As reported by Pranesh Sarkar in thestatesman.net on 13 June 2008: The Statesman
Govt still reluctant to divulge details
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.
Now that the Govt. has already spilled the bins on Singur, can we access these details under RTI or is it still under exemption clause 8(1)(c).
Bengal comes clean on Tata deal
as reported by Express News Service, August 28, 2008
Kolkata, August 27 West Bengal’s Left Front government on Wednesday disclosed the full details of its March 2007 deal with Tata Motors for getting the company to build the small-car factory in Singur instead of the tax haven of Uttarakhand, their first preference.
Commerce and Industries Minister Nirupam Sen read out the deal to a standing committee of the Assembly on Wednesday and for now, the details will be accessible only to legislators.
Congress legislator Sudip Bandyodpadhyay, chairman of the 14-member Standing Committee on Commerce and Industry, had written to Sen seeking the details of the deal struck on March 9, 2007.
Bandhopadhyay, briefing reporters at a joint press conference with Sen, criticised the government for charging the Tatas only Rs 1 crore a year as lease rent for the 650 acres allotted for the main plant. The Tatas will pay this for the first five years, then step it up by 25 per cent a year for five years and so on; the lease is for 90 years. During this period, the Tatas would be making a total payment of about Rs 850 crore for the land.
“This is a meagre amount for a rich industrial house like the Tatas,” Bandopadhyay said. “Rs 1 crore is nothing for them.” The government had set aside nearly Rs 120 crore for the acquisition of the 997 acres.
Earlier, Sen had defended the incentives, pointing out that other states are offering the Tatas land free for the project. Senior state bureaucrats also pointed out that it was obvious that the government would provide whatever benefit it could to bring an industrialist like Tata to the state.
Although the minister had briefed the Assembly on March 15, 2007, about the deal, the government had earlier declined to reveal the contents fully, citing business secrecy. The government had also blocked an Opposition bid to get the details under the Right to Information Act, citing the same reason, and attracting allegations of giving undue favours to the Tatas at the cost of other industrialists. The standing committee is to meet again on August 29.