Kolkata: A day after the Calcutta High Court struck down the law undoing Singur land acquisition, the Mamata Banerjee government on Saturday kick-started a damage control exercise, calling a meeting of a virtually defunct panel that had played a key role in the movement against farmland acquisition.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, several of her Cabinet colleagues and intellectuals attended the meeting of the "Krishi Jami Jibon Jibika Rakha Committee" (Save Agricultural Land, life and Livelihood Committee) which had spearheaded the movement for return of land to the farmers whose land the then Left Front regime had reportedly acquired against their will for Tata Motors` Nano small car plant.
Banerjee declined to speak to the media. However, Agriculture Minister Rabindranath Bhattacharya said the committee has decided to start afresh the movement for return of land to unwilling farmers.
"Along with the legal battle, the committee will start a movement with the farmers," Bhattacharya said. Committee representatives said they will go to Singur and renew the movement at the grass roots.
Members of some Left mass organisations, civil liberty groups, and parties like the Party of Democratic Socialism, Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist), the Siddiqullah Chowdhury-led People`s Democratic Conference of India, and Janata Dal-United attended the 150-minute deliberation.
A resolution passed at the meeting said: "We are committed to return the land to the unwilling farmers. Proper actions would be taken to uphold the rights of the farm workers and Bargadars (sharecroppers)."
PDS general secretary Samir Putatunda said: "We will carry on our movement. The movement will go on along with the legal battles."
He, however, did not elaborate. "Today we cannot say more."
Terming the land law, enacted by the West Bengal government last year to return land taken from the farmers as "unconstitutional", a division bench of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Mrinal Kanti Chaudhuri on Friday ruled sections of compensation in the legislation were in conflict with the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
State government counsel Kalyan Bandopadhyay said the government would appeal to the Supreme Court, while Banerjee reiterated her government`s commitment to return the land to the farmers.
The decision caused gloom among most of the affected farmers in Singur in Hooghly district, 40 km from Kolkata.
Automobile giant Tata Motors had moved a division bench against Justice IP Mukerji`s September 28 ruling that upheld the law passed by the Banerjee government soon after assuming office last year to return 400 acres to farmers.
A total of 997 acres of land in Singur was leased to the Tatas by the Left Front government for the firm`s Nano small car project, along with several vendors who were to set up ancillary units at the site.