The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CPM fires Molla at Mamata

Bhangar, Sept. 4: The CPM today launched a campaign in South 24-Parganas to counter Mamata Banerjee's attempts to whip up passion against the government's move to facilitate acquisition of farmland for projects proposed by the Salim Group.

Launching today's campaign was Abdur Rezzak Molla, the land and land reforms minister who was among the first to trigger a debate within the CPM on Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's move to have large tracts of farmland allotted to foreign investors like the Indonesia-based conglomerate.

Molla successfully interceded with the chief minister and his party brass to ensure that mostly mono-crop and fallow lands were taken away from farmers to set up industry.

Today he said he has submitted a note to state CPM secretary Anil Biswas on how to compensate small farmers whose land might be taken over. 'I am happy that the leadership has understood that the acquisition of fertile farmland for townships will hurt farmers' interests. Now I want to ensure that those who lose their land get proper compensation and rehabilitation,' Molla told The Telegraph.

Also a secretariat member of the CPM's South 24-Parganas unit, Molla has proposed a formula to fix the price of land to be taken over and the compensation. CPM insiders said it will be discussed at next month's state committee meeting.

The committee headed by Molla ' assigned to select land for the special economic zone to be built by the Salim Group in South 24-Parganas ' has already earmarked 2,500 acres and will submit its plan to commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen tomorrow.

Addressing his first public meeting since getting embroiled in the debate, Molla said he was unaware of the takeover plan up to a point.

The land and land reforms minister promised farmers that they would not lose any land because of the Salim Group and asked them to resist if any such attempt is made.

Molla said: 'Let me do my bit now. If I cannot manage, I will let you know. If there is a need for fierce opposition, I won't be hiding' I will be there in the forefront.

'I heard that a netri (leader, read Mamata) came here and some leaders are trying to tell you that the poor farmers will be the eventual losers. Let me tell you that none of it is true. I will not let them lose out.'

The gathering ' organised by the party's Bhangar zonal committee ' was also meant to seed the grounds for Bhattacharjee's rally on Septem- ber 25. Molla told the audience, mostly farmers, that he would seek a detailed report from the Salim Group to ascertain what it intends to do on the land before it is handed over to it. 'The investors will have to submit a perspective plan to the government.'

His compensation package says that the market price of the land and the price of crops that the farmer grows every year have to be taken into account. Molla has also demanded permanent accommodation for the displaced in the new township and a permanent source of income for them.

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