Singur farmers elated as Mamata promises to return land in 4 weeks
A day after Mamata Banerjee described the Supreme Court's judgment cancelling the acquisition of land in Singur a "historical suicide" by the previous Left Front regime of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the chief minister Thursday assured the land will be returned to the farmers in four weeks.
A notification to return the land, acquired for Tata's Nano plant about 10 years ago, has already been issued and the process will start from Friday.
Although Mamata insisted that Singur's farmers would get back all the land taken from them, several top bureaucrats claimed identifying the owners and returning the land to them would be a complicated process, not least because of the legal disputes that have piled up over the years. "We will have to look at the legal disputes before giving the land back to the unwilling farmers," a senior bureaucrat said.
The chief minister, though, was unequivocal about what needs to be done. "We have all the records with the government. The farmers who have got compensation will get back their land and those farmers who did not took compensation too will get their land back," she said. "The farmers will get the same quantum of land that was acquired from them. The sharecroppers will also get back the entire quantum of land. The farmers who had the land in a particular area will get it back in the same area. During the land survey, a senior minister will accompany the officers of land reforms department."
She added, "I won't be in town for the next seven days but our local MLAs in Singur and senior TMC leaders will be present at both Nabanna and Singur to ensure the farmers do not face any problems."
Mamata didn't clarify whether her scheme for providing a monthly cash compensation of Rs 2,000 and rice at Rs 2 per kg to each member of the family whose land had been acquired unwillingly would be stopped after the land is returned.
The chief minister also assured that the land in Singur, a part of which has been built on, would be made cultivable again, starting with 47 acres which house two power stations of West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited.
And not just in Singur, Mamata promised to restore every piece of forcibly acquired land to their owners across Bengal. Farmers in Burdwan have been agitating for the return of their 10 acres of land which was acquired in 2007, and on which Mamata had announced to set up a Sweets Hub.
"I will follow the Supreme Court's verdict. I have asked Burdwan district magistrate to return the land to the protesting farmers. It's my party's stand that we won't acquire land forcibly. I have also asked the DM to look for some land nearby for setting up the Sweets Hub."
After the government issued the notification for returning the land, Singur's farmers said they were happy and would celebrate this "victory" during the Durga Puja in October.
Manoranjan Mallick, whose teenage daughter Tapashi Mallick was killed in the Singur agitation, said the "farmers are happy that Didi has finally assured to give back our land."
Gopal Mishra, who had unwilling parted with 10 acres of his land, said, "When I get my land, I will cultivate it. At the same time, if the industry comes here, I will welcome the move as it will create job opportunities. That, however, doesn't mean that land should be forcibly acquired for the industry."
Abhik Ghosh, who had lost 12 acres of land, said, "I am happy that the chief minister announced that the land will be returned to the farmers. Today some district land officers visited the spot and we are hopeful of getting our land back as early as possible."
Not everyone is happy with the decision, though. Udayan Das, a member of Nano Bachao Committee, said, "In last 10 years, we have not got any fruitful results. The land will now be returned to the farmers. Have we progressed on any front? The question remains to be asked."
The economist Ajitava Roy Chowdhury said, "In West Bengal, the need of the hour is to set up small industries for the benefit of the masses, the state government should focus on this. Right now, there is no scope of setting up big businesses which can benefit the masses."
Opposition on board
CPM leader Surjya Kanta Mishra said, "We heard Mamata's statement today, but it needs to be seen whether all farmers are getting land which is cultivable and free from encroachment. Also, it remains to be seen how non-cultivable land, which is about 400 acres, is made cultivable."
The state BJP welcomed the Supreme Court's verdict as well as Mamata's decision to start the land survey at the earliest, and said the farmers should get their cultivable land back as early as possible.