Calcutta, Jan. 3: A month ahead of the CPM's state conference, the chief minister used a party event today to challenge the opponents of his industrialisation drive among his comrades.
'I am aware of the criticism against the industrialisation programme. Let me be emphatic about it, I will not stop because I think only rapid industrialisation can generate employment opportunities' And providing employment is the need of the hour,' Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said at a programme to mark the 39th foundation day of the party mouthpiece, Ganashakti.
CPM insiders said the chief minister's warning was directed against hardliners in the Citu, the party's labour arm that has trained guns on him for being 'pro-industry'.
Some of them also said that a section of Citu leaders is likely to question the chief minister on industrialisation in the state conference slated for February 9-12.
Bhattacharjee said his government has secured investment in sectors like iron and steel, chemicals and plastics, which are labour intensive. Bengal, he added, has earned a bad name for being 'industrially backward. But the situation has changed now and we are fast improving...'
The chief minister's bid to industrialise Bengal will not be without a human face. 'We have to do whatever is required to industrialise Bengal. But, at the same time, we should not ignore the development of our rural economy, which we consider our fundamental duty as communists,' he said.
'We have identified 38,000 villages as poverty-stricken. Of them, the condition of 4,612 villages is very poor. Our government has lined up special measures for their economic uplift,' Bhattacharjee said.
He claimed that about 60 per cent of rural Bengal lived below poverty line when the Left Front came to power in 1977. 'Now only 26 per cent live below poverty line'
Addressing a party programme in Durgapur, commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen said the Left had opposed open markets, but 'things have changed... We have to go for industrialisation and we want unions to cooperate.'
He added that the government would welcome investment because it creates jobs. 'If there is no industry, what is the point in trade unionism' he asked. Sen also urged industrialists to set up units in Bankura, one of the most backward districts.