Immediately after the last assembly election, Govt of West Bengal embarked upon a path of industrialization as before as the manifesto of the Left Front for the last election clearly spelt out the need for the same. Let us look at the following indicators to comprehend the gravity of the problem at Singur and Nandigram :
1.Though West Bengal occupies around 3% of the total landmass of the country and 2.5% of the total agricultural land, it has around 8% of total population of the country indicating a tremendous pressure on the existing land.
2.The infertile/ barren land in West Bengal is only 0.5% compared to nearly 17% of the national average.
3. However, due to rapid land reforms in the State undertaken by the Left Front Govt., 78.78% of total land in West Bengal are cultivated by the marginal (less than 2.5 acres) and small farmers (between 2.5 acres to 5 acres). In West Bengal the total land measuring more than 10 hectares is only 0.05%. Whereas, for the whole country, such big farmers continue to hold around 17.3% of total agricultural land and the poor marginal farmers hold only around 15.1% of total agricultural land.
4. 20% of total land redistributed in the country is in West Bengal, though it has only 2.5% of total agricultural land.
5.The total no. of poor people benefited from the programme of land reforms in West Bengal is 2.5 crore, more than 30% of the state’s population.
6. As a logical corollary, according to even latest NSSO report, West Bengal crowns the glory of highest reduction in poverty among the 17 major states in the country in the post- independence period, especially in the decade from 1983 to 1993-94. Overall poverty ratio got reduced from 53.60% in 1983 to 33.45% in 1993-94 i.e. a reduction of 20.15%. The rural West Bengal saw drastic reduction in the same period from 61.56% to 37.35% i.e. a reduction of 24.21%, which too was highest in India. Even in the decade of reforms, from 1993-94 to 2004-05, West Bengal’s reduction of rural poverty is among the highest. It reduced it by around 9% to reach at 28.49% in 2004-05. The overall poverty ratio in the State stood at 25.67% in 2004-05 from 53.60% in 1983. (Ref. “Poverty And Inequality: All-India and States, 1983-2005”, S. Mahendra Dev, C. Ravi, EPW, February 10, 2007)
7. Because of this impeccable track record in land reforms, West Bengal now tops the production of rice, vegetables, fish, and ranks second in production of potato in the country. It occupies the position among the first three states in production of mango, litchi, coconut, flower.
8.The successful land reforms have been able to generate an additional income of Rs. 13,000 crore per annum in West Bengal in the rural area which find its way into the market to purchase industrial goods. So, the most needed demand stimuli for industrialization in West Bengal come from within.
9.However, the West Bengal agriculture is not without problems. The sectoral GDP contributed by Agriculture is only 24%( 2004-05), the industry contributed 19% and services 57%. Whereas, the population engaged in agriculture in West Bengal is 63%, industry holds 17% and services 20% of the population. This indicates the existence of massive disguised unemployment in Agriculture like the rest of the country.
10.In this backdrop, the percentage of rural income generated by the non-farm sector in the state is 1/3rd of the total rural income.
11. Agriculturists in West Bengal used 14.10 lakh metric ton of fertilizers in the last year alone. The no. of operating pump sets used mainly for micro irrigation in the state is more than 6 lakh. These two indicators are sufficient to justify the need for development of such industry within the state.
12. So, drive for industrialization is a must in the above backdrop to extricate the massive surplus labour force from Agriculture.
13. In this backdrop, the need for employment generating manufacturing industry is rightly emphasized. This is also important from the perspective of development of working class movement too as the no. of factory workers in West Bengal dwindled from 9.5 lakh in 1980 to 4.28 lakh in 2002.
14.In this backdrop, the 7th Left Front Govt. immediately after coming to power, decided to sign the MOU with the Tatas to start the work on TATA SMALL CAR project at Singur, Hooghly.
15.For this in the five mouzas of Singur, a total land area measuring 997 acre was taken over by the State paying a compensation of even more than Rs. 12 lakh per acre of land that is so far the highest such compensation paid in the country. Even unregistered sharecroppers and tenant cultivators are brought within the ambit of such compensation that is unique in the whole country.
16.Though according to “National Automotive Testing, Research and Development of Infrastructure Project (NATRIP)” of the Department of Heavy Industry, Govt. of India, minimum area required for such project to produce 3 lakh car per year is 1400 acre, Govt. of West Bengal could convince the Tatas to settle for 997 acre for the Singur project. Tatas similar car factory operating in Pune, Maharashtra occupies much greater land for operation.
17.A detailed compensation package for the socio-economic upliftment in the project area is announced by the State Govt. that encompasses training, employment, organisation of SHGs etc. Already, a total no. of 322 inhabitants of the area is trained up, with training going on for another 452 inhabitants and finalisation of training schedule for another 605. The total makes an impressive list of 1379 persons trained or to be trained for employment so far considering the number of persons whose land was taken over being 2851 including a component of 576 landless labourers.
18. A total of 2.5 lakh man-days have already been created at Singur as a result of carrying out of constuction and other work at Singur.
19. Central Govt. selected Nandigram block in East Midnapore district for the proposed “Chemical Hub” considering its proximity to Haldia Port. Indian Oil Corporation, a Public Sector Navaratna Company, was selected as the principal promoter for the project.
20.A chemical hub means production of no. of petro-chemical byproducts in a single contiguous area. These are butadiene meant for rubber industry, polyester for development of textile industry and other chemicals meant for development of Pharmaceutical industry as the state of West Bengal had no base of this very important modern industry.
21. The State Govt. never announced officially to take over land forcibly at Nandigram.
22. But the rainbow coalition of all hues organized under the banner of “Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee” led by the Trinamool Congress, the principal opposition party in West Bengal with only 30 MLAs in the State Assembly in a house of 294 and having only 1 MP out of 42 in the state, decided to carry out armed resistance since the beginning by spreading wide-spread canards about forcible land acquisition at Nandigram.
23. Violent agitation started at Nandigram from 03 January 2007 when the Kalicharanpur village was about to be declared as the “Nirmal Gram” by the Central Govt. in recognition of its impeccable track record for development of hygienic sanitation. The above rainbow coalition spread the canard that the govt. officials came to forcibly occupy govt. land that was a white lie. They torched no. of govt vehicles including beating the govt. officials.
24.In the ensuing violence that continued throughout January, February and March 2007 no. of left party cadres and leaders were killed including an elected Pradhan of a Village Panchayat and a Police Officer who went to perform his normal official duty.
25.Thereafter thousands of left workers and leaders were driven out of their respective homes from Nandigram. Even today thousands of them are living in makeshift tents at the neighbouring Khejuri Block and are subject to daily brutal attacks, harassment, collection of ransom by armed goons of the rainbow coalition. No. of women were raped and even murdered with needle of suspicion being pointed to Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Samiti, as they prevented the Police to carry out normal investigation.
26.In order to clear the misgivings and canards, the State Govt. announced again on 11 March 2007 that no land would be taken over at Nandigram and the Govt. abandoned its plan to locate the proposed Chemical Hub at Nandigram.
27.The govt. authority, after due consultations with all political parties in the area wherein all agreed for govt. and police intervention for restoration of peace, wanted to enter the area for the sake of restoring law and order situation in the area that saw absolute lawlessness since January 2007.
28.But unfortunately the members of the local rainbow coalition decided to confront the Police Force with arms putting the women and children in the forefront. In the ensuing uncalled for Police Firing and internecine clashes on 14 March 2007 14 people met with most unfortunate deaths.
29. Since then despite repeated govt efforts to restore peace including the efforts initiated by the legendary statesman, Com. Jyoti Basu, the rainbow coalition led by the principal opposition party in the state is out to destabilize peaceful atmosphere in the state. They are openly advocating armed resistance that is dangerous for the future of democracy and working class movement in the state.
30.The hands down defeat of this rainbow coalition in the recently held Panchayat by-elections and elections to the Municipalities except Panskura once again points out to People’s growing disillusionment with this brand of violent politics of those who paradoxically swear in the name of Gandhiji, the proponent of non-violent struggle.
PREPARED BY RANA MITRA ON APRIL,2007