Indo-Asian News Service Singur, September 15, 2008
Starting an aggressive campaign in Singur for the Tata Motors’ Nano plant, West Bengal’s ruling Left Front on Monday urged the farmers to accept the government’s latest rehabilitation package which is designed to help those “wanting to continue cultivation”.
Addressing a rally in Singur, Left Front leaders urged the opposition to stop its “obstructionist agitations”, which they said was harming the interests of the state.
LF chairman Biman Bose said the state government wanted to implement its industrialisation programme for creating fresh job opportunities for the unemployed youth.
Giving details of the package advertised on Sunday by the government for those whose land has been acquired for the Tata project, he said: “It has been formulated in an effort to help those who want to continue farming. They can buy land elsewhere and cultivate. The rest of the money they can invest. A member of their family will also be provided jobs”.
Tata Motors’ plans to roll out the world’s cheapest car Nano from Singur has taken a hit with the opposition Trinamool Congress led-farmers’ body holding sustained protests ever since the project was announced in May 2006.
Earlier this month, the company suspended operations at the plant and said it was considering moving out of the state after some of its workers were manhandled and threatened by the protesters, who laid a siege on the factory since Aug 24.
Stressing the importance of the Nano plant, Bose – also state secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) – said the car was targeted not only at the Indian market but also abroad.
“It’s the world’s cheapest car. They are doing a lot of bookings abroad. When the car is sold outside, there will be prosperity here and also elsewhere in West Bengal. Plenty of direct and indirect employment will be created.”
Taking on those ridiculing the Communists for going all out in support of an industrialist’s project, he said: “I’m surprised. How can these people say this? We are supporting the Tatas as they want to set up industries here. The government does not have the resources to do so. The centre also has not helped the state, except in the modernization of IISCO.”
Launching an assault on the opposition, the CPI-M politburo member said: “They never took part in the all-party meetings called to discuss the various issues. Recently, five rounds of discussions have taken place. The latest compensation package was also discussed with the opposition.”
Alleging that the opposition was misleading Singur farmers, Bose said: “Industrial projects come in a flow. So if one industrialist faces trouble, the others also have doubts in their minds”.
Bose instructed the Left Front leaders of Hooghly district – under which Singur comes – to directly talk to the farmers who have not taken compensation cheques for their land acquired for the project.
He also referred to the death of farmer Sushen Santra, saying he committed suicide as he apprehended dark days ahead after Tata Motors suspended operations on Sep 2.
“He was afraid of what will happen to his family as three of his sons had got employment in the project.”
Other LF leaders, including Forward Bloc’s state secretary Ashok Ghosh and Communist Party of India state secretary Manju Kumar Majumdar, also spoke at the rally.
A total of 997.11 acres was acquired for the project, but the opposition has demanded that the government return 400 acres taken ‘forcibly’ from ‘unwilling farmers’ who were yet to take the compensation cheques for the land.
An agreement was signed Sep 7 according to which land would be provided to those who had not taken compensation cheques.
The government later said it could identify only 70 acres, and came out with the package that also assured jobs for one member from each family of landlosers besides announcing a 50 percent additional amount of the price originally offered for the land acquired.
In the case of absentee landlords, the compensation has been offered to the sharecroppers registered for that particular plot, while unregistered sharecroppers and agricultural labourers would get wages for 300 days.
Those who have not taken the compensation cheques so far, have been promised a further 10 percent of the land price if they collect the cheques before Sep 22.