No quick fixes in Singur even as Tatas seek clarity on issues again

No quick fixes in Singur even as Tatas seek clarity on issues again
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First Published: Tue, Sep 09 2008. 10 59 PM IST

First round: Members of the committee to assess land availability at their first meeting in Kolkata on Tuesday. The committee has a week to submit its report to the West Bengal government. Ashok Bhaum
First round: Members of the committee to assess land availability at their first meeting in Kolkata on Tuesday. The committee has a week to submit its report to the West Bengal government. Ashok Bhaum
Updated: Wed, Sep 10 2008. 10 13 AM IST
Kolkata: Talks between West Bengal government and the Trinamool Congress party over the land at Tata Motors Ltd’s small car factory in Singur seem to be headed for a deadlock again.
The Mamata Banerjee-led opposition party that has been spearheading the protest over land acquisition in Singur said on Tuesday that the state government has to return 300 acres from within the factory complex to farmers.
Besides the car factory, the 997 acre area includes land to set up ancillary units, which Tata Motors has said is integral to its plan to make its Rs1 lakh Nano car slated for launch next month. The company stopped work at the site last week and said it is scouting for alternative locations.
First round: Members of the committee to assess land availability at their first meeting in Kolkata on Tuesday. The committee has a week to submit its report to the West Bengal government. Ashok Bhaumik/PTI
State governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi on Sunday brokered a deal between the government and protestors that said some land would be given back to farmers, without specifying details.
Banerjee said on Tuesday the agreement between the government and her party was inviolable. “As per the agreement, maximum land has to be returned from the project area. No one can violate this agreement,” she said.
Meanwhile, the government said Tata Motors had on Tuesday again written to it saying that it must not do anything to disturb the “integrated nature of auto cluster” comprising the main factory and the so-called vendor park, or the space allotted to component makers.
In a letter addressed to state commerce and industry minister Nirupam Sen, Tata Motors’ managing director Ravi Kant said, “We would like to be clearly told about those future agreements and understandings which will go against our arrangement and amount to not honouring the commitments.”
The state government has formed a four-member committee chaired by Trinamool Congress legislator Rabindranath Bhattacharya to assess availability of land inside and around the factory. The committee has a week to submit its report to the government.
The committee includes Subrata Gupta, managing director of West Bengal Industrial Development Corp., which acquired land for Tata Motors, Neelam Meena, district magistrate of Hooghly, where Singur is located, and Becharam Manna, an activist close to the Trinamool Congress.
The committee met on Tuesday, when Bhattacharya and Manna made it clear that the government must return a sizeable chunk of land from within the project area to buy peace with protesting farmers.
Bhattacharya had told Mint on Monday that the committee would only consider cultivable plots available within the factory, but Manna insisted that land could be reclaimed for cultivation even after being filled with construction debris.
The committee will inspect the site on Wednesday, though the state government has ruled out returning land from within the project area.
In the Sunday agreement, the government had said it would compensate farmers who are yet to collect payment for the land taken away for the project with land “provided to the maximum within the project area and the rest in adjacent areas.”
The state government, however, said discussions at the meeting of the four-member committee were “positive.” “We are hopeful that they’ll be able to find a solution soon,” said the commerce and industry minister.
Work is yet to restart at Singur. “It is unlikely that the Tatas would restart construction work until the (four-member) committee has submitted its report,” said a senior government official on condition of anonymity. “Till then vendors, too, cannot work.”
Under the agreement mediated by the governor on Sunday, the government requested component suppliers to suspend work at the 290 acre vendor park till the committee submitted its report.
The government has so far allotted 271 acres to 59 auto ancillary companies, and most of them have started constructing their units.
The stand-off would undermine production capacity but is unlikely to delay the planned October launch of the Nano, as some units could come from Tata Motors’ existing plants.
Shares of Tata Motors touched a high of Rs425.50 before ending 0.54% down at Rs420.40 in the Mumbai market.
Mint’s Aveek Dutta and Reuters contributed ?to? this story.
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First Published: Tue, Sep 09 2008. 10 59 PM IST