The Opposition today questioned the “silence” of chief minister Mamata Banerjee on setting up industries on the controversial Singur land. The chief minister made a suo motu statement in the Assembly on the use of Singur land after the agriculture minister Asish Banerjee finished his replies.
Miss Banerjee spoke in detail about the use of 1,920 bighas of land at Singur for growing crops such as paddy, wheat, jute, vegetables and maize and asserted that industries would also come up there.
The Opposition was not satisfied with the chief minister’s remarks and demanded she should enlighten the House on the prospect of industries on the land. Miss Banerjee, however, did not throw any light on this. The Speaker Biman Banerjee intervened and said the industry minister would reply. But, the Opposition pointed out the industry minister was not in the House and insisted the chief minister should share the industrialisaton plan with the members.
MLA Sujan Chakraborty told the media after Tata Motors’ Nano small car project was scrapped, the land on which the factory was to come up was not fit for cultivating crops to the extent the chief minister claimed. “Contrary to the chief minister’s claims, the people of Singur are telling us different facts. The land on which the factory was to come up is totally unsuitable for agricultural purposes. The state government is actually confusing the people,” he complained.
Miss Banerjee said the state government provided seeds, fertilisers and farming equipment for growing crops apart from rice at cheap prices. There are 13,330 willing and unwilling land owners. Willing farmers own 702.51 acres of land against the unwilling farmers’ share of 293.60 acres of land. “Farmers may get profit from selling their land. It’s their choice. The government will, however, provide any kind of help if any farmer wants to cultivate land in future,” the chief minister said.
Last year, 641 acres of lands were cultivated and this year the figure stands at 260 acres, she said. Singur gained international attention after the Tata Motors started constructing a factory to manufacture the Nano, which was billed as one of the cheapest cars in the world. The small car was scheduled to roll out of the factory by 2008 during the Left Front rule.
The agitation by Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamul Congress forced Tata Motors to relocate the factory to Gujarat.
The LF government used the controversial Land Acquisition Act of 1894 to forcibly acquire 997 acres of farmland and handed it over to the Tata Motors. On 23 September 2008, the company decided to leave Singur in the wake of the fierce resistance against the project spearheaded by the Trinamul and Mr Ratan Tata announced the pullout decision on 3 October that year. In 2016, the Supreme Court quashed the West Bengal government’s acquisition of 997 acres of agricultural land for the small car project and ordered its return to over 9,000 landowners.
In its first cabinet meeting on 20 May, 2011, the Mamata Banerjee government had decided to return the Singur land to landowners. The exercise was finally completed in 2016.
Since then, however, the demand for setting up industries on the Singur land is being increasingly made, as the yield from the land has left the farmers there deeply unhappy and some of them are clamouring for setting up industries for the economic rejuvenation of the area.