October 11, 2008



We shall ignore Prem Shankar Jha’s [‘whose brakes failed?’ HT, 6 October 2008] obvious non sequitors that stems from his political position and / or lack of knowledge (‘brink of the class war’ -why not recognise the unpleasant fact that we are right in the midst of it?), his flirting with the untruth (project cost of Tata factory being Rs 1500 crore, Rs 131 crore worth of compensation paid (we are not privy to a capitalist venture’s statistics as he should be, but Mr Jha, check your figures, the compensation-rehabilitation package is worth close to double the amount quoted), 400 people are yet to queue for the compensation package—the number is less than 50 and dwindling yet, his fiction about the number of jobs to have been created – the number in fact is treble the figure he flaunts) – and of course his obscurantism about quoting figures from circa December 2006 – wake up, Mr Jha, nearly two years have since passed you by.

We hold no brief for the Tatas (or for people like Mamata Banerjee who are fed and clothed by the very industrialists one of whom Mr Jha motivatedly lambastes with punditry) who are successful capitalists in a hunt-and-peck operation in an uncertain supply-side dominated, portfolio-financial capitalist scenario, and have been coming to Bengal for purposes of profit – this should be crystal clear to Mr Jha because the corporate house that pays for his columns plays about with much the same philosophy. We shall concentrate instead on the ‘case’ he fails in, to make Mamata Banerjee a heroine.

Mamata Banerjee and her rainbow coalition of Maoists, the SUCI, the BJP, and the good old vacillation called the Pradesh Congress plus sundry other foreign-fed NGOs like the one led by Medha Patkar (who incidentally in her most recent statement make’s a conqueror out of Mamata Banerjee and is critical of Tatas --much in the same language as Mr Jha – ‘opposites attract’ or is it a case of the ‘birds of the same feather flock together?) have been on a one-point programme of destruction and that was to block all developmental projects and thus ‘ensure’ removal of the popularly-elected Communist Party-led Left Front government from office.

The Communist Party and the Left Front, too, possess a one-point programme. They would look to development – pro-poor, pro-employment, pro-people development. Agriculture is no longer a sustainable livelihood given the population curve and its extrapolation. Without industrialisation, Bengal shall ultimately be turned back to the Stone Age even without bombing from George W or his successor (and that is another can of wiggly worms now that the ‘deal’ has been signed).

Thus, the Communist Party and the Left Front went in for what they considered a sustainable development programme via industrialisation and urbanisation plus development of the service sector, widening the agrarian base all the while – the principal aim here was to create jobs, and agriculture was no longer paying (what Mr Jha seeks to point out about ‘little bits of land’ has a ring of truth in it and such bits do not sustain life with any security because the bits are unviable as a means of livelihood).

Yes, the compensation was paid for by the state government and it was a sustainable compensation provided the Tatas were allowed to set up shop. You do not naǐvely expect an industrialist to come and invest without incentives now, do you. Nevertheless, the more pertinent issue is this: how would Mr Jha argue in favour of a political coalition that would not recognise that ancillary units are part of an integrated project and cannot be removed and demand 400 acres of land from within the factory area? How is he able to state in a desperate effort to sanctify his blatantly pro-Mamata Banerjee position when he forgets – intentional or is age catching with him - to note that for two years there was no protest, and that the agitation commenced just when the factory was on its final lap?

Finally what we find intriguing is the ‘inside story’ for, as per Mr Jha’s confession, Mamata Banerjee was ready to strike a deal with the Tatas and that the deal would, and this he would not mention for obvious enough reasons, benefit not the farmers who were mostly forced not to take the two compensation packages on offer, but benefit Mamta Banerjee’s outfit politically, badly battered and cornered as it had become under the joint marauding done on it by the anti-people and ruthless combination of the Maoists and the SUCI.

Pardon me Mr Jha, but whose calculations failed? Who stands to suffer?

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