The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha pulls up vocal colleagues

Calcutta, Jan. 8: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today took strong exception to public criticism of government policies and performance by a section of his Cabinet colleagues and apparently told the ministers to exercise restraint while expressing their views.

The chief minister was apparently irked by recent critical observations by agriculture minister Kamal Guha and minister of state for relief Hafiz Ali Sairani, both from the Forward Bloc, about the agriculture policy, distress sale of paddy and irregularities on the BPL (below poverty line) list.

Guha and Sairani had also spoken out against the state’s earlier attempt to involve multi-national firms in the agriculture sector, stating that the move threatened the interests of marginal farmers. They had also flayed the government’s failure to provide fair price to the farmers and prevent distress sale of crops.

Sources said, the temperature at the meeting of the Cabinet core committee — set up to ensure better coordination among the Left Front partners — soared when Guha reacted to the chief minister’s stricture, saying in some cases they were left with no option but to criticise the government’s decision.

It was important to come out openly to point out the communication gaps, he apparently said. For instance, he pointed out, when the government instructions on the BPL list went to the district magistrates, they, as MLAs in the districts, were not aware of them.

At this point, minister for jails and social welfare Biswanath Chowdhury of the RSP and minister of state for fire services Pratim Chatterjee of the Marxist Forward Bloc intervened to suggest that more coordination among Cabinet members could solve the problem.

The meeting saw another stormy moment during discussions on problems in the nine border districts. A majority of the members resented the government’s failure to address the issues effectively.

All Front ministers complained that people’s representatives in the areas were not being involved in decisions on thorny issues, starting from the construction of roads to problems faced by Indian citizens within 200 metres of the zero-line.

Faced with the criticism, Bhattacharjee said a minister each will be in charge of the nine border districts and they will assist the district magistrates and officials in recording the people’s grievances. The chief minister later held a meeting with chief secretary S.N. Roy and home secretary A.K. Deb on the problems of people in the border districts.

The chief minister also asked Guha to send the file on the draft agriculture policy to him so that final touches could be given to it.

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