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"A tragedy for eastern region"

Monday 18 December 2006

Special Correspondent

If Singur project is shifted: Ramesh

Need to take a larger view on Singur project Quality of opposition is important as quality of governance

KOLKATA: It will be a ``grave tragedy’’ not just for West Bengal but for the larger process of re-industrialisation in eastern India if the ``Singur project is shifted to some other State,’’ Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh told The Hindu on Sunday.

On the controversy being stirred up by the Opposition parties in West Bengal over the site selected for the project, Mr. Ramesh said he had asked Managing Director of Tata Motors Ravi Kant at a chance meeting two days ago whether ``they could not find any barren land’’ for the project. He was told that all the six sites that had been looked at as possible locations ``involve some sort of agricultural activity.’’

Regarding the opposition to the plant from certain political quarters, Mr. Ramesh said over the telephone from New Delhi that though he sensed that ``they [Tata Motors management] were somewhat bewildered by the protests" there was nothing to suggest ``any wavering [on the part of Tata Motors] over the Singur project.’’ ``They seem to be committed to West Bengal as well as to bringing out the first car from their factory in 2008.’’

The hunger strike by Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee in protest against alleged forcible acquisition of farmland for the project entered its 14th day. Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee renewed his appeal to her to call off the strike.

``Singur is a major watershed in the industrialisation of the eastern and north eastern region of the country,’’ Mr. Ramesh emphasised. ``There is so much at stake here... There are at least 10 other States vying for this kind of investment. They [Tata Motors] still have many options,’’ he added.

Issues related to compensation for those whose land have been given away for the Singur project and their rehabilitation ``can all be settled’’ but ``one need take a larger view on what the Singur project could mean to the entire eastern region of the country.’’ ``If the project is shifted to some other State in the south or the west India would not lose but the east and northeast would be affected gravely. Growth of economic activity in Kolkata and West Bengal has a multiple impact on the eastern and north-eastern region of the country,’’ Mr. Ramesh said.

On Ms. Banerjee’s hunger strike, Mr. Ramesh said: ``She has made her point in a democratic way. I think there are other ways of dealing with the issue rather than fast unto death... .The quality of an Opposition is as important as the quality of governance and there is a need to ensure that the general momentum of [economic] growth is not affected.’’

See online : The Hindu

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