| Bhattacharjee at the inauguration of Bengal’s first two-wheeler plant in Chinsurah. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Haripal (Hooghly), Feb. 15: A day after the high court slammed his government for its “executive highhandedness”, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee justified the imposition of prohibitory orders in Singur, saying he couldn’t allow the violence unleashed by the Opposition.
“We’ve never disallowed their meetings and rallies in the state, even when they haven’t taken police permission. But what would you do if someone starts torching houses under cover of darkness, hurls bombs at the police and burns down fence posts at night'” he told a rally.
“When they threaten to demolish the factory wall, should we stay mum' Would you let them do it'” he asked the crowd that had poured in from neighbouring villages to the meeting ground, 4 km from the site of the Tata small- car project in Singur and about 50 km from Calcutta.
Several farmers came wearing paper badges proclaiming that they had willingly handed over land for the factory. Bhattacharjee thanked them for their support.
Although he did not spell out a rehabilitation package for those who have given up their plots, Bhattacharjee said it was his government’s “moral responsibility” to ensure that such farmers find new livelihoods and their incomes are higher than what they used to earn from their produce. In Calcutta, home secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy said prohibitory orders might be imposed again in Singur if the administration felt the need.
Bike plant kick-start
Barely an hour after the Haripal rally, Bhattacharjee opened Bengal’s first two-wheeler plant in Chinsurah, 15 km away.
“It is a momentous occasion as Bengal’s first two-wheeler plant has been set up by a Bengali entrepreneur with an investment of Rs 300 crore in association with Guangzhou Motors, China,” he said. “In the first phase, the company will employ 1,000 people and 70 per cent would be from Hooghly district.”
Global Automobiles, a joint venture between its parent group Xenitis and the Chinese company, will start production at the plant from March 1.
“We will build all our future factories in Bengal in this very district,” said Shantanu Ghosh, the chairman of Xenitis Group.
In Howrah district next door, another two-wheeler project — Arjun motorbikes — co-promoted by the Indonesia-based Salim Group will become operational by the end of 2008.
“Howrah and Hooghly used to be known as the Sheffield of India for their expertise in engineering. In the course of time, we had lost this status.... We are on our way to regain this past glory,” said industry minister Nirupam Sen.