West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday claimed that it was not her but the CPI(M) which drove away Tata Motors from Singur.
Addressing a ‘Bijaya Samillani’ or post-Durga Puja meeting in Siliguri, Banerjee said she only returned the land to the people that was forcibly acquired by the former Left Front government for the Tata Motors’ Nano factory in Singur in Hooghly district.
“There are people who are spreading canards that have driven away the Tatas from West Bengal. I did not force them away, but it was the CPI(M) which drove them away,” she said at the government function, adding that she thought of not making any political statement at the programme.
“You (CPI(M)) forcibly took land from the people for the project, we returned that land to the people. We have done so many projects, but never taken any land forcibly from anybody. Why should we take land forcibly? There is no dearth of land here,” she added.
The CPI(M) termed Banerjee’s statement a “big lie”, pointing out that her dharna on the national highway outside the factory forced the Tatas to shift the project from West Bengal, which could have created thousands of jobs.
While pulling the project out of West Bengal in October 2008, Ratan Tata, the head of the Tata empire, blamed the agitation for the group’s decision.
The agitation, however, fuelled Banerjee’s rise to power in the state as she routed the Left Front government of 34 years in 2011.
The then CPI(M)-led Left Front government had acquired around 1,000 acres of farmland for the project, which was taken back from the Tatas following a court order after Banerjee became the chief minister. Her government partly returned the land to its owners.
“There is no discrimination in West Bengal. We want each and every industrialist to invest here,” she said, referring to the Tajpur port project of the Adani group and the Deucha-Pachami coal mine project.
In an apparent reference to the ongoing agitation for school jobs in Kolkata, the chief minister said her government would continue providing jobs to the people though there were forces who create hindrances.
“I want massive employment opportunities to be generated here. There are forces that do not want people to get jobs. They are causing hindrances for them. We will not stop employing people. We will employ them regularly and not take away jobs,” Banerjee said.
CPI(M) central committee leader Sujan Chakraborty said Banerjee should be given a “doctorate for lying”.
“Yes, it was not Mamata Banerjee but Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who was on dharna at Singur,” he said in a sarcastic tone.
“In Mamata Banerjee’s rule, West Bengal is witnessing such a tsunami of development that people are leaving for other states in search of work. Rather than lying, she should lower her head in shame that there are no jobs in the state,” Chakraborty said.
The BJP also hit out at Banerjee over her statement, stating that Tata’s decision to move the project out of Singur deprived lakhs of people of jobs.
“Everyone knows that Mamata Banerjee’s violent agitation had forced Tata Motors to scrap its project. It deprived lakhs of educated and skilled youths of jobs, and forced them to go outside the state,” Hooghly’s BJP MP Locket Chatterjee said.
She said that the chief minister promised the farmers that the land would be restored to its original condition when handed back to them but in reality, nothing could be grown on that soil.
“Singur continue to be economically backward while Sanand in Gujarat where the project went became an automobile hub,” she said.
Banerjee also said that the state government would consider organising an investors’ meet in north Bengal on the lines of Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS), which is held in Kolkata.