The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Citu puts its money not where its mouth is
- Bengal gives brawn, but union picks Delhi as location for institute to turn out 'quality' leaders

Durgapur, Dec. 19: Why should industry invest in Bengal when even the Citu does not' Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, please answer.

It has come to light that the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, the CPM's labour arm, is spending Rs 35 lakh to build an institute ' not in Calcutta, which keeps it well-fed, but in Delhi where few know of its existence.

The union is investing in an operation called Project Leader under which three institutes will be set up, complete with boarding facilities, at an expense of over Rs 1 crore.

'Our first institute, to be named P. Rammurthy Trade Union School, will be set up in Delhi at a cost of Rs 35 lakh,' said M.K. Pandhe, Citu general secretary.

The decision to set up the institute in Delhi ' the site is at Ghaziabad, just across the Delhi border in Uttar Pradesh ' is of a piece with the CPM's behaviour pattern so far. Although Bengal is the only large state where it has succeeded in controlling power for a record period, CPM leaders from the state have traditionally played second fiddle to a group of people sitting in Delhi who have not won a municipal election in their lives.

Pandhe said: 'The purpose of the schools will be to produce quality trade union leaders. Our members should know what the role of a trade union should be in the present era.'

Those 'quality leaders', for whose education Citu members from Bengal will largely pay, could then be unleashed in Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's state.

In his desperate search for investment, the chief minister has made doing penance for what he calls 'militant trade unionism' ' of the variety that Citu has been accused of practising in the past ' a routine at almost every meeting with businessmen.

'Enlightened' trade unionism, as Pandhe seemed to suggest, will now spring, but not from the state that saw flight of capital since the CPM came to power in the seventies because of what its critics call 'militant labour'. This is a view that the chief minister has indirectly endorsed through his repeated admissions that 'we had committed mistakes in the past'.

Guess what, Calcutta is not even on Citu's radar as the second site for its schools of excellence. Thiruvananthapuram is next, a choice that is difficult to contest as Kerala, apart from being a traditional stronghold, will also possibly be paying for it ' at least a large part anyway.

Where will the third school come up' At a so far unidentified location in eastern India ' no Calcutta, yet.

But Calcutta, rather Bengal, it is when it comes to paying for the Delhi institute. Of the Rs 35 lakh that the project will cost, Rs 14 lakh will be coughed up by Bengal. Pandhe said a rupee each will be collected from Citu's 35 lakh members ' Bengal has 14 lakh, followed by Kerala at 12 lakh while Delhi has a meagre 75,000.

Pandhe offered an explanation of sorts why Delhi had been picked. 'Our strongholds are Bengal, Tripura and Kerala. Apart from developing the trade union, our aim is also to increase our members in the Hindi belt. We have a very poor strength in Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. We have to develop quality leaders from the Hindi-speaking belt,' he said.

Just as their political counterparts who let themselves be overshadowed by Delhi, Bengal's Citu leaders have accepted the decision without a murmur.

'If you insist on looking at it as investment, then you must know that an investment is made on certain objective conditions. Bengal is witnessing an advanced stage of movement, but we need to grow in other parts of India. So the locations we have chosen reflect that logic,' said its state president, Shyamal Chakraborty.

Can't 'quality leaders' be produced in Calcutta and sent there' There is no answer.

Could the decision then have anything to do with the fact that Ghaziabad is the sort of throbbing business hub that Bhattacharjee's Bengal is only aspiring to'

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