To make a fresh start with the Tata Group which abandoned plans for a Nano factory in West Bengal in 2008 after her party spearheaded the Singur protests, the Mamata Banerjee government is ready to offer land for an industrial hub to the company to compensate for losses incurred in Singur.
State Finance Minister Amit Mitra said an alternative for the Singur land is “ready”.
“We have a land bank and a land map. We can also give 1,000 acres in Goaltore in West Midnapore. In Raghunathpur in Purulia, 2,600 acres of land is ready. We had kept the land for a railway corridor, but we have also kept 600 acres of land for industry separately. If Tata is serious, we can talk about it and the area can be prepared as an industrial hub.”
Other than Purulia, Kharagpur can also be a venue for a future Tata project. “We have kept free 800 acres of land in Kharagpur. In Panagarh area of Bardhaman, 700 acres of land is available. Tata Steel or Tata Metaliks can also set up industry there. It is not obligatory that Tata Motors has to do business there,” Mitra said.
The state government, an official said, is “not in a position to pay the compensation” in cash but is “keen” to give 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 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.
The Tata Motors factory was abandoned even before it could be used and continues to hold a special significance in the context of Bengal’s political topography. It was the Singur agitation that marked the run-up to the end of 34 years of Left Front rule in the state.
On Wednesday, Banerjee will hold a rally in Singur to celebrate the “victory of the farmers” following the Supreme Court ruling against acquisition of land there by the erstwhile Left Front government.
During her trip to Munich last week to attract investment in Bengal, Banerjee reached out to the Tata Group — Tata Metaliks managing director Sanjiv Paul and Tata Steel India and South East Asia managing director T V Narendran had accompanied her — urging it to “forget one place” when “so many other places are available”.
“They (Tata) can also set up industry. There are so many places available. If you want land, the state government can give land from the land bank. Our land bank is ready, our land policy is ready, our land map is ready. There is no need to face problems. We will face it. Give us the choice. I think options are all open. Forget one place, so many places are available,” she had said.
While Tata Motors have so far declined comment on Banerjee’s overtures, both Sanjiv Paul and T V Narendran urged investors in Munich to invest in Bengal.
“We are a business group. We want to do good business in Bengal. No political controversy is relevant today for our investment in Bengal,” Paul said. Narendran too urged investors to come to Bengal, echoing the stand taken by Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry.