(OPE-L) CP India-Marxist Pushes Hi-Tech

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Sun Oct 17 2004 - 14:25:43 EDT

Mechael L and others:  perhaps this story, which was
posted on 'globolist' by Joe Smith, relates to production
shifts?/  n solidarity, Jerry


Subject: Fwd:  CP India-Marxist Pushes Hi-Tech
Bengal's communist government has taken some steps that might  make
even a staunch capitalist blanche.
It has declared IT - and IT-enabled services such as call centres -  to be
essential services.

This means workers are banned from striking.


BBC, Oct. 15, 2004
Communists gamble on hi-tech future
      By Matthew Grant in Calcutta

A hammer and sickle daubed on the entrance gate would be an odd
greeting to the world of IT in most parts of the globe.
But there it is outside Indian software giant Wipro's Calcutta

The complex sits in the heart of Salt Lake, an IT park and suburb on  the
outskirts of the city.

Nearly all the major players in the industry have a presence here,
including multinationals such as IBM and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Now a major development is underway to extend the IT belt all the way
from Salt Lake to the airport.

The land has already been cleared in the vast area known as Rajarhat,  or
perhaps more tellingly New Town.

But so far only a few buildings and a four-lane highway have been

Driving along the empty road feels slightly spooky, like entering a  film
set not yet ready for action.


And all this in West Bengal, a state that proudly boasts of
uninterrupted rule by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M)
since 1977.

The thin red line keeps getting thinner.

The CPI-M is pushing IT hard. It has set itself two ambitious

First, it wants West Bengal to become India's third IT hub, after
Hyderabad and Bangalore.

Second, it aims to gain a 15% share of the country's overall IT
revenue. And it wants to do all this by 2010.

"It's ambitious but achievable," says West Bengal's IT minister
Manabendra Mukherjee.

To make this possible, West Bengal's communist government has taken  some
steps that might make even a staunch capitalist blanche.

It has declared IT - and IT-enabled services such as call centres -  to be
essential services.

This means workers are banned from striking.

West Bengal also offers attractive subsidies to companies looking to  invest.

And it is trying hard to combat the perception of the state as
bureaucratic and lethargic.

The IT ministry is located in the business centre of the city and has
made a point of dispensing with the type of petty officials who make  life
difficult for visitors to many other government departments.

The IT minister has even guaranteed he will meet potential investors
within 48 hours.

If a big obstacle crops up, the chief minister himself, Buddhadeb
Bhattarcharjee, will get involved.


IT employs nearly 20,000 people in the state.

The government believes it can provide a livelihood to many more.

But to the outsider the cost of paying those wages is comparatively  small.

Asked to explain the attraction of West Bengal,
PricewaterhouseCoopers admits: "Cost is a major factor."

Manpower costs at least 20% less here than in other Indian cities.

Ravi Mandapaka is an IT entrepreneur who runs a company called
Ravindra Marketing Systems in Calcutta.

He says the investment the government has put in to guarantee a high-
quality broadband network and a constant power supply in the Salt  Lake
and Rajarhat-New Town areas means Calcutta has far more to offer  than
just its overcrowded and polluted centre.

"What the government is trying to do is to make it so that a person  comes
to the airport and the city ends for him at Salt Lake," Mr
Mandapaka says.

"He doesn't touch the city in any way. He's not bothered about the
potholes and the fact the roads are not maintained."

Yet the state government cannot cut the IT parks off from the city  entirely.

Local workers who cannot afford the luxurious properties nearby have  to
endure the daily commute through gridlocked streets.

A greater problem facing West Bengal's IT experiment is the relative  lack
of English speakers.

Until a year ago, schools only started teaching English to pupils at  the
age of 11.

Now children start learning the language as soon as they enter the
classroom. But the change will take time to filter through.

This may limit the development of call centres.

While companies can train workers to use computer programs, teaching  them
a language is a far greater undertaking.

Broadly though, West Bengal appears to have hit the right track and  the
recent decision of HSBC to locate a call centre in the state
seems to confirm this.

In a place where communism is not a dirty word and the hammer and  sickle
remains ubiquitous, inevitably not everyone is delighted.

But having survived decades of relentless economic stagnation, the
Communist Party of India (Marxist) is banking on getting away with IT. ---
End forwarded message ---

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