Interview with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee: Chief Minister, West Bengal

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee

September 15, 2010, KOLKATA (Calcutta Tube): The communists in West Bengal would face their toughest assembly elections next year. With the opposition led by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee breathing down the neck of the Marxists, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which spearheads the Left Front government in West Bengal, is trying to focus on its work for the poor. West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in an interview to the party’s newly launched state committee website spoke on various issues- from agriculture versus industry debate and the Maoist threat in the state to his main rival Trinamool Congress

West Bengal Assembly poll is due in nearly six months from now. In this situation what are the areas of development you have taken as priority task?

All of our developmental programmes are being directed towards alleviation of poverty and unemployment and improving the quality of life of the poorest of the poor.  In this direction, a programme of land reforms is continuing.  We distributed 16000 acres of land to landless poor in last one year.  We have initiated a new scheme of home stead land to the homeless people in both rural and urban areas.  The programme of REGA has been undertaken vigorously in the villages.  State govt. has launched similar progammes in municipal areas.  Different schemes for SC and ST people are being implemented.  There is also special emphasis on education and training for skill development. Government has recently declared a policy to accommodate Muslim families as OBC on the basis of their family income. More than 1.4 crore minority population in West Bengal will get this benefit. More than 11 lakh self help groups, especially of women are active in various economic activities.  Most of them are getting bank loans for doing business and earning money.  Education was always in the priority list of the governmental function.  On the one side we have tried to expand our base in primary education recruiting all school going children in government run schools.  On the other hand we are trying our best to improve the quality of education and develop the higher educational institutions as centres of excellence.

What is the status of the slogan “Agriculture is our base, Industry is our future”?

During the Assembly Elections in 2006, we raised the slogan that agriculture is our base and industry would be our future.  It is not simply a political slogan but a well planned development perspective.  There is a considerable  success in agricultural production with regard to rise in the production of rice, jute, vegetables, potatoes, etc.  Farmers, poor and marginal farmers, of this state are better off than any other part of the country.  On the other hand investments for setting up the industries are also coming.  It was more than Rs 7060 crores last year.  This year will be no exception. Steel, Chemicals, Fertilizers, Agro processing and IT are major areas of investment in West Bengal. No doubt Govt. is facing many obstacles from opposition in many parts of the state but we cannot stop industrialization.  Because it is the need of the hour, industries are particularly necessary for the young generations.

How do you consider the danger of Maoists in West Bengal?

Maoists are operating in very difficult terrain not because of the fact that poor people, particularly tribals are living there. They operate in those areas simply for the topographical advantage to implement their politics of terror and so called armed struggle.  Their programme is to destroy the democratic structure, constitution and the Indian state.  It is a threat to all right thinking Indian citizens.

Do you think Maoist became active in West Bengal because of under-development?

Under-development is one of the problems but not the main problem. I would like to remind you that Khalistani movement took place in Punjab where the then per capita income was highest in the country.  In West Bengal land reforms has been implemented in Jungle Mahal, like other parts of the state. As a result no big land owners have big junk of the land in that area.  Vast areas of land belong to poor and tribals.  They have right to enter forest and collect forest products for their livelihood. Area development schemes are going on to create more facilities in irrigations, drinking water, rural roads, electricity etc.  Primary and secondary schools are operational and most of the children attend those schools regularly.

How do you view TMC- Maoist nexus in the state?

The main opposition party wants to be the ruling party in state by hook or crook. Therefore, they support Maoist annihilation programme in Jungle Mahal where they have no following.  They want to enter into Jungal Mahal with the help of Maoists.  A section of big press is always supporting the cause of Maoists. Some of the journalists may be sympathetic to Maoist cause without having a concrete idea about their ideology.  The owner of the big press know very well that left extremism always help the right wing politics against main stream left opposition in the country. The Trinamool Congress always gives statements alleging our party for ‘sabotage’ and other crimes.  Trinamool is actually based on lies and false propaganda. They think if they repeat the lies again and again it will confuse the ordinary people.   But I believe that good sense will finally prevail.

What is your opinion about the policy of the second UPA Govt.?

Second UPA Govt. has failed to improve the life of aam admi (common man).  India is now virtually divided into two countries.  One is for a few rich millionaires, and other is for millions of hungry poor.  There is a serious setback in agricultural production which is threatening the food security of the country.  Number of people living below poverty line has increased during UPA regime.  Growth in rate of GDP has failed to solve the miseries of the common people.

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