The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sen sells Tata car project to farmers

Singur, May 30: Before the cabinet sits tomorrow to ratify the compensation package to acquire land for setting up industries, senior CPM leader and minister Nirupam Sen visited Singur to talk to farmers.

Tata Motors has chosen the site in Hooghly district, about 45 km from Calcutta, for its small-car project.

Sen, the industries and commerce minister, addressed over 300 farmers, mostly members of the CPM-controlled Krishak Sabha, explaining the compensation package, under which land will be acquired at 30 per cent over the market rate with an additional 10 per cent thrown in for those who sell voluntarily.

Of those present at the meeting, some pledged to give up their land ' about 600 bighas, or 200 acres ' and others agreed to do so.

That is not the whole story, though. Local Trinamul Congress MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharya led a few hundred farmers in an abortive black-flag demonstration 100 metres from where the minister was speaking.

Last Thursday, some farmers had protested before visiting Tata officials.

Sen told the gathering: “If Tata Motors is not allowed to set up its unit here, it will send a wrong message to the entire world. Imagine how disastrous it will be for Bengal.”

He narrated how the car factory would match up to international standards and create jobs. “Though some of the land to be acquired is two crop, the compensation package would be quite hefty.”

Sen explained that it might make more sense for farmers to sell their land instead of cultivating it. A farmer earns Rs 9,940 a year from a two-crop land measuring a bigha by selling his produce of paddy. After expenses of Rs 5,500, he makes a profit of Rs 4,440 a year.

If the farmer gets Rs 1 lakh for the same land by selling it, he will earn Rs 7,000 a year as interest without any sweat. “Tell me which is more acceptable to you'” he asked.

“After hearing the minister, I find that the compensation package offered by the government is good,” said Rabindranath Dolui.

Dolui and his group were, however, described by the camp opposing land acquisition as “enemies of the real farmers”. “We will give our blood, but not land,” it said.

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