Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee (left) and Partha Chatterjee at Writers’. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta, Aug. 20: At 4.30pm sharp, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and industries minister Nirupam Sen walked into the conference room at Writers’ Buildings for a meeting on Singur that lasted two hours.
The meeting began with a presentation by West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation managing director Subrata Gupta on the Tata Motors project area, its present use and divisions.
Twenty minutes into the presentation, Gupta was stopped by leader of Opposition Partha Chatterjee, who told him that such a display was not necessary as it had “nothing to do with the future of poor farmers”.
“Please don’t show us all these as we are aware of what the Tatas are doing in Singur. We haven’t come to discuss the Tata project but to sort out the land-return issue. Such a presentation won’t address our basic demand that 400 acres have to be given back,” the Trinamul Congress leader said.
Government officials then pointed out that the figure 400 was wrong and that only 167 acres belonged to farmers who did not consent to the land acquisition. The rest belong to absentee landlords or those with disputed ownership.
“From where did you get this figure of 400 acres? Can you produce documents that justify your claim?” the chief minister was learnt to have told Chatterjee.
The Trinamul MLA said: “We have the documents and affidavits.... Do you think we haven’t done our homework? Are you aware that several affidavits had been filed in court when you were busy acquiring land forcibly in Singur.”
An industries department official later said: “Nothing evolved from the meeting. The chief minister emphasised that the Tatas wanted the ancillary units to be contiguous to the mother plant.”
Chatterjee and Save Farmland Committee leader Purnendu Bose stressed the government “should first announce a decision to give back 400 acres to the unwilling farmers”.
“We have come to discuss land return and nothing else. We have no problems with the small-car plant, but ancillary industries cannot come up at the cost of the life and livelihood of poor farmers,” Chatterjee was quoted as saying.
The chief minister requested him to drop the demand to return land and assured him that his government “would not make any moves on other projects in the future without consulting your party”.
Like the 400 acres, the government also turned down the Trinamul demand that the agreement with the Tatas be made public. That, the government said, would be a “violation of the terms and conditions of the deal’’.
“Your party withdrew support at the Centre demanding the details of the nuclear deal. What prompts you to keep the Tata agreement under wraps? What is there to hide?” Chatterjee asked the chief minister.
The industries minister intervened, saying: “According to conditions, we cannot make the agreement public. The Tatas will have to be consulted. We had spoken about the agreement in the Assembly.”