Amidst pressure from his Left Front allies and rapid spread of farmers' resistance struggle against his land acquisition drive, Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee staged a climb down on Thursday and said he would not set up any Special Economic Zone in the state "if the Left parties so desired."
With violence once again beginning to erupt in Singur after a lull of about three weeks, the chief minister also said during a Left Front meeting that he would call off his public meeting at Singur scheduled for February 15.
"I will do nothing in violation of what our four Left parties decide on the SEZ. If necessary, I will step back," Bhattacharjee told CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc leaders after they informed that their parties were against the very concept of SEZ as vehicles of growth.
The coordination committee of the four Left parties in Delhi had earlier suggested sweeping amendments to the Centre's formula of SEZ.
But later, the central committees of the CPI, RSP and the Forward Bloc separately adopted resolutions against the concept of SEZ.
They would formally inform the CPI (M) of their decision in the next Left coordination committee meeting, the leaders said.
During the Left Front meeting, the three allies of the CPI (M) also told the chief minister that they were opposed to his idea of relaxing land ceiling in the state for the purpose of industrialisation.
Though the chief minister and CPI (M)'s land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah argued that amendment to the West Bengal Land Reforms Act to relax the ceiling had become necessary, particularly for the Salim Group projects, the CPI, RSP and the Forward Bloc bluntly told them they would under no circumstances accept the relaxation, which they felt, would bring back zamindari system.
The stinging criticism of the three CPI (M) allies against the government's handling of the Singur and Nandigram issues also forced the chief minister to admit that the local administration had goofed up particularly in Nandigram.
"Haldia Development Authority failed to understand the situation. They know nothing. Yet they issued a notification that 27 mouzas would be acquired in Nandigram.
Their mistake sparked off the trouble," the chief minister said. "How can I acquire areas where there are temples, mosques and houses? What is the point in development if the people don't support it? After all development is for the people," he said.
Giving an indication that he was now planning to go slow on the land acquisition move, the chief minister said that his government would prepare a land bank and a land map of the state within two weeks.
"Green colours in the map will indicate agricultural areas in the state. I will not acquire land in this zone. Red will mark the municipalities and towns.
Only the grey zones will be earmarked for industries and infrastructure," the chief minister explained.
Justifying his decision to re-impose section 144 in Singur since "Naxalites are creating trouble," the chief minister, however, said that he would call off his public meeting there. "When I have not allowed the Opposition to hold rallies there, how can I hold a meeting myself?" he said.
The chief minister, however, said he would visit Khejuri on February 11 as scheduled to "distribute several thousand acres" of vest land to landless farmers. The land reforms minister, however, corrected him and said that he would have to distribute only 800 acres of land.