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‘Hurry’ to meet Tata challenge

Calcutta, Aug. 22: Industries minister Nirupam Sen today said the government had “hurried” with the Singur project but only to take up the challenge the Tatas had thrown before bringing the project to Bengal.

“We were in a hurry and wondered if one should accept the challenge. We decided to go for it since we wanted the Tatas to come to Bengal and not go to Uttarakhand. If such an internationally renowned company could bring out the Nano from our state, Bengal would be able to invite even bigger industries,” Sen told an interactive session with industry captains at the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

On Tuesday, Mamata Banerjee was at the same venue to explain her views on Singur.

The Bengal government had struck a deal with Tata Motors for the Singur project in March 2007.

“I met Ratan Tata on Thursday night and he told me he had come to set up an industry but was now quite concerned. You can’t run an industry with police protection. No one wants it. So the government is open to talks and ready to discuss the pros and the cons. We are willing to discuss the rehabilitation of some of the marginal farmers who have been affected,” Sen said.

The minister said the Tatas had initially wanted more land. “We wanted to get an expert view before deciding how much was to be offered. So we consulted the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (Natrip), an apex institution of the Union government, for its opinion on what should be the allotment for a small-car project. Finally, we offered 645 acres for the mother plant, which is actually less than what Natrip prescribes (around 700 acres),” Sen said. “The same holds for the ancillary industries.”

“There are apprehensions about land acquisition and we have decided to develop consensus before going ahead with industry projects (in the future),” Sen said, adding that he was willing to accept any proposal to resolve the Singur impasse if it was legal and did not affect the project.

“There are several Supreme Court verdicts that define how land once acquired should be utilised. One of them says if there is excess acquired land that is not required for public purpose, it should be put under public auction. There are several others. Can any state take away land from A and give it to B as part of compensation?” the minister said.

“The Supreme Court’s verdict on Singur is awaited. Till that comes, we’ll have to go by the high court order that says industrialisation is for public interest.”

The government, Sen said, had come clean with details of the deal with the Tatas soon after it was struck. “Many have said we are not transparent. Let me clarify, soon after we struck the deal in March 2007, I had laid bare everything. Addressing the Assembly on June 15, I explained all the parts of the deal,” Sen said.

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