Singur talks to continue Monday amid solution signals (Night Lead)September 6th, 2008 - 10:11 pm ICT by IANS
Kolkata, Sep 6 (IANS) Amid signals that a formula to solve the 28-month dispute over land allotted to Tata Motors’ Nano small car project at Singur in West Bengal has already been worked out, the second round of talks initiated by Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi ended inconclusively Saturday.The talks will continue Monday.
Sources said that the most positive signal that a formula had already been worked out was the fact that an emergency meeting of the ruling Left coalition in the state has been called Sunday morning.
The government side - one of the warring parties, the other being the farmers’ body led by the state’s principal opposition Trinamool Congress - cannot agree to any formula to resolve the land dispute without first getting it ratified by the ruling Left coalition, the Left Front.
The emergency meeting of the Left Front, therefore, indicates that some formula has already been worked out, the sources said.
Once the Left Front ratifies it, the government side will be able to commit itself to the formula and thereby end the impasse.
The Trinamool-backed farmers’ group is demanding that 400 acres of the 997.1 acres allotted to Tata Motors be returned to those farmers whose land was “forcibly” taken as they were “unwilling” to part with it.
The state government has said return of land already allotted to the project is not possible as it will make the entire project unviable.
The governor, at whose initiative the two disputing parties have at last been brought to the negotiating table, also struck a hopeful and positive note at the end of the meeting Saturday.
“I am hopeful that our discussions which were marked by the same measure of frankness and cordiality (as Friday), will lead to a satisfactory conclusion in our next session over tomorrow (Sunday) or the day after tomorrow (Monday),” said Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, at the end of the day-long deliberations.
He said that he was hopeful that a solution will emerge as “all the participants continued to be seriously engaged in resolving the issue”.
“We had the opportunity to go into greater details about land-based rehabilitation schemes in and around the Singur project site,” he said at a media briefing at the end of the meeting.
Both disputing parties also gave out positive signals at the end of the meeting.
Asked whether the meeting was positive, Trinamool heavyweight and leader of the opposition in the state assembly Partha Chattopadhyay said: “I won’t say it is negative.”
Another opposition representative and Trinamool lawyer cell chief Kalyan Banerjee said: “We see a light of hope.”
Regarding the government side, a source present at the talks said that the government had agreed in principle to give alternative land to the land losers.
Some of the land was within the 997.11 acres of the project area, some 40 km from here, and the rest in nearby plots, he said.
“The main issue now remains the quantum of land. We want more than what the government has agreed to so far,” he said, giving an idea of the battle of nerves that marked the meeting.
The sources said there was hard bargaining from both sides during the day’s talks that began around 11 a.m., continued till 5.30 p.m. with a couple of hours of lunch break in between.
The two sides had met for three hours Friday on the opening day of the talks which are being watched keenly both in India and abroad as the fate of the world’s cheapest car Nano depends on the outcome.
As they did Friday, opposition delegates rushed to Singur to brief Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, who has been camping near the Nano factory since Aug 24 leading a sit-in agitation.
Similarly, from the government side, the two Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) ministers at the discussions - Industry Minister Nirupam Sen and Panchayat Minister Suryakanta Mishra - rushed to meet top party functionaries.
The CPI-M leads the Left coalition that rules West Bengal.
The government had Friday presented a package including provisions for shopping malls for those who had given their land in a plot adjacent to the Nano plant.
Trinamool Congress-backed farmers have been holding protests since Aug 24 at the Nano project site at Singur, about 40 km from here, demanding the return of the 400 acres of land earmarked for ancillary industries.
After the protests intensified, and its officers and workers were threatened and manhandled, the Tata group last week suspended work at the factory site saying it will not put its employees at risk.
The factory currently 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.
On Wednesday, a farmer who had sold his land willingly to the Tatas for the project, committed suicide. His three sons were employed in the company as guards and they stood to lose their jobs if the project were to be shifted elsewhere.
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 Nano, whose dealer price will be Rs.100,000 (less than $2,500).