Amidst walkout by the opposition Left Front lawmakers, the West
Bengal assembly Tuesday passed a bill to return a portion of the
land acquired by the previous government from "unwilling owners"
for setting up the now abandoned Tata Motors small car factory in
The Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Bill, 2011, was
passed by voice vote alongside some amendments brought by the
government amidst thumping of desks by jubilant treasury benches
members after a two-hour debate.
The bill, tabled by Commerce and Industries Minister Partha
Chatterjee, seeks to scrap the 997.17-acre land lease with Tata
Motors, enabling the government to take back the land to fulfill
the Trinamool Congress's poll promise to return 400 acres to the
farmers who were unwilling to sell it.
Alleging that the government had misled the house, flouted
constitutional norms and that there were several legal loopholes
in the bill, the Left Front members staged a walk-out when the
legislation was put to vote by Speaker Biman Bandopadhyay.
Describing the bill as historic, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in
her speech in the house said the legislation seeks to redress the
injustice done to the farmers whose land was acquired against
their will in 2006 for setting up Tata Motor's Nano small car
Asserting that the land taken could be returned if there was will,
she said her government has no intention of causing a divide
between "unwilling and willing" farmers. But circumstances had
forced her government to do so, the chief minister said, adding
there was no record of willing famers.
Attacking the erstwhile Left Front government, she said if only it
had the political will, it also could have taken the same path to
return the land to the unwilling peasants.
She said while the Left Front legislators were at liberty to raise
technical issues regarding the bill, they seemed to be running out
of patience within a short time.
She also rejected a demand from the opposition that the bill be
kept in abeyance pending further scrutiny, and said her
government's priority was to return the land legally to unwilling
Banerjee announced her government would return the Singur land
with full rights to the unwilling farmers.
Opposing the contention by opposition leader Surya Kanta Mishra
that the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 should have been amended as
was done in Tamil Nadu instead of passing the new bill, Banerjee
said the act merely provided for land lease to farmers.
Mishra expressed doubts whether the bill would receive
presidential assent, as it clashed with a central law on the land
issue, which was in the concurrent list of the constitution.
Tata Motors, on the other hand, rebutted the state government's
reference in the Singur Bill to the company's "non-commissioning
and abandoning" of the small car project as a reason for taking
back the land. The automobile major clarified that it had to
"reluctantly close operation due to lack of congenial
The company said it would take appropriate steps after studying
The bill sought to empower the Hooghly district magistrate for
repossessing the land along with other immovable assets on it and
initiate steps and use "such force" as necessary for implementing
The compensation amount to be decided by the district judge was to
include a simple six percent annual interest.