Didi to return Singur land to farmers
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is set to return land from the controversial Singur land deal, back to the farmers who were affected. According to data, 9117 land records would be returned, and over 800 farmers and peasants would be compensated for their land. She will officially hand back the land records at a function in Sanapara, where the Singur agitation began.
In May 2006, West Bengal's Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-led Left Front Government allotted 997 acres in Singur under the 1984 Land Acquisition Act to Tata Motors to establish a Tata Nano factory. A month later, massive protests against the 'forcible' land acquisition erupted; however, the government went ahead with the acquisition. The acquisition turned controversial as arable land was acquired by the government, displacing several farmers.
Nearly 400 acres land belonged to farmers who weren't willing to sell their land. The Rs.8.7-12.8 lakh compensation offered to the farmers was inadequate considering the promises made to them earlier. However, project construction continued during 2007 and the first half of 2008 amid massive protests. Tata was forced to shelf the project; the formal announcement of Tata's decision came out in October 2008.
A Calcutta High Court division bench upheld the Singur land acquisition stating the government acquired it in the public interest. However, the Calcutta HC's ruling was challenged in the Supreme Court, which heard the appeal on 31 Aug'08.
In the 2011 WB Elections, Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress won an absolute majority. Mamata's stand on the Singur land case and her 26 day-long hunger strike opposing the acquisition partly helped the party's victory. In 2011, she passed the Singur Act to return the forcibly acquired land to farmers. Tata challenged the Act's constitutional validity in the HC, which upheld the validity in Sep'11.
On 22 Jun'12, a larger division bench of the Calcutta HC struck down four sections of the Act as unconstitutional. It also held the Act was "void and illegal" as it didn't receive the President's assent. It was later appealed to the Supreme Court.
In 1894, the British enacted the Land Acquisition Act for introducing railways in India. Even after independence, the ancient Act was retained to acquire any privately-held land. The Act also received sharp criticism for granting unrestricted powers to the government to acquire lands. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) that led the WB Government in 2006 stated the Act flared up the controversy.
Lead appellant Kedar Nath Yadav and his co-appellants alleged that the acquisition wasn't for a public purpose but a private company Tata Motors. They argued that acquisition of land for public purposes should be made under Part II of the Land Acquisition Act, whereas land acquisition for a company's purpose falls under Part VII. The Singur acquisition was made under the LAA's Part II.
A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Gopal Gowda delivered different judgments on the Singur land acquisition case's two major disputes. First is the land acquisition by the former Left Front Government and second is the validity of the Singur Act 2011 passed by the TMC. Both Mishra and Gowda agreed the land acquisition wasn't effective under the law.
Mishra said the WB Government aimed at industrial development and creating jobs for people, so the acquisition was permissible for Part II. Gowda said if there was no difference between the LAA's Part II and Part VII, then there was no point in having different provisions. However, they directed that the land be handed over to the owners and compensation shouldn't be recovered.