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Buddha gets Tata reply

Calcutta, Sept. 27: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said Ratan Tata had agreed to meet him soon to discuss Singur and stressed that time was running out.

“Today I received Ratan Tata’s reply to the letter I sent yesterday. He said he would like to talk to me. I am trying my best to ensure that the Tatas do not leave Bengal, but I know (they) will not wait for long in view of the situation created by the Opposition,’’ the chief minister told a rally of CPM student wing SFI.

Bhattacharjee did not mention a date for the meeting, merely saying: “I will let you know’’. Sources said Tata was expected to call on the chief minister between October 1 and 3.

There are two views within the government and the CPM about the meeting’s possible outcome. The pessimistic opinion is that it would not amount to much and that the Tatas have almost made up their mind to leave, as shown by their contractors having moved a lot of their heavy machinery out of the Singur project site.

The other group says Bhattacharjee can still try to persuade Tata to wait a little longer for the dust to settle down.

The government, they say, will cite how 11,000-odd farmers had willingly given up their land for the project whereas Mamata was campaigning for just 2,000 farmers. What would happen to the willing landlosers if the Tatas pulled out, since the existing law makes it difficult to return acquired tracts to previous owners?

Second, the government will point out how the alternative sites being talked about — such as Pantnagar in Uttarakhand or Dharwar in Maharashtra — are beginning to witness the onset of land movements. For instance, it will argue, an outfit named Kisan Kiswani has started stitching up a movement in the Pantnagar region against the use of farmland for industry, and Maoists are surfacing in Dharwar.

Compared to these states, the government will say, Bengal enjoys far better law and order, notwithstanding a stray assault or two on employees inside the project.

Bhattacharjee today said: “I have told Ratan Tata that I appreciate your problems, but I hope you would appreciate our concerns that a Tata pullout would mar the prospects of the automobile industry in Bengal. A lot of investment that was coming in this sector along with the project would be lost, with a cascading effect on the potentials of other sectors.”

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