Kolkata: In a bid to cool local protests, the West Bengal government will give shops to farmers who have lost land to Tata Motors Ltd’s small car factory in Singur in Hooghly district.
“The aim is to create a source of regular income for the displaced farmers,” said a government official familiar with the government’s plan who requested anonymity.
The West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, or WBIDC, which acquired 1,006 acres for the car factory, set aside 46 acres for a budget hotel and a commercial complex outside the walls of the facility.
Troublespot: The Tata Motors car factory in Singur, West Bengal. Photograph: Indranil Bhoumik / Mint
“For the past three months, we have been thinking of developing this plot,” said Subrata Gupta, managing director of WBIDC. “The problem is, we need to build a separate approach road to it. Architects are working on it and we are hopeful that they will soon find a solution.”
The state government is also exploring other sites in the vicinity of the factory where commercial complexes could be developed. It has identified two plots so far—3.5 acres adjacent to the project and 10 acres a few kilometres away.
Hooghly district magistrate Neelam Meena declined to comment, but her deputy, Iftadul Islam, confirmed that the government was trying to identify more land that could be developed for commercial use.
Two years ago, the state government had paid Rs13-17 lakh an acre to acquire the land. It now admits farmers should have been offered a better deal. Land prices in Singur have shot up since Tata Motors started construction of the factory, and an acre now costs around Rs50 lakh.
According to the Trinamool Congress, West Bengal’s principal opposition party, the government had forcibly acquired close to 400 acres, displacing some 1,500 families. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee wants the government to return 400 acres. Though the government says returning the land is not possible, it is trying to find other options to compensate the disgruntled farmers.
Mint had reported on 6 August that the state government was willing to pay more to farmers, but the Trinamool Congress says it won’t budge from its demand for the land’s return.
Once the options have been firmed up, the government would try to engage Banerjee in a dialogue. She has already said she was willing to talk to Tata Motors. The company, too, said it wasn’t averse to the idea. However, the Trinamool Congress continues to threaten it will intensify its campaign against land acquisition in Singur from 24 August.