Mamata threatens to lay siege to Tata Motors plant (Lead)

August 3rd, 2008 - 11:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Aug 3 (IANS) Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee Sunday threatened to lay a siege to the Tata Motors factory in Singur for an indefinite period from Aug 24 to force the West Bengal government to return 400 acres of land “forcibly” acquired from farmers. “The agitation will be spearheaded by the Krishi Jami Jiban Jeebika Raksha Committee (Save Farmland, Life and Livelihood Committee), an umbrella organisation of parties in our front,” Banerjee told reporters here after a meeting with committee partners.

“We will set up separate camps encircling the Tata project site from Aug 24. Several camps of different political parties will be set up covering four kilometres of area around the Tata Motors factory,” she said.

She had earlier announced the agitation would begin from Aug 20, but said the programme was deferred by four days in view of a shutdown called by the Leftist trade unions.

Striking a strident posture, Banerjee said: “I asked all our workers and supporters to carry all their utensils and all articles of daily use with them. It will be their home till the demand for returning land to the unwilling farmers is met.”

“The Singur movement has not come to an end. But ours will be a democratic movement and we will not go inside the Tata project site during the demonstration,” she said.

Banerjee also announced that state-level leaders of her party would go to Singur on Aug 9, the day the ‘Quit India’ movement was launched against the British rule in 1942. “We will start a movement against the government’s wrong industrial policy. I will go to Haldia. Other leaders will go to Singur.”

Meanwhile, protests against Tata Motors’ small car project at Singur continued as the Congress blocked roads and a Trinamool Congress-supported group took out a big rally in the town.

Demanding that the state government and the company return 400 acres to farmers, around 1,000 rallyists covered a two-km stretch of Singur, an affluent rural belt of Hooghly district, raising slogans against the state’s Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front government.

“We are not against industrialisation. We just don’t want industries to come up on fertile land. We want factories on infertile land, low lands and unutilised lands of closed down factories,” Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee (Singur Save Farmland Committee) convenor Becharam Manna told reporters.

Referring to Tata Motors managing director Ravi Kant’s remarks that the company would continue in Singur, 40 km from here, as long as its patience did not wear off, Manna said: “The LF government is responsible for investors backing out.”

Manna said had the government not given fertile land to Tata Motors, the situation would not have taken a turn for the worse.

Congress activists led by assembly member Abdul Mannan set up road blocks at various spots of the busy Durgapur Expressway, affecting vehicular movement.

Security has been beefed up in Singur after the committee stepped up its agitation since July 27 and ordered workers at the factory who come from outside Singur not to report for duty.

The situation worsened when an engineer of the construction firm Shapoorji Pallonji was roughed up by women protesters Tuesday night.

A day later, Ravi Kant said in Mumbai there were “elements” trying to create tension, and conceded the situation had turned bad in Singur.

On Friday, peasants clashed with the police after a handful of locals tried to break the factory wall with shovels. Two security men were also beaten up, but no police complaint has been lodged so far.

Committee members squatted on the railway tracks Saturday, detaining several mail and express trains.

Following resentment among a substantial section of peasants from whom the state government has acquired the lands for the project, the committee along with the civil society has spearheaded an agitation since mid-2006 against setting up of the plant.

The government acquired 997.11 acres, triggering protests across the three panchayats - Gopalnagar, KGD (Kamarkundu, Gopalnagar, Doluigachcha) and Beraberi - that comprise the project area.

The Singur factory is working on manufacturing Nano, universally hailed as a feat in automobile engineering and expected to be the world’s cheapest car costing just Rs.100,000 (less than $2,500).

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