Bengal govt issues ordinance on Singur

Bengal govt issues ordinance on Singur

Kolkata: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said her government has issued an ordinance to regain control of at least 400 acres of the 997-acre Singur plot allotted to Tata Motors Ltd and its component suppliers in 2007.

Though Banerjee said she has cancelled the lease agreement with the car maker under which it was allotted 645 acres, law minister Malay Ghatak and Debabrata Bandyopadhyay, an adviser to the newly-formed Trinamool Congress government on land acquisition, said there was no plan to immediately seize the plot.

Banerjee said the state government would compensate the company “as per legal provisions".

“We can engage arbitrators to determine the compensation," she added.

Citing a letter, she said Tata Motors had written to the erstwhile Left Front government that it wasn’t willing to build a factory and that it would release the land if compensated for its sunk cost.

Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata had said in October 2008, when he announced his decision to abandon the Singur factory, that the car maker would return the land leased to it if compensated for the investment it had made on building the factory. The plant was at that time almost ready to begin manufacturing, but the group pulled the plug on the project in view of violent protests against land acquisition spearheaded by the Trinamool Congress, then the principal opposition party.

Bandyopadhyay, a former land and land reforms department official, said the plan was to take back the 290 acres allotted to the component makers and another 62 acres the state government had kept with itself to build supporting infrastructure for Tata Motors’ small car factory.

“We are only taking possession of the land given to the vendors, with whom the erstwhile government didn’t even sign lease agreements," said the state’s law minister Ghatak.

“We are not aware of such a development, and we do not want to make any comment unless we have studied the ordinance," Tata Motors said in a statement.

The state government will amend the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, under which land was acquired in Singur, to return 400 acres to farmers, Banerjee said. This is required because under the Act there is no provision to return land once acquired by the state to the original owners.

The state government will move a Bill to amend the Act once the legislative assembly reopens, she added. Being a Central law, the proposed amendment will require the ascent of the Centre as well.

She reiterated that Tata Motors was welcome to build its proposed small car factory on the remaining 600 acres, but if it didn’t want to do so, the land would be used for some other industrial project.