Mamata ready for talks with Tatas on Singur project

August 7th, 2008 - 10:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Aug 7 (IANS) Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee Thursday said she is “not averse” to the Tata Motors’ small car project in West Bengal and was ready for talks with the automobile major - signalling a way out of the impasse over farmland acquisition that has hampered the project. “I am not averse to the Tata Motors project,” said Banerjee, whose party has vociferously opposed the acquisition of farm land for the project in Singur.

Banerjee said she is ready for talks with Tatas on the project, but the automobile major would have to return land taken from unwilling farmers.

“I’ll not send anybody to anyone but if someone wants to talk to me, I am ready for that courtesy meeting,” Banerjee told a press conference at her Kalighat residence.

Renewed agitation by the Trinamool Congress has threatened to delay the rollout of the world’s cheapest car, Nano, from Singur.

Banerjee said the 400 acres of land acquired for developing ancillaries for the Tata Motors project should be returned to the farmers from whom the plots were forcibly taken.

“The 400 acres of land was unnecessarily acquired by the state government. If the West Bengal government or the Tatas do not give back this land, our movement would continue.”

Reacting to Banerjee’s statement, a Tata Motors spokesperson said: “We are not averse to talking to anyone.”

Welcoming the decision of the Trinamool Congress supremo, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) state secretary Biman Bose said: “I welcome the gesture. But she should first talk to the state government and share her views about the Singur project.”

Asked if the 400 acres would be returned to the farmers, Bose said, “It’s beyond my jurisdiction and I can’t comment on this issue. The state government should decide the matter.”

He also urged the Trinamool chief to be more responsible.

“Trinamool is the main opposition party in West Bengal and thus they should be more responsible about their political movement,” he said.

Unveiled in January at an auto exposition in New Delhi, the four-seater Nano promises itself at a dealer price of Rs.100,000 ($2,500), about half the cost of the cheapest car in today’s market, a 25-year-old model from Maruti Suzuki.

However, the washout of the ruling communists in local body elections in Singur over the issue of land seizure triggered a volley of fresh protests by those who lost their land, led by the Trinamool Congress.

As project workers were attacked and forced to flee, Tata Motors managing director Ravi Kant last week sounded a pullout threat from West Bengal, prompting the state government to beef up security around the plant.

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