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Land in sight for Salim project

Calcutta, Aug. 18: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Molla and members of the CPM state secretariat will finalise the allotment of land to the Indonesia-based Salim group by tomorrow for setting up a special economic zone at Mograhat in South 24-Parganas.

Santimoy Bhattacharjee, the secretary of the CPM's South 24-Parganas unit, and some of its key members will also attend the meeting.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas had on Sunday discussed at Baruipur land use and removal of land-ceiling, especially in rural Bengal, with party leaders of South 24-Parganas. Biswas had said agricultural land, especially mono crop, would be allowed to be taken over and converted for industry. 'But farmers' interests will also be protected,' he had said.

Molla, who was also present at the meeting, had said reservations would be voiced if mono crop land is taken over. 'None of us is opposed to industrialisation. All that we are interested in is having a safety net in place for the farmers in terms of compensation, housing and steady earning,' he iterated today.

CPM sources today said Molla has identified about 6,000 acres of land near Mograhat for the Indonesian conglomerate's project. The land is not used for cultivation and the peasants' wing of the CPM, the Bangiya Pradeshik Krishak Sabha, has not raised any objection to its use for the proposed economic zone.

This assumes significance in the wake of Bhattacharjee's four-day trip to Singapore and Jakarta, beginning on August 22, to woo investors for Bengal. At Jakarta, the chief minister will have detailed discussions with representatives of the Salim group about the project in South 24-Parganas.

'We have no problem if the land at Mograhat is used for industrial purposes. It's a low-lying area and goes under water during monsoon. It might be used for any commercial purpose,' said a senior CPM leader of South 24-Parganas.

Bhattacharjee had promised 5,100 acres to the Salim group for setting up the special economic zone. However, his move to acquire the land suffered a setback as the government failed to pass the West Bengal Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2005, that would withdraw the land ceiling.

CPM sources said Molla had objected to Bhattacharjee's handing over the land mainly as a large part of the 5,100 acres fell under his Canning East Assembly constituency, which the land reform minister has represented since the CPM came to power in 1977.

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