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Monitoring West Bengal -
Pioneer, 21 March 2007
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Outsiders had role in Nandigram carnage
Saugar Sengupta | Kolkata
CBI, doctors' team unearth fresh evidence

CBI officials probing the Nandigram carnage have revealed that a number of outsiders, most of them owing allegiance to a "particular political party", could have been involved in the violence on March 14 that left at least 14 men and women dead.

Though local CPI(M) leaders have ruled out any involvement of party activists in the firing and violence, the class of bullets recovered from the killing fields of Sonachura and Adhikari Para reveal there were others, apart from the police, firing at the unarmed villagers protesting forcible acquisition of farmland for industrial use.   

The CBI claim has been reinforced by the findings of a team of voluntary doctors that claims over a hundred of those injured and being treated in local hospitals were hit by sharp weapons unlikely to have been used by the police.

According to the CBI's findings, while as per the claims made by the police they mostly used .303 bore bullets, many used shells found from the site of violence were of .315 calibre, indicating outsiders were also 'assisting' the police in establishing the "rule of law" in the area.

The Central agency was also trying to find out who used the guns - mostly used by hunters (in case of Japanese guns) and in the countryside - and from where they procured them. The CBI story dents the police theory that the clash was the upshot of an attack by the villagers.

The CBI sleuths requesting anonymity also claimed the gang of 10 people arrested from nearby Janani brick kiln - with 20 rifles, including those of Japanese make and about 700 live bullets, empty cartridges and burnt up shells of country-made bombs, some of which were also found at Sonachura and Adhikari Para - were outsiders and were "imported by a particular party for the action day."

A number of khaki dresses and helmets generally used by the police during an operation were recovered from the brick kiln, lending credibility to the "outsider" theory, CBI sources said. The CBI is trying to ascertain whether the people arrested from the kiln were involved in the last Wednesday's firing.
While East Midnapore district CPI(M) leadership has ruled out any involvement of their cadre in the Wednesday's action, the CBI team feels recovery of party leaflets and flags and acceptance of the fact by the father of one Haru Maity, arrested from the kiln, re-establish their claim. According to Maity's father, his son has been an active party member having long established contacts with some senior district leaders.

The CBI would not reveal the name of the district leaders mentioned in the diary recovered from the kiln for the sake of investigation but felt "some big shots" were calling the shots there.

Meanwhile, a voluntary medical team visiting Nandigram has come out with some startling revelations underscoring supreme apathy on the part of administration in dealing with the hapless victims of March 14 police firing that left 14 dead and many more injured.

A team of doctors that visited Nandigram and the neighbouring hospitals on Tuesday found that there was only one doctor treating 410 people who were still admitted in various health centres around Nandigram. The doctors also felt the sheer number of women injured in the firing and undergoing treatment would dent the police claim that criminals and not villagers were resisting police action.
Said a doctor requesting anonymity, "270 out of these 410 patients are women and 170 are men." He also said that 25 of the injured had sustained bullet injuries while 85 received injuries with "blunt and hard substances like lathis." While injuries sustained by some women proved molestation "or even rape," many others were hit by sharp weapons that are not used by the police, the visiting team of doctors said.

The doctors also added a general impression of the police force suggested that the subaltern class have been suffering from a deep sense of guilt after having been forced to fire by their superiors at the unarmed people, mostly women.

According to one doctor, the policemen who have since been asked to retreat to Bhangabera and Tekhali camps, away from Sonachura Bazaar and Adhikari Para, the two places that bore the brunt of the carnage, most of them have been suffering from depression. A doctor who also spoke to the cops said many cops have complained of getting hate messages from their near and dear ones back home.

"One feels that not only the patients but also the policemen would have to be given some amount of counselling in the near future as many of them want to quit their jobs," a doctor told this correspondent. 
Op-Ed in Pioneer, 22 March 2007
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Who SEZ it's the right way

Nandigram violence has raised a few valid questions regarding the viability of Special Economic Zones in the country, says Bulbul Roy Mishra

<b>The Nandigram killings</b> that have sent cold horror down many a spine have expectedly raised the following valid questions. <b>Were it planned by the Marxist Government, headed by Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, purportedly to regain control over the village? Or, was it masterminded by some party insiders to discredit their Chief Minister and his reform agenda? </b>

Given the Marxist track record of intolerance and violence, why the people of West Bengal, year after year, voted them to power? Was the land acquisition by the State from unwilling farmers for the proposed Special Economic Zone (SEZ) justified? And lastly, is the Centre-approved SEZ scheme desirable for India?

As for the first poser, it looks prima facie absurd for an enlightened and reformist Chief Minister like Mr Bhattacharjee to resort to the 'class war' in Maoist style to eliminate opposition comprising unarmed farmers, their women and children. <b>It is more likely that the Nandigram shoot-out was cleverly planned by some party insiders who may not have approved of Mr Bhattacharjee's SEZ over-drive on the ground of being pro-capitalist.</b>

As to the question why the Bengalis, known for their intellect, have for last three decades consistently voted the Marxists to power, one has to understand the Bengali middle class psyche. Influenced innately by the tradition of equality demonstrated by Chaitanya and Ramakrishna, and the philosophy of Vedantic socialism enunciated by Swami Vivekananda, <b>an average Bengali</b>, while worshipping Goddesses Durga and Kali with fanfare, <b>finds no contradiction in the Marxist prescription of equality and struggle against exploitation, while rejecting Naxalite violence and showing dislike for the stagnant democratic system that enables the rich to exploit the poor.</b>

Let me now dwell upon the question of land acquisition for industrialisation at the expense of agriculture. The only justification is that China has achieved record growth in GDP and exports through SEZs and so will India, if it follows China.

True that some of the provinces in China, notably Guangdong, thanks to its SEZ in Shenzen, have grown at a rate of over 25 per cent for the last quarter of a century. But the price it has paid is not commensurate with the gain. Between 1992 and 2005, 20 million farmers became victims of land acquisition with over 21 per cent arable land grabbed by SEZs.

The Government of China admitted to 74,000 riots in the countryside in 2004. Shenzen was designated as a 'global environmental hotspot' by the UN Environment Programme in 2006. According to the World Bank Report, about 300,000 people die every year in China owing to environmental problem caused by massive industrialisation. The pollution reportedly costs China about $200 billion annually amounting to 10 per cent of its GDP. The crime rate in Shenzen is estimated as nine-fold higher than Shanghai and prostitution as also income-inequality have increased many times.

<b>As to the question of desirability of SEZs for India, the following points are pertinent. </b>First, the <b>household consumption in India being 68 per cent of the GDP as against 38 per cent in China, export-driven economy through SEZs is not viable for India.</b> Therefore, SEZs may end up becoming import corridor, given the benefit of exemption and scope of invoice manipulation in the absence of Customs scrutiny. <b>Second, the consumption in SEZs being tax free and cheaper, poor outside consumers will have to pay a higher price for same goods and services.</b>

<b>Third, by providing indirect tax exemptions over and above exemption from corporate tax, India has deviated from the Chinese model that only allows two years' exemption from 15 per cent corporate tax and then 50 per cent exemption for next three years. Exemptions from indirect taxes are patently unjustified in respect of consumption within the SEZs.</b>

<b>Fourth, exemptions in the 220 SEZs already created out of the 500 proposed, as against five in China, over and above area based exemptions in North-Eastern States, Jammu & Kashmir, Kutch, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, are bound to put an unbearable burden on the Finance Minister to meet the Budget deficit.</b>
<b>Last, SEZs primarily catering to domestic consumption will have undue advantage vis-à-vis domestic industries outside the SEZs.</b>

The only silver-lining of Nandigram is that mindless expansion of SEZs has been put on hold.



From Pioneer, 22 March 2007
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Police connived with Marxist cadre</b>

Saugar Sengupta | Kolkata

... further proof surfaces on Nandigram bloodbath

<b>Evidence gathered by the CBI is believed to suggest that West Bengal Police acted in connivance with the CPI(M)'s 'Harmat Brigade', comprising Marxist cadre trained in hit-and-run tactics, during the March 14 violence that claimed at least 14 lives and left scores injured at Nandigram.</b>

According to reports, the evidence suggests at least two senior IPS officials had held several meetings with a CPI(M) MP, an MLA and a zilla parishad member at the State Electricity Board guesthouse in Kolaghat where they chalked out the action plan. In order to keep the deliberations a closely guarded secret, even the District Superintendent of Police was not allowed to participate in the meetings, the last of which was held on March 13 evening.

Though CBI officials investigating the police firing have not gone on record, it is believed they have found evidence that shows Rs 50 lakh was sanctioned for the police operation. Part of the money was spent on procuring at least 50 mobile phones. Around 25,000 bullets were requisitioned.

The reports also suggest that one of the IPS officials had withdrawn to the Nandigram police station with 150 men after giving firing orders. The official subsequently feigned ignorance as to who ordered the firing. This official was in constant touch with the MP who, sources said, kept changing cell phones to converse with various persons. The politician could have used as many as 30 mobile phones, sources said.

Not only was the Chief Minister kept in the dark over what took place in Nandigram but policemen who carried out the firing were also briefed in a fuzzy manner as to what they were expected to do.

On how CPI(M) inducted outsiders for attacking the farmers, Trinamool Congress MLA from Egra Sishir Adhikary said, "The raiders came from Potashpur, Garbeta, Keshpur and Khejuri," all CPI(M) strongholds.

He also alleged that the phone of his son, Subhendu Adhikary, who is an MLA from neighbouring South Contai constituency, was constantly taped by a DIG-level official at CID headquarters at Bhavani Bhavan in Kolkata.

Sishir Adhikary claims IG Western Range, Arun Gupta, DIG NR Babu and District Magistrate East Midnapur AK Agarwal had kept constant touch with Tamluk MP Lakshman Seth, CPI(M) MLA Anabel Sahu and district board chairperson Niranjan Sihi "who directed the police from time to time".

Congress Legislature Party leader Manas Bhuian had earlier demanded an inquiry against the IG and the DIG, suggesting both were hand-in-glove with the local CPI(M) leadership.

Meanwhile, even as the Trinamool Congress boycotted the Assembly for the fourth successive day on Wednesday demanding resignation and legal action against Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the CBI that was supposed to place its findings before Calcutta High Court deferred the submission of the report to a later date. The investigative agency that has already sent a copy of its findings to its headquarters in Delhi held a meeting in Kolkata on Sunday.

Renewing his tirade against the Opposition, senior CPI(M) leader and central committee member Benoy Konar has once again threatened a counterattack. He said whatever happened at Nandigram and its aftermath was the first of a three-act play. "Two more acts are to come. But let the initial emotions subside," he said.

<b>After 7 days, PM says it's sad</b>

New Delhi: Breaking his silence after a week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday described the loss of life in police firing in Nandigram in West Bengal as 'sad' but said that the incident would not cause a setback to establishment of SEZs.


This is why the Police Reforms have to be carried out in public interest and wont be for politicians interests.

Also can someone look up the polictical profile of the CPM MPs and MLAs mentioned in above report and see if they are pro-SEZ or in opposition to SEZs?

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Tamluk MP Lakshman Seth, CPI(M) MLA Anabel Sahu and district board chairperson Niranjan Sihi "who directed the police from time to time".<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Tamluk MP Lakshman Seth,<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Close to Dad Basu and his son, on payroll of Industrialists and goons.
Its all about Hafta, and people are tired of these commies. Rest of India is progressing but WB is still a slum. Last year commie gave pay raise. In rest of India they call strike against MNC and ask for protection money. Remember what they did to Honda in Gurgoan.

Read my post # 71 link & # 68 link
In other words Pioneer's Bulbul Roy Mishra has it wrong on both counts. The violence was by CPM on the villagers to make them vacate the land and hand it over for the SEZ. The private army fired on the villagers under the cover of the Police action.

Someone care to write to Pioneer that their editors should read their news reports before throwing red herrings to lead people astray with incorrect questions?
I was checking Affidavits of CPI MLAs/MPs, Some have properties in Lakhs but pay property Tax Rs ten only and no income tax. Profession they show politician, with long list of dependent children and deposit in 8-9 banks comes to under Rs ten thousand. Some have listed long list of wife property but they don't pay tax.

Check Nandigram and Tamluk, if time others also.
Result of Congress deal with CPIM over Nandigram?????

Govt raises FDI ceiling in telecom to 74 pc

Press Trust of India
Posted online: Thursday, March 22, 2007 at 2040 hours IST

New Delhi, March 22: In a move that could bolster investment in the fast growing telecom sector the government on Friday decided to raise Foreign Direct Investment up to 74 per cent, up from prevailing ceiling of 49 per cent.

Along with raising the FDI limit, the Union Cabinet also approved revised conditions for such direct investment, Information and Broadcasting Minister P R Dasmunsi said after a meeting of the Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
<b>The Road to the tragedy of Nandigram</b>

What is the issue in Nandigram? Why did Buddhadeb unleash CPIM cadres and the
police on Nandigram? Would a Special Economic Zone help or hinder the
development in Nandigram? Many questions are being asked but no one seems to
be giving any credible answer. So I decided to give my understanding of the
situation. I will first give the financial situation in West Bengal (WB) on
the eve of the retirement of that arch criminal Jyoti Basu (You will
understand why I consider him the arch wrecker of West Bengal after reading
through this article) and also its evolution. I will then discuss the strategy
adopted by Buddhadeb to rescue the sinking ship and where he went wrong. I
will also point out an easy way to fix the problem.
West Bengal fiscal situation</b>

TABLE: West Bengal Goverment finances
(All figures are in crores of Rupees)

Year Income Expenditure Deficit SDP Deficit as
% of SDP
2001 5,500 20,500 -15,000 162,000 -9.2 %
2002 6,050 21,250 -15,200 173,300 -8.8 %
2003 6,655 22,900 -16,245 185,470 -8.8 %
2004 7,320 24,100 -16,780 198,450 -8.5 %
2005 8,780 25,300 -16,516 214,334 -7.7 %
2006 10,541 26,500 -15,959 231,480 -6.9 %
2007 13,387 27,700 -14,313 252,313 -5.7 %
2008 17,000 29,000 -12,000 275,000 -4.4 %

SDP stands for State Domestic Product. The 2008 figures are estimates.

If you scan the table, you can see the condition of WB Govt finances just
at the time Jyoti Basu (JB) retired. WB Govt was earning Rs 5 for every
Rs 20 it was spending. The budget deficit has ballooned to - 9% of the
State Domestic Product. No Govt can last long with this kind of deficit.

<b>The reasons for the disaster under JB</b>

Why did the Govt finances deteriorate so much under the "able stewardship"
of that criminal JB. It did because JB tripled the salaries of state Govt
workers and shut down the industrial machine. No economy can take this kind
of lunatic economic policy and survive. WB govt finances also didn't. People
ask me sometimes the reasons for the reintroduction of capitalism by Buddhadeb
in 2000-2001. Just look at the table, The answer is staring at us - either
capitalism or bankruptcy. Even Communists do not like bankruptcy.

<b>Buddhadeb's strategy</b>

Buddhadeb was very lucky that the IT sector was just starting to grow at about
the same time. Also in the 1997-2001 period there were heated discussions
in soc.culture.indian and soc.culture.bengali on the decline of WB. It was
suggested in those discussions that the way out of disaster was

(1) to restore work ethic,
(2) to invite investments, both foreign and domestic,
(3) to strengthen the educational infrastructure,
(4) to strengthen the health infrastructure,
(5) to build roads, ports, airports, power and other infrastructure,
(6) to build 300-400 towns all over WB with adequate infrastructure, and
(7) to aggressively encourage IT.

(You will easily find some of those discussions if you search for them.)
Someone (I know the name of that person but will not reveal it) brought the
suggestions in soc.culture.bengali and .indian to Buddhadeb's attention.
Buddhadeb has been implementing those suggestions ever since he came to power.
Of course, he is not telling anyone the source of his ideas and so I see
many speculations about where he got these ideas.

<b>SEZs in general and Nandigram in particular</b>

Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are necessary to quickly jump start the
economy by dealing with points 5 and 6 of the program outlined above.
So now let us discuss about Nandigram. Nandigram is a very poor area whose
people come to Kolkata for sustenance. WB govt spends about Rs 4 crores for
the 100,000 people living in 19,000 acres of Nandigram. The Salem project
was about building a city of the size of Chandigarh (about 10,000 acres) in
Nandigra, Salem would be spending about Rs 20,000 crores in the area (compared
to Rs 4 crore by WB govt and the total Rs 29,000 crores by West Bengal Govt
for the entire state. It is a no-brainer that Nandigram and its people would
have been a gainer. West Bengal would have obtained a spanking new city in
Southern Bengal and lot more people would have joined the middle classes.

<b>What went wrong?</b>

Why did Buddhadeb let loose a joint force of CPIM cadres and police on
Nandigram. Buddhadeb is not an original thinker. His current strategy is not
his own but taken from internet sites. So he goes by what others tell him.
Buddhadeb was advised by CPIM leaders that the best strategy is to use police
to scatter the people and then use the cadres to pacify the area. Then they
can use the cadres to get the land and give it to Salem. Even though people
will suffer now, ultimately people of Nandigram will gain. Also CPIM will be
able to retake the area from Ms Mamata. So they will get 2 birds by one
stone. That such a strategy was accepted by Buddhadeb shows the deeply
undemocratic nature of the CPIM leaders. The strategy failed because unlike
in Singur Buddhadeb was facing muslims and also more people. Singur has only
about 2000-3000 disgruntled people while in Nandigram they number in tens of

<b>What should be done?</b>

Such strong arm tactics,as adopted in Singur and Nandigram, would not work in
West Bengal. People are aware of their rights and there is some democracy
inspite of the murderous CPIM cadres and the callous, undemocratic CPIM
leaders. <b>Capitalism can not be reintroduced in WB on the cheap. People would
have to be bought out.</b> Buddhadeb should offer the affected families in
Nandigram an yearly sum of Rs 50,000 per family. This sum will be paid as long
as the affected families can not get other sources of income. It will cost
about Rs 500 crores per year initially. This cost will go down as these
affected families get jobs in the Salem project. This sum of money will not
break the WB govt finances. WB govt should impose a 5 % reduction in various
expenditure to get this money. This little expenditure would more than be
made up by the revenues from a brand new town.
Murder in Arcadia
- Nandigram may signal the end of hope for West Bengal

If over-kill and pig-headedness hadn’t been the hallmarks of the CPI(M)’s re-conquest of Nandigram on March 14, conspiracy theorists may well have been justified in claiming that the incident was a diabolical ploy by the flat-earth society to discredit Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s perestroika. That the doctrinaire Left — somewhat over-represented in the top echelons of the politburo — had been less than happy with a chief minister who was visibly impatient with his ideological inheritance was apparent even during last year’s assembly election. The cracks were, however, expediently papered over because Bhattacharjee appeared to be surprisingly successful in selling a commodity that had been woefully in short supply in West Bengal since 1967: hope.

For the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the events in Nandigram have been a colossal embarrassment — and quite justifiably so. Blessed with a stupendous arrogance stemming from the conviction that they are always on the right side of history, the party apparatchiks blessed a police-cum-cadre action that had in the past invariably yielded results. Those familiar with the by-lanes of state politics may recall the horrible killing of 10 Trinamool Congress activists followed by the re-conquest of Keshpur, also in East Midnapur district, in January 2001. There was also Marichjhampi, the lynchings on Bijon Setu and so many others. The assault on Nandigram, allegedly to facilitate the homecoming of 2,500 party supporters who had been turfed out, followed precisely the same precedents and was governed by the brute logic of exemplary terror.

The depredations and strong-arm methods used by the CPI(M) to crush dissent and opposition have been well documented. Yet, while these human rights abuses may have created local ripples, they rarely occasioned national outrage. With its reserve army of intellectuals and fellow travellers, particularly in the editorial classes, the CPI(M) was successful in projecting West Bengal as an island of enlightenment in India. The rotten underbelly of 30 years of Left Front rule was always concealed by a membrane of progressivism. The imperious Jyoti Basu even took sanctimoniousness to dizzying heights by contrasting West Bengal’s apparent civility to Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s “barbaric” government.

The progressive edifice was always built on fragile foundations and, after Nandigram, shows signs of tottering. For the first time since the Naxalite movement of the late-Sixties, the CPI(M) is confronted by the revolt of the intellectuals. Over the past 10 days, there have been more protests by “intellectuals” than Jyoti Basu’s “business trips” to London each summer. Those notables the party had flaunted to mock the “upcountry” Ram bhakts, denounce Narendra Modi and ridicule empirical historiography have suddenly discovered their inner voice. With melodramatic Tagorean overtones, self-professed Left intellectuals have returned honours conferred on them by the state — presumably these were not awarded for services to the party — and described Nandigram as “worse than Jallianwala Bagh” because the killings happened under Left rule. The chief minister has been called a “killer” by those who had previously reserved this epithet for his Gujarat counterpart. The Minorities Commission, hitherto an obliging instrument of secularist indignation, has despatched a team to Nandigram — although it is doubtful it will do anything beyond claiming TA/DA. Incensed by the harsh treatment of colleagues who had gone to report on the happenings, even the media has turned hostile and replaced deference to CPI(M) stalwarts with probing insolence.

That the CPI(M) has been horribly scarred by Nandigram is obvious. In a statement marked by uncharacteristic humility, the CPI(M) general secretary, Prakash Karat, confessed that “The people have turned against us. We know that the people of West Bengal have high democratic consciousness and they have disapproved the police firing which resulted in 13 deaths in Nandigram.” Although this contriteness was not in evidence among Marxist MPs who prevented parliament from discussing a “state subject”, Nandigram has done to the CPI(M) what the Hungarian uprising of 1956 did to the Communist parties in western Europe — punctured its self-created aura of moral infallibility. Nurtured on the puerile assumption that the party is always right and supreme, Nandigram has planted the seeds of honest doubt among those who still perceive themselves as idealists in the murky world of politics.

The reverberations from Nandigram are certain to be particularly damaging to Bhattacharjee. Although it is quite apparent by now that the March 14 assault was a party decision imposed on a supine administration and had absolutely no connection with the proposed special economic zone, it is the chief minister’s reformist zeal which will be the first casualty. This is apparent from the rant of the progressives against the West Bengal government succumbing to the temptations of market economics.

The spirited denunciation of Buddha-nomics is not surprising. It is a feature of beleaguered ideologies to fall back on hoary certitudes to explain setbacks and debacles. Marxist head-bangers, for example, continue to attribute the collapse of the Soviet bloc not to the inherent inefficiencies and distortions of bureaucratic socialism but to Mikhail Gorbachev’s ‘betrayal’. Likewise, West Bengal’s eclipse from the Resurgent India storyline has not been traced to the stagnation of the Jyoti Basu years but blamed on Bhattacharjee’s own revisionism — which, presumably, originated from keeping the wrong sort of company.

Monty Johnstone, a former Stalinist who became an enthusiastic convert to Euro-Communism, once proffered a devastating critique of Trotskyism that has a relevance to some of the debates around Nandigram. Trotsky’s revolutionary approach, he wrote, amounted to this: “Imagine the most desirable possible solution. Endow it with the force of imminent reality. And from that lofty premise revile all lesser objectives.”

To the critics of Bhattacharjee’s hesitant market-led re-industrialization programme, Sonar Bangla is a rural Arcadia dominated by “toiling peasants” who are naturally against the evil forces of globalization and “neo-liberal economics”. In this caricatured recreation of a morbid Ritwik Ghatak film, the goons of the fat-cat speculators attacked a community of contented peasants and triggered a wave of popular revulsion that finally forced an insensate government to eat humble pie and call off the march to modernity.

It comes as no real surprise that this mushy view has found ready takers in a state which has overdosed on romantic piffle about mass movements, popular struggles and insurrections — the political mythology that has sustained the communist movement. Add to this a popular mentality centred on entitlements — which translates into envy, cussedness, smug insolence and general bloody-mindedness — and it is possible to gauge why Nandigram has become the leitmotif of that Bengal which steadfastly refuses to change with the times. In the Nandigram resistance, we can glean the mindset that has facilitated the Left’s hegemonic control over West Bengal.

The CPI(M) must rue the fact that the excesses of its control junkies has placed it on the wrong side of the permanently aggrieved. In the natural course, and outside West Bengal, its sympathies would have been with Luddites of the Medha Patkar variety, the Islamists who sense their time has come to make a political mark and, of course, Leftist dinosaurs.

This wrong-footedness is, however, unlikely to be more than a temporary blip. The CPI(M) appears to have recognized that it is not worthwhile building a gateway to India Inc. in West Bengal if it leads to a corresponding dilution of draconian political control. Like its political mentors in China, the CPI(M) will always try to manage capitalism with a Stalinist face. If unwavering political control proves impossible, the programme of economic modernization will be cast aside effortlessly.

Nandigram may signal the end of the all-too-brief flicker of hope for West Bengal.
Thanks for writeup. How about something for front age, if you can add more on current situation.

Here is my take-
They may have to do more to buy people. Flat on acquired land and job guarantee. In Singapore, govt acquired land gave them flats. They gave them subsidized medical and other benefits, initially Singaporean protested against govt and compared them with Japanese’s but after seeing benefits, others also willingly gave up land and squatter condition for better living standard. People still have food shops, business, but now they are in enclosed area and strictly monitored by Govt.
People should not lose source of income, even it means retraining locals and proper distribution of money for education. Strategy which BB had adopted was pathetic and without morals. In this DNA age, information spread fast and people are not stupid they are well aware about their rights.
<!--QuoteBegin-Mudy+Mar 23 2007, 03:50 AM-->QUOTE(Mudy @ Mar 23 2007, 03:50 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->gangajal,
Thanks for writeup.  How about something for front age, if you can add more on current situation.

Here is my take-
They may have to do more to buy people. Flat on acquired land and job guarantee. In Singapore, govt acquired land gave them flats. They gave them subsidized medical and other benefits, initially Singaporean protested against govt and compared them with Japanese’s but after seeing benefits, others also willingly gave up land and squatter condition for better living standard. People still have food shops, business,  but now they are in enclosed area and strictly monitored by Govt.
People should not lose source of income, even it means retraining locals and proper distribution of money for education. Strategy which BB had adopted was pathetic and without morals. In this DNA age, information spread fast and people are not stupid they are well aware about their rights.

Yes, your suggestion about flats and job guarantees is good. I would say that such a thing is also buying people's support. It is, however, also true that flats would costs a lot of money. We are talking of nearly 50,000 people, probably 8000 families. We must remember that BB inherited a ruined and bankrupt Govt finance. Things have improved due to IT bounty but it will take another 3-4 years for the Govt to break even. This is the reason why I suggested a Rs 50,000 per year grant to affected families till they can get a job in the emerging city. One way to achieve what you are suggesting may be to get a low interest loan from World Bank or to ask British aid for outright grant.

BB is not an original thinker. He is, however, better than that scoundrel JB in the sense that while JB did not care about WB economy, I think BB does. However, BB is a student from JB's school of politics where one treats one's political opponent as an enemy who has to be killed. CPIM is a profoundly undemocratic party. So CPIM leaders can think up new ways to violently suppress opposition but can not think of a creative way to solve a problem.

Any way it is clear that there is no cheap way of reindustrializing WB. A proper rehabilitation package is an absolute must.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Daughters flee out of rapists’ reach

Nandigram, March 18: Sixty-year-old Mahitosh Das tiptoes out of his house every night with daughter Lakshmi, 18, and hurries to a cluster of bushes nearby where they sit cowering till daybreak.

Most other families have sent their daughters away from Nandigram — out of the reach of rapists using the battle over land to prey on women.

“My 14-year-old son, Tapas, guards my wife and house while I take my 18-year-old daughter, Lakshmi, near a pond a little away from the house and hide behind the bushes every night,” said Mahitosh, a resident of Sonachura.

After the gangrape of a CPM supporter’s wife at Kalicharanpur on March 3, allegedly by villagers opposed to land acquisition, frightened parents from both the warring sides are sending their daughters away to safety.

Since violence broke out in Nandigram, young women from at least 500 families have left for the homes of relatives or friends.

The complaint by two women of rape by men in uniform during Wednesday’s police action has meant sleepless nights for Mahitosh, who doesn’t have anywhere he can send Lakshmi.

The CPM local leadership has asked supporters in Sonachura, Gangra, Kalicharanpur and the neighbourhood to send all girls between 12 and 22 away to relatives’ houses.

“We are under terrible stress trying to arrange for our supporters to return home. We have to think about the safety of the young girls,” said Niranjan Mondal, secretary of the Sonachura local committee.

But CPM workers have been accused of turning on women whose fathers or husbands are part of the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee.

When party workers, who had to flee home in January in the wake of the anti-land acquisition movement, returned to Sonachura on Thursday emboldened by the police action, they searched out Nanigopal Sith’s house in Sithpara.

Nanigopal, a local leader of the Pratirodh Committee, had fled after the firing.

“Angry CPM workers came in search of Nanigopal in the afternoon. ‘Your husband had realised fines from us. Now you pay up Rs 5,000 immediately. If you can’t, you will have to send your daughter to us at night,’ they threatened us. Early next morning I took my 15-year-old daughter, Daibaki, and left her at a relative’s house near Nandigram hospital,” said Tararani, Nanigopal’s wife.

On the other side of the land divide, Moni Paik, the mother of two young daughters, has chosen the security of the CPM camp in Tekhali over her house in Sonachura’s Paikpara. “We who have young daughters at home cannot take any chances.”

Pratirodh committee leaders, of course, deny the charge. “Our supporters have not targeted young daughters and wives of CPM supporters. They have fled on their own out of fear,” said convener Sabuj Pradhan.

Some informative article on the West Bengal economic situation.

West Bengal economy: A not-so-rosy picture
H. K. Bhattacharyya

WITH the Left parties being the major ally of the new Congress-led government
at the Centre, it is but natural that they will have a major say in economic
policy-making. To gauge the likely fallout of their influence, it may be
relevant to see how the bastion of the Left, West Bengal, has been faring on
the economic front.

West Bengal has joined the bandwagon of `poor States' ? Uttaranchal, Uttar
Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Assam and
Tripura. The BIMARU States, which included Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan
and Uttar Pradesh, now stands modified to BINABU ? with West Bengal replacing

And among the metros, Kolkata, the pride of the Bengalis, is just about
holding out.

Based on 18 indicators, such as income, consumption awareness and market
infrastructure, Kolkata ranks third among the major 10 cities ? behind Mumbai
at the top and Delhi.

On the agriculture front, West Bengal has something to smile about. It is No.
1 in rice production, contributing 14.6 per cent of the country's total
production, No. 2 in potato cultivation (34.4 per cent of the total) and No. 1
in jute and mesta, contributing 71.6 per cent of the total output.

But in terms of per capita foodgrains production (2000-01), it ranks eighth
and in per capita gross industrial output and value added in industries, 12th.

The Budget for 2004-05 estimates tax and non-tax revenues to grow at 18.4 per
cent and 30.4 per cent respectively, generating Rs 1,904 crore.

Though the Budget presents a rosy picture, the reality is not so. The finances
are in a shambles.

The revised estimates of Budget 2003-04 show that wages, pension and interest
payments constitute 101 per cent of the revenue receipts and, of this,
interest liability alone make up 43.3 per cent ? the highest among 15 States.
In 2003-04, sales tax revenues fell by Rs 36 crore, land revenues by Rs 15
crore, excise Rs 9 crore, revenue from taxes on goods and passengers Rs 4.2
crore and other taxes Rs 28 crore.

However, the revenue from electricity duty rose substantially, by Rs 210
crore. Stamp duty and motor vehicle tax collections also went up, by Rs 14
crore and Rs 40 crore respectively.

In the current year, the estimated annual interest liability is expected to be
Rs 13,604 crore and the wage bill for government employees, Rs 12,000 crore;
these work out to 35.3 per cent and 3.1 per cent, respectively, of the State's
total Budget.

There is hardly any possibility of introducing entry tax, value-added tax and
tax on services, but the Government seems optimistic about furthering growth
and productivity and generating five-lakh extra jobs through diversification
of agriculture; pisciculture, for instance, is expected to create 70,000 jobs.

Cutting subsidies to the State's electricity board and the transport sector,
lowering non-Plan expenditure, reducing interest payments gradually,
containing the growth in salaries and pensions within 5 per cent and 10 per
cent respectively and steadily increasing the State Domestic Product (touching
7.6 per cent) would go a long way in addressing the financial crisis.

Revenue receipts make up more than two-thirds of the total revenue of the
State. The other channels of revenue include borrowings from the Centre, the
market and the contingency fund and through small savings and remittances.

As the finances are in disarray, the State may find it difficult to focus on
developmental work.

In 2002-03, the State Government did not spend Rs 3 crore of `grant
allocation' meant for various highway projects; a benefit that would have
accrued to the residents.

In a study of 19 States based on 46 parameters, including infrastructure,
education, health, investment, consumer market, and law and order, across
eight categories, West Bengal was ranked 14 during the period 1991-2001, with
Goa placed first and Bihar, the last.

Though the State has an impressive record in land reforms and
decentralisation, its economy has slid perceptibly over the years; about 75
per cent of the registered SSIs in the State are sick. The private sector is
wary about investing and the gross fiscal deficit as a percentage of State
Gross Domestic Product was a whopping 8.5 per cent in 1999-2000, the highest
among the States.

Bringing the economy on a par with the advanced States would be difficult
unless, of course, the people of Bengal decide to take up the challenge. And
this would entail a change in mindset.

(The author is a New Delhi-based project management consultant.)


Kerala moves towards fiscal irresponsibility. West Bengal tries to put its house in order
Indian Express, July 10, 2006
The new LDF government in Kerela presented Budget 2006-07 for the state with a sharp rise in spending. Revenue expenditure is budgeted to increase from an average of 16.9 percent of Gross State Domestic Product over the last ten years to 19.5 percent in the current year. This will result in a sharp increase in the revenue deficit for the state at Rs 5,415 crore. In 2005-06 the revenue deficit was Rs 3,561 crores. Having gone for a sharp increase in expenditure on welfare and benefits, the Left front Finance Minister Dr Thomas Issac criticized the centre for restricting deficits. The fiscal deficit in Kerala in 2006-7 stands at Rs 7,534 crore, having gone up from Rs 4,513 crores in the previous year.

The minister said, "It is when we ask how a democratically elected Government can show such an obvious anti-people attitude, that the role of 'Fiscal Responsibility Legislation' imposed by the Central Government as part of globalization becomes very clear. Their commitment is not towards people who elected them but to certain targets fixed by experts who framed the fiscal responsibility laws, which are then enacted by some State Governments, knowingly or unknowingly. This is truly anti-democratic."

Refering to the state fiscal responsibility legislation accepted by the previous state government in line with the framework created by the finance commission, Dr Issac said,

"The Centre has been thrusting targets related to income, expenditure, Revenue Deficit and Fiscal Deficit on states in such a way that it would be applicable even to future Governments. The Finance Commissions have been made a tool for this. Governments, which come to power giving a lot of promises, are forced to swallow them quoting these conditions."

The West Bengal budget presented by Finance Minister Asim Das Gupta after the CPM government was re-elected to power shows an estimate of a revenue deficit of Rs 8,759 crore. The state has not been in a position to sign up for the Fiscal Responsibility Legislation due to the precarious fiscal position of the state. The CPM government headed by Buddadeb Dasgupta appears to be making some progress on getting the state out of the financial mess it is in. This is not an easy task. The fical performance of West Bengal in the nineties was amongst the worst in Indian states. Twelfth Finanace Commission estimates show that West Bengal ranked the worst among all states in terms of its revenue deficit in the years 2000-03 when its revenue deficit stood at 5.47 percent of Gross State Domestic Product. The Commission report also shows that the revenue deficit in West Bengal worsened sharply from 1993-96 to 2000-03. Only next to Gujarat where the slippage was the highest, it worsened by 3.95 percent of GSDP.

The fiscal deficit in West Bengal was the second worst after Orissa. Between 2000-03 the fiscal deficit in West Bengal stood at 7.31 percent of GSDP. The slippage in fiscal deficit over the period 1993-96 to 2000-03 was the worst among all states. It fell by 4.13 percent of GSDP.

West Bengal has also been the worst performer in terms of own tax revenue collection. It collected 4.26 percent of GSDP as taxes. Even Bihar collected more of its prodcuction as taxes (at 4.46 percent of GDP) than West Bengal. Instead of improving, as most states did on this front, West Bengal saw a decline in own tax revenue over the period 1993-96 to 2000-03 by 1.2 percent of GSDP.

To tackle the financial crises in the state the West Bengal government under Buddhadeb Dasgupta has been taking measures to raise own revenues.

Dasgupta, the West Bengal Finance Minister noted in his budget speech that "the ratio of revenue deficit to revenue receipt which was 90.9 per cent in 1999-2000 has noticeably fallen to an estimated 34.87 per cent in the year 2005-2006. At the same time, the ratio of fiscal deficit to State Domestic Product which increased to 9.20 per cent in 19992000 has sharply come down to an estimated 4.67 per cent in

The state VAT which has been spearheaded by the West Bengal Finance minister is one of the instruments through which the state government hopes to improve the financial position of the state.

Asim sets 9% SDP growth target, says jobs mean more than stats
Posted online: Saturday, March 17, 2007 at 0151 hours IST
KOLKATA, MAR16: West Bengal finance minister Asim Dasgupta on Friday set a growth target of 9% for state domestic product (SDP) in 2007-08, against an average of 8.2% over the past three years and an expected 8.7% in the current year in his budget for 2007-08.

He proposes to raise additional revenues of Rs 150 crore, leaving a final deficit of Rs 3 crore.

Though his growth projection is less than the average 11th plan (2007-08 to 2011-12) Union finance minister P Chidambaram's gross domestic product (GDP) growth target of 10%, Dasgupta reckons that his "alternative approach" of economic development of employment generation has nothing to do with mere growth statistics.

"For an unemployed youth, GDP does not mean anything unless there is a job,"
Dasgupta said during the press conference after the budget presentation.

According to Chidambaram, the average growth rate in the three years of the UPA government was 8.6% compared with the state's average annual growth rate of 8.2% over the last three years.

Even if the state's estimated growth rate is less than the centre's target, Dasgupta has managed to contain the government's spending spree when it comes to pensions, subsidy and salary expenditure.

The revised numbers for 2006-7 were less than the initial estimates, thus meeting the budget targets.

The state's estimated total salary expenditure in 2006-07 was Rs 11,699 crore but in the revised estimate it was Rs 11,430 crore. The total salary for the 2007-08 will be Rs 12,079 crore, an increase of 5.67%.

Similar is the case with pension and other retirement benefits and subsidy. The initial estimates for pension and subsidy for 2006-07 were Rs 3,622 crore and Rs 395 crore respectively but the final numbers were Rs 3,441 and Rs 377 crore.

The state government will spend Rs 3,699 crore for pension and retirement benefits and Rs 372 crore for subsidy.

In interest payment, the state government has been able to meet its goal in 2006-07 under the heads "payment to central government and "payment to other institutions for PF and other deposits."

As a result of containing payment on salary, pension and interest payment under leash, the total payment under these heads as a percentage of revenue receipts has fallen from 152.7 % in 1999-2000 to 95.2% in 2006-07.

Dasgupta pointed out that, as a result of all these, he has managed to increase the state's plan expenditure over the years from Rs 2,529 crore in 2003-04 to Rs 7,978 crore in 2006-07.

In terms of the outstanding debt, West Bengal (Rs 1,25,407 crore, 2006-07 BE) ranks third after Maharashtra (Rs 1,36,063 crore) and Uttar Pradesh (Rs 1,49,260 crore).

In terms of total outstanding liabilities as a percentage of SDP, West Bengal's rank is fairly high in the national scale, at 46.8% against the national average of 33.1%.

The debt will go up in 2007-08 from the revised Rs 1,21,753 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 1,33,384 crore in 2007-08.

But, Dasgupta said, if the present relative trend of growth of state's own revenue and non-plan revenue expenditure is maintained, at the end of 11th plan the percentage will fall to 39.5%.

Dasgupta expects fiscal deficit as a percentage of SDP to come down to 3.9% in 2007-08 from 4.5% in 2006-07. Revenue deficit as a percentage of revenue receipts was 31.1% in 2006-07 and the target is to lower it to 23.4%.

- How Nandigram will set back the industrial clock
Sunanda K. Datta-Ray

The death of hope

Calcutta was again in the grips of a bandh when I landed last Friday and drove home through deserted streets. When I had left in January it was also a furtive journey to the airport because of another bandh. The only redeeming feature is that bandhs nowadays are never total. Like all else, including a murderously bungled attempt at industrialization, they are half-hearted and ineffectual.

The retreat from Nandigram signalled the death of hope. It makes little difference whether uniformed thugs, Marxist cadres, Trinamool storm troopers or Naxalite outlaws caused the carnage. What matters is that another attempt to acquire land for industry is unthinkable in the near future. What is even more disheartening is that last Saturday’s seminar on “Globalization and Education: Problems and Prospects for India” as part of Don Bosco school’s golden jubilee celebrations indicated that even highly educated and otherwise discerning Bengalis are hostile to the notion of capital flowing into the state. Sumit and Tanika Sarkar may have returned their awards to protest against brutality, but the gesture will be widely interpreted as another high-minded indictment of globalization.

Yet, Bengal desperately needs jobs that can only come from extensive manufacturing industries. That means investing far more money than the trading community that finances the Marxists is willing (or, perhaps, able) to put up. Much has been written about 90,000 land protests in China. What deserves stressing is that these eruptions did not prevent the authorities from decanting a million people to create the glittering new township of Pudong across the Huangpu river from Shanghai. Its steel and glass towers and globes proclaim China’s rapidly growing wealth, hectic financial activity and robust confidence in the globalized future.

Someone at the Don Bosco seminar remarked that I was optimistic about globalization only because I was visiting. True, abroad one has a surfeit of India Shining, India Rising, Incredible India and India Everywhere. The Indian glass looks at least half-full. The moment one lands at Dum Dum, the same glass seems bleakly half (or more) empty. That is because people here are still haunted by the bogey of the East India Company. The Don Bosco seminar presentations confirmed that globalization is today’s Foreign Hand. The assembly speaker, Hasim Abdul Halim, spoke darkly of schools for the rich, as if his government’s inability to educate the poor is the fault of international capital. The Indian Institute of Management’s Shitangshu Kumar Chakravarti blamed globalization for his grandson’s hip taste in t-shirt slogans.

Not everyone was as hostile. Shyamaprasad Mukherjee, an eminent statistician, presented a balanced view of the cultural mosaic of globalization which, he said, can augment creativity instead of imposing regimentation. But people remember the criticism because it feeds into existing prejudice and provides moral ammunition to the patrons of groups like the Bhoomi Uchched Pratirodhi and Krishi Jomi Raksha Committees. A casual listener to the seminar should not be blamed too much for imagining that, in addition to bad schools and shocking sartorial taste, globalization is also responsible for the lack of female empowerment, internet abuse and exploitative non-governmental organizations. The speakers — Swaraj Kumar Nath, director-general of the Central Statistical Organization, Bethune College principal, Manimala Das, George Thadathil, head of the Salesian College near Darjeeling, and a computer professor, Subhansu Bandyopadhyay — did not condemn globalization outright. Barring the engaging young Swami Sarvapriyananda, of whom more later, they damned it with faint praise.

Nandigram makes it difficult to take a stand against their jeremiads. Objectively speaking, the criminal collapse of civilized norms is more than reason enough to dismiss the state government. President’s rule has been imposed for far less. But, then, punishing an incompetent, power-hungry and neurotic regime cannot be the only purpose of invoking Article 356. The punishment must also somehow benefit Bengal’s long-suffering people. That means educating peasants in the optimum use of land, which is charged with profound emotion. The land department’s chaotic records, archaic rules and corrupt and inefficient staff make it virtually impossible to carry out the tasks of identification, verification and acquisition without a measure of pragmatic compulsion.

It is doubtful if outsiders operating from Raj Bhavan can handle such a gargantuan job. Given the Central government’s composition and temperament, its authority may not be more effective than the Left Front’s. Hooligans with powerful local protection will defy discipline. Central nominees certainly cannot revolutionize public thinking, neutralize troublemakers and galvanize the peasantry. That is the responsibility of politicians with a popular mandate. They alone can instruct, motivate and inspire to arrest the decline of three decades.

This week’s tragic drama highlighted the interests at stake in a situation that would never have arisen if Jyoti Basu had given a damn about public welfare during his long tenure. With his education, sophistication, worldly contacts and taste for good living, he could have done so much; instead, a visit to Samavayika’s dusty confusion or the wilderness of Haringhata confirms how much of what Bidhan Chandra Roy created for Bengalis has been destroyed. Basu’s emphasis now on Left Front consensus means that economic programmes that might deter voters will not be pursued and that the chief minister’s wings will remain clipped. Poverty is his price for continued power.

The word “crisis” is spelt in Mandarin with two ideograms standing for “danger” and “opportunity”. So was Nandigram for an array of self-seeking politicians. Prakash Karat came rushing down from Delhi not out of any concern for Bengal or Bengalis but because of fears that the Left Front tail will not be able to wag the UPA dog if Calcutta’s red citadel falls. Caught between an ally at the Centre that it dare not ignore and an adversary in West Bengal it dare not offend, the Congress remains paralysed. Lal Krishna Advani saw the massacre as an opportunity to try once more to remind indifferent Bengalis that an animal called the Bharatiya Janata Party still prowls the Hindi heartland. Mamata Banerjee must have viewed the broken heads, mutilated corpses and raped women with satisfaction: the more villagers are terrorized under Marxist rule, the greater the chance that Trinamool might one day climb to power on the rebound.

Amidst all these calculations, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee perhaps does seek to revive the economy. He is certainly the only public personality to deserve the benefit of the doubt. But his choice of investor for the proposed special economic zone prompts misgivings about his judgment and knowledge of the world as well as about the people who influence his decisions. His methods are far from transparent; and it seemed last week that he was not averse to exploiting the special economic zone plan to consolidate his party’s stranglehold on the countryside. Either he acquiesced in the grim doings or he has no control over ruthless party apparatchiks.

Jairam Ramesh rightly dismissed all this as part of Bengal’s “political culture of confrontation and violence”. But it is wrong to conclude it has no bearing on industrialization. The link is direct, for by discrediting the acquisition of land for SEZs, Nandigram will set back the industrial clock. As the Don Bosco seminar highlighted, many thinking people are looking for an excuse to condemn what they don’t know and therefore blame for all the ills they do know. It took the unlikely person of a Belur Math monk with an MBA degree to remark on the generation divide. Swami Sarvapriyananda pointed out that the old might be willing to stay with the status quo but the young are reaching out to the world. He could have added that if we can’t bring the world to them, they will go off in search of opportunities in Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore and beyond the seas. The killing fields of Bengal will be left with the likes of Naru Maity. They will offer nothing to ambitious, young, English-speaking people from institutions like Don Bosco.

Karat: What really happened in Nandigram
<b>Buddha Meets His Kalki </b> <!--emo&Big Grin--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='biggrin.gif' /><!--endemo-->

<i>The CM is taking flak from all corners. A damning CBI report will hurt even more. Updates </i>
What crap is this?

Accused claims he raped Nandigram women under threat
<!--QuoteBegin-ashyam+Mar 25 2007, 12:26 PM-->QUOTE(ashyam @ Mar 25 2007, 12:26 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->What crap is this?

Accused claims he raped Nandigram women under threat

This belongs in the following venerable list of amazing claims..

1. Godhra victims burned themselves
2. 9-11 was a jewish conspiracy
3. Burning valentine cards is as horrible as mass-murder.
4. You can threaten somebody to rape..

Amazing thing is -> people can make this kind of BS stick !!

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Referring to the Babri Masjid demolition during the Prime Ministership of P V Narasimha Rao, he claimed that though the Congress had not always taken the right decisions, it was still the only party that could keep the country united.

Stating that <b>West Bengal was among the states where the condition of the Muslims was the worst</b>, Dasmunshi said, "The chief minister, however, does not admit this."

Dasmunshi claimed he was the only MP from West Bengal who has given MPLAD funds to the highest number of 42 Madrassas in his Raiganj constituency. "<b>The chief minister, on the other hand, is on record as having said that all Madrassas were breeding ground for terrorists</b>."<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Amazing thing is -> people can make this kind of BS stick !! <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
And dumb media of India print this stupidity.

<b>Catch-22 in West Bengal</b>

Kanika Datta / New Delhi March 24, 2007

The policies that kept the Left Front in power for 30 years are proving major
obstacles in the state's bid to industrialise.

In 2005, the West Bengal government started acquiring farmland in Bhangar, 25
km from Kolkata, for a 100 km, four-lane expressway and township to be
constructed by Indonesian giant, the Salim group.

Soon after, Trinamool Congress leader and former railway minister Mamata
Banerjee lost no time summoning a rally, attended by more than 50,000 people,
to protest the appropriation of farmland for industry. Significantly, Abdur
Rezzak Mollah, the Left Front's land reforms minister, raised questions about
viable rehabilitation packages for farmers who would lose their land.
Subsequently, in state elections in 2006, the Bhangar assembly seat, which had
been a CPI (M) stronghold for decades, was narrowly won by a Trinamool
Congress candidate.

Though the protests were localised, Bhangar was a clear signal that the ruling
four-party Left Front would see turbulent times over land acquisition. Yet,
within the year, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee announced plans to
acquire larger tracts of farmland as the state's industrialisation drive went
into high gear.

Soon, more vocal protests were heard in Singur, 40 km north of Kolkata, and
Nandigram, 150 km south of the city, respectively, locations for the 1,000-
acre hub around Tata Motors's small car project and the 14,000-acre Special
Economic Zone (SEZ) for the Salim group.

Last week, when villagers in Nandigram were killed in clashes with the police,
West Bengal became a national symbol of the evils of unfettered
industrialisation in general and SEZs in particular.

One of the world's longest-serving Communist governments now suffers the
ignominy of being labelled 'anti-people'. Indeed, as the CPI (M), the leading
constituent of the Left Front, has discovered to its chagrin, its faithful
rural support base is proving inconveniently intractable in the state's bid to
stoke industrial investment.

This has put the Left Front government in a bind. With returns from
agriculture diminishing, the state urgently needs to industrialise. To
bootstrap the process, however, the state needs more than 1,00,000 acres of
land. Half of this must come from agricultural land, which covers 68 per cent
of the state's land mass.

A land ceiling Act, which limits the acquisition of agricultural land to 12.5
acre, has meant that most of the acquisition must be done by the state rather
than the private sector (the Act has now been referred to a standing committee
for possible amendment).

Yet, as Nandigram has shown, the government cannot take the rural support
base, which sustained it for for three decades, for granted in this land
acquisition drive.

Ironically, the spectacularly successful land reforms that handed land to
small farmers and share-croppers (or bargadars) in the seventies (known as
Operation Barga) have become a source of weakness. West Bengal's land reform
programme was unique in that, unlike Punjab and Haryana, it created a green
revolution based on a small peasant economy. With high-yielding seeds and deep
tubewell irrigation provided by the state, Bengal was able to achieve high
yields ' two or three rice crops a year ' with average landholdings as small
as 5-7 acres.

Today, West Bengal produces around 8 per cent of India's cereals and is one of
the country's principal vegetable producers.

The flip side of this unique green revolution was that, as a generation of
landholders passed on, multiple inheritors have acquired even smaller plots of
land. Today many own just three or four bighas (three bighas = one acre).

Over the decades, growing land fragmentation, declining soil fertility and a
falling water table have made farming an unviable business for Bengal's 1.2
crore farming community. This fact is evident in a paradox highlighted by
economist Omkar Goswami. Writing in the Kolkata daily The Telegraph, he
pointed out that despite impressive growth in agricultural productivity and
farm incomes, rural household consumption in West Bengal was 9.6 per cent
below the national average in 2001-02.

'It doesn't speak well of a state that lays claim to agrarian dynamism [that]
its rural households consume only 4.3 per cent more than the average rural
family in Bihar,' he writes.

Not surprisingly, the second generation of small-holders has been uninterested
in farming, increasingly turning to the cities for jobs. Today, almost half
the rural population earns its income outside agriculture.

No one understands these inherent contradictions in West Bengal's economic
future better than Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who took charge in 2001, and a
small element within his government.

As state industries minister Nirupam Sen told Business Standard, 'The success
in agriculture cannot be sustained. We need to take the pressure off
agriculture and land is required for industrialisation.'

Yet, industrialisation in West Bengal had always been a controversial issue.
Powered by its rural support base in the seventies and eighties, the Left
Front government did little to support industry.

In turn, plagued by state-supported union problems and a chronic shortage of
infrastructure, industry began retreating in favour of more congenial
locations elsewhere in India. Big groups like the Birlas, Hindustan Lever,
Britannia, the Thapars and so on sought to locate their new investments in the
west and north.

Despite being isolated within his party and the Left Front, Bhattacharjee's
efforts have largely been to try and reverse decades of neglect. But
globalisation has changed the nature of the game. Integration and economies of
scale require vast tracts of land to be acquired for industrialisation.
Indeed, the state has attracted numerous projects that require thousands of
acres (see chart), that will displace large numbers of people on fragmented
land-holdings. In Nandigram alone, the Salim group's chemical hub would have
displaced more than 40,000 people.

Till the Nandigram crisis, the pro-changers in the government seem to have
assumed that the Left's stranglehold on the countryside precluded the need for
sensitive and well-crafted communication and rehabilitation programmes ahead
of the land-acquisition drive.

This apart, years of industrial neglect have also meant that, unlike Gujarat
and Maharashtra, there is no credible demonstration of the benefits of
industrialisation. Outside of Kolkata's polluted outskirts, there is little to
convince the rural populace to substitute the seemingly solid assurance of
land ownership for the ephemeral gains of factory jobs.

Certainly, on the outer edges of east Kolkata, where vast tracts of farmland
have been given over to mega-housing projects and factories, there appears to
have been no virulent protests to land acquisition.

At Singur, some 4,000 farmers representing 300 acres of land have refused to
accept compensation. But most other landholders here were absentee farmers
with jobs in Kolkata who were willing to sell their plots. Thus, despite
sporadic protests here, the Tatas have been able to power ahead with the
project, albeit under heavy police protection.

A wall enclosing the land is already up and workers from Shapoorji Pallonji,
the Tatas' major contractor, have started building roads and levelling the
land. The first Rs 1 lakh small car is expected to roll off the ramps by 2008.

Nandigram, however, was a potent demonstration of Bengal's Catch-22 situation.
It is an isolated and starkly backward group of 40-odd villages in which the
inhabitants own land, but little else. Most villages here have no electricity,
few pucca houses, and landholders subsist on three crops of rice and

Betel leaves represent the only commercial crops and brick kilns constitute
the only industrial activity. Annual incomes vary between Rs 18,000 and Rs
20,000. Literacy rates here are as low as 27 per cent, against the state
average of 64 per cent. Many of Nandigram's younger sons travel up the river
to the industrial hub of Metiabruz to work at low-paid jobs.

Certainly, the plan to set up a chemical hub here made both business and
economic sense. Nandigram is close to the port of Haldia through which a
pipeline would import the raw material. The hub would, as Sen said, 'change
the economic pattern of Nandigram'.

For the villagers, however, this transformation is far from evident, not least
because no one from the party has made a case for it. As they see it, they
will lose their land and livelihood. 'What will I do with the compensation
money'? asked Sudarshan Pain, who farms one acre of land and runs Ma Kali
retail outlet selling fertiliser and pesticide.

He and many others, mostly over 30 years, also doubt their employability in
the Salim group project. 'What jobs can they give us? They will need engineers
and computer specialists, we only know how to farm,' said Pain. 'Tell them we
don't want any change, we want to live just as we have been doing for years,'
an elderly woman added.

Ironically, last week's tragedy here took place after Bhattacharjee had
unequivocally announced that the SEZ would be scrapped following virulent
protests in January this year.

But by then poor communication stoked by simmering discontent boiled over into
pure political rivalry. With the local administration cut off from the area by
road blockades, the local CPI (M) strongmen, fearing a loss of control in
other parts of rural Bengal, decided to reassert their power.

The police were ordered in on so-called intelligence that Maoist guerillas
were operating in the area. In the ensuing confusion, they fired on villagers
including women and children who had been pushed to the front. The death toll
is yet to be officially verified. Police sources did not rule out the presence
of lumpen elements of the Left who committed atrocities as well.

After a stormy meeting of the Left Front a day later, Bhattacharjee merely
reiterated what he'd said in January that there would be no SEZ in
Nandigram. Meanwhile, the area has become a green fortress, subject to brutal
political rivalries between the Trinamool Congress and the CPI (M).

In the aftermath of Nandigram, the state government has finally understood
that the success of its industrialisation programme depends on winning the
battle for the hearts and minds of rural Bengal. As Sen has promised, 'The
state will go beyond compensating people. They will be rehabilitated.'

Meanwhile, investors, though worried, appear to be backing chief minister
Bhattacharjee. No one has pulled out yet, though they admit that Nandigram
might set back their plans for a time. The Salim group says it will continue
to look at other sites in the state.

Adds Venugopal Dhoot of Videocon, which has heavy commitments in the state, 'I
believe in Buddhadeb, he is very pragmatic.' B K Birla, who has seen Bengal in
its anti-industry days, says, 'Nandigram may not happen but industrialisation
in West Bengal will continue.'

On the whole, most investors take the view that such problems are inevitable
and, as with all such issues in India, will eventually sort themselves out.
Backed by a state economy that is growing at 7 per cent, a relatively literate
workforce and a growing market, Bhattacharjee has the strong backing of one
set of stakeholders for his reform programme. His challenge is to extend this
mandate to the other major stakeholders to achieve the inclusive growth to
which he aspires.

With reports from Ishita Ayan Dutt and Tamajit Pain

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