Trinamool chief for peaceful agitation at Singur (Roundup)

August 24th, 2008 - 10:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Singur/Kolkata, Aug 24 (IANS) Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, spearheading an agitation for restoration to farmers tehir lands acquired for a Nano car factory in Singur, Sunday promised to carry on a non-violent movement for an indefinite period at the site. Addressing a rally at Singur, Banerjee said: “Following Mahatma Gandhi’s path, we will have a peaceful and democratic agitation. We will not go into any sort of confrontation with anyone.”

She said this is not a “battle of ego” but an agitation for the cause of the people.

“We will bring back the 400 acres of farmland from the government without any untoward incident. We will continue to agitate till our demand is met,” Banerjee said.

She asked the people to keep faith in the movement.

Social activist Medha Patkar, who was also present at the rally, said forceful acquisition of land is unconstitutional. “We will fight against this and win,” she added.

Security arrangements were tightened in and around Singur. “No violence has been reported,” said Raj Kanojia, inspector general of police (law and order).

In Kolkata, the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the dominant partner in the ruling Left coalition, took out a procession in the city in support of industrialisation.

Left Front chairman Biman Bose said the state government was planning to arrange alternate land for farmers whose lands were acquired.

“But first we have to find out actually how many unwilling farmers are there,” Bose told reporters Sunday evening.

On Banerjee’s indefinite agitation at Singur, Bose said: “Trinamool can do whatever it wants to. But the Singur issue can only be solved through discussions. Both the parties need to iron out our differences first and only then can we come to a solution.”

Matters came to a head Friday, when Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata said the company could pull out of the state over the land dispute.

“We have no intention of pulling out of the state, but if we are made to feel unwanted then we will have to pull out,” he told reporters during the annual general meeting of Tata Tea.

A day later, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said the Nano car, priced at Rs.100,000 before duties, would hit the market in October.

“Giving away 400 acres means giving up the entire project, which is not possible. We want another round of discussion with the opposition party, from which some solution can come up,” he said.

West Bengal’s Industries Minister Nirupam Sen said it was not possible for the state government to return the 400 acres because the land is not located at one pocket of the project area, but is scattered.

Sen cited a Supreme Court ruling and said land taken for building public projects cannot be returned at will, and if at all there is any situation where there is some excess land, the government can auction it.

The corporate sector here feels the political parties should have behaved more responsibly so that the small car project materialised, which would also generate employment.

“This indefinite agitation will affect factory work in the long run. If it would have been possible in the past to work at a normal pace, Nano could have been out by May,” said Sandipan Chakravortty, managing director of Tata Ryerson Ltd and deputy chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

The government and opposition parties are likely to meet shortly to cobble together a solution.

At a press conference Saturday, Chief Minister Bhattacharjee said his government is preparing new compensation packages, which it wants to discuss with the opposition parties.

At Singur Sunday, Mamata Banerjee said a 500-acre low-lying and infertile plot opposite the Tata Motors factory site, which was “owned by communist promoters”, could be handed over to the company for its ancilliary units in lieu of the 400 acres under dispute.

Progressive Indira Congress chief Somen Mitra, who is supporting Trinamool, said people’s support over the issue clearly reflected on the way votes would go in coming assembly elections.

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