Special Correspondent

"Centre has laboratories and facilities to ascertain the levels of pesticide residues"

  • Time not ripe for a third front
  • Left to oppose any move that hampers people's interests
  • India should directly intervene on the Sri Lanka issue
  • No compromise on labour laws in special economic zones

    CHENNAI: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Sunday said it was for the Union Government to take a final decision on the issue of ban on soft drinks manufactured by Pepsi and Coca Cola following the controversy over pesticide residues in them.

    At a press conference here, Mr. Bhattacharjee said the Centre had its own laboratories and facilities to ascertain the levels of pesticide residues. The West Bengal Government was in touch with the Centre on the issue. "We are asking for their opinion. They should come out with a clear decision."

    Asked about the ban by some States, including Kerala, on the sale of the soft drinks, he said in a big country like India the companies would leave those States and shift to other regions. He had asked the Kerala Government to send a copy of its order. He would look into it after returning to Kolkata. The laboratories and the pollution control board in West Bengal were actively investigating the issue.

    Asked if the Left would seek to strengthen the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) by joining the Government, Mr. Bhattacharjee said the CPI (M) criticised the Government because it was succumbing to pressure from the United States. But the solution to the problem did not lie in the Left joining the Government.

    "Fundamental differences"

    Though the Congress wanted the CPI (M) to join the Government, the latter decided against it in view of "fundamental differences" between the two parties. He also indicated that the time was not ripe for a third front.

    Denying that the Left was exploited by the UPA, which implemented its own agenda, he said the Left parties would oppose any Government move that hampered the interest of the people.

    ``Not one-way traffic''

    On the "general comment" that West Bengal was aggressively following globalisation and liberalisation, he said no country could dissociate itself from the objective process. However, globalisation could not be a one-way traffic.

    If countries such as India, China, Brazil and South Africa took a joint stand in the World Trade Organisation, they would be able to withstand pressure from developed countries, including America, he felt.

    He appreciated the stand taken by Union Commerce Minister Kamal Nath on the issue.

    Mr. Bhattacharjee said his Government would not compromise on enforcement of labour laws in the special economic zones.

    Also, his Government would not allow foreign direct investment in the retail sector.

    Condemn Israel action

    He urged the Centre to direct its condemnation against Israel for its attack on Lebanon. He also asked the Government not to buy weapons from Israel.

    On the Sri Lanka issue, he said though India should not directly intervene in the affairs of the island nation, it should continue with its diplomatic efforts to ensure return of peace in that country.

    Representatives of many leading automobile and textile industries who wanted to invest in West Bengal met Mr. Bhattacharjee during his stay here.