People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 10, 2006
Massive Singur Rally Calls For Industrialisation
Biman Basu addressing the rally in Singur. Benoy Konar and Nirupam Sen are also seen
MORE than four lakh people, mostly kisans but also workers, employees, students’-youth, and women, assembled at Singur at the heart of the Hooghly district stridently calling for industrialisation of the district as also of Bengal per se. They also served a warning to those elements of stakes and their patrons in the media not to disrupt Bengal’s industrialisation drive.
The rally was held under the aegis of the Bengal Left Front at a notice of less than a week, reflecting the importance with which the issue of industrialisation is held by the people.
As far as eyes could see, a stretch of full eight kilometres along the spanking new Durgapur highway was packed with people. As the rally progressed, more and more processions trooped in waving large banners and the Red Flag. Slogans rent the air calling for industrialisation and condemning all efforts to stall the process of setting up of an automotive factory at Singur.
A small camp that the Trinamul Congress and its lackeys had pitched some distance away from the rally quickly sealed up the entry and exit flaps and the twenty-odd people inside remained quiescent, with loudspeakers turned off, for the entire period of the rally and beyond.
Speaking first, veteran kisan leader and central committee member of the CPI(M), Benoy Konar launched a strong attack on the Trinamul Congress, the Pradesh Congress, and its running mates, both of the ultra right, and the extreme left, on the score of their shedding crocodile’s tears for kisans.
These identical elements, reminded Benoy Konar, had made merry in the dastardly act of butchering down peasants in Bengal while using every force and guile available to the then administration to break up kisan rallies, depriving the peasants of their hard-earned rights to land and to tilling.
These elements, pointed out the speaker, were also found indulging in am outcry throughout the period of office of the two UF and the present LF governments that ‘there could be no industrialisation in Bengal as long as the communists and the Left remained in office’. They had also blamed the Communist Party for the ‘flight of capital’ from everywhere in India, Bengal not being an exception.
Having sprouted these lies through their teeth, the vested elements were now crying in unison for the ‘plight of the poor kisan’ and spewing venom about the ‘evils of industrialisation’. Benoy Konar asked rhetorically if all young men and women of Singur and of Bengal were expected by the Bengal opposition to play the role of cultivators and not go beyond. Were the youth to be condemned to a throwback in history and thus ensure that the development of the state would again be stalled as it had been under the different Congress regimes?
Benoy Konar reminded the staunch and self-styled anti-industrialisation lobby of opportunists that in the developed world, between 2 to 5 per cent of the populace depend on agriculture while in India the figure was close to 65 per cent. Would the holier-than-thou opposition want to ensure that things remain at their static worst?
Reeling off a series of statistics, Benoy Konar went on to point out that contrary to the industry-baiters with their bogus ‘moral stand,’ more than 90 per cent of the land being taken over was either fallow or single-crop. There was a small amount of double-crop land. However, the fact of life remained that kisans would be able to eke out work for less than 130 days per year in agriculture. In a plot of less than 1000 acre, a mere 400 people would get to do even this small amount of work per year.
Yet, with the automotive factory set up on 997 acres of land, more than 4000 people would be directly employed in one way or the other. They would earn between Rs 6,000 to Rs 7000 per month. Ancillary and downstream flow of enterprise would ensure many more thousands upon thousands of people making a gainful employment for themselves. The kisans were well-compensated for the land taken over. The rate of compensation amounts on an average is between Rs 8.5 lakh to Rs 11.75 lakh per kisan/landowner. Compensation is also given to khet mazdoors and bargadars as well.
Calling the opposition to industrialisation suicidal and counter-progressive, Benoy Konar reminded the opposition worthies that the Left had not remonstrated when townships and roads (as few as they were) had come up on agricultural land during Congress dispensations. Benoy Konar called for a stronger united movement to ensure and carry forth the industrialisation drive unleashed by the Left Front government in Singur, as elsewhere in Bengal.
In his address as president of the rally, Bengal LF chairman Biman Basu said that the four-lakh strong rally was evidence enough before the paltry opposition that the people of Singur stood by the Left Front government’s industrialisation efforts. Biman Basu cited statistics and said that Bengal had one of the highest rates of food production in the country compared to the area that it possessed. He cited these figures.
STATE POPULATION1 AREA Food crops lakh tonnes2
KARNATAKA 5,27,33,958 1,92,000 km² 108.17
ANDHRA PRADESH 6,65,08,008 2,75,068 km² 149.05
TAMILNADU 6,21,10,839 1,30,058 km² 071.46
BENGAL 7,40,50,000 88,752 km² 160.50
1Note: 2001 Census
2Note: 2004-2005, per year based
Biman Basu made a trenchant query of the Bengal opposition worthies as to why would they not look at the bigger picture while raising the bogey of ‘food security’ while seeking create obstacle on the path of industrialisation. Biman Basu also detailed out the compensation package being paid to the land owners including agricultural labourers and share-croppers. No other state, he pointed out, could boast of this kind of compensation package in case of land take over. Biman Basu also spoke in some details about the multifaceted way employment would be generated out of the automotive factory.
BENGAL LF SOLID IN UNITY
Casting aside all accusations by the opposition about ‘fissures in the Left Front’ over the industrialisation issue, Biman Basu said that the LF stood solid as a rock in uniting for supporting the Bengal LF government’s industrialisation drive. Biman Basu said that private investment was invited simply because of the reason that the LF government had to operate within financial restraints caused due to central government’s policies. The aim was to generate both development and employment.
Recalling that Hooghly had a strong heritage of kisan movement, Biman Basu urged upon the people of the district to ensure that the forces of disruption were never able to dislodge the process of industrialisation in Singur. He also asked the kisans to pitch innumerable camps around the area taken over for industrialisation at Singur to ensure that the disruptionist elements did not have any open run at violence and mayhem that they have started to speak about in threatening tones continuously of late.
Also addressing the rally were senior Left Front leaders. They included Binod Das (CPI-M), Naren De (FB), Nandagopal Bhattacharya (CPI), Kshiti Goswami (RSP), Kironmoy Nanda (SP), Pratim Chatterjee (FB-M), Prabodh Sinha (DSP), and Mihir Byne (RCPI). Every speaker spoke about the solid unity that the Left Front has achieved on the issue of industrialisation as on all other issues confronting the state.