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Reiterating her stand on forcible land acquisition, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said here on Thursday that the State government did not support the policy of acquiring acres of land for special economic zones or big industry.
Delivering the valedictory address at the two-day Bengal Global Business Summit, Ms. Banerjee assured the business community of her “committed cooperation” in an effort to put the State on the growth track, but said her administration would not forcibly acquire land. “Land is not a problem. If you take land forcibly, you may be able to set up the industry. But it is a wrong policy. If you want to capture the land forcibly, there will be scuffle and industry will not be successful,” said the Chief Minister, whose anti-acquisition campaign when in the Opposition led to a situation in 2007 when Tata Motors and Indonesia’s Salim Group left the State because of unrest at the project sites.
“West Bengal has the highest population density in the country and land acquisition has to be done very carefully here,” said a senior Trinamool leader, who backed his party chief. A section of Trinamool leaders feels that handing land over to industry without addressing farmers’ concerns would strengthen the opposition.
At the same time, Ms. Banerjee spoke of her commitment to industry in the State, which failed to attract significant private investment during her tenure. “It is better to [go in for] negotiation [to acquire land]. You [industry] purchase the land; we give you the permission,” she said adding that the Trinamool was not against land acquisition. “We only have purchased and cleared 7,000 acres of land … now we have a land bank in place, a cheap and skilled workforce and I personally promise all kinds of cooperation to the industry captains to do away with the road blocks in Bengal,” she said.
The business community’s reaction is mixed. While industry leaders are still apprehensive about the Trinamool’s “understanding of land acquisition”, many called the summit a successful one. “In about a year and a half, Ms. Banerjee will have to face the election and while she needs to protect the interests of farmers, she needs to boost investment. She made it clear at this summit,” a medium-enterprise paint manufacturer said.
Ms. Banerjee announced a potential investment of Rs. 2.43 lakh crore. However, many of these investments have not yet got approval from the respective boards of private companies and public sector units.
From : The Hindu