ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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It Isn't Going to Come Easy

Will the Tatas agree to transform the victims of the process of industrialisation at Singur into its beneficiaries?

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front g overnment in West Bengal had handled the acquisition of land from the peasants for the Nano car project of Tata Motors at Singur in a hopelessly insensitive manner. The Trinamool Congress, the main opposition party, has ever since tried to gain all it can from this failing of the communists. The CPI(M), in its anxiety to pursue industrialisation at all costs, should have known better than to be more concerned about the incentives for private industry than about livelihoods and asset security for the local populace. In a backward agriculture with a hugely adverse land-person ratio and an utter lack of alternative livelihood opportunities, the Singur compensation package needed more than it received from the Left Front government. From the time of the notification under section 4 of the archaic Land Acquisition Act of 1894 for the takeover in “public interest” of 997.11 acres of land spread across five ‘mouzas’ in Singur in July 2006, without prior consultations with the local people through the panchayats, to the present so-called “siege” of the Nano car project by the Trinamool Congress and its smaller allies (including some minor Naxalite factions) and the Tatas’ threat to relocate the Singur unit, the party cannot hide its deep discomfiture any longer.

Tata Motors seemed to have reached the end of its tether when on September 2 they announced that they were “evaluating alternative options” for manufacturing the Nano at company facilities elsewhere in the country. What really seemed to have jolted the ruling Left Front as well as the opposition was one sentence in the announcement: “A detailed plan to relocate the plant and machinery to an alternate site is under preparation”. All of a sudden, the West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna G andhi’s initiative to resolve the impasse seemed to matter more than ever before to Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, for there could be a backlash against her party if indeed the Tatas carried out what they were threatening to do. Mercifully, a way has now been found for the state government and the main opposition party and its allies to come to negotiations to resolve the impasse.

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