Land lease, not sale, to Tata

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Calcutta
  • Published 30.07.06
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Calcutta, June 30: The Bengal government today said it would not hand over ownership of the land to be acquired from farmers to investors.

“We will lease out the land to the Tatas and the Salim Group,” industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen said.

“However, if an investor seeks freehold title to get ownership and the right to sell the land, the government will decide on the basis of the merit of the case.’’

The Salim Group has sought over 35,000 acres for a string of projects, including a special economic zone, across south Bengal. The Tatas want around 1,200 acres ? at Singur for their small-car unit and at Kharagpur for a payloader plant.

The government’s intention apparently is to keep control over the use of the land.

Sen said the mode of land transfer has not been discussed yet with either the Tatas or the Salim Group. “This is not going to be a big issue for the implementation of the projects,’’ he claimed.

The industries secretary hinted that the Salim Group might get the job of constructing the new South 24-Parganas district headquarters at Baruipur, 26 km from Calcutta. “We are thinking in terms of mutual interests and benefits,’’ he said.

The Salim Group has already agreed to construct a 100-km long, 100-metre wide four-lane road from Barasat in North 24-Parganas to Raichak in south, a bridge across the Haldi connecting Haldia and South 24-Parganas and townships on both sides of the river.

The state government is planning to acquire around 3,000 acres for the road, keeping provision for service roads and two additional lanes, which could be built later.

The ownership of this land will also remain with the government, Sen said.

Senior officials of the Salim Group, including its collaborator Prasun Mukherjee, met him today to discuss the details of its agreement with the government that is likely to be inked by end-July.

“The 30-year agreement will include the time-frame for finishing the projects as well as penal clauses for failing to keeping to the deadline,” Sen said.

The Salim officials will meet the chief minister tomorrow.

Referring to the Tata Motors projects at Singur, Sen said the government would build commercial complexes close to the unit and offer ownership of space to land losers whose only source of livelihood was their land.

The displaced people can set up kiosks, permanent or movable, there.

The government will also open such a market-cum-kiosk complex inside the Calcutta Leather Complex at Bantala. Sen said: “The same policy will be followed for other projects, including those of the Salim Group.”

The government wants to acquire around 40,000 acres over the next six months. Acquisition for the Singur project is to begin in a few days. The Opposition Trinamul Congress has vowed to resist it.