Sunday, October 26, 2008

Singur Package---- Balancing Industry and Agriculture

by Nilotpal Basu

Singur and West Bengal has come back to hog the headlines in the mainstream media once again; and, of course, for all the wrong reasons. The irresistible leader of Trinamool Congress Ms. Mamta Banerjee in her crusade against the Nano Auto Project of the Tatas had created a situation where the very future of the project has come to be threatened. Why this controversy? Ms. Banerjee's extremely disparate array of political groupings – from various hues of naxalites, SUCI and a small group of expelled CPI(M) functionaries and anti-industry environmentalists and foreign-funded NGOs of Medha Patkar variety – of course, under the redoubtable leadership of Ms. Banerjee – have asked for return of land acquired by the government of West Bengal for the project.
That such a demand has no factual or legal backing is a different proposition altogether. The demand for returning 400 acres of land out of the 1000 acres in itself is inexplicable. Because, though the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 does not provide for the acceptance of the land owners, the West Bengal government – given its political orientation had in course of the acquisition process asked the people for their opinion. And, 80 per cent of the people had actually not only given their consent but also accepted the cheques for compensation involving about 70 per cent of the land. Actually, land for which cheques have not been taken because of unwillingness amounts to only one-fourth of the project area. In terms of numbers, about 9,000 people of the 11,000 odd who were supposed to collect cheques have done so.
Therefore, it is clear that despite there being no legal requirement, overwhelming majority of the land losers in Singur are in favour of the car plant. But the issue is not one of legality. That there can be no defence for the archaic 1894 Act is a foregone conclusion. But so long as the law is not replaced by the Parliament enshrining the rights of those whose land will be acquired with pronounced emphasis on rehabilitation and alternative livelihood security in the statutes– state governments have no other alternative but to acquire land on the basis of the current law. But despite that, there can be an alternative approach marked with compassion and sensitivity. With the Singur land acquisition that is precisely what has happened. The Singur rehabilitation package saw for the first time an attempt to provide compensation not merely in financial terms.
The original package took into account prevailing market rates for calculating the compensation with an additional premium. But the unique feature was the inclusion of both recorded and unrecorded sharecroppers who did not have any proprietary rights on the land. They were offered 25 per cent of the amount that was offered to the landowners. Not only that, the state government also undertook a major training programme to upgrade skill of people – mostly young people – from the displaced families to enable them for possible employment both direct and indirect. The other component of the package included formation of cooperatives, syndicates and self help groups, which were involved in the construction phase and providing services. But even such a package did not satisfy the opposition. In spite of repeated appeals of the state government, Ms. Banerjee-led opposition was not keen on discussing the contentious issues and concerns of those who were not supportive of the project. Instead, there was a dharna which ultimately turned out to be a period of severe disruption with the project area being blockaded despite an assurance to the contrary.
The dharna also spilled over to the adjoining national highway creating a massive traffic disruption for over a week where even essential drugs and food supply was threatened. It is this disruption which has been widely reported in the mainstream media. And, it is this which led the Tatas to declare suspension of work since their executives and workers were being threatened and physically harmed. The Nano for reasons of its abnormally low price is being seen not only as a `wonder' car in the country but also has raised curiosity in different parts of the world. Naturally, the disruption and the threat of an eventual abandoning of the project in Singur drew widespread public attention. Normally, one would have expected a bloody confrontation between the government and the opposition. But in spite of the gravest provocation, the government held back despite the fact that their position had been earlier endorsed by judicial scrutiny by a division bench. Because, the government's point was to demonstrate that it was not against the peasantry as had been sought to be made out by the opposition and the anti-Left corporate media. So while remaining firm to have the car project implemented in the interests of employment generation, the government was always prepared to go the extra mile to further address the requirements of rehabilitation and alternative livelihood creation for the project-affected. Could it have been otherwise?
The West Bengal government is the only state government which continues with land redistribution for the landless when the semblance of even tokenism of the programme has come to a standstill in all other parts of the country. In the last three years, 10,000 acres each have been redistributed every year. Consistent with that approach, even though the opposition refused to accept a negotiated settlement and was evidently trying to undermine the integrated nature of the automobile plant together with the ancillary units by demanding return of land which would undermine the project as such and the agreement of the state government with the investor – the government even after the Governor facilitated talks failed, have come out with an additional rehabilitation package. The highlight of the package is return of some land from within the project area together with an enhancement of the compensation amount as well as specific provision for agricultural workers and sharecroppers.
Added to this is the offer of assured employment for one from every family of the land losers. Going beyond the specificities of Singur, the developments in Bengal are actually bringing the focus of discourse on how to balance the interests of agriculture and industry. In situations where for building industry the necessity of converting agricultural land becomes inevitable, facts must speak for themselves. The displaced must be convinced at the end of the day that it is going to result in an improved alternative livelihood and not marginalization. The current initiative is indeed pointing towards such a course of development.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Who Prevented The Singur Project From Being Implemented?


THE exercise of setting up Tata Motors’ small car project in West Bengal began on May 12, 2006 when the Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Tata group chairman Ratan Tata met at the Writers’ Buildings. Based on those discussions, on May 18 in the presence of the Bengal chief minister and the industries minister Nirupam Sen, Tata announced that they are ready to invest in the automobile sector at Singur for producing their rupee one lakh small car, Nano.

It was also spelt out that in the main complex, directly 2000 people would be employed. However, in the adjacent ancillary industries, the employment would go up to 10,000. These figures exclude the people who will avail themselves of the benefits through setting up of shops, bazaars, lodges, and accrue other social benefits out of the social activities in and around Singur.

Based on the discussions with the Tata Motors, the government of West Bengal initiated the preliminary preparations to go for the small car project unit at Singur in Hooghly district. Accordingly, the government started the acquisition of land at Singur and this move was supported by a big rally of peasants. The slogan given by the peasantry of Singur was ‘we want industry to be set up at Singur.’


In the month of October the same year, the state government called an all-party meeting to identify the land for acquisition purposes and to prepare a land map for the factory. The TMC boycotted the meeting and gave a call for a 12-hour bandh. It is found that after the visit of West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) officials, the TMC gave another call for bandh against the setting up of the industry at Singur. The government started simultaneously training the young men and women of the peasants’ families of Singur to provide future employment to them at the proposed factory.

However, this was not liked by the TMC. They started assaulting the peasant families of the area. A few days after the incidents when the government declared Section 144 in the area, and did not allow the TMC chief to go there to create vandalism in the villages, she returned to the West Bengal assembly, which was, then in session. She, not being a member of the assembly, came inside the assembly, called upon the TMC legislators and shouted out a wrong version of the incident with concoctions and lies aplenty. And then she gave a reckless call for wild ransacking of the assembly premises, including destruction of the properties of the assembly.

In her presence, the vandal activities were perpetrated by her legislators, damaging in the process property worth several lakhs in the lobby and the library – and the incidents were telecast live on TV channels. They also carried on vandalism within the chamber. After the mischief made by her party’s members, she gave another bandh call the next day. This is just like thieves who after stealing the goods, shout out ‘Thieves! Thieves’- and then make good their escape! What a shameful exercise this was – indeed it was a black day for the state assembly.

2006 witnessed many more anti-industrial activities by the TMC and their cohorts of different varieties from right reactionary to the left sectarian forces along with the so-called civil society patronisers. In the beginning of 2007, the same TMC attacked the WBIDC office without any reason whatsoever and if there is any reason it is only known to the attackers.

2007 also rolled on with lots of irrational and undemocratic activities unleashed by the TMC. These anti-industrialisation forces drawing people, especially hoodlums, from different parts of the state wanted to break down the walls on the perimeter of the factory, hurled bombs, and also attacked and injured five security guards of the factory.

In the beginning of 2008, the Kolkata High Court passed a verdict on the case against land acquisition in Singur lodged by the TMC and their patronisers. In its verdict the High Court clearly stated that the land acquisition is in accordance with the law of the land and thus legally valid. It further declared that the land acquisition was done for the sake of public interest.

The chief minister on different occasions wrote letters to the Trinamul chief inviting her for discussions. However, the latter refused to enter into any parleys. On the contrary, she declared that she would make a ‘great fun’ out of the entire governmental effort. In the third week of August of this year, TMC along with its rainbow alliance commenced blockade near the factory at Singur with a huge amount of expenditure, started to stay there, and made extensive arrangements for food and lodging sponsored by the rainbow combination and their patrons.


On August 20, the engineers and other staff of Tata Motors, comprising of both foreigners and Indians, were returning from the factory to their lodging, they were menacingly obstructed by the TMC-led protestors. At this point, the Tata Motors announced that they might think in terms of shifting out the factory away from Singur. During this critical period, the governor of Bengal started to negotiate with the TMC and organised different kinds of meetings where the Bengal chief minister and the industries minister as well as the panchayat minister took part. In certain meetings of this kind, the TMC chief and the chief minister took part in discussions in the presence of the governor.

It was decided through discussions that two persons from the TMC and two from the state government would discuss to find out the ways and means of solutions of the impasse that had rapidly developed. It was unfortunate that the representatives of the TMC did not want to keep on record what they had suggested at the meeting. Nor would they allow any minutes of the discussions to be kept and maintained. This very strange development was never opposed by the governor who wanted to act as the facilitator.

After all this, the new package was announced. The package covered very well the scenario of benefits of the land losers and the sharecroppers, including the agricultural labourers. The industries minister pointed out for the benefit of the people of Bengal that the new package signified a quantitative improvement on the earlier schemes. Apart from a 50 per cent hike in compensation for land, the package also included 10 per cent additional cost of the land price for the land acquired as contained in the earlier package. The beneficiaries can either utilise the funds through business initiative and / or via purchase of land elsewhere in the area.

After all this meticulous pro-people, pro-poor, pro-peasantry exercise, the setting up of a big automobile hub could not materialise at Singur. On October 3, the final curtain was rung down by Ratan Tata who declared that the small car project could not viably start functioning from Singur and that regretfully the Tata Motors would withdraw the project to elsewhere. This sad announcement just during the festival seasons deeply traumatised the people of Bengal, and not just of Singur.


It is a fact that closing down of the Singur automobile unit temporarily created negative impact on our battle for industrialisation. However, we do not want, by any means, to halt our onward march for the development of Bengal’s economy, and to create jobs for the millions of young men and women of the state. We cannot and must not forget that about 84 per cent cultivable lands in Bengal are in the hands of the small peasants, marginal farmers, and the rural poor, which was made possible through redistributive land reforms in the interest of the exploited masses.

It is a great irony that the destructive forces that always remained with the landlords, big and small, and jotdars (rich peasants) in rural Bengal, suddenly started shedding profuse amount of crocodile’s tears for the marginal farmers and other victims of the member of the feudal society. They tried to befool these sections of people.

If we draw the correct lesson from the history of industrialisation, we find that all battles in Europe had to be waged seriously against the feudal elements. We are sharply aware of the fact that Bengal had an important position in the industrial map of India in the days gone by. However, these industries were traditional in nature. They could not compete effectively in the market without modernisation and gradually over time were shattered by the immutable laws of the market forces. It should be taken note of that Bengal was discriminated against in the issuing of licences, and this went on for more than two-and-a-half decades. Bengal was handicapped by the discriminatory policy of freight equalisation as well.

In 1994, the then Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu announced a new industrial policy and gradually infrastructural development projects were undertaken for modern industries as well as the renovation of the traditional ones. A sustained campaign, and an improving industrial climate, were shaped by and were based on the increased purchasing capacity of rural Bengal.

It can hardly be denied that around Rs 30,000 crore worth of industrial products are being purchased in the rural market, leaving aside the urban centres. Through this process, at a time when the state government started receiving a positive response from different types of investors, TMC, and its cohorts started to try to make the wheel of progress grind backwards.


The directionless and aimless opposition had always thought that industrialisation would always be marked out as the success of the LF government; they never could think of whether opposition to industrialisation, especially pro-people industrialisation, would help the people of our state. They even shrilly shouted ‘we would not allow industry to take roots in Bengal because that will not help the peasantry.’

These ugly forces always pretended to be the friends of peasants and farmers and never considered that the highest amount of cultivable land are in the hands of poorest of the poor in the rural areas, incomparable with any other part of the country. Due to the fragmentation of land and the pressure of population through the increase in the families and family members, land is gradually becoming unviable as a source of livelihood.

Their implementing a game plan to put a halt to the development of Bengal by getting direct patronisation of reactionary forces both here and abroad and spending crores of rupees for their malicious campaign based on falsehood, the so-called important personalities who were present with them in every form of campaign are also coming out with funds from their shady sources.

These forces of darkness not only oppose industrial growth but also the infrastructural development through a violent mode and method, which would certainly vitiate the ambience of peace, unity, and amity amongst the people of Bengal. They wanted a few dead bodies to help along their nefarious game plan. The GOWB would not oblige them.

We are sharply aware of the fact that the overwhelming majority of the people of the state especially the younger generation want the development of agriculture, industry, infrastructure, and job opportunities to facilitate a real and tangible economic growth of our Bengal.

Therefore, for the development and growth, the entire democratic masses of the people and especially the young men and women, must come forward to defeat the retrogressive elements who want to see the peace of the graveyard.

Singur: Defeat This Anti-People Politics

THE opponents of the Left Front in West Bengal led by the Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee have, unfortunately, succeeded in driving out the Tata’s car manufacturing unit from Singur. They have, thus, with the mere support of less than 10 per cent of the owners of the acquired land who have not taken the compensation cheques, adversely affected the future prosperity and improved livelihood for a large number of people in the area as well as the process of industrialisation that would have generated greater employment opportunities. As we have repeatedly argued in these columns earlier, the disruptive violence mounted both in Nandigram and Singur were basically political in nature. Through these movements, the Trinamul Congress and other opposition to the Left Front are seeking to consolidate their support base. In the final analysis, it is for the people of Bengal to decide on the type of politics that they would want.

Mamata Banerjee has not merely ensured the exit of the Nano project from Bengal but being the loyal steadfast ally of the BJP in the NDA, she facilitated the project’s re-location to Gujarat. Remember, she continued to remain with the NDA and, thus, in a way endorsed the communal carnage unleashed in the state by the BJP’s Narendra Modi government.

Be that as it may, voices in the corporate media, despite the stark realities of why the Tatas have shifted from Bengal, cannot refrain from their usual CPI(M) bashing. “Don’t just blame Mamata” screams the editorial of The Economic Times. Some others have been less aggressive, but nevertheless hold the CPI(M) and the Left Front government responsible and, in the process, eulogise Mamata Banerjee by comparing her to David in his fight with Goliath (Business Standard), or, portraying her as “India’s saviour” (Prem Shankar Jha, The Hindustan Times)! The latter justifies this by reference to an alleged electronic media footage of policemen brutally attacking “unwilling farmers” in the process of acquiring land at Singur. There is no iota of any evidence of either the source or the credibility of such footage that few others seem to have seen. This is followed by graphic description of how the villagers’ consent was “obtained” through police excesses: “Are the blood and tears of the poor a necessary price of development?”

Such descriptions remind us of the times, in early 1970s, when graphic accounts of the advance of the US army operations in its war against Vietnam in Saigon, were being filed as `eye witness accounts’ from the Press Club in Bangkok. As the evening advanced, such `eye witness accounts’ became more ‘spirited’. In the event, it was Vietnam that triumphed over the US army and liberated Saigon and the rest of the country.

Amidst such anti-Left vitriol, certain substantive issues have been raised that require attention. First, why did the Left Front government acquire arable land for industrialisation instead of barren land? The answer is simple. There is less than 2 per cent of land in West Bengal which is barren. Secondly, why did the Left Front government not persuade the Tatas to give a share or stake to the land owners in the company or the project that is to be set-up on this land? Again, the answer is simple. What we require is a new central law for land acquisition in the country.

Land currently being acquired all over the country (5 lakh acres of arable land in the last three years has been acquired) is being done under a law enacted by the British while the rail roads were being constructed way back in 1894. The CPI(M) has been demanding that this anachronism must be immediately removed by enacting a new law that will take into account the nature of compensation including providing a stake in the future of the project not only to the owners of the land, but also to those dependent upon the land for their livelihood. This has to be a legal arrangement under law. This cannot be left to the whims and fancies of individual corporate houses or the state governments. The need for a negotiation on this must simply not exist. This needs to be enacted under law.

Unfortunately, during these last four years or so, especially when the drive for the Special Economic Zones began aggressively and the issue of land acquisition came to the fore, no new law has seen the light of the day. This needs to be urgently addressed.

Thirdly, the common refrain is that the Left Front government failed to provide adequate security forcing the Tatas to leave Singur. That is not the reason as Ratan Tata himself has stated for the Nano project to leave. Indeed, adequate protection was provided and the state government was discharging its responsibilities towards the maintenance of law and order. The Tatas, however, took a stand that unless everybody cooperates, they are not going to continue to remain in Singur. One can, surely, disagree with such a position. For, after all, no one can say that they shall build their house in a locality only when all others living there will give an assurance that their house will not be burgled. However, like Mamata Banerjee, the Tatas also have an equal right to take an unreasonable position.

In any case, the net result is that Bengal and its people have been denied, temporarily and only in this particular project, the opportunities and advantages arising from such industrialisation. As argued in these columns in the past, what Bengal and its people require to advance further is rapid industrialisation on the basis of the consolidation of the land reforms and attendant increases in yield and productivity in agriculture. This has been a decision arrived at after long discussions in the Left Front and amongst the people and this was emphatically endorsed by the people in the last elections to the assembly when the Left Front won a whopping two-thirds majority on the basis of an election manifesto whose major thrust was for rapid industrialisation. The current opposition is, in fact, a negation of the people’s mandate.

It is, therefore, upto the people of Bengal to decide, when the opportunity arises, to endorse this negation of their earlier mandate or to reject such politics which are acting against the interests of the state and its people. In other words, the politics that led to the re-location of the Nano project from Bengal also needs to be re-located elsewhere in the interests of greater prosperity of Bengal and its people.
October 12, 2008

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Posted online: Sep 29, 2008 at 0145 hrs

•Hello and welcome to Walk the Talk. I am Shekhar Gupta, on what would probably be the terrace of one of the most important buildings in India. The headquarters of the CPM at Alimuddin street in Calcutta. And my guest this week…arguably one of the most powerful men in the CPM …but also one of the least visible….Mr Biman Bose, the head of the party in West Bengal, its finest organizer, and a man with many varied tastes that we know little about. Welcome to Walk the Talk .

Biman Basu: Thank you

•Must we know you as an organizer, as a child politician.

Biman Basu: No…Actually I am a small man. Am small in my size, small in my activities. I don’t feel that am doing the job of a big man….am not like that…but even then the daily activities of our party, as well as the activities of the Left Front are being run from this office. This office is the office of the CPI (M) state headquarter as well as the office of the Left Front.

•And you are the big dada of the party in the state…

Biman Basu: That you know…Bengali culture goes like that if somebody becomes elderly, then they are called by dada. That’s Bengali culture…

•But you are not particularly elderly…you know…you entered the election campaign at the age of 14. You were underage when you applied for membership of the party, isn’t it?

Biman Basu: That is correct. But at the same time, I cannot deny the fact that I am also aging…I am…Within one year, I am going to touch the pillar of seven, zero …70….

•But that’s young in Indian politics

Biman Basu: That might be.

•And you know that, you donate your blood like a young man, defying your doctors. 80 times already?

Biman Basu: Yes, I have donated blood, voluntarily or socially, 80 times. I have never donated blood for my relatives or for any persons connected with me…

•But even at this age?

Biman Basu: Even at…Last year I donated 80 times. So now I stand 80 times donor

•So this is a revolutionary with many interesting hobbies. I believe this terrace is also in many ways your own doing

Biman Basu: That I like you know the plant…I like plant

Wonderful plants

Biman Basu: I believe, as Jagdish Chander Bose has said that plant has got life…I do believe that plant has also got life,….Nobody should cut plant, I do believe

•So you know all about these plants you have here

Biman Basu: This is the edina…they are the three edina…and this edina is the old one…about 35 years.So I do feel that these 35 years old edina is also a little bit costly now… and the other two are junior

•So this is almost older than the West Bengal Left Front government….

Biman Basu: Yes that’s correct. Correct your point is


Biman Basu: There’s some bonsa…you were talking about the bonsa…there’s some bonsa here…

•Right…So which one do you see lasting longer…your plant here or the Left Front government in West Bengal

Biman Basu: Plant will…this edina…lives long. So this has got no age limit. If we can keep this properly, this will last for many many years

•And that may apply to the Left Front government in Bengal also. If you manage it properly, it can go on forever

Biman Basu: That how can you say…because in politics nobody can say that this will last forever. This plant will also not last for ever….

•But for a long time

Biman Basu: For a long time…

•But sir tell me are you a little bit, and when you say this, is there a touch of realism in what you say? Are you for the first time seeing a threat to your power here, to your means, to the Left Front’s power here, unchallenged power?

Biman Basu: Actually no. That is being talked about in the Calcutta newspapers, in the media as a whole, that this time in panchayat election, of the 17 districts ….13 district owned by the Left Front, 4 district went to the Opposition to the Left Front government. That doesn’t mean, you know, they have own getting the support of the majority. I can give you the example…in North Dinachpur, the Left Front has got more than 52 per cent of the votes. Even then they lost in the zila parishad. So the support base of the Left Front has not gone down in that way

•But there is a problem…because in politics if numbers don’t add up, then what are numbers for

Biman Basu: No… That happened due to the disintegrity among the Left Front partners. So what we have seen, that the Left Front partners got in this panchayat election, more than 53 per cent votes…53.27 per cent votes

•So…Is disunity is cause for concern….Left disunity

Biman Basu: We are discussing among ourselves and we are sorting out the problem within Left Front partners. Because this time in panchayat election that was not a dispute with the seat sharing, there was some political differences….not that very much …but…

Such as what…give me some examples

Biman Basu: You know about this industrialization of West Bengal. There were some divergent views of some of the Left Front partners. That has caused to really, to mobilize the entire Left Front supporters in one box

•So do you see these differences going down or do you see these growing?

Biman Basu: No this is not. This is not lasting. These differences are going to be sorted out and I do feel in the last Left Front meeting we have a discussion, we had a discussion, where we sorted out that we are to unify our entire left front partners based on common programme which we have accepted…

•But in that process, Bimandaa, will you slow down on industrialization, will you step back

Biman Basu: No……question has come up…we had a discussion in the left front. That in respect of setting up of industries, we are to see the pros and cons. We are to discuss with local people when we go for land acquisition. And getting the support of the majority of the population and the landowners, we are to move with the project. So that will give us dividend. But I feel already we are looking to the case of

•We are looking at the fruit of your labour..

Biman Basu: Yes…Small pot…giving lot of fruits…there was full of guava…very taste…but that plucked

You see this is the problem. All of us in Delhi and elsewhere we look at you Left leaders as hard people, who think, talk politics, organisation, zindaabaad, murdaabaad all the time…but there is another side to all of it…

Biman Basu: This is good solace you know…if you come to the terrace in the afternoon, the evening…after the sun sets, you find that wonderful place…you can read books sitting there

•Eighty time blood donor, an avid gardener, and a lover of cats and dogs

Biman Basu: Yes.. I do… I do…I do love people also

• Right

Biman Basu: Because…people…they should also love the animals..that I do believe…they should love plant also

•The chikoo is giving lot of chikoos

Biman Basu: Yes…lot of chikoos

• I see your eyes light up when you look at your plants, much more than when you talk of politics. So tell me sir, does it mean a little bit of a slowdown. You know because at this turn we thought the West Bengal government was going to follow a very aggressive policy of industrialization

Biman Basu: No…we are to follow the policy of industrialization. There is no option. But we are to keep option in relation to the land acquisition.

•So to that extent you think Singur and Nandigram could have been handled differently or better?

Biman Basu: No…regarding singur….lots of issues are coming connected with Singur. But the land which would not be acquired, would not be sorted out….the assessment could not be done, the payment could not be made. Not because of the policy of the government, but because of some litigation, in the family, and also with the land. As a result a good chunk of the land which were not sorted out by the landowners is not because of the government, but because of the litigation within. And it’s a fact that some of the landowners did not receive their..their…


Biman Basu: They did not took their sell deeds and their compensation…so they did not take their sell deeds

•So could this have been handled better by the state government…Singur?

Biman Basu: I do feel that during that point of time, when the verdict of the people in Bengal given for industrialization. You know, the 2006 Assembly election, the entire plank of the election on the base of the agricultural growth. More diversion of agriculture is to be done, expansion of agriculture is to be done. At the same time, on the consolidating the achievements of the agricultural front….on the basis of that, we are to go for industrialization. That was the campaign plan…


Biman Basu: And based on that, when people supported enormously, there was no other alternative. So now we have realised in taking up any project we are to move in a manner which can help the landowners to realise what is what

•So was there is a little bit of arrogance or hurry with which land was acquired from Singur

Biman Basu: I don’t feel that arrogance occurred at any point of time but it was done without looking to the attitude of the villagers. That might be said, that could have been thought earlier

•Right. So how do you correct it now

Biman Basu: That we are campaigning. We are campaigning, you know, it has happened in Katua, when the thermal power plant was announced. Lot of people are enthusiastic about the thermal power plant at Katua. But there was an agitation about this setting up of thermal power station. It was evident there was a bhoomi uchchad prathirod Samiti there. Actually some of the local people, the office bearers they are saying that we are not recommending to set up thermal power plant there at Katua. Now people themselves are coming forward. They are saying the plant should be set up there at Katua. So this sort of attitude is to be inculcated in such a manner
•So do you see this happening in Singur. First of all do you see Singur staying, or do you see the Tatas getting harassed and leaving Singur

Biman Basu: No I don’t think so because their work in Singur more than 80 per cent over. Now the disputed land where the ancillary industry will come up in future days or other mode of activities will take place in those land that is not the area where the main Tata project is going to be set up. The area which was paid, the money already paid, there they have already set up the Tata project. So I don’t feel there is ….

Inspite of Mamata’s new agitation, her gherao and…

Biman Basu: I do feel that Mamta Banerjee and her party is to sit in the round table discussion….around the table, they are to sort out the dispute which they are pointing out. That is the only way to sort out the problem. As on the other occasion, we are talking about the Kashmir where we say the government of India is to talk with the government of Pakistan to sort out the problem


Biman Basu: If the national problem, international problem, can be sort out through dialogue process why this problem cannot be sort out through dialogue process

•So are you inviting Mamta for a dialogue?

Biman Basu: Yes. She should sit with government, she should sit with Tatas, whichever she feels better for her party politics, she should do that and after that sort out the problem which is now existing

•But do you agree that she has an argument…a political argument, a moral argument…

Biman Basu: I don’t like to pass any comment on that because she is doing a political party which is quite different from us

•How is hers different from yours. Sometimes her economics sounds very similar

Biman Basu: No..not at all…not at all…now she is talking about the interest of the peasantry. But the same lot, when they were doing the Congress party all time raised a struggle against the acquisition of land from the landlords. So how can I say they are the same lot. They are not same lot. They cant be.

•But you are willing to talk to them…

Biman Basu: Definitely..definitely….we don’t feel nothing can be solved

•So you don’t present her an enemy, you don’t consider her as stupid, that you don’t ever talk to them

Biman Basu: No, no… I never thought what you were saying. She is doing a political party and she is directing her cadres…so if she has got point of difference she should spell out in discussion and through discussion sort out….

But she is a tough cookie to take on the might of the Left Front almost single handedly

Biman Basu: That you know, I also, do not like to pass any comment about her way of move, and about her behaviour and habit. That I don’t like to pass comment. After all she is a lady.

•Right. But I said she is a tough challenger for you. Because Congress party has not been able to stand up to you, but she single-handedly is doing it. One woman party.

Biman Basu: That might be to you – one woman party. But she is mobilizing people, and she sometime befooling people also. That we are to overcome this problem through our own campaign programme. And mobilizing the basic population to our own….

•But you are not feeling threatened by her now after the panchayat elections?

Biman Basu: I don’t think so…I don’t think so…

•Because there is a wide belief that in the next Parliament elections, Left Front may suffer setbacks in West Bengal…

Biman Basu: I don’t think so now. You are to wait for some time. But I don’t think so. Because….when we are going to the people, they also are saying that we wanted to give a lesson to you…but we never though this will happen in this manner. So, they wanted to taught something but they did not want to have this sort of a result what we have

•So there might be some regrets…But are there some regrets in your party also over how Nandigram was handled. Because we in Delhi, many of us have been told it was like an ethnic cleansing by your armed cadres

Biman Basu: No. Actually that is not the fact. In singur, the MLA belongs to Trinamool Congress

•No, Nandigram am talking about

Biman Basu: Nandigram, you know, that has got long history. I don’t like to….

•Elaborate on that?

Biman Basu: Elaborate on that. It has started 3rd of January, there in Kalicharanpur gram panchayat. In the gram panchayat, you know, about, total sanitation, discussion was taking place. But Trinamool Congress they rushed to the gram panchayat office giving wrong information. Based on this information, that about the chemical hub discussion is going on….

•But didn’t your cadres go out of control?

Biman Basu: Actually our cadres did not go out of our control. But it happened that in a hurry move, sometimes some good jobs are being done, sometimes bad jobs also might take place.

•But you regret some things that happened there?

Biman Basu: We regret for the loss of life that took place there. Many people, they lost their life. Whether they belong to the Left parties, or whether they belong to the Opposition. So we regret for their valuable lives. And many properties were destroyed. Mainly the properties were destroyed by the Bhumi Uchchad Samiti

•Please forgive me for saying this. But that’s the kind of argument that Narendra Modi uses. He says “I don’t know what happened. I am not responsible. But I regret the loss of life whoever lost life…”

Biman Basu: No, no,no….i am not just repeating what Narendra Modi is saying. Here, when political forces move with wrong information, with misinformation, after the government of West Bengal has declared, notified, that there will be no chemical hub in Nandigram. That was issued long before. And Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya also announced that nothing will happen

•But your won cadres taking to arms and driving out so many people? It did not look pretty

Biman Basu: I tell you when the Maoists were brought by the bhumi uchchad bhatirod Samiti, they started harassing people, destroying houses, killing many people. Then what the other people, the villagers, will do? They are to, as per the Indian Constitution, they are to give their….
•Self defence…

Biman Basu: Self defence as per 226. So….article of the Indian Constitution…

•So have you carried out introspection over what happened in Nandigram?

Biman Basu: That we are discussing. We are to sort out this episode in a different manner. But first we have to convince people why they are moving with them when it has already been declared that nothing will happen there in Nandigram.

•Sir, tell me something else. Lets switch now to national politics. I know your focus, your radar system, is on your state. Whats happened over the past couple of months in national politics….the break-up between the UPA and the Left…is that a setback…to Left and to the secular forces in India?

Biman Basu: You know, we are to look to the interest of the people of our country. You are discussing this issue on the 11 th of August. 11th of August is not 11/9 but 11 th of August is very important in our Bengal context, which has got the national retrospective. That in the year 1908, 11th of August, Khudiram Bose was hanged. And in the year 1905, the meeting in the Town Hall was held where Bal Gangadhar Tilak came and addressed. And he had given a caution to the govt, to the British Raj, that you cannot divide Bengal. That was the movement, you know, of Bengal division. And during that time, the statue which you find at Parliament house, at the gate of Parliament house, of Aurobindo Ghosh. This Aurobindo Ghosh, he organised the meeting of the Hindu and Muslim population of Bengal and opposed the division of Bengal vehemently. And on 11th August, the meeting took place in Town Hall, where Bal Gangadhar Tilak was one of the speaker. So the interest of the people of the country, and the sovereignty and freedom of our country….for freedom the struggle started during that point of time before that…and it continued. And now throught he Indo-US nuke deal, we are to sell out our own freedom and sovereignty that Indian population cannot….

•So you too have no regrets over this break up with the Congress party?

Biman Basu: No, why the question of regret will come? Because the sell out policy and the making of India as a vast country as the strategic allies of the USA cannot be tolerated by the Indian population. So we are to take all these issues….

•So what does it do sir? Have you seen this strengthen the BJP and the NDA?

Biman Basu: That also we are to campaign. Communalism might take the head of this issue where we are to be very serious because they are not to take any dividend, not to draw any dividend out of this movement of the Left and other democratic parties.

So you have faith that the Third Front can become an alternative now? With Mayawati?

Biman Basu: Regarding the Third Front, we had a discussion in the party congress


Biman Basu: This year our party congress took place in Coimbatore.

•And you said that was an objective?

Biman Basu: That is objective. So all on a sudden this Third Front will not come up. We are to move, first to consolidate the Left parties, then the Left and democratic parties, and then we are to move for a Third Front. Third Front will not come from the sky as a rain coming from the sky.
Well, the rain may come any moment. But the Third Front…Mayawati seems to have come from the sky…Does she look like a worthy leader of the Third Front

Biman Basu: That we have not discussed

•Because many Left leaders, particularly Mr Bardhan, for exampled, have hailed as a future prime minister….almost like the Third Front’s prime ministerial candidate

Biman Basu: Well, Bardhan does not belong to CPI(M)

Well, we talked about Left unity. He is a Left leader

Biman Basu: Yes, definitely.

•But you will not today hail her as a future prime minister from the Third Front, including the Left

Biman Basu: No, that was never discussed among ourself and we never projected an individual as prime minister in the earlier occasion. So, why raising this question just now?

•No, that’s because many people who came around…You see the Front being put together by the CPM almost everyone came and hailed her as a prime ministerial candidate immediately. So, because, you are the most important constituent of this group, I am asking you. Do you see her as a prime ministerial …

Biman Basu: I can pass a simple comment that we have not discussed in the party, in the national party or in the state party…

•So it will take time.

Biman Basu: It will take some time

•And this issue is not closed by any means

Biman Basu: No, we have not discussed the issue. So how can I say that this is a closed chapter. It is not yet opened.

•Not yet opened….so let me persist with this. In the past, the CPM has had problems with Mayawati’s politics. You have called it casteist politics and you had problems with it. Do you see any change there, change in her politics or do those problems remain?

Biman Basu: Now she is trying to combine the other caste alongwith her own caste. That am fine…

•But it is still caste politics?

Biman Basu: Main approach is, caste approach is there. There is no question. Caste approach is there. But we do believe that caste should not dominate politics in that way. We want to keep the SC, ST, Muslim minorities and other minorities….

•Everybody together

Biman Basu: Yes together

•So if you see a problem with her caste politics would you like her to moderate it or come to the centre in a way or…

Biman Basu: Actually, what I told you first that we have not opened this chapter for discussion

•Right, right

Biman Basu: So, this is not a question of individual opinion. It’s a question of party’s opinion.

•But Prakash Karat went to her house and that conferred on her stature of a national leader

Biman Basu: Prakash Karat, went to her house is a fact. That Bardhan went and then it was talked that Prakash Karat had no time, only he had that time, to see her, so went there. But that does not focus any extra lever that….

•That you have anointed her as Prime Minister. You haven’t anointed her as future Prime minister?

Biman Basu: No that has not taken place. We have not discussed it.

•Sir, we have a comment from Ram Vilas Paswan with whom the Left has had cordial relationships in the past. He said that this Left behaved like somebody who got so angry that he swallowed poison. He said this in Walk the Talk

Biman Basu: Actually, you know, this is a purposeful allegation given against Prakash Karat.


Biman Basu: I do not feel that Prakash Karat, he is saying or what he is doing, that is individual activities.


Biman Basu: What we are discussing in the Politburo, what we discuss in the central committee, what we decide in the 19th Party Congress, Prakash Karat also moving in line with that party congress and discussion in the PB and CC

•So he’s carrying out the party’s agenda

Biman Basu: Yes..yes…

•As assigned to him

Biman Basu: Yes…as we discuss and sort out

•But would Surjeet have handled it differently? You know, there is so much nostalgia about Surjeet in Delhi right now.

Biman Basu: That…you know… a pertinent portion. Surjeet, you know, his experience taught him in such a manner that he when talking to one person, keeping in mind how other person will take this and went to see him also. So that was the habit and attitude of Comrade Harkishen Singh Surjeet. So Harkishen Singh Surjeet’s way of handling the issue, all time, cannot be copied by others. I have seen this here in Bengal. I have seen some people, they wanted to say that, after the demise of Pramod Das Gupta, the party will go down. Because the way Pramod Das Gupta is tackling the issue, that is not the way…

•The party has become stronger actually

Biman Basu: No, but it is fact that the way Pramod Das Gupta used to deal with the issues, that type of dealing the issues is not possible after 20-25 years

•But you are missing Surjeet as well

Biman Basu: We are missing Surjeet. As we missed Pramod Das Gupta, Saroj Mukherjee, Anil Biswas.

•Let me ask you a simplistic question. Because that’s a question raised by a very simplistic media all the time. Is there a Bengal view on national politics and a Kerala view, and a Delhi view or is there one view in this?

Biman Basu: There is one view in all

•But there is debate…

Biman Basu: When debate take place, you know our party is most democratic party. In the party congress resolution

•You know you were able to stop Jyoti basu from becoming Prime Minister

Biman Basu: Many thousand, many thousand amendments were placed, you know. This is the first time such number of amendments,…

•So this question this time…Withdrawing support and voting alongwith the BJP. Was it one of the most hotly debated issue or was it wasn’t so hotly debated

Biman Basu: I want to demarcate that, we haven’t voted alongwith the BJP. There was no floor contract. But they opposed the confidence vote, we opposed the confidence vote. We opposed on our own point of view, they opposed on their own point of view.

•So, on this was there a hot debate in the party or this was easily settled?

Biman Basu: No, this was not a hot debate in the party

•Not a hot debate. And this had the approval of veterans like Jyoti Basu

Biman Basu: Everybody…everybody…

•And so did the expulsion of Somnath Chatterjee. We know that you went to give him the message

Biman Basu: Yes. Many went, I also went.

•Yes. But you were the senior most Politburo member.

Biman Basu: Yes, I went there. And actually, what happened there, I could talk to him earlier. But one of his nephew died. So rushed to Kolkata and so it was delayed. Anyway that I …I..

•But that was a sad chapter to lose an old comrade like that

Biman Basu: That you know, sometimes that happens you know. In our party this happens many occasion. You have seen that Nripen Chakraborty…our veteran…he was a member of the Politburo. He was a chief minister for a long time and we had to lose him

•Will you miss Somnath also?

Biman Basu: That history will judge

•But do you miss him personally as a friend, as an old colleague

Biman Basu: Yes. Yes. Personally I am a loser because I had a very good relation with him for many many years

•But is the party a loser too because he was the party’s face in Delhi

Biman Basu: Yes, yes, definitely. There will be somebody will miss him.

•And do you think he did it out of….what was his motivation?

Biman Basu: That I don’t like to say his motivation…because I don’t know. I, hypothetically, I don’t like to pass any comment on this issue. Somnathdaa is Somnathdaa..

•Well…Somnathdaa is Somnathdaa, and Bimandaa is Bimandaa…See you again. We know you have a lot of politics ahead of you, within your party and the Front, within your state and also nationally

Sunday, October 5, 2008



The people of the country, of Bengal, and of Singur may legitimately pose the question as to what made the Tata's wind up the small car project at Singur when more than 85% of work has been completed.
A run of devastation called an 'agitation,' has had a temporary triumph. It has wounded the both the prospects of industrial investment in the state and the process of industrialisation. Again, we call this a temporary phenomenon. The majority of the people of the state - indeed, an overwhelming majority - had wanted from the core of their heart that the Singur project must become a reality.
Following the meeting that Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and I had with Shri Ratan Tata, the expectation of the people has perhaps touched rock-bottom. Only history will tell in the months and years to come what would the losses entail to no less than eight crore of men and women of the state.
History was sent on the backfoot on 3 October 2008 when at the end of the meeting Shri Tata addressed the media that the small car project would now be shifted away from Singur because 'there is no there alternative,' now more than ever, what with the clear 'responsibility devolving on the so-called 'agitation' of the Trinamul Congress.' The project to which the people of the sate had looked with so much of fond expectation for a period of two-and-a-half years saw the shutters come down at last.
The people of the state would not be witness to the turning back of the wheel of history - the people of Bengal know how to face contingencies of whatever kind. The project, it is now clear has been shifted away from Singur simply and only because of destructive, irresponsible acts of violence by the main opposition party in Bengal and some its cohort outfits. The vast majority of the people Singur, indeed of Bengal do not support in any manner the pattern of behaviour of these political outfits. They wanted the project to see the light of the day. They stood to lose out the most. The extent of loss will be something that will be felt in full measure in the days ahead.
However, we have not an iota of doubt in our hearts-and-minds that the negative 'agitationsists' movement shall be met politically. People must come forward. The campaign-movement that would soon unfurl across the state and in the country must be conducted amidst the people, with the people.
The event has harmed the prospects of industrialisation. It has also left bleeding in its wake the prospects of industrial investment in the state. Hurt shall be felt amongst the younger generation amongst whom the Singur project was a beacon of hope. Nevertheless, not all this shall ever signify that the industrialists concerned with ongoing and future projects shall all go away from this state. The process of industrialisation in Bengal on a sound and expanding agrarian base is important and emergent. We shall have to traverse along this path.
Let me say that we do not support the decision that the Tata's have chosen to take. Yet, we are aware that there is a timeframe fixed for the production of the small car. Things were already running behind schedule because of various factors. Tata's have clearly pointed out that they do want production to go on under Police protection. They wanted a peaceful ambience. They looked to safety and security for the guards they had employed. These expectations were quite in the order of things. The state government had made ample arrangements to look after security.
However, the stat government, at the same time, did not want any happenings to take place that would open the portals for violent deeds to take place. The opposition wanted exactly this to happen: let blood be shed. The blood letting they would utilise shamelessly to widen their kind of politics. The state government would not afford them this heinous opportunity.
The opposition had promised that their agitation would remain peaceful. They did not keep the pledge. Some may view the behaviour of endurance on them part of the state government as weakness. Our principle was that we did not want to have any unpleasant incident on our hands. Those who created the violence that wrote finish to the Singur project for the time being should do a bit of self-search to seek how much of good their deeds have done to the people of Bengal.
On the issue of returning the acquired land, we hold that there is no such proviso in the Indian Constitution. The present owner of the land is the state government. There is no legal proviso by which one can return the land to the farmers or to the previous owners. There is really no need now more than ever to enter into any dialogue with the opposition any longer. The court of law shall hold into the cheques of those who had not accepted them for whatever reason.
If somebody asks of us that we should have entered into discussion with the opposition earlier, our counter-query would be what timeframe are we talking about? Can anyone name just single project where the principal opposition party have come forward on to the table for discussion? There politics is that they will never allow any good to happen to Bengal. The picture is the same whether the project is a roads project or a project for generation of electricity.
We are right amidst the festival season and this is the time when we are faced with a sad and tragic event. The youth must be bitterly disappointed. We could not think that the main opposition party would play at such sectarian, such destructive politics. It is their role, let no one be mistaken, that has prevented the Singur project from going becoming viable and vibrant.