August 30, 2008


The Trinamul Congress has started de novo its nasty game plan of frustrating the motor vehicles project at Singur. Very recently, the Trinamuli chieftain accompanied by the SUCI and various Naxalite splinters plus Maoists, instructed their goons at Singur to disrupt the ongoing work (the project is fast nearing completion), to issue dire threats to the workers a large percentage of whom are from outside of the locality, indeed outside of the district and the state.

Several workers as well as engineers were subsequently badly beaten up. More than 150 civil engineers have stopped attending the site in fear of their lives. 400 and more of the skilled workers have quit their jobs in the face of continuous threats, heckling, and physical assault, almost every day.

On 1 August, several hundred more of the skilled workers decided not to risk their lives and they have stopped attending the construction site. The principal demand of Mamata Banerjee – now joined with great empathy by the Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, muscle-bound with his new-found influence with the UPA – is that the 300-odd acres of land the owners of which have refused compensation must be returned to them.

This is nothing but a dirty game. The Trinamuli chief and her lackeys on the reactionary right and the sectarian left know very well that under a recent Maharashtra High Court order, unutilised land in any government project must revert to the government once the land has been duly acquired, and the state government then would have to sell the land parcels in a auction to the highest bidder amongst the participating people who intend to buy the land blocks. The matter is sub judice with an appeal pending at the level of the apex court of the country.

There are other complications involved here. First, a good deal of legal hassles has worked behind the decision by some whose land has been duly acquired for the project not to accept compensation, however high and profit-bearing. There is dispute over ownership; there are also instances of absentee landlordism. Second, the land acquired where compensation has been refused is not contiguous nor in single large blocks. Thus, it is not quite feasible to have the blocks recarved and tiny plots here and there identified to be served up as non-abutting land parcels to the so-called claimants, amongst whom, over and above, ongoing familial disputes and legal wrangles continue.

It is clear that what Mamata Banerjee angles at is scuttling of the project. It the people who have chosen to give the project a green signal by coming forward voluntarily in most instances to allow the state government acquire the land: 655 acres for the factory itself, and nearly 300 acres for the setting of the primary-level ancillary and downstream units that would produce motor parts and being labour-intensive would open the avenues of gainful employment. This is something she ought to keep in mind.

In the meanwhile, elsewhere at Kalighat, Amar Singh paid a longish visit to Mamata Banerjee’s residence. In a joint press conference that duly followed, Amar Singh, apart from such hard, realpolitik gestures involving conveying Mamata’s message to the central government for the ‘return of 400 acres (the figure grows and grows) of the acquired land at Singur back to their owners,’ and taking part in joint movements in Bengal with the Trinamul Congress-led groups and outfits, some political some hardly so, said that while his ‘brain has been controlled in the past by the Left, his heart has always remained with Mamata Banerjee and that never was contact lost.’

Amar Singh then went on to declare in a very odd-sounding couplet that from now on, he would ‘listen to his heart and would not allow his brain to function,’ or perhaps something akin to that -- to an awkward effect on all present except the Trinamul chief who kept grinning widely: a change from her usual and perpetual grimace.


No comments: