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Promises kept

With the conclusion of Durga Puja festivities, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has pushed her government to fast-track the handing over of land to farmers in a cultivable condition in Singur ahead of the October 21 deadline set by the Supreme Court. Though Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will decide on the exact time-frame at Monday’s meeting in Nabanna, reports indicate that the process would begin ahead of October 21 as the state government has managed to render 870- acre of land fit for cultivation. 

In a landmark judgement on August 31, the Supreme Court declared that the acquisition of 997 acres of land under the colonial-era Land Acquisition Act in Singur for the Tata Nano plant was “grossly perverse and illegal” and quashed it. This judgement was a severe indictment of the previous Left Front government’s policy of forcibly acquiring land for big business at the cost of farmer interests.

Compensation already paid to them on account of the acquisition shall not be recovered since "they have been deprived of the occupation and enjoyment of their lands for the last ten years". The decision gave the TMC government a significant opportunity to consolidate its position as the champion of the peasant masses and workers. The Bengal government has overcome significant legal hurdles to achieve their goal. “Now I can die in peace,” said an elated Banerjee after the verdict.

“This is a landmark victory. We have waited for this judgement for ten years. This is a victory for the farmers. I expect everyone to celebrate this as ‘Singur Utsav’. It is like an invocation for Durga Puja celebrations.” Despite a tussle with Tata Group, several of the company’s projects are underway in the state. In a bid to reclaim the multinational conglomerate’s interest, the state government is ready to offer land for an industrial hub to the company as a means of compensating for the losses incurred in Singur. 

“Availability of industrial land in Bengal was never an issue until, for reasons best known to the former Marxist Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, who acquired and allotted hundreds of acres of highly fertile annual three-crop agricultural land at Singur to Tata Motors to set up a mini-car plant there,” said long-time Bengal observer Nantoo Banerjee. The obvious issue was the manner in which land was forcibly acquired.
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