Bhaskar Kanrar and Bubai Kanrar were no more than children when their parents and uncles began the movement against forcible land acquisition for the setting up of Tata Motors’ Nano factory in Singur.
Ten years later, with the Supreme Court verdict that went in favour of the protesting farmers, the two of them, now young men, are not sure any more whether the outcome will be of any benefit to them. “ Jomi te ki chaas kora jaabe ki jaabe na [will it be possible to cultivate the land or not],” they ask.
The Singur project, which lead to the downfall of the 34-year-old CPI(M)-led Left Front rule in 2011, was considered, at the time of inception, as the revival of industry in West Bengal.
However, the agitation carried out by 2,200 farmers led by Mamata Banerjee for the return of 400 acres of land (out of the project area of 1000 acres) forced Tata Motors to relocate to Sananda in Gujarat.
While Bhaskar and Bubai are saying that industry is essential for youth but land from farmers should not be taken forcibly, an elderly person passing by interjects “Ask them whether they will cultivate the land or rather go to the city to work in a factory.” His remark reveals the conflicting viewpoints among the people of Singur over the project.
Nearly a week after the judgment, as the euphoria over the verdict settles down, practical and procedural questions emerge for farmers in the region — the most important question being whether it would be possible to cultivate the land that is covered with concrete and other construction material.Historic victory
At Baraberi market in Singur, Ashok Kumar Manna, whose family owns eight bighas of land in the project-affected area, is convinced the land will not be cultivable again. “Concrete roads have been laid out, fly ash has been dumped on acres, how will it be possible to cultivate this land?” he asked.
Those who have been active in the movement, however, see the judgment as a major victory and are not bothered by such concerns.
“If we could wait for 10 years, why get impatient now?” asked Prosenjit Das, whose family owns four bighas. Farmers like Prosenjit Das and Mahadeb Das, who led the movement, said they spent 10 years of their life fighting land acquisition and keeping farmers united against the oppression. “More important than the return of land is the historic significance of our victory,” both Prosenjit and Mahadeb said.
There are also people who, in the past 10 years, completely changed their stand and are now convinced that industry is what they need.
Dwarik Ghosh runs a fast food stall in the local market. The eight bighas of land owned by his family was acquired for the project, and he himself had to spend three months in prison after protesting against the then Left Front's land-acquisition drive. “The loss of industry is a big setback for us, even a bigger setback for Bengal,” Mr. Ghosh said.
One of the issues which the ruling Trinamool party and its supporters are trying to grapple with is the resentment among “unwilling” farmers that the “willing” farmers who took compensation in 2006 will now be getting land back as well as per the apex court orders. “In 10 years the money would have doubled. They are the ones who benefited,” complained an “unwilling” farmer.
Bitter recriminations can also be heard over loudspeakers in the narrow lanes of Singur: “Some people make sacrifices during the movement, while others simply reap the benefits.”Mamata’s rally
Despite inclement weather work is going on at a rapid pace on the Tata Motors project site where modern equipment including harvesters and bulldozers are being used.
“We will have to give a report to Chief Minister when she arrives (Ms Banerjee is abroad),” Becharam Manna, MLA, who has been one of the leaders of land movement, said. Mr. Manna said that the target is to ensure plotting of about 100 acres (demarcating and identifying) of land every day.
Other than the slicing and dicing of the land, the administration is leaving no stone unturned to make the Chief Minister's September 14 rally a huge success.
The stage being set on the highway, where Ms. Banerjee is likely to give land records and cheques to “unwilling” farmers, will be like the July 21 Martyrs’ Day event when about 300 people could be accommodated on the dais itself. The dais will be set up at the same spot where Ms. Banerjee had started her protest against the Tata Motors plant in 2006.