WITH MAMATA government announcing that it will return land to Singur farmers in cultivable form within 12 weeks as stipulated by the Supreme Court, sources said the state government is likely to move the apex court seeking more time for the purpose. The reason being that land in its current condition is not fit to be returned to the farmers.
Last Thursday, the Supreme Court had quashed the decision of the CPM government in 2006 to acquire 1,000 acres in Singur for allotting it to Tata Motors to set up its Nano car factory. The court had also held that possession of the land shall be given back to the landowners or cultivators within 12 weeks.
A survey of the land, currently in progress, has found that simply removing the wild grass and bushes at the factory site will take substantial time. Then there is the greater problem of arability. “Almost two to three feet of fly ash and sand was dumped on the site to raise the land level. The top soil, which is most important for cultivation, has been damaged. Fresh earth needs to be added to the site to ensure that crops can crow. The land has also been compacted by machines. Now, it has to be tilled, so that it can breathe. Fertilizers will need to be added, to try and retain the original levels of fertility and all of this will take time,” said an official.
An official said they have begun cutting down the forest. “After the forest is cut down, we will be able to better assess the extent to which the land is arable and how much work is required before we can restore it to its original state,” he said.
The reason for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s concern is apparent. Officials said returning the land to farmers as quickly as possible wasn’t just a political priority for Mamata, but also a matter of pride. A senior official said: “We might have to ask the Supreme Court for more time. Two weeks is not a realistic time frame to carry out such a survey of land… The district administration is very motivated, as are those who are associated with the land. So, we will see how it goes. After that the CM will take a call.”
Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee, however, said: “The way work is progressing, I am sure that we will be able to return the land very quickly. I am very hopeful.”
Govt identifies new plot for ‘misti hub’
Days after the Burdwan district administration decided to return the land acquired for setting up of a ‘misti hub’ at Shaktigarh, the state government identified an alternative plot for the project on Saturday at Bamchandaipur in Burdwan.
As a section of farmers had objected to the acquisition of the 10.5-acre plot by the state government, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday directed district authorities to return the land to the farmers and search for an alternate plot new plot for the proposed ‘misti hub’. Officials said the new plot that has been identified for Mamata’s dream project is spread over 5 acres. All stakeholders, particularly sweet traders, have given their assent for the site, officials said, adding that preparation work on the plot will begin on Monday and the opening is scheduled on Tuesday.