The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Marxists bank on protest outside and plea inside

Hyderabad, May 4: Workers of the CPM’s world, protest outside.

Ministers of the CPM, plead for loans inside the air-conditioned comfort of a convention centre.

Marxist pragmatism was on display today when Bengal’s finance minister Asim Dasgupta addressed a gathering of global bankers at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre, seeking soft loans from the Asian Development Bank. Outside, the supporters of his party, the CPM, helped organise demonstrations against the ADB.

Yesterday and today, more than a thousand protesters ' representing Left parties and their affiliate unions who have joined hands with global NGOs ' beating drums and carrying banners rallied against the lending policies of the Manila-based bank, which is holding its annual general meeting here.

Inside the conference hall today, Dasgupta told the gathering that the Bengal government “needed an investment of Rs 5,830 crore in spheres like irrigation, drainage, roads, bridges, industrial estates and technical education over the next five years. We intend to propose this for ADB loan assistance on conditions which are mutually agreeable”.

Told Bengal is keen on ADB assistance, S. Veeraiah, the state leader of the CPM’s trade union arm Citu, said: “The state had taken ADB loans even in the past. Such loans were with usual conditions. We have no objection to such loans.”

Veeraiah, who took part in the protests, added: “We strongly protest against loans like those taken by former (Andhra) chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, which had several unfair conditions.”

Last December, Bengal accepted a $210-million loan to upgrade the 370-km Calcutta-Haldia highway and a 150-km link to the Bangladesh border. The finance minister, who vied for space with Andhra chief minister Y.S.R. Reddy, said his state wanted to involve private sector firms in building ports, airports and urban transport systems and special economic zones.

Calcutta will spend nearly Rs 25,000 crore on an elevated light rapid transport system and a new airport. “When you are investing in Bengal, you are investing in a place which is a hub of development and a gateway to Southeast and Far East Asia,” Dasgupta said.

But the use of coal and gas, both figuring in a large way in Bengal’s development, drew flak outside the venue. Greenpeace presented a report, titled ‘Irrelevance or Leadership’, against use of fossil fuel to Planning Commission vice-chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, when he came out for a cup of coffee.

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