Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday admitted that farming on land, returned by Tata Motors in Singur, has declined in the last one year. Speaking in the Assembly, Banerjee said her government is making all arrangements to help farmers continue with farming.
“The total (acquired) land in Singur is 997 acres. Out of which, 995.90 acres have been returned to farmers. At first, farming began on 641 acres of land. But in the next year, it was reduced. In 2018-19 financial year, farming was done on 260 acres of land by 792 farmers. Many stopped farming. We have returned land to farmers and made all arrangements to help them start farming. Compared to the previous financial year, farming declined in 2018-19. It is their prerogative whether they will continue farming and we have nothing to say on this. However, we are providing all sorts of help to farmers,” she said.
The CM’s comments came in the backdrop of fresh demands for industry from a section of farmers in Hooghly district’s Singur. The BJP after winning the Hooghly Lok Sabha seats had organised a rally demanding industry in Singur. A section of farmers had also staged a protest with similar demands.
Litmus test for her anti-land acquisition move
The Singur issue has come back to haunt CM Mamata Banerjee. The growing demand for industry at the site, where once the Tata Nano factory was supposed to come up, has appeared as a matter of concern for the ruling party. With the BJP intensifying its movement in Singur over demands of setting up industries in the area, TMC government’s anti-land acquisition stance will be severely tested in the days to come.
The anti-land acquisition movement by then Opposition leader Mamata Banerjee had forced Tata Motors to shift its Tata Nano plant from Singur to Sanand in Gujarat in 2008. Riding on this movement, Banerjee came to power in 2011 by ousting Left Front government after its 34-year rule.
In 2016, the Supreme Court quashed the Bengal government’s acquisition of 997 acres of agricultural land for Tata Motors and ordered its return to 9,117 landowners. This was seen as a victory of Banerjee as land was returned to farmers and the unfinished factory was demolished to transform the land for agricultural purpose.
However, the comments from Banerjee drew flak from the Opposition parties.
“This was meant to happen. If she had the foresight then she would not have driven our Tata Motors from Bengal. The Supreme Court gave a verdict in favour of farmers in Singur, but that does not mean one shuts the door for Tata Motors in Bengal forever. Today, neither agriculture nor industry happened in Singur,” said Congress MLA Manoj Chakraborty.
BJP MLA Manoj Tigga said, “Mamata Banerjee has admitted today that farming is taking place only on about 260 acres of land in Singur… The farmers are finding it difficult to cultivate crops in those damaged lands and industry is also not coming up there. So, the aspirations of the people of Singur are not being fulfilled as promised by Banerjee.”
Criticising Banerjee, Left Front Legislature Party leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “We have been saying this for a very long time and today Mamata Banerjee has admitted it. In 2017-18 financial year, farming took place on 640 acres of land and in 2018-19 financial year farming took place only on 260 acres of land in Singur. At the end of the day, she destroyed industry and now agriculture in Singur. It (driving Tata Motors away) only brought doom to the industrial prospects of Bengal and endangered the lives of Singur farmers. Only the TMC benefitted from it in elections.”