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BW Businessworld

An Empty Victory

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West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee may celebrate victory now that the Kolkata High Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, but in the end there may be only losers. Tata Motors lost its second appeal to hold on to the land it had leased for its Nano plant at Singur; that includes the possibility that the company and its component suppliers could lose the Rs 571 crore (Rs 400 crore and Rs 171 crore respectively) already invested.

The farmers who sold their land in exchange for some money and a job at the plant may have nothing left: no land, no job, and perhaps no money — they may have spent it all over the past five years. There is no word on additional compensation; it seems unlikely from a cash-strapped  state government.

About 2,200 farmers who refused to sell their land — and on whose behalf Banerjee had led the protests that stopped the plant — should get back their 400 acres (of the 997 acres acquired by the then government), but only 154 acres have clear title and owners. Even at the time of acquisition, there were no clear legal title documents to 244 acres. Do the farmers who originally claimed the land have any recourse? Seems unlikely.

The Nano plant and other businesses that were expected to mushroom in Singur would have created over 12,000 jobs, according to several estimates. Those have vanished as well, along with the revenue that the state may have generated from these businesses. Which monster will Goddess Durga strike down this Puja season?

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 10-10-2011)