Farmers jubilant, but Mamata government has long haul aheadJune 27th, 2011 - 12:37 pm ICT by IANS
Kolkata, June 27 (IANS) Mahadeb Das is elated. Having spearheaded the Trinamool Congress’ agitation against land acquisition for Tata Motors’ small carmaker plant in Singur, he is now counting the days when he will get back the nine bighas (0.3306 acre) of family farmland allegedly taken against his will by West Bengal’s erstwhile Left Front regime.
Not only Das, about 2,000 other farmers of Singur in Hooghly district are exuberant at the prospect of getting their land back, as the Mamata Banerjee government stepped up the process of returning 400 acres to the “unwilling” farmers by handing over printed forms for applying for return of their land acquired five years ago.
Das and other unwilling farmers of Singur are riding high on the hope of reaping the fruits of the new government’s seeming determination to keep the pre-assembly poll pledge of returning 400 acres. Meanwhile, the automobile major has gone to court challenging the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act recently passed in the assembly to return the land.
Not only the farmers, even leading economist Abhirup Sarkar sounded happy. “What we are seeing now is something historic. This has not happened anywhere in India earlier. So long land has only been taken from farmers. But this is the first time that the process has been reversed.
“Mamata Banerjee’s successful agitation in Singur has changed the way land was acquired so far. The landowners are now much more conscious of their rights. Her decision to return land will also have historic ramifications,” the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) professor told IANS.
Coupled with the draft land use policy which decrees that henceforth private entrepreneurs will have to buy land on their own with the government virtually playing no role, Banerjee is now being hailed for her pro-farmer stance, only a month into office.
But for a state with a 92 million population - the fourth most populated state in the country - and high on unemployment with about 6.4 million people registered in the employment exchanges as per last year’s data, can such moves be called good economics apart from good politics?
Sarkar sees no such conflict. “Poor people have been tortured so long in the name of industrialisation. Priority has to be given on employment generation. That’s fine. But why should the government use its own resources to get land for the industrialists?
“An entrepreneur buys raw material from the market, he raises capital from the market, then what is so special about land?”
Fellow economist Dipankar Dasgupta concedes the land issue could cause problems, but says industry has to find its solution.
“For setting up a big project an industrialist may have to deal with a very large number of landowners. That can create problems. But industry will have to solve that for itself.”
As for job generation, Dasgupta feels unlike the earlier Left Front regime, the incumbent Trinamool Congress-Congress government would not focus on big industries now.
“I think they are trying to attract small and medium enterprises, like agro-based industries. Tourism seems to be another thrust area where small entrepreneurs can pump in small amounts,” Dasgupta, who also teaches at the ISI, told IANS.
“They would try to build the much-needed infrastructure like roads, which itself would ensure employment in the short term. Then they need to improve drinking water facilities and set up primary schools and hospitals.
“In the prevailing condition, big industries will not come to districts like Purulia and Bankura which are agriculturally backward. If they can put in place a better infrastructure over the next two-three years, then there is a possibility of big industries feeling attracted.”
But with the present rulers saying time and again that they have inherited a bankrupt economy with the accumulated debt at the end of the last financial year standing at Rs.1.92 lakh crore, from where will the resources come?
Dasgupta exuded confidence that the central government would help the state in infrastructural projects.
Concurring with Dasgupta, Sarkar stressed the importance of medium and small enterprises, as they were more labour intensive than the big corporates. “Moreover, central public undertakings will also come in a big way with big projects. Gas Authority of India Limited has already given proposals.
“Then other central government departments, especially the Railways, are likely to play a big role. Sixteen railway factories have already been announced for the state. And if these factories do come up, then they will generate employment. Moreover, the ancillary industries will also develop”.
“But apart from the central government undertakings, some private big industries will also be needed for ancillaries. The survival of the small and medium enterprises on their own is difficult,” Sarkar added.
(Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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- Court scraps Singur land law, Mamata suffers setback (Second Lead) - Jun 22, 2012
- Court extends stay on Singur land return - Nov 03, 2011
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- Parties scramble to capture Singur turf (West Bengal Newsletter) - Jun 30, 2012
- Mamata's land bank idea, industry cautious - Jun 10, 2011
- Mamata favours railways, SAIL tie-up in Singur - Oct 29, 2011
- Mamata plans factory on 600 acres of Singur land - May 28, 2012
- Monthly allowance to Singur's unwilling farmers doubled - Jun 27, 2012
- Pranab supports Mamata on Singur land bill - Jun 11, 2011
- Mamata thanks people for moral support on Singur - Jun 23, 2012
- Singur land failure a disappointment: Mamata - May 19, 2012
- Mamata government reactivates Singur movement panel - Jun 23, 2012
- Singur farmers disappointed but still hopeful - Jun 22, 2012
- Singur despairs at promises undone (One year of Mamata Banerjee) - May 13, 2012
Tags: assembly poll, congress agitation, coun, erstwhile, farmers, farmland, indian statistical institute, isi, land acquisition, land rehabilitation, landowners, mamata banerjee, printed forms, private entrepreneurs, pro farmer, ramifications, singur, tata motors, trinamool congress, west bengal