Tata Now Wants Bengal Government To Return ₹154 Crore It Had Paid For Singur Land

Relationship status: Complicated.

16/09/2016 11:15 AM IST | Updated 19/09/2016 11:02 AM IST
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File photo of leader of India's Trinamool Congress (TMC) party Mamata Banerjee (C) marching beside the unfinished Tata Motors plant at Singur on September 26, 2008.

Update: A comment from a Tata Motors spokesperson has been added to this article after it was published.

This is the mother of all ironies. A day after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee offered land to Tata, the multinational has asked her to pay them ₹154 crores as "compensation" for the land they had bought in Singur from the earlier Left Front government. Interestingly, unnamed sources told The Indian Express that the state government viewed this as a "positive step" in the "right direction".

In fact, sources told the newspaper that the company was ready to "waive off" eight times that amount, which it had lost during it's subsequent shift to Gujarat where it built the Nano factory instead. However, an official spokesperson from Tata Motors refuted this in a statement to HuffPost India.

The story of Banerjee and Tata Motors has grown curiouser and curiouser. Five years ago, Banerjee rose to power with a historic win against the Left government, which had ruled West Bengal for 34 years. This was believed to be largely because of her campaign against the Tata Nano plant in Singur. Last month, a Supreme Court judgment finally cancelled the Tata Motors deal, asking the Bengal government to return the land it had taken from farmers and local residents.

Then on Wednesday, she offered to give an alternative plot of land to Tata Motors, which her party colleagues called "gracious".

On Thursday, Banerjee's government signed an agreement with Tata Metaliks Limited, a subsidiary of Tata Steel, to train 1,200 people each year in a skill development centre in West Midnapore. This is the same area where Banerjee has offered land to Tata.

The West Bengal government's response to Tata's demand for compensation is awaited, but it is likely that Banerjee may offer 'business-friendly' measures in place of cash, a state government official told Express.

Meanwhile, officials from Tata claimed the Indian Express report was "speculative".

"We would like to clarify that the Company's case in connection with the Singur land issue is yet to be heard in the Supreme Court and therefore, the matter is sub judice. We have therefore not offered any comment on the whole subject stating this position," said a spokesperson from Tata Motors.

"Any other comment or view, directly or indirectly attributed to the Company in the said article, is factually incorrect and speculative in nature."

Where will this relationship go from here?

Memento Mori by Pablo Bartholomew

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