No going back on Tata Motors project in Singur: Buddhadeb

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee  

"But chemical hub for Nandigram can be relocated if locals oppose it"

New Delhi: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has made it clear that that there will be no going back on the Tata Motors' Singur project, but said the proposed chemical hub at Nandigram could be relocated if the locals opposed it.

"At Singur, we will never go back. ... It is not possible. If I go back in this case, I will never be able to raise my head. It will send a very wrong message all over the world, all over the country," he told Karan Thapar in an interview in the "Devil's Advocate" television programme.

"I am sure I will be able to make them (Singur people) understand why the project is necessary for the development of the State," he said.

On the Nandigram Special Economic Zone where a chemical hub is to be developed by Indonesia's Salim Group, he said it had been put on hold as the local administration "committed a mistake" by taking measures without consulting the local people and panchayats.

Mr. Bhattacharjee, who is also a CPI (M) Polit Bureau member, said the party units would explain to the people "why it (the project) is necessary and how it will change the economy of Nandigram."

Asked if the people still refused to accept the project, he said: "if they do not accept, I will not go to Nandigram. I will change the venue."

He said he would take the chemical hub project somewhere else in the State "because I need it" for the State's development.

Mr. Bhattacharjee replied in the affirmative when asked whether the Nandigram people would have the final word on the project.

To questions about the Trinamool Congress' charges that there was a controversy over 360 acres of land at Singur, the Chief Minister asserted that 960 acres of a total of 997 acres had been "voluntarily handed over" by landowners along with letters of consent.

He said he had checked the allegations made in the Trinamool Congress' memorandum to the Governor and there was no substance in them. "I stick to my position."

Mr. Bhattacharjee claimed that his Government's image had not taken a beating in the wake of the the controversy over land acquisition, though "it will take some time to clear the confusion" created by the administration there.

Referring to the importance of the small car project for the State's overall development, he said he had "desperately tried" to convince Tata Group chief Ratan Tata to set up the small car project in West Bengal as the business house was planning to go to Uttaranchal.

Maintaining that the CPI (M) had urged the Union Government to amend the 1894 Land Acquisition Act and rules, he said these included the price of land and a rehabilitation policy, among other things.

He said these proposals were being implemented in Singur, including providing training to the local people and women for the plant and ancillary units.

On compensation, he said about Rs. 9 lakh was being paid for an acre of single-crop land and Rs. 12 lakh for multi-crop land. Bargadars (share-croppers) were also being paid compensation, though there was a problem earlier with those not registered. The Government had now registered about 1,800 unregistered share-croppers, who were already being compensated.

Mr. Bhattacharjee refuted claims made by Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee and the Citizens Committee that a section of farmers had rejected the compensation package, and insisted that 95 per cent had accepted it.

Prohibitory orders

To questions on imposition of prohibitory orders to maintain law and order in the affected places, the Chief Minister said a "small group of naxalites,led by some NGOs [non-Governmental organisations] was moving in the areas."

He said the Opposition as well as these groups could not mobilise local support. "An overwhelming number of people support our party, our kisan sabha and other organisations." PTI

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