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Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Saga of Singur

From Now on I will be picking up various incidents and events which are happenning in India as a direct result of Economic Liberalisation.

Tata Small Car Factory in Singur - Birbhum - West Bengal

Where is Singur?

Singur is in Birbhum district of West Bengal. Nobody has heard of this place till Tatas decided to start their small car project over there. This place is mainly dependent on Agriculture with majority of land being multi-crop.

For this project Tatas needed land and they approached West Bengal Government. So far so good. Now things started happenning in a complicated and fast pace for any one observer to get the complete picture. So many interests got involved and so many laws were broken/amended to suit the Tatas that it became ultimately clear that this is one of the corruption beauties which CPM unleashes on people of West Bengal from time to time. In this one, the whole country was shown the videos of rowdy people, a harrassed CM who wants to industrialize an industrially backward state, a leader of opposition who wants to keep industry out of state, people who have willingly given land to Govt being misrepresented and so on.

Really a sad story, if it is true. so what is the truth? Let us take a hard look and ask some questions.

How the land was selected ?
Contrary to the normal way of things where government decides an area for industrialization and declares it an industrial area, in this case, Tatas were shown land all over Bengal and when they placed their finger on Singur, it was given. Hardly, the working of a democratic government, rather it looks more like, working of a dictator who knows that such an activity can be enforced and whatever resistance comes will be swept away by force.

It needs to be remembered that West Bengal has a huge amount of Industrial Grade Land locked up in closed Industries, majority being in Jute Industry. West Bengal govt would have taken any number of them and handed that to Tatas without any problem. It is not as if the land in Singur is having oil under it and Tatas are a petroleum company who without that oil cannot work. Moreover, These closed factories already have the infrastructure of Road connectivity and other present. Oops, I forgot. The majority of those factories are under direct control of CITU via the Labour Unions. So the government could easily have taken them and would had no problems as CITU is the labour wing of CPIM itself.

How the land was acquired?
Land was acquired by Government without the consent of farmers. In projects like this a major part is played by CPIM cadres. They intimidate the owners in signing consent letters. For those who are outside Bengal, it might look like exaggeration, please feel free to visit. You will find the real scenario. And when we talk about CPIM cadre, please do not think of them as political activists, they are full time employees of CPIM, drawing wages from party and killing for party when party needs it. Please refer to the incidents in Midnapore, which was reported sometime back on all the national channels of Television.
The government was banking on the assumption that the incidents will not get publicity and they will be able to proceed with impunity, which they are doing even now.
In order to do it, the government even went to the extent of modifying the law of the land. Please remember this happenned in October, long before rest of the nation even heard about Singur.

Public Response
Once the ill-doings of West Bengal Government became public, things started moving pretty fast with farmers and all the stakeholders coming together and a public agitation was launched. Mamta Banerjee, Leader of TMC - the main opposition party, went on indefinite hunger strike. Simultaneously, govt promulgated prohibitory orders in Singur under Section 144. They stopped everybody from outside from entering Singur. Thereby making it virtually a fortress. Medha Patkar, Anuradha Talwar, Mamta Banerjee, Rajnath Singh, all were stopped from entering Singur. What was it that West Bengal Government trying to hide. The logical way would have been to permit all of these people to go there and then present them with consent documents of the farmers. But goverment did not do it. Instead, West Bengal Chief Minister, Buddhadev Bhattacharya kept on lying that all the farmers have given consent. Ex-CM Jyoti Basu went to the extent saying "under law consent is not required, but we are taking it." Well, I do not blame Mr Basu. It has been quite long since he has never practised in a court of law, so he is unaware of Legal Matters. There is a ruling of Calcutta High Court which does not agree with him.
While the whole CPM party was shouting from the rooftop that farmers have given their consent for land acquisition, Prohibitory orders were in place - which means that only local residents (farmers) were there in that area. Suddenly, in the afternoon Television we saw newschannels showing police firing on the people. Now, why was police firing on local farmers and local farmers fighting back.
The logic, comrade does not hold water. People who give consent do not fight back.
to be contd...