Those willing to hand over their land for the laying of new railway tracks will be adequately compensated and a member of the families concerned provided employment, Mamata Banerjee, Railway Minister announced on Monday.

“The railways will not acquire land forcibly and will negotiate with those willing to hand over their land. We will provide them adequate compensation as well as a job to one member of their family. This is our policy,” Ms Banerjee said at Amta in Howrah district.

Ms. Banerjee was laying the foundation stone for the construction of a 16 km-long broad gauge railway track connecting Amta with Bagnan. The estimated cost of the project is Rs.103.20 crore.

The land required for laying new railway tracks “is not much, unlike the thousands of acres that were acquired at Singur and [what was initially proposed for at] Nandigram”, she said.

Ms. Banerjee led a movement against what she had alleged was forcible acquisition of 400 acres of land (out of the 997.11 acres acquired) at Singur, which finally led to Tata Motors relocating its small car project from there in October 2008.

She was also at the helm of the movement that resulted in the State government calling off its proposed chemical hub project at Nandigram the previous year - well before any move was initiated for acquisition of land though that did not prevent months of violence there.

“We shall acquire only what is required but if the land owner is against any such acquisition we shall not go in for forcible acquisition,” she asserted.

Ms. Banerjee described the decision to offer a job in the railways to a member of the family handing over its land for the laying of tracks as “historic and revolutionary.”

“The land acquisition rules of the Railway Ministry have been amended…I have amended them,” she added. She also said that as the railways are “a lifeline of the nation and therefore the life-line of national integration.” She had instructed railway officials to set a time frame for the completion of projects, for which foundation stones are laid.