Didi's Maa Mati Manush hollow?
Basudeb Ghosh, 48, is one of the many farmers who are waiting to sow seeds in their lands in Singur in Hooghly district of West Bengal. He owns one acre land which was a part of Tata's Nano Car factory site proposed in 2006, but later on it was shifted to Gujarat in October 2008.
Singur, created history with an anti-land acquisition movement against the proposed factory for Tata Nano, was spearheaded by the then ruling party chief Mamata Banerjee, which shot her to fame of being a crusader for farmers' rights and then brought her TMC party to power in the 2011 Assembly elections.
A lot of area where the factory was supposed to be set up is full of wild grass and plants, far from what can be called a cultivable land. Standing at the project site, Ghosh explains: "We had one acre of land in our names. 'Didimoni' says the government is clearing out the lands from fly ash. There are places where cleaning has already been done, but in my land the cleaning did not start yet, so I can't grow any crop here. We hope that she does it as soon as possible. The land is waterlogged and we request that she ensures a better irrigation system soon."
Gopal Chandra Ghosh, whose father was a barghadaar of the land used for the Nano project, faced similar problems as the land was filled with fly ash for several years. "There is a record in my father's name but we did not receive the money yet. Even now my father is supposed to receive money against his land almost around Rs 2,000 per acre. The land is not fertile, it is not cultivable and there is no proper irrigation. For the last 11 years the problems of water logging have remained the same, therefore, it is our request to the government that they take proper steps in the matter. We had around 10 acres in our names."
Banerjee-led government had tweaked the Land Acquisition Law of 1894 in the state to give back the lands to farmers who had played crucial roles in the Singur Movement. The factory construction had started, and
now many farmers are relying on only the stipend they get from the state government.
The Agriculture department, the PWD and the Land Department are working to turn four cultivation lands of the five mouzas under Singur into fertile lands. Out of the five mouzas three mouzas -- Khaserberi, Beraberi, Gopanagar are completed but two - Bajemelia and Singherberi -- are yet to be done. However, there are many agricultural workers who are working under the land owners and tilling the lands for decades.
The political battle, however, is even more difficult with the BJP hitting out at the TMC and the vice versa. There were more than 9,000 farmers who had put everything they had at stake to get a livelihood, but now it seems that 'they had put too much at stake for too little'. The Hooghly constituency has always been the biggest and the most productive region of the state.
The land that gave birth to the 'Singur Andolan' - a green and fertile land earlier - is now an uncultivable section of land that is of no use. Now, this place can neither be used for agriculture nor for any other purpose. So the question remains: Has the party that chants 'Ma, Mati and Manush' forgotten all its promises?
Locket Chatterjee, BJP candidate, Hooghly parliamentary constituency said, "In 2011, Mamata Banerjee kick started the Singur Movement saying that they don't want industry, they want agriculture. Then Tata went out the state, and we saw the situation of the farmers in 2011. Now, the situation is even worse. She used the farmers and became the CM but did nothing for the farmers."
Trinamool Congress was quick to hit out at the BJP. Becharam Manna, former West Bengal minister and a local resident of Singur, who played a pivotal role in the movement in 2006 said, "When Mamata Banerjee was the railway minister, she opened store 'Kishan Vishan' near Singur railway station for the farmers. When she moved away from her post, the store got closed. If the BJP is a friend of the farmers and understands their situation so well why aren't they running the store? She also helped the farmers with their harvesting land, opened a degree college in Singur among other things."
Ratna Dey Nag, TMC MP and this year's candidate from Hooghly said, "BJP states many things just to humiliate the state government. Most of them are lies. BJP speaks so much about the farmers now but when Mamata Banerjee was standing beside the farmers at their hard time, no other party was present."