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Housing on industry land hits CPM wall

Calcutta, Aug. 8: When the government and the CPM are caught in a battle on multiple fronts to make sure that land lying idle in closed industries is put into use, the party's city unit has put up stiff resistance to a proposed housing project on the premises of a central public sector company.

A Madhya Pradesh-based developer had purchased 50 bighas of Tyre Corporation of India land at Tangra from the Centre through the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR).

Two leaders of the CPM's Calcutta district committee, Debesh Das and Badal Kar, have lodged a complaint with the pollution control board, alleging that the developers had felled trees and attempted to fill up a water body on the premises for the construction.

'We don't want any housing complex on the land that once belonged to an industrial unit,' Das, also a CPM MLA from Taltala, said.

Tyre Corporation, which closed down in 2002, had 3,800 employees in the eighties and the nineties. Subsequently, the unit became sick and was referred to the BIFR. The employees were offered voluntary retirement.

'We insist on an industrial unit on that piece of land because it can accommodate TCI employees as well as others rendered jobless through closures,' Kar said.

Although the CPM leaders are opposing the move, the government has little to do with the issue. Commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen said tonight that the land belonged to the Centre and it had been handed over to the developer.

'Naturally, our government has no role to play,' Sen said, asked whether the state government could prevent the developer from carrying out the project.

Sen said that had the land belonged to a state-run public sector undertaking, the government could have intervened.

Das, who attended the hearing by the pollution board, had urged officials to file an FIR against the developer.

However, the board did not lodge an FIR but imposed a fine of Rs 20,000 on Mahakosh Property Developers. 'The developer will have to pay the fine which we will forward to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) for planting trees on the factory premises,' a board official said.

Das said new industrial units were coming up on land belonging to the closed Bengal Pottery at Pagladanga off EM Bypass. 'Already, nine or 10 environment friendly units have come up on Bengal Pottery land. We don't understand why the developer is trying to construct a housing complex on the land of the closed TCI. If he agrees to set up industrial units, we are ready to help him,' Das added.

However, the owner of Mahakosh Property Developers, S.K. Kothari, said he had no plans to approach any political leader to take up the case in his favour. 'I will go by the law of the land,' said Kothari. He said he purchased the land for Rs 28 crore.

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