Our aim is to ensure steady supply of power with its total demand statewide in perfect conjugality.

Q: What are the obstacles for rural electrification? Why is it so sluggish even after repeated instructions from your side? Are you satisfied with the role played by the central power transmission agencies?

Ans: The job of rural electrification is on progress. Our endeavour is also on to accelerate the process. A few developments have taken place recently. The work of central power transmission agencies is more satisfactory than before. We do hope that we shall be able to reach our goal within a year.

Q: A propaganda is in the air that West Bengal has lagged behind in education during the Left Front rule. Your opinion please.

Ans: The state's advancement in education is obvious. Some of its remarkable features are: the rate of school-going children at the primary level is 99.25 per cent; the number of Madhyamik (secondary) schools is more than 10 thousand (including junior high schools and MSKs); the number of Madrasah is 581; the number of degree colleges is 429; there are 18 Universities; the number of students appearing for Madhyamik and Higher Secondary examinations has increased manifold; West Bengal enjoys a frontranking position in the competitive examinations for recruitment of teachers at the national level.

Q: What are your plans for further advancement in education? What is the state's progress report in vocational/technical, technological and research-oriented higher education?

Ans: Our forthcoming objective is to attain universal literacy and emphasise more on vocational as well as technical education.At present our state has 89 ITIs, 57 polytechnic centres and about 4000 vocational training centres to its credit. Our target is to increase the number of these centres. 50 more ITIs and about 29 polytechnics are coming up. Our aim is to bring all children onto the threshold of education, expand the scope for technical education and set up centres of excellence to encourage researches in the field of higher education.

Q: What is your vision about the health services in the state for the days to come? Are you satisfied with the mode of treatment, services and sensible work culture in government hospitals? What is the future plans?

Ans: We aim at preserving our achievements in the field of health services, especially in matters related to life and death ratio, child mortality, average life span etc. We emphasise on implementing preventive health programmes such as nutrition, sanitation, drinking water,extensive inoculation programmes and to implement family planning programmes. We cater to the medical needs of 72 per cent of our population through the existing government hospitals. The doctors, nurses and health workers carry out their assignments under immense pressure at sub-division, district hospitals as well as in medical colleges. But yes, there is room to make the health services more responsive. Our future plan for government hospital services is to extend its areas of application, encourage private hospitals and to translate the PPP model into reality.

Q: What are the priorities of your government at this moment?

Ans: The priority list may be mentioned in the manner as follows: a) to carry forward the achievements of agriculture on the basis of land reforms. b) to accelerate the pace of industrialisation. c) to elevate our success in the fields of education, health etc for human development in general. d) to attach an all-out importance to matters related to socio-economic development of people belonging to scheduled castes, adivasis and minorities.

Q: The question of backwardness in Jangalmahal areas has been raised from various corners. What is your opinion? What does the government plan to combat ultra-leftist terrorism?

Ans: The question of underdevelopment is being alluded to as the only reason behind the Maoist problems. This is not true. Maoists have chosen this region because it has an inaccessible topographical feature somewhat like the infested parts of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa or Jharkhand because the place is fit for the politics of violence pursued by the Maoists. But this is also true that Jangalmahal is backward to a degree in comparison to other areas of the state. We had implemented the land reforms programme much before the Maoist disturbance broke out in the region. Poor farmers were offered with plots of land, there have been Barga registrations. Programmes for creating employment opportunities are still being pursued. The LAMPS organisations consisting of tribal people have been working in order to consolidate the forest resources such as Kendu leaves, Sal leaves, Babui grass etc. We are paying close attention to supply of water for irrigation, drinking water, education, health and public distribution system. Instead of considering it only as a law and order issue, we are careful about the socio-economic development, we are attaching importance to political campaign alongside police action in the area.

Q: Achievements of the Left Front government in regard to minority development, their security and their rights is worthy of a mention. However, some misunderstanding still persists. What steps would you like to take to resolve this issue?

Ans: On the minority issue, the leftists waged relentless struggle for a long time on the question of their security and rights. The land reforms programme in the state benefited a large portion of minority population in rural areas. But confusion was created after the publication of the Sachar Committee report. The main question revolves around nominal participation of minorities in government services. Historically, they are backward. The policy of the Left Front government is not to deprive the minorities. The government is implementing a number of projects on education and training to minimise the existing gap so that the young generation of the minorities gets equal opportunities and can progress.

Q: How important is the reservation for minority Muslims?

Ans: Reservation was necessary for the Minorities. The Constitution guarantees reservation for the SC, ST and OBCs. But the economically backward Minorities do not enjoy the same provisions. We paid much thoughts and deliberations to this issue to no avail. We could only initiate bravely after the Ranganath Mishra Committee findings were published. It is not on the basis of religion; they are being brought under the cover of reservation in view of their socio-economic conditions as such. It was long overdue.

Q: The negative effects of the neo-liberal economic policy pursued by the union government are hanging on common people. But how this policy is affecting the pro-people programmes of the Left Front government in West Bengal?

Ans: The state is surely affected by the negative economic policy of the union government. The whole country, particularly the downtrodden people, is reeling under its pressure. We cannot be immune from problems like downsizing of staff strength, inflation, price-rise etc pursued by the union government. These are the main obstacles in the way of implementing our own policies.

Q: Can the Left Front government demonstrate an alternative path to safeguard the people of the state in this situation?

Ans: It is difficult for a state government to be free from these constraints. Still we are advancing in search of an alternative. We are trying to open up areas pertaining to land reforms, employment opportunities, infrastructure building, imparting emphasis on small and medium size industries, SHGs and service sectors.

Q: An environment of unanimity in developmental programme is eluding the state despite best efforts of the state government because of the cold shoulder attitude of the main Opposition party. What in these circumstances is the option open to you to get along the path of development?

Ans: We are trying repeatedly to build consensus on development programmes. But one Opposition party is not cooperating. We shall continue our efforts. We expect that the Opposition will play a responsible role.

Q: How the state government is trying to bring back a democratic ambience in Darjeeling? How much hopeful are you about that? How would you see the role of the state government in the development of the standard of living of the people and economic boost of the people in the hills after the formation of the Hill Council?

Ans: The situation at Darjeeling is very difficult and complicated. It is a very tough job to establish democracy there and to maintain law and order in the midst of intense violent political situation. But we have been trying. People of the hill areas are also realizing the fact that rights of the Opposition parties, citizens’ rights and rights of all institutions have to be protected. The state government has always extended the hand of cooperation on the questions of development of quality of life and economic development in the hills. But a possible development could not have been materialized because of lack of consistency and administrative failure on the part of the Hill Council authorities.

Q: How much important is the Left Front government in protecting the hard-earned democratic rights of the common people, especially the working people, middle-class service-holders and the teaching community as well as students, youths and women at large?

Ans: The country was at a crossroad at the time of formation of the Left Front government in West Bengal in 1977. The whole country had just got rid of the oppression of the Emergency; the black days were removed in this state also. The first Left Front pronounced release of all political prisoners. The provision of detention without trial was repealed and the state machinery got refrained from interference in democratic rights. Trade unionism, individual rights, freedom of press and above all human rights have been upheld in the state for three decades at a stretch. Considering all, none can deny this contribution of the Left Front government. In this matter, the importance of the Left Front Government, even now, is immense.


(Reproduced from a state government publication)