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CM lays ground for farmer 'sacrifice'
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee with his wife and daughter before he left for Singapore. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya

Calcutta, Aug. 22: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said Bengal's farmers would have to prepare themselves to 'sacrifice' land to facilitate industrialisation.

Before leaving for Singapore and Indonesia on a five-day trip to conclude investment proposals, Bhattacharjee said his government would encourage the average farmers to 'graduate from agriculture to industry' after putting in place measures for their socio-economic protection and rehabilitation.

The chief minister said the advancement of the civilisation necessitates the continuous movement of people from village to city.

'Villagers need not be confined to agriculture alone throughout their lives. They should also think about graduating from agriculture to industry. They will have to sacrifice their land for the sake of industry which will generate more employment opportunities for our youths. But at the same time those villagers affected in the process have to be protected and rehabilitated,' Bhattacharjee said.

Accompanying the chief minister on his third foreign trip in four years are industry secretary Sabyasachi Sen, special secretary S.A.S. Ahmed, and a team of industrialists.

Bhattcharjee's visit began against the backdrop of his victory of sorts over a section in his own CPM which unsuccessfully tried to get the government to modify its policy of allotting agricultural land to big companies.

He sewed up the policy battle with support from the CPM leadership which made the district unit fall in line and endorse the government's plan to allot land to Indonesia's Salim Group.

'There will not be any problem in providing land to Salim Group for setting up a special economic zone in South 24-Parganas and a two-wheeler unit at Uluberia in Howrah,' Bhattacharjee told reporters.

Bhattacharjee today surprised observers by reaching the airport wearing white pyjama-punjabi in place of the regulation dhoti and punjabi kurta. Wife Meera Bhattacharjee and daughter Suchetana accompanied him to the airport.

Replying to a question on whether other Left Front partners were unanimous about handing over 5,100 acres to Salim Group, the chief minister said he had never heard of any objection from the front partners.

'Why are you labelling the issue as a debatable one when nobody had opposed it' Everything was discussed at length at the Left Front meeting and was subsequently cleared. I am not aware of any reservations.'

State labour minister Mohammed Amin will officiate during the chief minister's absence from the state.

Asked whether he would be able to attract more industrialists from abroad, the chief minister said with a smile: 'Let us see. I am always optimistic about potential for foreign investment for the state's industrialisation.'

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