Often portrayed as a capitalist communist of the modern Chinese variety, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee conceded that “globalization is inescapable” but told Industry representatives that major labor reforms are unnecessary. Speaking to the National Council of the Confederation of Indian Industry, Bhattacharjee claimed that a “hire and fire” policy was unlikely to work in the Indian context and was unnecessary to attract individual and corporate investors.
Wanting to create a “harmonious” relationship between management and workers, he counseled that it was “best to persuade trade union leaders to change their mindset that productivity was only the management’s headache.” He ducked questions on whether India ’s socialist and archaic labor laws was stifling Indian competitiveness against China and said a labor law reform should be initiated only after a consensus between industry and trade unions.
Bhattacharjee wanted the focus on improving social and industrial infrastructure such as seaports, airports, highways, and special economic zones (SEZ) to attracting foreign investment rather than labor laws. He deflected attention to the controversy over the SEZ policy and wanted a “special incentive package for SEZs like China ” so that this initiative does “not become real estate” venture. He wanted a “strong position on black money as a way of raising funds” and also a policy that growth should be linked to employment since private and public employment numbers has fallen sharply and that an employment-less growth is undesirable. He also bemoaned that the “Eleventh Plan Eleventh Plan has no target for creating new job opportunities.”