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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 40

Singur Agitation and Beyond

Tuesday 23 September 2008, by Arup Kumar Sen

Very recently, the Mamata Banerjee-led movement against forcible land acquisition in Singur for the Tata small-car factory has taken a new turn. The Tata Group Chairman, Ratan Tata, has given an ultimatum to the West Bengal Government that if the violence continues, the Tatas will pack up and leave, regardless of the Rs 1500 crores invested in the project. He categorically stated: “What has concerned us is the violence. We are concerned about the safety of our employees, the safety of our equipment and investment and, in fact, of the viability of the process.”

The Tata Chairman made it clear in his statement that a factory cannot be run with police protection. But, the irony of history is that the West Bengal Government resorted to brutal police violence in acquiring fertile land in Singur for the Tata Group. In fact, violence is an organic part of the new industrialisation policy of the West Bengal Government.

A couple of hours after Ratan Tata served his ultimatum to the State, Commerce and Industries Minister, Nirupam Sen, told a gathering, the CPM’s biggest Singur rally in recent years, that the Trinamul Congress is trying to turn Singur into another Nandigram. “It is for you all to decide whether you are for development or the politics of destruction,” Sen warned.

THE paradox of the situation is that the Left Front Government is pursuing the neo-liberal policy of industrialisation but violates the right to property by brutal methods. According to a report published in a business magazine (Business World, September 8, 2008), since 2003 West Bengal’s agricultural land has reduced by 120,000 acres, and landlessness has increased sharply by 2.5 million to touch 7.4 million. The report argued that aggressive land acquisition for industrialisation has exacerbated the problem. It was also stated in the report that about 70,000 vociferous land protests were recorded in China last year alone and that the Chinese Communist Party inserted the right to property into the Chinese Constitution two years ago in response to such land protests.

Rather than blaming Mamata Banerjee as the enemy of industrialisation and script-writer of the “politics of destruction”, the dominant Left in power in West Bengal should rethink their own strategy of ‘development’ and the associated violence against the people

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