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6595299 Singur Under Siege

6595299 Singur Under Siege

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Published by Sarvesh Mani Pandey

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Published by: Sarvesh Mani Pandey on Oct 30, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Documentary : Abad-Bhumi or Right To Land on SingurAbout the FilmAbad-Bhumi
is an attempt to explore the high-handedness of the state on one hand and people’sresistance on the other. Shot over a long period of time the film takes us into an Orwellian world of ‘doublespeak’ of Left credentials. After peering into the abyss of future we had ‘1984’. But this timeFuture seems to be too ominous to take us anywhere. The ‘doublespeak’ has revisited again. Thistime it is Singur. It was a major sphere of the Tebhaga movement. Now Tehbhaga has become anarena of Singur.
Yei shamhalo dhan ho
… was not just an aesthetic outcry of Tehbhaga Movement. Ithad prognosticated Singur. Salil Choudhuri's immortal song on the Tebhaga movement is echoing inthe lush paddy fields of Singur. Almost every farmer family in Singur is saying, 'We'll give blood butnot our land.' The land that gives them the golden harvest is their mother. The narrative of the filmtouches a chord and shot on specific factual details. Singur has become the name of a new peasantstruggle, a name that has created ripples in the stagnant political waters of West Bengal.
Singur under siege
Singur has turned into a battlefront since November 7. Battalion after armed police battalion and theRAF are pouring in from the districts and setting up a camp at the Bajemelia Hospital ground. Twoother camps are being set up at Bajemelia and Khaser Bheri. Plainclothes police informers are openlymoving around in the villages gathering information about resistance plans. Policepersons, rifles inhand, are posted in the village squares and the markets to keep watch on the villagers' movements.Village life has been disrupted as women are unable to bathe in the ponds, children frightened of  playing in the open and men fearing to venture out alone or after dark. The presence of such a huge police force in the otherwise peaceful villages has raised the heat in Singur. An atmosphere of terror prevails. CPI(M) 'cadres' are also being mobilised from across Hooghly district for the 'final'assault. Ordinary villagers who are unwilling to give away their lands and activists are beingharassed, beaten up and threatened with dire consequences. On the hand, CPM leaders are renting theair with fiery speeches against the countrywide acquisition of agricultural land for SEZs andindustrial projects.The government is clearly heading for a showdown with the farmers. Section 144 has already beenimposed restricting all kinds of freedom. Police contingent is heavily deployed to prevent thevillagers from coming out and to welcome TATA officials. The camps set up by the agitating farmersand political groups to keep vigil are demolished and all roads and railway stations are sealed to stopthe activists and sympathisers from entering the villages. 'Industrial resurgence' is being ushered inthe so-called 'red bastion' with brute force. On their first visit on May 25, TATA officials had to face ademonstration by a huge crowd of farmers. Men, women and children blocked their convoy and theofficials had to be rescued by the police. So, to show the Tatas how welcoming the farmers are, theroads through the villages to the project site is encircled with rifle-wielding forces and the villagersstopped from venturing out in their own villages. The government, pathologically obsessed with'industrialisation' is indulging in provocative action and the police deployment will be intensifiedeven more in the coming days. The entire project site is sealed with barbed wire. The land-losingfarmers are obviously resisting such a move and now bloodletting seems to be inevitable. Anintransigent government is pushing
West Bengal towards a violent civil strife.
Struggle everywhere
Meanwhile, farmers' movements are building up wherever the state government is acquiring farmlandfor the so-called industrial projects: A Krishijami Raksha Committee has been formed in Kharagpur,West Medinipur district, where vast tracts of multi-crop farmland is being taken over for the Tata'sconstruction vehicle factory. Interestingly, the movement is being led by the local CPI(M) activists. In Nandigram, East Medinipur district, CPI's Krishak Sabha has launched a strong farmers' movementagainst land-grabbing for the proposed 10,000-acre chemical industrial hub to be set up by the Salemgroup. Several political parties and groups have come together to launch an extensive movementagainst farmland acquisition in north Bengal for the proposed Videocon SEZ and other real estate projects. The Left Front partners CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc are getting increasingly vocal inopposing the government's land acquisition policy which is pandering to the interests of corporatecapitalists. They have warned the government of facing the wrath of the people if Singur farmland isforcibly taken away from the farmers. Strong sections within the government and the ruling partyhave also opposed the government on the Singur issue. The Karmachari Samiti of the government'sLand and Land Revenue department has supported the Singur farmers. The mouthpiece of thestate government employees union has carried very strong words against forcible land acquisition inSingur and elsewhere. The district conference of CITU's North 24-Parganas district has passed aresolution opposing forcible occupation of farmland. A clear polarisation is taking place between theCPI(M)'s ruling clique and the people of West Bengal, whatever political configuration they aremobilised under.The five villages on whose farmland the Tata factory will be built are Gopalnagar, Beraberi,Bajemelia, Khaser Bheri and Singher Bheri. These are typical Bengal villages, tranquil, charming andgreen. The residents are mostly farmers, yet a touch of the urban breeze is palpable. Most of thehouses, lining the winding, unpaved village road, are pucca, every home has electricity andtelevision, quite a few of the village youth ride motorbikes, the children go to school and some haveachieved higher education.The major reason for this is that Singur's land, coated with silt from the Hooghly and Damodar riversand their tributaries, is extremely fertile. To say that it is single-crop is to blatantly distort the truth.What doesn't grow here – paddy, jute, potato, cauliflower, pumpkin, brinjal, cucumber, so many typesof greens and vegetables! About six to 12 crops grow on Singur's highly productive fields. Paddy and potatoes grown here are the finest. There are five cold storages, five deep and 27 mini tubewells inthe locality, a clear indication that the land is well irrigated. No wonder, the areas of darkness, likeAmlasole and Belpahari, where starvation deaths are common, have been far from casting their longshadows over the villagers of Singur.It is around land that Singur's economy revolves. Not only the landowners, a sizeable population of  bargadars, wage-labourers and sharecroppers mostly belonging to the lower castes or the adivasicommunity – depend on the land for their livelihood. Besides, there is the migrant agricultural work force coming from Burdwan and other parts of Hooghly districts during the peak harvest period.There are also land-related occupations that help feed several families. For instance, the cycle-cart(called 'van') driver who carries the land's produce to the cold storage or the wholesaler, the vendor 
who sells rice or vegetables in the market, the supplier dealing with seeds and fertilisers, thecarpenter and the blacksmith who make or repair farming tools, so on. On any given day, about athousand people detrain at Kamarkundu junction to work in Singur on jobs directly or indirectlyrelated to farming. The markets at Beraberi and Bajemelia thrive almost entirely on Singur's farmingcommunity.Whatever the trade-off between the Tatas and the Left Front government in West Bengal, it isshrouded in secrecy, in spite of the RTI. Apparently, the smaller Front partners and even some of thecabinet ministers have been kept in the dark. A local television channel has revealed that aconsiderable Rs 140 crores will go out of the state exchequer to buy the land and pay compensationswhile the Tatas will be gifted that land in lieu of a cheque for Rs 20 crores, that too five years later.The industry house will be spared the ignominy of purchasing the stamp duty; and when the factory isunder construction or in operation, it will be provided water free from the burden of taxation even asthe power rates will be slashed to what the domestic consumer pays with great difficulty. Needless toadd, like many other big real estate and industrial projects coming up in the state, no EIA has beencarried out.Orissa and Jharkhand, where the Tatas have invested in steel plants, mines, aquaculture and anassortment of projects in the past seven decades, are the poorest states in the country. Industrial andother ventures by the Tatas have not changed the lives of the ordinary folk in these places. On thecontrary, a terrible curse had befallen on the forest-dwelling and pastoral communities wherever theTatas went. It may be recalled that the Kalingnagar incident earlier this year, in which 13 adivasimen, women and children lost their lives in police firing, took place when the farmers displaced bythe Tata steel-plant project were agitating against the non-payment of compensation.The argument put forward by the minister of industries that the Tata motorcar factory will create vastemployment opportunities is unadulterated nonsense.In the wake of rising public opinion against the displacement of farmers from their land, both TataMotors and the government, backed by party luminaries, went into a public relations exercise. Both,citing the examples of its Pune automobile hub and the Jamshedpur steel town, harked back to theTatas' noble tradition of 'social welfare and community development.' Reality check, however, maynot corroborate. Any sensitive soul visiting Tatanagar may well perceive that the beneficiaries of 'social welfare and community development' have been the Tata managerial class living in luxuriantstyle whereas the original inhabitants have not even received the crumbs but pushed to the margins.Well, the Tatas deservedly have the right to blow their own trumpet because it is their business to blow their own trumpet but how could a Left government and the Left leaders go into raptures over the big, bad capitalist who till the other day was their sworn enemy? Expediency does make strange bedfellows.Since announcing its New Industrial Policy in 1994, the Sangramer Hatiyar (Weapon of struggle)government in West Bengal, backed by the party in power, has been treading the neo-liberal path withgreat gusto. As the Left leaders elsewhere in the country were fuming against the globalising policiesof successive central governments, their counterparts in the state, with full blessings of these same

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