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Singur still a hot bed of industrial possibilities

Last updated on: March 24, 2011 13:43 IST

Singur still a hot bed of industrial possibilities

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Rediff Business Desk

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee said at a press conference on March 23 that industry would come up at Singur from where the Tatas were forced to pull out their Nano project following a stir against the acquisition of farmland.

Though the chief minister was non-committal if the Tatas would set up a factory there, he sounded almost certain about the industrial fate of this suburban town.

Union Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee too expressed her intent to set up a factory in Singur.

All these fan the fire of curiosity: what exactly is going to be Singur's fate?

This slide show will explore the possibilities.

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Image: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
Photographs: Reuters
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Singur still a hot bed of industrial possibilities

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Buddha's plan for Singur

In January this year, Buddhadev Bhattacharjee said, "Come what may, we will set up industry in Singur if the people so wish. We are trying hard to set up the industry there as soon as possible".

The West Bengal chief minister uttered these words on his first visit over two years after Tata Motors announced Oct 3, 2008, that the world's cheapest car would not roll out from there.

"I have received a letter from Shilpa Unnayan Committee (Industry and Development Committee) in Singur. If possible, I will set up an automobile car factory on the acquired land. We will raise our head again," Bhattacharjee remarked.

The meeting, organised by the Hooghly district Left Front, was held near the now abandoned semi-finished plant that was slated to originally produce the Nano.

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Image: People march in support of Nano factory at Singur.
Photographs: Reuters
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Singur still a hot bed of industrial possibilities

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Why did the Tatas leave Singur?

The automobile giant had to abandon their plans to bring out the car from the plant after two years of a sustained and often violent peasant agitation spearheaded by the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress.

The agitators had demanded return of 400 acres out of the 997.11 acres acquired for the project to farmers from whom land was allegedly taken against their will.

Bhattacharjee requested the unwilling farmers to snap ties with the Trinamool Congress and said his government was trying hard to set up factory in the acquired land in Singur, about 40 km from Kolkata.

Agriculture was no more profitable in the area where the farmland was acquired for the project.

"So there is no option other than to set up a factory there. A factory can only provide employment to the youths," Bhattacharjee said.

He also gave a call to those 'who had misunderstood the Left Front to come forward' and 'say unanimously' that 'the farmers want a factory' in the land acquired for the Nano plant.

The chief minister, during his Singur visit, urged the youths not to 'trust the railway minister's (Mamata Banerjee's) false promise' of providing them jobs in the railways, he said: "I am requesting the unwilling farmers to unite and raise their voice for industrialisation in Singur."

It should be mentioned here that the Trinamool -- vanquished in the 2006 Assembly polls -- saw its popularity surge as it won all the seats at Singur in the rural body polls in 2008.

Singur marked a turnaround in the state's politics, as Trinamool and its allies demolished the Left Front in the Lok Sabha polls of 2009.

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Image: Tata Motors chairman Ratan Tata with the Nano.
Photographs: Reuters
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Singur still a hot bed of industrial possibilities

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If Buddha speaks, can Mamata be far behind?

As if like a corollary, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee too made herself heard recently at Singur against the alleged forcible acquisition of land from farmers for the now-abandoned Tata Motors small car project.

She urged the State government to grant 600 acres to the railway authorities for setting up industry after returning 400 acres to those from whom land had been acquired 'forcibly.'

Addressing a public meeting in front of the erstwhile Tata motors project site, Banerjee virtually kicked off her election campaign from Singur.

Banerjee said that rather than seeking 'revenge' for all the 'wrongdoings of the Communist Party of India-Marxist," she wanted to usher in a 'change that is peaceful.'

"Elections have to be held by April. . .Singur is the motherland of our land movement. I can promise that while both agriculture and industry will flourish here, unwilling farmers will be returned 400 acres.

"After the CPI-M's departure from the state, we will start our developmental work from Singur," she said.

Claiming that her party had never objected to the setting up of industry on 600 acres, Banerjee said Railway Ministry would set up a Diesel Multiple Unit coach factory on the land if the state government offered it.

"Our party never objected to any land acquisition or industrialisation drive by the State government until when we saw that farmers are being threatened into giving up their land. The same method was applied in Rajarhat (in North 24 Parganas) where around 25,000 acres have been forcibly acquired," she asserted.

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Image: Mamata Banerjee waves to supporters outside her residence in Kolkata.
Photographs: Reuters
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Singur still a hot bed of industrial possibilities

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Singur land: State government's other plans

The state government had earlier proposed to construct a mega power plant in Singur with Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, but BHEL had expressed its inability for the same.

Though the Singur site was with the Tatas, its group chairman Ratan Tata had earlier said he did not want to sit on the land and could give it back if the company was compensated for the investment it had made.

When talks were on for putting up a power plant last month, West Bengal Industry Minister Nirupam Sen had stated, "I don't think there will be any problem to get back the land from the Tata Motors Ltd."

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Image: Mother of Tapasi Malik, looks at her photograph.
Photographs: Reuters
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Singur still a hot bed of industrial possibilities

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Some other small car factory was planned

It was heard that Singur would be home to another small car, one that is likely to cost between Rs 150,000 and Rs 200,000.

Left Front sources had stated then that the West Bengal government was likely to offer the disputed 'Nano land' to another car manufacturer.

Former West Bengal Sports Minister, late Subhash Chakraborty, too had hinted that Singur would soon become home to 'another car company'.

According to sources, representatives of China's First Automobile Works and Ural India (an Indo-Russian venture) had met West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee middle of this year and had expressed their desire to set up an automobile manufacturing plant in the state.

The car company, said sources, had asked for only 600 acres for its factory.

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Image: Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Photographs: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters
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Nano factory: A bit of history

On May 18, 2006, Tatas had selected West Bengal for the Rs 100,000-car plant.

But the proposed project soon ran into rough weather with Mamata Banerjee deciding to protest outside block development officer's office at Singur to protest land acquisition drive.

She also called for rail and road blockade. Many protest marchs and bandhs later, Banerjee called off indefinite hunger-strike after 25 days following appeals from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

On December 18, 2006, Tapasi Malik, daughter of Monoronjan Malik, a sharecropper,  was allegedly gangraped and burnt alive.

On seeing the fire, the villagers tried to intervene but was allegedly baton-charged by police.

This incident complicated the Singur issue further with both Communist Party of India-Marxist and Trinamool Congress trading charges of 'calculative foul play'.

However, on January 14, 2007, land puja was offered at the Nano project site.

On February 5, police, mob clashed at Singur.

However, an undeterred Left Front government signed a 90-year agreement with Tata Motors for the Nano plant.

On March 11 2007, a farmer Haradhan Bag committed suicide at Singur and mob attacked Tata Motors's factory fencing.

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Image: Policemen with riot gear stand guard inside the entrance of Nano factory.
Photographs: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters
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October 3, 2008: Nano left Bengal

On November 12, 2007, central forces were deployed at Singur after fresh protests.

In the meantime, Trinamool Congress chief had intensified her demand that 400 acres of the tolal Singur factory area should be returned to farmers.

On August 20, 2008, talks between state government and Trinamool Congress failed and on August 22, Ratan Tata threatened to move the Nano project out of West Bengal if violence continued at Singur.

From August 24, 2008, Mamata Banerjee began indefinite dharna at Singur demanding return of land.

On September 3, 2008, Tatas suspended work at Singur plant because of assault and intimidation by agitators, threatened to relocate plant elsewhere.

West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi's intervention to resolve the issue failed following which Ratan Tata formally announced on October 3, 2008 that there would be no Nano from Singur.

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Image: Tata Motors chairman Ratan Tata (left) poses with Nano car.
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters
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