Tata Motors Ltd told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that it wanted to retain the land given to it in Singur, West Bengal, for its Nano small car project, even though it has moved the plant and machinery to Gujarat.
This was in response to an earlier query from the judges on whether the company still wanted the land, acquired amid a bloody agitation led by unwilling farmers at Singur and backed by the present ruling party, the Trinamool Congress, then in the opposition.
Harish Salve, counsel for Tata Motors, said it still wanted the land, as it could start new projects. The entire set-up of vendors and infrastructure were there and new ventures could start in phases.
“They have said they were planning an extension project at Singur but the land was acquired for setting up the mother plant for the Nano (now gone to Gujarat). So, where is the question of an extension project?” the Bengal government’s counsel and TMC member of Parliament, Kalyan Bandyopadhyay, told a television channel.
The state government told the court the appeal would have to be argued in detail. The bench, headed by H L Dattu, then adjourned the hearing till April next year, when the arguments would be heard and a decision given.
In September, the SC had stayed the Calcutta high court’s division bench judgement that quashed the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011, which vested the entire 997 acres allocated to Tata Motors and its vendors, with the government. The state government appealed against that judgement in the SC.
According to television channels, the Tata Motors counsels told the court it was difficult to get contiguous land in the wake of the new Land Bill and so, the company was not keen on giving up Singur.
Singur, around 40 km from Kolkata, was prime land. At the peak of construction activity there, land prices were Rs 57 lakh an acre. The current prices are more. Along the highway, prices are Rs 60 lakh an acre.
The then Left Front government wanted to match the benefits promised by the Uttarakhand government, to get the project. While the vendors paid Rs 40 crore of land premium charges on the 290 acres leased to them, the terms for Tata Motors were different. The West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation allocated 645.67 acres to Tata on a 90-year lease, on an annual rental of Rs 1 crore for the first five years, increasing at 25 per cent after every five years till 30 years. On completion of 30 years, the rental was fixed at Rs 5 crore a year, with an increase of 30 per cent after every 10 years till the 60th year. After 60 years, the lease rental was fixed at Rs 20 crore per year till the 90th year.