Saturday, June 9, 2007

Land compensation

Singur land bargain
Calcutta, June 8: The CPM has agreed in principle to offer land in exchange for plots acquired from “unwilling farmers” in Singur.

The party leadership, however, appeared divided on the location of the alternative land — inside the Tata Motors project area or outside.

The lack of clarity prompted Mamata Banerjee to step up pressure by vowing to go ahead with a multi-city protest programme in July. Mamata wants land within the project site to be returned.

CPM and Left Front sources said Jyoti Basu would like the government and the Tatas to be “flexible”. But chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and industry minister Nirupam Sen, who attended today’s CPM secretariat meeting where the issue was discussed, are in no mood to nudge the company.

Unhappy at the way Basu had “unsettled the settled facts in Singur” by allowing Mamata to club it with Nandigram during their Monday meeting, Bhattacharjee and Sen reportedly told the veteran it was too late to ask the Tatas to redraw the layout.

Asked if the “land-for-land” will be carved out of the Tata project area, Basu said: “No alternative land is available there, but elsewhere. But why will they (Opposition) accept it?” The question is being seen as an indication of Basu’s disapproval of the formula.

“The formula for settlement is still possible. But I don’t know how the problem will be solved. I can’t say what they (Opposition) will settle for,” Basu added.

“Nirupam is looking into the matter of returning the land. There are some legal complications. He is preparing a note on it.” The note is expected to be placed at a front meeting tomorrow.

The sources said Basu would like the government to explore the possibility of altering the boundary without compromising the contiguity of the Tata site.

While the 645-acre mother plant is to be spared, he wants to see whether some land-losers can be accommodated in part of the 300-odd acres meant for ancillary units. The rest can be settled elsewhere or given an “attractive compensation package”.

Options on Singur table
Calcutta, June 8: Several options are on the CPM table as the party tries to make up its mind on the Singur land-for-land deal.

The West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation has not yet allotted land for ancillary units, though it has received around 70 applications.

A section of the party and allies wants the government to consider whether a part of this land could be given to the “unwilling farmers” in Singur.

But CPM leaders like Benoy Konar feel that the low-lying land between the Tata Motors site and the Durgapur Expressway — under the PWD — might be a better option.

“It is not possible to offer land by redrawing the Tata factory site. Neither is it possible to divide the mother plant and ancillary industries. It will affect the project badly and the Tatas would leave,” Konar said.

Another suggestion came from the land reforms commissioner, P.K. Agarwal. He said the government could buy plots under a scheme called “land and homestead for landless people”. Agarwal said Rs 1.9 crore of the fund is lying unused.

The Trinamul Congress feels that the ancillary units could “easily’’ be shifted to “huge tracts of low and marshy land” opposite the project site.

In the event of a political decision to return acquired land — there is no provision in law to do so — officials said a Supreme Court order offered a way out.

“The apex court has said land not required should be auctioned off. We can return the land to ‘unwilling farmers’ while recording it as an auction in our records,” an official said.

The CPM leadership has censured land minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah for suggesting that a way could be found around the legal bar.

Cuba ahoy

After announcing a countrywide protest from June 22, Mamata Banerjee has set sights on communist Cuba. “Some of our representatives will visit Cuba. I have asked them to take two farmland activists along and see what is happening there in agriculture,” she said.