Verdict on Singur

Published : Feb 15, 2008 00:00 IST

At the Singur plant of Tata Motors, work progresses rapidly. - ARUNANGSU ROY CHOWDHURY

At the Singur plant of Tata Motors, work progresses rapidly. - ARUNANGSU ROY CHOWDHURY

At the Singur

ON January 18, the Calcutta High Court upheld the West Bengal governments land acquisition proceedings in Singur in Hooghly district for Tata Motors small car factory. The court dismissed all the 11 petitions, saying there was no colourable exercise of power by the State government in the acquisition of the land.

In a 217-page judgment, the High Court made it clear that the acquisition of the land was made for the public purpose of employment generation and socio-economic development of the region and not in the interest of conferring benefits on any private company. The petitions had the support of Opposition parties such as the Trinamool Congress, the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and leaders such as former Chief Minister Siddhartha Sankar Ray. The High Court ruled that there was no procedural infirmity in the land acquisition proceeding.

The verdict from a Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh, has come as a major boost for the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front governments industrialisation drive in West Bengal. In a statement, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said, This verdict will help improve the standard of living of the people of Singur and its adjoining areas. I appeal to all people living there irrespective of party affiliations to help in this process of development. He also said that the State government was looking at alternative means of livelihood for those whose lands were acquired for the project.

The High Court verdict came eight days after the formal unveiling of Tata Motors small car, Nano, in New Delhi. The car will roll out of the Singur factory and cost around Rs.1 lakh. The initial target is to produce 2.5 lakh cars by the end of this year. The plant is expected to generate employment for 2,000 people directly and 10,000 people indirectly.

Since the end of 2006, the Krishi Jami Rakshya Committee (committee for the protection of farmland) led by the Trinamool Congress has been agitating against land acquisition in Singur. After the verdict, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee maintained that her party would continue with its agitation and will move the Supreme Court.

Former Chief Minister and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Jyoti Basu welcomed the court verdict and said, Those who are opposed to the States industrialisation and development had filed the cases against the State government.

State Industries Minister Nirupam Sen said, Even after this verdict, for those parties or organisations that still have reservations against our industrial policy, we will be happy to sit down for talks with them. But I request those land-losers who have not yet collected their compensation to do so immediately. According to Sen, landholders of around 300 acres (1 hectare is 2.5 acres) are yet to collect their compensation cheques.

On May 31, 2006, the State Cabinet approved Tata Motors proposal to set up its small car factory on 997.11 acres of land in Singur. It was decided that of the total land acquired, 645.67 acres would be for Tata Motors itself, 290 acres for ancillary industries, and 14.33 acres for the State Electricity Board to set up a 22 KV substation, and another 47.11 acres would be kept by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation for other infrastructure development relating to the automobile industry. The project area was reduced from 1,053 acres in the original proposal to its present size in order to exclude highly fertile tracts of land. The project area constitutes only 2.5 per cent of the total block area, and the project-affected population is 12,000.

The Singur factory is important not just to the Tatas. All eyes are set on this experiment of bringing out the cheapest car in the world. The State government has placed a lot of hope on the success of the project. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said earlier, The project will change the face of not only Singur, but also of the whole of West Bengal.

Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay
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