The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Seal on Salim sign-up
- Partners still crying foul, govt goes ahead with deal

Calcutta, Sept. 5: Industries minister Nirupam Sen today said the government will sign the final agreement with the Salim Group in November for setting up a township, a health city and a knowledge city in the two 24-Parganas.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had signed an MoU with the Indonesia-based group during his recent trip to Jakarta.

Sen said the township would come up on 1,500 acres. Another 2,500 acres will be identified for the health and knowl-edge cities. The government, he added, would create job opportunities for every family that sacrifices the land or property for the projects.

Two ministers from South 24-Parganas ' Abdur Rezzak Molla of land and land reforms and Kanti Ganguly, who is in charge of Sunderbans development ' MPs Sujan Chakraborty and Shamik Lahiry and the district magistrate have been assigned to select land to be handed over to the Salim Group.

It is learnt that Sen told the ministers and MPs, who met him at Writers' Buildings, that the government will have to take over farmland for the projects. 'Don't get upset if we take agricultural land for the Salim Group. Economic activity in the areas will increase considerably once the projects are successfully completed and a lot of job opportunities will be created there. Local people will also benefit. Naturally, there should not be any confusion among anyone over the Salim projects,' Sen said.

But the CPM today again failed to make its partners fall in line. Its talks with the Forward Bloc over conversion of farmland for industry ended in a deadlock today as the latter refused to accept the government's rationale for supporting Salim Group's proposals.

'We have discussed at length all tricky issues concerning the projects to be undertaken by the Indonesia-based group and the land it requires for the purpose. But we are opposed to the Salim Group's entry in Bengal as we are in the dark about what it intends to do,' Ashok Ghosh, the Bloc state secretary, said after the two-hour meeting this afternoon.

Agriculture minister and Bloc chairman Kamal Guha, who also attended the meeting, said they asked the CPM to instruct the government to prepare a land map to find out the exact amount of land still available for farming.

'We are not ready to woo industrialists at the cost of our agriculture as 65 per cent of our state's population still depends on agriculture for livelihood, directly or indirectly,' Guha said.

A meeting with RSP leaders followed the stormy session with the Bloc brass. The RSP, too, resented the conversion of agricultural land for industry.

RSP state secretary and former irrigation minister Debabrata Bandopadhyay demanded that the Salim Group's projects be scrapped.

But Sen left no ambiguity about the government's intent. Asked whether it would acquire land for industry if farmers refuse to hand them over, he replied in the affirmative.

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