Preliminary parleys on to resolve Singur impasse (Lead)

September 4th, 2008 - 7:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Sep 4 (IANS) Hectic preliminary parleys were on at the Raj Bhavan here Thursday with West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi meeting various groups in his bid to thrash out an acceptable formula ahead of the formal talks Friday to end the stalemate on Tata Motors’ Nano project. The governor, chairing the discussions, deliberated at length with representatives of the state’s Left Front government, the opposition Trinamool Congress-backed Krishijami Jiban Jibika Raksha Committee (KJJRC) and Sudip Bandyopadhyay, chairman of the state assembly’s standing committee on commerce and industries.

As the theatre of action shifted to the Raj Bhavan, there was an uneasy calm at Singur, about 40 km from here, with the rural belt keenly awaiting the outcome of the talks.

There was not much activity at the makeshift platforms raised near the Durgapur Expressway by the Trinamool Congress and its allies that have been holding an indefinite siege under the KJJRC banner since Aug 24 near the Tata Motors plant demanding that the government return 400 acres of land, which they allege, was “forcibly” acquired from “unwilling farmers”.

Pro-industry agitators also kept mum but were scheduled to come out with a rally late in the evening.

A team of state government representatives including Industry Minister Nirupam Sen, Chief Secretary Amit Kiran Deb and commerce and industry department principal secretary Sabyasachi Sen participated in the talks with the governor in the morning.

Nirupam Sen later told reporters: “We have discussed the details of the project with the governor. He took note of the information we gave him. He will discuss it with the opposition.”

Bandyopadhyay said he had suggested giving alternative land to the affected farmers.

Bandyopadhyay, a Congress lawmaker, said during a visit to Tata Motor’s Pune factory he found the ancillary units were located away from the mother plant. However, he conceded that the image of the state would take a beating if the company left Singur.

“We want the Tatas to stay in West Bengal. It is not desirable that they leave Singur. Everybody wants them here. If the Tatas roll back, the image of the state will be affected,” he said.

Later, Gandhi also chaired another meeting with the KJJRC, which has been spearheading the agitation under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee, to prepare a blueprint for the final talks.

“The meeting has been called to discuss the Singur land row with the governor, before participating in the formal talks Friday,” senior Trinamool Congress leader Madan Mitra told IANS in the morning.

With Gandhi playing the mediator, the state government and the KJJRC decided to hold talks Friday to find a solution to the vexed Singur issue after the Tatas suspended work at the factory and threatened to shift base to a location outside the state for producing the world’s cheapest car Nano.

Despite initial reluctance, the ruling coalition and the Trinamool Congress later agreed to Gandhi’s proposals and requested him to play the role of mediator.

The governor had earlier appealed to both sides to seek the help of a mediator who has “no political or industrial affiliations” to resolve the matter.

“From our end, a seven-member team led by Leader of Opposition Partha Chattopadhyay will meet the governor today (Thursday),” Mitra said.

Apart from Chattopadhyay, Trinamool Congress leader and prominent lawyer Kalyan Banerjee, Trinamool’s Singur unit leader Becharman Manna, the area’s legislator Rabindranath Bhattacahrya, former bureaucrat and land reforms expert Debabrata Bandyopadhyay, Naxalite leader Purnendu Bose and Socialist Unity Centre of India leader Manik Mukherjee will represent the opposition.

A total of 997.11 acres of land was acquired for the small car project, which includes ancillary units to be located adjacent to the main plant.

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