Singur land return a matter of time: WB industries minister

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Partha Chatterjee
Kolkata, Jun 28: West Bengal industries minister Partha Chatterjee on Wednesday said in the assembly that it was only a 'matter of time' before land in the controversial Singur site was returned to the unwilling farmers. This he said, notwithstanding the fact that the Calcutta High Court had a few days ago quashed the state government's bill on Singur land rehabilitation and development.

"We have already taken possession of the land. It is under control now. It is a different matter what the court has said," Chatterjee said, raising many eyebrows. The minister also said that the time has not yet come to comment on the worthiness of the court's verdict but there were other avenues open to return the land. "We are committed to the cause," he said.

The state government has been given two months time to challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court but Chatterjee's statement that it was just a 'matter of time' before the legal battle got ended has been questioned.

Leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra advised the government to follow the Tamil Nadu model by amending the central land acquisition act of 1894 to return land to the unwilling farmers instead of locking horns with the judiciary. Mishra said the Left Front would back if the government brings an amended Singur act. "We are for settling the issue outside court," the CPI(M) leader said during the debate on the budgets of the departments of commerce and industries, industrial reconstruction and public enterprises. Chatterjee, however, did not reply to Mishra's advice.

Another senior CPI(M) leader said Mishra's suggestion was an old one. "We are not against returning land to the farmers but the Singur bill, which we think is unconstitutional. The government should follow the Tamil Nadu model," he said.

It is learnt that the Tamil Nadu government had brought two amendments to the central land act to return land. Its bill also received the presidential assent. However, if the government decides to go for the amendment bill, it can not move the Supreme Court as both can not be done simultaneously. Trinamool Congress's ally at the government Congress too suggested an out-of-the-court settlement to save time in settling the issue.

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