| Burning buddha: An effigy of the chief minister ablaze at a protest meet in Calcutta on Tuesday. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Calcutta, Aug. 30: The CPM leadership today asked the Left Front constituents to put forward alternative models of development if they were not happy with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's initiative to bring investment from Southeast Asia.
State party secretary Anil Biswas said the front partners would do well not to take contrary positions on the government's efforts to get the Indonesia-based Salim Group to invest in Bengal if they did not have alternatives to suggest.
At yesterday's bipartite meeting with the CPI, Biswas was learnt to have conveyed this to the minor partner. 'A decision to improve relations between the two parties was taken at the meeting,' the CPM leader said, adding: 'We don't want any bitterness between us. We have answers to all their criticisms regarding the Salim Group.'
The CPI leadership today appeared to have softened its stand on the acquisition of farmland for industry.
'We call upon the government not to touch agricultural land, the quantity of which is very small in the state, to set up industries,' CPI state secretary Manju Kumar Majumdar said this afternoon.
'We are not averse to ind- ustrialisation. Neither do we oppose development of Bengal. But we want industrialisation and development for common people.'
He wants the government to set up labour-intensive industries, instead of service- oriented units like shopping malls and housing complexes. 'We want agro-based industry, which will also help us solve the problem of unemployment,' Majumdar said.
He urged the government to revive the land use committee that was in existence during the late Benoy Chowdhury's tenure as minister for land and land reforms. The panel, Majumdar said, would help avoid controversies in the future over use of land for industry.
Forward Bloc leader and agriculture minister Kamal Guha said it was up to the front to decide whether the Salim Group should be allowed to set up shop in South 24-Parganas.
'The land issue will have to be discussed at length within the front before clearances for the project are given.
'It is not only a question of farmers being displaced. The proposed site had many bazaars and settlements. Where will these people go' This cannot be an ego issue for some people,' Guha said.
Punching a hole in the chief minister's promise that all farmers would be compensated when their land is converted for industrial use, Guha said finding alternative sites would not be easy. 'Farmers in Malda, who were displaced by erosion and whom the government compensated three years ago, have still to find a place to settle down. Nobody wants to forgo land ' it is precious.'
PWD minister Amar Chowdhury, an RSP leader, said: 'The Salim issue is just the beginning. If we keep on converting agricultural land, where will it end' The chief minister should have discussed it with us before making a commitment to the company'