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Ordinance issued to reclaim and return disputed Singur land to owners

Special Correspondent



West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee briefing the media in Kolkata on Thursday.

KOLKATA: The West Bengal Government on Thursday issued an ordinance that will enable it to reclaim 400 acres of disputed land (out of 997.11 acres) alleged to have been acquired at Singur from farmers against their wishes to set up the Tata Motors small car project, since relocated.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the Governor had signed the ordinance and that the 400 acres would be returned to the owners.

“As for the remaining land that had been acquired, the options are open. It will be set aside for a public purpose which could mean the Tata Group setting up industry there if they so choose to,” she said.

“In the event of the Tatas wanting to be compensated without going in for industry on the remaining [approximately] 600 acres, we will have no objection to providing them compensation according to law and through the appointment of an arbitrator,” the Chief Minister said. ‘Not aware'

However, a Tata Motors spokesperson said: “We are not aware of such a development and we do not want to make any comment unless we have studied the ordinance.”

“I am very happy [with the development] and may today be declared Singur Day….The Governor has signed the ordinance,” a beaming Ms. Banerjee said pointing out that a promise made to the farmers whose plots had been acquired against their wishes, that the land would be returned to them, was being fulfilled.

The State Government had taken the decision at its first Cabinet meeting to return the 400 acres to “unwilling farmers,” she said.

“The ordinance will be passed in the Assembly when it is in session,” the Chief Minister said.

Ms. Banerjee was in the forefront of a movement against what she claimed was forcible acquisition of land at Singur.

It finally led to Tata Motors deciding to pull out its Nano project from there in October 2008.

The agitation she led there was a high point in her political ascendancy even as the debate over acquisition of farmland for industry became a major political issue and contributed to her Trinamool Congress' resounding success in the recent Assembly elections.

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