Kolkata: Undeterred by ongoing protests over farmland seizure in Singur, the West Bengal government has initiated the process of land acquisition for four proposed steel plants in the state, commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen said in an interview.
On course: State commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen. Photograph: Indranil Bhoumik / Mint
Though he admitted that the uncertainty over Tata Motors Ltd’s small car factory in Singur had cost the state credibility with potential investors, Sen insisted companies that had committed to invest in West Bengal weren’t pulling out. The government, Sen added, had already issued notifications for acquisition of land for four steel mills to be set up by JSW Steel Ltd, Bhusan Steel and Strips Ltd, Kalyani Steels Ltd and the Videocon group. The state is looking to acquire some 15,000 acres for the four projects.
“It will be an exaggeration if I say no, nothing would be affected. The agitation and media campaign are definitely causing a negative impact, but still (these) projects are on and not trailing schedule,” said Sen.
But, following the unrest in Nandigram, where the state government had proposed to build a special economic zone, or SEZ, the state had decided to accept the Centre’s recommendations on land acquisition. Sen said his government would not acquire more than 30% of the land required by an SEZ and only after the developer has bought 70% on his own. Asked when the Singur deadlock might be broken, Sen said his government was going to wait out Trinamool Congress — West Bengal’s principal opposition party — and its leader Mamata Banerjee attempts to gain political mileage from the protests and then launch a campaign to tell farmers what the state had planned for them.
“We have made elaborate arrangements to protect marginal and poor farmers, who have lost everything. We are looking at ways to augment their income through self-employment and by forming self-help groups,” said Sen, adding that the government was seriously considering making poor farmers owners of small kiosks in a commercial complex that would be built near Tata Motors’ small car factory.