Calcutta, Oct. 4: In the backdrop of the controversy over land acquisition for the Tata Motors’ factory in Singur, the Bengal government said today that it would separate out areas for industry and agriculture.
Explaining the government’s industrialisation policy at an all-party meeting, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee made it clear there was no going back on the Singur project, for which the administration would do everything in its power to meet the Tatas’ deadline.
A “comprehensive development plan and land-use policy” had been promised earlier. Today the government explained that it would mean clear demarcation of zones for industry and agriculture. It would try to achieve political consensus, though that might prove unrealistic given that the state’s main Opposition party, the Trinamul Congress, did not attend the all-party meeting.
Mamata Banerjee’s party would settle for nothing less than scrapping the project in Singur.
Industries minister Nirupam Sen said after the meeting: “We have already said fertile and multi-crop farmland would be spared as much as possible. Henceforth, we will specify land for agriculture and discourage industry and urbanisation projects there. Similarly, land will be exclusively earmarked for industry and urbanisation projects.”
He clarified, though, that some farmland would have to be taken over for infrastructure development, possibly keeping in mind the string of large projects the Indonesian Salim Group would implement.
The Congress and other Opposition parties demanded that the government postpone the acquisition and transfer of Singur land, but this was not accepted. “The Tatas want their small car to roll out of the factory by 2008. There is no question of waiting,” Sen said.
According to the schedule he narrated, the government expects the land — about 1,000 acres — to be handed over to the Tatas by the end of the month. “Acquisition is almost over in Singur and the land is already under the possession of the WBIDC (the state industrial corporation). We are discussing with the Tatas development of the land so that construction begins by the end of this year.”
Farmers have voluntarily sold a little over 600 acres, but the rest could prove tricky to take over. Sen parried a question on possible resistance when the act of taking physical possession gets under way.
“We are in touch with local farmers and urging all parties not to oppose the Tata project since it is a turning point in Bengal’s industrialisation effort,” Sen said.