| Bhattacharjee at the rally. Picture by Aranya Sen
Heria (East Midnapore), Feb. 11: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today carried his efforts at a consensus to the hub of the land protests, travelling to within 40 km of Nandigram to strike a conciliatory note.
But although he promised not to use force to acquire plots — and even spoke of shifting the Salim Group project elsewhere if Nandigram stayed adamant — the chief minister stood firm on his drive to build industry.
“The transition from agriculture to industry is a natural process. There can be no turning back,” Bhattacharjee told a gathering at Heria in Khejuri block-I, the nearest he has been to Nandigram where land clashes have killed seven.
The chief minister, who has so far sent the Opposition over half a dozen letters for talks on land acquisition and made numerous verbal appeals, made similar overtures at the rally.
He said his government was in no hurry to acquire land in Nandigram and would first explain to the farmers how the mega chemical hub would benefit them.
“I don’t blame the people of Nandigram. If they don’t understand (the need for industrialisation), we’ll explain it to them. We won’t take any plots forcibly. If they still maintain that Nandigram should remain as it is, we’ll take the project elsewhere. But they should realise who will lose out if such a prestigious project cannot be implemented here,” Bhattacharjee said.
He revealed that industry proposals worth Rs 10,000 crore (from German and US investors as well as the Tatas) were pending for Haldia alone, where a policeman was lynched by land protesters last week.
Earlier, as part of efforts to regain lost ground in East Midnapore, the chief minister had doled out 5,000 pattas (deeds) to landless farmers at the Heria panchayat samiti office.
Bhattacharjee ridiculed the Jamait Ulema-i-Hind’s propaganda that only the land of Muslims was being acquired. “Have we given pattas all these years only to Hindus' Have we given primary school jobs only to Hindus'”