The Left may be loath to admit it and will not apologise for it, but it bungled badly in the Singur land acquisition, which has now been revoked by the Supreme Court. The court has held that the entire process of acquiring the land for the Tata Nano project was illegal, and has asked that the 997 acres be handed back to the farmers and the amount given to them be retained as compensation. In 2008, Tata Motors relocated its operations to Gujarat. The Trinamool Congress took possession of the disputed land in 2011 under the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act.
The whole fiasco took place because there are no clear guidelines for compensation and rehabilitation, rather they are done on an ad hoc basis. The Left Front did not do enough to take the farmers whose land was acquired on board neither did it pay adequate compensation. And, of course, the whole thing was politicised with the Trinamool launching a full frontal attack on the Left Front on this issue.
However, though Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee has made hyperbolic statements about how she could now die in peace after the verdict, the truth is that this will do little to encourage potential investors to come to Bengal, which badly needs to attract them. The Left Front’s crippling unions may have had their wings clipped but the rank and file of the Trinamool also make it difficult for manufacturing units to function smoothly.
In issues like land acquisition, the government should play the role of facilitator rather than as a proactive party to the deal. It should frame proper guidelines and by and large leave it to private parties to take the initiative in getting land for projects. But, this does not seem likely in states like Bengal, where the government of the day has always been a drag on investment. The Singur verdict should be a signal that this issue cannot be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. It needs to be institutionalised.