Calcutta, Dec. 8: Singur has become a political football.
The Bengal government today sought to turn the tables on Mamata Banerjee by agreeing to hand over the Tata-held land to the railways for a coach factory.
Chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti yesterday wrote to S.S. Khurana, the Railway Board chairman, stating that the government would initiate the process of taking back the land from the Tatas as soon as a firm decision is taken by the railways.
But the Trinamul Congress lobbed the ball back into the governments court, saying that 400 acres taken from unwilling farmers would have to be returned first.
The state government sent the letter after learning from the media that railway minister Mamata was interested in setting up a joint-venture coach factory.
The state government is willing to give around 1,000 acres. Once the railways send a project report, we can decide if its going to be a joint venture, Chakrabarti said today.
The letter mentioned that 645.67 acres were leased to Tata Motors and around 255 acres allotted to auto component makers. The rest is with the government.
The proposal will be discussed with the minister tomorrow, a Railway Board official said. An official said it was feasible to set up a factory on 600 acres.
But Trinamul leader Partha Chatterjee said: We welcome the proposal but first the state government has to return the 400 acres.
Tata Motors holds the lease for 90 years starting from 2008. The lease renewal is due in April 2010. Ratan Tata had said in September the company was ready to return the land if compensated.
Sources said sorting out compensation — no amount has been mentioned yet in public — could take time. Eight petitions by Singur land-losers are also pending before the Supreme Court.
CPM sources said that by offering the land to the railways, the government was hoping to shed a millstone around its neck as well as retain its pro-industry image.