Kolkata: Members of West Bengal’s ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM-led government on Monday claimed Tata Motors Ltd’s Nano project at Singur was scuttled by the company’s rivals Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and Bajaj Auto Ltd, and that the state government would soon announce a new project, involving a large automobile firm, on the same plot of land where the Tata factory was to come up.
Replying to a question on the fate of the 997 acre plot, CPM member of Parliament and central committee member Shyamal Chakrabarty said: “The land cannot be kept idle. Neither can it be returned... Of course, Mamata Banerjee and Bajaj and Suzuki, who were behind her, would love to auction the land and return (it) to the farmers. The government has no such intention.”
While Bajaj Auto chairman Rahul Bajaj said the allegation was “false” and “not correct”, executives at Maruti Suzuki could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday evening.
On 3 October, Tata Motors announced that it would no longer be building a factory to produce its small car, Tata Nano, in Singur. The company had decided to house the plant in West Bengal more than two years ago. The state government acquired land for the project from farmers, some of whom were unwilling to part with their source of livelihood. Matters came to a head in August when Banerjee, the leader of CPM rival Trinamool Congress, laun-ched a protest near the factory that was almost complete.
When talks between the government, the company and Banerjee didn’t end the impasse, Tata Motors pulled out. On 7 October, it said the factory would come up in Sanand in Gujarat instead.
According to Indian law, land acquired for a particular project under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, cannot be returned to the owners if the project is abandoned. It has to be auctioned and the highest bidder has the option of returning it to the land owners.
Chakrabarty’s comments came on the sidelines of the second day of the CPM’s central committee meeting. The committee approved efforts by the state government to attract investment and asked chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and commerce and industry minister Nirupam Sen to look for an alternative investor who would set up a manufacturing facility at Singur. Meanwhile, Subhas Chakrabarty, the state’s transport minister, said on Monday at Writers’ Building, the seat of the West Bengal government, that the state government is all set to finalize a memorandum of understanding with a big automobile company for the same plot at Singur, where the Tata Motors factory was being built.
The legalities of this process weren’t immediately clear.