Singur, Aug. 2: Mamata Banerjee today sprang on Singur a proposal for a railway coach factory, taking a symbolic pro-industry stride in the same spot where she had launched the agitation against the Nano.
The state government could do little but pledge support if a formal proposal was made but experts said Mamata’s plan could not be implemented without changing the law. Besides, the Tatas, who have renewed the lease, are holding the land where Mamata wants to set up the coach factory.
“I have spoken to various Union ministries and told them that if the Centre gives the land to the railways, we can set up a production unit with PPP (public-private participation),” Mamata said, flagging off a train to celebrate the agitation that had driven out the small-car project from Bengal.
Andolan Local connects Singur with Howrah.
“The land is lying with someone but no industry is coming up here,” Mamata said, iterating her demand that 400 acres from the Nano plant be returned to their original owners and the remaining 600 be used for industry.
“In Singur, we want both industrialisation and agriculture. If the Centre gives us the land, we will develop industry on 600 acres and return 400 acres to the farmers.”
Legal experts said the Centre could not “hand over” the plot to Mamata because “land acquisition is a state subject”.
“The Singur plot had been acquired by the state for the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC). Tata Motors is merely a lessee and the Centre can’t interfere in this,” said lawyer Arunabha Ghosh.
“To start a new project by another owner, the WBIDC will have to auction the land after returning the lease amount paid by the Tatas and the plot will go to the highest bidder.”
To return the land to its erstwhile owners, the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, has to be changed.
Tata Motors paid Rs 1 crore this April and renewed its lease for its 647 acres for another year. Many of vendors earlier slated to set up shop in Singur have also renewed their lease.
At the commercial launch of the Nano in Mumbai on March 23, Ratan Tata had said the company had no plans to give up the land. “The factory sheds are still in place over there. We haven’t decided what to do with them,” he had said.
Official sources said if the Tatas had to give up their land, it had to be voluntary or there could be legal complications.
However, the Bengal government could not reject Mamata’s proposal. Industries minister Nirupam Sen said the government would think over it if she approached with “definite plans” and “proposals”.
“The land was meant for industrial activities and if she wishes to set up a railway coach factory, the state government does not have any objection to it. She should approach us with definite plans and proposals.”
The country’s first Kisan Vision project will come up in Singur, Mamata announced. “We have identified a two-acre plot adjoining the station. Agricultural produce will be sold here and a food-processing unit will also be set up,” she said.
Singur station has been granted Rs 50 lakh as a model station.
Monday, August 3, 2009