People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 40

October 12, 2008


Singur: The Latest Developments

Nirupam Sen

THE people of the country, of Bengal, and of Singur may legitimately pose the question as to what made the Tata group wind up the small car project at Singur when more than 85 per cent of work has been completed.

A run of devastation called an ‘agitation,’ has had a temporary triumph. It has wounded both the prospects of industrial investment in the state and the process of industrialisation. Again, we call this a temporary phenomenon. The majority of the people of the state – indeed, an overwhelming majority – had wanted from the core of their heart that the Singur project must become a reality.

Following the meeting that Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and I had with Ratan Tata, the expectation of the people has perhaps touched rock-bottom. Only history will tell in the months and years to come what would the losses entail to no less than eight crore of men and women of the state.

At the end of the meeting on October 3, 2008 Tata addressed the media and announced that the small car project would now be shifted away from Singur because ‘there is no there alternative,’ now more than ever, what with the clear ‘responsibility devolving on the so-called ‘agitation’ of the Trinamul Congress.’ The project to which the people of the state had looked with so much of fond expectation for a period of two-and-a-half years saw the shutters come down at last.

The people of the state would not be witness to the turning back of the wheel of history – the people of Bengal know how to face contingencies of whatever kind. The project, it is now clear has been shifted away from Singur simply and only because of destructive, irresponsible acts of violence by the main opposition party in Bengal and some its cohort outfits. The vast majority of the people of Singur, indeed of Bengal, do not support in any manner the pattern of behaviour of these political outfits. They wanted the project to see the light of the day. They stood to lose out the most. The extent of loss will be something that will be felt in full measure in the days ahead.

However, we have not an iota of doubt in our hearts-and-minds that the negative ‘agitationsists’ movement shall be met politically. People must come forward. The campaign-movement that would soon unfurl across the state and in the country must be conducted amidst the people, with the people.

The event has harmed the prospects of industrialisation. It has also left bleeding in its wake the prospects of industrial investment in the state. Hurt shall be felt amongst the younger generation more because for them the Singur project was a beacon of hope. Nevertheless, not all this shall ever signify that the industrialists concerned with ongoing and future projects shall all go away from this state. The process of industrialisation in Bengal on a sound and expanding agrarian base is important and emergent. We shall have to traverse along this path.

Let me say that we do not support the decision that the Tata’s have chosen to take. Yet, we are aware that there is a timeframe fixed for the production of the small car. Things were already running behind schedule because of various factors. Tata’s have clearly pointed out that they do want production to go on under police protection. They wanted a peaceful ambience. They looked to safety and security for the guards they had employed. These expectations were quite in the order of things. The state government had made ample arrangements to look after security.

However, the state government, at the same time, did not want any happenings to take place that would open the portals for violent deeds to take place. The opposition wanted exactly this to happen: let blood be shed. And then they would utilise it shamelessly to widen their kind of politics. The state government would not afford them this heinous opportunity.

The opposition had promised that their agitation would remain peaceful. They did not keep the pledge. Some may view the patience exhibited by the state government while dealing with this so-called agitation as weakness. But our principle was that we did not want to have any unpleasant incident on our hands. Those who created the violence that wrote finish to the Singur project for the time being should do a bit of soul-searching to seek how much of good their deeds have done to the people of Bengal.

On the issue of returning the acquired land, we hold that there is no such proviso in the Indian Constitution. The present owner of the land is the state government. There is no legal proviso by which one can return the land to the farmers or to the previous owners. There is really no need now more than ever to enter into any dialogue with the opposition any longer. The court of law shall hold onto the cheques of those who had not accepted them for whatever reason.

If somebody asks of us that we should have entered into discussion with the opposition earlier, our counter-query would be what timeframe are we talking about? Can anyone name just a single project where the principal opposition party has come forward on to the table for discussion? Their politics is that they will never allow any good to happen to Bengal. The picture is the same whether the project is a road project or a project for generation of electricity.

We are right amidst the festival season and this is the time when we are faced with a sad and tragic event. The youth must be bitterly disappointed. We could not think that the main opposition party would play at such sectarian, such destructive politics. It is their role, let no one be mistaken, that has prevented the Singur project from becoming viable and vibrant.