SINGUR (HOOGHLY): “We don’t know what will happen in the Court. An early resolution is welcome. Even if the land is not returned to us, I would be happy with higher compensation, at current market rates,” says a land loser at Singur who does not wish to be identified as he is now a Trinamool activist.
Days ahead of the scheduled panchayat polls on July 15, Singur — the place that was instrumental in Mamata Banerjee’s rise as Chief Minister — is slowly, but surely, losing faith over her promise to return acquired land.
A legal dispute between the Tatas and the State Government is now pending in the Supreme Court, and land losers in Singur are not interested any more in prolonging the impasse.
“We would be happy with a solution now,” the activist points out. Initially, farmers were offered Rs 9 lakh an acre. The market price stands at Rs 45 lakh an acre.
According to another local leader in Singur, delayed resolution will only lead to a situation where people will start questioning the Government’s willingness to return their land. “It doesn’t take much time for discontent to brew,” he adds.
For the immediate panchayat polls though, there are no worries.
The five mouzas (an administrative unit covering a few villages) from where land was acquired for the Tata Motors plant have 16 gram panchayats and a panchayat samiti. Of these, the Trinamool holds power in 15 and in the panchayat samiti.
Wait and Watch
The groundswell of resentment, locals admit, was contained to some extent by the State Government. Announcement of a moratorium of Rs 2,000 and 16 kg of rice a month for every family that has lost land has, if local leaders are to be believed, defused some tension.
“Most of my 4 acres of land was acquired. But yes, this moratorium and rice has helped,” Bottokrishna Das of Beraberi told Business Line. Local Trinamool leaders know that a “wait-and-watch” policy isn’t a solution.
The ensuing rural polls might see a complete rout of the CPI (M) again. But with all 16 gram panchayat seats being contested, primarily between the Trinamool and CPI (M)-led Left Front, dissenting voices might find a taker. While the Trinamool domination is more or less a fact, the CPI(M) is not a spent force. A few kilometres off Beraberi is Bajemelia – another mouza singed by the same grouse of land acquisition.
But here, the failure of the ruling party to deliver on its poll promise (returning land) is an issue.
“I know my neighbours are ruing their decision to not take the compensation. They have told me so on many occasions. But they will not go public with their grouse,” Tapan Majhi, one of the sharecroppers from Bajemelia said. Majhi now runs a tea-shop in the nearby market.
His immediate neighbour is Shankar Majhi. Shankar admits to being an “unwilling” land loser but fends off questions with a smile.