All Special Economic Zones including the one in Nadigram have been put on hold, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said on Friday.
The announcement came in the midst of rising discontent and spreading violence in Bengal on the issue of acquisition of land for industries in the state and particularly in Nandigram.
Karat said the Union group-of-ministers was discussing the modalities of the laws to govern SEZs. "When they finalise them, we will talk to the Centre. Till then all SEZs, including the one in Nandigram, have been kept in abeyance. We will discuss the issue during our next politburo meeting on February 17 and 18," Karat said.
The CPI(M) general secretary flew in from Delhi during the day to attend the state secretariat meeting of the party, which discussed spiraling violence over the land acquisition issue and also the differences between the CPI(M) on the one hand and the CPI, RSP and the Forward Bloc on the other over the government's proposed relaxation of land ceiling laws.
Insiders explained that Karat's decision to hold fresh discussions on the SEZ issue in the politburo was an indication of the party's acceptance that all was not well with the industrialisation model in Bengal.
After the central committee meeting in Kolkata last month, Karat had given a clean chit to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's land acquisition drive and had said that all issues relating to industrialisation in Bengal would be decided by the state committee of the CPI(M). No further discussion was necessary either in the central committee or the politburo because the state government was on the right track, he had said.
The chief minister, who emerged from the secretariat meeting with a visibly disturbed look, went on the back foot and said that in the future, he would hold discussions with the Opposition before embarking on any land acquisition drive in the state.
"I am ready to discuss with the Opposition all future land acquisition projects including Nandigram. Surely I will discuss," the chief minister said in a press conference called by him after the party's secretariat meeting. "The work (of land acquisition) is yet to start. It will have to begin," he said.
The chief minister also admitted for the first time, though in a round about way, that all farmers of Singur did not willingly hand over land for the Tata Motors' small car project in Singur. "Some farmers have not accepted their cheques. Let them talk to the district magistrate and the director of industries if they have any problem," he said.
Veteran CPI(M) leader Jyoti Basu, who, too, attended the secretariat meeting of the party, kept open the issue of relaxing laws on land ceiling. When asked to comment on the opposition expressed by the CPI, RSP and the Forward Bloc, Basu said, "There are differences among the Left Front constituents. Bilateral talks will be held with them. After the talks it will be decided whether the Bill will be amended or totally scrapped." The issue of differences among the Front partners would be discussed in the politburo meeting of the party, he said.
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