No SEZ rollback: Buddha

Kolkata, Mar 28 | Updated: Mar 29 2007, 07:20am hrs
Making his first public appearance after the police firing at Nandigram on March 14, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was back in form, stressing that there was no question of going back on plans for a chemical hub, the issue that had aroused violent opposition at Nandigram.

At the same time, Bhattacharjee said the hub would not come up at Nandigram, but at an alternative location, as he sought to explain that his vision of industrialisation would not lead to jobless growth as globalisation has done, according to its critics.

"Today, I spoke to Delhi. I have told them to let us know the latest position since we have a pact with Indian Oil Corp [for the chemical hub]," Bhattacharjee told the students and youth wing of the CPI(M).

"We want the chemical hub," he stressed. Once Delhi gives the final picture, "we will locate an alternative within seven days," he told the crowd of around 10,000 at an indoor stadium.

The state had planned to acquire 10,000 acres in the area for a special economic zone (SEZ) that would be part of a chemical hub cleared by the Union government.

Bhattacharjee said the state government had wanted the chemical hub to come up at Nandigram, and to build a bridge over the River Haldi to connect the area with Haldia.

"We have one Haldia. We wanted to build another Haldia," he said, referring to the port town that is home to major petrochemical-based plants of Japan's Mitsubishi Chemical Corp, Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd and Indian Oil Corp, apart from other industries.

"But the people of Nandigram did not accept our plans," Bhattacharjee said. "At first, we had decided that the SEZ would not come up if the people there do not want it. Now, the government has decided not to build the SEZ at Nandigram."

Bhattacharjee said everybody knows the incident of March 14. He stressed that he does not want bloodshed.

"I, on behalf of the government, accept responsibility for what happened," Bhattacharjee said.

He said, "To me, what matters is that human beings died. Their party affiliation is not important."

He urged the opposition parties to remember that the Leftists are also human beings. "Do not kill them," he said, in reference to the deaths of several CPI(M) workers at the hands of those opposed to the SEZ at Nandigram.

Without naming any opposition leader or party, Bhattacharjee used the platform to lash out at those opposed to his industrialisation vision.

"Please do not ruin the state," he said. "Your actions are sending the wrong signals to the rest of the country and the world."

Bhattacharjee said he and his team had gone to the other parts of India as well as to other countries to tell people that West Bengal needs investments.

"Today, the state has turned around and has created an investment climate.

In this year alone, we have investment proposals for Rs 78,000 crore," the chief minister said.

Because of the government's drive, he said, the youth are again optimistic about getting jobs.

"Should we not go forward The Opposition wants us to halt, but I say West Bengal will overcome all hurdles to become No. 1 in industry," Bhattacharjee said, once again to loud clapping.