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Mamata vows to make Singur the 'showpiece of Bengal'

Last updated on: October 7, 2010 08:33 IST

Mamata vows to make Singur the 'showpiece of Bengal'

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Rediff Business Desk

Roughly two years after the Tatas pulled the Nano project out of Singur, Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said at a rally recently, "I will make Singur the showpiece of Bengal".

"Singur is like my eyeball and Nandigram my heartbeat," Mamata said, the deserted sheds of the Tata Motors car factory in the background.

The Trinamool Congress chief sounded almost desperate to take land for setting up industry.

Her statement was but a repetition of what West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said when he initiated the process of handing over nearly 1,000 acres to the Tatas three years ago.

"If the state government wants, the state can have an equal share in the 600 acres of land. Since the Railways does not have any land in Singur, it wants the land from the state government," she said.

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Image: Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Photographs: Reuters
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Mamata vows to make Singur the 'showpiece of Bengal'

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'Let Railways establish industries here'

"Let the land be given to the Railways, and industries will come up. We will give back 400 acres to the unwilling farmers and two industries will be set up on the remaining 600 acres," said Mamata.

And then taking a dig at the Left Front government of West Bengal, she added, "I have been saying this repeatedly for the past one year, but there is no response from the West Bengal government."

In Dankuni too -- adjacent to Singur -- which was in the focus area of state government for industrial growth, Banerjee said she had elaborte plans for industry.

Already three railway factories are coming up at Dankuni, including an electrical locomotive engine factory, a track maintenance factory and an airconditioned coach repairing factory.

The dedicated freight corridor will also come up, she added.

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Image: Mamata Banerjee.
Photographs: Reuters
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Mamata vows to make Singur the 'showpiece of Bengal'

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Land Acquisition Act amendments soon

It is because of the resilience of the people Singur and Nandigram and their fight against land acquisition that amendments are coming to the Land Acquisition Act.

"We have been saying that land cannot be acquired forcibly. The entire country has accepted this," Banerjee added.

However, on the third year of the Singur movement, Banerjee did not announce when and how she would be able to return the 400 acres of land to the unwilling farmers, most of whom are spending days in utter distress and hunger.

The minister said: "After we come to power in the state, we will return the land to the unwilling farmers of Singur."

Banerjee, meanwhile, flagged off two new trains for Singur. Earlier, She had given two local trains for Singur.

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Image: Mother of Tapasi Malik, looks at her photograph.
Photographs: Reuters
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Mamata vows to make Singur the 'showpiece of Bengal'

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Did Mamata handle Singur land issue well?

After a couple of years, since the Tatas decided to shift their small-car factory from there on October 3, 2008, rays of hope have started shining as far as the Singur factory land is concerned.

In a political masterstroke, Banerjee sent her consent to take over the entire 997-acre plot leased to the Tatas in Singur on December 9, 2009. The Railways also promised to return 400 acres to those farmers who were unwilling to give their land for the Nano factory.

This move by the railway ministry thwarted the ruling Left Front's attempt to lob the difficult Singur ball into Banerjee's court to create hurdles in her path prior to the West Bengal Assembly polls due in 2011.

It should be remembered that the West Bengal government also gave its consent to Mamata's proposal for setting up a railway coach factory at the abandoned site of Tata Motors.

The state government's response came close on the heels of Banerjee's statement that the Railways was ready to set up a coach factory in Singur jointly with the state government or under a public-private partnership model.

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Image: Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Photographs: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters
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Mamata vows to make Singur the 'showpiece of Bengal'

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Singur land: State government's other plans

The state government had earlier proposed to construct a mega power plant in Singur with Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, but BHEL had expressed its inability for the same.

Though the Singur site was with the Tatas, its group chairman Ratan Tata had earlier said he did not want to sit on the land and could give it back if the company was compensated for the investment it had made.

When talks were on for putting up a power plant last month, West Bengal Industry Minister Nirupam Sen had stated, "I don't think there will be any problem to get back the land from the Tata Motors Ltd."

Ever since the Tatas shifted the Nano factory out of Singur to Sanand in Gujarat, there was buzz about the site housing some other car factory.

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Image: Left Front supporters gather in support of the Tata car project at Singur.
Photographs: Parth Sanyal/Reuters
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Mamata vows to make Singur the 'showpiece of Bengal'

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It planned to set up another car factory

It was heard that Singur would be home to another small car, one that is likely to cost between Rs 150,000 and Rs 200,000.

Left Front sources had stated then that the West Bengal government was likely to offer the disputed 'Nano land' to another car manufacturer.

Former West Bengal Sports Minister, late Subhash Chakraborty, too had hinted that Singur would soon become home to 'another car company'.

According to sources, representatives of China's First Automobile Works and Ural India (an Indo-Russian venture) had met West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee middle of this year and had expressed their desire to set up an automobile manufacturing plant in the state.

The car company, said sources, had asked for only 600 acres for its factory.

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Image: Tata Motors security personnel and policemen stand guard at Singur factory.
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty
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Mamata vows to make Singur the 'showpiece of Bengal'

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Nano factory: A bit of history

On May 18, 2006, Tatas had selected West Bengal for the Rs 100,000-car plant.

But the proposed project soon ran into rough weather with Mamata Banerjee deciding to protest outside block development officer's office at Singur to protest land acquisition drive.

She also called for rail and road blockade. Many protest marchs and bandhs later, Banerjee called off indefinite hunger-strike after 25 days following appeals from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

On December 18, 2006, Tapasi Malik, daughter of Monoronjan Malik, a sharecropper,  was allegedly gangraped and burnt alive. On seeing the fire, the villagers tried to intervene but was allegedly baton-charged by police.

This incident complicated the Singur issue further with both Communist Party of India-Marxist and Trinamool Congress trading charges of 'calculative foul play'.

However, on January 14, 2007, land puja was offered at the Nano project site.

On February 5, police, mob clashed at Singur.

However, an undeterred Left Front government signed a 90-year agreement with Tata Motors for the Nano plant.

On March 11 2007, a farmer Haradhan Bag committed suicide at Singur and mob attacked Tata Motors's factory fencing.

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Image: Tata Motors chairman Ratan Tata (left) poses with Nano car.
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters
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Mamata vows to make Singur the 'showpiece of Bengal'

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October 3, 2008: Nano leaves Bengal

On November 12, 2007, central forces were deployed at Singur after fresh protests.

In the meantime, Trinamool Congress chief had intensified her demand that 400 acres of the tolal Singur factory area should be returned to farmers.

On August 20, 2008, talks between state government and Trinamool Congress failed and on August 22, Ratan Tata threatened to move the Nano project out of West Bengal if violence continued at Singur.

From August 24, 2008, Mamata Banerjee began indefinite dharna at Singur demanding return of land.

On September 3, 2008, Tatas suspended work at Singur plant because of assault and intimidation by agitators, threatened to relocate plant elsewhere.

West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi's intervention to resolve the issue failed following which Ratan Tata formally announced on October 3, 2008 that there would be no Nano from Singur.


Image: Policemen with riot gear stand guard inside the entrance of Nano factory.
Photographs: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters
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