Volume 7, No. 4, April. 2006


FDI Crazy Budha Government of West Bengal
- M. Sunil

Mr. Budhadev Bhattacharjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal, went for a five day visit to Singapore and Jakarta. This was a mission aimed at seeking foreign direct investment (FDI) in West Bengal. On 25th August, 05, Mr. Bhudhadev, on behalf of West Bengal Government, signed an MoU and other contract papers with the Antony Salem groups, a big business house of Indonesia. Among his associates were CPI(M)’s favourite promoter Rabi Todi, Harsh Neotia of Ambuja Cements, Sanjib Goenka of the Calcutta Electric Supply Company, a real estate businessman, and Prasun Mukharjee, an international agent of MNCs. The CPI(M) is now very close to these business houses, promoters and agents of MNCs. Mr. Budhadev is now playing the role of chief representative of these business houses and agents. He does not hesitate to express their views in public within and outside the country. Mr. Budhdev is very happy to perform this role. After the successful completion of this mission in Indonesia, the politburo member of the CPI(M) and Chief Minister of the W. Bengal govt. boastfully said in a public lecture in Singapore – “you see, as communist, we can’t speak anymore about old dogmas. The world is changing. We are also changing.” The elated Chief Minister said further, “globalization is a must and nobody can halt this process” and “we will take advantage of this situation” (The Hindu, August 28, 2005). This is really a profound realization of CPI(M) and its politburo member Mr. Budhdev who has expressed his views openly.
Mr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, did not fail to take advantage of the situation. He not only showed regard for, but also projected Mr. Budhdev as one of the best Chief Ministers of the country! Ofcourse, left minded people of West Bengal do not accept this profound realization of CPI(M). These dissatisfied people put forward one after another awkward questions. The constituent parties of the ‘Left’ front — the CPI, Forward Bloc and RSP — expressed differing views regarding some of the aspects of the agreement with the Salem group, to save their own vote bank. Even parties like the Trinamool Congress, BJP and other constituent members of the NDA, who champion globalization, are trying to utilize the situation posing themselves as protectors of the peasants’ interests. What then is there in this agreement that has resulted in such a hue and cry?

The West Bengal Govt./Salem Group’s Agreement
It is projected that the agreement with the Salem group, signed by the ‘Left’ front govt. of W. Bengal, is for the purpose of industrialization and urbanization of the state. Translation of this agreement into reality will help the state attract more investment from within and outside the country and will provide more employment opportunities. At present the foreign direct investment, as it is maintained by the CPI(M) led ‘left’ front govt., is a must for the economic development of the state. So, they think, this agreement will create a favourable atmosphere to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI).
According to the agreement the W. Bengal govt. will provide 5,100 acre land mostly in South 24 Parganas to the Salem Group, who will invest Rs. 4,400 crores and utilize the land for the purpose of building a Health city, knowledge park, Educational institution, Bio-tech park, High-tech town, etc. etc. The Salem Group will begin their work after getting the land as agreed to. The area earmarked is adjacent to Kolkata. The other project is the construction of a four lane road from Barasat to Roychak to facilitate smooth transportation. The govt. has already decided to hand over 390 acres of land in West Howrah for building a high tech township. This was declared by the concerned ministry in the assembly one year earlier. Moreover the govt. is planning to allocate land to the Salem Group for high tech urbanization near the Dum Dum Airport. The govt. has already handed over land in Howrah district to the Salem Group and they have started a factory to produce motorcycles. In this factory a total of 250 persons will be employed and within a short period the production will be marketed. Many experts opine that this has no future as other motorcycle industries are in crisis due to the lack of a market. Within a short time it will be closed down. The land will then be utilized for real estate business.
This mega plan, with such a huge investment, will create job opportunities for only 30,000 persons. It means, the cost of creating one job opportunity is on an average 1.5 crore. At present the number of recorded unemployed in the state is about 70 lakhs. So, it will require Rs. 105,00,00,000 crores to create job opportunities only for all the recorded unemployed. This amount is equal to seven thousand times our present budget allocation! Even then, the people have to accept this mega plan of Mr. Buddha, as his party and ‘Left’ govt. think “globalization is must”; and, considering long term interests, they have to serve the foreign investors while sacrificing the interest of the people and the state. But there are some economists and politicians like Mr. Ashok Mitra, ex-Finance Minister of the ‘left’ front govt. of W. Bengal and ex-MP who vehemently opposed this Salem-Buddha agreement. He thinks it is possible to create jobs for 30,000 people by developing manufacturing industry which requires only 100 acres of land. Others consider this agreement as an anti-people one, as according to this agreement the govt. will hand-over the proposed land to the Salem Group at a nominal price and they will use the land according to their plan. The govt. will have no say in it. The Salem Group will then extract as much profit as possible, without govt. intervention.

Scheme to serve imperialists
This sort of industrialization and high tech urbanization schemes will create a small number of job opportunities while finishing off a good number of small shop owners; destroy small vegetable shops, fruit shops, fish and meat shops, thereby rendering thousands of people unemployed. This is the inevitable outcome of this model of high-tech urbanization and industriali-zation, as, in the process of this type of development, super markets, big bazaars, and multiplexes will come up, crushing small shop owners and traders. This is the experience of the UK and other countries where this model of industrialization and urbanization has been implemented following the policies of globalization. In UK these Super Markets, big bazaars etc. destroyed lakhs of small shop owners and traders. There are at present only four big MNCs who control more than 80% of these businesses. The Chief Minister of the W. Bengal govt. is also following the same path of globalization. His accord with the Salem Group is for the purpose of making arrangements to please the MNCs who demand high-tech infrastructure as a condition for their investment. Neither the ‘left’ front govt. nor their Chief Minister wants to expose this hidden intention before the people of State, though it is the people of the state who have to bear the brunt of more intensified imperialist exploitation.

Who is Salem?
Mr. Budhadev is undaunted, when some prominent intellectuals and personalities have pointed out the brutal anti-communist role of the Salem family, the chief minister has replied that capital has no colour. What else can one expect from a politburo member of the CPI (M)? It may not be wrong to say that had it been possible he would even invite Hitler for investment! Gen. Suharto, the crony of the U.S. Imperialists, instituted a coup d’et ta, destroyed the democratic system of Indonesia, and within a short period killed about 11 lakh Communist Party members and other democratic people. The Salem family was very close to Suharto and was directly involved in that ruthless, brutal, anti-communist campaign. The Salem family was then a mere merchant. This turned his fortune and with the favour of Suharto became a big industrialist (Lumpen bourgeois). After the fall of the Suharto regime people of Indonesia, particularly, peasants burnt down 122 branches of their banks and destroyed many ATM corners. This Salem Group is now considered by the ‘left’ front govt. as a potential investor and prudent industrialist. What type of industrialization can one expect under the auspices of this lumpen bourgeois?

A Scheme for real estate business
Hundreds of peasants will be evicted from their agri-land rendering them unemployed. This agri-land will be handed over to this lumpen bourgeois. Most of these agri-lands are fertile, and peasants are harvesting crops twice or thrice in a year. But the govt. is continuing to assure them that it will acquire only fallow land and mono cropped land. That is nothing but a blatant lie. Moreover, owners of the land will get a rate which will be less than the market rate. Most of this land will be used for urbanization and developing infrastructure, which will lead to real estate business. According to one estimate, published in the Sambad Pratidin, since 1995 in every year on an average 58,324 acre of agri-land is being transformed into non-agri land for the purpose of urbanization and industrialization. The draft report of the North 24 Parganas district conference of the Forward Bloc, one of the constituent parties of ‘left’ front govt. reported: “In the state a total of 2,91,620 acres of agri-land was transformed into non-agri land.” Most of this land was not used for developing industries which could create job opportunities. In fact, this land was used to develop real estate business. The ‘left’ front govt. has also helped their favourite promoters or business houses cum promoters, develop real estate on the plea of urbanization.
The ‘Left’ front govt., its constituent parties and particularly, the CPI (M) think “capital has no colour”, be it a productive capital or speculative capital. So, promoters enjoy direct help from the govt. or from the political leaders, and land of closed or sick industries are being captured by the promoters for developing housing estates, shopping malls, multiplexes, etc. etc. Pearless has developed housing estates on the land of the Bagadaya Cotton Mill, a private Hospital on the land of the Krishna Glass Factory, a housing estate on the land of Dabar, and a multi-storeyed housing estate on the land of Dhaka Ousadhalaya – all these have been developed for the purpose of real estate business. The ‘left’ front govt. itself utilized the land of the Kanoria Cotton Mill and Beni Engineering for govt. housing estates. The Dum-Dum Rodeal factory area has been transformed into the North city. Not only the factory land but also agri-land areas are being occupied, evicting peasants. The land of the tea plantation industry like the Chandmoni Tea garden was occupied by the govt. and that was sold to Harsh Neotia at a nominal price – only Rs. 14 cr, while, according to a govt. estimation, the price was Rs. 123 cr. Neotia sold that land making a huge profit. Now, West Bengal has become a hot spot for real estate business. This does not, of course, create any permanent job opportunities.

Mr. Budhadev govt. : Follower of imperialist policies
All the constituent parties, particularly, CPI (M) of the ‘left’ front, are trying their best to convince the people that foreign investment is very much necessary for the development of the country and the states. The more a state govt. can have foreign investment in its state, the more the state govt. considers itself fortunate. The foreign investors agree to invest only after having favourable conditions for their exploitation, without, as far as possible, government intervention. In fact, these investors are to be pleased with the govt.’s anti-workforce attitude and policies. They are not at all bothering about the forms of govt. measures – be it a peaceful or non-peaceful one. The govt. should also take initiative to meet their demands, providing land, labour, necessary infrastructure and as far as possible free access to natural resources. When favourable conditions are created for foreign investment, the indigenous investors also come forward to avail these facilities for more intensified exploitation.
The ‘left’ front govt. under the stewardship of Mr. Budhadev, are implementing all these pro-imperialist policies, whose party, the CPI (M), in its documents opposes the WTO, IMF, World Bank policies i.e. – structural adjustment, privatization, liberalization. It also opposes loans from international credit institutions like ADB, DFDI etc. controlled by the imperialists and MNCs. All these are nothing but sheer pretension. The govt. led by them have long been following all the policies directed by IMF, World Bank, WTO and have been salivating to beg favours of international credit institutions. Even they do not hesitate to follow the recommendations and advice of the imperialist directed consultancy firm Mc Kinsey. They have been following these recommendations and advice (i.e. directions). But one has to accept their skill in befooling the people and posing them-selves as an ardent anti-imperialist party.
The fact is that the Mr. Budhadev govt. have been accepting the conditions of foreign loan (i.e. from ADB, DFID etc.) and have been following the structural adjustment policies i.e. to downsize the workforce and privatize govt. undertaking organizations. In the first phase of its reorganization of 29 organizations the govt. has adopted such measures as to completely close down 10 of those

organizations and has ordered employees and workers to accept an early Retirement Scheme, another name for retrenchment. Apart from these, 15 other organizations will be reorganized allowing 74% private capital. The workers and employees of these organizations are ten thousands in number. This list includes organizations like Britannia Engineering, Gluconet Health, Durgapore Chemical, Shalimar works etc. etc. For the purpose of reorganization Rs. 210 cr. will be spent out of which Rs.180 cr. will be used for an Early Retirement Scheme (ERS). It means compulsory retrenchment. The percentage of retrenchment is ranging from 53 % to 74% of the work force employed in the above stated organizations. (Ref. Secretary, UTUC, W. Bengal dtd. 26.08.05). This source further informed that in the next phase as many as 29 factories, including the State Electricity Board and five State Transport Corporations would be reorganized. It is estimated that Rs. 1,710 crores will be spent for ERS. This is not all. The W. Bengal Govt. has planned even to close down completely the Tantuja, Tantushree, and Dairy Development. Consequently 4,100 workers and employees have to accept ERS. Moreover, the govt. has deployed foreign consultancy firms to get an estimation of the surplus workforce in its administrative departments. It is revealed from a survey conducted in 29 departments out of total of 50 departments of the State govt. that 45,000 posts out of 1,74,000 are lying vacant. And 72,000 posts for primary teachers are also lying vacant. This imperialist directed policy of structural adjustment not only entails more unemployment but also stands in the way of recruitment in the vacant posts.
CPI (M)’s sham anti-imperialist character was further revealed, when in ’98, the ‘left’ govt. of Kerala, led by CPI (M) decided to modernize three electricity centers. At that time BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited) one of the ‘Navaratna’ organizations, placed its proposal to provide necessary technology at Rs. 116 crores. But the Kerala govt. purchased that technology from SNC Lavlin, an unknown Canadian organization and paid Rs. 375 crores. The West Bengal govt. for modernization of DPL did not hesitate to cancel attractive proposals of BHEL and placed the order to a Company blacklisted is China. Are not these unique examples of double-dealing? Even then, the barefaced leaders of the CPI (M) continue to blurt out anti-imperialist slogans and do not feel ashamed of stating that the “Navaratna” organizations as “a symbol of economic Sovereignty of India”.

‘Left’ front govt. : Champion of Imperialist interest
Mr. Budhadev and his party, the CPI (M) have resolved to satisfy the imperialists and their indigenous agents. So its Politburo member, Mr. Budhadev, clearly expressed in Jakarta that “we have to reform our old policies. Otherwise, we will not be able to survive.” Further, in an interview to the Jakarta Post, published in the Hindu, August 25, 2005, he told “our involvement in trade unions is an advantage ….. I tell them : ‘look this is a new situation. We need FDI; we need infrastructure’ Issues like production, productivity and the quality of production are not the headaches of the management alone. You have to share them. Otherwise, industries will collapse and jobs will be lost. Now things have changed.” What more can a representative of the ruling classes convey to the imperialist forces?
Now really things have changed in this period of globalization! So, this sham anti-imperialist thinks that, it is necessary to perform a role that suits the very interest of the imperialists. This prompts the political representative of the indigenous bourgeoisie and their allies to follow the prescription of the imperialist directed consultancy houses like Mc Kinsey who can only provide concrete scheme in imperialist’s interests. One of these schemes is the restructuring or the remodel of metropolitan cities with a high-tech infrastructure. As the Salem Group has experience to do such jobs under the guidance of MNCs, it has been entrusted with the job. The main task of this Group is not to provide job opportunities but to develop imperialist needed infrastructure; an infrastructure, which is necessary to serve the bosses of imperialist finance capital. It requires glittering residential, 5 Star hotels, shopping malls, commercial complexes and entertainment plazas. These bosses do not like to see poor people as they create so many problems, including security. These ‘Development’ Schemes are also not meant for eradication of poverty, rather it is the opposite. So, the poor are being driven out of these areas. The ‘pro-poor’ govt. does not even hesitate to evict slums and colonies; hawker stalls of poor, unemployed people. And on the plea of rehabilitation, the poor are pushed out of the cities.
The working people, workers, employees and peasants, are being evicted from their work place. Livelihoods of thousands of people are being destroyed to cater to the needs of more intensified exploitation without providing them any alternative. Mr. Budhadev’s govt. of West Bengal is following these policies. He is boastful in achieving success in entrusting an experienced firm like Salem Group for this job!

CPI (M) the double–dealer
The CPI (M) is really creating a unique history – a history of double dealing! Just on July, 2005 the West Bengal State Committee published a booklet – Krishaker Hate Jami Chai (Demand, land in the hands of peasants). This booklet will help readers realize their double dealing. We will place a free translation of the concluding para of the above booklet:
“In the whirlpool of capitalist globalization, liberalization the livelihood in all spheres, including agriculture is on the verge of danger. Following the prescriptions of the WTO, the door is being opened for the penetration of MNC’s capital in all spheres – agriculture, industry, commerce, services etc. So far as land reforms are concerned, throughout India it has begun to take an opposite direction. Loosening the Land Reform Act the effort to establish big ownerships on land has begun. The state govt. of AP, Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa have already begun to hand over govt. fallow lands and even agriland to MNCs. Food security of the country has begun to be endangered. In the near future, perhaps, the people of the country will have to depend on imported foods. Independence and sovereignty of the country will be endangered.”
And what is their PB member Mr. Budhadev saying? Let us place it in his own words– “I want to reach out to the captains and tell them to come and see for themselves the kind of facilities on offer and the changes that the state has undergone to become one of the country’s major business capitals.”
Don’t laugh! This is the double-dealing character of the politics of the CPI (M)!!




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