Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nano turns the political landscape of Bengal

“We protested to protect the lives associated with lands”. This was the conclusion of the talks held with the Singur farmers, who were with Mamta and were arrested on the grounds of blockading Singur illegitimately. This aggressive approach reminisces of the 40 decade old Naxalism. At that time, the rebellious farmers after their arrest had said, “We remonstrated to breathe freely”.

After a more liberalized economy in India, this is the first time when a government has declined to accept the development, it always wanted during its own rule. It’s also happened for the first time in Bengal’s politics that the farmers-laborers are being sidelined. Ironically, they are the same farmers that the left had used to remain as an option in the Parliament. In opposition to Tata’s car plant in Singur and Indonesia’s Salim Group chemical hub in Nandigram, not only a politics can be played, but also the politicians can be made to revert to their old type of politics. This has been clearly visible after 1991. Actually, in the developmental structure created through a liberalized economy, a particular section has been benefitted, marginalizing a majority section. This has happened so that the society always ponders that everyone is equally developing. It has been tried to create partitions in this majority section.

Four thousand people got employment in Singur. Out of these, one thousand are those who gave away their lands to Tata in lieu of compensation. It’s pretty obvious that regarding the issue of Nandigram also, CPM initially raised the same question that the chemical hub will employ 10,000 people. However in Singur, lives associated with land are more that ten thousand and in Nandigram the number is more than 25,000. In 30 years of their rule, the way leftists have incorporated parliamentarian politics, has rusted their power to struggle.

After Singur, it’s been speculated in Bengal that in the election politics the development of the middle class will matter or this 40 decade old politics of farmers can turn the government upside down. However, a clash between the politics of protest and the politics of elections has raised a question that, shall this establishing of industries on productive land and continuous opposition from peasants-labourers-tribals hamper the ongoing development process? Or will it stand along with the parliamentarian politics?

Bengal’s politics has always been that of confrontation. The reason is the presence of a leftist government in the last 3 decades. However, in the last four years, under Buddhadev Bhattacharya’s policy decisions, industrial development has been made important and the farmer crisis has been dealt with silence. This has raised a lot of questions. The question here is that, the government ruled for the last 30 years using the land-farmer problem as a tool, and it’s the same land that’s lying in blood. What is the way out?

In the 30 years of rule, the left has taught the farmers ways to struggle and in these years the number of landless farmers has increased from 35 lakhs to 74, 18,000. Presently, there are more that 1.25 crore farmers in the state, excluding the far-off farmers. Out of them only 56 lakh farmers approx are the ones who own a land. And, around 75 lakh farmers are landless. This farmer-land crisis has been amplified due to liberalized economy. The agricultural land is been given for industrial purposes, where he profit and employment is limited. Only few people are benefitting from the industries. However, the amount of land acquisition happening is more than 50-100 %. That is, one person profits when 100 farmers become workless. Abdul Razzak, the Land Development Minister of Bengal says that every year around 20 thousand acres of agricultural land is used for purposes other than agriculture.

The state government’s approach towards agricultural development is such that, the farmers-labourers belonging to SC-ST and OBC are facing serious financial troubles. Due to low castes, they are forced to work on leased lands. Around 90% work on leased lands and 83% work on 50-50 output basis. The total money that 36 % leased land workers and 26% 50-50 outcome-based farmers earn in total is not even 1000 per month. They don’t even get Rs.30 per day. The issue is even graver because the land being given for industrialization purposes is agricultural. However, state already owns around 11, 75,000 acres of land, which is lying as it is.

Around 40 thousand acres of land is lying unused, which was once used for industrial purpose. The government is not even making a positive policy regarding the same. The State Govt. vindicates that it cannot take any decisions regarding these lands. Either the forest laws or the authority comes in between. Ironically, it’s the same CPM government that in the 60’s questioned the agricultural land policies of the Congress government. In 1964-67, what CPM said was significant. It said that the Land Acquisition Act, implemented by the British in 1894 was still in practice and that there were no clear laws in the human interest. Giving productive land in private hands was being considered in the human interest. Not only this, but the left clearly said that, industries should be established on the unproductive land in the undeveloped area. Only then would it be industrial development, else it would be land snatching.

The wheel of politics has turned in the last 3 decades. This is clear from the fact that the Nano factory’s National Highway location is such that the whole of the opposite side of it is under land mafias. These land mafias belong to the cadre of CPM- TMC and are forcing for a settlement. Buddhadev reckons that the reality of Nano is the capitalist profit and hence he can promote it.

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