The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CPM nod to foreign funds

Calcutta, Aug. 9: The CPM has advised elected panchayat functionaries from the party “not to be hesitant about accepting foreign money” to develop the infrastructure in the health and education sectors.

The go-ahead came after a marathon meeting yesterday at Alimuddin Street among senior party leaders, including chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, panchayat minister Surjya Kanta Mishra, primary education minister Kanti Biswas, and panchayat members from 15 districts.

But CPM state secretary Anil Biswas today issued a caveat. “The panchayat functionaries should be careful in protecting the interests of the poor people by using the foreign money. We will accept foreign funds only when it suits our conditions and does not hamper the interest of the poorer section of the people,” he said.

Biswas admitted that all those elected to the three-tier panchayat set-up were not party members and thus unable to meet the party’s expectations in benefiting people. “We will have to guide these panchayat functionaries and make them aware about the party’s line of action,” he said.

The decision seems to have been prompted by the success of several self-help groups set up by non-government organisations, many of which receive foreign funding. The CPM is becoming wary of these NGOs as many of them have won the hearts of villagers by helping them in their times of distress.

In many areas the NGOs have become more popular than the panchayats. “Despite our strong base in the rural belt, some NGOs have really become a challenge to us and all-round development in health and education sectors is perhaps the only alternative left to isolate the NGOs,” said a panchayat samity mem-ber from South 24-Parganas.

Party insiders agreed that the CPM might have to go for all-round development in the rural belt to counter the thriving NGOs.

The state party leadership also asked the members to realise the unpaid loans taken by villagers from various co-operative banks. “These banks might not be able to provide further loans if they (the villagers) do not repay in time. We have to keep in mind that these co-operative banks play a major role in developing infrastructure in rural belt,” a source quoted the leader as saying at the meeting.

The CPM also stressed the need to set up self-help groups in the villages by involving even those who have different political affiliations. Explaining the government’s expectation from the rural bodies, the chief minister is said to have told the panchayat members that “poor people in the villages are not our class enemies”.

“Some villagers might hold a different political ideology, but they are poor and we consider them our friends as far as their social status is concerned. It is natural that you may strain your relations with these people during the time of elections, but you have to woo them back when you work for developing the infrastructure in villages,” Bhattacharjee was quoted as saying.

Bhattacharjee is toeing his predecessor Jyoti Basu’s advice to party workers to get closer to those opposed to the Marxist ideology. Basu has time and again asked workers in the rural belt to win over those “opposed to the CPM”.

Biswas presented a note explaining the problems faced in spreading education and made it clear that the government alone could not bring about any major changes in the education scenario in the rural belt in Bengal until it received tremendous co-operation from the panchayats and the Opposition parties.

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