The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Yechury commands, govt listens to market

Hooghly/Calcutta, May 27: If anyone had any doubt that more than physical distance separates the CPM headquarters in Delhi and the party's government in Bengal, Sitaram Yechury removed it today.

Yechury, a CPM politburo member, today said in Calcutta that only single-crop land would be used for setting up industries in Bengal.

But 40 km away in Hooghly's Chinsurah, district magistrate Vinod Kumar chaired a meeting with local leaders as part of a delayed effort to ensure smooth acquisition of double, triple and even four-crop land in Singur for Tata Motors' small-car project.

Reflecting this reality, industries minister Nirupam Sen said in Calcutta: 'It is a market economy. An industry will come where an investor wants it to. The days of command economy, when the government used to dictate terms, are over.'

The Tatas need 1,000 acres in Singur for their project.

On Thursday, villagers there gheraoed the cars in which Tata Motors officials went to inspect the land.

An agriculture department official said handing over multiple-crop land to industry was 'inevitable' if factories were to come up in south Bengal, especially near Calcutta. (See chart)

Either Yechury, who represents Bengal in the Rajya Sabha, is not aware of the nature of land availability in the state or he chose to gloss over the inconvenient detail that not many large tracts of one-crop land are available.

The state government has set itself a target of acquiring over 31,000 acres in six months for industrial units in south Bengal.

At today's meeting in Hooghly, held to 'dispel misconceptions', officials tried to impress upon representatives of panchayats and farmers' bodies and the local MLA and MP the need to inform farmers about the acquisition of land, compensation and the benefits once the factory comes up.

But at the end of the hour-long meeting, not everyone came out convinced.

Trinamul Congress MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharjee said: 'We're not opposed to development. But I will not take the responsibility of convincing the people; let the administration do that. Over 80 per cent of the land under this project is double or multi-crop. Let the farmers decide for themselves whether they will give up this land for 130 per cent of the market price.'

Krishak Congress leader Haren Singha Roy said his organisation wanted the factory.

'But of the 1,000 acres earmarked for the project, around 300 acres are triple-crop. We have demanded that this portion be left out,' he added.

Naveen Prakash, the executive director of West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, said there is no 'guarantee' of jobs for the displaced farmers.

'The government will only request Tata Motors to provide training to one member from every displaced marginal farmer's family. They might be taken in as skilled labourers, but that is not final,' an official said.

But MP Rupchand Pal of the CPM insisted that once the factory comes up, many ancillary services would start and even international vendors would arrive.

'Tata will also look after health and education. The government will ensure that compensation to farmers is adequate. No village or settlement will be taken over. We'll also see to it that the landless farmers' interests are protected,' he said.

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