The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Farmers who want factory
Farmers hold aloft a poster saying: ‘We welcome industry’. Picture by Rana Ghosh

Ausgram (Burdwan) July 4: Ausgram doesn’t want to be a Nandigram. It wants the government to acquire land and set up industry there.

Nearly a thousand farmers in Burdwan have offered the government 2,500 acres for an industrial hub.

Used to reports of backlash from Nandigram to Singur, officials were almost taken aback when the offer was made in writing by the farmers in the Ausgram and Kanksa blocks, 160km from Calcutta.

The farmers gave district magistrate Manish Jain a memorandum on June 6, requesting the government to set up industrial units on their land.

Hard-nosed economic reasons and aspiration — something the government’s rehabilitation packages have been overlooking — are behind the decision.

Other than compensation, the farmers have demanded jobs for a member of each family parting with the land. Families giving up more should get more than one job.

Job guarantee is one area that the state government has been assiduously steering clear of, largely because of most investors’ reluctance to opt for labour-intensive operations.

But the clamour in Ausgram establishes the pulling power of jobs even if it involves giving up fertile land.

The soil in the area is good enough for two paddy crops, but villagers say they can cultivate only one during the monsoon because of inadequate irrigation facilities.

“I have two sons who are science graduates from Guskara College. I have not paid for their studies to make them farmers. It will be better if they get jobs in an industry. Industries are coming up in Bengal and if a big one is set up on our land, our children may get jobs,” said Samsuddin Biswas, 62, a farmer who owns a 10-bigha plot in Ausgram’s Pondali and Dharala villages.

However, there is opposition to polluting industries like sponge iron units.

Processions urging others to offer land for industrial projects are being held in the area and the farmers plan to submit another memorandum next week.

District magistrate Jain said: “It was a surprise to know that the villagers are willingly offering us farmland. They told me they would give up cultivation on the land for the sake of industry. This is unexpected and exceptional.”

The memorandum has been sent to the industry department. “We are waiting for their instructions. After getting the approval, we will begin measuring the land and start drawing up acquisition plans,” Jain said.

Ausgram, not far from Purushottampur where clashes have broken out over compensation, seems almost isolated from the battle zone.

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