The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lal salaam to industry

Calcutta, Sept. 16: Prakash Karat is far removed from Bankura to hear cries for rice. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, too, is not within earshot of Salboni.

But compulsions of governance sometimes act as a hearing aid, helping the chief minister catch in Calcutta something industrialist Sajjan Jindal could not comprehend in Salboni, the West Midnapore site for a steel plant.

Lal salaam,” Bhattacharjee told Jindal when the industrialist, on his return from the site today, asked the chief minister what the “nice people — excited and enthusiastic” — were shouting.

“They were shouting lal salaam. He (Jindal) could not follow it. So I translated it for him,’’ Bhattacharjee said at the Calcutta Information Centre on the Nandan premises.

Jindal had gone to the site in the morning. The chief minister was presumably briefed by officials so that he could plug the gaps in communication, such as the form of greeting associated more with communists than corporate chiefs.

It was not clear whether the cheerleaders were CPM supporters also.

Jindal, who is planning a 3-million-tonne plant in Salboni initially, shared Bhattacharjee’s optimism, saying: “I asked local residents if there is any problem. They said no and urged me to expedite the work.’’

Salboni is an industrialisation initiative Bhattacharjee could push through because most of the land involved is with the government. Besides, the land being bought directly by the Jindals is largely single crop.

The Sunday meeting also reflects the urgency with which the chief minister is pursuing his priorities ahead of possible early general elections triggered by the nuclear standoff.

The foundation stone for the Salboni project would be laid in November.

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