The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Anil calls for 'little sacrifice' from farmers

Calcutta, Aug. 14: State CPM secretary Anil Biswas today said agricultural land would be allowed to be taken over and converted for industry but farmers' interests would also be taken care of.

'We will ensure that farmers can retain multi-crop lands,' Biswas said while addressing party functionaries on the concluding day of the conference of the CPM's South 24-Parganas unit at Baruipur, 25 km from here.

'The government will not do anything that might harm the farmers. We are there to protect their interests. But, at the same time, farmers will also be required to sacrifice a little by giving up either mono-crop or fallow lands. They must help the government convert land in rural Bengal for industrialisation,' Biswas said.

Biswas spoke about the government's motive behind the conversion of farm land in the presence of Abdur Rezzak Molla, the land and land reforms minister, and Sunderbans development minister Kanti Ganguly ' both known for their opposition to large-scale acquisition and conversion of agricultural land for commercial purposes.

'Bengal is all set to re-emerge as an industrial state,' Biswas said, 'but we need land to reach that goal. After all, you cannot build industrial units in the air.'

Today's meeting took place against the backdrop of the past fortnight's debate within the party on the merit of the approach to the contentious issue of use of rural land for commercial purposes disregarding the ceiling on land holdings.

The CPM leadership and the government were trying, with a degree of success, to persuade Molla and the body of opposers of the new land-use policy to eschew their resistance and enable them to implement the policy for the larger goal of industrialisation.

At the Baruipur meeting, Molla and his supporters, who constitute the dominant force in South 24-Parganas politics, expressed satisfaction at Biswas's assertion that farmers' interests would be protected, but not before reaffirming their opposition to the move to acquire mono-crop lands.

'I will continue to persist with my reservations if mono-crop lands are taken away,' Molla said. 'None of us is opposed to industrialisation. All that we are interested in is having a safety net in place for the farmers in terms of compensation, housing and a steady earning,' he added.

Molla and the rest are believed to be resisting the government out of fears that the move would lead to the entry of big companies and captive farming.

Two weeks ago the minister expressed 'some reservations' about the (unsuccessful) attempt to withdraw ceilings when the land reforms bill was placed in the Assembly. Backing Molla then were several allies of the ruling coalition and some Opposition parties.

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