I cannot afford to return 400 acres: Buddhadeb (Lead)

August 26th, 2008 - 6:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Aug 26 (IANS) It is impossible to return 400 acres of land to the farmers who have been agitating in front of the Tata Motors Nano project site in Singur, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said here Tuesday.”Returning 400 acres means dropping the entire project. I cannot afford to roll back the project now. It is too important for the state,” Bhattacharjee said at an interaction with Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) representatives.

The Trinamool Congress-backed Krishijami Jiban Jibika Raksha Committee, which has opposed the takeover of farmland for the Tata project, has been staging an indefinite protest at the Nano factory site in Sigur, about 40 km from here, since Sunday.

The protesters, led by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, have demanded the return of 400 acres of land, which they allege was forcibly taken from “unwilling farmers” to build ancillary industries adjacent to the main plant.

Asked about his government’s stand on the indefinite siege around Tata Motors’ plant, Bhattacharjee said: “I’m trying to make the opposition parties understand that the automobile company and its ancillary industries should be in a continuous piece of land. Otherwise it will not be viable. I think I will finally succeed in convincing the opposition about the importance of the project.

“West Bengal will be the first state from where Tata Motors will roll out the Rs.100,000 small car. We cannot miss this project. This car factory and the ancillary factories will attract many other companies in the future and the ancillary units will not only supply products to the Nano factory, they will also serve other companies.”

Trying to portray an industry-friendly image of the state, the chief minister added: “This (Singur) is an exceptional case. This is not the original feature of the state as a whole.”

The state is still receiving many investment offers in areas like petrochemical, steel, leather, cement, food processing, IT and bio-technology, Bhattacharjee said.

“There are 13,000 farmer families involved with this project and it is impossible to reach out to every farmer individually. But our officials have attended several meetings over there and talked to the aggrieved farmers,” he said.

Many who have not taken compensation money for their land do not have proper documents and there are a lot of absentee landlords, according to the chief minister.

A total of 997.11 acres was acquired for the project, of which 691.66 acres belonged to farmers who gave their land willingly.

Nano, the world’s cheapest car priced at Rs.100,000, is set to roll out in October.

Referring to the huge traffic snarl on National Highway 2 because of the agitation on the Durgapur Expressway, Bhattacharjee said he was trying to make the opposition see reason.

“I have requested the opposition Tuesday morning to open one flank of the road. I’m yet to get a reply”.

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