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Sankrail turns Singur,Didi tastes her own medicine

Singur has boomeranged on Railway minister Mamata Banerjee.

Written by Express News Service | Kolkata |
January 14, 2011 2:32:01 am

*Railway Minister cancels work at site after repeated protests by CPM-backed farmers

Singur has boomeranged on Railway minister Mamata Banerjee. A Rs 85-crore coach factory project of the Railways — to come up at Sankrail in Howrah district — seems to have been successfully grounded in face of fierce opposition from the CPM. On Thursday,Mamata cancelled the commencement of work at the project site.

But she is determined to have the project in Howrah,perhaps at a different site,Railways sources said. “We will come back when there is no opposition,” said a senior official of the South Eastern Railways.

The CPM had mounted opposition to the factory where the Railways tried to start work on December 6,2010,and the tug-of-war has been on since.

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In December 2008,Tata Motors Chairman Ratan Tata had announced the withdrawal of the Nano project from Singur,following fierce opposition from the Trinamool Congress-backed Save the Land Committee.

But a similar committee — this time backed by the CPM — had come up at Sankrail and demanded that the Railways provide jobs to at least one person from each family of dispossessed farmers.

The committee also demanded an enhanced price of the land which was acquired by the state government for the Railways in 1982 when the late Madhavrao Scindia was at the helm of the ministry.

Of the 630 acres acquired to set up a freight corridor terminal,Mamata chose 30 acres to set up the DMU coach factory. In the first phase,Rs 85 crore was sanctioned for the project in the budget.

On January 8,2011,at a public rally at Dhulagarh near Sankrail,Mamata had declared that she was giving three days to villagers to decide whether they wanted the factory or not. “You may give your opinion to the local legislator Sheetal Sardar,” she had announced at the rally. “If you agree,I will come on January 13 to formally flag off the project.”

She had said that locals will be given priority during allotment of factory jobs. Regarding the provision of differential amount to farmers,she said the matter was sub judice and that she would abide by the court’s decision.

But the opposition — complete with hungerstrikes and dharnas — had continued. On several occasions,ash and cinder brought in trucks were dumped at the project site to disrupt work.

The CPM says unless the Railways provides job to about 100 dispossed people,they will not allow the factory to come up. “It was Mamata herself who declared at different public rallies that for railway projects,any person who loses land will get a job in Railways,” said Biplab Majumder,secretary of the CPM Howrah district committee. “Here,we will allow the project only when Railways officials sit with us and give us a written undertaking for jobs.”

But the Trinamool is still putting up a brave front. “For the time being,we are on the backfoot but I tell you,the factory will come up here,” said Sheetal Sardar,Trinamool legislator from Sankrail.

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