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West Bengal: Singur farmers express regret over their ‘mistake’ of forcing Tata out, feel used by political parties

According to the farmers who took a march to Kolkata last year to demand setting up of industries in the region, they were used by political parties in the agitation that culminated into Tata leaving Singur district for their Nano car production.

Years after the Tata Manufacturing plant was shifted out of West Bengal’s Singur to Gujarat’s Sanand, the farmers involved in the agitation against the Tata behemoth have expressed their regret for the agitation that led to the expulsion. Though they got their lands back, the farmers feel cheated as the land is uncultivable and the town doesn’t have enough jobs for them says a report in DNA.

According to the farmers who took a march to Kolkata last year to demand setting up of industries in the region, they were used by political parties in the agitation that culminated into Tata leaving Singur district for their Nano car production. They asserted that if they get a chance to atone for their “mistake”, they would eagerly give away their land for setting up industries in Singur.

In 2006-2007, the Left Front government was facing a severe headwind from the anti-land acquisition movement against the government, resulting in the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC’s victory in the elections. Singur was at the centre of attention as the farmers in the region protested against the establishment of Nano Car production facility in their district.

However, today the disenchanted farmers, having realised that they had been used as cannon fodder by the politicians have expressed remorse over their decision to agitate against the Tata conglomerate. One of the farmers, Ashok Maity said, “We got nothing out of the agitation. We were used and later dumped to fend for ourselves by the political parties to serve their own purposes. No industries came up in the region, nor the land which was returned to us in 2016 is cultivable. We are living in extreme poverty.”

The farmers in the region had to fight a long and enervating legal battle to get hold of their land. Ashok and his brother got 60 kottah of land. However, the land they got was converted into concrete or covered with wreckage. The agricultural experts believe that with the concrete pillars and slabs on the ground, at least 7-8 inches of topsoil will have to be removed to make it arable again. It is a costly measure and the farmers are not in the position to bear the expenses. Without this procedure, it might take 10 more years for the land to turn tillable.

Many farmers in the district echo Maity’s sentiments. They claim that they were influenced by the political hysteria around the anti-land acquisition movement and got duped by it. They believe if they had provided their land for the industries, Singur would have turned into a teeming industrial town, creating and offering jobs to many and their children wouldn’t have to forage other states in search of jobs.

Senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Kisan Sabha leader Amal Haldar claimed that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) exploited a division of the farmers for their political ascendancy, thereby causing a monumental loss to the state. Farmers were categorised into classes-“willing” and “unwilling”. Haldar said, ” “Only a handful of farmers were not relenting to give their land and for the remaining, who couldn’t give their land, it was mainly due to lack of proper paperwork and family disputes. The TMC party ill-advised this group for its political benefit and the state lost a golden opportunity.”

After the Supreme Court, the farmers got the land in 2016. However, they quickly realised that the land was not cultivable without spending a fortune on it to make it arable. The lack of employment opportunities in the district forced many farmers to escape to the nearby cities, in search of jobs. Sensing the fury among the farmers, now the political parties have promised of industrialising the district if voted to power in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

Defending his party, the local TMC MLA Becharam Manna, who was one of the notable faces of the 2006 protests, asserted that his party has done a lot and has been committed for the betterment of the farmers. The BJP candidate from Hooghly, Locket Chatterjee has alleged the TMC of exploiting the farmers for their political gains. He has ensured that if he is elected to power, he will bring the industries in the region. The incumbent TMC MP Ratna De Nag said measures will be taken at the earliest to make the land cultivable.

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