West Bengal: Discontent in Singur

Print edition : December 28, 2012

SINGUR, the place which is most closely associated with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjees political turnaround, is now turning out to be an uncomfortable thorn in the side of her government. Four years after her violent agitation forced Tata Motors to shift its small car project out of the State, the plight of the land losers remains the same. Mamata Banerjee is running out of options and is losing the confidence of the people of the region.

Newly appointed Minister Becharam Manna, who was at the forefront of the Singur movement, was confronted with this unpleasant truth on November 28, when he had to face the anger of the residents of Singur, who demanded to know when the government would make good its promise of returning the land to the unwilling land losers who were left with neither land nor compensation. The outburst took place just two days before Mamata Banerjees scheduled administrative meeting in the region. She cancelled the public events that were supposed to take place after the meeting. Though the Chief Ministers office insisted that it was supposed to have been only an indoor meeting of officials, district sources said Mamata Banerjee chose the more prudent option of not facing the crowds when their tempers were high.

Returning the land to the unwilling farmers remains an unfulfilled promise. Time and again, the hopes of Singurs farmers have been raised, only to be shattered. After assuming power in 2011, the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act was passed, which provided for return of the land acquired from unwilling land losers for the establishment of Tata Motors factory. However, the ensuing court case kept the land out of bounds. Though the Calcutta High Court upheld the validity of the Singur Act in June this year, a Division Bench of the High Court ruled that the Act was unconstitutional and void.

Many of the reluctant land losers do not really expect to get their land back. All they want now is to get some payment for it. Now, every time they ask about the land they are told of the pending court injunction, a farmer in Singur told Frontline. Earlier this year, Mamata Banerjee announced a relief package for the land losers, including a pension of Rs.2,000 a month and rice at Rs.2 a kg. However, this too is not reaching all the people regularly, and that is what triggered the outburst against Manna. Mamata Banerjee was aware of such an eventuality. Had she really wanted to resolve the problem, she would have sat down for talks with the investors. The people of the region are now beginning to understand that they were used by her for political purposes, former Industries Minister and Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member Nirupam Sen told Frontline.

Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay

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