CM applies 'blunder' balm

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By OUR BUREAU in Calcutta
  • Published 9.01.07

"I have asked the district magistrate to tear it (the notice) to pieces and keep quiet for some time.
I am starting a political process
to defuse the tension."

— Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee

Calcutta, Jan. 9: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today conceded that “the government has committed a blunder by issuing a notice on land acquisition in Nandigram” and ordered that the paper be “torn to pieces”.

The candid comments are being seen as not only an attempt to calm the raging tempers in Nandigram and add a humane touch to the industrialisation process but also a message to the CPM that had launched a counter-attack in the area.

“I have asked the district magistrate to tear it (the notice) to pieces and keep quiet for some time. I am starting a political process to defuse the tension and there will be no land acquisition until details are worked out and a land map prepared after taking everybody into confidence,” Bhattacharjee said.

“We had no preparation and total confusion prevailed among the villagers over the notice.”

The “notice” the chief minister referred to was issued by the Haldia Development Authority, headed by local strongman and CPM MP Lakshman Seth.

The one-page notice, issued to the block development officer of Nandigram, does not specifically mention the word “acquisition” but it identifies the moujas shortlisted for a special economic zone by the Salim Group.

The notice triggered last week’s clashes followed by Sunday’s gun battle in which six people were killed.

Bhattacharjee spoke out after East Midnapore district magistrate Anup Agarwal met chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb and submitted a report.

The chief minister said he would visit Nandigram to assess the situation. “But the date has not yet been fixed.” The chief minister said he had already met a Congress delegation at Writers’ Buildings this afternoon.

Asked who was responsible for the mess, Bhattacharjee said: “No one else but us. It was our fault.”

The chief minister made it clear that the government would not do anything in haste. “We will have to initiate a dialogue at the grassroots level involving every villager, every panchayat samiti and all block-level committees. We shall proceed only after preparing a total land map in consultation with everybody. For this, the process may be delayed for some time, may be for six months,” he said.

The villagers have to be told what a chemical hub is. “Of the eight states in the country, Bengal has become a front-runner for bagging the chemical hub at Haldia and its promoter is the Salim Group.

“For such a thing to come up, we will have to proceed in a very calculated manner so that farmers’ interest is protected. A better rehabilitation package has to be worked out,” Bhattacharjee said.

He iterated that “religious places, dwelling places and educational institutions will not be touched”.

The chief minister, however, said the government would have to carry on the industrialisation drive. Otherwise, “Bengal will go backward”.

In Nandigram, a leader of those opposed to the land acquisition “welcomed” the chief minister’s announcement, but “only if he said it in right earnest”.

“It is our victory, it is a victory for the people of Nandigram,” Abu Taher of the Trinamul Congress said.

The sub-divisional officer of Haldia held an all-party meeting today where all points covered at a peace meeting yesterday were ratified.

The Opposition parties allowed the police to move into the interior villages on the condition that there would not be any large-scale arrests or harassment. They also agreed to cooperate with the administration in repairing the dug-up roads but Trinamul sought a day’s time to brief the villagers.

The police set up three camps outside the villages where trouble had broken out on Sunday. Political parties have also agreed to shift their camps.