Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday said that her ministry was interested in setting up a national project on the site of the now abandoned Tata Nano factory in this rural belt of West Bengal.
"We want industry to come up in Singur. If the land which has been taken for industry in Singur is handed over to the railways by the centre, then we will set up a national project there," Banerjee said while flagging off the Singur-Howrah Andolan suburban train in Singur.
She said the railways would implement the project through a joint venture. "We will follow the public-private-partnership model. We are very much interested in such a venture."
The introduction of the suburban train covering a 34-km distance from Singur to Howrah is the Trinamool Congress chief's way of paying tribute to the anti-land acquisition movement of Singur that forced auto major Tata Motors to shift its Nano car factory to Sanand in Gujarat last year.
"This train is a recognition to those who participated in the anti-land acquisition movement in Singur," she said.
Banerjee had earlier announced an express train on the route but changed her decision after railway officials pointed out that such a train on the short stretch will be unviable.
Re-stating her oft-repeated position, the minister said industry could come up on around 600 acres of the acquired land while the remaining approximately 400 acres should be given back to the unwilling farmers.
"The railways will set up industries only on this 600 acres," she said.
Banerjee disclosed that the railways have already identified 113,000 acres across the nation which can be used for developing industrial infrastructure.
"Six bighas of this land is in Singur. This will be used for setting up an industrial cluster under the Kishan Vishan project, which will help farmers sell their products like potatoes, flowers and vegetables from outlets on this land. This will also create employment in Singur," she said.
Banerjee, who also inaugurated a computerised train reservation centre in Singur, said Rs. 50 lakh would be spent for making Singur a model station.
The Singur agitation, which started in mid-2006 following the project announcement by the state's ruling Left Front soon after it swept the assembly polls, helped the Trinamool decimate the Left in last year's polls to rural local governments and the April-May parliament elections.
Banerjee staged a 26-day hunger strike in Kolkata in 2006 protesting against the forcible land acquisition by the state government in Singur, and demanding 400 acres taken from farmers unwilling to part with their land be returned to them.
She later travelled to the rural pocket and laid siege of the factory for 14 days last year.
After the Singur movement, followed by a similar agitation in Nandigram, the land acquisition agitation snowballed into a major issue in the state and brought handsome rewards to the Trinamool at the hustings.