Monday, August 16, 2010

Trinamul Maoist Nexus Reconfirmed

THE rally held by the TMC – Trinamul Maoist Combine – at Lalgarh on August 9 reconfirms, if ever such a reconfirmation was required, that the Trinamul Congress and the Maoists have, indeed, been political collaborators in creating mayhem and anarchy in certain areas of West Bengal. The murderous assaults by this combine has already martyred 255 leaders of the CPI(M). Most, if not all of these, belong to the poorest of the exploited classes and tribals, whose interests, ironically, the Maoists claim to champion drawing the blind romantic adulation by some `intellectuals’ and `social activists’.

An embarrassed and cornered Manmohan Singh-led government tried to duck, unsuccessfully, the issue of one of its cabinet members being caught red handed in the open political collaboration with the Maoists. They took refuge behind the argument that they shall return to both the houses of parliament after having “ascertained the facts”. Ironically, the very next day, August 11, the minister of state for home affairs stood up in reply to a starred question in the Rajya Sabha on the involvement of Maoists in railway accidents stating: “Investigation conducted reveals that Police Santras Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC/PCPA), a frontal organisation of Maoists, was involved in damaging the railway track, thereby causing the accident. CBI has arrested 12 persons so far in this case”. It is the very same minister for railways, whose primary job, under oath of the constitution is to protect the life of passengers traveling on the Indian railways and to improve its safety standards, who is openly collaborating with the Maoists. She has openly advocated the withdrawal of the operations of the security forces against the Maoist violence. She, in fact, has gone to the extent of asserting that Maoist leader Azad was `murdered’ and not killed in an encounter as claimed by the security forces.

The Trinamul-Maoist nexus became abundantly clear when, according to media reports: “Maoist politburo member Koteswar Rao alias Kishanji once again batted for Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Azad issue. “There is no doubt that our politburo member and central committee spokesperson Charakuri Rajkumar alias Azad was treacherously killed by the members of Andhra Pradesh police special intelligence branch in a fake encounter. Mamata Banerjee spoke the truth and there is no reason behind the furore over the issue in parliament”. This comes from a Maoist leader whose party openly rejects parliamentary democracy and calls for a `people’s war’ against the Indian State!

Unable to defend the role of an important ally and cabinet colleague, the UPA-II government through its minister for home affairs, P Chidambaram, stated in the Rajya Sabha, “No one should support the Maoists and the government will certainly not encourage anybody who does so.” However, the UPA-II government, in a crass display of political opportunism, requiring the numbers of TMC MPs in the Lok Sabha for the survival of this government, is tolerating such `support to the Maoists’ making a mockery of its commitment to safeguard India’s internal security.

Through these columns, we had drawn attention to an irreconcilable contradiction that continues to plague the UPA-II government. The prime minister has repeatedly asserted that Maoist violence constitutes “the gravest threat to India’s internal security”. Yet, its own cabinet colleague, under the leadership of this very prime minister, openly collaborates with Maoist violence and defends the attempted subversion of parliamentary democracy.

The composition of the people gathered in Lalgarh clearly exposes the reasons for organising this meeting. The overwhelming bulk of the people were brought by huge number of transportation vehicles from outside of Lalgarh. The fact that the people of that area stayed away in large numbers shows the growing political isolation of the Trinamul Congress combine. It is precisely in order to strike terror and browbeat the local population into supporting them that this rally was organised.

Clearly, the Trinamul Congress has exposed itself to stooping to the lowest of levels in its quest to gain in the forthcoming assembly elections in West Bengal. In the bargain, neither the safeguarding of innocent life nor strengthening the unity and integrity of India are of any concern. If the UPA-II government and prime minister Manmohan Singh continue to turn a deaf ear to this threat, then India will have to pay a heavy price. Brazen political opportunism to continue to remain in office cannot be allowed to sacrifice the interests of India’s unity, integrity and internal security. Like in the late-sixties and early-seventies when the CPI(M) politically fought and defeated the mindless terror and violence unleashed by the Naxalites, so shall it do now with their latest avatar of Maoists.

The defence of India’s unity and integrity must rise above the petty electoral pursuits and crass political opportunism.
People's Democracy,
15th August, 2010

CPI(M) Resolution on Forthcoming Elections in West Bengal & Kerala

Adopted on August 09, 2010 At the Extended Meeting of the Central Committee of Communist Party of India (Marxist)

The states of West Bengal and Kerala alongwith Tripura are the outposts of the Left and democratic movement in the country. Prolonged political struggles and people’s movements in West Bengal and Kerala led by the Communists, going back to the pre-independence period and during India’s struggle for freedom, have laid strong foundations for the growth and consolidation of the Communist-led Left movements in these states.

The strong Communist movements in West Bengal and Kerala alongwith Andhra Pradesh and others during the course of the freedom movement itself, had brought on to the agenda of the people’s struggle important issues like land reforms, linguistic reorganization of states, reforms against various expressions of social oppression, the defence of the rights of the working class and the people at large including their civil liberties etc.

It was on the strength of such powerful movements that the Communist Party won a majority in the Kerala Assembly elections in 1957. This was the first instance of Communists winning the elections to head a state government in a bourgeois parliamentary system anywhere in the world. The pioneering steps of this government for land reforms; minimum wages and welfare measures for the working people; democratization of the education system; decentralisation of powers etc was naturally not palatable for the ruling classes which led to its dismissal under Article 356 of the Constitution. Again, when the CPI(M)-led front won the elections in 1967, this government was toppled in 1969.

In West Bengal, the strength of powerful popular movements led to the formation of United Front governments in 1967 and 1969. On both occasions, though the CPI(M) was the larger partner of the coalition, CPI(M) had allowed others to head the government in order to maintain and strengthen the United Front. The fillip these governments gave to the democratic movement and to the land struggles was, again, intolerable for the ruling classes, that saw their dismissal under Article 356. The semi-fascist terror unleashed against the Party, with the massive rigging of the 1972 Assembly elections, that lasted till the defeat of Emergency in 1977, was aimed at seeking to decimate the Communist-led popular movements in the state. Over 1,400 comrades were martyred and 22,000 Party families had to be relocated during the successful resistance defeating this semi-fascist terror. Contrary to the hopes and machinations of the ruling classes, the people of West Bengal had not only reposed faith in the CPI(M)-led Left Front in the 1977 elections but continued to repose, in an unprecedented manner not found elsewhere in the country, such faith in the seven consecutive elections that followed till date.
This had been possible because of the unparalleled manner in which the Left Front government tackled the people’s issues. The implementation of land reforms is one of its most important achievements. Nearly 1.3 million acres of illegally held land was acquired and distributed among over 3 million landless and marginal cultivator households. The registration of over 1.5 million bargadars (share croppers) brought 1.1 million acres of land under their control through operation barga. As of 2007, West Bengal whose population is 8 per cent of the country’s, having only 3.5 per cent of our country’s agricultural land, accounted for 22 per cent of the total ceiling surplus land distributed in the country. Contrary to all adverse and hostile propaganda that the CPI(M) is against the peasantry, a further 16,700 acres of land were distributed to landless families between 2007 and 2010. Agricultural productivity and output have made remarkable strides. From a chronic rice deficit state, West Bengal today produces the largest quantity of rice. The Left Front government today supplies rice at Rs. 2 per kilo to 2.64 crore BPL population.

The financial assistance provided by the Left Front government in West Bengal to the workers of closed factories and tea gardens has now been enhanced to Rs. 1,500. Likewise, pension for widows, the disabled, old-age, artisans, handloom weavers, farmers and fishermen have now been increased to Rs. 1,000. 17 lakh unorganized sector workers have enrolled in the Provident Fund Scheme. West Bengal encourages the growth of labour intensive micro, small and medium industries. The state has the country’s largest number of functioning small-scale units (27 lakhs) and largest number of employment (58 lakhs).
In spite of functioning under the limitations of the Constitution, the Left-led state governments in West Bengal and Kerala have taken measures to reduce poverty, create new welfare measures and improve living conditions. Even the World Bank admits that the record of West Bengal in terms of poverty reduction is the best amongst all states in India. The infant mortality rate measured per 1,000 live births in 2006 was 38 in West Bengal and 15 in Kerala which has the best record in the country. The all India rate is 57. As far as life expectancy is concerned, it has improved considerably in West Bengal to 64.5 years for males and 67.2 for females. Kerala has life expectancy of 70.7 for males and 75 for females. The all India average is 61 for males and 62.5 for females. As against the all India average (7.4), the death rate in Kerala is 6.3 and West Bengal is 6.2. West Bengal has a literacy rate of 72 per cent and Kerala 90.09 per cent. The all-India average is 63.4. In West Bengal, nearly 100 per cent of all girls and boys of age six are enrolled in schools. In Kerala, 98 per cent of eligible boys and girls are in class X, indicating nil or very low dropouts. It is noteworthy that such achievements are recorded at a time when, due to the pursuit of neo-liberal policies by the ruling classes, the livelihood conditions of the people have deteriorated in large parts of the country.

The LDF government in Kerala has taken forward its welfare legacy currently having the largest number of welfare schemes amongst all states of India. The pensions to the workers in the unorganized sector have been raised from Rs. 100 to Rs. 300. The women workers of the unorganised sector are being offered one month’s pre-maternity leave. Half the population of the state are being covered by Rs. 2 per kg rice scheme and free health insurance, including for chronic diseases. Besides the PDS, a wide network of fair price shops are set-up where the prices of 13 essential commodities have been maintained at the same level for the last four years. When the half a million houses proposed under the EMS housing scheme are completed, there would be no family in Kerala without a house. In stark contrast to the Central government’s privatization offensive, the rehabilitation of the sick Public Sector Units has resulted in reversal of annual loss of Rs. 96 crores in 2005-06 to annual profit of 240 crores of rupees in 2009-10. This surplus is being reinvested in the expansion of the existing public sector and the establishment of eight new ones. In the agriculture sector the measures adopted by the state government has been successful in putting an end to the suicides of farmers.

Another major initiative taken by the Left-led governments in both the states has been on the question of decentralization of power and deepening of democracy to the grassroots through the establishment and efficient functioning of democratic institutions of local self governments. The three tier system of democratically elected bodies established by the Left Front in West Bengal has achieved successes in a manner that is unprecedented elsewhere in the country. It was a full seventeen years after this initiative by the Left Front in West Bengal that the panchayati raj system was adopted for the country through the 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments.
The system of decentralization in Kerala initiated by the 1957 government was further developed into the People’s Plan that delivered far-reaching benefits to the people. Both West Bengal and Kerala are in the process of implementing 50 per cent reservation for women. Both the governments of West Bengal and Kerala have extended the central scheme of Rural Employment Guarantee to the urban poor while the Central government refuses to do so.

The hallmark of the Left-led democratic movements and the governments in both West Bengal and Kerala have been their steadfast defence of secularism and communal harmony. It is often perceived that the protection of the interests of the minorities is the litmus test of democracy which, otherwise, is de facto majority rule. The Left Front government in West Bengal has recently decided to implement the recommendations of the Ranganath Mishra Commission Report to grant 10 per cent reservations in jobs for Muslims belonging to OBCs.
The Left-led governments in West Bengal and Kerala backed by the powerful Communist-led popular movements have been in the forefront of championing the rights of the people and their livelihood standards from being gravely eroded by the pursuit of neo-liberal economic policies by the Central government. The consistent anti-imperialist positions and the interests of the Indian people and the country taken by the CPI(M) continues to expose the Indian ruling classes who seek a strategic partnership with imperialism. Further, the pro-people measures undertaken by the Left-led governments, as listed above, also expose the exploitative character of the Indian ruling classes by demonstrating that even within the existing system, greater relief can be provided to the people. For a combination of all these factors, the Indian ruling classes have mounted a concerted offensive against the CPI(M), in its strongest bastions, in order to weaken the resistance to their unbridled loot through the neo-liberal economic trajectory.
In West Bengal, an alliance of all reactionary forces led by the Trinamul Congress is sought to be forged to defeat the Left Front in the coming Assembly elections in May 2011. All rightwing forces, including the communal and fundamentalist elements, foreign funded NGOs and corporate media have joined the Maoist-backed TMC in this effort. Since the 15th Lok Sabha election, 247 members of the CPI(M) and eight members of other Left parties have been killed by the TMC-Maoist gangs. The Maoists primarily target the poorest of the poor amongst the peasantry and the tribals. Yet, sections of so-called intelligentsia continue to express sympathy.
The unleashing of such large-scale violence, killings and arson by this reactionary combination is to seek the defeat of the Left Front through the most anti-democratic fascistic methods. The success of these forces seeks to completely negate the advances made by the democratic movement that we have noted above and pave the way for the restoration of the earlier forms of exploitative order. Already there are reports of former landlords attempting, in some areas, to recapture their formerly illegally held land that was acquired and distributed to the landless. In the name of `change’, what is being offered is patently anti-democratic and anti-development. Communalism that has been kept at bay by the Left movement will be enabled to stage a come back harming the interests of the minorities. The TMC had, on earlier occasions, openly aligned and shared power with BJP at the Centre.

In Kerala, the Congress-led UDF is trying to consolidate all the communal and caste forces around it. Sections of the Church are openly interfering in political affairs by conducting an anti-Communist campaign. Muslim and Hindu extremist forces are bracing themselves to disturb communal harmony in order to create political polarization. The campaigns launched by the CPI(M) and the LDF against such activities are being met by a vilification campaign launched by a section of the media. Despite the nefarious activities of the extremists and communal forces, the state continues to maintain its excellent record of communal harmony.

These reactionary offensives against the CPI(M) and the powerful Left and democratic movements in West Bengal and Kerala will have to be met squarely in order to defend the rights of the people and to improve their livelihood. There have been occasions in the past when semi-fascist terror was unleashed against the CPI(M) in West Bengal. That challenge was met and won. In the following seven consecutive elections, no effort was spared by the reactionary forces to defeat the Left Front. The present challenge will also be met like the earlier ones have been. The Left Front is determined to reforge links with the people who have moved away due to certain shortcomings that have been identified and are in the process of being corrected.
The CPI(M) as a whole, across the country, will redouble its efforts to fight back this concerted anti-Communist and anti-Left offensive. Today the Indian people need deliverance from the groaning burdens being mounted by the neo-liberal economic policies. The Indian people today need to strengthen our secular democratic foundations to ensure that the energies of our country are not wasted in communal and fratricidal conflicts. The Indian people require an alternative policy trajectory that can allow India to realize its potential which it is being denied by neo-liberalism and communalism. All efforts of spreading violence and anarchy against the Left movement like the Maoists are today indulging in, essentially only strengthens the reactionary forces in their efforts to prevent the Indian people from being liberated from their growing miseries.

The assembly elections in May 2011 in West Bengal and Kerala will be a major battle between the forces representing the interests of the working people, social justice, secularism and our country’s sovereignty and the forces which are representing the interest of the big capitalists, landlords, the rich and the vested interests that seek a strategic alliance with imperialism and who use communalism, ultra-Left anarchy and divisive politics to achieve their objectives.
The CPI(M) calls upon all progressive sections of the people to join this battle and ensure the success of the Left Front in West Bengal and the LDF in Kerala and, thus, advance further the efforts to create a better India for its people.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Chronic Problems Demand Welfare Role From Govt

WE welcome the convening of this 55th meeting of the National Development Council (NDC). The main items of agenda are: (1) Mid-Term Appraisal of the 11th Five Year Plan 2007-12, and (2) Issues Pertaining to Urbanisation, Agriculture, Left Wing Extremism, Water Resources, Tribal Development, Interface between Power Generation and Availability of Coal, etc. It gives us an opportunity to express our views on the major issues that are so vital to our people and society.


The Eleventh Plan aimed at an average growth rate of 9 per cent per annum. Our economy exceeded the expectation in the first year of the Eleventh Plan, but the momentum was interrupted in 2008-09 due to the global financial crisis. The growth rate in 2008-09 declined to 6.7 per cent but rebounded to about 7.4 per cent in 2009-10. According to the latest available data, the estimated rate of growth of GSDP of West Bengal would reach 8.68 per cent in 2009-2010, with the growth from agriculture, industry, and services sectors estimated at 4.59 per cent, 7.49 per cent and 10.45 per cent respectively. It may be noted that the growth rate of GSDP for West Bengal is higher than the national average and in agriculture the growth rate is much above the rate of growth of GDP from agriculture for the country as a whole.


The basic objective of the Eleventh Five Year Plan of West Bengal is to follow an all inclusive growth approach for improving the living standards of the masses, particularly of the marginalised people. Poverty and unemployment rate are two important indicators to study the conditions of people over time and across regions. The chronic problems of unemployment and poverty in the country, accentuates the required welfare role of the government, which should be specifically oriented to address the basic issues affecting the common man. It cannot be denied that although there has been perceptible growth in certain sectors during 2009-10, comparatively speaking, the adverse effects of the recent worldwide recession are still acutely present in the economy. It is pertinent to highlight that the policy of globalisation led to marked rise in unemployment. According to the latest data and analysis of the Expert Group of the Planning Commission undertaken in November 2009, the percentage of people living below the poverty line in the rural areas is still as high as 41.8 per cent compared to the official estimate of 28.3 per cent (2004-05). The phenomenon of jobless growth, with an alarming drop in employment opportunities, is noted with growing alarm in the organised and government sectors. It is imperative to firm up definite targets and effective strategies for increasing employment in agriculture, small and medium industries and the services sector.


Another greatly unsettling problem of the country in recent years is obviously the uncontrolled price rise, leading to sharp increase in prices of food and essential commodities. According to price data published by the government of India, the wholesale price index for food items has increased sharply by nearly 19.8 per cent in December 2009, compared to the price level of December 2008. This unprecedented rate of price rise is common to all the states and is a general problem of the entire country. Further, the recent increase in the prices of petroleum products will have a cascading effect on the prices of other commodities and particularly of the essential commodities.

Against this backdrop of rising inflation and the periodical natural onslaughts of droughts, cyclones and floods, a large section of population has major difficulties in meeting their basic minimum needs. It is suggested that the ideas of checking inflation, generation of employment and comprehensive creation on income for the common people may be translated into reality by expanding the welfare role of the government and making it more effective. To protect the common people from the ravages of inflation and to control the process of inflation itself, it is imperative to introduce, from the level of government of India, the Universal Public Distribution System with appropriate subsidies, which needs to be implemented in close coordination with all the states. The state, on its own initiative, distributed subsidised rice at a price of Rs 2 per kg among 2.64 crore persons lying below the poverty line during 2009-10. This scheme needs to be supported by the central government.

For expansion of opportunities of education, priority has been attached to access to primary education for all children (5+ to 8+) and the net enrolment ratio reached 99.25 per cent in 2009-10. To reduce the dropout rate among students, along with enrolment of children in the primary schools, the midday meal programme has been implemented at the level of primary schools through the involvement of self-help groups. It may be highlighted that the dropout rate at the primary school level has fallen to 6.85 per cent in 2008-09, lower than the dropout ratio of the country as a whole (7.8 per cent).

The Right to Free and Compulsory Education for Children Act, 2009 has come into effect from April 1, 2010. Under this act, various statutory obligations have been imposed on the state government. Particularly the state government has to improve the infrastructure of all schools to bring the same in line with the requirements laid down under the act within a period of three years. Similarly, new schools have to be set up and a large number of sanctioned posts for teachers are to be created to meet the requirements under the act. The state government also has to bear the school tuition fees and other charges for 25 per cent of the total number of students enrolled in private and unaided schools. But no provision for financial empowerment of the state government to bear such huge financial requirements to meet the statutory obligations under the act has been made. National Development Council is requested to recommend allocation of funds to the state governments to meet the requirements under the act.

In the fields of higher education, for expansion of the opportunities of education and research and improvement of the academic standard, along with necessary expansion of the two newly established universities, namely, West Bengal State University (Barasat) and Gour Banga University (Malda), steps taken are – establishment of Sidho Kanhu Birsha University centred around Purulia and Bankura, strengthening of the campuses of the University of North Bengal at Jalpaiguri and Rabindra Bharati University at Siliguri, initiation of the process for conferring the status of a university upon Presidency College and playing a facilitating role in the upgradation of BESU to the level of National Institute of Science and Technology. In addition, a centre of Aligarh Muslim University will shortly be established in Murshidabad. The state government has also decided that in the next year, 20 new colleges will be set up and 15,000 additional posts of teachers will be created. A special initiative will be taken to conduct courses on management and information technology in the campuses of 100 general degree colleges.

In order that students can take part in the production process, special priority has been accorded to expansion of vocational and technical education at all levels. With the target of setting up of vocation training centres in secondary and higher secondary schools in the state, 2000 additional training centres will be set up in 2010-11; 25 new IITs will be added to the existing 89 IITs.

In the sphere of madrasah education, 112 junior high madrasahs have been upgraded to high madrasahs and 196 high madrasahs have been upgraded to higher madrasahs in 2009-10. 75 junior high madrasahs will be upgraded to high madrashas and 100 high madrasahs will be upgraded to higher madrashas during 2010-11. A new campus for women will be set up for Aliah University.


In health sector, priority has been accorded to decentralised health care and development of infrastructure of the subcentres within each Gram Panchayat and improvement of services in the subcentres located at the headquarters of the Gram Panchayat. It is found from the latest state-wise data (2008), published by the government of India, that as a result of the measures taken by the state government, the death rate in the state has fallen to 6.2 per thousand, which is not only lower than the all-India average (7.4) but also the lowest among the states. The infant mortality rate in the state has fallen further to 35, which is much lower than the all-India average (53). Birth rate in the state has also fallen to 17.5, which again is much lower than the all-India average (22.8). In the year 2008 the total fertility rate in the state has fallen to 1.9, which is far below the all-India average (2.8).


In West Bengal, 28 police stations in the three districts of Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia are affected by the LWE activities. Many civilians and security personnel have been seriously affected on many occasions. Joint operations are being continued by the state police and the central paramilitary forces since June 2009. This is a matter of serious concern.

The state government has announced a surrender-cum-rehabilitation package for naxalities (Maoists) in accordance with the guidelines issued by the government of India in this regard. This apart, a package of special schemes has been announced for socio-economic development of the LWE affected areas. These schemes include, among others: (i) subsidised rice at the rate of Rs 2 per kilogram to eligible all ST families, (ii) filling up of posts of teachers in primary schools in affected blocks with preference for qualified local ST people, (iii) providing a bicycle to each girl in classes IX to XI, (iv) minor irrigation schemes, (v) soil and water conservation schemes, (vi) subsidies for forest produce collected by tribal persons, etc. These schemes would be implemented over and above the usual national and state level schemes. A committee headed by the chief secretary and comprising secretaries of the related departments has been set up to oversee the implementation of the special development package as well as other flagship schemes in LWE affected areas.

The government of India has included Paschim Medinipur district in the list of LWE affected districts for sanction of special development fund in order to wean away people from the extremist movement. Since Purulia and Bankura districts are also significantly affected by LWE, the state government urges the government of India to include these two districts also for sanction of special fund for development.


Over the years, the lingering uncertainty and retarded growth in the agricultural sector has contributed to the price rise factor. As a result of comprehensive steps starting with land reforms, extension of irrigation facilities and improved production techniques appropriate for common farmers, the rate of growth of gross state domestic product (GSDP) from agriculture in 2009-10 reached 4.2 per cent in West Bengal. Use of improved agricultural techniques, flow of institutional credit and improvement of marketing facilities cannot be over-emphasised. For these initiatives, along with the direct involvement of the government, it would be necessary to create more opportunities for the common farmers. The goal would be to increase production and productivity in agriculture through these combined initiatives in such a manner that self-sufficiency in foodgrains can be achieved and maintained at the state level, necessary crop diversification can be brought about, and overall employment generation and income can be enhanced for common farmers and others. Special emphasis on extension of irrigation facilities and enhancement of the net irrigated area will be helpful.

Inadequate coverage of irrigation and drainage aggravates the problem of productivity. Although in the union budget of 2010-11, there has been inclusion of centre-state joint schemes in irrigation and drainage for the state, the share of the irrigation sector in the total central plan outlay was, unfortunately, only 2 per cent, as a result of which the proportion of irrigated area of the country, particularly in connection with foodgrains, has still not exceeded 45 per cent (government of India Economic Survey, 2008-09, Statistical Appendix). This has led to the inevitable neglect of investment in fertilisers and regrettable dependence on imports.

In the sphere of major irrigation projects, accepting the demand of the state, the government of India has accorded the status of a project of national importance to the Teesta Project. Till now, the state government has incurred nearly 79 per cent of the total expenditure of the project (Rs 1,332.55 crore). It is expected that in he coming years, in accordance with the funding patterns of national projects, 90 per cent of the balance requirement of fund for completion of the first phase of the project (Rs 1,759.04 crore) will be borne by the central government. The revised project cost of Subarnarekha Project, included under AIBP, now stands at Rs 1986 crore. As this project’s command area is inhabited mainly by scheduled tribes, the centre should bear 90 per cent of the expenditure, the remaining 10 per cent being borne by the state. Similar AIBP norms should also be extended for Darakeswar-Gandheswari reservoir project (estimated cost of Rs 1574 crore) and the projects proposed for stabilisation of irrigation potential created through old projects like Kangsabati in the districts of Bankura and Purulia. In this context, I draw the attention of National Development Council to the need of further modification of the guidelines of Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) in the LWE affected districts and in the backward districts so that irrigation schemes in these areas may receive the enhanced grant of government of India (90 per cent of the project cost) under AIBP without insisting on percentage of tribal population only as the criterion for such benefit.

I would make special mention here about the post-‘Aila’ mega scheme of reconstruction and improvement of Sundarban embankments planned to be executed at an estimated cost of Rs 5,032 crore. This project is extremely important for saving the ecologically fragile Sundarbans and for saving millions of people living there from the threat of violent cyclonic storms. So far the state has received only Rs 187 crore against the project. Since the project has to be completed on war footing, the government of India should ensure timely release of fund for this project. Further, as execution of all the flood management programmes involve substantial land acquisition and may not be completed within March 31, 2012, the government of India should agree to our proposal of extending validity of these programmes to 12th Plan period.


In the predominantly agricultural economy of India, no sustained development is possible without land reforms being implanted throughout the country. Redistributive land reform remains the fundamental basis of increasing employment-oriented production. It may be noted that 54 per cent of the farmers of the country, who have benefited from distribution of surplus land, belong to West Bengal (data compiled by government of India on land reforms). The total agricultural land distributed in West Bengal, holding the foremost position in land reforms, was 11.28 lakh acres up to February 2010. By now, 30.12 lakh farmers have benefited in the state, 55 per cent belonging to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. With a view to empowering women, 6.15 lakh joint pattas and 1.62 lakh female pattas have been distributed. This apart, through recording of sharecroppers, which forms an important component of land reforms, 15.13 lakh farmers have benefited. The gains achieved through land reforms, however, needs to be consolidated for raising productivity by increasing irrigation facilities and credit facilities.


Weakness in infrastructure is the most important constraint for growth of the economy. For increase of production in agriculture and industries and generation of employment, sustainable improvement of infrastructure is obviously crucial. In 2010-11, construction of 15 new bridges will start in the state. In case of improvement of 650 km of road, taken up during the first three years of the 11th Five Year Plan, work has been completed in respect of 270 km. It is expected that 500 km of road will be brought under improvement work during 2010-11.


The percentage of urban population in West Bengal (28.3 per cent) has always been higher than the national level. This calls for special attention. In keeping with the approach of the 11th Five Year Plan, the state government has been laying emphasis on holistic and inclusive development so that the urban sector may become economically vibrant and environmentally balanced. West Bengal has taken up several projects under JNNURM for creating urban infrastructure and housing facilities for the urban poor. In the urban infrastructure and governance component of JNNURM, the current expenditure as on May 31, 2010, is Rs 1218 crore. In the BSUP, about 32,000 dwelling units have already been completed with the expenditure of Rs 806 crore. Escalation of cost of the schemes is leaving a large burden of expenditure for the state government. The state government has requested the GoI to share the escalated costs. Some JNNURM projects may not be completed by March 2012; it is necessary to roll over such projects to the next Five Year Plan period. The state government also feels that it is necessary to launch a new JNNURM programme for non-mission towns. In order to attract private investments for creation and maintenance of new infrastructure facilities, it is necessary to evolve a National PPP Policy framework and create a regulatory body for better management of PPP projects. At the state level, there is also need to build inhouse core urban planning expertise. This will need financial and technical support of the government of India.

The government of West Bengal agreed to procure 1300 buses under JNNURM for Kolkata and Asansol as a part of stimulus package of government of India to the automobile manufacturing sector on the explicit commitment of government of India to extend subsidy at the rate of 35 per cent for Kolkata and 50 per cent for Asansol. On the basis of this commitment state government has already procured 933 buses and has ordered further 150 buses under this programme for improving the city transport system. The full amount of committed central share against this procurement has not yet been released, linking the same with certain reforms in the transport sector. The reforms suggested will take substantial time to be implemented and some steps have already been initiated in that direction. It is requested to release the full amount of centre’s committed share under this programme without making such release conditional at this stage in the interest of development of transport infrastructure under JNNURM.


Rural credit has become a casualty because of the change in the government of India’s banking policies. The directive to close down the loss-making branches has created a serious vacuum for institutional credit in rural areas. Over 1000 Gram Panchayats (nearly one third of the total) in West Bengal do not have any bank branch. This cripples, at inception, the self-help groups of women who may need to spend Rs 20 for commuting to a bank to deposit Rs 100.

It is suggested that the facilities for banking services should be made universal. For this purpose, it will be necessary to have a bank branch or business correspondent in every village. Agreeing with this view of the state government, the RBI has issued a directive that in order to extend within the next two years the facility of banking services to every village of the state where the population is more than 2,000, a bank branch will be set up and/or a business correspondent would be appointed. This should be implemented at the earliest.

According to the assessment of Expert Committee (Dave Committee) about the need for the credit from the banking systems for agriculture and allied sectors, the minimum annual requirement of bank credits for these sectors in West Bengal is about Rs 25,000 crore. However, during the year 2006-07, the credit disbursed by the nationalised banks and cooperative banks was only Rs 3,580 crore. It was accordingly decided after discussions with the representatives of Reserve Bank of India and other banks that the target for the annual credit disbursement in this sector should, to begin with be raised to Rs 12,000 crore and thereafter the amount should be steadily increased to Rs 25,000 crore. National Development Council is requested to take note of this.


In promotion of employment opportunity, the NREGA is certainly a step towards recognising and ensuring work as a right of the people in rural areas. Our state government and the panchayats at the three levels have taken keen interest in implementing the scheme. Our expenditure under the scheme during 2009-10 was Rs 2100 crore, which is nearly double the expenditure in 2008-09. While implementation of the scheme has gained momentum, its progress is now getting affected due to non-availability of adequate funds. Large-scale unemployment and under-employment is not only a rural phenomenon. As it is also a problem in urban areas, we feel that NREGA should be also extended to urban areas. To reduce the problem of unemployment in urban areas, the state government has already decided to introduce the West Bengal Urban Employment Scheme during 2010-11, which should receive appropriate support from the GoI.


The National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) has three component schemes, namely, the National Old Age Pension Scheme, the National Family Benefit Scheme (widow pension), and the National Disability Scheme (disability pension). The schemes provide for payment of pension at the rate of Rs 400 per month (Rs 200 by GoI and Rs 200 by state government). In our state, there are some schemes funded and implemented by the state governments, where payments are presently at the rate of Rs 750 per month and it is proposed to be increased to Rs 1000 p m. In terms of benefits provided, we feel that Rs 400 per month is too meagre an amount. We feel that the amount of benefits under the central scheme should be increased. Another important issue is the age limit for eligibility under the old age pension schemes. The age limit for national schemes is 65 years, but for the state schemes it is 60 years. It may be noted that the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 defines a ‘senior citizen’ as a person who has attained the age of sixty years or above. We feel that the age limit for the Old Age Pension Scheme should be reduced to 60 years.


The constitution of India provides for a comprehensive framework for the socio-economic development of the scheduled tribes and for preventing their exploitation by other groups of society. Our objective is to provide more focussed attention on the integrated development of the scheduled tribes in a coordinated and planned manner. However, there are problems in implementation of the centrally sponsored schemes in this priority sector. During the last financial year, the government of India released only 50 per cent of the budgetary allocation. This is not at all desirable. In the centrally sponsored schemes there is a concept of “committed liability,” which is extremely detrimental to the interest of the state government. Under this policy, the total expenditure of a scheme in the concluding year of a five year plan becomes the “committed liability” of the state government. We propose that this policy of “committed liability” should be reviewed and the government of India should bear 50 per cent of the “committed liability.” Disability due to old age is a major problem for the tribal population, more particularly as they have lower life expectancy. The state government is implementing a pension scheme for the tribal people of age 60 years and above, where the expenditure of about Rs 150 crore annually is met by the state government. We propose that the government of India should bear 50 per cent of the cost of this scheme.


Electricity remains a key element of infrastructure, essential for delivery of targeted levels of economic growth and social development. In our state, the demand for electricity is likely to grow substantially because of the demand from the industry and expansion of rural electrification programme under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana. Accordingly, the state is in the process of augmenting its generation capacity by more than 3500 MW by the end of 12th Plan period. Two major central public sector companies, BHEL and NTPC, have been involved for setting up additional generation capacities at Katwa and Santaldihi. Our distribution company, WBSEDCL, has been ranked as the best public sector distribution company in the country, but power availability suffers because of the disruptions in power generation. There have been progressive additions to our capacity for electricity generation, but the balance between demand and supply is sometimes disrupted because of non-availability of standard quality coal. In our country’s present coal availability scenario, sourcing of coal from captive mines is extremely important to ensure availability of good quality coal. It is therefore necessary to allot captive coal blocks to meet the coal requirements of power stations in the public and private sectors in the state. Such coal blocks are needed not only for the power generation units; they are also needed for the steel plants. We feel that the coal ministry should allot coal blocks to the state government through the state dispensation route to ensure timely supply of adequate coal to power plants and other industries. The state is also facing problems in getting the promised power from NHPC. An MoU was signed in March 2003 between NHPC and the state corporation, by which 500 MW power is to be purchased by the state corporation from Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project, but power from the project has been allocated to other states without taking the said MoU into consideration. WBSEDCL, the state power utility company, would like to set up a hydel power project in Bhutan for which the ministry of power has been approached. As hydel thermal mix in the state is very low, this needs early clearance.


We would like to highlight the case of Sundarbans which is the largest mangrove forest in the world, internationally recognised as a World Heritage Site and a Global Biosphere Reserve. The islands are also inhabited by several lakhs of people who are economically backward. I am thankful that the Planning Commission has arranged for a non-lending technical assistance from the World Bank for climate change adaptation, bio-diversity, conservation and sustainable socio economic development of the Sundarban area of West Bengal. Action on this report may be taken at the earliest.


The above presentation will establish that my government, during the initial three years of the Eleventh Plan period, has tried to achieve the national goal of growth rate of 9 per cent per annum. As a welfare state, we have tried to make this growth an inclusive growth benefiting all sectors of the people. The focus of our activities during these years was centred on alleviation of poverty, reduction of unemployment, making life more bearable for the common man in the face of rising inflation, expansion of facilities in the health sector to cover majority of the people, expansion of infrastructure for education in all stages including setting up of a good number of universities and facilitating the setting up of institute of excellence, continuing land reforms, raising productivity in agriculture and allied activities, and creation of appropriate environment for promotion of industrial activities. Our effort has been to provide employment to these who are able to work and to provide assistance in the form of pension to those who are unable to work. We are hopeful that during the remaining two years of the eleventh Plan Period the momentum of growth will increase further. To maintain this growth momentum, however, it will be necessary on the part of the union government to take positive decisions on some of the issues discussed in brief in this presentation.