Protest will continue till land is returned, says Mamata (Second Lead)

August 24th, 2008 - 6:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Aug 24 (IANS) Opposition Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee Sunday said the protest by thousands to demand that Tata Motors return 400 acres taken for its small car factory project in Singur in West Bengal will continue till the land is returned to the farmers.A day after Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said it was “not possible” to return the 400 acres as it would be tantamount to “giving up the entire project”, the Trinamool chief stated the land would have to be returned to the “unwilling” farmers of Singur.

“The government will be left with no option but to return the 400 acres to the unwilling farmers. We will continue to agitate till our demand is met,” said Banerjee, addressing the huge gathering at Singur, 40 km from Kolkata, where Tata Motors is building its factory to roll out Nano, the Rs.100,000 small car.

“Keep faith in our movement,” she exhorted the crowd.

On Saturday, the chief minister assured that Nano would hit the market in October as scheduled. Bhattacharjee had told media persons: “Giving away 400 acres means giving up the entire project, which is not possible. We want another round of discussion with the opposition party, during which some solution can come up.”

Earlier, Industries Minister Nirupam Sen had said it is not possible for the government to return the 400 acres as it is not located in one pocket of the project area, but scattered.

He had cited a Supreme Court ruling that land taken for building public projects cannot be returned like that and if at all there is a situation where there is some excess land, the government can call for a public auction.

Social activist Medha Patkar, who also attended the meeting said: “Forceful acquisition of land is unconstitutional. We will fight against this and win.”

“We will do peaceful agitation till our demand is met,” Patkar added.

The Trinamool chief kicked off the indefinite protest after she reached Singur at 2 p.m. She was accompanied by Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, social activist Medha Patkar, former Congress leader Soumen Mitra, Krishijami Jiban Jibika Raksha Committee (Save Farmland Committee) Convenor Purnendu Bose and other political and social activists.

The Trinamool-led Krishijami Jiban Jibika Raksha Committee, which opposes the takeover of farmland for the Tata project, has called for indefinite protests at the Nano factory site from Sunday. They say the 400 acres were taken from “unwilling farmers” to build ancillary industries adjacent to the main auto plant.

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

Security arrangements have been tightened in and around Singur, said Inspector General of Police (law and order) Raj Kanojia.

Tata Motors took up the project to build the small car factory in Singur two years back. Since then the firm has faced resistance from sections of the farmers and political parties over the farmland acquisition.

“We want our land back and we will continue to agitate till our demand is met,” said Laxman Das, a farmer in Singur.

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