Friday, August 8, 2008

Dialogue on Singur?

The Telegraph

Mamata ready for talks with Tatas

Calcutta, Aug. 7: Mamata Banerjee has expressed willingness to talk to the Tatas to resolve the Singur standoff, provided “a proposal comes from them”.

The CPM also sought to sound accommodative without making any commitment, suggesting that “alternative land” for unwilling farmers or ancillary units could be “pondered over” if the government chose to do so.

“I am ready to talk to the Tatas if a proposal comes from them. This is a matter of courtesy. Moreover, I am not opposed to the car plant at Singur,” Mamata said two days after indicating that she did not want the industrial house to leave Bengal.

However, she stuck to the condition that the 400 acres allegedly acquired forcibly from unwilling farmers should be returned.

“But in the discussions, I would request them (the Tatas) to tell the state government to return the 400 acres to unwilling farmers and set up the car plant on the remaining 600 acres. The Tatas have some social obligations after all, and I have no confrontation with them,” Mamata told a news conference in response to a question whether she would hold talks with the Nano makers.

In a cautious reaction, an official with Tata Motors said the company was not “averse to talking to anyone”. He added that it would be premature at this stage to speculate about the specific issues that could be discussed at the meeting, whenever that is held.

A close aide to Mamata said her gesture was meant to address the charge that she was anti-development. The perception was reinforced after eight business chambers issued separate carefully worded appeals since Tuesday expressing “deep concern” at disruptions of “major projects”

“We are a responsible Opposition and are at the helm of governance in two zilla parishads, East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas. At this juncture, we want to send a message across the state that we are not opposed to industry to counter the CPM’s propaganda,” the aide said.

If Mamata is looking for a face-saver, the CPM held out an olive branch. Party state secretary Biman Bose said the government could “ponder over” Mamata’s proposal for giving land elsewhere to farmers who are unwilling to part with their Singur plots. “It is up to the government to take a decision. I have nothing to say.”

Bose suggested that if Mamata had a proposal for shifting the ancillary units from the project site, she should come to the negotiation table with “a map and other details” and put across her views.

Industries minister Nirupam Sen had earlier ruled out acquisition of alternative plots but Bose’s comments — albeit non-committal — suggest the party is keen to bring Mamata to the talks table and defuse the crisis for the time being.

“It’s good that Mamata has expressed her desire to have a dialogue with the Tatas. But before that, she should also talk to the state government. After all, an across-the-table discussion is the need of the hour to clear the misgivings,” the usually acerbic Bose said.

Industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen also welcomed Mamata’s gesture. “A negotiation is always good, more so in this situation. I certainly hope it happens. But I cannot answer your question on whether the Opposition would eventually sit down across the table with the Tatas.”

Asked if she would hold talks with the state government, Mamata said: “On my side, there is no problem…. But if the government wants to discuss everything except return of the excess land, the discussion has no meaning. They should begin talks with an open mind and without any conditions.”

Nandigram meet

Mamata said tonight that she was not opposed to the chief minister’s peace initiative in Nandigram, where another CPM leader was killed today and several families have started fleeing.

The chief minister has convened an all-party meeting in Tamluk on Saturday.

The Statesman

Mamata wants to talk to Tatas

Statesman News Service
KOLKATA, Aug. 7: For the first time since the small car project at Singur snowballed into a major political controversy, Trinamul Congress chief Miss Mamata Banerjee today said she is ready to discuss with Tata Motors the issue of returning 400 acres of the 997 acres of land earmarked for the project to the unwilling farmers.
The rider to Miss Banerjee's proposal is that the Tatas should prevail on the state government the need for returning the land, while the latter's stand is that the question of returning land is non-negotiable.
She repeated her stand that the Tatas don't need more than 600 acres of land to set up their mother plant, while the ancillary units can be located elsewhere.
She said the Tatas were “certainly not to blame” for the forcible land acquisition the state made “putting the Tatas in the forefront.”
However, CPI-M state secretary Mr Biman Bose welcomed Miss Banerjee's readiness, though suggesting that she first engage in a dialogue with the state government before the Tatas.
The Tatas, according to sources, are not “averse to discussion with any one.”
Miss Banerjee clarified that she had never been on a confrontational course with the Tatas, "but peacefully agitating for the past two years for the return of land forcibly acquired from farmers.” “I had been on fast for 26 days and broke it after the state government promised to discuss the matter. But till date we haven't received any invitation for the discussion,” she said.
On the other hand, the CPI-M state secretary indicated a change in the state government's hitherto inflexible position on the return of 400 acres of land. “Far more major issues such as the Indo-China border dispute and Israel-Palestine conflict could be partially settled through discussion. It has to be determined on the basis of map whether the 400 acres of land is located bunched together or whether it's fragmented and how a way out can be found,” he said.
Mr Subhas Chakroborty, state transport minister said the CPI-M stood to gain either way whether the Singur factory comes up or not.