The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha acts hard and soft
- Firm on industry, appeal to Mamata to end fast

Calcutta, Dec. 7: Debates may continue, but development will not stop.

“We cannot compromise on the issue of industrialisation,” chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said even as he appealed again to Mamata Banerjee to call off her fast.

Speaking at Infocom 2006, the country’s largest information, communication and technology exposition organised by Nasscom and Businessworld, an ABP group publication, the chief minister affirmed his government’s commitment to pushing ahead with industrialisation in the backdrop of the Singur controversy.

Although Singur was not mentioned, Bhattacharjee made it clear that he had no time for the Trinamul Congress demand for suspension of land acquisition at Singur for the Tata Motors project. At the same time, he appealed repeatedly to Mamata to call off her fast that entered its fourth day today.

“Last night, the governor asked me whether he can go and request her to call off the fast. But he failed to convince her. Today, I appeal to her again to give up fasting. I am ready to discuss everything,” he said at the chief minister’s roundtable at Infocom.

Yesterday, too, he had appealed to her to end the hunger strike which she started demanding a stop to land acquisition.

In response, Mamata wondered today why the chief minister was appealing through the media and not directly.

Although the process of fencing off the acquired land is now all but over, Mamata’s fast smack in the middle of the city has become an issue, with concern for her health.

The chief minister said he was ready to talk, but Mamata has so far declined the offer.

Wading into the farm-factory debate, Bhattacharjee said industrialisation was the political mandate given by the people of the state.

“In the last Assembly elections, the people’s verdict was to speed up industrialisation. It is not a quarrel between two individuals…. Thousands of people are looking at us. They want jobs,” he said.

He cited the CPM’s victory in the Islampur byelection — the result was announced today — to drive home his point. Bhattacharjee also cracked jokes about the “small” Opposition.

The chief minister dispelled fears over protests against land acquisition expressed by businessman B.P. Bajoria on behalf of a Denmark-based outfit setting up a research centre on wireless technology at Rajarhat.

“You can tell them there is no problem…. Everything will be all right in two-three days,” he said.

Bhattacharjee did not spell out what he meant by “everything”, but stressed that the government would not take any “drastic step” or “send police” to end Mamata’s fast.

From the Infocom 2006 platform, the chief minister made a promise to facilitate faster development of IT and IT-Enabled Services.

“We are preparing a comprehensive plan to address the problems in Sector V and in a year’s time everything will change,” he said.

A finishing school for engineering graduates, support to foreign universities willing to tie up with local institutes and efforts to bridge the digital divide are among the initiatives the government is planning to undertake.

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