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'80% of vendor park can be returned to farmers'
Ishita Ayan Dutt in Singur
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September 11, 2008 02:40 IST

Protestors to the Tata Motors [Get Quote] project to make the Nano in Singur claim that more than 300 acres in the 997-acre factory site can be returned to unwilling farmers, even as West Bengal government representatives continue to claim that only 40 acres can be considered for return.

The protestors' claim was made after the much-anctipated first inspection of the factory site on Wednesday by a committee set up under the aegis of West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi to examine the ways of solving a controversy that had arisen after some farmers had refused compensation for the land acquired for the project.

Late last month, Tata Motors suspended work at the factory to make the world's cheapest car fearing for the safety of its personnel and equipment, following a blockade led by the Trinamool Congress. It also said it was looking at alternative sites if the issues at Singur could not be sorted out.

According to Becharam Manna, convenor of the Krishi Jami Raksha Committee, the "excess" land includes the land held by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and West Bengal State Electricity Board, which can be returned to the farmers.

Manna is one of the four members of the committee that has been tasked with determining the scope and settling the modalities of the land to be provided to the agitating farmers.

The state government's side is represented by WBIDC Managing Director Subrata Gupta, and Hooghly District Magistrate Neelam Meena. The other members from the agitating farmers' side is Trinamool Congress MLA for Singur, Rabindranath Bhattacharjee.

Manna said the construction in a large part of the vendor park was yet to begin. "This part can be returned," he said.

One of the plots that Manna showed the government's committee members was earmarked for a training facility for the project.

WBIDC's Subrata Gupta declined to comment on the Trinamool demand, but stuck to his stance that only 40 acres can be returned from within the complex.

The issue is important because Tata Motors told the West Bengal government that a contiguous vendor park is critical to the viability of the Nano project.

The 300 acres that Manna said could be returned includes 47.11 acres owned WBIDC reserved for the rehabilitation of project-affected families and 14.33 acres belonging to the West Bengal State Electricity Board.

This implies that Manna's side was expecting around 238 acres from the vendor park, which is more than 80 per cent of the area earmarked for ancillary units. The Tata Motors factory alone covers 645 acres of the complex.

Some minor adjustment could, however, take place since government agencies hold another 40 acres just outside the project boundary wall.

But Manna said although the viewpoints were different so far, but a consensus would be reached.

Manna also put speculation on the condition of the land to rest. He said that government would make the land suitable for agriculture when they return it.

The committee members were likely to meet again tomorrow to discuss the findings of the inspection. The report will have to be submitted sometime early next week.

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