September 17, 2008





SINGUR:15th September: A people’s rally was held at Singur. The rally was called at short notice. The rally was held at the behest of the Bengal Left Front. The rally grounds accommodated a tad over a lakh of people.

Those outside of the venue itself represented nearly double the figure.

We should know.

We were not able to ‘get in,’ maybe for the first time in our long experience as a reporter of the Party organs. We were simply overtaken by the enthusiastic people who came in their thousands much, much before the scheduled time of the opening of the rally grounds.

Those remaining outside perforce were hardly unhappy. They were indeed proud.

A happy mix of men, women, children, the young and the old, the students and the worker, the youth and kisans (the latter in their thousands) chatted with us and their voices were suffused with an oddly attractive and infectious tinge of enthusiasm saying something to the effect that ‘this is how it should be -- given the support base we have been able to build up in Hooghly.’


The Hooghly leadership of the CPI (M) and the Left Front, those of them who, too, like us, could not be inside the premises, were beaming ear-to-ear with pride at the mass of the people that have rallied around, in some instances irrespective political affiliations, to come to the mass meeting, or near it.

It is not so much as listening to the addresses delivered. It has more to do with the spirit of things: the cry from a hundred thousand voices go up, again, and again, and again – ‘we want industrialisation, we want employment, and we want peace, at Singur, in Bengal.’

Called a bare 24 hours back, the organisational ability of the Hooghly district leadership in putting together this vast agglomeration of the toiling masses is a de rigueur benchmark for others to follow.

The discipline was overwhelming. Just imagine this if you can.


About a couple lakh of people are milling around the NH 6. Long unending rows of people are sitting on the kerbs and munching patiently, contentedly paper cartonful of masala-muri (puffed rice with a variety of aromatic, spicy condiments added, chiefly red mirchi and a drizzle of strong mustard oil), and listening to the speeches via loudspeaker ‘cones’ that are strung out in a long unending line on the highway itself

The two carriages of the highway remain quite open. Buses that had ferried people to the rally from far corners from the district – the rally is principally, if not solely, Hooghly-based – are parked leaning away either on the grassy shoulders or squatting along the wide boulevard of green verge separating the up from the down lane.

Yes, we do admit that traffic does not whiz through as it usually does past the factory, but today the traffic does not crawl along as well. We clock the average speed of the trucks at 25 to 35 km. Cars move at a slightly higher pace. Everybody is happy – no complaints from either the rallyists or the truckers and they cheerily wave at one another as they pass each other by.


Inside, Biman Basu, Bengal CPI (M) secretary rising to speak to rousing cheer all around, carefully weaves his address around three points. First, the ruling Left Front must play a responsible role in the task of industrialising Bengal anew as a rush of investments are poised for implementation.

Second, the landlosers who are yet hesitant – for whatever the reason, and the reason is neither important not a sticking point – must make haste and collect the cheques for the new investment package lying ready for delivery a the office of the land acquisition office at Chinsurah. Any problems or glitches will be worked out by the senior leadership of the district Left Front working in tandem with the administration.

Third, the Bengal opposition may like to have a look at the millions of hands ready for work across Bengal, and quit the disastrous path it has chosen to block the process of industrialisation, based on unreasonable, impractical, illegal demands, demands that are motivated politically, and the politics involved is of a narrow, sectarian kind.

Any difference of opinion about the way industrialisation should progress can be settled across the table.’ Nevertheless, do not ruin the prospects of industrial development of Bengal for the sake of a small amount of political mileage, which too might prove illusory, and perhaps heavily counter-productive.

Biman Basu spoke on three issues that had come to the front recently. He said that the process of pro-employment, pro-poor, and pro-people industrialisation would strengthen Bengal’s economy. The welfare of the kisans and the interests of agrarian growth and diversification shall never be impeded. The industries will provide a wall of protection to the new generation of the youth from the sprite of unemployment.

Bimanda iterated the basic slogan of the CPI (M) and the Left Front: industrialisation for employment, industrialisation based on a widening agrarian base, amidst huge sheerings all around. Senior Left Front leader addressed the rally. Their ranks included Ashok Ghosh (FB), Manjukumar Majumdar (CPI), Kshiti Goswami (RSP), and others.


Mamata Banerjee (dis)organised another of her assemblages at Singur the next day. Poorly attended, the rally was held without permission from the police and the national highway authority. The rallyists just sat down on the expressway – both lanes – and traffic was brought to a standstill. That was about the only high-point of the affair.

Fortunately, for the suffering commuters, the rally ended rather abruptly when Mamata Banerjee cut short her speech (did she run out of hackneyed arguments, one is left wondering) and sat down, muttering to herself non-stop on the dais, which among others (like her Naxalite and SUCI friends --thin in number, loud in boister) had the infamous duo of the Emergency days on her either side – Somen Mitra and Subrata Mukherjee.

Mamata, rejecting Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s new and attractive rehab package, iterated her demand for ‘400 acres’ for ‘unwilling farmers.’ This time there were not many takers for her line and she left the rally in a great huff and anguish promising ‘more demonstrations when the governor returns.’ We shall wait, but we shall not hold our breath in any anticipation.






KOLKATA,14th September: The rousing of the mass of the people’s will has already been witnessed during the past month when the crass intransigence of the Trinamuli chief to continue to dogmatically cling to an outmoded anti-people idea to prevent the Singur factory from coming up was vigorously and continuously protested against by a wide cross-section of the people of Bengal on the twin slogans of ‘industrialisation for the people,’ and ‘Mamata- hands off Singur!’


The protests took various forms – rallies, conventions, jathas, signature campaigns on both paper slips and on gigantic-size size whiteboards across the cities and townships -- and the entire movement was preceded by the coming together in the first place of lakhs of people at Singur itself- political considerations swept aside for a historic moment, forcing Mamta to flee the scene and run to the sheltering cove of the governor’s house. A programme of rallies was announced by LF chairman Biman Basu on 13 September at the end of an LF meeting. However, more of that will come later. First, let us take a brief look at what has transpired in between.

Once there, she took up the cudgels for her own self – uncertain in everything except in matters concerning harming the people’s interest. She has been known to be a political turncoat for a pretty long period of time – violently quarrelling with Somen Mitra and forming the Trinamul Congress, then, ten years later, becoming pals with Somen Mitra and then making him sit at her feet in a very public focus at Singur of late, quarrelling with her one-time mentor Subrata Mukherjee, and then making it up, and then again driving the poor creature from the Trinamuli ‘fraternity.’

This time around, she exceeded even her own anti-people, anti-development record. Having agreed at the Raj Bhavan to the people-friendly neighbourhood governor’s statement regarding the ‘way out’ for her as well as for the Singur problem (which, again, has been her very own handiwork-creation as well), she promptly baulked when she met Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at the latter’s calling two days back.


She flatly reused to back off from her untenable claim of 400 acres of land for the ‘unwilling peasants’ not a single one of whom she could produce anywhere along the line over the past three months. The governor in the meanwhile, no doubt influenced by Prime Minister Singh’s imperialist phraseology, stated that at Singur, a ‘sprit of accommodation [mark the loaded word)must be operationalised.’

Elsewhere Mamata Banerjee’s very own men, the bickering duo of Becharam Manna and Rabin Bhattacharya, quarrelling constantly as they have been, were not able, after the umpteenth visit to the Singur grounds, to find out the parable land from the factory premises beyond 50 acres – and that too, courtesy of the industrial development corporation of the Bengal government. Becharam even called for ‘pulling down the factory structure to ‘accommodate the “unwilling peasants”.’

Buddhadeb touched by the state of uncertainty affecting the people of Singur and beyond, then offered her and the people of Singur a sustainable rehabilitation-compensation package (‘rehabcompac’) that could well be, according to Biman Basu, a ‘model for the entire country to emulate,’ a package that would make the LF government a loser in terms of the state of the exchequer but a winner all the way as far as people’s interests and more were concerned. What did the package that Mamata in her haughty uncertainty refused, contain?


Let us straightaway quote, nearly verbatim, from the press release of the chief minister’s office that has also been run as a well-displayed front-page advertisement in all the leading English, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali dailies that are published form Bengal.

1. There has been a persistent demand that the families affected adversely by the project be provided with some land within the project locale. The state LF government proposes to ‘provide land measuring almost 40 acres at mouza Gopalnagar (dagh number 13 under the JLRO) towards the south of and within the project compound,’ and an additional land plot of ‘30 acres at mouza Beraberi (dagh 05),’ again within the project confines, for ‘use towards the people’s interests.’

2. Besides, the LF government offers ‘financial assistance to the landowners’ (zamindars and jotdars) and share-croppers (adhiyaars or bargadars) so as to enable them if they are willing, to purchase agricultural land plots of their liking. The exceptions are factory spaces and devottar land (land meant for religious purposes). The assistance has been subcategorised into two parts thus:

The land price declared by the LF government at the time of acquisition as compensation will now be increased by an additional 50%
Land losers / bargadars who have not yet taken the specific compensation amount will be able to do so from the concerned authority

3. Those of the landlosers who would agree and take the financial compensation package within 22 September 2008 shall also receive an extra 10% as has been done with those who have already received the compensation funds.

4. All affected agricultural labourers (khet mazdoors) and non-registered share-croppers bargadars in lands where owners are identified shall receive the NREGA-specified rate of 300 days’ worth of wages. To avail themselves of the opportunity, they need merely to produce residential proof via ‘NREGA job cards received from the concerned Gram Sansad, and their voters ID cards.’

5. The affected families who have no means of earning in a regular way would be ‘provided by the LF government’ in the concerned department/s with ‘training at the rate one member of each such family,’ and the try to find them direct/indirect employment. They families may register their names early with the Hooghly district administration.

6. All the villages included in the project area shall be included in the collective rural development plan as promised.


An important and very relevant point was raised by CPI (M) Polit Bureau member and Rajya Sabha MP from Bengal Brinda Karat in a recent communication about the fate or otherwise of land acquired for the factory, that are categorised as having ‘absentee landlords.’

The answer to this very pertinent query is this: wherever the ‘landlords’ are found wanting, either being absentees, or having left for places known and not wiling either to return or to receive compensation or both, the ‘rehabcompac’ will be provided to those who till the land in any capacity, bargadars, adhiyaars, khet mazdoors – we would suppose with pardonable pride in a pro-poor Left Front government that this is perhaps the most that a state administration can do under the circumstances.


The refusal of the Trinamuli chieftain of this extremely viable package has been responded to by the people of the Bengal with a rousing slogan of ‘Chalo Singur!’ The rally statewide, touching every section of the societal framework, shall commence with a vast gathering at Singur on 16 September in the early afternoon.

The movement will then spread across Bengal in every nook and corner of every town, city, village, and hamlet, and among all sections of the people who want industrialisation to develop, and the intransigence and impediment to development called the Trinamul Congress and its onerous chief to be made to go on the backfoot – firmly.

As Bimanda has pointed out, stressing each word, repeatedly, the ‘Trinamuli chief is not opposing just the CPI (M) and the Left Front government – it is waging a war against the people of Bengal,’ and it is the people who she shall have now to contend with, come the zenith of the tide of popular resentment -- in the form of a vast statewide movement.
[1288 words]


KOLKATA,11th September: A committee was formed at the behest of the Left Front government to ‘seek and search’ for the ‘maximum land within the project,’ principally to satisfy the battered ego of the Trinamuli chieftain who has again gone aground and is loathe to face either press meets or to address meetings of the faithful.

The sulking Maoists and their ‘armed revolutionaries’ have gone away cursing Mamata under their left sectarian breath for ‘betraying the “people’s cause”.’

The SUCI firebrands have trooped back – the mood is deep, deep gray - to their remaining ‘hold’ in a smallish enclave deep inside south 24 Parganas.

The Singur farmers, angry and fearful at the same time, wait anxiously for the ancillary units from where they earn there livelihood, to quickly resume work and the production belt to go ‘on line’ early.

They curse the indiscretions they had indulged themselves in by supporting Mamata’s ruinous ‘strategy’ of putting the CPI (M) and the Left Front government on the dock over the onerous and totally concocted ‘land question and disgruntled farmers’.

The Bengal CPI (M) on the other hand is of the resolved opinion that the remnants of the ‘problem’ called Singur (a misnomer if there was one) must be, now more then ever, tackled politically as well as administratively -- and in a firm but people-friendly manner.

The massive circulating rally of the toiling people of Singur and Hooghly roaring out slogans around Mamata’s dharna stage show, had shown the way – mass mobilisation is the way forward and there is no turning back.

Elsewhere Becharam Manna, keeping an indiscrete distance away from his local rival, the elderly Trinamuli MLA Rabin Bhattacharya, roams around the factory area, and keeps pointing rudely, pointlessly in fact, to structures being set -- and mutters, ‘what happens if we pull the whole thing down and give didi her promised “400 acres within the factory limits”.’

The officials accompanying him reason desperately that that would a but much, given the fact that the ‘structures’ referred to are nearly-completed factory sheds inclusive of machines and machine tools, all set for ancillary and downstream production.

The game goes on. Didi stays put at Kalighat. The people of Singur face mounting anxiety and tension, and rough it out with extreme patience that, however, may soon be running out—running out of hand, in fact, we are afraid, given the mood we saw amongst the villagers on successive days of 9 and 10 September at Singur. [418 words]


KOLKATA, 9th September: When the garishly decorated dharna manch was pulled down during the morning of 8 September, the local Trinamulis hung their heads in utter shame and sheer frustration. A mere 12-hours back, the local head honcho of the Trinamuli gangsters who had been employed to ‘mount a frontal assault on the motor vehicles factory if nothing else succeeded,’ were strutting about telling us in inebriated detail how Buddhadeb’s government will soon bow low before out didi. Now, the manch, their own symbol of anti-Communism was being pulled down, by themselves.


Initially, everyone at the manch was happy, content, sure of victory on 7 September. Things turned ugly later. By then didi had realised the turn her hideous game was taking and was quick to respond to the call of the comprehensively worried governor of Bengal – the circle of a few lakh of people around the manch was closing in, and the ranks included a vast number of Trinamulis – to attend a meting face-to-face with Bengal chief minister at the governor house.

From there, an hour or so later, a grim-faced didi, aplomb and boastings of yesterdays all gone as if by surrealistic magic, and speaking not a single word even to her favourite representative of the media house that she controls, sped away – in Tata SUV, of course. Her underlings had earlier departed the scene after the usual ‘friendly photographic session with a smiling governor.’ Even the photographs tell a story – and informative it is too.

What was the governor all-abeam for? Why was Mamata Banerjee looking down? Why was Partha Chatterjee, leader of the opposition, looked as if he is the latest victim of the Trinamul ‘camp’ to have an apoplectic, anxiety-borne, attack of panic? Was there a small but definite hint of relief-even-happiness in the expression of the others present in the picture? The answer is to be found in what happened at the Raj Bhavan during the afternoon and evening of that day.


At the end of the meting, Governor Gandhi addressed a brief press meet. He in fact read out from a sheet of paper. The reading took but a couple of minutes. What did the governor have to say? Well, three things could be discerned even after a cursory look at the ‘document.’

First, it calls for a ‘maximum amount of land to be given to the “land-losers” who would not accept compensation’ and -- horrors -- no specific amount is mentioned.

Second, it clearly calls upon Mamata to call off her sit-in demonstration that had been playing havoc with the supply of truck-transported materials of daily consumption, and life-giving medicines to central and north Bengal.

Third, it urges on the ancillary industrial units to suspend production for week, please.

What were Mamata’s original demands? What did she was finally get?

The magical ‘400 acres within the project area’ is now history. The cantankerous and shrill call for the entrepreneurs of the factory to leave Bengal, accompanied by a howling ‘and what do I care about who-leaves-or-stays’ frame-of-mind had found no support even in the kindly ambience of the governor house.

The state Left Front government had remained an epitome of patience. Throughout, the Left Front had backed fully, unitedly, the cabinet of ministers on the Singur impasse, especially Buddhadeb and industries minister Nirupam Sen. Biman Basu, chairing the LF meetings had always called for patience, discretion, and reason.


On the other hand, the dharna manch had seen much song-and-dance routines rigorously, routinely, raucously performed with the leading and enthusiastic participation of the then cheery and about-to-taste-victory Mamata. They almost sand ‘nigh is victory’ in ringing baritone.’ Other things had happened, too. In the anxiety to be a ‘success,’ some of her ‘well-wishers,’ some local, others hardly so, had told Mamata Banerjee that this was her ‘last chance’ to embarrass the LF government seriously enough towards ‘unseating it.’ A boasting-jesting Mamata puffed with a false sense of confidence, had also overlooked, or averted her eyes from some other developments that were slowly gathering momentum within her eyeing distance. What were these developments?

The number of the Trinamulis had steadily gone down from near her manch. Rifts were surface-apparent between the hard-liners like Becharam Manna of the ‘save agriculture committee,’ and the Maoists under Purnendu Bose on the one hand, and the local Trinamuli MLA Rabin Bhattacharya and his backers-uppers, in and out of the Trinamul Congress, on the other. ‘400 acres within the factory’ was fast becoming a funny story.

Much more importantly, elsewhere, the mass of the people of Singur and its surrounding areas were organising themselves in an ever-closing circles that increased finally to a couple of lakh of people – huge processions started to circulate the manch albeit from afar almost every day.

The ‘counter-blockade-on-the-move’ was becoming filled with slogan-shouting that carried no malice, menace, or threat – merely a sonorous, a very, very sonorous appeal to reason, something that the head honcho of the Trinamulis would not see, feel, or hear. Mamata was being urged all-the-while by the Trinamuli-supporting Singur farmers themselves to ‘please, please go away.’


She could not, would not, read the writing on the wall. Surrounded by a smallish cluster of sycophants, of her outfit, of the corporate media, and of a select few industrial houses who had kept their claws sharp and their shark’s teeth pointed, to grab hold of the Singur land plot if the motor vehicles factory actually did not take off (i.e., Mamata’s original plan, apparent now-more-than-ever to everybody and anybody with a sense in his / her reasoning), the Trinamuli chief had lost touch with the masses, and thus with the ground reality.

She did return to the dharna manch in the late evening of 7 September from the Raj Bhavan. Voice cloistered with fatigue of the failing kind, she hoarse-whispered to the remaining faithful that it had all been a ‘historic victory.’ She would not say for whom.

She then left Singur, and we do sincerely hope not for good for she ought to be around as a symbol of a certain dialectical kind when the first car rolls out from the Singur factory, come the joyous festive season commencing with Durga Puja and Idd-ul Fitr.


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