Trinamool-led farmers block trains in West Bengal

August 2nd, 2008 - 9:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Aug 2 (IANS) The New Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani Express and other trains were detained as farmers led by the Trinamool Congress set up a rail blockade Saturday demanding the West Bengal government and Tata Motors return the 400 acres acquired in Singur for the Nano small car project. Police said a group of slogan-shouting protesters owing allegiance to the Trinamool-backed Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee - SKJRC (Singur Anti-farmland Acquisition Committee) squatted on the tracks at the Dhaniakhali station on Eastern Railway’s Howrah-Burdwan section for the major part of the day, disrupting train movements.

The Howrah-bound Rajdhani Express had to be detained at the Gudap station for 40 minutes, police said. The Benaras-Howrah Bibhuti Express was also among the trains detained due to the agitation, which was also organised against the decrease in the support price of potatoes.

Meanwhile, SKJRC convenor Becharam Manna claimed that more than 500 workers engaged in the construction of the small car factory had left their jobs.

However, a Tata Motors spokesman said: “Not a single employee of our company has quit. As for the contractors’ employees, they are casual labourers who come and go.”

The spokesman said the project was on schedule. “Our programme is to complete the factory in time for starting production in the October-December quarter. We are working towards that,” he told IANS over the telephone.

In a bid to jump onto the Singur bandwagon, the West Bengal unit of the Congress announced Saturday it would block the Durgapur Expressway at Khaserbheri village near the project site Sunday.

The SKJRC has also decided to take out a mahamichil, or grand procession, in Singur Sunday.

Singur, 40 kilometres from here, flared up again a week ago with the SKJRC stepping up the agitation and ordering workers at the factory who come from elsewhere not to report for duty.

The agitation took a turn for the worse when an engineer of the construction firm Shapoorji Pallonji was roughed up by women protesters Tuesday night.

A day later, Tata Motors managing director Ravi Kant said in Mumbai there were “elements” trying to create tension, and conceded the situation had taken a turn for the worse in Singur. “We are continuing (in Singur) as long as our patience lasts,” he added.

On Saturday, farmers clashed with the police after a handful of locals tried to demolish the factory’s wall with shovels.

Two security men were also beaten up, but no complaint has been lodged.

Following the resentment among a substantial section of farmers from whom the state government acquired land for the project, the SKJRC, along with civil society members, has spearheaded a violent agitation for the past two years against the establishment 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 plant will prouce the Nano, universally hailed as a feat of automobile engineering and which is the world’s cheapest car at Rs.100,000 ($2,500).

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