In her first major announcement after being sworn in as Chief Minister on Friday, Mamata Banerjee said the West Bengal government would return the 400 acres of land acquired for the subsequently re-located Tata Motors' small car project at Singur to farmers who were unwilling to part with it.
The Tatas are welcome to set up industry on the remaining portion of the total land that had been acquired for the project (997.11 acres), she told journalists after holding her first meeting with the new Cabinet within an hour of taking charge.
Her government is open to holding negotiations to solve the problem in the Jangal Mahal area. “We want peace in West Bengal. There can be no compromise on that. Health care and quality education are two priority areas,” she said, adding that “restoration of Bengal” was her biggest challenge.
“It has been decided to return 400 acres to unwilling Singur farmers. The Tatas could set up a factory on 600 acres if they are willing to do so,” she said.
Asked whether her government would invite the Tatas, she said: “Tatas will invite themselves, everyone is welcome.”
Ms. Banerjee, who named Partha Chatterjee as her Industry and Commerce Minister, and former FICCI Secretary-General Amit Mitra as Finance Minister, announced her plans to put in place a package for minority development and a special development package for Jangal Mahal.
Meetings would soon be held to evolve a solution for the Darjeeling problem, she said.
The Chief Minister also announced her decision to set up a separate department for addressing the issues relating to 100-day work and issuance of Below Poverty Line cards saying if people were forced to sell their babies for money then there was a serious need to address the issue.
She said it had been decided to set up a 10-member committee to review on a case-by-case basis the incarceration of political prisoners, many of whom, she said, had been imprisoned for vindictive reasons. “This government will not stand for any injustice to anyone.”
She said the State's disaster management group was not very effective and efforts would be made to tone it up by dovetailing it with the facility that the Union Home Ministry had.
To control the misery brought upon people by the floods caused by the monsoons (which is around the corner), Ms. Banerjee said the Chief Secretary had been asked to set up an expert committee which would give its feedback on the feasibility of harnessing the flood water and directing it to water-scarcity areas. Plans were also afoot to have a secretariat for north Bengal affairs.
To a question on arms recovery, she said the administration would have to address this issue. “The arms that are being recovered could launch a small battle.”
The Chief Minister said she was feeling helpless at the lack of infrastructure necessary to do quality work. “I want to forget all the torture that has been perpetrated on me and I will prefer not to use either a bullet-proof car that will disconnect me from the people.”