WITH THE West Bengal government offering alternative land to set up industry to the Tata Group to compensate for losses that it had incurred in Singur, the company has responded with a counter offer — it wants compensation of around Rs 154 crore, which it had paid to the erstwhile Left Front regime while buying land for its Nano car project.
A source said while the company has decided to waive off around Rs 1,246 crore that it had incurred as losses when it had to shift its project to Gujarat, it wants the state to pay the amount that it had shelled out to buy the land in Singur.
“According to our estimate, the total money we had spent in Singur — from land acquisition till the point we left — was around Rs 1,400 crore. Of this, approximately Rs 154 crore was paid to the state government for buying the land after it was acquired,” said an official on condition of anonymity.
The move by the Tatas is reportedly being viewed by the state government as a “positive” one, and a step in the “right direction”, said sources.
Meanwhile, the state government on Thursday signed an agreement with Tata Metaliks Limited for a skill development centre to train 1,200 youth annually in West Midnapore.
While speaking during ‘Singur Divas’ on Wednesday — the state government’s celebration of the Supreme Court judgement quashing the land acquisition in Singur — Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced her bid to make a fresh start with the Tatas and offered them land.
The company had to abandon its plans for a Nano factory in the state in 2008, after Mamata’s Trinamool Congress had spearheaded protests in Singur against land acquisition. However, the state government, an official said, is “not in a position to pay the compensation” in cash but is “keen” on giving land to the Tatas “along with a slew business-friendly measures”.
The compensation issue stems from a clause in the land lease agreement of 2007 between the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and Tata Motors. The corporation had indemnified (compensate for harm or loss) the company against losses that could arise from an imperfect title of the land. Tata Motors has already written off Rs 309 crore for Singur, and in a petition before the Calcutta High Court in 2011, its losses were said to be around Rs 1,400 crore.
“Of the total losses, we estimate Rs 1,000 crore was the development cost. But as the Mamata government has disputed this, Tata Group Chairman Cyrus Mistry has decided to not claim it anymore,” the official said. “But as far as the construction that is already present on the Singur land, the state government can do what it wishes with it. But we won’t remove it,” the official added.
After coming to power, the Mamata government had passed the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act in the state Assembly in June 2011, and evicted Tata Motors from Singur on June 21, with the aim of returning the land to farmers.
The validity of the Act was upheld by Calcutta High Court Justice I P Mukherji in September 2011, but later, Tata Motors appealed to a division bench. The division bench eventually struck down the Singur act, terming it “unconstitutional and void”. Afterwards, the state government had approached the Supreme Court, challenging the order.
Citing the case, officials of both Tata and the state government on Thursday refused to comment on the compensation issue.
Tata Motors has written: The article, “Mamata wants land, but Tata wants her to pay Rs 154 crore for Singur acquisition,” published on September 16, 2016, states that “the company has responded with a counter offer — it wants compensation of around Rs 154 crore, which it had paid to the erstwhile Left Front regime while buying land for its Nano car project.”
“We would like to clarify that the company’s case in connection with the Singur land issue is yet to be heard in the Supreme Court and therefore, the matter is sub judice. We have, therefore, not offered any comment on the whole subject stating this position.”