The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Singur onus on govt, not front
Biman Bose, Nirupam Sen

Calcutta, June 9: After several rounds of political initiatives, the ball is now in the government’s court with industries minister Nirupam Sen preparing a note on how to work out a compromise formula for Singur.

This is also a CPM strategy to buy time because the party seems undecided on how to deal with Mamata Banerjee’s demand that land be returned to “unwilling farmers”. That is why CPM leaders gave no indication to allies at today’s front meeting on how they proposed to address the issue.

“The Left Front won’t be able to work out the Singur land return details through discussions. The Singur issue is not on the front’s agenda. It is for the government to decide whether land can be returned. The front can campaign but can’t issue orders like the government,” front chairman Biman Bose said.

He added that land return wasn’t discussed at the meeting, which was attended by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Jyoti Basu had suggested that “unwilling farmers’’ whose plots had been taken for the Tata Motors project be provided land either in the project area or outside. But with Mamata ruling out the possibility of accepting alternative land outside the project site, Sen has a complicated job on hand.

CPM sources said Sen would have several options to work on. One of them relates to the 290 acres reserved for ancillary units. The land is apparently with the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, which has been examining proposals from 70 units. Another 50 acres of vested land are with the government but are not part of the project area.

The industries minister will also have to deal with the tricky issue of “unwilling farmers”. Mamata had claimed that several farmers had not collected compensation as they did not want to part with their land. But the government argued that many of them did not take the cheques because of legal complications over property rights or as they didn’t have valid land deeds.

Allotting alternative plots opposite the project site to the farmers, too, could pose legal and commercial problems, as CPM secretariat member Benoy Konar had indicated yesterday.

At today’s meeting, front allies didn’t want to take responsibility for the Singur talks, leaving it to Bose. However, they went through a report on the discussions Basu had with Mamata at his residence and welcomed the initiative.

“Basu has told the chief minister the government will have to give some concessions to Mamata or else there won’t be any progress in talks. Buddhababu is looking into that aspect and Nirupam is working out the details. Since nothing has been finalised, the ball is in the government’s court,” a senior front leader said.

According to Bose, Mamata could always discuss the Singur issue with the government and the chief minister, too, was willing to hold talks with her.

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