“I feel very bad when land is taken away forcibly… farmers are reduced to beggars”

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said returning land to the Singur farmers is her life’s mission.

“I will get one of my life’s greatest rewards if we get back the land,” she said at an election rally in Hooghly district on Thursday.

Ms. Banerjee said, “We passed a law to return the land [400 acres acquired from unwilling farmers for the Tata small car plant] to the Singur farmers ... I will not be able to pardon myself if I cannot give back the land as we had promised.” On Wednesday, the Supreme Court asked Tata Motors to make its stand clear on its leasehold rights on the land as it had moved its car plant out of the State. Ms. Banerjee had described it as a moral victory for the Singur movement.

She said her government [which completed two years of governance in May 2013] had kept its promise of not acquiring land by force.

“I feel very bad when land is taken away forcibly… farmers are reduced to beggars.”

Agitations at Singur and Nandigram [against plan to set up a chemical hub under the special economic zone policy] were like a beacon for all those protesting forcible acquisition of land for industry, she said.

Ms. Banerjee mentioned her sit-ins at Singur, where once she had to spend the night “sitting near a drain staving off mosquitoes.”

The Chief Minister mentioned her 26-day fast on the Singur issue in Kolkata in 2006.

She also recalled the various development projects, including a college and two railway projects, that were rolled out for the area around Singur.