The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sen allays Salim fears

Baruipur (South 24-Parganas), Sept. 15: State commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen today brushed aside apprehensions about acquiring farmland for projects proposed by the Salim Group.

He also made it clear that land would have to be offered to industrialists 'where they want it'. 'How can we ask them to go and set up industries in Amlashol' he asked.

Sen stressed the need for industrialisation of South 24-Parganas, which he said was 'backward' despite being on the fringes of Calcutta.

At a public meeting organised by the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) and the Students' Federation of India (SFI), the minister said the state must cash in on the opportunity to set up industries that will open new vistas for Bengal's economy and offer jobs to thousands.

Today's programme is part of the CPM's effort to use its youth to mobilise support for its industrialisation drive and scuttle Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee's bid to whip up sentiment against the government. It is also an attempt to clarify its position at the grassroots level.

Land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Molla, who was among the first to oppose the projects at the outset, shared the dais with Sen. CPM MPs from South 24-Parganas Sujan Chakraborty and Samik Lahiry and Sunderbans affairs minister Kanti Ganguly were also present.

Sen allayed fears that the proposed project might not succeed. 'They (Salim Group) are setting up the industrial estate, so if there is no industry, it is also their loss. Moreover, they are setting up a 75-km long road, which will offer jobs to thousands during construction. Can they carry the stretch of road along with them while leaving' he asked. 'They have asked us to chalk out land for them, they will buy it, build the industrial estate, run it for sometime, and when they raise the invested money, they will hand it over to us. How can we turn down such an offer'

He argued that there is a need for thousands of jobs and too much pressure on land. Several were jobless because of closure of factories, which he attributed to the Centre.

He said the government would keep in mind the interests of local people, including farmers, like it has done elsewhere in the state.

Molla also argued a case for industrialisation and assured that 'there would be alternative jobs for those who would have to give up their lands'. He said there was no need to worry about industrialisation 'because it is happening on terms of mutual interest'.

'No fertile land will go, but if some (land) needs to be taken in order to take over a contiguous part of land, then the owners of that part of land must be offered a place to live in the same place, and not displaced,' he said.

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