Special Correspondent

“Singur is an exceptional case and not a general feature of the State”

KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said land at the Singur Tata Motors project site could not be returned without scrapping the project. Many industrialists present at a meeting here, however, urged the government to try and resolve the matter by talking directly with the farmers who are said to be demanding their land back.

Participating in an interactive session with industrialists, Mr. Bhattacharjee said he could not afford to roll back the project or allow other States to take it away. “I am trying to make the Opposition see reason. The car [Nano] is expected to roll out in October. I just cannot and should not stop it.” The session was organised by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India (ASSOCHAM).

Mr. Bhattacharjee addressed a wide-range of industry concerns ranging from the impact of the Singur issue on the State’s industrialisation to bandhs and gheraos. “Singur was an exceptional case and not a general feature of the State as a whole.” He said the entire thing was unfortunate and had never happened in any other State.

Pointing out that he was unable to understand why the Singur issue turned out this way, he said the alignment of the acquired land became like a ‘W’ just because efforts were made to avoid villages and homesteads. “The entire matter was discussed with the Opposition, but problems erupted only after land acquisition started.” he said.

“The Opposition does not understand that ancillary units are part of a car factory. They will come up side by side and will create more employment than the mother plant.”

Mr. Bhattacharjee said he had received a letter from the Trinamool Congress after his offer on talks on Monday. “The land cannot be returned as per current laws, but I am an optimist and not an egoist and I believe that I will be able to convince the Opposition leaders that it is in the State’s interest to realise this project. I believe that a consensus will emerge, but it will have to be a practical one. I still believe that I will be able to convince the Opposition leaders that this project is good for the State.”

Admitting that some of the land owners had no other means of livelihood, Mr. Bhattacharjee said the government was ready to formulate a package for them.

Some industry captains agreed that the acquired land could not be returned legally for any commercial purpose.

On compensation cheques remaining uncollected, Mr. Bhattacharjee said many were absentee landlords and some did not have the papers needed to collect the compensation which has been deposited with the Calcutta High Court.