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Govt offers Reliance shield

Calcutta, Aug. 28: The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government today assured Reliance Retail that it would provide protection to the company’s properties.

“We shall give protection to Reliance’s properties to prevent them from being vandalised,” chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb said at Writers’ Buildings.

The chief secretary’s assurance came in response to the company’s decision to put on hold its retail foray in the state in the wake of vandalism by some parties, including Left Front partner Forward Bloc.

Deb said the government would “pursue” the first information reports lodged against those involved in the attacks on two upcoming Reliance outlets. “The government will do whatever is required under the law to stop vandalism on Reliance properties,” he added.

Kalyan Sarangi, Reliance Retail’s regional head, had approached officials in the chief minister’s secretariat yesterday and informed them that the retail Bengal rollout was being deferred.

The company was planning to open six Reliance Fresh outlets in and around the city by mid-August and increase the number to 50 in the near future.

Ajoy Thakur, the sub-divisional police officer in Serampore, said his force was on the lookout for five to six persons linked to the raid on the Reliance outlet at Uttarpara. Trinamul Congress activists are suspected to have led the attack. The party has denied any role but has justified the attack.

Seeking to limit the fallout of the “go-slow”, the government said the incidents would not have a bearing on either Bengal’s industrial prospects or other Reliance projects in the pipeline.

“I don’t think Reliance is withdrawing from the other sectors here. We’re still interested in buying gas from Reliance. We’ve also approached them for investing in synthetic fibre and textiles here, to which they haven’t responded so far,” commerce and industry secretary Sabyasachi Sen said.

However, a discordant note was struck from within the Front itself. The Bloc, at the forefront of the campaign against the Reliance retail entry, declared its intention to step up the agitation in front of the company’s shops.

Perhaps keeping in mind questions why the company was being singled out, Bloc leader Ashok Ghosh said: “We demand a freeze on Reliance and other big players in retail till a political decision is taken within the Left Front. Ours is a people’s movement to save the livelihood of lakhs of small retailers and growers and it will go on.”

But Pratim Chatterjee, the fire services minister and Marxist Forward Bloc leader, asked: “Will Reliance’s departure ensure remunerative prices for farmers'”

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