Chief minister Mamata Banerjee flashes the victory sign with Akul Chandra Das (left), an unwilling farmer whose 26 uncollected cheques for as many plots are mentioned in the Singur land-return bill, after the legislation was passed in the Assembly on Tuesday. Das and several other unwilling farmers were in the visitors gallery of the House when the bill was passed. Picture by Sanat Kumar Sinha
Calcutta, June 14: Sections of vendors and willing farmers have alleged discrimination over the Singur bill, suggesting that they may move court if the state government does not address their concerns.
Vendors demanded that they be compensated for the investment made at the Nano site. But the government, which has specifically said in the bill that none of the vendors has obtained any deed of lease in terms of their respective letters of allotment, has so far mentioned compensation for only Tata Motors.
The government, which feels that the vendors have a weak case, tightened the screws today by adding to the compensation clause an amendment that specifically mentions land leased to Tata Motors.
We will seek appropriate compensation for our investments in Singur from the Bengal government. We are not asking to be compensated for loss of profits, only the basic investments made at the start of the Nano project, Surinder Kapur, the CMD of Sona Koyo Steering Systems, told The Telegraph.
Around 13 vendors, including Caparo Engineering, Bosch Chassis Systems, Gabriel, Lumax Industries, Kinetic Engineering, Sona Koyo Steering Systems, Exide, Tata Ryerson, Rico Engineering, have constructed plant buildings on the site while 17 others were at various stages of construction. The vendors had made a cumulative investment of Rs 171 crore, according to a statement issued by Tata Motors.
The Singur bill states that Tata Motors would be compensated for the investments it made. As for the vendors, the government would refund the premium (initial down payment of Rs 15-20 lakh an acre) paid by them at the time of land allotment after deducting lease rental arrears, if any. The bill does not mention compensation for the vendors for the sunk cost.
The state government feels that as no lease agreement was signed with the vendors, it is not contractually bound to pay the sunk cost.
Kapur, however, challenged the notion. If the government does not recognise the investments Sona Koyo made, the company will go to court. We may not have signed an agreement but we paid premium and rentals, he said.
The vendors were given permissive possession to work, not the land lease. The formal agreement was not signed because of a case in Calcutta High Court.
We have invested Rs 30 to 40 crore to develop the land and hope the government will return what we spent, said an executive from a vendor who did not wished to be named, adding the company would appeal to a court if necessary.
Another flank of discontent has opened with farmers who had given the land demanding that they also be given plots back .
Udayan Ghosh, the president of the Singur Shilpa Banchao Committee, a forum of owners that took compensation and is apparently backed by the Left Front, said: We gave up land because the state invoked the Land Acquisition Act of 1984. Under this, owners can only dispute the amount of compensation but not stop acquisition. Around 11,000 people followed the law. Those who did not are being rewarded today.
He said the bill did not mention rehabilitation of those who gave land. Money was one part. But we were hoping to get jobs in Tata Motors or with vendors. Some would have got space in the market place the government was building. Others would have benefited from the economic activity generated. But they have got nothing after the Tata pullout, he added.
Ghosh said some of the owners would go to court.
Let the government give the land back to us as well. If industry has to come up, it should buy directly from us, said an owner who took compensation.
The state had paid between Rs 8 lakh and Rs 13 lakh per acre to the owners, depending on the proximity of the plot to the highway and its fertility. However, the prices have jumped at least six times since then.