Dr. Ashim Dasgupta, Finance Minister, Govt. of West Bengal, speaks to Amrita Chatterjee, during the inauguration ceremony of “Karigar Haat” the Rural Handicraft and Handloom fair, held at Salt lake central park ground, Kolkata on 14 Nov 2008. The fair sponsored by National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development, NABARD encompassed wide participation of rural craftsmen across Bengal and other parts of India. On the occasion the Finance Minister of West Bengal said, the improvement in industrial growth, aided by the sustained growth in agriculture, and small scale industry has made West Bengal one of the fastest growing States. But the road ahead is full of challenges…
Your opinion on the initiatives undertaken by the government of West Bengal to support the rural small-medium scale industry.
The rural medium small scale industry in Bengal and in rest of the country is a wide place to explore. The rural segment in Bengal has shown a marked improvement over the last ten years. Inputs in tele-communication and use ofelectricity for the rural industries and agriculture have gone up considerably high. The government has been stressing a lot in improvement of infrastructure in the villages, including building roads, bridges creating better transport facility, ensuring water supply, etc. Still in many remote fringes there are huge difficulties in logistics, transportation, and other basic amenities too needs serious attention.
We will have to ensure a sustained growth; no economic development can be successful unless the rural sector is strengthened.
Over the years, the improvement in industrial growth, aided by the sustained growth in agriculture and other small scale industry has made West Bengal one of the fastest growing states. But the road ahead is full of challenges. Growing inflation has hit the rural peasants and farmers badly, plus there are climatic hindrances. Thus, only sincere efforts to overcome the difficulties would open the floodgates, offering tremendous potential for growth.
What are the measures you would suggest to facilitate the marketing of the products or services developed by the rural sector?
The concerned departments of the government have undertaken various programs like fairs, special exhibitions, which is organized every year in heart of the city Kolkata. Also, many craftsmen from other parts of the country come here to participate in such events. This provides our poor artisans a big platform in displaying and selling their work. It feels so nice to participate in a fair like Karigar Haat, the government, NABARD, with NGO’s jointly supports this kind of programs. The artisans both men and women are largely encouraged to market their products through this kind of events, and here theurban people get to know about such beautiful products which eventually they purchase at such cheap prices. Thus it’s a win-win situation.
Much more needs to be done; I suggest a permanent fair ground should be allotted to support these small industries. Whole year, different set of people can come and sell their product, which may be agriculture products, art and craft, potteries, also products like soaps, tea etc. I appeal to the corporate houses to come forward and support the small rural industry segment. Also if proper education and training is provided to the poor peasants, I am sure they can come compete exceptionally well in both domestic and international market.
There is absence of a market place or a mall to promote the products of rural industry in a holistic way. A permanent ground to exhibit and sell such products will have greater reach and more and more people will be attracted to buy the products as the access will be far easier and this will open up to more business opportunities.
How the basic land-reforms as carried out in West Bengal, provided a boost in field of agriculture, enabling small and medium farmers to compete effectively?
I am of the understanding that the basic land reforms, as carried out in West Bengal, provided a better level playing field in agriculture, enabling large numbers of small and medium farmers to compete effectively in the market. By putting an end to gross land monopoly the West Bengal government improved the efficiency of agriculture and enabled more rapid growth. Promoting healthy competition in the spheres of activity where markets operate through more equitable access, purposeful state, social intervention emphasizing decentralization and accountability.
I feel that we should mobilize small and medium industrialists in the same way. Industrial development should be based on growth of micro, small and medium industry with a key role for the public sector.
West Bengal is growing and lots of investors are coming to Kolkata to set up industries, but then land acquisition remains a predicament in the state.
I have announced it in the state Assembly that the government is seriously considering a change in its land acquisition policy for industrialization purpose to protect farmers’ interest.
Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee had already discussed this with his cabinet colleagues; it would be the government’s endeavor to see that farmers’ interest is well protected in case of land acquisition.
To minimize usage of agricultural land for industrial use and to achieve a balanced and sustainable industrial growth, the state government is planning to implement a policy for location of industries in a manner so as to maximize the use of uncultivable land, locate industries in backward areas and develop industrial clusters by building proper infrastructure.
Lastly, what s your opinion on the State’s economic growth?
The state is growing and we will have to ensure a uniform growth in all sectors. I see West Bengal as one of the fastest growing state; we have to sustain it through exploring the potential of our agriculture and provide enormous support to the micro-small and medium enterprises. Industry is required and government is investing in building the necessary infrastructure as required for the industry.