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Bengal CM talks of trade union errors of the past

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KOLKATA, Dec. 13

THE Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, interacting with members of the CII National Council here on Friday, sent a clear message to potential investors in the State that the much-debated labour productivity in the State was looking up.

He said a change in mindset was already taking place and that all efforts were being made to improve the situation. The Chief Minister said the Government had already started a sector-by-sector countdown, and the matter was being taken up with the trade unions in right earnest.

Admitting that serious mistakes were committed in the past, and sharing the industry captains' anxiety on this critical front, Mr Bhattacharjee said lethargy was continuing in some traditional industry sectors in the State, and that the TUs are being told firmly to change their mindset on the productivity front.

Citing the continuing labour problems plaguing the traditional tea and jute sectors, he conceded that "we need to enforce certain things in some of the sectors.''

He, however, clarified that in the fast developing services sector, especially the IT sector, which was really looking up in Bengal, not a single manday has been lost in the last few years on account of labour strike. Citing the city-based companies like ITC and Patton India, he said in these factories, labour productivity has been the very best. "The legacy of the past, you know, is very difficult to live down," he said, adding, "we are working for a harmonious relationship between the Government, industry and labour.''

Endorsing the views of the Chief Minister, Mr Y.C. Deveshwar, Chairman of ITC Ltd, said there has been a marked improvement in labour productivity in West Bengal, and suggested that there was need to change the existing legal framework to render this atmosphere into a more sustaining one for industry.

Outlining the new business opportunities in the State, the Chief Minister said that with the start of commercial operations at Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd, and the consequent availability of high quality raw materials, there existed tremendous opportunities now for manufacturing plastics products in the eastern region.

Making a special mention of the West Bengal Biotechnology Policy, 2002, he envisaged creation of high quality infrastructure, promotion of projects with appropriate incentives, development of R&D, encouragement of Bio-Informatics and creation of institutional framework and support.

He said the McKinsey team has been working with the West Bengal Government since November 2001, to spur the State's growth in the agri-business sector.

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