The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No sons-of-soil raj in new industry
- Minister caution for arm-twist unions

Midnapore, Feb. 3: The government today made it clear it will not tolerate the interference of 'bhoomiputras' (sons of the soil) or trade unions in new industrial units and succumb to their pressure for jobs.

Bansagopal Chowdhury, the cottage and small-scale industries minister, also reminded leaders that workers' bodies cannot be used to dictate terms in the name of trade unionism. 'We will not entertain any dadagiri by local people or trade unions and succumb to their pressure for jobs to their chosen ones in any new industry,' Chowdhury said after inaugurating the District Industrial Centre at Haldia in East Midnapore.

Only yesterday, on Chowdhury's home turf Andal, residents ransacked an Eastern Coalfields Ltd office demanding jobs as security guards at an open-cast mine in Jambad. Local leaders of a key Left Front partner, the CPI, allegedly led the agitation in which police were also attacked.

'We have noticed that a section of local people and even trade unionists become very active once a new industrial unit comes up in their area and try to pressure the management for jobs to local people. This has become a trend in Bengal. I have information that some local people and trade unionists in North 24-Parganas had tried to run a factory on their own bypassing the original owner. I want to tell you that the government will not tolerate such practices,' Chowdhury said.

The chief minister has made it clear in meetings with chambers of commerce and at the recent CPM conclaves in Calcutta and South 24-Parganas that the government is serious about its pro-industry line and would not tolerate militant trade unionism.

Echoing his boss, Chowdhury said the government would not allow flexing of muscles before entrepreneurs in the name of trade unionism.

'The unions are not just meant for the leaders, but for work towards the welfare of workers as well as industry,' said Chowdhury.

'When the chief minister asks Citu to shun militant trade unionism, some people say he is against the union. But it is actually not so.'

In his speech, reminiscent of Bhattacharjee's candidness about the state of affairs in Bengal, the minister also criticised his own department. 'If you write to the chief minister, you will certainly get a reply. But in my department, you won't,' he said, referring to his own officers.

He had a word of advice for the government babus: 'Be responsive. Try to help a person who comes to you in the hope that he will set up an industrial unit. Don't run an inspector raj.'

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