In her first major announcement after being sworn in as Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee said on Friday that the West Bengal government would return the 400 acres of land acquired for the Tata Motors' small car project at Singur (subsequently relocated) to farmers who were unwilling to part with it.
The Tatas were 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 her taking charge.
Her government was 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. Healthcare and quality education are two priority areas,” she said, adding “restoration of Bengal was her biggest challenge.”
The Chief Minister said: “It has been decided to return 400 acres to unwilling Singur farmers. The Tatas could set up factory on 600 acres if they are willing to do so.” To a question whether her government would invite the Tatas, she said: “Tatas will invite themselves, every one is welcome.”
Asked whether she would now put in public domain the government's agreement with the Tatas for the Nano project (which she demanded as Opposition leader), Ms. Banerjee said she had asked officials to see the pact.
Ms. Banerjee, who named Partha Chatterjee as Industry and Commerce Minister, and the former FICCI Secretary-General, Amit Mitra, as Finance Minister, announced 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.
The Chief Minister announced a separate department for addressing 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.
Ms. Banerjee said it had been decided to set up a 10-member committee to review on case-by-case basis the incarceration of political prisoners, many of whom, she said, had been imprisoned for vindictive reasons.
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 Affairs Ministry had.
To control the misery brought upon people by the floods caused by the monsoons (which is round 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 floodwater and diverting it to water-scarcity areas. Plans were also on to have a secretariat for north Bengal affairs.
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 a bullet-proof car that will disconnect me from the people.”