CPI(M) Wants Fair Resolution
KOLKATA: THE Mamata Banerjee government received a jolt when the Calcutta High Court declared its Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act 2011 as illegal and unconstitutional. The state government had passed the act on June 13, 2011, exactly a month after the assembly poll results were declared, among apprehension that the move was not legally valid. On September 28, after a challenge by Tata Motors, a single judge bench of the Calcutta High Court upheld the validity of the act. But on June 22 of this year, Justices Pinkai Chandra Ghose and M K Chaudhury ruled that the act violated the constitution on three counts. First, it did not have presidential assent. Second, returning land to the original owners did not constitute public interest, and hence the land could not be vested by the government. And third, the act did not have any provision for compensation to Tata Motors for the losses they have suffered.
MOVE ILL-CONCEIVED FROM BEGINNING
The move by the state government was ill-conceived from the very beginning and it was more of a publicity stunt than any real intention to solve the Singur issue. The face of loss in court was compounded by the governor’s assertion that he had no idea that Singur legislation needed presidential approval. The governor said he had been given a legal advice on that line only. “I thought we did not require presidential approval. That was legal advice also,” Governor M K Narayanan told after three days of the court verdict. The governor’s public statement indicated that the state government had misled even him.
While criticising the attitude of the government, the CPI(M) called for such a resolution of the problem as would defend the interests of the people of Singur.
CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and West Bengal’s former industry minister Nirupam Sen observed that there should be a fair solution of the Singur problem without considering who had won or who was defeated. Sen said, “The factory in Singur was abandoned after completion of 90 per cent of works. It damaged the image of the state. Also damage was done to the people of Singur.”
Sen further said, “When we were in government, the then opposition (now ruling party) demanded return of land to the so called unwilling farmers. We took legal consultancy and observed that it was legally impossible. We wanted to start the factory after giving fair compensation to and rehabilitation of the farmers. But we failed to convince the opposition. We repeatedly told at that time that the so called unwilling farmers of ‘400 acres’ were just a myth. But a huge campaign by the opposition and a section of the media created confusion. Now that the new government has taken initiative to return the land, it was found that hardly 30 acres of land of the ‘unwilling’ farmers exist in realty. The entire state had to bear the cost of abandoning the project. When the new government wanted to push through the new bill in the assembly, we raised doubts about its legal validity. We told them to move after checking the legal points. But they refused to heed. And now the people of Singur are the worst sufferers as they lost both the factory and the land.” Sen appealed to the state government to take proper lessons and move forward in a manner so that an industry could be built there.
Leader of opposition in West Bengal assembly, Surjya Kanta Misra, said in his reaction to the court verdict, “We were for industry in Singur. But we were defeated. TMC has got the mandate of the people. In such a situation we did not oppose the move to return land if that was possible. But we repeatedly told the government, a year ago when the bill was moved, that proper legal method was necessary. We told the government that their hasty effort would come into conflict with the central law. There was no provision of differentiation between willing and unwilling farmers. It was better to add an extra clause to the central law, like Tamilnadu did. But the chief minister was not in the habit of listening to any advice. She thought her words were law. It is the state government which created the impasse.”
CPIM) state secretary Biman Basu criticised the state government for not heeding to advice of the opposition and not taking care about legal implications. Basu also questioned how the governor gave his assent without cross checking the legal option.