The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Old friend’ VP fails in Singur mission

Calcutta, Dec. 15: Approached by the CPM and Mamata Banerjee to broker a Singur deal, former Prime Minister V.P. Singh failed in his daylong Calcutta mission after the chief minister refused to return any part of the acquired land.

The Trinamul Congress had demanded the return of plots not willingly handed over, claiming these came to at least 347 of the 997 acres.

Party sources said they were looking for a compromise as Mamata’s fast had entered its 12th day, and they felt public interest would wane after another week or so.

But hours of anticipation ended when Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told Singh the land was non-negotiable.

“It is not possible to return the land as 95 per cent of farmers sold voluntarily. The ancillary industries of the Tata Motors unit cannot be shifted elsewhere as that would compromise the composite project,” he told reporters. “This afternoon, V.P. Singh called me from his hotel and said his efforts had failed.”

Singh had flown in this morning saying he wanted to “find a solution as an old friend of Left and Mamata”.

Around the same time, Jyoti Basu had hinted at a flexible stand by the government. “Let them (Trinamul) give their suggestions; we’ll talk to Tatas since things haven’t been finalised yet,” the former chief minister said after the CPM state secretariat’s weekly meeting.

But on her hunger strike dais at Esplanade, Mamata rejected Singh’s request to end the fast and join “national action” against acquisition of farmland for private industry. She, however, asked him to try and convince the state government to be flexible or seek the Centre’s intervention.

Soon afterwards, Trinamul and Krishi Jomi Bachao Committee members told reporters about their compromise formula.

“Our study shows that at least 347 acres were acquired forcibly,” a senior committee member said. “If we add the land tilled by sharecroppers who have received a paltry compensation and the vested land, it will go up to 500 acres.”

But the chief minister told reporters: “The government will not move an inch from its stand on Singur. I can only hold talks on fine-tuning the compensation and rehabilitation package, particularly for the unregistered sharecroppers and farm labourers.”

Asked how he might handle the situation in the coming days, Bhattacharjee said: “The government will not apply force. Let her (Mamata) decide what she wants to do. My work is in Singur.”

Singh, who had met Bhattacharjee before heading to Esplanade, called on Basu at his Salt Lake residence in the evening. Acknowledging defeat, he told reporters, “When there is a solution, you will come to know.”

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