January 3, 2009

Amartya wants politicians to stop threats

Kolkata, 31 December: Even as he pointed out that acquisition of land for industry should be the last recourse, economist Amartya Sen said a huge transformation in the thought process was needed to move away from the culture of threats and agitations so that a dialogue could be started for West Bengal’s development.

Participating in a discussion on ‘Whither West Bengal’s Development,’ he said: “The opposition, the government and the citizenry should have an open-minded discussion.” While none on the panel of economists uttered Singur during their speeches, Professor Sen said, “No one uttered this word [Singur] but it is important to find out why it happened.”

He quoted from the Vedas and said the order of` ‘Paramaparya’ ordained that once a certain stage was reached in a certain matter, one did not go back on it and moved to the next stage. “Once settled, street-fights cannot take place to close down a venture. Social awareness and wisdom was needed to follow a certain order of things,” the Nobel laureate said.

The other economists on the panel were Professor Amiya Bagchi, Professor Pranab Bardhan and Professor Partha Chattopadhyay and Amit Mitra, the secretary-general of industry apex body FICCI. The session, organised by the West Bengal government, was conducted by Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta.

However, Professor Sen was critical of acquiring land for industry. “This should be the last resort. Land should be bought. If we want market forces to prevail, then there is no reason why land should not be bought,” he said. “I supported the Singur project but the Tatas could have bought the land,” he said. The main damage done to the State in the process was the feeling given to all that a project could be closed down in this manner.

Later, while talking to reporters, he said there was need to remove the air of uncertainty created by this sort of happenings. “It was important to bring in a changed industrial environment.” Professor Bardhan felt that while land acquisition was necessary, it was important to accompany it with proper compensation and counselling.

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