27 June, 2011
Tata Motors had today reiterated in the Calcutta High Court, its appeal made on June 24 to the Advocate General of West Bengal, that the government should not proceed with any action on the Singur plot in view of the ongoing hearing on the company’s petition on The Singur Land Rehabilitation & Development Act 2011.
During the hearing on the matter on June 24, the Tata Motors’ counsel, in the light of media reports of distribution of land, had requested the Advocate General to agree that status quo as regards distribution of land be maintained in view of ongoing hearing. In response, the Advocate General had said while it was not possible for him to respond right away, he would think it over the weekend and communicate during the hearing today.
However, even as Tata Motors awaited the communication, there were reports on Saturday (June 25) and Sunday (June 26), that the West Bengal Government had taken further steps towards distribution of land out of the plot at Singur. The company had drawn the Court’s attention to these reports.
The company believes that as per conventions established in the country when a matter is being heard at a court of law, the parties concerned, more so when the party is the State, should not alter the existing state of facts in the matter, and the undue haste being shown by the Government is not conducive to upholding the rule of law.
As per the country’s legal procedures, the company will agitate the matter before the Supreme Court.
The Act charges Tata Motors with non-commissioning of the plant and abandonment, and takes away its rights to the land without providing for a reasonable compensation, despite the company having made a huge investment of over Rs.1800 crores in the plant. All the equipment had been installed and trial production had begun. In fact, about 15 to 20 cars were ready for roll-out.
Besides, in keeping with the tradition of the Tata Group, Tata Motors began a comprehensive community development programme in Singur in December 2006, even before the plant’s construction began, comprising development of employability / self-employment of the community, health and education. Eventually, about 767 individuals were trained. About 102 health clinics were run treating over 17,000 patients till the activity was forcibly stopped. Adjacent schools were supported with necessary infrastructure. Men and women in the area were supported to acquire means of self-employment.
But the state government failed to ensure a safe and congenial environment which forced the company to shift the project. Having failed to provide what was an essential condition for the operation of the plant, the state government cannot charge the company with non-commissioning and abandonment and take away its rights, as enshrined in the lease agreement between the company and the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC).
Similarly, 13 vendors had constructed plant buildings, 17 others were at various stages of construction and balance 24 vendors were at various stages of obtaining different approvals before commencing construction. The Act completely ignores their losses.
The Act seeks to legalise force and taking advantage of the same, the State by a midnight operation using police force dispossessed the security guards from the plant site and trespassed into it.
The Act appoints the District Judge of Hooghly as the adjudicator for determining the compensation, without any guidelines or parameters, on the basis of which the compensation would be decided. It gives an unguided delegation of powers to the District Judge Hooghly in clear derogation of the Constitution of India.