Singur (West Bengal), Sept 18: After the initial euphoria over the Supreme Court judgment, Singur residents now seem uncertain about what the future holds for them after the land acquired earlier for Tata Motors’ no project is returned to them.
Dwellers of this rural hamlet in Hooghly district of West Bengal are experiencing both jubilation and despondency over the judicial verdict that struck down the acquisition of land effected by the erstwhile Left Front government for the project and ordered its return to the cultivators.
At the same time there is hectic activity centred on the return of land records to farmers.
A little over eight years back too, the area had seen hectic activities, but of a different kind.
The engine and paint shops, assembly unit and press shop were nearing completion, as the company eyed an October 2008 no rollout.
But ironically, the same month siglled the ‘death’ of the plant, as the then Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata announced shifting of the project out of Singur following an intense and often violent peasant movement led by the Trimool Congress of Mamata Banerjee.
On September 14, as Banerjee — now the state Chief Minister — presided over the ‘Singur Divas’ celebrations attended by over eight lakh people, the factory colours were surrounded by a long stretch of green paddy dotted with ‘kash’ flowers, a grass species that heralds the autuml Durga Puja festival.
Durga Puja is set to return to Singur after 10 years, with some villagers having earlier declared they would take part in the festival only after getting back their land.
A major gainer on the issue is Banerjee, her popularity now seemingly at an all-time high. She had staked her all during the Singur movement, spearheading the protests from 2006-08 as the main opposition leader in Bengal.
The Chief Minister was, however, careful not to sound anti-industry in a state that is high on unemployment and short on investment. Reiterating her government’s hands-off policy on land acquisition, Banerjee reached out to the Tatas and invited them to set up an auto hub in Goaltore in West Midpore district on a 1,000 acre plot owned by the state.
“Cultivation will neither be profitable nor feasible. Had there been industries, people’s purchasing power would have increased. With the return of Singur land, we’ll have to cater to a market where these farmers will come with a paltry budget,” said jewellery shop owner Sukumar Bhar.
Tapan Das of Bajemelia village agreed. “Many youths who joined the training programme under the Tatas in 2006 have moved to nearby cities like Kolkata and Durgapur for jobs and some are working in showrooms and authorised car service centres.”
“We are happy for getting back our land, but we do not know how much we can earn from small holdings even though the administration has promised to make the land cultivable,” farmer Dwijen Kharar of Gopalgar area said. (IANS)