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Will Tatas pay more for Singur?
B S Reporter in Kolkata
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September 24, 2008 09:10 IST
Last Updated: September 24, 2008 11:26 IST

Intermediaries have launched discussions on a new package in a last ditch effort to save the Tata Motors [Get Quote] Nano project at Singur, closed since August 29.

While the full details of the package by this team was yet to be finalised, three elements in the package were a higher compensation for land to land losers and more compensatory wages for registered tenant farmers (called bargadars), unregistered tenant farmers and agricultural labourers, and involvement of Tata Motors in the Singur resolution process, said sources close to the development.

The compensation being offered for land was pegged at double the price of Rs 900,000 to Rs 1,200,000 an acre offered originally, against 50 per cent more offered in the state government package launched on September 14.

The 100 per cent higher land price would bring the compensation amount closer to the actual land price in the region, as the current government offer price was far less than the actual price.

The compensation in wages to be paid to the three categories of landless entities dependant on land was proposed to be raised to 1000 days against 300 days offered under the government package of September 14.

The team would like the government to also offer soft loans for equipment like power tillers and pump sets for villagers keen to stick to agriculture as their means of livelihood in the area.

Sources said Tata Motors should be involved in the conflict resolution process as this would help the company and government hammer out a viable working relationship with the opposition political parties.

On September 25, Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress was scheduled to meet state governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi and could raise the issue of an improved package.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had on September 21 had appealed to Banerjee to discuss better compensation for Singur farmers.

State government officials refused to comment on this parallel track initiative to end the stalemate at Singur.

Individuals close to both the CPI (M) and the Trinamool Congress leadership were part of the process. The package would cover all the 12,500-odd farmers displaced when the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation acquired 997 acres at Singur for the Tata Motors plant. If government and opposition agreed on this package, the next challenge before both would be to get Tata Motors to resume work at Singur.

In another development, Calcutta High Court said on September 22 it would pass its final order on September 26 on the Tata Motors plea for not allowing West Bengal government to disclose contents of its agreement on setting up its small car plant while extending its interim order banning publication of the 'secret' part of the document till September 30.

Justice Dipankar Dutta, after conclusion of hearing in the case, said he would deliver the judgement on Tata Motors' prayer for an injunction on the state principal information officer's directive to the state government to disclose the contents of the agreement.

The parallel effort faced a threat after unidentified armed men, alleged to be TC supporters by the company, beat up two security guards with iron rods in the paint shop of the plant at 9.45 pm on September 22. The injured were first taken to Singur Gramin Hospital and then shifted to Walsh Hospital at Srirampore.

TC sources denied involvement of the party's supporters, alleging, "The CPI (M), the police and the company are making the allegations to prepare the ground for police action of the type seen in Nandigram."

In an unrelated development, auto analyst Ian Fletcher of the London-based think-tank Global Insight predicted, "With construction work at the site already well behind schedule, but very close to completion, Tata may decide that it is more sensible to offer further cash compensation itself and recoup this at a later date if the West Bengal government is not prepared to do this straightaway; however, this would undoubtedly put further pressure on the already tight profit margins on the project." 

His report added, "It is uncertain at this stage whether Tata would be prepared to undergo such upheaval so close to the completion of the project," referring to relocation of the project to alternative sites like Pune, Pantnagar or Dharwad.

Tata Motors had warned the West Bengal government that it would pull out of the state if a resolution to the ongoing dispute over the Singur plant was not reached.

Also see
Tatas have abandoned projects earlier too
Tata Motors backs new Singur package
Subsidies, tax breaks got Tata to Singur

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