Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lent subtle support to the embattled West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya on Sunday when he emphasised the need to set up more modern industries in that state.
Laying the foundation stone for the Indian Iron and Steel Company's (IISCO) Rs 9600 crore mega modernisation and expansion programme here, Singh, without specifically mentioning the opposition to the Tata Motors Singur project, said West Bengal had been a pioneer of industrialisation in the past, but had slipped up on that front in the past quarter century. Setting up industries was essential, he said, for industry created mass employment.
"West Bengal too must join the march of progress, and benefit from the rapid economic growth of the country," Dr Singh said. He added that the state needed an industrialisation programme that was employment-intensive and welfare-enhancing. "Every section of society," he said, "should benefit from industrialisation."
Referring to IISCO, which was India's first modern iron making facility when it was set up about a century ago, Singh said the time had arrived for Indians to shed their laid back attitude and try and catch up with their neighbours in East Asia. How was it that Laxmi Niwas Mittal, despite being the leading steel maker in the world, did not produce a kilo of steel in India? "We need to introspect on this deeply. Has it something to do with our industrial environment, our procedures, our bureaucracy and red tape, that entrepreneurs shun domestic opportunity?" Singh wondered.
He said his government was trying its best to revive loss making PSUs which it believed would become viable in the long run. Citing the instances of firms like Bridge & Roof, Heavy Engineering Corporation, Braitwaite & Co, Cement Corporation of India and Bharat Opthalmic Glass, in all of which the government has pumped in large sums of money recently to rejuvenate them, he insisted there would be no sweeping or arbitrary disinvestment of PSUs.
West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Union Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and Information and Broadcasting Minister P R Dasmunshi were also present. Speaking on the occasion, Bhattacharjee said his government was trying to bring about a turnaround in the state's economy. "We have achieved it in agriculture and are trying to do the same in industry. There can be no going back." Along with the revival of old industries, the state government would like to have modern industries, both manufacturing and knowledge-based, he said.
Ram Vilas Paswan, believed to be the key architect in reviving the fortunes of IISCO by merging it with the Steel Authority of India (SAIL) earlier this year, announced a Rs 3,000 crore package for the 14,000-strong IISCO workforce.