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‘Herculean task’ awaits committee, debut today

(clockwise from top left) Singur MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharya, panchayat leader Becharam Manna, WBIDC managing director Subrata Gupta and Hooghly district magistrate Neelam Meena
Calcutta, Sept. 8: The government today named its representatives on the committee that would explore if land for the unwilling farmers could be found in the Tata Motors site.

West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation managing director Subrata Gupta, and Hooghly district magistrate Neelam Meena will be the state’s members on the panel.

Singur MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharya and local panchayat samiti member Becharam Manna will represent the Trinamul Congress.

The committee’s first meeting will be held tomorrow at the WBIDC office here.

“The committee will try to find out whether land is available inside the project area. Let the committee deliberate. Before that, it would be hypothetical to say either that land is available or it cannot be found,” chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said after setting up the panel today.

A commerce and industries department official, however, said it would be tough to find surplus land in the project area, home to the mother plant and its ancillary units.

According to the official, the Tatas had wanted 1,050 acres initially but later scaled it down as the government said some fertile agricultural tracts couldn’t be given.

“The National Auto Testing and Research Institute, a central body, has said that 731 acres are required for a mother plant and 658 acres for ancillaries if 3.5 lakh cars are rolled out annually. In the Singur case, the land given to the Tatas is much less and works out to 645 acres for the main plant and 290 acres for vendors for manufacturing 3.5 lakh cars.”

In the light of such benchmarks, the official said, it would be a “Herculean task” for the government to locate land in the project area.

Asked whether land could be identified by keeping the mother plant and the vendor park untouched, a WBIDC official said: “We have 47 acres in the project area, of which some seven to eight acres cannot be retrieved as drainage work has been done. So, about 40 acres can be organised for return. About 15 acres earmarked for the West Bengal State Electricity Board also cannot be given. Then, there are ponds covering up to 30 acres, which can’t be touched.”

The WBIDC official said he had “no idea how the committee would find out 100 acres in the project area and that, too, in a week’s time.”

Trinamul’s Manna said a “solution’’ could emerge if some ancillary units were shifted and land not occupied by the vendors was given back.

However, industries minister Nirupam Sen ruled out this option today.

Manna still seemed optimistic. “Let us start discussions tomorrow. We aren’t talking about relocation of the mother plant. There is land in the project area where some ancillary units are yet to start work. This can be returned. If some 15 ancillary units can be shifted to the other side of the expressway, we will get about 150 acres,” he said.

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