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Letter for Tata truce? No, thanks

Tata and Chatterjee

Calcutta, Dec. 21: Bengal industries minister Partha Chatterjee today declined to accept a letter from a city-based business chamber that suggested the state government should try to reach an out-of-court settlement with the Tatas on Singur.

The letter was written by Kallol Datta, the president of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and addressed to Chatterjee. It appealed to the state to resolve the Singur dispute — which many count among the factors that have caused the maximum damage to the perception about Bengal among investors.

The letter came less than a week after Ratan Tata suggested in an interview to PTI that the Tatas could look at Singur for other projects. The Singur land case is now pending in the Supreme Court.

Contacted late tonight, Chatterjee termed the appeal by the chamber “uncalled for”.

“I am very aware of what needs to be done. The chamber need not interfere in this matter,” Chatterjee told The Telegraph.

Asked whether the state was willing to consider a resolution with the Tatas, Chatterjee said: “Wait till December 29.”

Ratan Tata is scheduled to retire as the chairman of Tata Sons on December 28, leaving the top job to Cyrus Mistry. However, Tata will be the chairman emeritus of the group.

Sources said the Bengal government was expected to write a letter to Mistry, congratulating him on his new assignment.

A section of the Mamata Banerjee government was hoping that the change of guard could ease the strained relations between the Tata Group and the Trinamul Congress government.

Panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee had earlier this week said: “If the Tatas approach us, we shall see.”

However, Chatterjee’s reluctance to accept a letter reflects the extremely sensitive nature of the issue. The final decision lies with Mamata and few in the government would want to be seen as taking or encouraging any initiative on their own.

This evening around 6.30, Chatterjee reached the chamber’s office to hold a session on the proposed industrial policy.

Some witnesses said they thought the minister looked perturbed while he was talking to the chamber director-general, P. Roy.

“The minister told Roy, ‘don’t do this’. The session then started,” a person who was present at the venue said late tonight. Roy could not be contacted for comment.

Datta, who wrote the letter, was not present at the meeting. The letter, which the minister declined to accept, said: “We have read in the media that the Tatas appear to be interested in resolving the Singur issue mutually. We… would like to suggest at this juncture that the (government of West Bengal) also make overtures to the Tatas with a view to reaching an out-of-court settlement on the Singur issue.”

The letter added: “We believe it would be in the best interest of our state to reach out and arrive at a rapprochement with a group as professional and economically powerful as the Tatas.”

“It is our considered belief that this would dramatically change the perception about Bengal as an investor-friendly destination in the eyes of industrialists/investors of national and international stature and that such initiative by the (government) could go a long way in reviving investor sentiments towards the state.”


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