Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A place called Singur

Singur. A place in the Hoogly district of West Bengal.

"I won't give up my land," says 48-year old Loknath in an article that appeared in Mumbai newspaper DNA. He knows that some ‘boro karkhana’ (large industry) will come up, for which he has to give up his farmland, his sole source of income.

The story goes that the CPM-led Left Front Government of West Bengal is set to acquire the multi-crop lands at Singur to make way for a small car factory. A move that will leave many farmers like Loknath landless. It's not just the farmers-- apparently this move will render more than ten thousand local inhabitants including farmers, sharecroppers and daily labourers jobless.

A group of scientists from various research institutes have personally visited the area and declared that it is beyond any doubt that the earmarked lands are extremely fertile and vast majority of those grow multi-crops throughout the year, and a group of research scientists from the Center for Studies on Social Sciences (CSSS), Kolkata have tried to capture this in a documentary film “Abad Bhumi” (Right to Land). They have also prepared an online petition that addresses the Governer of West Bengal. Don't know how much it'll help though.

Yet another example of the much-hyped "Globalization" eating up our resources and not accounting for it? Probably. But we may forget that soon.

As we already seem to have forgotten that the Colas have been sucking out our groundwater and ruining our villages (they fill the soil with toxics in return as a token of their gratitude) -- be it Mehendiganj in Uttar Pradesh (where Coca Cola draws out more than 250,000 liters of underground water per day and dumps toxic wastes) or Plachimada in Kerala (where the plant was shut-down once following a court order and is operational again now). In Shivaganga, Tamil Nadu, people's protest prevented a plant of Coke being set up in a region that was already facing water scarcity. There are silimar stories of struggles from Jamshedpur in Jharkhand, Patna and Hajipur in Bihar, Satharia Jainpur, Simhachavar in Ballia, Hathras in Aligarh, Dasna–Masoori in Ghaziabad, Bijnor in U.P., Badoli and Panipat in Haryana, Mandideep and Bhopal in M.P., Ahmedabad and Herea in Gujarat, Kudus and Thane in Maharashtra. Now the issue is whether the drinks have pesticides in it (Bahu Tulsi and Aamir Khan are assuring us they are safe) or whether having pesticides is a non-issue as even mother's milk has it, or whether it is right to compare Cola with Mother's milk.

* * *

[Some details and updates on the Singur story at PCFS page:
    Forced Eviction of Farming Communities in Singur, West Bengal (and other links)

Also see: Tata Motors defends site selection at Singur, Times of India, 21 October 2006.

CPM defends the move: All India Kisan Sabha (CITU) leader and Industries Minister in People's Democracy]

7 comments:

Arun said...

Sudeep,
Should one link the Coca-Cola issue with this?Is the experiance India had from Tatas and Coca Cola comparable?Can we remain for ever an agriculture-based economy?"A one lakh ruppee Car"!!.What difference it can make!!How many people will be employed?How many cars can be exported?
Should we oppose everything blindly?Coca-Cola was bad, so was Enron, but not everything! May be there are bad sides but can we always go for perfectness?

Industrialization is inevitable. Progress of humanity is inevitable.

But that shouldnt make agriculture/farmers unimportant. They should be adequately compensated, and of course agriculture has to keep up with population growth anyway, so Science and Technology should find ways for more efficient agriculture.Whether the govt. of WB is doing all this is what we have to ponder over,I feel.

-- Arun
(I've been introduced to you, Sreejitha and your blogs by Dileep.I was his collegemate)

sudeep said...

Dear Arun,

Thanks for the comment. I'm sure many people would be thinking on similar lines. When you say "Industrialization is inevitable. Progress of humanity is inevitable", you seem to be suggesting "Industrialization = Progress of humanity", or at least the former leads to the latter.

How long do you think can we continue with this "Progress" that only consumes resources? Realistic estimates say that we will run out of petrol in another twenty, or at most fifty, years. One prof at IIT Bombay used to ask, are we building all these super-highways for bicycles?

Also, I don't think this is "blind" opposition to any industry, as I first got to know about this issue through someone who does not just forward mails/petitions without studying about them and getting convinced.

Arun said...

Industrialization is inevitable due to the rise in population and the rising needs of the population. Better transportation methods to better medicines and better crops to better means of production will be required. Whether this should be "consumerist" oriented industrialization is another question.

If petrol runs out, alternate sources of energy should be found out. That is one of the "progresses" i wanted to mention.

And I believe the land aquisition in Singur is almost complete by now.

sudeep said...

"The Singur saga began in May, during the elections to the state Assembly. Many of us remember seeing on television, the Chief Minister, having won a whopping majority of seats, addressing the press at the party headquarters. An official hands him a piece of paper, glancing through which the Chief Minister’s eyes brighten up.." a detailed analysis (though a bit long-- needs patience) on Sarai reader list relay. Checks the argument of "employment" among others.

If petrol runs out, these 1-lakh cars won't run. And what are these alternative energy sorces? How sustainable are they?

Yes we do need industries-- but we have to have a realisting assessment of what cost we are paying for it. This includes the livelihoods that are taken away by the project(s), how badly it hits the agricultural production, the environmental damage it does both with the running and with the dumped cars in the long run.. We often avoid accounting for most such things. This happened in the Sardar Sarovar case as well.

Also, you and me know that we won't be asked to vacate our houses on one fine day and find our livelihoods taken away. It is almost always those people at the lower end of the society (and have hardly any voice) who have to suffer. Be it a dam, an expressway..

sudeep said...

Singur is getting more into the mainstream media.. even if it is to mock those who are opposing the move. Medha Patkar writes: "Two editorials in the Indian Express (October 17 & 28) have interpreted my position on industrialisation and urbanisation as “opposition to not just economic modernisation” but also to the arrival of capital and technology in non-urban areas. Express wants all “rational and realist champions of India’s future” to come together to make their case — against ours.."

"The privileged who live far away from displacement sites may not know this but farmers, labourers, the urban and rural poor know what displacement entails. The past cannot be hidden, howsoever distortedly it may be presented by some in the media, or misrepresented by official monitoring agencies. Land-based rehabilitation was promised to Narmada oustees initially. The absolutely illegal option of cash in lieu of land is being imposed upon thousands of families.."

"We have been officially told that the government’s own estimate is that 10,000 families will be affected, including joint land-holders and labourers. The latter have not been officially recorded as yet and are not to be compensated.."

"That there is no state rehabilitation policy in West Bengal or any rehab plan for the Singur project-affected as yet — there’s only cash compensation — that there was repression on the night of September 25, that such factors can damage the reputation of both the state government and the Tatas — why do Express editorials avoid any investigation of these issues and resort to propaganda?.."

See article here.

sudeep said...

Sorry there's some problem with the reader-list link, here's the correct link.

Apoplexy said...

blog ta dekhe bhalo laglo..god amar blog ta dyekho