The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Quiet start to land public cell
- Few forms, few complaints

Aug. 8: No farmer turned up to register objections to the acquisition of land for Tata Motors at Singur today, the first day of a public camp opened by the government.

However, officials as well as CPM leaders of Hooghly district are not reading the absence of complaints as a sign of consent — they conceded that the camp had a quiet start because forms to register the complaints were not distributed among the landowners before the cell was set up.

“We did not distribute the objection forms as the camp has been set up in the vicinity of the Singur block office. Block offices give out the forms in any case,” said Ranjit Mondal, the Singur panchayat samiti sabhapati coordinating the acquisition drive for the CPM.

But more alacrity was shown in distributing the consent forms. “We have already sent the consent forms to be distributed among the landowners whose plots would be acquired. The local Trinamul gram panchayat leaders declined to collect the forms from us. So we asked the zilla parishad member from the gram panchayat to collect the forms and distribute them among 800 farmers,’’ Mondal added.

The complaint camp will be open till August 30, after which hearings will be held till September 8.

The camp has been opened to spread among the landowners, many of them farmers, the message that the government is keen to address their concerns. Legally, the government can acquire land “in public interest” even if objections have been filed.

The officials have received the consent of 609 landowners so far, out of more than 6,000 farmers whose 1,012 acres would be acquired for the small car unit of Tata Motors.

“We hope to complete the processing of the applications of consenting farmers by September 15.

“The state government has not set any deadline for completing the land acquisition for Tata Motors but asked us to expedite the process. Hopefully, we will be able to do it by the fag end of this year,” Mondal said.

However, much will depend on the bargaining for actual amount of compensation to individual plot-owners,’’ Mondal said. “We have demanded that the government should pay a minimum Rs 9 lakh per acre for land located not close to the Durgapur Expressway,’’ he added.

Around 40 acres picked out for the Tata project are close to the expressway and will fetch a much higher price. “The beneficiaries will not be the farmers but promoters who had already purchased the land from them,’’ Mondal added.

The notice for acquisition was issued between July 19 and July 31. The law has laid down that a month’s time should be given to the landowners to lodge their objections.

The Trinamul-led Krishijomi Bachao Committee (Save Farmland Committee) did not submit objections today as its leader Becharam Manna said it had already furnished them to the district administration.

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