The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No easy option on land
- Scarcity of barren plots confirmed

Calcutta, April 23: If Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government heeds the Opposition’s demand, it might have to squeeze a steel plant into a plot of poultry-farm size.

The government has only 19 acres of barren land suitable for industry in East Midnapore and 24 acres in North 24-Parganas and the scene is not much better in the rest of south Bengal, where investors are queuing up.

There are two options to tide over this problem: to push industry to the most backward districts where there is relatively more barren land but no infrastructure, or acquire cultivable land.

The Opposition and some of the Left Front allies are opposed to farmland acquisition. But a land department report shows the government has only around 22,500 acres of non-farm land suitable for industry across Bengal.

Land is suitable for industry only when it is accessible by road, the plots are large and together and with power and water close at hand.

In backward West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura, the government has 818 acres, 918 acres and 512 acres of barren land suitable for industry. But the land is scattered and too little for a small steel plant or a medium-scale car factory.

Industries minister Nirupam Sen had said Bengal cannot afford to wait for its backward areas to develop and then woo investors.

In East Midnapore, the government had lined up two special economic zones spread over 22,000 acres among other projects.

Howrah has 71 industry-suitable acres and Hooghly 96.

The government requires over 90,000 acres for industrial and infrastructure projects across the state.

Bengal has over 300,000 acres where there is no cultivation, but most of it is not fit for industry. “Most of this land is fragmented. The plots are not contiguous and have no road links. Taking industry there at this stage would be impossi- ble,” a senior land department official said.

Only around 23,000 acres are made of contiguous plots measuring at least an acre.

There are over 54,000 acres of low-grade agricultural land, which is not used for farming. These plots — mostly in Purulia or Bankura — have no infrastructure.

The government is mulling whether to offer this land to potential investors, a land department official said.

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