The Telegraph
Wednesday , May 25 , 2011
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Singur payoff one option

Calcutta, May 24: The options before the Mamata Banerjee government to free Singur land from the lease include paying the Tatas and the vendors, officials told The Telegraph, cautioning that unlocking the plots is only but one step in an extremely complex process.

The government officials said the Tatas and the ancillary units had officially said they could not recover investment valued at Rs 550 crore from Singur.

“They were agreeable to return the entire leasehold area to the state. While they had not specifically mentioned any amount as compensation, they wanted to be paid for the loss, which is about Rs 550 crore,” an official said.

The communication from Tata Motors came not only before the new government was sworn in but also the first cabinet decision to return 400 acres to farmers who were unwilling to part with their land.

But the government officials said the figure could become a starting point for negotiations if both sides decide to steer clear of legal options.

The officials underscored that any compensation — a word they were reluctant to use — need not necessarily be in the form of cash. The government can consider giving the Tatas land of equivalent value elsewhere in the state or in the form of incentives for some other industry.

Industry minister Partha Chatterjee had yesterday said there had been speculation that the Tatas wanted to return the land, suggesting that the erstwhile government might have dissuaded them from doing so.

The new government has been focusing on finding a way to return the land as there is no such provision within the existing legal framework. However, sources said some officials of the commerce and industry department had briefed their minister that it was possible to return the land if the law was amended.

Chatterjee today said he received some documents on the Singur lease and more would be made available to him in the next few days. The minister will present them before Mamata.

While Mamata had mentioned 400 acres on Friday, the industry minister today declined to cite a figure when he was asked about the cumulative landholding of all “unwilling” farmers.

Government sources put the figure at 200 acres, including some plots for which cheques were not collected because of disputes between holders and owners.

Legal sources pointed out that if the owner wanted to sell the land and the tenant was not agreeable, the plot could not be bracketed with that belonging to the “unwilling” farmers.

The Left Front government had offered to carve out over 100 acres at most for the “unwilling” farmers in 2008, days before the Tatas pulled out from Singur.

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