| Buddhadeb: Plainspeak
Calcutta, Dec. 30: The state’s economic growth has suffered because of the never-ending influx of poor people from Bihar, Bangladesh and Nepal, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said today.
“We could have achieved far greater development had there not been a steady flow of people, mostly economically challenged, from the neighbouring states and countries like Bangladesh and Nepal,” Bhattacharjee said.
At a seminar on the Rural Employment Generation Programme, the chief minister said: “We are not parochial but an additional problem in the state is poor people from neighbouring states and those coming from our neighbours Bangladesh and Nepal. Had this problem not been there, we would have been more developed.”
There was a time when the CPM would not acknowledge in public the infiltration from Bangladesh.
Bhattacharjee referred to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s remark at a business meet in the city that unemployment was high in Bengal because of 26 years of Left Front rule. “I did not reply that day. The next day I asked the media whether his Lucknow was better placed,” said Bhattacharjee.
He added that he had asked Vajpayee during a meeting how Delhi proposes to reduce the number of unemployed, which is about 15 crore.
At the seminar, the chief minister also said a government interested in reducing unemployment has to focus on small and medium-scale industries rather than large-scale units. “Lakhs of people are looking up to us for employment. How much can one Haldia help' Lafarge, for one, is coming to Bankura with their cement unit, though they can offer employment to only 60 people. We are focusing more on small-scale units as it means employment for more people.”
The chief minister said the state has made much headway in attracting investment over the past two years.
Khadi, Bhattacharjee said, must not depend on export but focus on the domestic market where there is a “huge demand”.
“Formation of self-help groups, especially those involving women, has been a great success in West Midnapore. The example can be emulated elsewhere in the state, too. If women are involved, this means not just a change in the financial sector, but also the basis of social change,” the chief minister said.
The Centre should form a districtwise map to indicate which product is best where, said Bhattacharjee. The map would serve as an investors’ guide, he added.
Bhattacharjee, however, did not deny the role the state has to play to see an upswing in the small-scale sector. A marketing wing or promotional cell is essential, he said. Training, too, has to be provided in certain areas.