On land,Bengal minister clips industry wings

In a snub to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee,Minister for Land and Land Reforms Abdur Rezzaq Mollah has curbed the freedom of choice for industrialists.

Written by Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay | Kolkata | Published:July 11, 2009 2:45 am

In a snub to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee,Minister for Land and Land Reforms Abdur Rezzaq Mollah has curbed the freedom of choice for industrialists.

“Investors cannot choose land at will the way they did in Singur,” Mollah declared in Assembly in reply to the debate on the budget of land and land reforms that was passed on Friday. “They will have to set up industry only at the sites earmarked. If they are satisfied it is fine,otherwise we will show them the door.”

He was referring to the preparation of land use map by the Land Use Board under his department.

The board came under the purview of his ministry following the CPM’s debacle in the Lok Sabha Elections. The announcement to that effect was made by the chief minister in the very first cabinet meet after the polls.

“We are making an extensive map earmarking land for industry and agriculture,” said Mollah,who was a great votary against fast acquisition of land for agriculture and in 2006 even resigned from the cabinet on this issue. “It will take five to six years to prepare the map for the whole state. So initially,we have chosen 74 blocks from six districts — Purulia,Bankura,West Midnapore,part of Burdwan and part of Hooghly.”

Neither Bhattacharjee nor Nirupam Sen,the Minister for Commerce and Industries,who had gone to Delhi to attend a party central committee meeting,were available for comment.

Mollah said his department was mulling the enactment of a law in the model of Maharashtra,which will prevent cultivable land from being sold to a non-farmer. “We will try to enact the law as soon as possible,” the minister said. And he made it clear that he was determined to protect the interests of the farmer. “I am the minister for land and my primary job is to protect the interests of farmers. My father used to take most care of the cow that became old,” he said while wrapping up his speech.

Along with some members of the treasury bench,Leader of the Opposition Partha Chatterjee tapped the desk to show appreciation for Mollah’s speech,which was punctuated with digs at his own party.

The minister said many party offices have come up on the land owned by the government. “There are party offices of the CPM as well of the Trinamool Congress. We have more offices than you have because we have been in power longer than you are,” he said.

Regarding the allegation of harassment of the public by employees of his department,the minister said: “There are 40,000 employees in my department and for corruption charges,proceedings were launched against 45 by June 23. Of them,25 have been punished. But this is only the tip of the iceberg.”

He said his department had acquired 183 acres of land for railways this year and another 1,013 acres are in the pipeline. “I have told my department that railways and national highways have the top priority and there should not be any delay there,” Mollah said.

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