Mamata demands CBI probe into cheque distribution in SingurSeptember 24th, 2008 - 8:59 pm ICT by IANS
Kolkata, Sep 24 (IANS) Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee Wednesday demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the distribution of compensation cheques by the West Bengal government among Singur farmers who had not taken payment for land acquired for the Tata Motors’ Nano project. Briefing reporters after meeting state Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Banerjee demanded imposition of Article 355 of the constitution in the state to seek explanation from the Left Front government on why it went back on the Sep 7 agreement signed in Gandhi’s presence to resolve the Singur land deadlock.
The agreement between the state government and the opposition sought to find from the acreage allotted for the small car project the maximum possible land to rehabilitate affected farmers. But Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacahrjee later said only 70 acres were available.
Adopting a belligerent pose, Banerjee questioned how the government could distribute cheques among the ‘unwilling farmers’ when the money was deposited in the court as per the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
A Trinamool leader explained that the act specifies that the compensation amounts not received within a deadline by people whose land has been acquired has to be deposited with the court under whose jurisdiction the acquired land falls.
The state government’s original deadline for accepting compensation cheques for the land for the project expired long back, he said.
The government Sep 14 advertised a new compensation package, under which the ‘unwilling farmers’ were promised a 10 percent solacium on the amount paid for the land, in addition to an extra 50 percent on the land price paid earlier for the 997.11 acres acquired in Singur.
“How can the Hooghly district magistrate (DM) distribute cheques among unwilling farmers? The money is not in the DM office. It is lying with the court under the Land Acquisition Act,” Banerjee pointed out.
“The government is squandering people’s money. There should be a CBI enquiry to find out whether a government can squander people’s money like this to serve its political interests,” she said.
Sticking to her demand for the return of 400 acres to ‘unwilling farmers’, Banerjee alleged the government has betrayed the governor, the opposition and the people by going back on the agreement.
“The government unilaterally violated the agreement. We wanted a solution. We wanted both agriculture and industry in Singur. We wanted Singur to be a model for land acquisition for industries,” she said.
“We still want the agreement to be implemented. If the government does not, then Article 355 should be resorted to, I told the governor.”
Banerjee said the governor seemed sad at the turn of developments. “He also wants farm-factory balance. He wants Singur to be the guiding force. He is still hopeful of s solution. He is ready to do whatever is possible for a solution.”
Tata Motors’ project to roll out world’s least expensive car at Rs.100,000 ($2,250) from the Singur plant, 40 km from here, has been facing protests ever since the plans were announced in mid-2006.
The auto major suspended work Sep 2 at the factory after local farmers backed by the opposition Trinamool Congress laid siege to the plant from Aug 24.
With no signs of a resolution to the conflict, the government came out with the compensation package that was rejected by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who has lined up fresh protests.
The fresh deadline for the ‘unwilling’ farmers to collect compensation cheques expired Wednesday.
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