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Plot U-turn with big ‘if’

Calcutta, June 7: Land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah today said plots acquired from “unwilling” farmers in Singur could be returned if such a decision was taken “politically”.

Mamata Banerjee, during her meeting with Jyoti Basu on Monday, had demanded that land of the “unwilling” farmers be returned.

Mollah had ruled out returning farmland yesterday, citing a Supreme Court verdict.

He modified his stand today. “My department is examining all options, including returning the plots to the agitating farmers. Yesterday, I just defined the legal position. Returning the land is not being ruled out. Let the issue be settled politically first. We will try and fit into our legal framework whatever decision is taken.”

However, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and industries minister Nirupam Sen have told Basu that Tata Motors might withdraw if asked to redraw the project site.

The CPM is considering offering a package to Mamata that would include a “bonus” amount in addition to the value of land as well as an assurance of alternative livelihood to the land-losers, CPM and government sources said.

The party is also exploring whether the government can provide alternative land to resettle the farmers whose land was allegedly acquired forcibly.

CPM state secretary Biman Bose indicated to some Left Front leaders today that this option was still being weighed with the rider that the government would scrutinise the list of “unwilling farmers” first.

The package is likely to be finalised tomorrow at the CPM state secretariat meeting in the presence of Basu.

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