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Singur Bill passed amid Opposition walkout

Special Correspondent

This Bill is for meting out justice to people who have been wronged: Mamata

— Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with farmers from Singur outside the Assembly in Kolkata on Tuesday.

Kolkata: The West Bengal Assembly on Tuesday passed by voice vote the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Bill, 2011, even as the Opposition led by Sura Kanta Mishra of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), staged a walkout saying that they could not accept a Bill which would grant only leaseholds and not ownerships, create a divide among farmers and may run counter to existing legislations. He also raised a point-of-order saying that none of the legal points raised had been answered.

The Tatas later issued a statement saying that they were studying the Bill and would take appropriate steps.

The Bill was passed after a two-hour long debate in which Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also spoke. The discussion saw acrimonious scenes with the Treasury Benches noisily interrupting the Opposition speakers and the Government Chief Whip Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay being hard put to control the ruling alliance legislators. The visitors' galleries were full with a large presence of ‘Singur farmers.'

‘Historic day'

Sending her greetings to the agitators who had opposed the acquisition of land for the Tata Motors Ltd project, Ms. Banerjee said that this was a historic day. “This Bill is for meting out justice to people who have been wronged.”

She denied any attempt to create a rift between willing and unwilling farmers, saying that this was something done by the previous regime.

Responding to the Opposition's point that the Bill should have been moved by the Land department and not the Industry department, Ms. Banerjee said: “Our priority is not technicalities, but practical necessities.”

On the cautionary advice offered by the former Land and Land Reforms Minister, Abdur Rezzak Mollah, that the government in its rush to return land at Singur may find itself ensnared in complications, Ms. Banerjee said: “Every minute is important. Too much time has been lost in West Bengal and the State is now lagging behind in every sector.” She, however, said that constructive suggestions from the Opposition were welcome.

To the Opposition advice urging the government to be on guard against bureaucrats who often mislead, Ms. Banerjee said that she would continue to depend on her bureaucrats. “I do not think they will mislead us,” she said, adding in jest that bureaucrats have sent the government on leave, as have people, and the Left should just enjoy their ‘holiday.'

Reacting to the suggestion that the present legislation may run counter to the 1894 Land Acquisition Act, the Chief Minister said that (the Central Act) was a draconian law, of which her party had sought a rectification. She said that an expert committee had been constituted to suggest a land policy for West Bengal, adding that barring explicit urgencies, her government would not acquire land.

“This Bill [Singur Bill] will show the way to the world,” she said, describing the day as a victory day for the Singur farmers. Among the Treasury Bench speakers were Singur MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharya who is the Minister for School Education.

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