Mumbai: West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has rejected the demand by agitating farmers at Singur, near Kolkota, to return disputed land acquired for setting up Tata Motors' project to build the world's cheapest car 'Nano'.
Undeterred by the stiff opposition by Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress to the way land was acquired for the project, the chief minister said , ''It's not possible to return the land to the farmers.'' (See: Nano under siege in Singur)
''I can't afford to drop the project. It's an important one,'' he said while addressing businessmen in Kolkata. He, however, expressed optimism that the row over Singur project will be settled soon.
''I am trying my best. I still believe I can convince the opposition. I believe we should reach a consensus,'' he said. ''I hope the car will come out of the plant in October,'' he added.
''Giving back 400 acres is dropping the project, I cannot afford to do that," Bhattacharjee said.
The government had acquired a total of 1,000 acres for the project, of which 400 acres are under dispute.
The chief minister's assertion comes after Tata Motors chairman Ratan Tata said last week that he was prepared to forgo the huge investments and move the plant out of Singur if protests and violence continued to block operation of the plant. (See: Ratan Tata threatens pull-out from Singur)
Mamata Banerjee, who is leading a protest in Singur, has threatened to extend it to a statewide campaign against the government over the land acquisition mess.
"We will start a state-wide agitation now against the project unless the land is returned to the farmers," she said.
The indefinite siege in front of the 'Nano' car plant choked the Durgapur Expressway on Monday, hampering vehicular movement.
Vendors for Tata Motors too had threatened to pull out of Singur in the eventuality of a Tata pull-out from Singur, but said they were not aware of a deadline for a relocation of the plant.
Tata has so far been holding that work at Singur should continue as planned and 20 of the 55 ancillary units have already started production t the project are.
Tata had threatened to move out of Singur if violence continued, but he did not give a timeframe for a pullout from Singur. He also denied any 'Plan B' for locating the Nano project.
While protests and violence continue at Singur, reports said the first batch of Nano cars are being manufactured at plants in Uttarakhand and Mahasrashtra.