In a twist of circumstances, Trinamool Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has expressed her readiness to enter a joint venture with the West Bengal government to set up a railway coach manufacturing “national project” at the very site in Singur from where a movement led by her party had forced Tata Motors to relocate its Nano project a little more than a year ago.
However, she insists that there will be no budging from her demand that 400 of the 997 acres that had been acquired by the State government for the small car project be returned to their erstwhile owners.
It was precisely this demand that had led to a prolonged agitation ultimately prompting Tata Motors to opt out of Singur in October 2008.
The proposed joint venture would require the State government to provide the Railways with the land it had leased out to Tata Motors. “Let them give us the land, we will set up the project,” Ms. Banerjee told a local television channel on Friday.
Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Motors, had said earlier that his company would not stand in the way of any other project coming up at the site. The company would hand the land back to the State government if adequately compensated.
Ms. Banerjee’s remarks come at a time when the State government is looking at collaborating with Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) to set up a 1,600 MW power plant in Singur on the land acquired for the Nano project.
BHEL officials, accompanied by those of the West Bengal Power Development Corporation, inspected the site on Thursday. The acreage of the land required if the power plant does come up in the area is yet to be officially disclosed.
Asked to comment on the State’s plans, Ms. Banerjee said she has nothing against it coming up at the site provided the 400 acres that she claims were acquired forcibly from peasants in Singur are returned to them.
Despite having suffered a major setback in its plans for greater industrialisation when the Nano project relocated from Singur, the State government is keen that the site there is used for setting up an alternative industry that would work towards generating employment.