ON AUGUST 31, while quashing the Left Front government’s acquisition of 997 acres of agricultural land for Tata Motors’ Nano car plant in Hooghly’s Singur, the Supreme Court had given the state 12 weeks to return land to the owners.
Fifty days later, on October 20, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is set to start returning the land to the farmers concerned.
The Supreme Court deadline was a tough one to follow, as left untouched for a decade, snakes and forests had grown in the once arable land.
The fertile top soil too had been destroyed. Moreover, the goverment wanted to return the land in cultivable form.
“Asking for more time from the court was not an option. This is Singur, the foundation on which the entire government is based. For Mamata Banerjee, this was the culmination of her entire political career,” said an official.
To meet the deadline, the government brought in four agencies — Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA), Kolkata Muncipal Corporation (KMC), People’s Work Development (PWD), and Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC) — to work in Singur. Departments of agriculture, PWD, labour and irrigation also pitched in.
“The land needed to be surveyed to know who owned which plot. It also had to be restored and the forest removed. We worked irrespective of the weather… There were times when the equipment wasn’t available.
“For instance, on Ashtami during Durga Puja, we realised that we needed a construction vehicle, which wasn’t available. It was brought in from Bardhaman at almost twice the cost,” said a PWD official.
Officials said that the Hooghly district magistrate has now been asked to find out whether the excavated areas can be filled up with top soil taken from other areas.
The government had maintained that 35 per cent of the 997 acres had lost its top soil as it was dug up to make way for a drainage system, water bodies and to lay roads.
“Till now, 80 per cent of the land is cultivable… The government is working to make the other portion arable too,” the CM had said.
“The District Magistrate will see if the soil can be made available from nearby areas, otherwise we will approach other districts,” said a district administration official.