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'Why should Singur's farmers subsidise Tata?'
December 26, 2006
Dinesh Trivedi, Rajya Sabha MP and Trinamool Congress general secretary, speaks on his party chief Mamata Banerjee's hunger strike to protest the West Bengal government's decision to acquire 1,000 acres of agricultural land in Singrur for Tata's automobile factory. Banerjee's fast entered the 23rd day on Tuesday.
Let me begin with telling you that people are in for a big surprise. Mamta Bannerjee is fasting and she is not resorting to any short cuts to end her fast. She is only drinking water. She is under the supervision of a party member who is a medical practitioner.
Television cameras and people are watching her 24/7. She will end her fast only if Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee agrees in principle to return the land of those farmers of Singur who have not given their consent to surrender the land. The crux of the matter is that Bhattacharjee thinks that there are only one per cent of farmers whose lands have been acquired (legally under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894) without their consent. But we have affidavits of more than 3,000 farmers whose land has been acquired without their consent.
Mamta's fast has called the Communist Party of India-Marxist's bluff. Today the Bharatiya Janata Party has announced that they will take the issue of Singur and the issue of the forced land acquisition even outside West Bengal.
A few weeks before Durga Puja, Mamta Didi had told me, 'I am willing to die for the farmers' cause.'
She said she is fed up with the atrocities of the CPI-M. She doesn't have any political party's support to fight them. Don't laugh at Mamta while watching television. She deserves your support. Remember that in the coming years of globalisation and liberalisation the issue of land acquisition will be the biggest issue and Mamta will emerge the biggest farmer leader of India.
Thirty years back, the CPI-M and its Left allies came to power on the slogan of land reforms. They said that tillers should have the rights over land. After 30 years, although the land is with the tillers, the ownership papers -- its titles have not been transferred yet by the Left government. It's cheating and Mamta is bringing back this issue to the forefront.
Those who are supporting the Tatas and the government are people living in Kolkata whose land was transferred by the government without transferring ownership. They have taken money from the government by agreeing to give up their so-called land in Singur to the Tatas.
The poor farmers were blackmailed, in election after election, by Left leaders. They were told that if they won't vote for them they will not, eventually, get 'ownership papers' of the land.
Mamta has found a purpose to fight. If she dies, she has said the state government and the chief minister will be responsible for it. I believe the Tatas can't escape blame too.
Why should any state or central government acquire land and hand it over to private industries? Why can't Tatas go to village panchayats and negotiate for land and pay the market price? In Gujarat, private industries are dealing directly with panchayats.
The government enters at the last stage. If Tata is really committed to making a small and cheap car for the people why are they offered free water, land and electricity? What stops the government from making public the deal it entered into with the Tatas?
Mamta has survived so far because there is tremendous response from people which media people are unable to see. Let me tell you, it's all a game of money, big money. Don't forget Tatas give advertisements to the media.
We are merely telling the chief minister to agree in principle that you will return the land of those disagreeing farmers but the chief minister says it's not possible because if their land is located in the middle of the project then there can be legal problems. We are saying that to come to the negotiating table first you agree 'in principle' that the farmers' land will be returned.
Mamta's politics over the hunger strike is 200 per cent pro-poor. It's wrong to say she jumped into the field much later to benefit politically. When she went to Singur, she was beaten by the police, her blouse was torn.
Later wherever she went the government imposed Section 144 [of the IPC, preventing assembly] to prevent her from addressing farmers. She was forced to take up the last weapon of resistance because all other routes were closed to her.
She didn't attend meetings called by Tata or the government because in those meetings the agenda was vague. They didn't speak about Singur, they kept talking about industrialisation, development and broad ideas. The people of Singur offered Tata a plot of land on the other side of the village, which is a bit low-lying and needed to be filled up. But the Tatas want everything on a platter. They don't want to spend money, so they want land which is fertile and the lifeline of the people. Why should the farmers of Singur subsidise Tata's one-lakh rupee car?
If God forbid, anything happens to Mamta didi, Tata will never be able to get an inch of land in West Bengal. The state will plunge into uncertainty.
When I met former chief minister Jyoti Basu, even he told me, 'Don't let Mamta die.' He told me his security guard was telling him that his highly fertile land has been acquired by the government in Singur.
Tata is like the East India Company of modern days. Tata and the government are using the media by giving them advertisements and giving them wrong data.
Tata doesn't mind destroying the 'rice bowl of India' for the sake of setting up a car factory.
We believe we need a cheap car and food to eat, both are important. Why destroy the economy of farmers and ecology of the area when other alternatives are available?
As told to Sheela Bhatt