Under court pressure, Bengal mulls highway action

Kolkata: | Updated: Aug 31 2008, 07:46am hrs
The West Bengal government is thinking of taking action to restore law and order in the state, especially outside the Tata Motors plant at Singur, commerce & industries minister Nirupam Sen said on Saturday, referring to the traffic disruption caused by the Trinamool Congress blockade of Durgapur Expressway outside the plant. We are now thinking of action, Sen said. The high court has given a directive to ensure free traffic on the highway but they (the agitators) are defying it, so the government will have to take action to maintain law and order in the state. Sen was talking to reporters after addressing a conference of a bank union. On Friday, a Calcutta high court judge had directed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to ensure free movement of vehicles on the expressway, part of National Highway 2, on which Trinamool supporters are squatting since last Sunday to press their demand for the return of 400 acres to farmers who do not wish to give up their land for the factory.

I really criticise the agitators act of threatening the workers of the Nano plant, since we were told that they would go for a peaceful movement and not disrupt work, Sen said.

But they not only stopped the workers from joining work but forced the engineers who came from other countries to go back. This is very shameful for us since it lowered the image of the state as well as the country, said Sen.

Sen said the government has neither flouted the land acquisition Act while acquiring land from farmers in Singur for the Nano plant, nor will it disobey the law by returning the land to the farmers.

According to a Supreme court directive, acquired land cannot be returned to owners. Instead it has to be used for the public interest. And, if in any case, it cannot be used for the public interest, then the land has to be auctioned. But giving the land back to the farmers is not possible, he said.

Sen said only 1,200 farmers out of a total of 10,000 have not accepted the compensation package, while the rest have gladly accepted it.

I cannot do injustice to the farmers who have given their land for the Nano plant. If I consider the interest of 1200 farmers then I have to take an unfair decision that can harm the interest of 8,800 farmers. So I cannot return land. But, the state government is always open for negotiation. We can discuss how the package can be made more beneficial for the farmers by ensuring them employment, said Sen.