The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha wins land war

Calcutta, Aug. 19: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has won the ideological battle in the state CPM over providing land in rural areas for new industries to come up.

The state party leadership today turned the South 24-Parganas unit around on the issue, setting the stage for Indonesia’s Salim Group to start a string of projects in the district.

After a one-and-a-half-hour meeting at Alimuddin Street, state CPM secretary Anil Biswas said: “We in the state as well as the district secretariat discussed the issue (of allotment of land for projects in South 24-Parganas) today and decided to extend full support to the government initiative on setting up a special economic zone, a township, a health city and lay a four-lane highway with assistance from a private group (Salim).”

The victory will allow the chief minister greater freedom when he negotiates with the Salim Group and other potential investors during his tour of Singapore and Indonesia starting in three days.

The state party leadership, in the presence of the chief minister, explained to senior district functionaries the circumstances in which Bhattacharjee had adopted his current initiative.

Among those at the meeting were district secretary Shantimoy Bhattacharya, MP Sujan Chakraborty, and two ministers ' Kanti Ganguly and Abdur Rezzak Molla ' known for their opposition to the use of multi-crop land to set up industries.

“We could convince them that' (the whole of) Bengal, and not only your district, would benefit if the government’s initiative succeeded,” Biswas said.

Molla, the land and land reforms minister, hardly spoke at the meeting, but some of the district leaders asked how much land the highway and other ventures might take up. The projects, they said, will require several houses to be pulled down and will eat up large tracts of agricultural land.

“What will happen to those who lose their property' to enable our government to construct the four-lane road'” one of them asked. The district leaders said that not only the farmers but also the owners of demolished houses must be compensated.

The state leaders promised to take up the matter with the government. “We shall ask the government to try not to acquire habitable and multi-crop land, as far as possible. Also, we shall ask it to ensure those affected are rehabilitated and given jobs,” Biswas said.

Following this assurance from the state secretary in the presence of the chief minister, the district leaders agreed to co-operate with the government in implementing the Salim Group’s projects. The highway is expected to be taken up first.

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