Saturday, December 16, 2006

Industrial ills

To the embarrassment of industrialisation messiah, Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, and following the cue of CPI(M) leader Biman Bose, the party’s labour wing, CITU, has also awakened, Rip Van Winkle style, to the impacts of globalisation and industrialisation.

A report placed during CITU’s district committee meeting in late November, emphasises “we should refrain from creating any illusion about industrialisation.’’

A section on “Issues to be discussed with the CITU state leadership and state government” adds: “The labour department should conduct a survey on loss of jobs due to globalisation in the last decade as well as how many workers got jobs because of industrialisation. The study should include the place of their origin, the process of their recruitment and average wages....’’

The report, prepared after a study of 240 units in Burdwan, warned that many industrialists have set up factories to take advantage of government subsidy and tax concessions. “These entrepreneurs aim at siphoning off bank loans. Many of them do not pay the legitimate dues of workers,” it alleges, adding that this “trend” should not be indulged “in the name of industrialisation”.

In another section titled “The true face of industrialisation”, the report points out that no “modern industry” like electronics, automobile, chemicals or pharmaceuticals has come up in Burdwan.

Most of the industries set up are highly polluting ones like sponge iron, steel, ferromanganese and cement-ceramic, it says. “Blatant violation of labour and environmental laws is threatening public health in the Durgapur-Asansol-Ranigunj industrial zone.”

Contract workers from other states have been engaged in these new units, and efforts to unionise them were met with threats and retrenchment, according to CITU. On the other hand, a large number of organised heavy industries, including 19 central and three state public sector units, are either sick or closed, the report says, pinning the blame on the central govt’s economic policies.

It also points out how modernisation of some heavy industrial units like the Durgapur Steel Plant has adversely affected CITU. The report rues that the union has failed to convince organised industry workers about the Centre’s anti-labour policies.

I am reminded of researcher Sudipta Paul’s study on the impact of industrialisation in the Asansol region of West Bengal. Read his (4-part) report:

One, Two, Three, Four.

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