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CPM rallies front behind car project

Calcutta, May 29: The CPM today set the stage for the cabinet's seal of approval at a meeting on Wednesday on the compensation package for farmers at Singur by rallying the Left Front leadership behind chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

At a session of the front committee, consensus was reached on the compensation for farmers for the land the government will acquire for Tata Motors' small-car project.

There has been disquiet among the CPM's partners about the project ' not only because of the demonstration before a visiting Tata team by villagers last week, but also because of a perceived com- munication gap within the front.

Front chairman and CPM state secretary Biman Bose appealed to the allies to maintain a united front on the land acquisition and clear the proposal at the cabinet meeting.

'This will be the seventh Left Front's first cabinet meeting and this is the first proposal on industrialisation. We have to show unanimously we want industrialisation,' Bose said.

Some leaders of the smaller parties felt they could not approve the proposal just on the strength of a discussion in the cabinet. 'How can we clear such a major acquisition proposal without knowing details like what kind of land is being acquired and how many families are affected' they asked.

They also disagreed with Bose's general description of the land to be acquired as mostly single-crop and some fallow. CPI, Forward Bloc and RSP leaders said much of the land was double or multi-crop, which was against the front's stand that only single-crop land would be acquired.

Bose said the CPM's Krishak Sabha was looking into these 'ground realities' and would ensure that fertile land was not acquired for industry.

'You will have more time to discuss this issue. If required, we'll have bipartite meetings to clarify all doubts or discuss this at another front meeting. In the case of objections, some additions or alterations can be made to plots. But this issue should not be deferred at Wednesday's cabinet meeting,' Bose said.

It is not clear if acquisition apprehensions have been cleared, but the smaller partners have accepted the compensation package prepared by industries minister Nirupam Sen and land minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah.

'It's good that the Left Front partners discussed the compensation package at length in today's meeting to iron out differences,' Jyoti Basu said.

'I am happy that they have reached a consensus.'

Basu had said the front partners were not aware of the Tata team's visit to Bajumelia village at Singur, about 44 km from Calcutta, to identify land.

Forward Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh said at the meeting even agriculture minister Naren De, from his party, was not informed of the project. He demanded that the chief minister hold bilateral talks with the front partners.

Bhattacharjee, who was present at the meeting for a brief period, said he would go ahead with the Tata project and the industrialisation drive after safeguarding the interests of small and marginal farmers.

'We need industries to generate employment opportunities and I want the front partners to stand by me,' Bhattacharjee said.

Front chairman Bose went a step forward. Industries 'cannot be built like castles in the air, we need land'.

Under the compensation package, landowners will get 30 per cent more than the val-ue of the land and an additional 10 per cent if they spontaneously hand it over.

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