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Nirupam cracks whip on local-job musclemen

Calcutta, Jan. 8: Three days after Jyoti Basu repented encouraging militant trade unionism, industry minister Nirupam Sen said the government will not tolerate arm-twisting of entrepreneurs by “mastaans and political parties” during recruitment of employees.

Speaking at Writers’ Buildings today after a extensive tour of the districts over the past few months, Sen, the no. 2 in the government, said: “We had complaints that in many cases when some one goes to open an industrial unit he is pressured by mastaans and political parties to take in local youths. During my district tours, I told the chambers of commerce and sabhadhipatis that this will no longer be tolerated.”

But he had requested the chambers of commerce and prospective entrepreneurs to show a “positive attitude” towards the local unemployed youths. “If skilled labour is not available locally, they can fetch them from outside. In case of unskilled labour, jobs should be given through the local employment exchanges,” he said.

With virtually no scope for government employment in sight in the state, people are mainly dependent on the private sector. “I cannot force private companies to employ local youths, but I can only request. I told the chambers of commerce and the district authorities that this is our labour policy,” the minister said.

At a Citu-sponsored meeting on January 5, Basu had said it was a mistake to encourage militant trade unionism over the past 20 years. Admitting that consequently, Bengal’s image as a prospective investment destination had been shown in a pessimistic light, Sen said it was difficult to scrub off a “negative image”. “But, I think the attitude is changing. With the steps we have taken, we think a positive message is going to investors,” he added.

Last year, about Rs 2,232 crore has been invested in 103 big and medium units in Bengal, Sen stated. The investment figure was Rs 2,194 in the previous year.

The minister said investment in Bengal in the last decade of the last century, had been around Rs 600 crore if the Haldia Petrochem, modernisation of Durgapur Steel Plant and the Mitsubishi projects are not taken into account.

Sen said about 10 iron and steel projects had been cleared in 2002 which are expected to bring in investment to the tune of Rs 1,036 crore. These projects are mostly located in Burdwan, Purulia and Bankura districts. He said construction of two five-star hotels in Calcutta and eagerness to invest in cement and iron and steel industry is a positive indication for the government.

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