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Thread: The Singur & RTI

  1. The Singur & RTI


    First: Why Singur? On December 7, Rajya Sabha mp Nilotpal Basu told a delegation that the Tatas had been shown five different plots for the car project. He also said that the company did not want any other plot than the Singur one. Now, is it for a company to decide whether it should get agricultural land or barren land for a factory? Why should any state government allow itself to be blackmailed by a private company?

    Second: Why do the Tatas need 1,000 acres for an automobile factory? According to the CPM version, they are buying this land only for a car manufacturing unit. A car unit needs less than a fourth of that area. No one talks about the need to give so much land to a private company for just one project. Or about how the colonial Land Acquisition Act, 1894 — meant to allow the government to acquire land for public purpose — is now being used to forcibly acquire land for a private company. In Orissa (where the Tatas were embroiled in a similar controversy in Kalinganagar), the Tatas have acquired huge tracts of land that they hold but do not use. One sometimes wonders whether they are industrialists or real estate speculators. In the case of Singur, neither the CPM nor the Tatas have tried to justify the demand for so much agricultural land. While CPM leaders like Brinda Karat discuss land acquisition and rehabilitation, they say nothing on the Tata Motors project itself, neither its economics nor the mou agreements and process of finalisation. For all the talk about facts, there is a deep secrecy surrounding the project.

    There are several petitions under the Right To Information (rti) Act pending before the local authorities since early 2006 (months before either Medha Patkar or Mamata Banerjee were involved) demanding transparency in the land deals between the Tatas and the state government, especially regarding the farm lands in Singur. The government has not responded to a single one — a clear violation of the rti Act, 2005, which the CPM has supported very vehemently. Unfortunately, till the time the active resistance started, the state government was not willing to give even the people directly affected any information regarding the land acquisition or negotiate rehabilitation proposals.

    Singur: Where The Left Turns Right By Vijayan MJ



  2. #2

    [WB] Govt still reluctant to divulge details


    Govt still reluctant to divulge details

    ASReported by Pranesh Sarkar in the Statesman


    KOLKATA, June 13: Is the state government transparent enough to divulge details of the land leased out to Tata Motors in Singur? Apparently not.
    The state government still appears to be reluctant to make public details of the deal or the lease agreement with Tata Motors for its proposed small car factory land in Singur.

    The state chief election commissioner, Mr Arun Kumar Bhattacharya, had to issue an order asking the state public information officer of West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation to provide information to Mr Salil Kapat, convener of Indian Society for the Fundamental and Human Rights, regarding the land deal in Singur when he faced bureaucratic buck passing for nearly a year after submitting questions in this regard under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

    Mr Kapat had submitted questions under the RTI Act on 8 June, 2007 seeking some particulars about the land deal between Tata Motors and the state government. He wanted to know the names of the parties between whom the deed of transfer or lease was executed regarding the land for Tata Motors in Singur, and whether any exemption was granted in respect of the registration. He also wanted to know about the market value of the land assessed by the registering authority including the details of the deficit stump duty and registration fee payable thereon.

    These details which the applicant sought were related to two departments, department of finance and department of commerce and industries. The commerce and industries department was ready to provide the information within its purview, but the the finance department had allegedly refused to provide information on their part citing some technical problems.

    Mr Kapat then made two appeals to the West Bengal Information Commission seeking justice. Finally the state chief information commissioner, Mr Arun Kumar Bhattacharya, conducted a hearing where concerned authorities from the finance department and WBIDC were present. After the hearing, the commissioner ordered the WBIDC to furnish all the information to Mr Kapat within 15 days.

    The Statesman

  3. #3

    Tata Motors files legal salvo in Singur battle


    Tata Motors files legal salvo in Singur battle
    as reported By Swati Khandelwal, CNBC-TV18:Sep 12, 2008

    Tata Motors has filed a writ petition against the West Bengal government and the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, or WBIDC, alleging that the government violated provisions of the Right to Information Act of 2005. WBIDC had made the agreement between Tata Motors and the West Bengal government public by posting it on their website on September 9. The Calcutta High Court has put a stay on publishing this agreement.

    Earlier, the State Information Commissioner had ordered a disclosure of certain documents.

    Meanwhile, the meeting between the West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Trinamool Congress head Mamata Banerjee to discuss the Singur issue has ended.

    After the meeting, Mamata Banerjee said the Chief Minister wants to allot only 70 acres from within the project area, and that she will not settle for anything less than 300 acres within the project area. Banerjee added that she is yet to decide on the future course of action.

    Moneycontrol >> News >> Business >> Tata Motors files legal salvo in Singur battle

  4. #4

    Re: The Singur & RTI



    Tatas get court gag on car agreement
    as reported by OUR LEGAL REPORTER | The Telegraph

    Calcutta, Sept. 12: Calcutta High Court today restrained the state government and the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation from making public the agreement signed with Tata Motors on the Singur project.

    The stay will be operative for 15 days and the case will come up for hearing on September 19, Justice Dipankar Dutta said in an interim order on a Tata Motors petition.

    The company demanded the stay after the WBIDC posted the text of the agreement on its website on a direction from the state information commission, which had received a Right to Information (RTI) Act plea for such disclosure.

    Section 11(1) of the act, however, says that when a third party other than the RTI petitioner and the government is involved, a submission from it is needed before any information can be revealed, said legal expert Satadal Chatterjee, who specialises on the RTI Act.

    The legal action by the Tatas, the third party in this instance, suggests they were not consulted before the text was made public. There was, however, no confirmation from either side.

    Tata Motors lawyer Samaraditya Pal argued before the court that the state information commission had violated the RTI Act by asking the state to display the agreement.

    According to the act, my client has the right to keep the agreement secret because it is related with its trade, Pal said. Other than the state information commissioner, the state government and the WBIDC have been made respondents in the case.

    Pal said: The agreement was signed on March 9, 2007. It was decided the copy of the agreement would not be made public. But the state information commission, in an order dated September 8, asked the government to display the agreement.

    The court asked the lawyer what good it would do to have the text withdrawn now, since it had already been on display. Pal replied that the WBIDC had not displayed the secret part of the agreement yet.

    But it is our apprehension that this part of the agreement will be displayed, too.

    Industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen said he was not aware of the court order.

    The government had read out the agreement to a House standing committee on August 27. Industries minister Nirupam Sen had then said a copy could not be handed over without the Tatas consent.

    According to the RTI Act, a document where a third party is involved cant be made public without their consent, Sen had said.
    The RTI petition was moved by Amitava Chowdhury, a Calcutta resident.

    The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) | Frontpage | Tatas get court gag on car agreement

  5. #5
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    Re: The Singur & RTI


    As reported by ENS in expressindia.com on 17 September 2008:
    Court allows TC leader to be present during Tata case - Express India

    Court allows TC leader to be present during Tata case


    Kolkata, September 16 The Calcutta High Court allowed the Leader of the Opposition in West Bengal Assembly and Trinamool Congress MLA Partha Chatterjee to take part in the legal proceedings on the petition filed by the Tata Motors calling for restraint on making its deal with the state government public.

    Hearing a plea filed by Chatterjees counsel, Justice Dipankar Dutta allowed the Trinamool leader to be present in the court.

    On several occasions, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee has demanded disclosure of the agreement between Tata Motors and the state government on the Singur car factory project that was signed on March 9, 2007.

    Last week, Tata Motors had filed a petition challenging the move of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) to publish the agreement with the Tatas. Tata Motors had alleged in its petition that the government as well as the WBIDC had violated the provisions of the RTI Act by already disclosing a portion of the deal to the public. Following this, the High Court had issued a stay order last Friday and directed the government and WBIDC not to publish the secret part of the pact within two weeks. The case will come for hearing next Friday.

  6. #6

    Reveal-deal order set aside


    Reveal-deal order set aside
    as reported in The Telegraph, Calcutta, Sept. 26

    The high court today set aside the state information commissioner’s order asking the government to make its agreement with Tata Motors public.

    In his order today, Justice Dipankar Dutta also directed the commissioner, Arun Bhattacharya, to hear the Tatas within eight weeks before passing a fresh order. The state government or any of its agencies will not be allowed to make the deal public before that.

    The order followed a petition by Tata Motors challenging the legality of the commissioner’s September 9 order.
    The company’s counsel told the court that the Right to Information Act, 2005, did not allow a document involving a third party to be made public.

    “The third party’s consent is needed and my client does not want to make the agreement public because its trade secret is also involved in it,” advocate Samaraditya Pal said.

    Following the commissioner’s order, the government had posted parts of the agreement on a website.

    The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) | Bengal | Reveal-deal order set aside

  7. #7
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    Re: The Singur & RTI


    An article by Chandra Bhushan in downtoearth.org.in on 04 October 2008:
    What fuels Nano | News | Down To Earth magazine

    What fuels Nano


    Indias cheapest car piggy-backs on subsidies


    the saga of Tata Motors small car project at Singur, West Bengal, took a twist on September 23. There were reports in the media that the company had begun rolling out of the state. It was also reported that the West Bengal government was resigned to the state losing the project. Tata Motors, it seems, has kept up its threat of moving out of West Bengal if protests against the project continued.

    Opposition to it notwithstanding, Tata Motors had indeed got a sweet deal in West Bengal: numerous subsidies would have fuelled Indias cheapest car. At the time this magazine went to press, it wasnt clear if the deal was off.

    But lets go back to September 12 to understand how favourable the Singur deal is for Tata Motors. On that day the Calcutta High Court restrained the state government and the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (wbidc) from making public the secret part of the agreement they signed with Tata Motors on the Singur project. The company had taken the West Bengal government and its industrial body to court after wbidc posted the text of the general agreement on its website on a direction from the state information commission. The commission had received a Right to Information (rti) plea for such disclosure.

    Tata Motors lawyer argued before the court that the state information commission had violated the rti Act, 2005 by asking the state to display the agreement. Section 11(1) of the act says that when a third partyother than the rti petitioner and the governmentis involved, a submission from it is needed for any information to be revealed. The companys lawyer also argued that the agreement between the three parties was a trade secret and could not be put in the public sphere. In effect, the company argued that the Nano project is a private commercial venture. In contrast, the state government had acquired land at Singur using an antiquated lawthe Land Acquisition Act, 1894that allows the state to take over land for public purpose.

    But what is in this secret agreement that Tata Motors is afraid to divulge? It seems that the deal between Tata Motors and the West Bengal government involved much more than was made public by wbidc on its website. From it, one only gets a glimpse of the sops that the state government gave to Tata Motors. If there are more sops than that in the general agreement, then the company may have got away with the mother of all subsidies.


    The general agreement

    West Bengal governments subsidy package to Tata Motors includes subsidies on land, power, tax paybacks and a soft loan of Rs 200 crore. The state government will make efforts to maximize sale of products from the Small Car Plant. The package, notes the agreement, is given to Tata Motors to match benefits it would have enjoyed in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, both designated backward areas with following central tax concessions:

    # 100 per cent exemption from excise duty for 10 years.

    # 100 per cent exemption from corporate income tax for first five years and 30 per cent exemption from corporate income tax for next 5 years.


    The land deal

    wbidc acquired 997.11 acres (403.5 hectares, ha) in Singur. Of this, 645.67 acres (262 ha) was leased to Tata Motors for setting up the small car plant, while another 290 acres (117 ha) was meant for ancillary and component manufacturing units.

    This tract was the bone of contention between the opposition Trinamul Congress and West Bengal government. Trinamul wanted this land to be given back to the farmers and wants the vendors of ancillary units to be relocated. The remaining 60 odd acres (24 ha) was earmarked for setting up the electricity substation and for the rehabilitation of the project affected persons.

    Under the deal, Tata Motors will not pay for the acquisition of land for the small car plant. It will instead pay an annual lease rental of Rs 1 crore per year for the 645.67 acres for the first 5 years with an increase of 25 per cent after every 5 years till 30 years. After 30 years, the lease rental will be fixed at Rs 5 crore per year, with a 30 per cent increase every 10 years till the 60th year. After 60 years, the rental will be fixed at Rs 20 crores per year, which will remain unchanged till the 90th year, after which the lease terms will be fixed on mutually agreed terms.

    For the Tata Motors vendors, however, the 290 acres will be given on payment of a premium equal to the actual cost of acquisition of land plus a lease rental of Rs 8,000 per acre per year for the first 45 years and Rs 16,000 per acre per year for the next 45 years.

    Considering that wbidc is likely to spend anywhere between Rs 150 200 crore to acquire the land in Singur and the going lease rental rate for the commercial space in Singur near the national highway (where the Nano plant is coming up) is upward of Rs 25,000 per acre per year, Tata Motors has struck a sweet deal. The company has not only got away from not paying the market value of land (if the company was to buy this land from the farmers directly the cost could have been between Rs 250 and 350 crore), but the lease rental it has been asked to pay is also highly subsidized.

    The power deal

    The West Bengal government has agreed to provide subsidized electricity to the project. Though the going rate for the electricity is Rs 4.15 per kWh, the project will pay at the rate of Rs 3 per kWh. In addition, in case the tariff is increased by more than 25 paise per kWh in every block of five years, the government will provide relief to neutralize the increase. In other words, Tatas will get electricity at a constant subsidized rate for the entire life of the project. In fact, this deal in a way freezes forever the per unit energy cost of the Nano car.

    It is estimated that it will take about 300 kWh to assemble one Tata Nano in Singur (it takes about 400-500 kWh to make small cars like Hyundai Santro and Maruti 800 and Maruti Zen). This excludes the electricity that the ancillary and component manufacturing units of Nano will consume. As Tata Motors plans to make 2,50,000 cars per year initially, the electricity subsidy offered to the company could be to the tune of Rs 10 crore annually for the assembly plant alone. If the same subsidy is being offered to the vendors as well, which is not clear from the general agreement, then the total energy subsidies will increase manifold.

    The soft loan


    According to the agreement, the West Bengal Government will provide Tata Motors a loan of Rs 200 crore at 1 per cent interest, repayable in five equal annual installments starting from the 21st year from the date of disbursement of the loan. This loan will be disbursed within 60 days of signing this agreement (The company signed an agreement with the government on March 9, 2007 for the land at Singur).

    The loan writes off about 15 per cent of the capital investment that the company purports to make in Singur. By the time Tata Motors starts repaying the loan in the 21st year, it will essentially repay only about Rs. 240 crore to the West Bengal government, though at 11 per cent interest rate the future value of the present Rs 200 crore in the 21st year would be around Rs 1,450 crore. So Tata Motors in 20 years will avail a subsidy of about Rs 1,200 crore.

    Matching the Uttarakhand deal


    To match the excise duty and corporate income tax exemptions of Uttarakhand, wbidc has agreed to provide an industrial promotion assistance in the form of a loan to Tata Motors at 0.1 per cent interest per annum for amounts equal to gross value-added tax and central sales tax received by the state government in each of the previous years ended March 31, on the sale of the small car from the date the sales begin.

    This benefit, says the agreement, will continue till the balance amount of the Uttarakhand benefit (after deducting the amount from the land lease rental and the soft loan) is reached on net present value basis. The loan with interest will be repayable in annual installments starting from the 31st year of commencement of sales.

    The loan availed of in the first year will be repaid in the 31st year and wbidc will ensure that this loan is paid within 60 days of the close of the previous year, failing which the corporation will be liable to compensate Tata Motors for the financial inconvenience caused at the rate of 1.5 times the bank rate prevailing at the time on the amount due for the period of delay.

    Is Tata Motors moving out of West Bengal for an even better deal?

  8. #8
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    Re: The Singur & RTI


    As reported in expressindia.com on 01 November 2008:
    WBIC asks all parties to appear for hearing on Tata deal - Express India

    WBIC asks all parties to appear for hearing on Tata deal

    Kolkata, October 31 Following the Calcutta High Courts stay on its order to disclose the details of the Singur deal between Tata Motors and the Bengal government under an RTI appeal, the West Bengal Information Commission (WBIC) has requested all parties involved to appear before it on November 19 for a hearing.
    The WBIC letter has been sent to 11 parties, including the chief secretary, principal secretary (commerce and industries), managing director, West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, Leader of the Opposition Partha Chatterjee and Tata Motors Ltd.

    We have asked all to send in their written submissions by November 10. While granting a stay on full disclosure of the deal in the public domain, the HC directive had asked us to hold a hearing in which Tata Motors would also be represented, WBIC secretary Nandan Roy said on Friday.

    On September 12, the HC had restrained the government and the WBIDC from making the two annexures of the agreement public, which they had signed with Tata Motors on the Singur project. The automaker had taken the government and the WBIDC to court after the latter posted the text of the general agreement on its website upon the direction from the WBIC. The commission had received an RTI plea for such disclosure.

    The Tatas lawyer had argued that the WBIC had violated the RTI Act, 2005 by asking the state to display the agreement, citing Section 11(1) of the Act which states in case a third party other than the petitioner and the government is involved in this case Tata Motors a submission from is needed for any information to be revealed. The second argument was that the agreement between the three parties was a trade secret, and that the Nano small car project was in effect a private commercial venture.

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