Millennium Post

'There will be an alternative to SEZ status'

There will be an alternative to SEZ status
An artist of cityscapes, Shuvaprasanna has been a friend and a mentor of the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee quite visibly for the last five years or so. When the Nandigram land movement was panning out, he was out on the streets and on Banerjee's side, protesting alongside intellectuals like Mahasweta Devi, Saonli Mitra and Bibhas Chakraborty. In an exclusive interview with Nandini Guha, Shuvaprasanna talks on various tasks ahead of the fledgeling government — from new investments to urban development to improving relations with the UPA and the Congress. Excerpts.

What directions should the Mamata Banerjee government take now?

Restoring the health and education sectors from the morass that it had sunk into during the CPI[M]'s regime are priorities for the Mamata Banerjee government. The fear factor that was associated with the CPI[M] regime has also reduced and Jangalmahal is less troublesome today with the Maoist menace under control. However, one would like to see less inter-party clashes between the CPI[M] and TMC in the time to come.

The state government's relationship with the UPA government at the Centre has deteriorated...

Mamata works tirelessly for Bengal. If the total interest outgo on loans is Rs 25,000 crore and the state's earning is Rs 22,000 crore, then how will development take place? The Centre does not want to grant moratorium on the logic that other states will also ask for financial packages. But Mamata is not the kind of person who will compromise unnecessarily. Also on Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature, it is well known that Mukherjee has hardly done anything for Bengal.

What about TMC's alliance with Congress in the state?

I don't think [the Congress] can go it alone in the state. The alliance at the Centre also carries weight. Trouble is, Manas Bhuniya, Deepa Dasmunshi, Adhir Choudhury — everybody is a leader in the Pradesh Congress!

Why do you think the TMC lost out in Haldia in the municipal elections?

It was primarily a clash of leadership in the area which was responsible for our losing the polls. One leader was becoming a power centre. But we are on the rectification path.
What big investments are you expecting to happen in Bengal?

Our finance Minister Amit Mitra is going to the US to follow up on the investments committed by Hillary Clinton when she was visiting. As far as the SEZ policy is concerned, we are working out an alternative, because the TMC manifesto has been against granting SEZ status to industry. We want Infosys but we don't want to give SEZ status.

How would you rate the new government?

It's too early to criticise. Give Mamata more time. Policies do take some time to get implemented. Also, you will soon see a new, revamped Kolkata. Let the Metro routes be completed, let the riverfront be decorated. Drive through Rajarhat and see how pleasant it is in that part of the city. Things are changing.
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