The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cabinet clears 38000-acre plan

Calcutta, May 31: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today pushed through proposals to acquire around 38,000 acres for industry and infrastructure at the first cabinet meeting after elections.

Springing a surprise on his colleagues, the chief minister said: 'There are other issues, which didn't figure originally on the agenda circulated earlier. However, we have to acquire this land. If investors turn away from Bengal because we refuse them land, it will send a very negative message outside.'

As the names of projects and land required were read out, some ministers objected, pointing out that they needed the details before giving consent.

'We should have been told the details of these projects earlier. Then we could have spoken to farmers in our areas and explained the issue to them. We also want to know whether the land being acquired is double or multi-crop,' said some ministers.

The chief minister cut them short. 'Anyone having any objections can pass them on to me in writing later. Let us clear these now.'

Only the acquisition of 4,884 acres for the Dankuni township had figured on the agenda originally drafted and circulated.

The 10 surprise items tab- led by industries minister Nirupam Sen included acquisi- tion of 25,000 acres at Haldia, 1,000 acres for the Tata car project at Singur, 850 acres for a knowledge city, health city and biotech park near the airport, 500 acres for Eastern Expressway from Barasat to Raichak, 500 acres for a food park at Uluberia, 250 acres for a Telcon (Tata) payloader unit at Kharagpur, 3,000 acres for a minor port and special economic zone at Kulpi, 150 acres for a cement factory at Sagardi-ghi in Murshidabad and 1,100 acres for a garment park at Sankrail.

The cabinet also approved the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation's acquisition of 750 acres at Guptamani near Kharagpur for an industrial estate, which didn't figure on the agenda.

When the Tata project at Singur was discussed, RSP minister Kshiti Goswami said there was no mention of jobs for marginal farmers in the compensation package.

Sen said his department would 'work it out' with the investor.

When Goswami asked how the poor, displaced families would get housing when the state didn't have a proper below-poverty-line list, Sen said they could procure certificates from panchayats authenticating their economic status.

Left Front chairman Biman Bose had earlier this week appealed to the constituents to clear the compensation package for displaced farmers at the first cabinet meeting to send out a picture of unity.

Bhattacharjee told the cabinet that his government had ambitious plans for Haldia. 'We're sending officials to the US to hardsell Haldia as a chemical hub. Haldia port is taking a beating because of low draft. If we can sell this as a chemical hub, we will also be able to save the port.'

Officials in the industries department said all major items from their side were tabled at the last moment because it took a lot of time to collect land details from the district magistrates.

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