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SEZ acquisition put ‘on hold’

Nandigram, Jan. 5: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government will go slow on land acquisition here in the wake of the violence that erupted two days ago.

The government will need over 14,000 acres — for a 10,000-acre multi-product special economic zone (SEZ) to be developed by the Salim Group, for a 2,500-acre expansion of Haldia port and a 2,000-acre ship-repairing yard to be built by Pawan Ruia’s company.

“In view of the (past two days’) developments, we shall keep the process of land acquisition on hold for some time,” land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah told The Telegraph.

“The district collector’s notification announcing the beginning of acquisition was expected by the first week of February. But in view of this large-scale uprising, we’ll have to put it off by a couple of months. In the meantime, we’ll hold public meetings and discussions among the people to explain the project details,” said a senior official of Mollah’s department.

Observers said the trouble began after Haldia Development Authority chairman and CPM MP Lakshman Seth named the 27 mouzas to be acquired in Nandigram block I at a public meeting on December 29.

The people here were apparently under the impression that only parts of Usmanchak and Jadubarichak mouzas would be acquired.

But a notice the authority issued on December 28 said the entire mouzas and another two — Shahebnagar (47) and (48) in Khejuri block — were on the acquisition map.

Seth’s announcement added fuel to the anger building up at what the villagers thought was a “fresh addition” of two mouzas.

The area exploded on Wednesday, when around 1,500 people stormed a health and sanitation meeting at the Garchakraberia panchayat office.

“We didn’t realise that the SUCI and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind could secretly gather such a large number of people. Police had no warning of the attack. When the mob began stoning the police, who were outnumbered, they fired in the air,” said a senior East Midnapore official.

The local CPM leadership feels there was no need for the authority to issue the notice, which triggered the violence. “It is the district collector who issues such notices. The authority only made things worse for us,” a party leader said.

The Opposition-backed Krishi Uchhed Birodhi Jana- swartha Raksha Committee hanged an effigy of Seth at a demonstration at Garchakraberia village this afternoon.

Armed with swords, daggers, shovels spears and sickles, the protesters attacked media personnel and drove them out of the village.

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