A decade after riding to power on the wave of resentment created by the Left Front’s move to acquire land in Singur for the Nano project, Mamata Banerjee plans to set up an industrial park at the same village

Published : December 24, 2020 21:48 IST

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sowing seeds to initiate cultivation of the recovered land from the abandoned Nano car project, in Singur in 2016. Photo: Ashoke Chakrabarty

On October 3, 2008, Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Sons and Tata Motors, announced that he was moving the prestigious Nano small car project out of West Bengal because of Mamata Banerjee’s prolonged and violent agitation against forcible land acquisition at the project site in Singur, Hooghly district. Mamata Banerjee was the opposition leader at the time and the agitation was seen as dealing a crippling blow to the State’s plans for industrial revival. Twelve years later, with what may prove to be her toughest elections round the corner, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced her industrial plans for Singur.

“We are setting up an agro-industrial park in Singur. The land there is very fertile and this is being done so the farmers there can sell their products and display their produce.... West Bengal Small Scale Industrial Development Corporation will be setting up this project on an 11 acre land…. Those industrialists who are interested will be given plots of land ranging from 10 to 30 kottah [one kottah is about 720 sq ft]. There will be big plots for big investors and small plots of small ones….” she said.

Singur had become a symbol of the movement against land acquisition in the country and paved the way for Mamata Banerjee’s rise to power. In 2016, she had triumphantly returned the land that was acquired for the Singur project to the farmers who were unwilling to part with their land. However, of late, Singur has been rapidly slipping away from her political grasp. The farmers alleged that the land returned to them were not cultivable any more.

Mamata Banerjee’s announcement of the industrial plans for Singur and several other projects has come on the heels of criticism by the opposition parties of the lack of industries in West Bengal and the growing unemployment in the State. Surjya Kanta Mishra, the State secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), called the move nothing more than an “election announcement”. He told Frontline: “The investment that this government has brought in over the last 10 years will not exceed what the Left Front government got into the State in just the last three years of its tenure.” He said it was the CPI(M)-led Left Front that had roped in the Tatas to set up the Nano project in the State. Sujan Chakraborty, CPI(M) legislator, said: “She [Mamata Banerjee] will have to repent for the doom she has brought to Bengal. There are no jobs for the youth, nor is there productive land for the farmers.”

Samik Bhattacharya, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) spokesperson, said: “There will certainly be industries in Singur, but it will be when the BJP government comes to power in 2021.”