January 2, 2009

West Bengal good for investors, says Somnath Chatterjee

Kolkata, Dec 31 (IANS): Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, who has been expelled from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Wednesday supported the Left coaltion government in the state, saying the situation in West Bengal was suitable for investment. “A malicious campaigning is now being carried out across the nation that West Bengal is not suitable for industrialisation. I strongly disagree with this view. I believe the state has a very congenial environment for welcoming investment in future,” he said.

Chatterjee, who became the speaker of the 14th Lok Sabha in 2004, was expelled from the CPI-M on the ground of “seriously compromising” its position during the tussle between the Left parties and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over the India-US civil nuclear agreement. The CPI-M politburo took action against the speaker under Article 19 (13) of the party constitution. But Chatterjee’s statement Wednesday was in support of the state’s Leftist government led by the CPI-M.

In an oblique reference to the Trinamool Congress-led opposition to the Nano small car project that saw its promoters, Tata Motors, pull out of West Bengal, Chatterjee also said there should not be any conflict in the matter of development in West Bengal.

“Development is not a matter of confrontation. We, irrespective of different political hues, should come forward and unanimously encourage development in West Bengal,” Chatterjee said at the closing ceremony of 22nd Industrial India Trade Fair.

“A healthy political environment is needed when our country is facing a lot of hurdles. I really feel that in 1971, when I first became a member of the Lok Sabha, politics was totally a different subject. People used to think about the inclusive development of the masses and they were mostly inspired by patriotic feelings,” he said, adding people worked towards the betterment of their nation that time.

“But, unfortunately, now it’s missing,” Chatterjee said, criticising the “fractured polity” of India.
“If any development takes place in certain area, a large number people in that region get benefited by that. The advantage of any developmental venture is not restricted in political colour,” the veteran politician said.

Amartya Sen: RBI has taken right measures

KOLKATA, 30 December: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said here on Tuesday that the counteractive measures taken by Reserve Bank of India to boost the economy in the face of the global economic meltdown were correct, and hoped that the wave of recession would slow down by 2010. Mr. Sen was talking to journalists on the sidelines of a seminar “Have we given up on equity in health?,” organised by the Liver Foundation, West Bengal.

Replying to a question from the audience, Mr. Sen pointed out that the “numbers” of the current meltdown is “nowhere near the Great Depression of 1930.” Barack Obama’s election as President of the United States of America is “one of the biggest expectations for more open-minded policies by the U.S.”

On the country spending just 1.1 per cent of the gross domestic product on public health, he said: “I think there has been deficiency in the healthcare sector…primarily in its inability to mobilise resources, lack of commitment, lack of organisational achievement and that money spent is not spent very well.”He said that when the country’s growth rate was 7 per cent and with its public revenue growing by 8 to 9 per cent every year, there was no reason to cite resource shortage by the States.

Mr. Sen emphasised that more funds should be earmarked for primary healthcare and tackling social problems such as poverty, lack of basic education and gender discrimination, which should be addressed, as they were interlinked with public health.
He said that the signing of the India-U.S. nuclear deal that generated a political storm in the country was “far less important an issue than the poverty affecting the Indians which should be actually addressed to.”

Pointing out that too many things in India were blamed on U.S. imperialism, Mr. Sen said that imperialism was not preventing the country from spending no more than just 1.1 per cent of the GDP in public health sphere. “It cannot be a substitute.”

“Our primary failures are national, to top it there are State failures,” he said, but added that certain States like Kerala and West Bengal had fared than others in some respects. Left Front chairman Biman Bose and Industry Minister Nirupam Sen were present.

Jyoti Basu hail Sheikh Hasina's landslide victory

Kolkata, Dec 30 : The former Chief Minister of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu, has hailed the win of Sheikh Hasina and wished the people of Bangladesh well. The veteran politician, who was on very good terms with Ms. Hasina during her previous tenure in the mid-90s, said: “I congratulate Sheikh Hasina and her party the Awami League, and my good wishes for the people of Bangladesh.”

“I knew the late Mujibur Rahman (father of Sheikh Hasina and chief architect of Bangladesh) from the days when he was involved in student organisations and I had very cordial relations with him,” the nonagenarian leader said. “She called on me at my residence when she came visiting to India,” he said.

He reminisced that he has known the Awami League leader for long – “since the days when she was the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.” He also talked on the India-Bangladesh Water Treaty signed during those times.

It may be mentioned that the treaty on sharing of Ganga Waters at Farakka in West Bengal was described by India as a landmark in the bilateral relations between the two countries. The role played by Mr. Basu too was lauded in a suo motu statement in the Rajya Sabha made by External Affairs Minister I.K. Gujral on December 12, 1996, on the visit of Sheikh Hasina and the signing of the treaty. Mr. Gujral had placed on record the Centre’s appreciation and the “very constructive role played by the Chief Minister of West Bengal and his Cabinet colleagues in bringing about an improved atmosphere in which the treaty between India and Bangladesh has become possible.”

Mr. Basu also spoke about the bus service introduced between India and Bangladesh three years later (in 1999), linking Kolkata and Dhaka. This was the first such link between the two countries and was seen as restoration of commercial road transport between the two major cities. “I had also gone with the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to Dhaka at that time,” Mr. Basu said
West Bengal ruling Left Front chairman Biman Basu also hailed the victory of the Awami League. Basu said Hasina was able to rally behind her maximum number of people of Bangladesh for the restoration of democracy in that country.