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Food scare in dash for land
- Minister charts downside of industrialisation

Calcutta, July 7: Bengal might be staring at a crisis of food if the trend to convert farmland for industry or infrastructure projects continues, land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah said in the Assembly today.

'We still have a surplus in foodgrain. But productivity has declined because land for cultivation has been reduced. Our food security may be in crisis if we fail to increase agri-productivity by five times and reclaim fallow and arid land for agriculture and related activities,' said the minister, who had earlier opposed the government's land acquisition in his backyard, South 24-Parganas.

What Mollah said today was precisely what the Trinamul Congress and Congress had been trying to drive home ' that chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's drive for rapid industrialisation and urbanisation is robbing farmers their livelihood.

'The minister's admission is only the tip of the iceberg. Government reports reveal 5.87 lakh hectares of farmland have been converted for non-farm use in the past 10 years,' Trinamul legislature party leader Partha Chatterjee said.

Replying to a question, Rezzak Mollah said 300,000 acres of non-farm land have been reclaimed for cultivation by the Left Front government in its 30-year rule. But at the same time, 400,000 acres of agricultural land have been converted for urbanisation and industrialisation.

Rezzak Mollah hinted that the use of agricultural land for industries and urban development increased after Bhattacharjee took over as chief minister.

'Around 2.5 lakh acres of farmland' have been converted for non-farm activities over the past five years.'

According to some observers, Bengal has yet to attain actual food security. It produces 11 per cent surplus rice and 40 per cent surplus vegetables, but it is 50 per cent deficient in wheat, 75 per cent short in pulses and has to buy 60 per cent of the oil seeds from other states.

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