We should be sensitive to land losers: Gopalkrishna Gandhi

September 24th, 2008 - 6:50 pm ICT by IANS  

SensexKolkata, Sep 24 (IANS) West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi Wednesday stressed the need for a “sensitive” approach to those who lose land to industrial projects, at a time when land acquisition for the Tata’s small car project in Singur has run into severe problems.”We have to be sensitive to the responses of those who lose land and livelihood to projects for industry, housing and infrastructure, knowing that industry needs space,” Gandhi said here at the inaugural session of a seminar, “Second Green Revolution Summit and Expo”.

Gandhi underlined the importance of land to farmers. “Land is limited, land is precious, land holds a special value to farmers and their families. It is not an impersonal, dematerialised share certificate that you buy and sell with every swing of the Sensex.”

He found an alternative to compulsory land acquisition in farmers’ cooperatives.

“Empirical evidence has shown that options other than compulsory land acquisition are possible. Farmers’ cooperatives have their own SEZ (special economic zone) and industrial estate successfully in Maharashtra,” Gandhi said at the seminar organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce and the state government.

“The cooperative movements in Gujarat and Maharashtra holds an example of what can be done when small farmers pull their resources together. In our own state, Burdwan and Hooghly districts have some excellent cooperatives which do not depend on government equity at all and have played a sterling role in developing the agriculture of their area,” he said.

Gandhi, who had mediated in the talks between the state government and the opposition, on the land impasse in Hooghly district’s Singur area for the Tata Nano project, said the way in which agriculture and industry are seen juxtaposed is not right.

“There is scope for both. The first imperative therefore is that of a dialogue, not when a crisis hangs overhead, but well in advance”.

“We should be one step ahead, rather than being several steps behind for dialogue,” he said.

Gandhi’s comments come in the backdrop of the unrest in the state over the Tata small car project that saw a section of farmers led by the opposition Trinamool Congress launch a sustained campaign against what they called ‘forcible’ acquisition of multi-crop land.

The movement grew in intensity and the protesters laid siege to the plant in Singur from Aug 24, forcing the company to suspend operations.

The government and the opposition then scurried to the discussion table at the behest of the governor, but the agreement that came out of the talks has failed to resolve the stalemate.

With both the state government and the opposition hardening their stand on the issue, there has been speculation that Tata Motors might shift out of the state.

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