In a second setback of its kind, after the CPI(M) politburo put on hold the pet SEZ projects of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the Forward Bloc on Monday turned down the chief minister's plea that land ceiling be relaxed in Bengal to make way for industries and infrastructure.
Though Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee expressed hope after the meeting that the deadlock over the issue of relaxation of land ceiling would be resolved and Land Reforms Minister Abdur Rezzak Molla observed, "The ice is the Bloc refused to buy the CPI(M)'s argument and demanded a detailed written explanation first."
In the bipartite meeting, the chief minister explained that under the existing land ceiling law could be relaxed only for mills, factories and tea gardens in the state.
"The new industries including IT, Bio-tech and even private initiatives in infrastructure building need to be brought under relaxation," the chief minister argued.
An unfazed Forward Bloc, however, stuck to its gun and said that the new industries could well come up and expand within the existing land ceiling limit. With the meeting remaining inconclusive, the two parties decided to put their views in writing and meet again. Front chairman Biman Bose asked Molla to prepare a detailed list of the industries that the CPI(M) wanted to bring within the purview of relaxation of land ceiling.
In the first of the series of bipartite meetings that the CPI(M) is scheduled to hold with its Left Front allies this week, the Bloc also opposed FDI in the retail sector and also entry of Ambanis in the agricultural marketing. The chief minister, however, assured that his government had taken no final decision on the Ambanis.
The CPI(M) had planned to bring in the relaxation in the current session of the state assembly beginning next month particularly for the Salim Group's expressway project connecting Haldia and Barasat and for the five townships, a biotech park and a health city along the way.
CPI(M) insiders said that if the Front allies could effectively block the expressway by preventing relaxation of land ceiling and also shift the proposed multi-product SEZ from Nandigram, much of Bengal's edge in attracting investment could be permanently lost.
The CPI(M) will hold similar meetings with the CPI and the RSP on Wednesday and Thursday. Both the parties have strongly opposed the government's bid to relax land ceiling and to set up SEZ in Nandigram.
Faced with an expanding resistance movement in the state against land acquisition, the CPI(M) politburo on Sunday had put on hold setting up all SEZs in Bengal and had announced that the one to be set up in Nandigram would be shifted to some other area if the local people did not want it there.