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Singur on the boil again, says Mamata's promise not enough

Last updated on: May 31, 2011 10:32 IST

Singur on the boil again, says Mamata's promise not enough

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Swati Garg & Ishita Ayan Dutt in Singur

Binoy Das, a farmer in Singur, believes his difficult days are about to end.

For, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has promised that he, along with 2,000-odd farmers, will get back the land he was forced to part for Tata Motors' Nano plant.

But for him, this is no longer enough.

Das, who lost about 3.5 acres, wants compensation and a job, too.

He, along with others like him, is ready for another agitation.

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Image: Police try to keep crowds at bay as Mamata Banerjee walks to Writer's Building on the first day of her assuming office as the chief minister.

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"First, we want our land in a cultivable condition. I am not concerned about the fly ash. They have put it there without asking us. They can take it away," said Das.

"While I may consider taking another piece of land, it should be close to my original plot," he said.

In 2008, Tata Motors withdrew the project from Singur after Banerjee led an agitation demanding that the farmers who did not want to part with their land be returned their 400 acres.

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Image: Tata Motors chairman Ratan Tata with the Nano.
Photographs: Reuters
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Singur on boil again, says Mamata's promise not enough

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The move, while resurrecting her political career, empowered the farmers.

The farmers, well aware that they were a catalyst in toppling the 34-year-old Left Front government in the state, now want the sky.

Till the legal issues are settled, they want more work and money under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

"We want Rs 200 a day and 150 days' work in a year as against Rs 100 a day and 100 days' work at present.

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Image: A farmer.

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"If they can give teachers, who are much better off, salaries on time, they need to do something for us, too," said Sushanto Ghosh, a share cropper.

The new state government has decided to pay salaries to teachers on the first day of the month.
Earlier, they used to get salaries on the 10th.

Singur is ready to agitate again, if needed, for living without land and money for five years.

The farmers say the compensation must factor in the market price, which is Rs 60 lakh (Rs 6 million) an acre, compared to the Rs 900,000-12 lakh (Rs 1.2 million) an acre they got paid.

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Image: Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee along with a few other leaders at the dharna site, Singur.
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty
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"They have to compensate us for taking our land and reducing us to manual labourers. We do not care where the compensation comes from. We are ready to agitate again for as long it is needed," said Anil Pal, a farmer.

For people like Ghosh, things have been tougher.

In 1978, the Left Front-led government gave share croppers legal protection against eviction and a share of the produce.

They were to get 25 per cent of the price of the acquired land. Most had no papers and got nothing.

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Image: Farmers walk through a field.
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
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"Compensation is under consideration by didi (Banerjee) on humanitarian grounds. We will consider compensating them," said Becharam Manna, who led the agitation under the Krishi Jami Raksha Committee and has been elected a member of the Assembly.

Return of land to the unwilling farmers was the first decision of the Trinamool Congress government.

But what about the willing farmers, who account for 85 per cent of those who lost land to the Nano project?

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Image: Tata Nano.
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera
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These 11,000 farmers invested in the project through co-operatives and lost heavily when the Tatas decided to shift the plant out of the state.

Some of them were even trained by the Tatas for jobs at the Nano plant.

"She is not the chief minister of unwilling farmers. The willing farmers have also voted for her. I don't think she will do anything to drive a wedge between the two. If the unwilling are given compensation, the willing will also be considered," said Udayan Das, president, Singur Shilpa Bikash O Unnayan Committee.

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Image: Mamata Banerjee at a protest rally in Singur.
Photographs: Reuters
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The committee was considered a front of the Communist Party of India-Marxist and represented the willing farmers.

At the crux of the solution is the 290-acre industrial park that has 54 vendors.

But Industry and Commerce Minister Partha Chatterjee has indicated that some of them exist on paper.

"We are waiting for guidance from Tata Motors. Our decision will depend on that," said a vendor.

It can be safe to assume that talks between the state government and the Tata group are likely to be held sooner than later, for Singur is sitting on a powder keg.


Image: Left Front supporters gather in support of the Tata car project at Singur.
Photographs: Parth Sanyal/Reuters
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