Buddhadeb, Mamata meet for first time, find Nano solution (Lead)

September 7th, 2008 - 9:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Sep 7 (IANS) The Tata Nano will roll out from Singur, after all.West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee met for nearly two hours at Raj Bhavan, Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s official residence, to cobble together “an acceptable formula” on the Singur imbroglio.

“An acceptable formula has been found, but some more discussions are still needed,” Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) central committee Shyamal Chahraborty told reporters after the meeting.

Under the compromise, farmers will get alternate land and a committee will be set up to look into the land issue.

This is the first time the two leaders met following a bitter controversy over acquisition of agricultural land for the Rs.15-billion or $25-million small car Nano project in Singur, about 40 km from Kolkata.

The meeting was preceded by intense negotiations by the governor, who met the chief minister in the morning for an hour, before Banerjee arrived at 2.35 p.m., and Bhattacharjee once again at 4.45 p.m.

The issue made international headlines in the past few days, and the Sri Lanka government Sunday invited Tata Motors to relocate the car project to that country.

In New Delhi, CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat broke his silence on the controversy, saying his party wanted the Tata Motors to stay in West Bengal.

And in Kolkata, the state committee of the ruling Left Front met twice - in the morning and in the evening - and advised Bhattacharjee’s government to be more flexible and find more land, if needed, to resolve the issue.

Banerjee, who has spearheaded an indefinite sit-in since Aug 24 close to the Singur plant, arrived at Raj Bhavan at 2.30 p.m. on an invitation to participate in peace talks.

“It is my understanding that the government has agreed to consider the (alternate) land proposal inside and outside the project site. So I request you to join the discussions,” Banerjee read out in Singur from the governor’s letter inviting her for talks.

The government had Friday presented a package, including provision for shopping malls on a plot adjacent to the Nano plant, for those who had given their land.

After the protests intensified, and its officers and workers were threatened and manhandled, the Tata group last week suspended work at the factory, saying it will not put its employees at risk.

The factory employs some 800 people, including engineers from South Korea and Singapore.The company also threatened to relocate the project to some other state if the protests continued.

Last Wednesday, a farmer who had sold his land willingly for the project, committed suicide. His three sons were employed at the Nano factory as security guards, and stood to lose their jobs if the project was shifted.

The suicide came as a jolt to the movement against land acquisition and many have started coming out in the open to support the project that aims to build the world’s cheapest car at Rs.100,000 dealer price (less than $2,500).

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