The turmoil over the 997.17-acre land in Singur came full circle with the Mamata Banerjee government pushing through the Singur land rehabilitation and development bill on Tuesday. Banerjee seeks to return a portion of the land to “unwilling” farmers, five years after former CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Ratan Tata announced it as the factory site for Nano car in May 2006.
The bill marked the delivery of the main political promise by the chief minister who, as the opposition leader in 2006, had vowed to return the land to those farmers who did not want to sell it. It would now be sent for the governor’s assent.
“Every government has some commitment. Your commitment was to provide for your cadres. Our commitment is to provide justice to the land losers. This bill will show way to people across the world,” Banerjee said in the assembly.
“We would first study the bill before commenting,” said a Tata Motors spokesperson from Mumbai.
According to legal experts, any bill can be challenged in the high court and Supreme Court on the grounds that it violates the Constitution.
Earlier in the day, the bill was passed unopposed as Left Front MLAs walked out of the assembly. “We don’t oppose the bill in principle. But we fear it is unconstitutional. We doubt whether it will really serve the ultimate purpose,” said leader of the opposition Surya Kanta Mishra.
The bill enjoins Tata Motors and its vendor companies would vacate land in favour of the district magistrate of Hooghly. “The entire land should have been returned to all landowners. There were instances where many people were arm-twisted into giving up their land,” said Congress MLA Rabindranath Chatterjee.
Land minister in the Left Front government, Abdur Rezzak Mollah, who had consistently opposed Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s land acquisition policy, echoed Chatterjee. “All landowners should have been given back their land and not only the unwilling ones.”