The Special Economic Zones Debacle of left front in West Bengal

http://protestagainstneo-liberalpolicies.blogspot….

The “Special Economic Zone” Debacle of the Left Front in West Bengal
Harry Magdoff, refuting the myth of bourgeois social science that capital and technology are the magic which will bring the entire world into the Garden of Eden, wrote:
Since the obstacles to successful capitalist development (in third world countries) are today so gigantic, the pursuit of industrialization inevitably involves the accumulation of capital at the expense of keeping the masses down. Agriculture remains backward, investment is insufficient to cure unemployment in urban and rural areas, and wages are kept at pitifully low levels to provide adequate incentives for entrepreneurs. Production decisions are, and must be, made to satisfy the desires of the middle-and upper-income sectors of the population, those that have the money to buy. The technology introduced is the kind most favored by, and closely tied in with, foreign capital, since this is the technology best suited for profit-making and for squeezing into some of the interstices of foreign trade. Brazil is an outstanding example of what I am referring to. Brazil has been successful in taking a significant step forward in industrialization — one in which native capitalists have actively participated, along with foreign investors from a number of advanced capitalist states. With what consequences? The real wages of the working class have declined and the backward agricultural regions have remained stagnant and poverty-stricken.”
Today, thirty years later, every word rings true for India.
The global counter-revolution of these last thirty years has only added a more vicious aspect. It is only in these last few decades that global trade and capital flows — as a share of world production and savings, respectively — have again risen to the scale of the prior imperialist golden age that preceded the First World War. But this increased transnational dominance of the capitalist market (“globalization”) does not mean that national states — even those not of the imperial center — are becoming obsolete. Rather, ruthless state actions associated with neo-liberalism, policies designed to enhance “competitiveness” and “flexibility,” not just for individual firms but for whole national economies, are required.
In India, the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) policy of the government, formulated in 2000, and brought fully into force in the SEZ act in February 2006, is a clear example of the brutal mobilization of the state for neo-liberal ends. Supposedly based on a Chinese model, in fact the SEZ act goes far further — a complete capitulation to imperial capital. It is sufficient to point out that the supposed Chinese “model” does not permit the sale of land to the corporate SEZ promoters and developers. Until September 2006, the Board of Approvals committee of the Ministry of Commerce had approved 267 SEZ projects all over India. Land area for each of these projects “deemed foreign territories” ranges from 1,000 to 14,000 hectares. Developers of large, multi-product zones with a minimum area of 1,000 hectares are required to utilize only 25 per cent of the SEZ for industrial purpose. The rest can be utilized for residential and shopping purposes, hotels, malls, and the other trappings of “development.” Moreover, the developers have a completely free hand to allocate space and other facilities within the zone on a commercial basis, in short for real estate business.
It is estimated by some experts that in the first phase only, 375,000 acres of land will be required. The well known historian Sumit Sarkar, an author of Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flag — A critique of Hindu Right (Delhi: Orient Longman, 1993), commented that “this is liable to create one of the greatest land grabs in modern Indian history.” India has never before witnessed the coerced transfer of hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land to private industry — and private real estate speculators.
Within the SEZ the trappings of Indian bourgeois democracy fade. The central government’s “Development Commissioner” is delegated the powers of the labor commissioner. All suits of civil cases and even specified criminal offenses that arise in the SEZ shall be tried in special courts. These corporate Guantanamos also offer formidable fiscal “incentives”: exemption from custom duties, central excise duties, service tax, central sales taxes, and securities transaction tax to both the developers and the units; and tax holidays for fifteen years, including one hundred per cent income tax exemption for ten years of the fifteen for SEZ developers.
And at the root of this gigantic theft is the seizure of the land for these global capitalist profit zones from the cultivators through state coercion via the British colonial Land Acquisition Act. Even “consensual” transfers are therefore coerced, since use of the Land Acquisition Act looms behind the shoulder of the governmental “negotiator.”
It should be no surprise then that there has been a great rush to create SEZs in the year since the act was passed.
Into the situation created by this initiative of Chidambaram & Co. the Left Front government of West Bengal has, spectacularly, blundered. Arrogant from a triumph in an election in which it had attempted to project the supposed success of its model of capitalist industrial development, it was blind to the rising anger of the cultivators targeted to be displaced for profit. What followed was the ruthless use of the coercive power of para-military forces, police, cadre, administrative and legal apparatus; all to drive thousands of peasants and share-croppers off a thousand hectares of agricultural land for the benefit of . . . the Tatas. The resulting debacle at Singur saw the worst enemies of the Left Front, the Hindutva fascists and their ally Mamata, posturing in the world media as the friends and leaders of the oppressed. Fortunately, the extra-parliamentary left (and the SUCI) did not permit the fascists to seize this position by default, but damage has been done.
What then is now at stake for the left parliamentary parties of the West Bengal Left Front? Throughout India, Singur-like scenes are brewing. In Maharashtra alone, 70 SEZs will be set up, and 31 of these SEZs will be in the Konkan region alone. Almost everywhere, landholding peasants, along with ryots [subsistence farmers], pattadars [leaseholders], sharecroppers, agricultural workers, and other affected people are preparing for battle to resist land grabbing. Protests are going on in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, in the face of atrocities by the state. In Haryana and Punjab, the farmers are out on the field against the acquisition of multi-cropped fertile land tilled for years. Protests are now spreading to Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Assam. Orissa, which witnessed continuous and brave resistance of the people against indiscriminate land-grabbing by the state government on behalf of foreign and domestic mining corporations for the last few years, is now boiling with new vigor against the projects of POSCO, VEDANTA, Tata Steel, and proposed SEZs. Shall the Left Front parties now stand everywhere before the people of India as the open advocates of the coerced displacement of the agricultural poor in the interests of capitalist profit?
As of now, the Left Front government had “succeeded” in driving the Singur residents off the land and establishing a fenced perimeter defended by armed police. Aft
er Singur, a notice of land acquisition for an SEZ project by Salim group of Indonesia (a Suharto-connected crew), to be spread over 10,000 acres, set off protests in Nandigram, East Modnapore. The death of six villagers was reported as clashes broke out. Further West Bengal land acquisition by government for SEZ private profit, in the first phase, has no fewer than 28 projects with total land to be acquired of approximately 105,000 acres, spread across the entire state. How many more such “successes” as Singur can the Left Front survive? To continue on this course is suicidal.
In Nandigram and other targeted communities, cultivators, sharecroppers and agriculture laborers have begun to organize themselves, excluding all cadre of the parliamentary parties. And, indeed, none of the parties has opposed the model of development that the ruling classes have adopted. A new force from below in embryonic form is in the making.

SEZ: Wait and see

http://mepalash.blogspot.com/2007/02/sez-wait-and-…

Saturday, February 10, 2007
Palash Biswas
(Contact: Palash Biswas, C/O Mrs arati roy, Gostokanan, sodepur, Kolkata- 700110, India. Phone: 91-25659551)
With unrest in Nandigram and Singur continuing unabated, getting the CPI-M’s partners back on Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s side may not be easy. But despite fierce resistance in singur and Nandigram West Bengal Capitalist Chief minister may find some consolation from elsewhere as not only Bengal the entire country follows him to adopt chinese model of development and open Market. India is set to become a trillion-dollar economy as early as next year, if the latest figures released by the Central Statistical Organisation are any indication.The economy, which has been on a high growth path of 8-9% for the last three years, is expanding faster this year at 9.2%, it said.Only a few days ago, the CSO had revised the GDP growth figure for the last financial year to a scorching 9% from 8.4%. On Wednesday, it put economic growth this year at 9.2%.“Reforms are driving growth,” Finance Minister P Chidambaram said. “Reforms have brought in investment, fostered competition, and enhanced productivity and efficiency.”Most optimistic projections so far had been of a growth rate of close to 9% in 2006-07. The economy had expanded 9.2% in the second quarter of the current year and 9.1% in the first half.The latest CSO figures suggest that India will be an $850 billion economy this year, well set to join the big league of trillion-dollar economies as early as next year. There are nine countries in that club now (see table).At 9.2%, India’s GDP growth in 2006-07 is a full percentage point less than that of China, which registered 10.4% growth in 2006. But India’s growth is clearly the world’s second fastest this year. In fact, this is the highest growth for the Indian economy since 1987-88, when GDP grew 10.6 per cent on the back of the previous year’s low caused by drought.
TRYING HARD: To overcome resistance from its partners, CPI-M is creating a unique land map.Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has offered a peace pipe to the four left parties. After the whole controversy surrounding acquisition of land for SEZs, he now says he will move ahead with the issue only with the go-ahead of the Left Parties.He now says The CPI-M has failed to reach an agreement with its partners on the proposed amendment to the Bengal Land Reforms Act. The current Act restricts the area of land that can be acquired for SEZs and industrial parks. The CPI-M tried to thrash out differences with its partners on amendment to the Bengal Land Reforms Act in a closed-door meeting. Under the Act, you couldn’t hold more than 24 acres of land in Bengal. Though factories and townships are exempted, industrial parks and special economic zones aren’t. And unless this restrictive provision is removed, proposed industrial parks and SEZs wouldn’t ever materialise. Though partners of the CPI-M didn’t agree to the government’s proposal, the party isn’t giving up.
“This isn’t the last meeting of the Left Front,” said West Bengal CPI-M State Secretary and Left Front Chairman Biman Bose.
Mamta holds rally in Bora near Singur not violeting 144. But her supporters thrashed mediapersons.After refusing Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s invitation for talks on the land acquisition row in Singur, Trinamool Congress leader Mamta Banerjee went to Bora near Singur on saturday. Mamata seems to have decided not to defy the state ban on large gatherings in Singur. Her rally was outside the prohibitory zone on the outskirts of Singur.After the violence in Nandigram, where Trinamool workers clashed with the police and a policeman was killed, the Trinamool leader probably had no other choice for the moment.Prohibitory orders are in place in Singur till February 14 – a day before Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee holds a meeting.
Meanwhile the Calcutta High Court on Friday directed the West Bengal government to file an affidavit with details of the compensation given for the land acquired at Singur for the Tata Motors small car plant as also the total number of beneficiaries. A division bench of acting Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice K K Prasad asked the state government to file the affidavit within seven days. The bench’s direction came on a petition filed by legal aid committee general secretary Joydeep Mukherjee.
On the other hand, a very dangerous sign has emerged from the blue as Police on Saturday recovered 1,500 kg of explosives from a forest in the Naxalite-hit Gaya district of Bihar.The explosives, concealed in two plastic tanks buried under the ground, were seized by the police from Kushatand forest in the Mohanpur police station area of the district, Superintendent of Police Amit Jain told .The SP said the Naxalites used the explosives for manufacturing can bombs and landmines. Asked if the material seized also included high-grade explosives like RDX or TNT, he said it could be established only after a forensic test.It was not immediately known if the police stumbled on the massive storehouse of explosives accidentally or were tipped off about its presence in the jungles.A police source on condition of anonymity said, high-profile CPI (Maoist) commander Ajay Kanu, who was arrested from a place under Tankuppa police station of the district on February two, could have informed the police about the presence of the huge cache of explosives during interrogation.Kanu, who carried a cash reward of Rs 5 lakh on him and is currently lodged in Beur jail at Patna, had escaped from Jehanabad sub-jail on November 13, 2005, during the jailbreak in which nearly 400 inmates, many of them Maoist guerrillas, had fled. It may be remineded that naxals are playing key role in Resistance in singur as well as nandigram.
Mamta seems to have softened her stance as well as Buddhadev Bhattacharya is also showing unfamiliar patiance and waiting discussions on SEZ to pruduce some positive results on party and front forums. In the sixties it is the industrialist who was insecure in West Bengal, and now it is the farmer who is insecure. None of these are ever good for the state, but at the end of it someone has gained from it, and that is POLITICS – DIRTY POLITICS. We people of India , give our rights to our politician, in turn to support and speak for our welfare, but singur , gives us a picture that for mere political advantage, we become a scape goat, for their political benefit, let people form thier group of that region, to decide what they need.
A day after CPI, Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) stalled Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government’s move to relax land ceiling for SEZs, CPI-M General Secretary Prakash Karat on Friday said the contentious issue would be discussed at the party’s ensuing Polit Bureau meeting next week. “The SEZ issue will be discussed in the politburo meeting scheduled to be held in Delhi on February 17 and 18,” Karat, who was present at the CPI-M state secretariat meeting here, told reporters. He also said the four left parties — CPI-M, CPI, Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) had already submitted a note to the central government on the SEZ and the UPA government has kept its SEZ policy in abeyance.
Meanhile, veteran CPI-M leader Jyoti Basu, speaking on the land ceiling amendment bill to relax the norms for acquisition of large areas of land for multi product SEZs, said bilateral talks would be held with LF constituents and it has to be ascertained through discussion whether the bill could be amended. “There are differences among the LF constituents (about relaxation of the land ceiling). It was decided that bilateral talks will be held with them (Front Partners). After the talks we will decide whether amendments can be made in the bill,” Basu said.
In the meantime, at the Writers’ Building on Friday, the chief minister declared that some farmers/lando
wners who had sold their lands were yet to collect their cheques. “If they have something to say, they must get in touch with the director of industries or with the district magistrate,” the chief minister said.In view of widespread protests against land acquisition in Bengal, Bhattacharya said, “I will have a talk with the opposition before selling the next lot of lands in other parts of the state.”
Like other states, work on the special economic zone planned by the Salem group has been stalled in West Bengal for the time being. The Centre has taken a step to this effect. Further decisions will be taken at the ministry meeting in New Delhi later this year.
The Chief minister has adopted a ‘wait and watch’ policy in his bid to solve the Singur impasse with opposition Trinamool Congress rejecting his offer of talks on land acquisition on Thursday.”Who knows but the world may end tonight,” Bhattacharya borrowed from poet Robert Browning before leaving the Writers’ Building on Thursday.The chief minister’s letter sent to Trinamool leader Partha Chattopadhyay on Thursday read that the government wants a “rational and peaceful solution” to the land controversy for the steady progress of the state.”If you have no problems, I am eager to discuss the state’s overall situation with you at a bilateral meeting at Writers’ Building on February 13 at 4.30 pm,” the chief minister said in a one-page letter.
A visibly irritated Chattopadhyay said in his reply, “We can have a dialogue only if the land acquired in Singur is returned, and plans to acquire farmland in Nandigram and Bhangar are shelved.” The reply, he said, was drafted after consulting Trinamool chief Mamta Banerjee.Earlier, the chief minister seemed peeved at having received no reply to his letter to Mamta Banerjee sent on December 28. “A section of the Trinamool leadership has been telling the media that the government was not interested in talks. I don’t know whether this is a fact,” he said.Those close to Banerjee, on the other hand, hinted that she is “unhappy that the letter is not addressed to her.” Way to Capitalism
But buddhadev stays well on his way to capitalism as IT services biggie Genpact has approached the West Bengal government and a clutch of property developers to set up an IT SEZ in Kolkata. The company has set aside over Rs 100 crore to set up the facility (including the cost for land). Genpact only needs 5 to 7 acres near Kolkata. But it is weighing two models. It will either acquire space within an existing SEZ or opt for the more expensive option of developing a new SEZ with a strategic partner spread over the stipulated 25-acre zone. This was confirmed by Genpact vice-president and Kolkata site leader Indranil Choudhury. The company will soon take a decision on the model to develop the proposed SEZ. “We are evaluating both options and a final decision is expected soon. While the state government has shown us land at both Jagdishpur and near Vedic Village, we are more interested to create an SEZ facility in Rajarhat,” said Choudhury. Genpact has been insisting on Rajarhat as it proposes to start the SEZ facility at a much earlier date than the state government’s deadline for the two proposed IT hubs in Jagdishpur and Vedic Village, which is some 15 km from the Salt Lake Electronics Complex (Saltlec). “We have set a target to start operations from the Kolkata SEZ by mid-2008 . A key factor on the model which we will adopt will depend on the land price,” said Choudhury. He, however, refused to spell out the price which the state government had offered the company for the proposed SEZ facility. Incidentally, Genpact has recently received in-principle clearances to set up three SEZs in Bhopal, Bhubaneswar and Jaipur. It is also in the process of constructing a development centre on a 12-acre plot within the IT SEZ being developed by DLF in Gurgaon. Genpact in Kolkata operates out of a leased facility spread over 80,000 sq. ft at the DLF IT Park in Rajarhat and employs 420 people. “By this year, we will ramp up the headcount to 1,000 people and expand the new facility besides our existing facility. With the proposed SEZ facility on ground, Genpact will employ 5,000 people in Kolkata by 2010,” said Choudhury. “While the Kolkata unit was used to service processes for GE, three new global clients have also committed operations from here. These are in three key verticals – finance and accounting, software development and analytic,” Choudhury added. Genpact also has another three-acre plot in Saltlec where it will start construction of a training-cum-development facility. “Construction will start sometime in April and this facility will mainly focus on training employees. This is planned to be our second-largest dedicated training facility after Hyderabad,” said Choudhury.
Kashmir farmers get over 250,000 acres land A good news at last breaks from shrinagar.This announcement was greeted with the thumping of desks by the treasury benches before the opposition entered the House and protested the passage of the bill.The Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly Friday passed a law conferring property rights to farmers on over 250,000 acres of government land which was under their occupation.The law, titled ‘Roshni -‘, was passed with a voice vote amid unprecedented din as the opposition National Conference wanted its amendments to the bill to be taken into consideration for debate before voting on the law. But the National Conference members were barred from doing so as they were not present in the House when their names were called to move the amendments.They staged a noisy walk out and leader of opposition Abdul Rahim Rather termed the speaker’s action of convening the House without their presence as ‘breach of trust’.However, the ruling party said the rules of the House did not permit members to take part in debates once they were declared ‘absent’.
Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, while moving the bill, had stated that the farmers would be given land free of cost. They would, however, have to deposit Rs.100 for getting the details of their land entered into official records to claim the property rights in future.

Two Bengali Nobel laureates to visit city Kolkata, Feb. 9 (PTI): Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammad Yunus of Bangladesh will be felicitated by two city-based organisations here and attend a dinner hosted by state Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, when he visits the city on Sunday for the first time since winning the coveted honour. Another Nobel laureate Amartya Sen will also be in the city to address a seminar on ‘child welfare’, jointly sponsored by his ‘Pratichi Trust’ and the UNICEF.
West Bengal’s finance minister Asim Dasgupta said today that during Yunus’ three-day stay, there will be an exchange of views on the experiences of Bangladesh Gramin Banks and that of the Self-Help groups of West Bengal.
Due to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s busy schedule during the visit of Italian Premier Romano Prodi during February 11 and 13, it would not be possible for the state government to offer a formal felicitation to Yunus, he said.
‘Sad’ Buddha cold shoulders book fair
Kolkata, Feb 9 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya Friday skipped the inauguration of the Kolkata book fair, a much-awaited annual cultural event of the city. The chief minister had invited the ire of green activists to get the Kolkata book fair held in Maidan, the city’s green lungs. But a court gave a ruling against the venue. The Feb 9-21 32nd Kolkata Book Fair was inaugurated at the Salt Lake Stadium.Bhattacharya did not attend the inauguration at the Salt Lake. He said: ‘I would perhaps visit it, only once.’
‘I had saved the book fair from the fire (referring to the book fair inferno in 1997 and its reorganisation) once, but this time I could not. So I am feeling bad,’ Bhattacharya said.
The book fair hit a roadblock with the Calcutta High Court banning holding it at the Maidan.
The fair was hastily organised at the Salt Lake Stadium, but not before the organisers, Publishers and Booksellers’ Guild, were criticised by some publishers, b
ooksellers, litterateurs and booklovers.
The literary people accused the guild of blunting the protest of the litterateurs and booklovers against the court order by hastily announcing a parallel venue.
The fair was inaugurated by Australian litterateur Thomas Keneally along with poet Sankha Ghosh and state Sports Minister Subhas Chakraborty, who made available the soccer stadium for the fair.CPI-M cornered over Land Reform Act
Singur: Mamta supporters attack cameraman IDespite Mamta Banerjee’s promise to hold a peaceful rally near Singur on Saturday, her supporters went berserk within 150 mt of the dais as they pelted stones and assaulted the staff of a Bengali news channel. Apparaently unhappy with the ‘biased coverage’ of the Singur issue by the channel, a group of people assaulted a cameraman and damaged a car. The former was seriously injured and shifted to a nearby hospital.The incident took place in the presence of veteran Trinamool Congress leaders, including Saugato Roy.
However, when Banerjee, on her way to the rally, was contacted over phone, she said, “People who assaulted the journalists were outsiders and had no connection with my party. They were creating violence intentionally to tarnish my image.”
Earlier, in a gathering at south Kolkata’s Nazrul Manch on Friday, Banerjee said that her party has sought government permission to hold a meeting at Bara Telenipara. She chose Telenipara as it does not come under the purview of the area where Section 144 has been imposed.
West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had earlier decided to hold a meeting in Singur on February 15.With the opposition crying foul over the chief minister’s bid to have a meeting a day after Section 144 would be lifted from the area, he decided to cancel his plan. Banerjee, however, opines that Bhattacharya cancelled the meeting fearing “scanty turnout.” However, to protect the Tata-acquired land, the area along the Durgapur Expressway from Bardhaman has literally been sealed off. Huge numbers of Rapid Action Force and Combat Force personnel have been deployed in and around Singur police chowki.According to insiders, “Under the pretext of Section 144, a large number of police personnel have been deployed in Singur and its adjoining area. Many water tankers have been brought to meet any eventuality.”
Nandigram: Slain cop’s body found IThe body of the slain District Intelligence Bureau officer Sadhu Chatterjee was fished out from the Haldi riverbed on Saturday four days after he was lynched by a mob.The body, which had multiple injuries, was identified and sent for post mortem. There were severe head injuries with the stomach ruptured, the police said.The District Intelligence Bureau sub-inspector was attacked and killed on February 7 at Ishwardehajalpai in East Midnapore district when he accompanied police to an area where roads were being dug up by people to prevent forces from entering their villages.
Meanwhile, the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee claimed that the men in villages had fled their homes in fear of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and police.
Now a ‘Singur’ in Madhya Pradesh?Feb 10, 2007 – 8:18:06 AM ‘The compensation package is not satisfactory as it does not take care of the permanent loss to the next generation of farmers whose land is being acquired,’ said senior BJP leader and former union minister Vikram Verma, who is also from Dhar. A place in Madhya Pradesh may see a repeat of Singur, the area in West Bengal that is on the boil over land acquisition for a Tata Motors car project.The state government is acquiring nearly 4,000 acres of land near the Dhar district’s Pithampur industrial area for a world-class auto-testing track.
But the farmers in 10 villages who have been made to part with their land for the project are unhappy with the compensation package, giving the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party – affiliate Bharatiya Kisan Sangh – a chance to protest the government’s decision to acquire farmland.
The track, approved by the central government, would be an international standard centre to provide testing facilities to Indian and foreign companies for all kinds of automobile machinery – one of the most significant initiatives in the automotive sector.
To be set up by the National Automotive Testing and Research and Development Infrastructure Project at a cost of Rs.10 billion, the track would be equipped with the facility of testing vehicles in various climatic conditions at different stages after which ‘standardisation’ certificates would be issued for vehicles produced in India and abroad.’What makes the project more significant for Madhya Pradesh is because developed states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh were competing for this scheme,’ Industries Minister Babulal Gaur said.
But opposition leader Jamuna Devi, who is also an MLA from Dhar, has threatened that if local farmers are subjected to injustice, a Singur-type protest will be launched. The BKS too is up in arms against the land acquisition.Alleging that fertile land is being wrested from the peasants in tribal-dominated areas like Khandwa, Kalyansikhedi, Madhopur and Sagaur, Jamuna Devi has warned that farmers would take on the government if it continues with land acquisition.
She has also written a letter to BJP president Rajnath Singh, asking him to exhibit his might against farmland acquisition in Dhar.’Thousands of acres of fertile land, belonging to farmers, is being acquired by the BJP government for being provided to the industry even as thousands of peasants are consequently facing starvation,’ Jamuna Devi told Rajanth Singh urging him to direct the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government to halt the acquisition of land.
‘We expect the same kind of opposition to the Pithampur project from the BJP as it displayed against the Tata Motors project in Singur in West Bengal,’ she wrote.
Rajnath Singh had supported Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee’s protests against similar land acquisition at Singur for a Tata Motors small car project.
State BJP spokesman Umashankar Gupta, however, dismisses comparisons between Singur and Pithampur.
‘The Dhar project belongs to the Congress-led central government where Devi’s own party is in power. She should first ask her party leaders to scrap the project if her concern is genuine,’ Gupta said.
But BKS has warned of an intensified campaign if the government does not mend its ways. ‘The stir may turn violent if the track site is not shifted to a barren plot or adequate compensation is not offered to the farmers,’ said Pop Singh Nagar, BKS state executive member.
BJP leaders in Dhar too seem to be opposed to the farmland acquisition.
‘The compensation package is not satisfactory as it does not take care of the permanent loss to the next generation of farmers whose land is being acquired,’ said senior BJP leader and former union minister Vikram Verma, who is also from Dhar.
He has written to Chief Minister Chouhan and Industry Minister Gaur but to no avail.

Two bodies found in Singur Singur (WB), Feb 09: The discovery of the bodies of an engineer and his driver four days after they went missing from Singur, where Tata Motors is building a small car plant, sparked fresh tension in the area today. The bodies were found on February six and identified today by the kin of the two men — Jyoti Prakash Biswas, an engineer working with a chemical company in the area, and his driver Kanchan Das. Police suspect both men were murdered and their bodies dumped by the roadside near the site of the Tata Project. The car in which they were travelling is yet to be traced, police said. It is yet to be verified if the engineer, a resident of Durgapur, was in any way attached to the Tata Motors’ Project, the sources said. This was the second case of unnatural death in Singur since late last year.
On December 18, the half burnt body of 18-year-old Tapasi Mallik was found in a paddy field at Bajemelia Village in Singur. She was a member of the save farmland committee that is opposing the acquisition of farm land for the Tata Project.
Ennore SEZ set to take
off following Rs 26 cr fundingTIMES NEWS NETWORK[ SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2007 04:28:09 PM]
CHENNAI: The multi-product special economic zone (SEZ) project, coming up on 1,000 hectare at Ennore, in Tamil Nadu is expected to take off following the Rs 26-crore allocation received under the Centre’s Assistance to States for Infrastructure Development for Exports (ASIDE) scheme. The much awaited Ennore SEZ, near the first corporatised port, is finally taking shape with the bottlenecks for developing the road and rail access having been cleared. The state-level export promotion committee, chaired by Chief Secretary L K Tripathi, has sanctioned Rs 26 crore under the ASIDE funding scheme for both road and rail access, a top official of Tamil Nadu industrial development corporation (TIDCO) told ET.
In August 2004, the government gave its in-principle clearance. The government has sanctioned Rs 16 crore for the road leading to the SEZ and Rs 10 crore for a three kilometre rail link, he elaborated. Tidco has filed an application for getting the formal nod from the Board of Approval (Ministry of Commerce). Subject to the approval, the allotment of space is scheduled to commence from April 2007. “The marketing initiative of the site will also begin soon,” the official said. The Ennore SEZ is also planning to develop and connect the National Highway five (NH5) route. While TIDCO would have an equity of 50%, the balance would be held by SIPCOT and Ennore Port equally.
A special purpose vehicle, the Ennore SEZ Company (ESCO), formed for the purpose, is implementing the project. Once commissioned, it is expected to boost the export basket by an estimated Rs 9,000 crore. By then, the employment generation is slated to cover 50,000 people. It is proposed to implement the project in 18 months.
The topographic contour, boundary, soil investigation studies were completed during the 2005-06 period. A comprehensive master plan has also been chalked out for the project. The estimated project cost for developing the infrastructure is about Rs 636 crore, according to sources.The industrial suburb to the north of Chennai Ennore has the potential to emerge as a huge industrial hub when the project takes shape, the sources added. It will attract investments for diverse industries such has general engineering, pharma, garment, light engineering, plastic goods, leather goods, electronics, auto components, logistics and container terminal. “There are already enquiries received from various industries,” the sources said, adding the SEZ, which was 30 km away from the city limits, was just a 45-minute drive from the airport. It has well-connected rail-road infrastructure and the nearest railway station is Athipettu. “This is good news,” said Rajiv Kumar, director and chief executive, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, “though it draws attention to urgent supply-side reforms if this growth rate is to be sustained. There are signs of overheating and that needs to be managed.”
The 9.2% growth estimated by the CSO, Kumar said, is beyond the RBI’s latest projections. “The central bank is likely to see this from the demand side and we could, therefore, be in for another round of interest rates hikes,” he said.
Significantly, the 9.2% GDP growth this year comes about despite the slowdown in farm-sector growth to just 2.7% from last year’s robust 6%.
Though 65 crore Indians still depend on agriculture for their livelihood, it is evident that the broader economy is now firmly driven by the dynamism of its industrial and services sector. Adam smith and His TheoryThe Adam Smith idea of creating a Capitalist Society was actually extremely brilliant and without doubt at one time, contributed to the general progress of Humanity. In the Capitalist system, the person who can sell better and cheaper products is rewarded by a gradual increase in sales and profits. Hence, this person will be able to increase the potential of the business. The firm will grow bigger and bigger while the customers will be happy to get more, better, cheaper products. Thanks to this capitalist competition, prosperity will become universal. Anyway that was the theory of it in the days of Adam Smith (1723-1790) who explained that profit for the individual leads to the prosperity for all… and it is what happened in past centuries. It would even have continued for ever, EXCEPT under conditions of US-style “freedom”: anarchic criminal freedom. Freedom is a word of many meanings as I have shown previously. Under US Capitalist freedom, producers are allowed to increase, first their wealth, then their political POWER without restrictions or limits. Can’t be better! Unfortunately, a certain point is reached where the above mentioned negative effects of Capitalism make their appearance. Jacques Hardy opines Analysing Adam smith theoryAN INTERESTING ASPECT OF FREEDOM Capitalism is an economic and social system based on the private property of the means of production and exchange. It is characterised by the search for profit and the concurrence between enterprises: FREEDOM ! In order to compete, enterprises are forced to pay their workers less and less and gradually replace them with electronic machines. Thus at an initial stage, there are more and more unemployed workers but – no worry – these easily find work in the army which sends them to their death in some faraway killing field (e.g. Iraq). In addition, patriotic disinformers are busy accusing foreign countries of stealing the jobs of U.S. workers. Coincidence, these disinformers invariably accuse those very countries which the United States plan to attack soon. And this is in fact what made the awsome power of the great United States of America. I have myself (with family in the USA) to admit it: the USA is the greatest predatory system that ever was! Hats off in honor of Uncle Sam! Also in this first initial stage of the U.S. empire and thanks to competition, the products are sold at a cheaper and cheaper price, thus eliminating the competition which is therefore forced into bankruptcy. Then, when the competition is eliminated and ONE supergiant enterprise controls the marketing of a particular product, the prices start to rise and rise (e.g. the oil business but there is far worse to come in the not too distant future). Now don’t you go and think that I hate capitalism: I LOVE CAPITALISM, well cooked and served with gravy and French fries. Thanks to FREEDOM… the freedom for the wealthy few to oppress the masses of poor, a freedom which is also called for whatever reason Bush Freedom, it is easy to see where this famous Capitalist system leads. Simply observe what is going on around you:- More and more enterprises are owned by fewer and fewer individuals.- These become wealthier and wealthier as well as continuing to become fewer and fewer in number.- Thanks to such enormous wealth, these wealthy few can easily gain more and more power. They end up owning everything including us all!.- Thanks to the great freedom of market forces, the financial power of the wealthy few become such that they end up OWNING EVEN THE GOVERNMENT OF THEIR OWN COUNTRY.- But very, very soon, this is no longer enough, they want to own other countries as well… and here CAPITALISM automatically changes into IMPERIALISM. Thus, Capitalism and its freedom of market forces, leads to Imperialism, which in turn leads to Plutocratic Power. Then comes the next step: the New World Order, which eventually brings the need for DEPOPULATION because the plutocrats want a REALLY NEW world, absolutely unfit for slaves since these, in the world of the future will no longer be needed. So we are now at this depopulation point where the wealthy few are beginning to be aware that they need not so many slaves who would eventually want to revolt and overthrow the International Plutocracy… hence there is an absolute need for depopulation! No one can argue with that! If we compare Human Society as it now exists for instance in the United States, France and Russia as well as in some other countries as well, we discover many disquieting similar
ities… as if they were all run by the same bunch of guys! We also discover that although many middle class people are totally unaware of what is goi

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

Singur, Nandigram and Industrialisation of West Bengal-II

http://pd.cpim.org/2007/0128/01282007_nilotpal.htm

Nilotpal Basu

THE SEZ QUESTION AND NANDIGRAM

There has been extensive coverage on the stand of the Left parties on the current SEZ policy of the government in these columns. The major areas of our disagreement with the extant policy pertain to nature of the land use, extent of land use, the tax package and the rehabilitation package. The design of the current package of the government has undergone a qualitative change when SEZ rules were framed under the Act and process of approvals which has led to sanctions being given to 237 SEZ proposals.

This huge number immediately brings to the fore the contrast with China which had successfully executed the SEZ approach to ensure investment and employment generation. The total number of SEZs in China is only 6 and they are concentrated on manufacturing exports by linking these zones to physical infrastructure like port and other transport facilities. 

In India, apart from the already sanctioned 237 SEZs, the Board of Approval gave the ‘in-principle’ approval for another 166 SEZs within less than a year of the promulgation of the SEZ rules. A scan of the number and nature of these SEZs reveal a clear-cut picture of regional and sectoral imbalance. Of the 237 sanctioned SEZ proposals, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamilnadu account for 147 SEZs which is 60 per cent of the total sanctions. Again, 148 out of the 237 SEZs approved so far are in the IT sector. Further, preliminary studies are also revealing a major possibility of real estate activities in many of these proposed and sanctioned SEZs instead of actual manufacturing/processing activities which would have been desirable from employment generation point of view.

The crux of the difference between the government, on the one hand, and the Left parties, on the other, is on the nature of investment. Unless investments lead to production and employment generation, the stated objective of the SEZ policy will stand defeated. On the other hand, the present situation poses the danger of investment flowing into financial activities which can, at best, heat up the economy without any corresponding employment generation – a classic example of ‘jobless growth’. 

Nandigram in East Midnapur district of West Bengal is one of the seven SEZs sanctioned in West Bengal. The proposed SEZ will develop a mega chemical hub. The choice of this mega chemical hub in the Haldia region is the result of a long exercise undertaken by the government of India where this venue was chosen alongwith four other sites in the country. With the existing petroleum refinery of the IOC, the petrochemical plant at Haldia in the joint sector and the huge facility of Mitsubishi chemicals, this decision to have the mega chemical hub located here was a natural conclusion. Incidentally, the Haldia petrochemicals have led to 700 units in the downstream providing an employment to over 1 lakh people. The government of West Bengal has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian Oil Corporation to be an anchor investor for the project, while the Salim group will be the promoter for building the infrastructure. The Salim group will also build a 100 km six-lane expressway bypassing Kolkata and the new township at Rajarhat and Salt Lake, the eastern satellites. The expressway will be a major link and part of the central backbone of the road network in the state linking Darjeeling Hills in the north to the Sagar islands in the south. The expressway will also link to a bridge over Hooghly river which will connect South 24 Parganas and East Midnapur in the Haldia township.

Beyond this, there has been virtually no other progress towards the Nandigram SEZ. It has to be pointed out that unlike largely real estate-driven activities in the SEZs in other parts of the country, the West Bengal government has maintained and sponsored proposals for SEZs where 50 per cent of the total land will be used for actual industrial-processing activities with major emphasis on employment generation. 25 per cent of the land will be related to social infrastructure of this real economic activity. This position of the West Bengal government is identical to the position taken by the Left at all India level. The proposed SEZ at Nandigram will strictly adhere to this basis.

These columns have published the statement of the central committee of the CPI(M) describing the actual incidents in Nandigram. It is true that a particular document circulated by the Haldia Development Authority (HDA) had created confusion. The chief minister of West Bengal has categorically stated that no cognisance of that document need to be taken and that no progress on the project will take place until after widest possible consultations are held with elected representatives in the panchayat and the people of the area. As there has been no survey done and consultations held, the question of land acquisition does not arise before these processes take place. People’s Democracy has also editorially commented on the document by HDA. In any case, under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, HDA does not have the executive authority to notify acquisition.

Given these facts, therefore, the situation in Nandigram needs to be brought back to normal. Right now, roads, bridges and culverts remain disrupted with urgent need for repairing them. There is obstruction in doing that. This is putting the entire population in the four gram panchayat where incidents had taken place to great trouble.

It is only when such normalcy returns that a proper discourse on Nandigram SEZ can take place. There is no doubt that land acquisition will only take place if a credible plan for improving the quality of life and livelihood can be put forth. This is the overall approach of the CPI(M). 

Having stated all these, it is difficult not to comment on the nature of political forces that have come together in Nandigram. This conglomeration with BJP on the extreme right to the various naxalite groups on the extreme left, to put it most mildly, is strange and unprincipled. It is also important to note that distinctions need to be made between legitimate protest and planned violence.

With passage of time, all the pros and cons of the mega chemical hub project will be discussed and debated. No doubt, the compelling reason for any such project in the state will be premised on the question of employment generation and improving the lot of the poor and disadvantaged sections. As stated earlier, the Left Front had anticipated the need for such a project on the eve of the last elections. Therefore, the Left Front election manifesto had clearly stated: “Industrial parks have been decided to be set up in the task of modernising the traditional labour-intensive industries, and to make them competitive. Parks will be set up for foundry, jute, rubber, garments, textile, iron & steel, chemicals polymer, light engineering, and food” and “A minimum of four big industrial taluka and special economic zones will be set up in the state”.

It is with this manifesto that the Left Front had approached the electorate in the 2006 assembly elections. And, it is on the basis of such plans for the future that the Left received its massive mandate. Many personalities from different parts of the country who have now taken positions on the principles on which the state government is functioning may not be aware of the electoral commitments of the Left Front nor the nature of the mandate of the people. So far as the specifics of the project are concerned, no doubt, concerns will be addressed. 

PARTISANSHIP WITH THE POOR

The Left Front government in West Bengal has come back to office for the seventh time. This is unprecedented in the history of electoral politics of the country. The principle underlying reason has been the fact that the government has been partisan – partisan towards the poor. Lakhs of acres of land h
as been redistributed among the rural poor. Thousands of CPI(M) leaders and activists have laid down their lives to achieve the advance and empowerment of the poor in the state. And, it is with their support that the Left Front is trying to improve the overall economic situation in the state and develop industries. It will be foolhardy to assume that the CPI(M) can relinquish the achievements that the peopleof the state have scored. 

There is no conflict between agriculture and industry. But the nature of the industry, the manner in which it takes place is not completely under the control of the state government. In the present age of globalisation, the major direction of neo-liberal policies is aimed at de-industrialisation in third world economies. In the face of this, industrial development, particularly in manufacturing and processing sectors, is, in itself, a struggle against those policies. It is true that private corporate’s way of viewing industries and that of the Left will differ. Marx and Lenin had written a lot on this in the context of Luddites and Narodniks. The working class does not demand the closing down of an industry because it exploits them, they work for changing the nature of the ownership. As communists, we know that socialism is the future, and, therefore, the improvement of the material basis of the economic activities is important. But these struggles cannot overlook the specifics of the immediate context. The struggle for industrialisation in West Bengal will continue without giving up the struggle for consolidating and further improving agriculture in the state. The bottom line is the constant need for improving the conditions of the working people – be they in the rural areas or in cities. And, the lesson of learning from the people will never be forgotten. 

(Concluded)

Singur, Nandigram and Industrialisation of West Bengal-II

http://pd.cpim.org/2007/0128/01282007_nilotpal.htm

Nilotpal Basu

THE SEZ QUESTION AND NANDIGRAM

There has been extensive coverage on the stand of the Left parties on the current SEZ policy of the government in these columns. The major areas of our disagreement with the extant policy pertain to nature of the land use, extent of land use, the tax package and the rehabilitation package. The design of the current package of the government has undergone a qualitative change when SEZ rules were framed under the Act and process of approvals which has led to sanctions being given to 237 SEZ proposals.

This huge number immediately brings to the fore the contrast with China which had successfully executed the SEZ approach to ensure investment and employment generation. The total number of SEZs in China is only 6 and they are concentrated on manufacturing exports by linking these zones to physical infrastructure like port and other transport facilities.

In India, apart from the already sanctioned 237 SEZs, the Board of Approval gave the ‘in-principle’ approval for another 166 SEZs within less than a year of the promulgation of the SEZ rules. A scan of the number and nature of these SEZs reveal a clear-cut picture of regional and sectoral imbalance. Of the 237 sanctioned SEZ proposals, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamilnadu account for 147 SEZs which is 60 per cent of the total sanctions. Again, 148 out of the 237 SEZs approved so far are in the IT sector. Further, preliminary studies are also revealing a major possibility of real estate activities in many of these proposed and sanctioned SEZs instead of actual manufacturing/processing activities which would have been desirable from employment generation point of view.

The crux of the difference between the government, on the one hand, and the Left parties, on the other, is on the nature of investment. Unless investments lead to production and employment generation, the stated objective of the SEZ policy will stand defeated. On the other hand, the present situation poses the danger of investment flowing into financial activities which can, at best, heat up the economy without any corresponding employment generation – a classic example of ‘jobless growth’.

Nandigram in East Midnapur district of West Bengal is one of the seven SEZs sanctioned in West Bengal. The proposed SEZ will develop a mega chemical hub. The choice of this mega chemical hub in the Haldia region is the result of a long exercise undertaken by the government of India where this venue was chosen alongwith four other sites in the country. With the existing petroleum refinery of the IOC, the petrochemical plant at Haldia in the joint sector and the huge facility of Mitsubishi chemicals, this decision to have the mega chemical hub located here was a natural conclusion. Incidentally, the Haldia petrochemicals have led to 700 units in the downstream providing an employment to over 1 lakh people. The government of West Bengal has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian Oil Corporation to be an anchor investor for the project, while the Salim group will be the promoter for building the infrastructure. The Salim group will also build a 100 km six-lane expressway bypassing Kolkata and the new township at Rajarhat and Salt Lake, the eastern satellites. The expressway will be a major link and part of the central backbone of the road network in the state linking Darjeeling Hills in the north to the Sagar islands in the south. The expressway will also link to a bridge over Hooghly river which will connect South 24 Parganas and East Midnapur in the Haldia township.

Beyond this, there has been virtually no other progress towards the Nandigram SEZ. It has to be pointed out that unlike largely real estate-driven activities in the SEZs in other parts of the country, the West Bengal government has maintained and sponsored proposals for SEZs where 50 per cent of the total land will be used for actual industrial-processing activities with major emphasis on employment generation. 25 per cent of the land will be related to social infrastructure of this real economic activity. This position of the West Bengal government is identical to the position taken by the Left at all India level. The proposed SEZ at Nandigram will strictly adhere to this basis.

These columns have published the statement of the central committee of the CPI(M) describing the actual incidents in Nandigram. It is true that a particular document circulated by the Haldia Development Authority (HDA) had created confusion. The chief minister of West Bengal has categorically stated that no cognisance of that document need to be taken and that no progress on the project will take place until after widest possible consultations are held with elected representatives in the panchayat and the people of the area. As there has been no survey done and consultations held, the question of land acquisition does not arise before these processes take place. People’s Democracy has also editorially commented on the document by HDA. In any case, under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, HDA does not have the executive authority to notify acquisition.

Given these facts, therefore, the situation in Nandigram needs to be brought back to normal. Right now, roads, bridges and culverts remain disrupted with urgent need for repairing them. There is obstruction in doing that. This is putting the entire population in the four gram panchayat where incidents had taken place to great trouble.

It is only when such normalcy returns that a proper discourse on Nandigram SEZ can take place. There is no doubt that land acquisition will only take place if a credible plan for improving the quality of life and livelihood can be put forth. This is the overall approach of the CPI(M).

Having stated all these, it is difficult not to comment on the nature of political forces that have come together in Nandigram. This conglomeration with BJP on the extreme right to the various naxalite groups on the extreme left, to put it most mildly, is strange and unprincipled. It is also important to note that distinctions need to be made between legitimate protest and planned violence.

With passage of time, all the pros and cons of the mega chemical hub project will be discussed and debated. No doubt, the compelling reason for any such project in the state will be premised on the question of employment generation and improving the lot of the poor and disadvantaged sections. As stated earlier, the Left Front had anticipated the need for such a project on the eve of the last elections. Therefore, the Left Front election manifesto had clearly stated: “Industrial parks have been decided to be set up in the task of modernising the traditional labour-intensive industries, and to make them competitive. Parks will be set up for foundry, jute, rubber, garments, textile, iron & steel, chemicals polymer, light engineering, and food” and “A minimum of four big industrial taluka and special economic zones will be set up in the state”.

It is with this manifesto that the Left Front had approached the electorate in the 2006 assembly elections. And, it is on the basis of such plans for the future that the Left received its massive mandate. Many personalities from different parts of the country who have now taken positions on the principles on which the state government is functioning may not be aware of the electoral commitments of the Left Front nor the nature of the mandate of the people. So far as the specifics of the project are concerned, no doubt, concerns will be addressed.

PARTISANSHIP WITH THE POOR

The Left Front government in West Bengal has come back to office for the seventh time. This is unprecedented in the history of electoral politics of the country. The principle underlying reason has been the fact that the government has been partisan – partisan towards the poor. Lakhs of acres of land has been redistributed among the rural poor. Thousands of CPI(M) leaders and activists have laid down their lives to achieve the advance and empowerment of the poor in the state. And, it is with their support that the Left Front is trying to improve the overall economic situation in the state and develop industries. It will be foolhardy to assume that the CPI(M) can relinquish the achievements that the peopleof the state have scored.

There is no conflict between agriculture and industry. But the nature of the industry, the manner in which it takes place is not completely under the control of the state government. In the present age of globalisation, the major direction of neo-liberal policies is aimed at de-industrialisation in third world economies. In the face of this, industrial development, particularly in manufacturing and processing sectors, is, in itself, a struggle against those policies. It is true that private corporate’s way of viewing industries and that of the Left will differ. Marx and Lenin had written a lot on this in the context of Luddites and Narodniks. The working class does not demand the closing down of an industry because it exploits them, they work for changing the nature of the ownership. As communists, we know that socialism is the future, and, therefore, the improvement of the material basis of the economic activities is important. But these struggles cannot overlook the specifics of the immediate context. The struggle for industrialisation in West Bengal will continue without giving up the struggle for consolidating and further improving agriculture in the state. The bottom line is the constant need for improving the conditions of the working people – be they in the rural areas or in cities. And, the lesson of learning from the people will never be forgotten.

(Concluded)

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.

The "Special Economic Zone" Debacle of the left front in West Bengal

by Analytical Monthly Review

Analytical Monthly Review, published in Kharagpur, West Bengal, India, is a sister edition of Monthly Review.  Its January 2007 issue features the following editorial. — Ed.

In an article entitled “Capital, Technology and Development,”1 Harry Magdoff, refuting the myth of bourgeois social science that capital and technology are the magic which will bring the entire world into the Garden of Eden, wrote:

Since the obstacles to successful capitalist development (in third world countries) are today so gigantic, the pursuit of industrialization inevitably involves the accumulation of capital at the expense of keeping the masses down.  Agriculture remains backward, investment is insufficient to cure unemployment in urban and rural areas, and wages are kept at pitifully low levels to provide adequate incentives for entrepreneurs.  Production decisions are, and must be, made to satisfy the desires of the middle-and upper-income sectors of the population, those that have the money to buy.  The technology introduced is the kind most favored by, and closely tied in with, foreign capital, since this is the technology best suited for profit-making and for squeezing into some of the interstices of foreign trade.  Brazil is an outstanding example of what I am referring to.  Brazil has been successful in taking a significant step forward in industrialization — one in which native capitalists have actively participated, along with foreign investors from a number of advanced capitalist states.  With what consequences?  The real wages of the working class have declined and the backward agricultural regions have remained stagnant and poverty-stricken.”

Today, thirty years later, every word rings true for India.

The global counter-revolution of these last thirty years has only added a more vicious aspect.  It is only in these last few decades that global trade and capital flows — as a share of world production and savings, respectively — have again risen to the scale of the prior imperialist golden age that preceded the First World War.  But this increased transnational dominance of the capitalist market (“globalization”) does not mean that national states — even those not of the imperial center — are becoming obsolete.  Rather, ruthless state actions associated with neo-liberalism, policies designed to enhance “competitiveness” and “flexibility,” not just for individual firms but for whole national economies, are required.

In India, the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) policy of the government, formulated in 2000, and brought fully into force in the SEZ act in February 2006, is a clear example of the brutal mobilization of the state for neo-liberal ends.  Supposedly based on a Chinese model, in fact the SEZ act goes far further — a complete capitulation to imperial capital.  It is sufficient to point out that the supposed Chinese “model” does not permit the sale of land to the corporate SEZ promoters and developers.  Until September 2006, the Board of Approvals committee of the Ministry of Commerce had approved 267 SEZ projects all over India.  Land area for each of these projects “deemed foreign territories” ranges from 1,000 to 14,000 hectares.  Developers of large, multi-product zones with a minimum area of 1,000 hectares are required to utilize only 25 per cent of the SEZ for industrial purpose.  The rest can be utilized for residential and shopping purposes, hotels, malls, and the other trappings of “development.”  Moreover, the developers have a completely free hand to allocate space and other facilities within the zone on a commercial basis, in short for real estate business.

It is estimated by some experts that in the first phase only, 375,000 acres of land will be required.  The well known historian Sumit Sarkar, an author of Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flag — A critique of Hindu Right (Delhi: Orient Longman, 1993), commented that “this is liable to create one of the greatest land grabs in modern Indian history.”  India has never before witnessed the coerced transfer of hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land to private industry — and private real estate speculators.

Within the SEZ the trappings of Indian bourgeois democracy fade.  The central government’s “Development Commissioner” is delegated the powers of the labor commissioner.  All suits of civil cases and even specified criminal offenses that arise in the SEZ shall be tried in special courts.  These corporate Guantanamos also offer formidable fiscal “incentives”: exemption from custom duties, central excise duties, service tax, central sales taxes, and securities transaction tax to both the developers and the units; and tax holidays for fifteen years, including one hundred per cent income tax exemption for ten years of the fifteen for SEZ developers.

And at the root of this gigantic theft is the seizure of the land for these global capitalist profit zones from the cultivators through state coercion via the British colonial Land Acquisition Act.  Even “consensual” transfers are therefore coerced, since use of the Land Acquisition Act looms behind the shoulder of the governmental “negotiator.”

It should be no surprise then that there has been a great rush to create SEZs in the year since the act was passed.

Into the situation created by this initiative of Chidambaram & Co. the Left Front government of West Bengal has, spectacularly, blundered.  Arrogant from a triumph in an election in which it had attempted to project the supposed success of its model of capitalist industrial development, it was blind to the rising anger of the cultivators targeted to be displaced for profit.  What followed was the ruthless use of the coercive power of para-military forces, police, cadre, administrative and legal apparatus; all to drive thousands of peasants and share-croppers off a thousand hectares of agricultural land for the benefit of . . . the Tatas.  The resulting debacle at Singur saw the worst enemies of the Left Front, the Hindutva fascists and their ally Mamata, posturing in the world media as the friends and leaders of the oppressed.  Fortunately, the extra-parliamentary left (and the SUCI) did not permit the fascists to seize this position by default, but damage has been done.

What then is now at stake for the left parliamentary parties of the West Bengal Left Front?  Throughout India, Singur-like scenes are brewing.  In Maharashtra alone, 70 SEZs will be set up, and 31 of these SEZs will be in the Konkan region alone.  Almost everywhere, landholding peasants, along with ryots [subsistence farmers], pattadars [leaseholders], sharecroppers, agricultural workers, and other affected people are preparing for battle to resist land grabbing.  Protests are going on in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, in the face of atrocities by the state.  In Haryana and Punjab, the farmers are out on the field against the acquisition of multi-cropped fertile land tilled for years.  Protests are now spreading to Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Assam.  Orissa, which witnessed continuous and brave resistance of the people against indiscriminate land-grabbing by the state government on behalf of foreign and domestic mining corporations for the last few years, is now boiling with new vigor against the projects of POSCO, VEDANTA, Tata Steel, and proposed SEZs.  Shall the Left Front parties now stand everywhere before the people of India as the open advocates of the coerced displacement of the agricultural poor in the interests of capitalist profit?

As of now, the Left Front government had “succeeded” in driving the Singur residents off the land and establishing a fenced perimeter defended by armed police.  Afte
r Singur, a notice of land acquisition for an SEZ project by Salim group of Indonesia (a Suharto-connected crew), to be spread over 10,000 acres, set off protests in Nandigram, East Modnapore.  The death of six villagers was reported as clashes broke out.  Further West Bengal land acquisition by government for SEZ private profit, in the first phase, has no fewer than 28 projects with total land to be acquired of approximately 105,000 acres, spread across the entire state.  How many more such “successes” as Singur can the Left Front survive?  To continue on this course is suicidal.

In Nandigram and other targeted communities, cultivators, sharecroppers and agriculture laborers have begun to organize themselves, excluding all cadre of the parliamentary parties.  And, indeed, none of the parties has opposed the model of development that the ruling classes have adopted.  A new force from below in embryonic form is in the making.

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)