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Minister’s Singur figures fire up Opposition

Calcutta, July 6: An apparent contradiction in Singur consent figures provided by the chief minister and the land minister gave the Opposition ammunition to target the government in the Assembly today.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said in a letter to Mamata Banerjee that consent had been obtained for as much as 954 acres out of the 997 to be acquired for Tata Motors. But Abdur Rezzak Mollah told the House today the government had not got owners’ consent for the acquisition of 326 acres.

Trinamul legislators stood up and demanded that the chief minister be asked to attend the House and admit that he had made “false’’ claims.

Roy fished out a copy of Bhattacharjee’s letter and told the land minister: “Your chief minister had said that consent letters had been received for the acquisition of 954 acres, meaning only 43 acres had not been given willingly. Today, you are saying that the government didn’t get consent for the purchase of 326 acres. Who’s telling the truth'”

The minister’s claim matches the figures furnished by the government in the high court. The Telegraph had reported its statement in Calcutta High Court, saying that of the 958 acres acquired in Singur till then, consent had not been obtained for 308 acres. Nineteen more acres have been acquired since, for none of which the government has got the owners’ consent.

Amid the pandemonium, Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim said: “Let the land reforms minister speak. Please don’t create trouble. He is trying to give a proper reply.’’

An angry Mollah said: “I’m speaking the truth. My records say… owners of 326 acres didn’t accept compensation cheques…. Rs 119.52 crore has been paid and 10,072 cheques issued.”

“I don’t have the right to rectify the chief minister. Please don’t ask for that,” he added.

The apparent discrepancy between the claims of the chief minister and his cabinet colleague was almost an echo of the script that unfolded in Left cousin Kerala yesterday. Ironically, there, too, a Tata plot was at the centre of the storm.

Revenue minister K.P. Rajendran told the Kerala Assembly the forest land, which chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan claimed he had taken back from Tata Tea, was never in the illegal possession of the company. As in Calcutta, VS was not in the House then to hear his minister contradict him.

Speaker Halim asked Saugata Roy to submit Bhattacharjee’s letter to the Assembly secretariat. Later, the chief minister refused to comment on the letter, saying he would speak in the Assembly.

Mollah ruled out returning the land in Singur. “A 2003 Supreme Court order says acquired land can either be given to a government department or be auctioned off,” he said.

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