By handing over the compensation cheques and land documents to unwilling farmers of Singur during Singur Divas on Wednesday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee would honour a promise she made to them long back. However, while the Trinamool Congress may take comfort in the fact that her stance on land acquisition stands vindicated, a question still remains. What would the fate of Singur be?
West Bengal government sources maintain that in the “unlikely”, “hypothetical” situation that farmers want industry at Singur, the ruling dispensation will take the issue under consideration. State Finance Minister Amit Mitra said that “political consensus would be required in such a situation”. The Supreme Court order earlier this month, deeming the acquisition of land at Singur by the Left Front government to be illegal, was initially met with joy. But the ecstasy soon gave way to doubts and since then farmers have been wondering, what next. While a section of unwilling farmers were overjoyed at the prospect of their land being returned and compensations being provided, there remained a section, which continued to raise demand for industry.
There also is a third section of farmers, who claim that once the land is returned, they’ll sell it off and continue to work in jobs they secured after 2006. Raghu Majhi, a farmer, explained the predicament. “Many of us had wanted industry then and we still want it now. Farming no longer has the same kind of financial benefits that it once offered. The world has changed in the past 10 years. Our children don’t want to work in farms. They want to work in industries. Will the land ever be the same again? We doubt it,” said Manjhi.
On being asked about the farmers wanting industry at Singur, state Finance Minister Amit Mitra said, “In the advent of the hypothetical situation that farmers want industry, then the state government and Didi can rethink the situation.” However such a situation, explained the state government, was “highly unlikely”.
An official explained, “The situation is not just difficult, it’ll be highly unlikely. Firstly, there’s the emotional attachment to the land, for which people have fought for 10 years. And secondly, such a decision over industry requires there to be complete consensus, politically and among the farmers. Even if one farmer says that they want their land and not industry, then it is not possible.” Mamata had made her stand clear when she spoke of her intent on “making sure that Singur is green again”.
The issue, explained a source close to her, was both “political and personal”. “The situation in Singur is unique. Even the BJP, which usually takes a pro-industry stance, talks about farmers rights when it comes to Singur. It is just not possible, politically to bring industry back to Singur,” said a senior TMC leader. Mamata, meanwhile is ready to distribute 800 cheques and 9,117 parchas – documents establishing the ownership of pieces of land in revenue records – among the unwilling farmers during a function Wednesday.
“When the chief minister hands over the land parchas, it will show that Mamata Banerjee and the TMC know how to keep their promises. We are not like other political parties who forget their promises after coming to power. It will also establish that our stand on forcible land acquisition was correct,” said TMC vice-president Mukul Roy.