Saturday, January 19, 2008

Public purpose tag on Singur - Nano plant zips past legal hurdle

Public purpose tag on Singur
- Nano plant zips past legal hurdle

Calcutta, Jan. 18: Calcutta High Court today ruled that the Singur land acquisition “was made for the public purpose of employment generation and socio-economic development of the area”.

The verdict handed a morale-booster to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s industrialisation drive and lifted the last vestiges of a cloud on the Tata small-car plant that will make the world’s cheapest car, the Nano.

The ruling also appeared to have taken the wind out of the sails of the Trinamul Congress’s campaign against the project. Mamata Banerjee said the Supreme Court would be moved but the local Trinamul MLA claimed the party would now focus on a “door-to-door” campaign, possibly signalling a shift from the occasional assaults on the factory walls.

The high court rejected the three main grounds on which 11 petitions — all were clubbed by the court — had challenged the acquisition of 997 acres in Singur for the Tata plant. All the petitions were dismissed today.

Besides turning down the petitioners’ contention that the acquisition was not for public purpose, the court threw out a claim that the government did not follow the legal procedure to buy land.

The third ground — that the government went beyond its jurisdiction — was also overruled.

“We hold that there was no colourable exercise of power by the state government while acquiring land at Singur,” the division bench of Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice Pinaki Ghosh said in the 217-page judgment.

“The term ‘colourable exercise of power’ means going beyond one’s jurisdiction. In this case, the judges meant that the government did not abuse its administrative power while acquiring the land,” said Subrata Mukhopadhyay, a high court lawyer.

Chief minister Bhattacharjee said he was “happy”. “The verdict will strengthen the state government’s drive for industrialisation in the greater interest of the people,” Bhattacharjee said. “I appeal to all who have not yet collected their compensation cheques to come forward and take them.”

Industries minister Nirupam Sen used the opportunity to hold out an olive branch to the sceptics.

“I request all political parties to come forward and co-operate. The government is sympathetic towards landlosers and is trying to find alternative livelihood for them,” Sen said.

CPM veteran Jyoti Basu “thanked” the high court. “Those who are opposed to development had filed the case. But the ruling will accelerate the pace of industrialisation.”

Elaborating on the ruling, Justice Pinaki Ghosh said: “We have gone through the submissions that were made by both the petitioners and the respondents (the state and the WBIDC) and found that the process adopted by the government during acquisition of land was just and in accordance with law.”

The petitioners had alleged that the government did not follow provisions of Part II and Part VII and Section 3 of the Land Acquisition Act of 1898. Part II deals with procedures to be followed while issuing notification, paying compensation and demarcating land.

Part VII states that the government cannot acquire land for a private company if the purpose is not in public interest. Section 3 focuses on development of an area and job generation.

The court has ruled that the state abided by all these provisions, advocate-general Balai Ray said after the judgment. “It has also approved the policy of generating employment by setting up industries,” he added.

The bench, however, said private petitioners who moved court for higher compensation could “approach the land acquisition collectorate”.

The court did not go into the government’s contention that the petitioners had no locus standi as it had allowed them to make submissions. The bench gave only the gist of the verdict, saying “details may be disclosed after carefully going through the judgment”.


Chithra.KarunaKaran said...

The Rise of the Car Nazis: Ratan and the Tata Wannabes

The Rise of the Car Nazis: Ratan and the Tata Wannabes.

Ratan Tata has made an illegal Left turn in a no-car zone. The Nano is a no-no.

The High Court cannot make it so. Do any of those self-described venerable judges ride the bus to work?

Can industry-hungry West Bengal help to rethink the Nano 'personal car' project and instead develop into a manufacturing hub for MASS PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION? Do we need more cars OR more and better public use transport -- buses, subway trains, rail?

The people of India and I am one of them, do NOT need a mis-named people's car. We need a People's Bus, A People's Mass Transit, a vastly expanded People's Railway, we need PUBLIC MASS TRANSPORTATION that is ecologically sustainable and delivers a public convenience that meets the needs of our underserved Indian URBAN AND RURAL masses(every one of us is a person with dreams and needs) and is the envy of, and a model for, the entire world. I proudly count myself among these masses, even though I teach in the US and live and work in India only about six months of the year. We are all glocal, one way or another.

Q.Why did Ratan Tata and the Tata Group choose to put their wholly admirable "frugal engineering" expertise into a private car and not into making buses and mass transportation vehicles? Corporate greed and personal ambition?

The Tata Group has decades of engineering knowhow in the heavy truck sector. Why didn't they build on this experience and come out with buses and other mass transport innovations? Again the answer may possibly be corporate greed and selfish personal ambition. Ratan Tata has absolutely no stake in the Greater Collective Good (GCG). Tata is all about profit. Tata is all about a narrow self-serving short term view in which he and Tata Group can make a quick buck and now unfortunately a Padma Vibhushan. That PV should have gone to Medha Patkar and she would have probably declined it. She would be right to do so. No point accepting a Padma Vibhushan from a Govt. that is committed to predatory capitalism against its own people.There are only a handful of folks like Patkar, Arundhati Roy, Anna Hazare, P. Sainath and a few others, Singur subsisters included, who cannot be bought and sold by corporate interests and criminal politicians.

What many of my fellow Indians (especially the avidly consuming, bribe-giving, bribe-taking, politically apathetic and middle class in India) fail to appreciate is that a fabulous city like New York where I live about six months a year is heavily invested in mass public transportation. NYC has been putting tax revenues and subsidies into mass transit for over half a century. India could begin that process today.

I don't own a car either in India or the U.S. And I don't plan to own one, certainly not the Nano. I walk. I ride the buses and trains in India and I am proud to say that I adamantly refuse to ride in a car in India. It's smart not to be an obesity stat.

In New York, I do have a bicycle. Tens of thousands like me in New York ride our magnificent, er often tardy and chronically underfunded subways of the NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). I can get all around town and all the outer boros and to JFK airport for $2 and then I am happy to pay another $5 to get me on the public mass transportation called the AirTrain right into the airport terminals. We ordinary folks (mainly the middleclass and the aspiring middleclass) fought at public hearings and through legislative lobbying, for the funding of mass transit in preference to car-choked highways -- and we got it. We didn't get everything we wanted but there's always a next time at a public hearing or a court testimony.

Even our Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg rides the subway everyday to work. Ok he has optionhs some of them indefensible. But it's a great feeling to get on a train that runs under New York and to know that we are contributing zero pollution to our wonderful city. That is precisely what we need in India. NOT crazy Ratan ("I have no watan") Tata and his no-no Nano.

Both the centre and the states must urgently invest in public mass transit which they have criminally neglected and disproportionately taxed.

Let's get real. India cannot afford the environmental cost of making or disposing a paper cup, let alone producing yet another car for private use.

The Nano represents a vivid test case for our civil society and the need for urgent development of a Critical Environmental Studies in schools and colleges to research such complex issues. I have presented the above ideas in India during conferences on Environmental Sustainability and will not rest until such proposals gain policy implementation.
The Gandhian post-revolutionary democratic Indian nation-state deserves a lofty vision, mission and policies that affirm the public trust. Public mass transportation that is ecologically sustainable is part of that noble public trust.

Note: in a subsequent blog I have cut and pasted all or nearly all of Tata's own comments ("From the Chairman's Desk") on the Nano.
Let the reader perform her/his own critical analysis of whether the Nano serves the Greater Collective Good (GCG).
Dr. Chithra KarunaKaran
City University of New York (CUNY)