Nearly a decade later, the Trinamool Congress has once again fixed its attention on Singur — the land from where the party first began scripting its turnaround story in Bengal in 2006-07.
On Saturday, it launched its agricultural front — Paschimbango Trinamool Kisan O Khetmojur Congress (West Bengal Trinamool Farmer and Day-labourer Congress) — and organised the front’s first delegate-level convention. But the buzz in the TMC camp is more about the state government’s fresh offer to the Tatas to resolve the Singur stalemate by giving up a small portion of the 1000 acres of land (meant for the Tata Motors’ small-car plant) which the government will return to the unwilling farmers who have been protesting against the forcible takeover of their farmlands, resulting in the fiasco remaining unresolved to this date.
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A TMC cabinet minister confirmed on the condition of anonymity that the Tatas have been urged to “reconsider” and take a “relook” at the infrastructure the company had set up for the plant. With much of the infrastructure created by the firm still in place, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wants the Tatas to look into the possibility of creating an automobile unit. Top TMC sources said that the “chances of (a) breakthrough” are very much on the cards and that both sides are “actively working” on it.
What’s unlikely to see a breakthrough, however, is the condition of those farmers who want their land back, with only so much as a promise from the past to hold on to (Mamata, during her people’s movement, long before she was to assume power in 2011) — and the gratuitous measures (Mamata, as CM, offering rice at Rs 2 per kg and Rs 2000 per month to each unwilling family, numbering nearly 3000).
“We have been pushed to the brink of disaster, we have lost everything — the land, the (Tata) factory and the compensation money,” said Mahadeb Das, one of the leaders of Singur Agricultural Land Protection Committee, on Saturday. He, however, added that “we still have faith in Mamata that she will return our land to us”.
And with the TMC springing its focus back onto Singur, the farmers see a ray of hope, especially what with the party’s first agricultural convention reiterating the message that the party stands by its agrarian policy of “not acquiring even an inch of land forcibly”, and that it will get the farmers their land back, “at any cost”. Inaugurating the agricultural convention, Subrata Mukherjee, the state’s Panchayat and Rural Development Minister, said that being a “new party”, the TMC did not have an agricultural wing of its own.
When it is a “necessity”.
“No political party in Bengal could flourish if it does not have an agricultural wing. This venture is aimed to fill the gap. Many things have been achieved during the past four-and-a-half years but many things still remain to be achieved,” he said.
The minister, who addressed the first conference of the party’s agriculture wing, said: “The TMC came to power riding on the land movement and we have never wavered from pro-farmer and pro-daily labourer plank in the past five years. It is the task of our farmer representatives to take the message to their respective areas that the TMC government has ensured amenities for rural population from drinking water to irrigation to road projects,” he said.
Labour Minister Purnendu Bose, who has been with Mamata since the beginning of the Singur movement, said that nearly 1400 delegates selected from all the districts by the agricultural front’s convener, Becharam Manna, attended the convention.
Farmers create an important constituent whose support the TMC has enjoyed, and the new front is an attempt to take that forward.