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MAKING AMENDS: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee distributing land ownership deeds to landless farmers in Nandigram, East Midnapur in West Bengal on Tuesday. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee appealed to Opposition parties in Nandigram on Tuesday "to join hands [with the State Government] and work together for development in Nandigram which is only possible if there is peace' but cautioned against allowing Maoists to re-enter as they were bent on fomenting fresh unrest in the area. "I believe peace will gradually return but we must be cautious against the Maoists who have now fled from re-entering Nandigram. We have information that they are training in areas like Jharkhand and planning to return. They should not be allowed in under any circumstances. They are an army of killers,' Mr Bhattacharjee said. He was speaking on the occasion of the handing over of pattas [land ownership deeds] in the Nandigram area to landless peasants who included those from the scheduled castes and tribes and the Muslim community. Admitting that his government had failed to convince the people of Nandigram the need for setting up industries in the area "which is our misfortune' and referring to the violence spreading over 11 months last year, the Chief Minister said: "I have not come here to blame any party but to tell all including [supporters of] both the Communist Party of India [Marxist] and the Trinamool Congress to work towards peace and development. Time has come to forget what had happened over the past year,' he said. It was his second visit to Nandigram since hostilities between the BUPC and the CPI(M) ceased in November 2007. There has been sporadic violence over the past two days and security arrangements were elaborate in view of the Chief Minister's visit. "We have learnt our lesson [from the Nandigram experience] and industries will only be set up where the local people are agreeable,' Mr. Bhattacharjee said, denying reports attributed to the Trinamool Congress-led Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh [Resistance against Eviction from Land] Committee (BUPC) that the State Government will acquire land from peasants in Nandigram once the rural polls scheduled for May are over. "That will never happen,' he asserted. "We have made a mistake and will never go in for any acquisition of land in Nandigram. The chemical hub that was to have been set up here will come up at Nayachar instead and we hope will provide job opportunities even to those from here,' the Chief Minister said. "There can be no development in the State without setting up new industries. But we are also aware of taking the responsibility of those whose lands need to be acquired for the purpose. They will be provided jobs and other alternative means of earning a livelihood. Factories cannot come up with people shedding tears,' Mr Bhattacharjee said. Listing his plans for the Nandigram area, the Chief Minister said while agricultural development will be given priority, assistance will be provided to boost local trade and improve educational facilities. "The local panchayats have not been able to function during the past months of violence, development work has been held up and the people have suffered. Time has now come to work, work and work', Mr Bhattacharjee said.

Over seven lakh bighas of Asom land have been encroached by four neighouring States

Even as the Opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh, especially the BJP and the Samajwadi Party (SP) continue to rally against Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati's pet project, the Ganga Expressway, the state government remains unmoved in its bid to go ahead with the project. The Opposition's scathing attack on the BSP government for allegedly giving undue benefits to the contractor of the project, JP Industries, at the cost of the farmers, as well as rendering thousands of hectares of fertile land into concrete waste are being seen by the government as a ":absolutely baseless and superfluous':. An official in the industries department said, according to the concept paper prepared by the irrigation department and an estimation of state public works department, embankments to be built along the proposed Ganga Expressway will save around 3.40-lakh hectare land from floods. ":It is expected that this 3.40-lakh hectare of land, which is single crop yielding due to floods at present, will be converted to multi-crop fertile land after the completion of the expressway and embankments. Hence, thousands of farmers will be able to reap benefits of at least double crop,': the official said. The proposed 1,047-km, access-controlled, 8-lane expresway from Ballia to Greater Noida is to be 155 metre wide, including the width of the embankments and service roads. According to the government records, the proposed land-parcels to be given to developer for development, which is around 12,281 hectare, largely includes infertile and barren land.

Acquisition of land for developing special economic zones (SEZs) is a major cause for concern, says the Economic Survey for 2007-08, which was released yesterday by Finance Minister P Chidambaram. The Finance Ministry presents the Economic Survey in Parliament every year, just before the Union Budget. It is the ministry's view on the economic development of the country in the year gone by, and the prospects for the year ahead. The survey has also expressed "apprehension' about the possible "misuse of the (SEZ) scheme and relocation of existing industries into SEZs'. It says the Board of Approval (BoA) headed by Commerce Secretary G K Pillai, which approves SEZ proposals, would not give a go-ahead to SEZs that "have carried out or propose to carry out compulsory acquisition of land

The unions of public sector units are opposed to entrusting land belonging to AP Steel Factory to private agencies for developing it. The land is located in Paloncha town and several private companies vied for it. It is valued at over Rs 100 crore. The workers union of Sponge Iron India Limited has been demanding that the government allocate the land for the expansion of Sponge Iron India Limited. Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation acquired the land in survey numbers 442, 443, 444 in Paloncha to set up a steel factory when Jalagam Vengala Rao was the chief minister. SIIL Officers Union leader K. Gopi Krishna said that the Central government is making efforts to merge the SIIL with National Mineral Development Corporation. He said additional land would be needed for the expansion of SIIL after merging it with NMDC. "Thousands of jobs would be created with the expansion,' he said. SIIL has sent proposals for setting up another sponge iron unit with a capacity of two lakh tonnes at a cost of Rs 320 crore, a captive power plant with a capacity of 45mw, induction furnace and casting machine to the government for ratification. SIIL was incurring losses till 2002 and has been earning profits for the last four years. Because of the development, NMDC planned to merge it and expand it. The increasing demand for sponge iron is also one of the reasons for the expansion of SIIL. SIIL Supervisors Association president D. Chennamallu said, "The workers wanted to shape Paloncha into a steel town by expanding SIIL.' He said the unions would oppose any gesture of handing over the land to real estate companies. Indian National Trade Union Congress leader Shaik Jaleel said the unions decided to submit a memorandum on the issue to the Chief Minister soon in Hyderabad. "The SIIL would get a boost if the land is given for expansion,' he said.

About 8,000 ha in the restricted area along the India-Pakistan border has been sold to unknown buyers from across the country in the past five years. The bought land in Barmer and Jaisalmer districts belongs to the residents of the area and the Border Security Force. The deals were struck through agents in Jaisalmer and the buyers are listed from Delhi and Tamil Nadu, among other places. But their addresses and names are incomplete.

Dressed in traditional attire and accompanied by musicians beating drums, a large number of senior Delhi Congress leaders met party president Sonia Gandhi at her 10 Janpath residence here on Wednesday to thank her for enhancing the compensation payable to farmers on acquisition of their land from Rs.25 lakh per acre to Rs.75 lakh per acre. Led by Outer Delhi MP Sajjan Kumar, the delegation also lauded the permission granted to farmers -- through the new Master Plan for Delhi-2021

State secretary of Communist Party of India (CPI) D. Pandian has urged the State government to drop any scheme that involved acquisition of land and demolition of houses. Speaking at a meeting at Sholinganallur on Wednesday, he said that the Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB) had proposed the demolition of many houses constructed on

Affidavit says HMT not legally bound to get sanction HMT Limited is legally entitled to deal with its 100 acres of land at Kalamassery in Ernakulam and the assignment of 70 acres of the land to a Mumbai-based company would not be invalid or illegal either for want of consent from the government or for non-utilisation of the land for industrial purpose, according to an affidavit filed by the State government before the Kerala High Court. The affidavit was filed before the court on Tuesday in response to a writ petition seeking a CBI [Central Bureau of Investigation] probe into the HMT land deal and to resume the 100 acres in HMT's possession. The affidavit contended that the 70 acres sold by HMT formed part of the 100 acres of land for which permanent exemption had been granted by the government under Section 81(1) (a) of the Kerala Land Reforms Act. As such, HMT was not legally bound to obtain sanction or consent from the State government before selling the land. The allegation that Industries Minister Elamaram Karim had supported the sale of land at a meeting convened on June 6, 2007 was absolutely incorrect, the affidavit said. The meeting was convened to sort out a labour problem which had been pending for long in HMT. Mr. Karim had been trying his best, in his capacity as Minister, to augment the development of industries in the State and to see that infrastructure facilities were provided for entrepreneurs. All actions taken by the Minister in this regard were in compliance with the guidelines prescribed in the industrial and commercial policy of 2007. For creating a very good industrial climate and sending out a message that the situation in the State was very conducive for investment, the Minster had initiated steps for sorting out the labour problem in the company. The affidavit said the 70 acres sold by HMT did not come within the area of land ordered to be surrendered by HMT as per an order of the Kanayannur taluk land board. The affidavit said that HMT had absolute right, title and ownership of the land. HMT was fully competent to transfer the 100 acres or part of it to any person without the permission of the government. Therefore, the sale was perfectly in accordance with the law.

In a major breakthrough, the district administration has solved a long-pending land acquisition problem plaguing the public sector Neyveli Lignite Corporation. Collector Rajendra Ratnoo has achieved this feat here today at a daylong marathon tripartite meeting, involving revenue officials, NLC management and people affected by the land acquisition. As per the agreement, the NLC management has come forward to distribute Rs 5 lakh per acre of land as compensation to the affected people. People in the peripheral villages were protesting against the NLC move to acquire land in the region where NLC had been distributing a compensation of Rs 80,000 and above for an acre. They wanted the NLC to hike the compensation as land value had increased significantly. Residents had demanded that the State Government intervene and had staged agitations on sever al occasions. Many rounds of talks between the NLC management, local residents and district administration were conducted but in vain. The president of the Federation of Cuddalore District Farmers Associations V Venkatapathi and secretary Karmangudi S Venkatesan have expressed deep gratitude to the district administration for solving the vexed issue pending for over a decade. Among others DRO Natarajan, 18 representatives from 14 peripheral villages and NLC officials including DGM (Land Acquistion) Palani have participated. TRADE UNION POLL:The stage has been set for a major battle among trade unions in the public sector Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) on Feb 28.

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