People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 14, 2007
NANDIGRAM: ISSUES AND FACTS
THE violence and mayhem at Nandigram in Midnapore district of West Bengal for a few days beginning January 3 has some dangerous features that need to be noted. The accompanying note details the actual account of how these incidents occurred.
However, before noting these disturbing features, let us set the record straight on the issue of acquisition of agricultural land in Nandigram. The state government has not issued any notification for any acquisition of land in this area. Confusion was created by some information given by the Haldia Development Authority in this regard. This authority, in fact, has no authority on question of land acquisition. On this score, it is only the state government which has the authority under the Land Acquisition Act. Thus, unlike in Singur, no orders were served and no notice was issued in Nandigram. Any transgression by the Haldia Development Authority on this score must merit a proper examination by the state government.
Having said this, it needs to be once again underlined that the CPI(M) both at the all India level and in West Bengal has been insisting that any acquisition of land for industrialisation needs to be undertaken both in a transparent manner and in consultations with those who would be affected. We had articulated these views in these columns on recent occasions while highlighting the fact that the compensation package offered by the West Bengal government in Singur has been the most comprehensive, exemplary and the best compared to anywhere else in the country.
Notwithstanding this, an important feature of the recent developments in Nandigram points towards an attempt to chillingly recreate the violence and mayhem spearheaded by the Trinamool Congress in Keshpur and Garbeta some years ago. By terrorising villagers through the spread of murderous clashes, an attempt was sought to be made to gain public acceptance through terror. Similar attempts were made in Singur and, now, in Nandigram. Having been routed in the recent assembly elections, if these are the methods that the opponents of the Left Front in Bengal are going to adopt to stage a political comeback, then this constitutes a political onslaught against the Left Front government. As in the past, such a political onslaught would be met politically in order to advance the cause of the welfare of the people of Bengal.
A second feature is the fact that the ground level mobilisation at Nandigram has attracted, indeed, the strangest of political bedfellows. From the BJP to the Jamaat, the Congress led by the Trinamool and a motley crowd of ultra-Left groups of all varieties have all converged alongwith many an NGO. The only issue that can bind such a combination is a political anti-CPI(M), anti-Left predisposition.
Thirdly, many of these political parties who are now expressing their so-called concern for the farmers are the very same ones who champion and adopt policies of economic liberalisation that apart from everything else is responsible for acute agrarian distress that our country is facing. The Trinamool Congress served in the NDA government led by the BJP which presided over the implementation of such anti-people policies. The Congress today heads the UPA coalition which is reluctant to implement its own promises in the Common Minimum Programme related to improving the lot of agriculture and two-thirds of India that lived off it. It is this very UPA government which is yet to accept the changes suggested by the CPI(M) to protect the farmers and agricultural land from being indiscriminately acquired under the new SEZ law. Yet, in Bengal, they all unite! Further, these were the very parties that vehemently opposed the land reforms and Operation Barga launched by the CPI(M)-led Left Front government. Yet, today, they claim to be espousing the interests of the farmers. Clearly, this anti-CPI(M) unity emerges not on any principles or policies. It is political expediency at its worst.
The bedrock of the Left Front government’s success in West Bengal has been the implementation of land reforms and the legal recording of the sharecroppers. While this has produced the desired results of increased productivity and agricultural output, the future improvement in the living standards of the people in Bengal is critically dependent on an accelerated pace of industrialisation and consequent generation of employment. Surely, the CPI(M) given its commitment and performance cannot allow this process of industrialisation to take place in such a way as to erode the gains made by land reforms. On the contrary, Bengal’s future economic development can only be based on the foundations of its past successes. A right balance needs to be struck and this is what the CPI(M) and the Left Front is seeking to do in consultations with the grassroot level institutions like the panchayats and the affected people in a transparent manner.
As noted earlier, with regard to the Singur developments, the number of people who were given compensation was around 12,000 for a land area of less than 1000 acres. Even if we were to separate the landowners from the sharecroppers and other non-land owners who received compensation then there were at least, on an average, 10 owners in one acre of land. Clearly, in reality, some of these would club their land to be tilled and harvested by a few while others would be seeking to augment their incomes for survival outside of agriculture. Under these circumstances, a handsome compensation package alongwith free training and imparting of skills for a guaranteed future employment and livelihood would give them a better quality of life. It is precisely this that the CPI(M) led Left Front government in Bengal is seeking to do. And, it is for this precise reason that it is not in favour of allowing the industrialists to directly negotiate with the farmers for acquiring land. Experience has shown that under such circumstances, the farmers are least protected and vulnerable to the pressures of the unscrupulous middlemen and the mafia that are often employed to alienate the farmer from his land. Further, under such circumstances, there is no scope for a guaranteed alternative livelihood. A pro-people government like the Left Front government in Bengal needs to intervene to ensure that the welfare of the people dependent on such lands is not undermined.
Such being the case, the CPI(M)-led Left Front government’s efforts to enhance the prosperity of the people in Bengal will necessarily have to be based on a transparent manner of land acquisition for industrialisation in consultation with those affected. If there is a need for fine tuning on this score, that needs to be undertaken, while the political onslaught launched by the anti-Communist and anti-Left forces must be squarely met. There are many political signboards in Bengal who thrive by propagating that no industrialisation is possible under the Left Front rule. The Congress, the Trinamool, the BJP –– have all used this as an important plank for their political survival. If, however, industrialisation is proceeding apace under the Left Front, the shops of many of these parties may well loose their business!