Women's land ownership in Uttar Pradesh: Question of Empowerment

Some Historians believe that it was women who first domesticated crop plants and thereby initiated the art and science of farming. While men went out hunting in search of food, women started gathering seeds from the native flora and began cultivating those of interest from the point of view of food, feed, fodder and fuel.

Women have played a key role in the conservation of basic life support systems such as land, water and flora. They have protected the health of the soil through organic recycling and promoted crop security through the maintenance of varietal diversity and genetic resistence…Therefore, without the total intellectual and physical participation of women, it will not be possible to popularise alternative systems of land management to shifting cultivation and soil erosion and promote the care of the soil and the health of economic plants and farm animals.

That women play a significant and crucial role in agricultural development and allied fields including, in the main crop production, horticulture, agro/ social forestry, fisheries, etc. There is hardly any activity in agricultural production in which women are not actively involved. In spite of significant contribution in agriculture women have no control over the land. The social norms and old traditional practices are also a major factor that restricts women’s ownership of land.

To get a clear picture of the real situation of woman farmers the Survey in five different geographical regions of Uttar Pradesh was conducted by Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group and other collaborating organizations. A total of 2500 woman farmers were surveyed on various dimensions. The focus of the survey was to identify social, legal and land related issues as that restrict the rights and interests of woman farmers.

The state of women’s control over the land presents a gloomy picture all over the state and the results of the survey also supported that fact. The high levels of gender discrimination in case of landed property in Uttar Pradesh cannot be denied because in U.P as the survey results show, only 6.5% women are legal owners of land while male ownership over the land is 87.6%.

It has been also seen that the legal title to land, access to it as a productive resource and the ability to exercise control over it and enjoy the fruits of one’s labour on it, have on the whole been denied to women. This denial to a large extent is responsible for the unequal gender inequalities within society and contributes to titling power relations of men against women. These gender inequalities in the society persist to a very large extent that denies women of their rights and powers. Even the legal and religious provisions regarding land ownership are also not favorable to women.

Women who have unparalleled role in agriculture are straight way neglected and sidelined wherever the question of money and power arises. She performs all the activities from souring to storage in her piece of land, but when it comes to marketing of produce and the financial gains, the power are snatched away from her hands.

The livelihood opportunities for women are based on their access and control over land. Almost all woman had a good and convenient access to work on their husband’s land but they exercised no control over it.

Another interesting fact turned out was that if at all female owned land in her name, the reason behind this ownership was not her empowerment factors. The ownership of females on the land was due to some exceptional factors as results show that 81% females are owners of land because they are widows and after their husband’s death farming was the only source of livelihood, on the other hand 19% females were owners of land because they were only child of their parents. In a nutshell, the concern of empowerment of women and giving them equal property rights was not reflected anywhere in the findings of survey.

Generally, women’s work in fields is that of a secondary helper of man and her hard work and labour is under-estimated. As per the World economic profile, women’s contribution is important and significant but the situation of women’s ownership on land is very weak and worse in the field of agriculture. Land is a significant form of property and is a critical determinant of economic well-being, social status and political power. The risk of poverty and the physical well-being of a woman could depend significantly on whether or not she has direct access to income and productivity assets such as land. Moreover, a woman’s economic status cannot be judged adequately by the economic status of her family. Even women whose parented or marital households are classified as rich peasant can be rendered economically vulnerable in the absence of independent economic resources. Within this general argument in favour of women’s independent access ti economic resources, the case for rights in land is especially strong. Land serves as a security against poverty, a means to meet basic needs. However, there is substantial evidence that the economic resources are in the hands of male household members which often do not benefit the female members in equal degree. The denial of property rights to women is a significant instrument of patriarchy especially if one sees patriarchy as a historically developed cultural ideological force, giving gender relations their specific character in each situation. Effective access to land is perhaps the single most significant determinant of economic and social status and power in rural India and “Women’s unequal access to it is one of the most important forms of persistent gender in equalities in India today.

In Indian society where patriarchal dictates determine the status of a woman, land policies and lands do not ensure fulfillment of this right. Legal systems are reluctant to interfere with personal laws. This maintains the inequality between a man’s and a woman’s right to property. These gender gaps need closing if indeed we are to move towards a more just society.

The woman farmer is the kingpin of agriculture not just a secondary helper. She is also the major and significant partner in agriculture. This is the truth that prevails about woman farmers but it varies largely from the real factual situations. On the basis of previous discussion, it will be concluded that, today there is a need to aware the woman farmers and getting them realize that they are the real hardworking farmers of our nation so woman farmers should be given land ownership and equal rights and men should include women in the joint ownership of land. Thus on grounds of women’s welfare and empowerment, there is a strong case for supporting women’s effective rights on land.

Laxmi Sharma

GEAG

Mamta dares Budda on Nandigram issue

http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1919728,000…
Arindam Sarkar

Nandigram (West Bengal), February 4, 2007

People of Nandigram gave blood in the freedom struggle and they will give blood again to save the farmlands from being grabbed by the state government said Mamata Banerjee. Addressing her first public meeting after coming out of the nursing home, Mamata paid rich tributes to the people of Nandigram for putting up a strong resistance against forcible acquisition of lands for industries here.

In fact, the atmosphere at Sitananda College grounds at Nandigram was electrifying as Mamata threatened Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee of serious consequences, if he used force to grab lands in this part of Bengal.

Neither the CPI(M) nor the Jamat-e-Ulema-Hind had seen anything like this before here. Braving the scorching sun, more than 1.4 lakh people gathered at Nandigram to see and hear Mamata Banerjee, as she urged them to be united so that they could put up a strong resistance against the CPI(M).

“We will not forget those who gave their lives to protect the lands on January 6 clash at Nandigram. I couldn’t come then as I was in nursing home. Even now I am not fully fit. I have to be operated for stones in my gall bladder. But after the operation I will come again and do meetings in the troubled zones of at Sonachura and Garchakraberia.

And as long as I am alive, CPI(M) will never succeed in taking the lands in Nandigram,” said Mamata amidst cheers from the people, many of whom unable to find space on the ground had stationed themselves on the roof tops, atop coconut, eucalyptus and Krishnachura trees.

At 2.35 pm, as the black Scorpio of the ‘champion of the farmers’ Mamata Banerjee came to the venue, the air was rent with the slogan: Tomar Naam, Amar Naam, Singur Nandigram. And Mamata caught the pulse immediately by saying that Tata and Salim were being pampered by the CPI(M) as they were sponsoring the running of the Marxist party here. “What does the CPI(M) think of themselves? They are taking lands everywhere. They have emerged as the new zamindars of Bengal who are selling off their properties to Tata and Salim. Next time, when the CPI(M) says Jami Chai, Jami Chai, tell them on their face Nai,  Nai. Nandigram will be the Plassey for the Left Front. Nandigram will bring this government down,” Mamata said amidst huge applause.

Talking to the people, Mamata said she would request the Centre to make laws to prevent acquisition of farmlands and set up a commission that would determine where industries could come up. “Let the Centre order land mapping and creation of land bank from where lands could be taken for industries. This will protect the farmlands and homesteads now being grabbed by the Left Front government for SEZ. The state government is violating laws to set up SEZ here,” alleged Mamata.

“The Centre clearly says that it will declare an area ready for SEZ only after the developer furnishes certain details. Such as the land on which the SEZ would come up should be free from encumbrances and there should be no legal complications. Again, it should be a vacant land. I have just pointed out two clauses. Is this government following the rules? They are terrorising the people and fooling the Centre. This should immediately stop,” added Mamata.

She said that Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had no understanding of the ground realities and was using the 1894 Land Acquisition Act to forcibly acquire lands from the farmers. However, she said such laws would not help him any more. People of Singur and Nandigram will not allow him to sell lands to Salim and Tata.

“This is not a political movement. This is not a movement for electoral benefits. This is a movement for survival. This is a movement to protect one’s properties against the modern-day pirate dressed in the garb of a bhadralok,” said Mamata hinting at the CM.

Mamata finally said that people of Nandigram would carry on with their movement and resistance until the notification for the acquisition of lands in Nandigram is cancelled. “We will fight till the end. We are ready to use the same tactics the CPI(M) wishes to use. And we will fight till we drive the CPI(M) land-sharks out of Bengal,” said Mamata.

Email Arindam Sarkar: asarkar@hindustantimes.com

The Question of Displacement and the Call for an United Battle

http://dsujnu.blogspot.com/2007/01/question-of-dis…

The natural and legal rights of the people are being trampled on a scale unprecedented in post-1947 India. Successive governments at the centre would call this the needed drive for a New India marching forward in the 21st century as a major power. Development and Security are the twin needs of the Brave New World in which India and the sub-continent of South Asia is a vital cog. This development can only happen with the massive inflow of Foreign Direct Investment in the form of Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs), Foreign Institutional Investments (FII). Inequality has been considered as a necessary condition for mobilising savings and capital formation. To envisage the provision of infrastructure in the form of transport, communication, power, services etc. While it will give windfall profits to the imperialist multinationals and their domestic allies—big business houses, bureaucrats, politicians, et al, the masses have become further impoverished.
A decade-and-a-half of these policies have, pushed more than one lakh peasants to suicide. Massive unemployment have further impoverished an already devastated people in both rural and urban areas and marginalized millions.
The second wave of ‘economic reforms’ is a violent assault on the right to life and livelihood of the masses. Apart from continuing the ‘development’ driven through big dams, super highways and other infrastructural projects, the new phase of accumulation of capital involves gigantic mining projects, Special Economic Zones (SEZs), urban renewal and beautification.
Displacement as ‘Development’
All these policies are being implemented in the name of ‘development’, ‘modernization’, taking India into the club of elite countries. This is no doubt ‘development’, of a particular kind. It is the model of ‘development’ that gives gigantic amounts of wealth to the super-rich (foreign and Indian) while increasingly impoverishing more and more people. It is unmitigated loot of all our natural wealth and mineral resources on a scale never witnessed before. It is development OF and FOR the market; FOR the creation of a market based on the expenditure OF the very rich together with a growing upper middle class who live off crumbs thrown off the table of the super-rich. This development of displacement have pervaded the entire spectrum of diverse production of material life of the sub-continent—from hunters and gatherers, pastorals, shifting cultivators, forest dwellers especially in protected areas like sanctuaries, traditional cultivators, advanced farmers, trading centres, service and industrial centres, towns and cities. All the four dreaded Ds are fast engulfing our societies—Displacement, Disorganisation, Destitution and Decimation.
Massive Mining Projects of MNCs: Opening the Veins of South Asia
The mining projects in just the states of Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh entail investments of about Rs.5 lakh crores. Some 20 percent of the tribal people have already been uprooted from their homes. The resource rich region of Dandakaranya and its vicinity in the states of Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and the adjoining areas in West Bengal, Vidharbha and eastern Madhya Pradesh account for more than three fourth of the total mineral wealth of India. On a smaller scale, mining projects are also coming up in all the states wherever there is some wealth to extract. The regions within these states that have been set aside as prospective areas rich in mineral wealth such as coal, iron ore, bauxite, diamonds, uranium, thorium etc. is inhabited by the poorest of the poor in India. Hundreds of MoUs have been signed by the government with various Multinational Corporations and Indian Monopolies. Much of the mineral wealth is exported while the rest is used to serve the palatial needs of India’s neo-rich. New laws are being enacted to undo the rights of the people over these resources. The better known examples are the Indian Forest Act, Indian Fisheries Act, Indian Mineral Act, and various Urban Development Acts. In the process, lakhs and lakhs will be displaced—not only will their land and forests be seized, but also their livelihood, their right to a dignified existence destroyed.
Special Economic Zones (SEZs): Enclaves of Foreign Occupation:
The rural areas in India are facing massive unemployment due to lack of opportunities. A backlash of the state policy of opening up of the markets to monopolies. The traditional crafts have collapsed as machine goods are flooding the rural markets. The labour displacing machines have reduced the labour input per acre to less than one-third compared to the post-47 situation. Even in the so-called Employment Generation Programmes of the government commission agents and contractors are on to make a fast buck by using machines. Moreover a large part of the land is held by the absentee owners which results in a heavy drain of current income of the rural economy. These absentee land owners are prone to sell away their lands for profit. The crisis in the rural scenario is further exemplified with the abysmally low entitlement for work in agriculture hovering around 30 rupees a day. The ‘educated youth’ who are rather the deskilled force in rural India are not ready to soil their hands for such a low pay. The massive alienation of people in the rural areas from their current means of livelihood with no worthwhile substitute in sight is imminent.
The Special Economic Zones have been showcased as the panacea for skyrocketing unemployment and lack of opportunities in the urban and rural regions in India. These zones throughout the country will create enclosures where no laws of the land would hold. This tantamount to a modern form of the East India Company; foreign enclaves within the territory of the country which facilitates the SEZs. Even conservative estimates of the RBI projects a loss of about Rs.1.7 lakh crores in revenue for the Indian government over the next four years due to the Special Economic Zones. But the worst hit will be the rural populace whose prime lands are being forcibly seized. Lakhs of acres have already been taken over and every day new announcements come of more and more SEZs being granted permission. In the much hyped ‘Green Revolution’ belts of Haryana and Punjab where the suicide deaths of farmers are the order of the day, farmers who are deep in debt are even ready to take whatever crumbs thrown by the government as compensation for the acquired land. In fact this has proved to be the last straw on the farmer’s back leading to large scale alienation of land and unabating strings of suicides. The man made crisis is so acute in the Green Revolution pockets that for the farmer to hold on to the farming land as a viable enterprise has become an unenviable task.
There is no economic incentive for the farmer to continue agriculture in these lands. The government has refused to look into the root causes of agriculture being rendered non-viable as the insidious policy of the state. Instead it legalised the practice of usury by credit institution including even the cooperatives through the ingenious legal jugglery of excluding them from the very definition of moneylenders. In 1947, 70 per cent of the people in India were engaged in agriculture and allied activities. Their share in the Gross National Income was 65 percent. According to the Farmer’s Commission while the number of persons in the above category has marginally declined from 70 to 65 percent, their share in the National Income has nose dived to 20 percent. The projections of Vision 2020 envisages only a 6 percent share for the 60 percent depending on agriculture.
Already unofficial estimates show that more than 300 SEZs are on the pipeline. As per official estimates about 35-40% of existing industry and finance (including IT secto
r) will move to these enclaves to avail of the tax-free profits that these havens allow. The government talks much trash of generating employment but the reality is that it is mostly existing business that will shift location to these SEZs to avail of the huge benefits.
Urban ‘Visions’: Fortifying Urban Spaces for Free Exploitation of Monopoly Capital
Global policy advisory groups like the Mckinsey from the US is formulating and pushing the initiatives of organising and streamlining the urban spaces under the camouflage of urban beautification. This streamlining of the urban spaces offers minimum security risk for the operational needs of foreign and local capital in these areas.
It not only entails marginalizing the already impoverished poor, it is even hitting at the middle classes, small traders and industries. Lakhs of slum-dwellers have already been pushed out in the process. Small retailers must be crushed (as in Delhi) in order to make way for giant retailers like Reliance, Wal-Mart and a host of others; small scale industries must be pushed out, not only to ‘clean up’ the cities, but also to allow big business to widen its captive-market reach.
Urban ‘Visions’, with their creation of infrastructural and beautification projects for the elite is wrecking havoc in all the main cities of the country. The main metropolitan cities are the hub of operations of the money-bags. They demand all the best facilities in the form of infrastructure and entertainment. Dance bars in Mumbai must be forcibly closed so that 5-star cabarets thrive. And the beautification must proceed apace so that the rich and powerful can enjoy their ill-gotten wealth without the ‘polluting’ effect of the poor who are further ghettoised.
Thus 21st Century India means mega dams, mammoth power plants, oil and gas pipelines, super highways, flyovers, golf courses, fancy clubs and tourist resorts, national parks, malls, theme parks…
North East Power Grid: Development as Domination or Development as Counterinsurgency
The entire region of the North East will be inundated with no less than 168 mega-dams with a cumulative capacity to generate 100000 Megawatts of power. Only 5000 megawatts would be utilised in the entire region which has been witnessing various struggles for the right to self-determination of the peoples in this region. The rest of the power generated (95000 megawatts) would go to satiate the needs of the Southeast Asian market. The region has been often cited as a fragile zone prone to earthquakes. The surfeit of big dams under the garb of development will endanger the fragile eco-zone of this region not to say that it will totally subvert the cultural, political, social specificities of the various peoples of this region who will be displaced from their very territory which is central in their struggle for their right to self-determination. Many of their indigenous institutions also would be destroyed in this process.
Along with this is the plan to link the entire region of the North East with the Southeast Asian market by road. There are also efforts to combine the markets of these regions with separate market regime principles to make them as combined economic regions. The super highway that is being built from North Bengal to the Mekong Valley under the much hyped ‘Look East Policy’ is a definite step in this direction which is nothing but ‘Development’ as counterinsurgency.
Displacement as State Building
Already, the logic and the necessity of this kind of a development has been stated. But there is a method to this madness that is being parotted by policy pundits as ‘development’.
The question that has often been debated among the western academia and the ‘nation builders’ foreign and desi is that whether resources are at the centre of ‘conflicts’ in poor countries like India, Afghanistan or countries in Africa and Latin America. In a series of studies supported by the World Bank and as the result of a broad statistical analysis of virtually all civil wars since the mid-1960s it was concluded that the causes for conflicts cannot be due to the existing rulers, economic mismanagement, political rights or levels of ethnic homogeneity or heterogeneity. These studies concluded that economic factors were crucial. It emphasised that countries that were highly dependent on the export of primary commodities and were populated by large numbers of young men, with limited or no education were also highly susceptible to civil conflict and political instability. These ‘hordes’ of poorly educated youths and readily accessible resources were particularly susceptible to civil conflict and the emergence of rebels driven primarily by powerful economic (‘greed’) need to use violence to acquire wealth. Thus as per this logic the need of the hour is to promote ‘development’ for ‘security’ and ‘stability’.
The resources in these regions have to be extracted for ‘development’. The poorly educated youths have to be transformed through ‘capacity building’ with the help of ‘modern’ institutions of ‘good governance’. Hence in the North East and other regions such as Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh tribal institutions of governance are deemed unfit to empower the tribal youth. There are already projects supported by London School of Economics and other premier institutions from the West being undertaken in India by NGOs and a section of the academia which are promoting the process of ‘institution building’ for facilitating ‘good governance’. Premier institutions in India are also including courses on Good Governance, Peace and Reconciliation through which there is an effort to decontextualise and reduce the real reasons underlying the socio-economic plight of the vast sections of the various peoples in the sub-continent.
Thus the model of ‘development’ that is being promoted under the aegis of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation creates a greater class of rentiers, retainers, pimps, prostitutes, servants, lumpens, etc—a growing class of hangers-on, all at the service of this neo-rich generated in the process. It destroys the bulk of the agrarian masses; displaces millions from permanent employment and generates in its place thousands of temporary and contract jobs for a pittance; drives the bulk of the middle classes to destitution while accommodating a small section into the elite club. Significantly, it displaces lakhs and lakhs of people from their land and all possible source of livelihood. It is a ‘development’ of the destruction of people, natural resources not to say environment with the complete support of the violent state machinery, including the judiciary and the executive.
The ‘victims’ of these development projects are projected as a liability as they are unable to fit into the mutational changes that have been forcefully brought into their productive labour. They found their way into their familiar forest home where they deemed to be intruders or on to the cities as beasts of burden, rickshaw pullers, or as commodities for the flourishing ‘flesh market’.
This ‘development’ also brings with it an increasingly fascistic state as the extremes of rich and poor are creating acute social tension with the masses having no other alternative than militant resistance. The intensifying contradiction between the rich and the poor, between regions, between various peoples, communities have made it a necessity for the state to resort to a combination of brutal repression and numerous diversionary tactics. Both fascist repression and diversionary tactics of Hindutva communal hysteria are also an outcome of the existing policies of this model of development.

What then could be the alternative?

The only alternative can be a model that really enhances the well-being of the vast masses, preserves the people’s natural wealth, and protects its environment. That builds the domestic market for commodities by enhancing th
e purchasing power of the masses and thereby becoming the motor for industrial growth and development of the economy; which is holistic, serving both the needs of the people and environment. A model of development that is equitable, just, and humane.
But such an alternative is not possible without, opposing tooth-and-nail, the present model of development. There can be no half-way measures as the present model is an integrated whole, with each aspect linked to the other, all serving to extract maximum profit for the imperialists and their hangers-on in the country. Whether it is the mining projects, or the schemes for the SEZs, or the infrastructural developmental projects, or that of urban ‘renewal’—all are part and parcel of the present phase of ‘economic reforms’ inspired by globalization. These are nothing but a continuation of the earlier phase of ‘economic reforms’ started vigorously in the early 1990s and continuing apace no matter which government has been in power. Any attempt to find formulas of adjustment with the existing polices are doomed to failure as they have their own dynamics dictated by the needs of profit maximization and imperialist loot. There is no other way than to oppose in total all these projects and the policies that facilitate them.
And this challenge calls for a massive movement of the people to resist these projects at the ground level and also awaken the entire country against this model of ruin and penury for the people resulting in more and more enslavement to the imperialist exploitative machine, particularly the US. The various peoples of the region need to be aroused against the imperialists and their local lackeys who are selling the wealth of the people for a few dollars.
What then is the alternative model of development?
· It is a people oriented model based on a self-reliant economy free from enslavement by imperialism. The polices of development must, first-and-foremost, develop the well-being of the masses and must be in their interest—not at their cost.
· The natural wealth of the country must only be extracted to the extent that it serves the needs of the mass of people—neither for imperialist loot nor for the extravagant infrastructural needs of these money-bags. Not only should the SEZ policy be totally reversed but the emphasis must be on developing indigenous industry, protecting labour rights, and introducing land reforms. Land must not go to the big industrialists and imperialists through the SEZ policy but be redistributed to the landless and poor.
· Infrastructural development must also be people oriented where the prime need and immediate priorities are health care, hygiene and education.
· Environmental regeneration must be an important factor in this model which has been destroyed by rapacious rape of the environment for profit and the green revolution–type polices—this by extensive reforestation, scientific water management (inclusive of lakhs of small water projects) and top-soil regeneration.
· In this new model of development all decisions must be made by the people themselves at the grass-root level and built upwards in a genuine form of people’s government. It is the people themselves who know best what type of development is in their interest and what is harmful. They are the best to decide their future. For this they must take the future into their own hands and wrest control of it from the hands of the money-bags and their agents. This alone can assure all-round growth and not its ruin and destruction as is happening today.
· There should be also be resistance to build on a short term, people’s sectors which would have the negotiating power and will to initiate short-term relief measures for the vast sections of the masses while fighting the state.
But to build this new model it first requires an uncompromising opposition to the present model and all the policies that are coming up. For this, there is need to build a huge movement against displacement and the very model of development itself. All genuine democratic and anti-imperialist forces should unite to create a tornado of dissent that forces the rulers to stop this juggernaut trampling the lives of the people of the Sub-continent.
DSU invites you to be a part of an effort to build a countrywide movement against displacement, against forceful state/private takeover of people’s resources: land, water, forests…

No Displacement; No Rehabilitation; Only People's Development

http://singur-singur.blogspot.com/2007/01/no-displ…

The following is a press Note released in a Press Conference on 21st Jan 2007 soon after the Anti- Displacement Conclave in Ranchi, Jharkhand attended by scores of organisations from several states.

No Displacement; No Rehabilitation; Only People’s Development

Today the vast sections of the people have been subjected to the worst kind of socio-economic crisis in the name of development. Today more and more tribals, dalits, minorities and the poorest of the poor are brutally removed from their forests, fields, lands, homes and cultures. They are being evicted in thousands from their lives and livelihoods. The powerful imperialist forces and their lackeys in the sub-continent are on their bid to capture the natural resources and perpetrate ruthless exploitation of labour. The people are rendered defenceless in the process of the dreaded Ds–Displacement, Disorganisation, Destitution and Decimation.

It is at a time that the need to unite and bring together all the fighting forces at the ground level against all forms of displacement under a single platform was mooted. And hence this preparatory meeting being held in Ranchi on the 20, 2tst of January, 2007. In this meeting, representatives of organizations and individuals from various states such as Jharkhand, Bengal, Haryana, Orissa, Delhi, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh deliberated on the strategies to carry forward the movement against displacement at the sub-continent level. �No to Displacement in any form�, was the firm resolve of the Meet.

The loot of the Indian people started after the advent of British rule with the super-imposition of the principle of Eminent Domain that virtually extinguished the natural right of the communities over their habitat and livelihood. This imperialist paradigm continued even post-1947 and despite the adoption of a new constitution. The special provisions for recognition and honouring the tribal people’s right under the constitution has been blatantly ignored that has sharpened the resentment of the people against the exploitative state.

After the creation of the new states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Uttarakhand at the instance of the imperialists this loot of the resources of the people has been facilitated under the new regime of globalization and liberalization. The surfeit of MOUs running over millions and millions of dollars has been executed without taking the people into confidence. The Anti-displacement meet rejected this development with disdain it deserves in the spirit of Tana Bhagat’s Resolve against the British authority “Land is created by God, We are God’s children, Pray, from where has the state appeared”. The Anti- Displacement Meet in Ranchi called on the people to defend their habitat and their livelihood resources against the imperialists and the servile state.

While farmers who are committing suicide with agriculture being rendered increasingly non-viable, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are being set up throughout the country as ‘deemed foreign territories.’ These are devices to divert people’s attention as the logic of a more brutalized expropriation of the rural economy is ruthlessly unfolding. The Anti-Displacement Meet called for the rejection of the National Agricultural Policy 2000 that has once again ignored the land reforms agenda and unabashedly embraced the corporatisation of agriculture.

The Anti-Displacement Meet rejected the entire scheme of Displacement-Rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is an illusion that is used to co-opt the top-ten by the imperialists. Even the affected people of Bhakhra, the ‘first temple of modern India’ still awaits for their much-promised rehabilitation.

Extensive lands in Hatia and Rourkela had already been acquired that are without use. Let the State first place before the people the status of the already affected whose number runs into crores. Hisab Do (Give Account) is the call to the state before it decides to take even an inch of land that is the inheritance of the people. Let the state prepare ‘Rehabilitation Plans’ for these people and come clean with concrete results. For the people of India, the story Post-1947 can be summed up as ‘an unbroken history of broken promises, dysfunctional programmes and blatant violation of laws, constitution and human rights.’

Dr. BD Sharma (Bharat Jan Andolan, KN Pandit (Trade union leader), B P Kesari (Jharkhand Vistapan Virodhi Samanwyaya Samiti Co-ordinator), Shashi Bhushan Pathak (Civil Rights Activist), D Barla (Journalist & Anti-displacement Activist), Rashmi Kathyayan (Advocate), Tridib Ghosh, and several others from various orgnisations participated in the discussion of the draft note on displacement. Earlier GN Saibaba (Revolutionary Democratic Front) presented the concept note on displacement that was to set the debate regarding the strategies to be undertaken in fighting the complex and challenging question of displacement that is affecting various sections and peoples of the sub-continent.

Around 100 organisations from different parts of the country and various intellectuals have expressed their consent to actively be part of the Movement against Displacement. These include organizations from Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, the North East, Haryana, Kerala and Delhi.

The Anti-Displacement Meet while stressing the need to bring all the struggling organizations and the people under a single platform have given a RANCHI CHALO call towards convening the First Conference and Massive Rally on the 22, 23 March 2007. Towards this, a preparatory committee of all the participating organizations and a working committee to convene the conference and rally was also formed in the Anti-Displacement Meet.

Singed by (B.D. SHARMA) & (G.N. SAIBABA)

And attended by representatives of anti-displacement organisations from several part of India.

Singur, Nandigram and industrialisation of West Bengal

http://pd.cpim.org/2007/0121/01212007_nilotpal.htm

Nilotpal Basu

SINGUR and Nandigram have been dominating the media for the last few weeks. An unprecedented focus has remained riveted to the development discourse in West Bengal. But to us, the fine print was also equally apparent. Discrediting the efforts of the Left Front government in order to undermine the principled struggle of the Left, particularly the CPI(M), in opposing the anti-people economic policies of the central government – particularly its current SEZ policy – was the signature tune of this propaganda blitz. Therefore, unravelling the many myths that this blitz has tried to perpetrate and establish the truth in its proper perspective has become imperative.

THE QUESTION OF INDUSTRIALISATION

At the time of independence, West Bengal was one of the more industrially developed states of the country. The great degree of natural resources and the variety of agro-climatic environment had led to development of number of traditional industries like jute, tea and textile. Being the capital of British India, Calcutta was a major hub with the port playing host to a lot of international and domestic trade. Engineering industry also, particularly in the capital goods sector, was one of the major features of industrially developed Bengal. The presence and access to a large amount of coal deposits was a major factor for development of industry in the state.

However, after independence, the situation started going downhill dramatically, due to certain unfair policy approaches adopted by the central government. Foremost of these was the freight equalisation policy for coal which completely undermined the locational advantage of Bengal. Except for the steel industry in Durgapur, there has been no significant public investment in the period since independence. Coupled with this, the Congress misrule in the state kept the agriculture of the state in backwardness. Riding on the struggle against all these, the Left forces wrested the political leadership.

When the Left Front assumed office in 1977 the economy was in tatters. The strategy for development of industry had to face major difficulties with some of the traditional industries facing central neglect and lack of investment for modernisation. New industries in the private sector were also not forthcoming due to the use of general licensing powers for setting up industry more as a political instrument against the Left-led state. A number of sick private sector units which had been nationalised were allowed to languish through virtual withdrawal of State support. While small and cottage industries thrived due to the major intervention to improve the lot of agriculture, heavy industry and infrastructure undoubtedly faced severe constraints.

Therefore, if one reads contemporary history and political discourse it will be found that those who have now taken up cudgels against the Left Front government’s sincere attempt at reindustrialising the state, during most part of the last three decades, were mounting an offensive against the state government for its failure to improve the industrial situation.

AGRICULTURE: THE MAINSTAY

The major efforts in agriculture were spearheaded by taking forward the land reforms which started during the brief interludes in 1967 and 1969 under UF governments. The resulting empowerment was consolidated through the introduction of the new panchayat system in 1978, wherein the poor and marginal farmers empowered through ownership of land came to occupy the leadership of the local self-governments.

Land is a scarce resource in West Bengal. West Bengal along with Punjab has borne the brunt of partition. Large-scale influx continued till 1971 from across the border. The result is the population density of the state has risen to 906 per square kilometre. This is almost three times the national average of 323 per square kilometre. Accounting for only 2.7 per cent of the total cultivable land in the country, West Bengal produces 9 per cent of the agricultural produce. Agrarian reform-driven and panchayat led infrastructure-based agriculture has expanded the extent of irrigated land from about 28 per cent in 1997 to about 69 per cent now. The net outcome is that the proportion of agricultural land in the state has grown to 62 per cent of the total land. As a result, now only 1 per cent is fallow land as against the national average of 17 per cent. Production and productivity in agriculture has gone up significantly. The expansion of irrigation has been largely small and minor irrigation-driven without any major central support.

Therefore, in spite of all the challenges, West Bengal’s achievements in agriculture has been stunning. And, it is the Left that has led this battle from the front. And, it is this which has been reflected in election after election. The fact that with the background of land reforms, 78 per cent of the agricultural land in the state is owned by small and marginal farmers is a testimony to the extent of economic empowerment of the rural poor. Though West Bengal accounts for less than 3 per cent of the total land in the country, the total land which has been redistributed accounts for 22 per cent of the amount in the national total. Right now, when this bizarre debate is going on regarding conversion of agricultural land for industry and the land reform programme in the country has come to a standstill, 30,000 acres of land is going to be redistributed this year as a testimony to the Left Front government’s commitment to land reforms and rural poor.

MORE ON INDUSTRIALISATION

While the success of the state in agriculture is undisputed, still agriculture cannot remain insulated from the overall national agrarian crisis. True, unlike Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, a single farmer in West Bengal has not committed suicide; but even then clear signs of slowing down of agriculture cannot be overlooked. It is true that while the agricultural growth during the Tenth Plan period has been a paltry 1.9 per cent in the country as against 4 per cent in the state, still the decrease in the contribution of agriculture to the state GDP and the proportion of population dependent on agriculture is similar to that of the country as a whole. The decline of agriculture in the country is the direct outcome of the neo-liberal policies pursued by succeeding governments at the centre.

The state government’s effort, therefore, is to strengthen agriculture with its limited resources. Improvement in technology, extension of irrigation and expansion of credit and easier access to market is the major premise of this effort. The state government in redeeming its electoral commitment has appointed the first state agricultural commission led by leading agricultural scientists and other concerned experts. The mandate of this commission is to design a comprehensive plan for providing a further push to the agriculture of the state using scientific and technological knowledge.

But while this effort will be on, there is no way that without improving the industrial activity, the overall economic progress can be ensured. It is in this context that the industrial policy of the state has been framed.

The major features of this policy include –– expansion of small and medium scale industries through the development of cluster-based infrastructure, the unrelenting efforts at opening and rejuvenating closed and sick industries both in the private and the public sector, addressing the problems of traditional industries like tea and jute which face a big challenge because of the current market conditions and policies over which the state government has little control and, most importantly, facilitating new industries with particular emphasis on Greenfield manufacturing units.

In the din over Singur and Nandigram, the overall industrial strategy and other aspects of this question have been drowned. It will be useful to acquaint the readers with the movement on some o
f these aspects.

On the small and medium scale sectors, the government is targeting construction of about 100 such clusters based on specific skills and products. Of these, 41 such have been cleared by the central government in the last six months and this will go up to 50 by the end of the financial year. This is purely in the public sector where common infrastructure will be used to enhance the viability of this sector.

There has been a thorough exercise in addressing the challenges facing the tea industry. In terms of reopening of closed units, certain very crucial breakthroughs have been achieved. The Dunlop and Bengal Chemicals, which were almost iconic with the industrial past of the state, have been reopened and fresh investments are being made, one in the private sector and the other in the public sector. The two decade-long struggle for modernisation of IISCO under SAIL has also achieved a great success with merger of IISCO into SAIL and Rs 10,000 crore investment for modernisation of the Burnpur unit. Together with this, new investments have started flowing in manufacturing and heavy industries. There are three major steel plants which are coming to fruition – by Jindals in Shalboni, Balaji group in Purulia and the Bhushan Steel in Durgapur-Asansol industrial area. These are employment intensive units with great prospects in downstream.

It is in this background that we have to view the Singur project of the Tatas.

SINGUR: AN UNNECESSARY CONTROVERSY

Much has been sought to be made out over the conversion of agricultural land in Singur for the Tata project. Given the strong inclination of the Left Front for development in agriculture, it is but quite natural that ideally the government would have been happier had Tatas not chosen Singur. In fact, the government had shown the Tatas four other alternative sites. But that Tatas chose this site on considerations of better access to Kolkata and the associated infrastructure is something on which the state government cannot pursue beyond a point. Here, one must note the special tax dispensation which the central government had allowed for Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh. Though it was stated earlier that this special dispensation will be terminated in 2007, it has been further extended to 2010. Under this regime, any new industrial investment will qualify for huge tax waivers which, in the case of the Tata project, amounts to almost Rs 16,000 over each car which is to be priced at Rs 1 lakh. In the market-driven economy today, there are all options available to an investor in terms of locating their project. Inspite of the fact that the Tatas had almost finalised the location of their project in Uttaranchal, that they have decided to now locate their project in Singur is actually a testimony to the state government’s persuasiveness.

The critique that agricultural land should not be used for industry is also misplaced. In the 10 months of transactions over Singur land in the run-up to the present controversy, 557 transactions took place which involved about 100 acres of land. In most of these transactions, land bought was not for the purpose of agriculture. In fact, in Singur, as elsewhere in the country for lands adjoining highways and expressways, there is strong evidence of major activity of speculators. It is not correct to assume that the 997 acres which was acquired for the Tata project would have otherwise remained under cultivation. The point is whether the state government will intervene and facilitate a project where manufacturing industry will come up providing jobs to thousands or land will be allowed to be converted by market forces without major value addition and the major benefit accruing to land speculators?

Given the overall economic situation in the state and the compulsions of further economic progress, the Left Front had decided before the assembly elections that a vigorous push towards the commissioning of new industries particularly in the manufacturing sector is an imperative need. This was particularly more so given the grim situation of employment. That the requirement for adopting such a course may necessitate use of some agricultural land (given the fact that fallow land is just 1 per cent) was anticipated before the 2006 assembly elections. Therefore, the present propaganda that even some Left parties are also opposed to the use of agricultural land for industry per se is also misplaced. In fact, the election manifesto of the Left Front clearly stated: “With agricultural land being required for building infrastructure and for industrialisation, appropriate compensation, rehabilitation if facing loss of home, and arrangement for agricultural work for those who lose land and are kisans will be considered with adequate importance.”

In spite of recognising that some agricultural land may have to be used for new Greenfield industrial projects, that the state government was keenly interested in using less agriculturally productive land also becomes apparent from the redrawing of the map for the land which has been finally acquired for the project. The initial map consisted of 1056 acres with an average crop intensity of 190 per cent. In the process of consultation, this was reconfigured to bring the total land down to 997 acres with the corresponding reduction in the cropping intensity to 150 per cent. Notably, the average cropping intensity of the state as a whole is 172 per cent. This is a clear pointer to the state government’s approach on the question of agricultural production. As a result of these exercises, the boundary of the project site is not straight but zigzag and the state government had convinced the Tatas for accepting this modification.

The other question was whether land was being forcefully acquired. The 1894 Land Acquisition Act is a piece of antiquated legislation. It does not provide a strong component of proper rehabilitation for the oustees from the land which will be acquired. The CPI(M) has been in the forefront of the struggle to demand an amendment to the Act and sufficiently reinforce and provide statutory safeguards for rehabilitation. The West Bengal government has also been making the same demand. The Act does not provide for any consent from the land owners. However, the West Bengal government decided to have an additional specially prescribed consent form to ensure that there is greater consultation and participation of those land owners whose land was being acquired. Apart from the nine rounds of meeting which the government had at the level of Singur block, Hooghly district and at the state level, this voluntary consent also ensured widest possible consultations. The figures of the consenting number of farmers as well as drawal of compensation cheques had been controverted by critiques. Much was being sought to be made out of the slight time lag in releasing the details of these figures by the state government. But the release of the latest figures on January 12 (with updated figures till December 31, 2006) in the government website (www.wbgov.com) should put all that to rest (see excerpts in accompanying box).

Another major argument has been that the government should not have intervened in the land acquisition for a private corporate project. Not only does this argument resemble the broad neo-liberal reasoning that the State should not generally involve itself in such matters, this also would be promotive of the open activities of the land speculators that we have pointed out. Not only that, the specifics of the ownership pattern of West Bengal is drastically different from the rest of the country. In Haryana, about 2000 acres of land have been acquired from around 600 land owners whereas the 997 acres were owned by nearly 12,000 plot owners. The fact that 78 per cent of the land is owned by small and marginal farmers is substantiated by the specific figures of Singur which points out to the very small holdings. This also throws up another very important economic facet. Given the small size of the land holding, farmers were finding it difficult to depend on agriculture on a
sustained basis. And, that was evident in the sale of their land even before the Tata project acquisition took place. And, that is why further evidence gets manifested in the huge number of consenting land owners who have sold out. The importance of the government’s intervention in land acquisition is also evident in the amount of cash compensation that the land owners are getting which is almost three times than the going market rate. Further, unlike anywhere else in the country, the sharecroppers are getting 25 per cent of the compensation amount that the land owners are getting. The government’s involvement has also ensured some concrete rehabilitation plan for non-owners and non-unrecorded sharecroppers. Such a rehabilitation package with emphasis on alternative livelihood security is unheard of in the rest of the country.

To wrap up the question of Singur, those who pointedly kept raising the question of ‘violence’ when asked to give details about the violence on December 1 and 2, had nothing to offer. They could not give a single name of a person who had been injured and hospitalised. Much of the campaign by the media on violence has been sound and fury signifying nothing! No single shot was fired. And, no single hospitalisation of the protestors took place. And, it is despite such lie campaigns that people overwhelmingly rejected these forces once again in the assembly elections of 2006. Driven by despair, they are now trying to reverse the mandate of the people. And, that precisely is a rejection of democracy. Those who believe in democracy will definitely understand this sooner than later.

(To be continued)

West Bengal degenerates sign deal with firm whose account books are still dripping with the blood of millions of communists claughtered in Indonesia

By Ajay Prakash
25 August 2006
Last month, West Bengal’s Left Front government signed India’s biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) deal with the Salim Goup, an Indonesian conglomerate closely linked to the former Indonesian dictator General Suharto.
The founder of the Salim Group is Liem Sioe Liong. Reportedly the richest man in Indonesia, Liem owes much of his fortune to privileges granted him by Suharto, whom he befriended in the 1940s.
Suharto was responsible for the bloody purge of Indonesian Communist Party members and sympathisers between 1965 and 1966 that resulted in more than a million deaths. But this has not stopped Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI [M]) West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee promoting the deal and brushing aside criticisms:
“Why should we rake up the past? They [the Salim Group] have invested in China, too. Our stand is clear. For the development of the state we need capital. We are not concerned about the character of the investor. To me capital has no colour.”

SEZs are set up by state governments, usually in collaboration with the private sector, as self-contained areas with their own water- and power-supply systems. Their great value to the bourgeoisie is that taxes, and labour standards and other regulations are waived.
According to India together, “To woo investors to the zones, the central government has been offering a number of fiscal incentives and concessions. For instance, the zones are deemed as foreign territories as far as trade operations, duties and tariffs are concerned. The units (100 percent export oriented) also have full flexibility in operations. They are exempt from all direct and indirect taxes. No export and import duties, no excise duty, no central or state sales tax and no service tax. The units do not require license for importing capital goods and raw material. 100 percent FDI is allowed in the zones. Repatriation of export profits is also allowed.”
The SEZs also offer investors cheap labour without any legal restrictions or interference from government bodies. Whether workers are blue collar or professional, they face similar working conditions, labouring for 10-12 hours a day for low wages, usually without paid overtime, holiday pay or retirement benefits. These are the sort of conditions that the CPI (M) is introducing into West Bengal as it woos foreign capital and Indian big business.

Link

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) dangles better land deal

Express News Service

SAS Nagar, January 8: Former Punjab Finance Minister and general secretary of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) Capt Kanwaljit Singh today said that if voted to power in the coming assembly elections, his party would change the land acquisition policy to bring respite for the state farmers.

While addressing the farmers of different villages of Kharar constituency, who are directly affected by the present acquisition policy and are on a chain hunger strike for the last 965 days, Capt Singh appealed to the Kisan Hit Bachao Committee to extend their whole-hearted support to the SAD candidate from Kharar and his son, Jasjit Singh. The farmer leaders announced in the rally that they would fully support the Akali candidate from Kharar constituency.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh said that under the new policy, the concerned farmers’ consent would be taken before acquiring their land and the rate of land would be decided by a committee comprising local MP, MLA, deputy commissioner and sarpanch of the area.

He said that Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in Punjab had proved to be the worst-ever for the farmers. He said that instead of waiving off Rs 25,000 crore of debt of farmers, the government spent its time in forcing the farmers to give up their land at prices determined by itself, instead of market price. He said that there was not a single place in Punjab where farmers, employees and other sections of the society were not facing the wrath of the Congress government. “This government has adopted repressive policies and it is forcing people to commit suicides and there is no one to listen to voice of common people,” the former minister said.

He said that the rate of unemployment was much more as compared to growth rate of state economy. He said that farming was no longer viable as while input expenditure had increased many-fold the profits were dwindling. He said that every sector of the economy was facing a crisis. Citing poor power management as reason behind the state’s poor economic growth, he said that the present government had not initiated a single project to generate more power. Speaking on the occasion, SAD candidate Jasjit Singh said that he would take up the issue of farmers with the government after formation of SAD government.

Headline Singur

Report by Amitadyuti Kumar (28 December 2006)

It was the 3rd week of May, 2006 – the 18th day to be
exact. The Left Front
Government was sworn in for the 7th time in a row.
Almost immediately Singur, an otherwise non-descript
rural area in the Hooghly District, suddenly made the
headlines. On that afternoon, the Chief Minister Mr.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharyee, sitting alongside Mr Ratan
Tata, the chief of a dominant Indian capitalist group
– the TATA’s, announced in a press conference that
Tata Motors had made an agreement with the state
government to set up a factory for small cars at
Singur. In the press conference  it was
also made public that the state government would hand
over 1000 acres of land in Singur. It cleverly
remained silent on whether any Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) had been signed.

Towards the evening the news spread in Singur and so
did the people’s anger.
The next day marked the beginning of public outrage.
It did not wait for any organizational strength,
political leadership. The fear of unemployment
and starvation was so palpable that it broke all the
barriers of age, gender and what’s more their
political identities. It is not the first time that
farmers’ land is taken away. Haldia, Bakreshwar or
Rajarhat have their own sordid tales of how the
government had given away their land to the
industrialists or promoters, all in the name of
development and industrialization. There were
resentments and protests in those areas too.

But the administration strengthened by the muscle
-urbanisation and
the eventual eviction and destruction of farmland.

It gave rise to more serious questions about the
efficacy of development projects that keep 96% of the
population of the area outside its ambit.

The intelligentsia, economists politicians and
sociologists came  forward to find solutions of such
riddles and have tried to deal with the issues. Their
overwhelming opinions supported by facts and figures,
expert opinions, and past experiences in home and
abroad conclusively point to the fact that the
government is erring.

Questions are raised whether such projects are
necessary to solve its basic problem of industrial
stagnation and unemployment?  If that be so, then by
whom, when and on what basis has this approach been
decided upon? Questions were also raised about
how to select the land necessary for ndustrialization,
about the long term as well as immediate effects on
environment as a result of conversion of
farmland to industrial plot, whether alternative sites
can be found without disturbing agricultural land and
so on. Comparisons are made to find out whether there
will be any real employment generation if industries
are set up on agricultural land. People became
concerned about the future of those who are going to
loss the roofs over their heads and their daily bread,
whether justice is being meted out to them or not. The
imminent uncertainty in the availability of food and
the likely food crisis resulting from wanton
destruction of farmland are also making people
concerned.

Singur

\’Singur\’ is a name new to the present day political
“,1] ); //–>power of the ruling party CPI (M) chose to ignore the
popular sentiment. While struggling for their right to
life and a dignified livelihood Singur people has
brought to the fore certain basic and important issues
regarding development-industralsation-urbanisation and
the eventual eviction and destruction of farmland.

It gave rise to more serious questions about the
efficacy of development projects that keep 96% of the
population of the area outside its ambit.

The intelligentsia, economists politicians and
sociologists came  forward to find solutions of such
riddles and have tried to deal with the issues. Their
overwhelming opinions supported by facts and figures,
expert opinions, and past experiences in home and
abroad conclusively point to the fact that the
government is erring.

Questions are raised whether such projects are
necessary to solve its basic problem of industrial
stagnation and unemployment?  If that be so, then by
whom, when and on what basis has this approach been
decided upon? Questions were also raised about
how to select the land necessary for ndustrialization,
about the long term as well as immediate effects on
environment as a result of conversion of
farmland to industrial plot, whether alternative sites
can be found without disturbing agricultural land and
so on. Comparisons are made to find out whether there
will be any real employment generation if industries
are set up on agricultural land. People became
concerned about the future of those who are going to
loss the roofs over their heads and their daily bread,
whether justice is being meted out to them or not. The
imminent uncertainty in the availability of food and
the likely food crisis resulting from wanton
destruction of farmland are also making people
concerned.

Singur

‘Singur’ is a name new to the present day political
workers. A few decades ago, the area remained mostly
inundated during rainy season by the two overflowing
rivulets, the Kanakunti, the Zulkia, and the discharge
from DVC dams. The last 24 years have seen the
execution of only half of the planned Ghia-Kunti
Drainage Scheme under the Lower Damodar Basin project.
This alone has substantially reduced the fury of
flood. Three major national highways run through or
by Singur area. Bowbazar and Sheoraphuli Hat, the two
of the biggest  wholesale South Bengal markets for
fruits and vegetables are in the range of 8/10
kms.

The famous Ratanpur potato market is in Singur. One of
the biggest Multipurpose Cold storages of the state,
meant for storing vegetables as well as potato is
situated in the area. As the fury of flood has been
tamed to a certain extent, the farmers  have
been making a modest earning thanks to the harmonious
blend of fertile loamy soil and labour. Besides paddy
and jute, potato and vegetables are the  main
cash crops here. Even the young graduates or the
masters of these poor and the middle class families
have engaged themselves in farming once the prospect
of getting a JOB proves to be an illusion.

Because of improved farming techniques, application of
fertilizers and pesticides, Singur two-thirds of
Singur flood plain has by and large become a
multi-crop land.

According to the statistics provided in a state
government booklet the block uses a whopping 10, 001
metric tonnes of fertilisers and 3061.5
metric tonnes of insecticides and other plant
medicines every year. To cater the needs there are 303
agricultural inputs trading centers in the
Block, whose 83% (8830 Hectares out of 10,526 Hectares
agricultural land) is irrigated. The crop density of
the Block is 220%, a step higher than the
district average of  215%.

Why Singur?

This is the Singur that the  Government chose for
Tata’s small car project, About 27% of the five mouzas
(out of 16) of the Block has been finally selected
‘acquired’ and fenced off with a massive police action
for the purpose. The process of selection of the site
is quite unprecedented  and queer. From the statements
of the Chief Minister, only this much could be
ascertained that the Tatas opted for it and the
government accepted readily.

Even as late as on 26 December, the CM was reported
to have said that the government had no option but to
accept Tatas’ proposal. The Government’s
avowed policy is to consult with the affected and
local people on all programmes of development. The
74th Constitutional amendment also calls for
such consultations. There was not a semblance of a
consultation or a discussion. The people first learnt
from the media that the plots of  land
that has sustained them generations after generations,
despite odds of floods and draughts were going to be
taken away by the government.

These are the plots of land around which they have
weaved the dreams of their future taking it for
granted that these plots of land were going to be the
only means for the future sustenance of their children
who will not be able  to find a better living in the
scheme of development of the country. They could
not believe their ears, when they first heard it.

Not only the people going to be affected, even the
functionaries of the local government viz., BDO, the
head of the Panchayet and even the local CPI (M)
bosses were kept in dark too. But the laws of the
land, the declared state policy all say in unison that
all projects should be planned at the grass roots that
are at Panchayet level. One can not but wonders-what
are the compulsions that leave the government without
any option but to accept Tatas’ proposal?

Why Singur?

Avijit Mukherjee, the BDO of the block said-it is
Singur because the official records show this area is
marked as ‘single-cropped’, non-irrigated
or ‘barren’. These records were based on surveys
dating back to 1990. During the last 15 years, in the
proposed Tata Motors site, the peasants have got
installed 35 shallow pumps, 28 of which with their own
money. In addition, there are three deep-tube wells.
The two rivulets, the Zulkia and the Kunti – flowing
along the either sides provide a substantial
Irrigational facility. In the dry season these
rivulets and the DVC (Damodar Valley Corporation’s
dams) release irrigate the fields. How can such land
be called single-cropped, barren or non-irrigated?

Even a lay man is aware that a single crop land in
this part of Bengal means that the land has no
Irrigational facility; only the rain dependant
cultivation is possible.

A blatant lie

The farmers made appeal before the government pointing
to the mischief in Government records; they took part
in demonstration against the DM to highlight the
incorrect records. It was expected that  the
government  would relent once the truth is known. But
the Chief Minister made his stand clear.

The Tata’s have asked for that particular land, and
that’s final. The Government, the Industry Minister,
the Land Minister only echoed their leader’s view.

The statistics cited earlier in this dispatch quoting
state government sources, the fact that the whole
Singur block has an average crop density of 220% and
the fact that the proposed Tata Motors site is most
well irrigated and the most fertile in the block and
scores of photographs and video clippings in the print
and electronic media showing the fields of the
area nails her lies. Here is a tale told by the Singur
BDO in presence of the local Panchayet boss Ranjt
Mandal recorded on 15 June–Singur is a
40 minutes’ drive from the airport along the newly
built Expressway via the new Vivekananda Setu under
construction. So the Tatas or their top brass
flying from other metros will have to waste little
time to reach their destination.

Whoever expected to hear such a far-fetched excuse and
that too from an avowedly pro-poor government and it
comes at the expense of a  15000-strong
agricultural work-force!

This control of the industrialists over the
government, this ‘as you said sir’ attitude of the
government is potentially dangerous for democracy
and democratic values. The question naturally
arose–is the government being run by the Tatas or for
that matter other industrialists and capitalists?

The government’s helpless and repeated admission that
it has no option but to accept Tatas’ proposal, and
the fact that the proposal of Tata Motors small
car project was not discussed, approved or  not even
heard of in any discussion regarding the government’s
industrial policy or any other forum or a
constitutional body before the fateful day of swearing
in of 7th LF government, hints at the danger and dark
days ahead for democracy.

Reagan regime in the US diverted Govt resources for
the benefit of the industrialists who were facing
serious challenges from Japan; Clinton’s rule
saw to it that the oil giants consolidate their hold
on the Government and state machinery. This hold in
turn drove US under Bush administration  to
invade and occupy Iraq or Afghanistan, violate the
civil and democratic rights of the US citizens or to
go against civilization, Noam Chomsky has
shown in ‘Propaganda and the Public Mind’.

Some facts and figures

The WB Land & Land Reforms Minister had gone on record
to say in the state assembly that about 120,000 acres
of farmland has become casualty in the
government’s ‘urbanization’ and industrialisation
programmes in the last five years. He declared further
that in the next 5 years, the government is going to
transfer another 1 lakh acre or more farmland to the
industrialists and promoters – for the sake of
industrialization and urbanization.

He did not conceal his concern for a resultant
food-crisis on the floor of the House. The state
agricultural minister was of the same view. But the
big brother CPM and the senior cabinet members ruled
out the possibility of any food crisis. The dissenting
ministers had to fall in line. They parroted the
rhetoric that Bengal is self-sufficient in food and
leads in agricultural production. So it’s the time to
use farmland for industry.

Whether West Bengal is Self-sufficient in Food
Production?

As per the latest figures available from the Bureau of
Applied Economics and Statistics of the West Bengal
Government, the availability of food grains
(considering both the domestic production and imports)
is 177 kg per head per year for the period year
2001-05. According to the Planning Commission
an adult requires an intake of 193 kg of food grains
for subsistence.

It is to be kept in mind that in those aforesaid
years, there was no significant loss of food grains
because of flood, draught or natural disaster.
Despite this, the state faces a shortage of food
grains @ 16 kg per head per year that is, approx 16
million tonnes (assuming the state population to be
around 10 cores). This crisis would worsen by a
further 10% if the next 5 years see shrinkage of
another 1 lakh acre of farmland. This will
totally upset the  somewhat self sufficiency achieved
in food grains and will totally jeopardize any
prospect to achieve food self sufficiency and hamper
food security of the people of lower income groups and
the poor. This will lengthen the lines of starvation
deaths-from Amlasole to Jalangi and elsewhere.

According to latest National Sample Survey data (NSS
Report No.471), 15% of the state’s population can
avail less than 70% of required daily calorie intake
(2700 Cal per day) and.64% of them gets less than
the required amount. In terms of daily intake West
Bengal lags behind six states including Bihar and
Orisa. According to a state government publication
(Advancement in Agriculture: History of
Success-Krishir Agragati-Dharabahik Saphalyer
Itibritta)  monthly per capita intake of food grains
in the
state fell to 13.27 Kg in 1993-94 (latest available
data) from 15.25 Kg in 1972-73.

According to the findings of the UN  Special
Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, who
presented his report on Extent of Chronic Hunger and
Malnutrition in India before the UN Human Rights
Council in Geneva on 22 September, 2006, food grain
availability in rural India has fall to 152 kg
per capita, 23 kg less than in the 1990s.  Ziegler’s
report was based on his visit to India from August 20
to September 2, 2005,”motivated by the fact that India
has the largest number of undernourished people in the
world and one of the highest levels of child
malnutrition”.  The report, which  reviews “the
situation of hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity
in India” and whether the theory of “hunger amidst
plenty” stands, has made some startling revelations.

He observed that falling agricultural wages,
increasing
landlessness and rising food prices have severely
undermined the right to food. Over half of India’s
women and children are  suffering from severe
malnutrition and chronic undernourishment. Over 47
percent children are underweight and 46 percent
stunted in their growth figures higher than most
countries in poverty stricken sub-Saharan Africa.  The
poorest 30 percent of households eat less than 1700
kilocalories per day per person, well  below
the international minimum standard of 2100
kilocalories per day, even if they spend 70 percent of
their income on food.  (Times of India 24 September,
2006)

But this is what the masters of the world, the
imperialists long for. Food deficiency will
necessitate import and that is not so easy. The global

food market is controlled by a handful of
transnational food cartels. By virtue of the
prevailing system of ‘forward trading’ these cartels
are already the owners of the food grains that are to
be produced in the next few years. No doubt import
will depend on their sweet will and we  will have no
option but to agree to their terms and rates.

One may not be totally wrong to read that Tata’s motor
car at Singur is not a sudden, isolated and
ill-conceived decision, rather a part of a larger
conspiracy of neocolonialism.

Is it not possible to build a factory at an
alternative non-agricultural site in WB?

The ministers, industrialists, and their political
parties keep on saying that industrialization is not
possible in this state without using agricultural
land. Without industrialization, development will just
be a distant dream. So destruction of farmland is a
must for W Bengal’s progress.

Do the facts say so? The latest edition (2004) of the
Statistical  Handbook of the Government of WB reveals
the following:

Total land area excluding Kolkata Metropolitan
District:

8687521 Hectares

Area not available for Cultivation
1636038 Hectares

Net Sown Area
5427672 Hectares

Current fallows
333372 Hectares

Other Uncultivable land excluding Current fallows
119146 Hectares

Forest Area
1171293 Hectares

Those who travel across the state know it well that
not only Bankura, Purulia, Midnapore, but the entire
North Bengal too is provided with thousands of acres
of barren and uncultivable land. As per the adopted
policy of the centre and what’s more, the view of the
five left parties expressed in their memorandum before
the Centre on 6 October 2006 is that no agricultural
land should be used for SEZs.

This apart,  West Bengal has the distinction of its
cities and urban areas being adorned by the rusting
dilapipated sheds of thousands of closed factories –
official figures alone put it at 65000.  40000 acres
of prime industrial land is kept locked there for
decades. The CPI (M) MP Santashri Chatterjee and the
President of the Hooghly District CITU submitted a
memorandum to the District Magistrate demanding use of
such premises for setting up of new industrial units.
The memorandum also mentioned that the Birlas were
given 744 acres at the Hind Motors at throw away
prices for setting up the Hindusthan Motors n 1948.
The factory, which once employed 22,000 workers, used
only 252 acres of the land given. The rest, about
500 acres was lying unused for the last 58 years. The
memorandum suggested that this land can be used for
industrialization. In an article in the CPI (M)
daily Ganashakti, he reiterated the same  demands. The
government replied late next month. The state cabinet
cleared the land for use by the Birlas for an IT park,
thus enriching the Birla coffers by at least 1500
crores in one stroke. If the premises of closed Beni
Engineering in Kolkata can be unlocked (though
illegally) for real estate business, why could the 500
acres of land, kept unused for the last 58 years, at
Hindmotors not be used for the purpose of a new
industry?

Trade (or State?) secret – a white lie?

Even seven months after the movement started or three
months after completion of ‘land acquisition’ process
as claimed by the administration, no body knows
whether the Tatas have paid the price for the land as
per rules or whether the land is being forcibly
‘acquired’ from the poor peasants at the tax-payers
expense to make a gift to the ‘Left-friend’ Tatas? The
Land Acquisition Act 1894 and the procedures lad down
to implement the  act requires that the requiring
authority (here the Tatas)must deposit the full cost
of the land before acquisition procedures begin.
After several enquires under RTI act 2005, in all the
concerned Government Departments as to whether the
Tatas have deposited any amount towards the
cost of the land, the West Bengal Industrial
Development Corporation, in its letter No
Adm/141/2006/3113, dated 4 Dec., 2006 replied that
‘disclosure of
information sought cannot be allowed under section
8(d) of the RTI Act 2005’. This section does not allow
disclosure if the competitive position of a third
party is harmed and unless it is necessary for greater
public interest.

All major aspects of the proposed project have been
kept under wraps. No body, even the cabinet ministers
and left front partners know whether a MOU
(Memorandum of Understanding) had been signed, or what
are the understandings or agreements  between the
Government and the Tatas.  Senior cabinet ministers
belonging to non CPI (M) parties publicly aired their
grievances for keeping them in the dark. All enquiries
in this regard also faced the same black stone wall of
secrecy. A similar formal exercise as above to illicit
information on whether any MOU was reached with the
company on the project and if so, a copy of the MOU,
if  no, a copy or the salient points of the draft of
such MOU being discussed  was carried out. The
only reply to these queries was that ‘disclosure of
information sought cannot be allowed under section
8(d) of the RTI Act 2005’.

A similar stonewall of secrecy is built around the
incentives offered to the Tatas. Newspaper reports
quoting ‘reliable sources’ suggest that the
monetary value of the incentives offered to the Tatas
for their Rs 1000 Crores investment may run up to 1500
Crores, if the cost of  land,
infrastructure and concessions are taken into account.
Perhaps it is needless to say again that the
governments reply to the queries on incentives  under
the West Bengal Incentive Scheme 2004 (No. 134
CI/O/Incentive/17/03/1 dated 24 March, 2004) or under
any other scheme/proposal claimed by the Tata Motors
for the project,  offered/agreed
to be offered by the government to the Tata Motors for
the project, proposals/claims for incentives under
consideration of the WBIDC or any other Government
agency, received the same reply citing section 8(d) of

the RTI Act 2005′.

It is strange that the Government is makng deals  with
a profit making concern at the cost of tax payers’
expense and nobody has the right to  know
anything. This attitude makes mockery of all
principles of transparency  and the Left Fronts
commitment to ‘do everything by informing people
beforehand and with their concurrence.’

Fighting Unemployment?

>From all available information including Tata Motors
press releases, it transpires that 800-odd employments
may be generated initially which may go
up to 2000 if and when the company attains the full
production capacity of 5,00,000 cars per year. Even
conservative estimates suggest that about 15000
people including sharecroppers, agricultural
labourers, and small farmers artisans are going to be
evicted from their profession. Among them are
those, who do not own the agricultural land or water
bodies but still make a living out of them, those who
earn their living as trolley pullers, collies,
fertilizer and other agricultural input dealers and
their employees etc. How creating employment for 2000
over the years by immediately ousting 15000
from their livelihood may help in fighting
unemployment is anybody’s guess.

The tale of ancillary industries was proved to
be a fairy-tale in case of Haldia. And 800
employments at the cost of 100 crores nvestments (plus

state incentives valued at around 1500 crores) That
means ten million crores investment (plus incentives
from state exchequer) for 80 lakh registered
unemployeds. It is beyond even any lunatics
imagination !

The state government has no rehabilitation policy. A
study shows that only 9% of those evicted during the
post 1950 period got some sort of relief,
however meager may it be. No body knows how the
evictees will be rehabilitated or compensated. The
government dubs the whole process as ‘trade secret’ to
seek a safe escape route. Or sometimes, pretends to
be a little bit more transparent -‘will be told in the
appropriate time.’ A common sense suggests that there
are other hidden agenda behind all these exercises
declaredly for the benefit of ‘ignorant idiotic
masses’. The spontaneous opposition to the
machinations and its rapid spread show
that the government has erred in assuming people’s
concurrence for granted. Meanwhile 200 people staging
a peaceful demonstration were wounded in the
police lathicharge 25 September. Rajkumar Bhul, a 24
year old agitator succumbed to the injures sustained
during the police attack. About a hundred
including 28 women were been arrested. Many were
molested by the drunken police force. The prosecution
admitted that barring some womenfolk who were
carrying brooms in their hands as symbols for their

“,1] ); D([“mb”,”


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“,0] ); D([“ce”]); //–>resolve to broom out the Tatas, none have any weapon
or any other thing. The seizure list mentioned
seizure of 10 brooms apart from their festoon. Yet the
hapless people were booked under sections of Explosive
Act and on charges of attempt to  murder
(under sec 307 IPC). This is in line with the state
government’s policy  of persecution of all opposition
and to ensure  that these poor people rot behind the
bars or harassed by the police or in the courts before
they could be proved innocent. Thus the government
will get the precious requisite time to hand over
their land to the Tatas.

Amitadyuti Kumar