The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sen sermon on industry
- Minister defends acquisition in House, party boss sips tea with business chamber

Calcutta, July 19: Acquisition of farmland is inevitable to sustain Bengal’s drive for industry and infrastructure, Nirupam Sen told the Assembly today.

Besides land, the industries minister said, investors would also have to be given “other concessions” for their role in Bengal’s development.

Denying that the government was giving in to pressure by allowing investors to chose sites for new ventures on fertile tracts close to the city while neglecting underdeveloped districts, Sen said Bankura, Purulia, West Midnapore and north Bengal have also received investment in iron and steel, food processing and cement.

But he also said that there are certain “geo-economic” compulsions of industry that could not be ignored. For instance, the IT industry could not always be persuaded to set up shop outside Calcutta or the Tatas to build a car factory further away from the city.

“We told the Tatas that it would be difficult to get so much single-crop land at Singur, but Ratan Tata insisted on land there as he wanted the project to be visible.”

Sen assured that the government would ensure jobs and indirect alternative livelihood for poor land-losers in every new industrial project.

The Tatas, he added, have not only promised training to local land-losers but also basic amenities like drinking water, health, education and roads in the area.

The Opposition, he pleaded, should not send a “wrong signal” to investors by resisting land acquisition.

Only yesterday, Mamata Banerjee went to Singur, planted paddy saplings and asked farmers to defy the administration’s request not to do so this season.

“It’ll not be possible to set up industry without infrastructure. For this, land is required. Can we drag our feet on proposals for building industrial zones, expressways and widening of national highways or expanding railway tracks just because we need to acquire land for it'” the minister asked.

“You cry foul when the government acquires land for development. But can you name a subdivision where farmers are not selling their land to promoters'’’ an impassioned Sen questioned the Opposition.

He said that the Centre’s new guideline for the proposed petrochemical and chemical hub in Haldia requires declaration of an “investment region” sprawling over 250 sq km. Similarly, the plan to construct the 100-km Barasat-Raichak road connecting Haldia to National Highway 34 would require about 3,000 acres.

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