Hooghly: In a bid to return the land to the unwilling farmers of Singur, West Bengal government has initiated the process of measurement of the abandoned land in the Tatas Nano Project area.

Under the leadership of Ameen Dineshpad Sera of Land Reforms Department, the land in Gopalnagar and Berabari areas was measured on Tuesday. The department has deployed 50 officials for this job and divided them into seven teams.

According to sources, till now 900 unwilling farmers have sent applications to get the possession of their lands.

The officials have noted that 130 applications, which do not have more than one claimant and any legal case against the applicant, have been kept under ‘A’ category.

Hence, Hooghly administration is looking forward to return the land to the farmers under this category. The unwilling farmers will be allotted land certificates with the help of Block Development Officers.

WB government identifies land for return to farmers

Meanwhile, the West Bengal government returned a token 11.5 acres out of the 997.97 acres land acquired for the abandoned Tata Motors' Nano project to 12 farmers who had unwillingly parted with their land.

The Singur High Power Committee which was set up by the state government returned the 11.5 acres of substitute land to 12 unwilling farmers of Gopalnagar and Kolaypara, Manik Das, a zilla parishad member from Beraberi, told reporters here.

"We have returned the same quantum of land among the unwilling landowners," he said.

The farmers were given substitute land in Gopalnagar and Kolaypara where their original holdings were, he said.

Becha Ram Manna, Trinamool leader and convenor of the Krishi Jami Raksha Samiti said, "The unwilling farmers will be able to sell the land returned or use it for whichever purpose they want."

The 12 unwilling farmers were earlier identified, he said.

Manna, School Education Minister Rabindranath Bhattacharya and Trinamool Congress MP Ratna Denag held a meeting before the announcement.

We are not anti-Tata: WB

The West Bengal government on Tuesday submitted before the Calcutta High Court that it was not against the Tatas but in favour of farmers and employment generation.

Contesting the Tata Motors Ltd prayer that the Singur Rehabilitation and Development Act 2011 be declared unconstitutional, senior counsel for the government Saktinath Mukherjee submitted before Justice Saumitra Pal that the government was answerable to the people as 1000 acres of fertile land was taken away, but not used for the purpose it was acquired for.

Mukherjee submitted that in a letter dated September 28, 2010, TML had told West Bengal Infrastructure Development Corporation (WBIDC), the state nodal agency, that it had shifted the Nano car plant to Gujarat and on their future plan for the land at Singur they stated their inability to give any assurance.

There was nothing against the Tatas, but the state was only concerned about generating employment for which the land had been acquired and leased out to TML, he stated.

Mukherjee pleaded that the only issue was returning 400 acre to unwilling farmers, while TML was welcome to set up the plant in the remaining 600 acre, but it did not happen.

Noting that nobody asked TML to go away from the state, he said that the government was not against industrialisation, but was pro-farmer.   Mukherjee said that Singur and  Nandigram had taught that farmers must have a say over their land and this was happening in other parts of the country like Orissa and Uttar Pradesh.

He submitted that West Bengal government was the pioneer on the issue and no other state had given credit to farmer demands.

The lease to TML had become zero value as they did not utilise it for the specific purpose that the government leased the land to them and within the specific period of time and as such the government enacted the law and took it back.

Government pleader Ashok Kumar Banerjee submitted that TML was still welcome to set up industry on 600 acre.

He submitted that TML had violated the lease clauses by not setting up the industry within three years and as such there was nothing wrong in taking back the land of which the government was the owner.

He prayed that the petition by TML, which challenged the validity of the Singur Act 2011, be rejected.

Of the total 997.97 acres acquired by the government in 2007, TML was leased out 645 acres while the remaining was for vendors and other purposes.

On Monday the high court had rejected the TML prayer for a stay on distribution of land to 'unwilling' farmers.

The matter would be taken up for hearing again on Wednesday.

JPN/Bureau/Agencies