Shutdowns ‘undemocratic’, says Amartya Sen

February 24th, 2009 - 12:58 am ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Feb 23 (IANS) Terming shutdowns as “undemocratic”, Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen Monday appealed to political parties, especially the opposition, in West Bengal to ensure that the strikes called by them do not undermine the state’s industrial future.
“Enforcing a bandh (shutdown) is very easy. It is done through threats. It has to be seen whether one is making responsible use of this entirely legitimate way of protest.

“The bandhs are undemocratic, as a minority can bring the city to a stop even if 90 percent of the people, in say Kolkata, are opposed to the bandh,” Sen said while delivering a public lecture on ‘Economics, Politics and our Lives’.

In an obvious reference to West Bengal’s Left Front government, he said, “Sometimes bandhs are called by the government, which is surprising as you are running the administration”.

Without taking names, Sen criticised the Trinamool Congress-led opposition in the state for its anti-land acquisition agitations. “If industries go away, that doesn’t serve the interests of the people,” he said.

Refering to the Nano small car project, which global auto major Tata Motors shifted from Singur in the state to Gujarat’s Sanand following agitations by farmers led by the Trinamool, Sen said: “It (Nano plant) would have made a big difference by ushering in industrialisation in Bengal. Alas! That did not happen”.

He disapproved of the state government’s mode of acquiring land at Singur for the Tata Nano project, but also found fault with the opposition’s contention that fertile agricultural land should not be used for setting up industries.

“There can be an economist’s argument against this. Most of Bengal’s industries have come up on fertile land on the banks of the Ganges.”

He appealed to the opposition to ensure their agitations did not hurt the state’s progress. “If you feel that the development path being followed is wrong, then proceed without undermining the state’s industrial future.”

Averring that conflicts, inevitable in a multi-party democracy, needed to be resolved through collaboration, Sen said, “Make sure the collaborations do not fail. The approach should be constructive. If at all the collaboration fails, try a fresh way to collaborate. Don’t go back to the destructive agitations like bandhs”.

Castigating the left parties for withdrawing support from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal issue, Sen said: “I was surprised when they (the Left) made such noise on the deal”.

“It wasn’t a great deal, but it wasn’t the beginning of a terrible disaster either. I don’t see the justification of trying to pull down the government on that issue. But of course, the Left parties after that have been more in isolation,” he said.

Sen had little doubt about the success of India’s multi-party system. “In India, we have no reason to doubt the success of the multi-party system.”

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