It seems ironical that almost to the day, a year after the Singur Land and Rehabilitation Bill, 2011, became an Act, a court verdict found it to be unconstitutional and void, bereft of a Presidential assent.
Led by Mamata Banerjee, the Singur agitation against alleged forcible acquisition of land for the Tata’s small car project, launched in 2006, has almost become a template for protest against land acquisition.
It started when, in May 2006, the then Buddhadeb Bhattacharyya Government announced the Tatas’ intent to locate their ``Rs.1 lakh car’’ project at Singur for which 997 acres would be acquired. The site was on a highway, 45 km from here. A state industry promotion agency would acquire the land for the Tatas.
Even as the acquisition started and farmers began taking their compensation cheques, a protest started gathering storm as Ms. Banerjee, then an MP, stepped in spearheading an agitation which turned violent.
Amid chaos, and prohibitory orders, construction was completed as major auto component vendors, too, joined in the iconic small car project. However, the agitation had also gathered momentum by then.
By 2008, after unveiling the car, the Tatas got restive to fast-track the stalled onsite-activity. Around that time, Ms. Banerjee started saying that while her party was not anti-industry, 400 acres, comprising area belonging to ‘unwilling farmers’, should be returned. Hectic parleys failed to resolve the impasse, and finally, in October, 2008, Ratan Tata announced his decision to withdraw the project, citing security concerns.
It is now history how this one decision from a respected industry house such as the Tatas brought down the curtains on the state’s industrialisation efforts. On her first day in office, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced her intent to return the land to the “unwilling Singur farmers” following it up with a hasty drafting of the Singur Land and Rehabilitation Bill, 2011. It also moved in to vest part of the land, distributing land-return forms (of which there seem to be few takers) even as the Tatas moved the court to protect their interest on their leasehold.
The verdict has gone against the Mamata Banerjee Government and belying her initial brave-face reactions at the State Legislative Assembly, a modicum of despondency was evident in her Facebook post. Aside from the Opposition camp, there is little joy. The mood is more of resignation.