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After hope, Buddha eyes health

Calcutta, Nov. 7: After leading Bengal to its rediscovery of hope, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is promising to restore its health.

Education and infrastructure are also on the agenda, as the chief minister found his government to be lagging in these two areas, along with health, at a public soul-searching session today on five years in office.

If these were the red marks on the report card, Bhattacharjee said his government's achievements could be best measured by its success in creating an environment of hope and enterprise that had begun to bring in capital.

'What gives me satisfaction is the acknowledgement all around that the image of Bengal has undergone a vast change, people are coming in to set up industries,' said Bhattacharjee.

So, overall, he was happy with the performance.

He set as his goal for the next five years ' elections are due in 2006 ' improvement in the three areas where he saw the performance as below par.

For the immediate future, Bhattacharjee iterated his resolve to protect information technology from disruptions inflicted from outside.

'Our (CPM) central committee will meet on November 13, 14 and 15 to finalise the party's stand on the issue. But I can tell you that no outsider will be allowed to demonstrate at IT units,' he said.

Bhattacharjee was speaking in the context of September 29's national strike when the CPM's labour arm, Citu, targeted the IT sector. Following that, Bhattacharjee took the issue up to the politburo.

Referring to health, education and roads, Bhattacharjee said: 'I am not happy with the situation in these sectors.'

'Bengal continues to suffer from a lack of educational centres of excellence, quality teachers, and good hospitals and roads. We must try harder to improve the conditions.'

He pointed out that though the mid-day meal scheme was being offered in 68,000 primary schools, they did not have good teachers.

The state could boast of only one nationally known centre of excellence in Jadavpur University, which was not enough. Seventy per cent of the population had access to hospitals, but the service was poor.

He did not say why the performance in certain areas was not up to scratch, but had admitted in an interview to this paper that the party was standing as an obstacle to education reforms.

On the positive side, the state was clocking an annual investment of about Rs 2,700 crore, of which foreign direct investment was around 12 to 15 per cent, he said.

Bhattacharjee claimed that the industrialisation drive and the changing environment had helped the government address the problem of unemployment.

'We are often told that there are 70 lakh educated unemployed in Bengal, but who has counted them' he asked.

'That's a myth'. At least three lakh people have found employment in the past five years.'

He thought his earliest slogan of 'Do it now' was still relevant. Government employees had responded to the call.

Bhattacharjee said he could not claim that the administration was corruption-free. 'However, we are better off than other states.'

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