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Tata will return land: Buddha
Bhattacharjee, Tata

Calcutta, Oct. 30: Tata Motors will return the land leased out for the Nano project, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told his allies at a Left Front meeting today.

Bhattacharjee clarified that the Tatas had never insisted on retaining the land after shifting the small-car plant out of Singur. “Despite the fact that 85 per cent of the work had been completed, Ratan Tata expressed his desire to return the land the day he announced the pullout. But we have to follow the procedures of taking back the land,” a front leader quoted him as telling the closed-door meeting.

A section of leaders from the CPM and its partners has been insisting on taking the land back so that it can be used for another project.

“The land was acquired for setting up industry and the front today asked the government to take effective steps to ensure that alternative industry comes up in Singur,” Biman Bose, the front chairman and state CPM secretary, said.

Legal provisions allow a leaseholder to retain the land for three years, after which the government can take it back if it has not been used for the purpose cited in the agreement.

Front partners like the RSP criticised the Tatas for “flouting the agreement with the government as it did not have any provision for a pullout because of the Opposition’s agitation”.

Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata drew flak for calling Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi a “good M” as opposed to the “bad M”, an obvious reference to Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.

Bhattacharjee, however, steered clear of the blame game and stressed that the company had not deserted Bengal.

“The Tatas still have many units here that employ 16,000 people. Their cancer hospital is expected to open next month. Another Tata unit is coming up in Kharagpur. We are expecting more investments from the company,’’ he said.

The chief minister told the meeting that the Tatas had not paid the lease money for the 997 acres acquired for the Nano project but had taken a soft loan of Rs 200 crore from the government.

Both Bhattacharjee and Bose ruled out returning the acquired land to “unwilling farmers” as Trinamul has demanded. “The government is looking at possibilities of alternative industries in Singur but no specific proposal was discussed today,’’ Bose said.

Bhattacharjee distanced himself from transport minister Subhas Chakraborty’s claim that a deal had almost been finalised for Singur.

“Maybe one of my over-enthusiastic colleagues has said so, but nothing has been finalised. We are considering various proposals, including clusters of several industries and an industrial park for small-scale industries,’’ he was quoted as saying.

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