Buddhadeb, Mamata talks on Singur land row break down (Lead)

September 13th, 2008 - 12:19 am ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Sep 12 (IANS) The Tata Nano land row remained unresolved with opposition Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and the West Bengal government failing to agree Friday evening on the acreage to be given to farmers to compensate for agricultural land “forcibly” acquired for the small car project in Singur.Banerjee walked out of talks with Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in the evening here, apparently upset over the government offering the “unwilling farmers” a mere 70 acres within the factory site against her demand of “at least 300 acres”.

The meeting at the Kolkata Information Centre lasted for about one and half hours until Banerjee walked out, finding the government’s offer of 70 acres within the project area “unacceptable”.

“The chief minister, who called me over the phone for the talks, said the government could not find more than 70 acres. We had demanded 300 acres within the project area. I told him if the government could not find land, it is its problem,” Banerjee told reporters.

“Our members in the four-member panel (formed to find alternate land) have already identified 300 acres. We want the agreement finalised Sunday in the presence of Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi to be implemented properly. The agreement has said the farmers who have not taken compensation cheques will be provided maximum land from within the project area,” she said.

“It is a gentleman’s agreement. One must respect the governor’s constitutional designation. The government must abide by it. We want agriculture, motor plant and ancillaries - all in Singur,” she said.

Banerjee said the Tata Nano plant could come up over 600 acres.

Before the talks collapsed, there were hopes of a breakthrough when the chief minister termed as satisfactory the meeting of the four-member land panel and invited Banerjee for discussions, saying any decision on the issue has to be taken after discussions with her.

Earlier, the panel met for nearly two hours where “some proposals” by the government to resolve the land row were discussed.

A farmers’ group backed by the Trinamool Congress has demanded the return of 400 acres which they allege were forcibly taken from villagers to build ancillary industries adjacent to the Nano project’s mother unit.

Their agitation, which included an indefinite siege before the plant from Aug 24, put a question mark on the future of the project and Tata Motors last week suspended work at the site.

However, Governor Gandhi mediated talks between the chief minister and the Trinamool supremo that led to a compromise, which included setting up of the four-member panel to study the vexed land issue.

Two years ago, Tata Motors started setting up the unit to produce the world’s cheapest car Nano, priced at Rs.100,000 ($2,250). The company has invested Rs.15 billion in the project so far, its officials say.

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