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Unemployed worker hangs self in Singur

Posted by Indian Vanguard on December 18, 2007




SINGUR: A day after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee talked about the wonder that Singur would be, an unemployed farm worker killed himself at Singur’s Khaserbheri Shibtala on Monday.

Shankar Patra (48) was found hanging in the cattle shed behind his mud house around 2 pm. Son Pratap said Shankar had taken to working in other people’s farms after his tea shop was burgled. But the state took over the land, where he regularly found work, for the Tata factory. Shankar then joined the anti-land acquisition movement. Though many farm hands got work at the factory site, Shankar did not.

Shankar was jobless for weeks and depressed, said Pratap. “We have nowhere to go. Since we went against the government’s plans, no one cares for us,” said widow Asha.

The Opposition was quick to turn the suicide into a political issue. “CPM claims people are happy after getting compensation and work at the site. Why did he commit suicide if everything is fine? People starve and the state turns a blind eye,” said Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee convener Becharam Manna.

Local CPM leaders, however, refuse to accept blame. “We can’t take responsibility for those who refuse to work,” said Singur gram panchayat president Ranjit Mandal.

Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who will be in Bajemelia on Tuesday to visit Tapasi Malik’s family, is expected to meet Shankar’s kin as well. A CPI (M-L) delegation met Tapasi’s parents on Monday and slammed the land acquisition policy.


Time of India
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TATA kills again- A victim of land grab commit suicide.

Posted by Indian Vanguard on June 2, 2007

Sourece: Singur Link Via: Bhumkal

Prasanta Das, a 43 year old marginal peasant of Khaser Bheri mouza in Singur, who had declined to give up his land for the Tata Motors small car factory, committed suicide by hanging himself from the ceiling of a cowshed at his residence. His body was found in the wee hours of 25th May, 2007.

Incidentally it was the day of the first anniversary of the land struggle in Singur against forcible land acquisition. The villagers strongly alleged that the suicide was because of the land loss. Prasanta’s bereaved relatives and neighbours said that he was very much depressed and “mentally upset” ever since his family’s land (around 4 bighas and 4 Cottah) was forcefully acquired by the state government for the Tata Motors project.

His mother Geeta Das said, “He was prescribed treatment and counseling by the doctor. He didn’t say anything unusual before his death. He was always worried how the family would live without the land.” The deceased Prasanta has two minor daughters, only 9 years and 6 years old respectively. His widow, Sandhya Das has no alternative source of earnings.


The farmland was held jointly by Prasanta, his father Mahadeb Das (65) along with his two younger brothers Tapas and Sushanta. The Das family, consisting of three brothers, their wives and children were solely dependent on their agricultural land for their life and livelihood and after the government took over the land for the Tata project, they have been living in penury.


But despite their destitution, Prasanta and his family straightaway turned down to receive compensation cheques alleging that their land was forcibly grabbed by the government against their will. “We didn’t take money for the land because the family did not want to part with the land,” Prasanta’s mother said. Besides he was one of the earliest and active members of “Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee” (Singur Save Farmlands Committee), a people’s organisation against the land acquisition. He was also injured in the police’s lathi-charge on September, 2006 in front of BDO office during the peak of Singur land struggle.


A protest rally was taken out in the evening by the members of Krishi Jami Raksha Committee carrying Prasanta’s dead body along the newly erected wall of the Tata’s project site.Earlier on 12th March, a similar incident had taken place in Singur when another poor peasant Haradhan Bag of Beraberi Purbapara, whose land had also been acquired without his consent, had committed suicide consuming pesticide.Singur is now simmering in a terrible anguish and perturbation over the heart-rending suicides of two peasants.


A fresh turmoil is brewing here after May 20th, when hundreds of peasants and agricultural workers determined to recover their lands acquired for the project, conflicted with the police who fired teargas shells, rubber bullets and charged with batons resulting 25 villagers including a 13 years old boy severely injured.


Later on, the police filed a large number of false cases (Ref: Singur P.S. Case 113, dated 20.05.07) against 53 protesters including Becharam Manna, Convener of Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee and Anuradha Talwar, President of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity and 400 others under the following sections of IPC.

1. Section 147– Punishment for rioting.
2. Section 148 – Rioting armed with deadly weapon.
3. Section 149 – Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed inprosecution of common object.
4. Section 186 – Obstructing public servant in discharge of public function.
5. Section 332 – Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty.
6. Section 333 – Voluntarily causing grievous hurt to deter public servant from his duty.
7. Section 325 – Punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt.
8. Section 326 – Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means.
9. Section 353 – Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty.
10. Section 307 – Attempt to murder. and I.P.C/9 (B) (1) I. E. Act.Three activists, Kush Kumar Das, Jagannath Roy and Tarun Santra were arrested and detained under jail custody till the next hearing on 4th June 2007.

Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity

source- singur-singur.blogspot.com

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Singur

Posted by Indian Vanguard on April 14, 2007

Abadbhumi, a documentary film based on the forcefull aquisition of farmer’s land by West Bengal Government on behalf of TATA Motors.

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Blast damages Singur site wall

Posted by Indian Vanguard on March 19, 2007

SINGUR (Hooghly), March 18: A portion of the boundary wall of the Tata Motors’ small car project site at Singur was damaged early today when explosives planted inside hollow iron pipes kept hidden in a drainage outlet went off. Explosives secreted in six other drainage outlets of the boundary wall near a Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee camp at Gopalnagar Bospara were later detected.

The blast was triggered around 3:30 a.m. Officers of the bomb squad of the state police rushed to the spot and unearthed the high-intensity charges which were believed to have been planted to blow up the boundary wall. Police are still not sure of the brain behind the act.

“We are probing the matter. Nothing can be disclosed at this point of time,” Mr Anuj Sharma, DIG (Burdwan range), said. No one has been arrested in this connection.

A senior police officer said that policemen posted at the project site had heard the sound of an explosion coming from the Gopalnagar Bospara-end of the boundary wall early today. They reached the spot to find a portion of the wall damaged. The blast was triggered a few yards off a Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee camp.
Senior officers were later informed of the explosion and a search was eventually mounted. Policemen found six iron pipes packed with explosives in six different drainage outlets of the boundary wall. The objects were later defused.

The incident sparked off tension and rumours of Maoist insurgents planting mines at the project site spread. Officers of the bomb squad said the entire boundary wall would have collapsed had all explosives been detonated at one go. Mr Partha Chattopadhyay, Leader of the Opposition, alleged that CPI-M supporters and policemen had planted the explosives to divert the people’s attention from the “genocide” at Nandigram. “The area has been under a strong security cover for the past couple of months. It is not possible for outsiders to sneak in to wreak havoc,” Mr Chattopadhyay said.

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Road dug up at Singur

Posted by Indian Vanguard on March 3, 2007

Singur, March 02: Miscreants, possibly opposed to Tata Motors small-car project here, on Friday, damaged roads leading to the project site in the second such incident in the last 20 days.

Trenches were dug up on the road at Bajemelia connecting Kamarkundu and Khaserberi and was reminiscent of a similar incident at Nandigram in East Midnapore district, where an industrial group was acquiring land for an SEZ project.

The Trinamool Congress-led Save Farmland Committee has been holding protests near the Tata Motors’ site against acquisition of agricultural land for it, police said.

There have also been minor incidents of arson in the recent past. Zee

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WB: Police lathicharge Medha Patkar

Posted by Indian Vanguard on February 26, 2007

Monday, 26 February 2007 18:02 IST

Singur, Feb 26: Police today resorted to lathicharge to disperse social activist Medha Patkar-led protesters after they tried to approach the fenced area for the Tata Motors small car project at Singur in West Bengal.
Hooghly Superintendent of Police Supratim Sarkar said two persons were arrested.

Patkar said two of her associates, Amita Bag and Dhananjay Das, were injured in the lathicharge.
Additional Superintendent of Police, Hooghly, Asit Pal said police removed the demonstrators.

Patkar with her associates then began a sit-in demonstration a few metres away from the fence.

Earlier addressing farmers from Goplanagar and Bajemelia villages who had set up camps in the area since yesterday, Patkar came down heavily on the state government for going ahead with the Tata Motors project at Singur and the Salim project in Nandigram in East Midnapur.

She said the government was using the police in favour of the enterprise and added that it should stop the project as the farmers were unwilling to hand over their land.

Slogan-shouting farmers from Beraberi Purbapara marched upto the fenced area of the Tata Motors small car project where they had an altercation with the police who stood guard. Police then resorted t”
News From Sahara Samay

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Land Acquisition and Women’s Resistance

Posted by Indian Vanguard on February 22, 2007

Tebhaga Comes Alive in Singur

A report by the Women’s Movement Team- 16th to 18th December 2006

At the behest of the Women’s groups in Kolkata, three of us, Ilina Sen Scholar on women’s studies and founder member of Rupantar, Chattisgarh, Madhuri of National Alliance of Agricultural Worker Unions and the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, M.P. and Kavita Srivastava, National Secretary of the PUCL (all three active in people’s struggles in the country) visited the affected villages of Singur over the 16th to the 18th of December.


The objective of our visit was to understand

· To understand the reasons for the opposition to the Tata Small Car project in Singur, Hoogly District and examine the impact that the consequent displacement and dispossession from land and agriculture would have on the villagers, particularly women.

· Whether force and terror had been used by the West Bengal Government on the people, particularly women in order to acquire the 997.11 acres of land for the purpose of giving it to Tata Motors for setting up a small car plant. .

· To understand the process of land acquisition used by the Government of West Bengal in Singur and the nature and amount of compensations being provided to the affected people.

· To examine the issue of a motor vehicle factory being the “Public Purpose” for displacement of people from their multi crop agriculture land. and to examine the viability of the project vis-a vis the stated purpose of “employment generation and socio-economic development”

Our team met the residents of the villages of Bera Beri and Khaser Bheri on the 16th and on the 17th we went to Gopal Nagar and the agricultural workers village of Do Bandi. We met both, the dissenters and those who have given consent to the administration for land acquisition. Though on the 18th we had an appointment with the DM and the SP in Chinsura (the head quarters of Hoogly District), we were unable to meet them, as both were away in connection with the murder of Tapasi Malik We instead met the ADM Sh. Liaqat Ali and several other officers who had been involved in the process of land acquisition. We tried to get an appointment with the officials of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC), but unfortunately they were unable to give us time till the 20th and since our stay was only till the 18th we could not meet them.

We were however able to meet the entire State Women’s Commission including the Chairperson, the representatives of various women’s groups and others progressive groups who had supported the movement, written reports and had gone to jail and a section of the media that had been reporting this issue. We could not meet the members of the National Women’s Commission who had come to investigate the issue since they were only there for a day

Our report is based on the interviews with various people in Singur, Chinsura and Kolkata and the various reports and inputs that different groups and individuals have provided . The only official report that was available to us was the Status report circulated by P S Grewal, Delhi, and State Secretary of the CPI (M).

Our report is in four parts. Part I of the report looks briefly at the socio economic profile of Singur and the details of the Tata Project and provides an overview of the Peasant Struggle including the active role played by the women of Singur in this Resistance.. Part II consists of detailed narratives of some victims of police atrocities and other human rights violations when they tried to resist acquisition. Part III looks at the issue of dispossession versus the promise that the Tata model of development holds including critiquing the processes that the West Bengal Government has used relating to acquisition and hindering the process of public debate. Part IV gives our overall conclusions and demands


When we reached the villages of Bera Beri and Khaserbheri on the 16th morning we were taken aback by the large number of pucca and double storied houses. Even the cow sheds were pucca. These were definitely prosperous villages. We also discovered that the literacy in this region was about 76%. It clearly showed that Singur was a developed area of West Bengal.

We were told by most of the farmers that Singur is a success story in agriculture during the thirty years of Left front Government rule. The irrigation facilities which the Government assisted the people in installing led to the land becoming productive and the last ten years saw a growth of the economy of that region. It was just when the local people of Singur were beginning to taste the success of their hard work and improved land productivity, that they were being forcibly evicted from their agricultural land.

PART- I

Socio Economic Profile of Singur, the Tata Project and the People’s Struggle.

Singur’s Profile

Singur is in Hooghly district ,45 kilometers from Kolkata. The nearest railway stations are Singur, Kamarkundu and Madhusudanpur.The farmland earmarked for the project stands alongside an arc of the Durgapur expressway near the Ratanpur crossing with NH1. The six mouzas whose land falls under the Tata project site are Gopal Nagar, Bera Beri, Bajemelia, Khaserbheri, Singher Beri and Joymollar Beri. They stand on the other side of the project site completing the expressway’s arc into a circle.

The area lies between Damodar and Hooghly rivers, Kana river, a tributary of the former,, and Daibakh khal, an irrigation canal constructed during the British period. About 80 percent of Singur’s cultivable land falls under the notified DVC area. There are 5 deep tube wells and 27 mini tube wells providing water for cultivation. About 50 households have power tillers.

According to a govt. Statistical Handbook on Singur block, 83%of the land is irrigated and the crop density is 220%. The crops produced are mainly paddy and potato but jute and a variety of vegetables are also grown in the fields. There are five modern cold storages and a host of wholesaler’s sheds (arat) in Ratanpur-Singur town.


According to the People’s Survey carried out by Sanhati Udyog in November, the landholdings in Singur are small with very few owners having more than 2 bighas (0.66 acres). Hence, there are more than 11,000 land holdings. Of a total of 6,000 families that will be affected, about 3500 farming households work on their own fields and can be called poor or subsistence farmers. According to them there are about 1200 unregistered sharecropping Bargadars. But a Status Report on Singur circulated by the CPM Delhi State Secretary, P S Grewal talks of only 237 recorded Bargadars and about 170 unrecorded..

According to experts, most of the Bargadars in Singur are temporary, who work for only two crop seasons with one land owner family and then move on to another. They may therefore not be counted as Bargadars in official terms but such a worker sees himself as one.

There are also large numbers of landless wage-earning labourers called kishen in local parlance. Do Bandi village of Bera Beri was fully occupied by landless labourers. Similarly, in Khaserbheri more than a third of the total population was of landless labourers. Women form a very large part of the work force. The percentage of female workforce in the 5 villages is 12.4 % as recorded in the Census 2001. But this cannot be taken as an accurate figure as it is common knowledge that the Census often does not take into account the household work done by women which includes agriculture and its allied activities.

According to the Sanhati Udyog Report there are a large number of migrant workforces. About 1000 wage-labourers, called garir kishen, arrive daily from Bardhaman, Bankura and other parts of the Hooghly district to earn their livelihood from agricultural activities. Around 800 labourers, mostly adivasis from Jharkhand, are seasonal migrants who work the fields for six-eight months and earn just about enough to feed their families back home for the whole year. There are also several permanent migrant families who had come two or three decades ago and settled down in Singur.

A majority of non-farming households in Singur are employed in agriculture-related occupations. 450-500 cycle-cart drivers transport crops and agricultural inputs to and from the fields, nearly 200 households are engaged in animal husbandry and over 150 households are vegetable vendors in Howrah, Sealdah, Chuchura and the two local markets. The cold storages in Rantanpur employ about 500 labourers.

According to the Status Report circulated by the CPM Delhi State Secretary P S Grewal on Singur, the acreage falling within the tract acquired by the West Bengal government for the Tata project are shown in Table 1

Village

Land (in acres)

Gopalnagar

399

Beraberi

327.21

Bajemelia

47.77

Khaserbheri

180

Singher Beri

41.47


Table 1

In addition, about 65 acres, comprising two bunds, land on which an ashram is located and land alongside Durgapur Expressway, had already been vested (khas) with the government . Two factories, a cold storage and two petrol stations constitute the rest of the 15 acres.

The Tata Project

According to news reports in the month of May 2006, just after the victory of the Left Front in the election of the Legislative Assembly for the seventh time consecutively, a meeting was held between Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, CM of West Bengal and Ratan Tata, the Chairman of Tata Company. In this meeting, it was officially announced that over 1000 acres of the land of Singur block would be acquired since the Tata Motors would build a small car plant. It was also said that the land acquisition would take place shortly as Tata Motors wanted to launch a new One-lakh-Rupee car model by the year 2008. According to Mr. Nilotpal Basu, CPI(M) MP (as stated by him to a delegation that met him on the 7th December), the Tatas had been shown 5 different pieces of land and they chose Singur.

The only official document publicly available on the project, the Gazette notification under sec 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act 1894 between 19th and 24th July states that the “land as mentioned in the schedule below is likely to be needed to be taken by the Government/ Government undertakings/ Development Authorities, at the public expense for a public purpose viz., employment generation and the socio economic development of the area by setting up a Tata Small Car project”.

A continuous demand from the public, including senior activists Medha Patkar and Justice Moloy Sengupta, writer Mahasweta Devi, the smaller constituents of the Left Front and the opposition party leaders, to make the land deal with the Tatas public, has been denied despite the use of Right To Information law and the intervention of the Court. Asked to comment on this, the state industry minister Nirupam Sen said that it was not possible for the government to make pubic the full details of the Singur land deals with the Tatas as “this is trade secret”. There is serious questioning of this dictum of “trade secret” for land being acquired “in the public interest”.

Some of the facts that the people have been demanding of the W. Bengal Government through the RTI law but have been denied are as follows:

· The cost that Tata is paying for the land which is costing the Government Rs. 131.49 crores through its tax paying citizens for the land acquisition alone

· What are the waivers and subsidies that have been offered by the WB Government to the Tatas for this project?

· If comparable car manufactures can do with 300-400 acres of land in other States and in other parts of the world then why are Tatas being given 997 acres land?

· How Singur chosen and which was were the other sites shown by the Government to the Tata group?


Against the applications filed under the RTI Act by Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights to the Land and Land Reforms Department and the WBIDC, only the latter replied to one question broadly relating to the use of the 997 acres of land by Tata, stating that 700 acres would be used by the Mother plant for the small car with planned capacity of 5 lakhs per year and on 300 acres First Tier vendors’ factories would come up. The rest of the information was denied under Sec 8 of the RTI Act, 2005 as part of trade secrets. According to the WBIDC the choice of Singur was based on” accessibility and availability of infrastructure”.

Biplab Halim on behalf of IMSE ( Institute for Motivating Employment) also filed a petition in the Kolkata High Court seeking information from the state government on the proposed land acquisition in Singur and its subsequent social impact under the Right to Information Act. According to the facts provided by the EPW article WEST BENGAL Land Acquisition and Peasant Resistance at Singur, by Parthasarathy Banerjee, dated November 18, 2006 4719, the court admitted the petition and asked the government to furnish its reply by August 28. The following are some of the questions and the government’s responses to them:

Question: Please furnish the land-use map for the proposed land to be acquired in Singur.

Answer: Not available.

Question: How many of the affected people come under the BPL category?

Answer: Can’t be said readily.

Question: What is the projected employment loss (directly and indirectly) due to land acquisition? Answer: Difficult to give the exact figures.

Question: What is the scope of new employment and the requisite qualifications and skills required for those jobs?

Answer: Difficult to state.

The information Commissioner filed an affidavit with the High Court to squash the application saying that it did not come in the purview of the RTI. IMSE has in turn written to the High Court countering this claim and the case is still pending hearing.

Highlights of a democratic and non violent Struggle

The Singur struggle has been peaceful and constitutional. But against all democratic norms, the West Bengal government, instead of attempting to address the issues raised, first ignored the protest and then tried to crush it with force

The team was informed that the struggle of a substantial number of the people of Singur against the land acquisition began from day one when the Tata company representatives and the officials went to see the land on the 25th of May 2006. The people refused to let them reach their fields and blocked their way and the Tata team had to be rescued by the police. As early as June 2nd, several thousand protesting farmers organised under the banner “Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Samiti” went to the block office of Singur and gave a memorandum against the forcible acquisition of their fertile land by the Government. Their dissent continued all through the month of July which included a huge rally at Chinsura. A non cooperation movement was declared from 17th July. On the 24th the Durgapur Expressway was blocked as a protest.

However, ignoring the people’s voice the Government issued the first notification under sec 4 (1) of the Land Acquisition Act 1894 to the affected farmers between 19th July and 24th July. On 22nd of August, a nominal public hearing was organised by the administration at Singur which was boycotted by several farmers. When the authorities went to deliver final notices at Bera Beri between 29th and 31st August, the women barricaded the way and prevented the officials from pasting notices on their walls. The award was declared on the 21st September and land acquired on the 25th September.

Through the month of September, the issue got raised at multiple platforms outside Singur, in Kolkata too. There was a clear message from the various meetings that the Government must not forcibly evict people and must review its stand on Singur. The Government however, moved according to plan and on paper acquired the land on the 20th September 2006.

The events of 25th September(The day the Govt decided to hand out compensations) showed that the Government would go to any extent to evict the people and hand over the land to the company officials, more than four hundred people including several women and children were brutally assaulted and about 78 activists were arrested which included 27 women.

The struggle of the people nevertheless continued in a democratic and peaceful fashion the next few months. Marches, rallies, public hearings got organized in Singur and Kolkata. They were joined by several organisations and eminent people like Professors from Jadavpur University, Human Rights and other social action groups, trade unions and all political parties other than those of the left front from all over W. Bengal. Former Chief Justices of the Supreme Court and former Prime Minister VP Singh all urged the Government, met the Governor and wrote to the PM and President and Central Government to not evict the people and give the TATA’s alternative land.

Several surveys, in particular the Singur “People’s Survey”, conducted by a forum of diverse people’s organizations in the name of Sanhati Udyog and Public Hearings, especially the one organized on 27th October, 2006, which was chaired by Medha Patkar and had Mahashweta Devi, Justice Malay Sengupta and Dipankar Sengupta as members, were creative and democratic ways of giving a platform to the voices challenging the acquisition.

.State violence began to be orchestrated once again from 30th November, when section 144 was clamped on the area. On 2nd December 2006, people of Khaserbheri, Bera Beri and Gopalnagar gathered to resist the fencing off of the proposed project land. Severe police force was used against them, several people were injured and more than 60 people were arrested. Several women told us that the police not only beat up people at the project site, but chased them into their villages and dragged them out of their houses and beat them. Verbal sexual abuse was used against the women, and at least one young woman, Deepali Moitra said that she was dragged by her hair from under a bed in Kasherberi where she was hiding. Medha Patkar who went in solidarity was not allowed to enter the affected villages by the officials and her citizen rights of movement in the area was curtailed.

Mamata Banerjee, along with 6 others from the various constituents of the Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Samity sat on an indefinite fast from 5th December onwards.

In spite of prohibitory orders people continued to protest in the affected villages, We witnessed a children’s protest organised in Gopalnagar on the 17th of December.. In both Bera Beri and Khaserbheri people were sitting on indefinite fasts.

The Role of political Parties

It has been repeatedly stated by the West Bengal government and by various supporters of the project, that the dissent against the project has been artificially stirred up by the Trianmool Congress due to its political rivalry with the ruling Left Front. The team was keen to see if this was true.

We found , however, that the protest is a genuine community movement with entire families being involved in the struggle. Though the area is a strong TMC base and its leaders have been very active in the movement, the movement cannot be called a TMC creation. Though the TMC and its leader Mamata Banerjee have received extensive and disproportionate media coverage, it was the affected villagers who began and are sustaining the struggle. The TMC, despite its very active involvement , appears to have only ridden the wave of a peoples’ movement. The SUCI (Socialist Unity Center of India)and other organizations active in the struggle also seem to be playing a supportive role to a local peasant initiative.

Several protestors told us that they have traditionally been CPI(M) supporters. Even the local CPI(M) leaders, including the Panchayat Pradhan and block level Panchayat Samiti president expressed their unhappiness over the way the land acquisition decision was taken at the top level of the party, keeping them in the dark

Haradhan Das of Khaser bhedi, a CPM cardholding member for 35 years, told us that the first time that he heard of the project was at a meeting in the house of Kalipadma, Manna in May in which Manna assured the assembled party members that “ Tata company will not allow any tears to be shed”. There was a debate at the meeting, in which Manna repeatedly insisted that people could invest the money paid as compensation and live happily ever after on the interest. Some of the members wanted to know why Tata could not live off the interest of the money itself.

Finally Manna announced that there was no point raising questions as the project was already finalized. Haradhan’s comment was that ‘ebar ami ontore bujhilam je oder mone kichu ghol achhe’ (I then understood in my own mind that there was something wrong in their thought process).

Women in the fore front of the struggle

It did not come as a surprise to us that it was the women who wished to save their land more than the men. It was because of this attitude that women in very large numbers were in the fore-front of this struggle and young and old women in equal numbers had been arrested. Parsthasarthi Banerjee in his article, Land Acquisition and Peasant Resistance in Singur ( in the Economic and Political Weekly November 18, 2006 4719) states that “the involvement of women in the movement and the intensity of their participation might only be compared with women’s role in the Tebhaga movement in the late 1940s. “

Because of the presence of women a large number of children also formed a part of the struggle. We were a witness to a protest of more than five hundred children in Gopal Nagar against the acquisition of their agriculture land. They were led by women who may have been sisters and aunts to raise slogans, sing movements songs and in the drawing and writing out of posters. One of the slogans that got raised most frequently was ‘Tatader jhentiye biday koro’( Sweep the Tata out of here). When asked about the role of children, the women told us that they were trying to save this land for them. One of them, Ashima, said that the children must realise that if they wanted benefits from what their ancestors have left behind then they should lend their voices.


So strong was their desire to fight the acquisition of their agriculture land that they did not fear going to jail. There were some women we met who had been to jail twice both in the struggle on the 25th of September and on the 2nd of December. They were willing to go again. These women had also sustained bad injuries. When we told them that the West Bengal Government was implementing the hard earned rights of women’s share in the property and was thus issuing cheques in their name too and would it not be easier to accept the money, they retorted and said that they would rather be in jail than accept the cheque.

When we told them that the land was not essentially theirs and in any case it belonged to the male members of the family, they retorted back saying ” We have rights as daughters and without our signature no land can be sold and we have used that right of ownership.” They said that after all it was they who laboured on the farm day in and out and it was their labour which had converted the land into gold.

When we insisted that Tata project was after all bringing new opportunity of training for women, they retorted that the Tata project wanted to convert them into domestic servants. Their dignified role as a productive worker working on their own fields would be lost soon. They also showed their chappals (slippers) in protest and told us that they were not interested in any catering or stitching training that was being announced for women. They wanted to continue to work on their fields and not do what the Tatas was forcing on them.

(Meeting notes of Gopal Nagar children’s protest; meeting with several women including Deepali Moitra, Tapasi Malik (who was murdered the next day in the field), Ashima Khara, Tapasi Patra, Ashto Rani Koley and others.

It is in this backdrop that it is important to understand the police action on the women and violation of their rights.

PART II

The use of force and armed action against the people – A case of violation of Human Rights

The women who we met had had absolute fresh memories of being assaulted and injured both during the police action on 25th night and that on the 2nd December, 2006.

The night of 25th – 26th September 2006: The first round of violence outside the BDO’s office took place in the early hours of 26th September.

According to the women the government had announced publicly that cheques for compensation would be issued to the landowners of Singur whose lands have been vested in the government. They were upset that their voice had not been given a platform and that the Government was unilaterally working on this project. About 5000 people including about 2000 women workers had peacefully demonstrated at the Block Development Office at Singur against the distribution of cheques to the peasants under the banner of “Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee”. The protest was an all night one. The dissenting farmers wanted the administration to carry out mutation for their land titles too. However, they were told that only if they gave their consent letters would it be carried out.

Sh. Manik Chand Das (s/o of late Santosh Kumar Das) one of the leaders of the Krishi Jami Raksha Samiti, and an owner of 4.5 bighas (1.48 acres) between three brothers. (3 bigha make an acre and 20 kathas make a bigha) told us that they had sat on dharna from about 11 am to 5 pm. It was only in the evening that Mamta Banerjee (leader of the Trinamool Congress) came to the dharna. Other political party leaders also turned up late evening. Several thousand villagers left the dharna site very late in the evening to go home for the night. About a thousand people continued squatting at the BDO’s office. “At about 1.20 AM when we were trying to sleep, the lights were suddenly put up by the police and they started beating us up as if it was like during the British times. It reminded us of those days. The police spared nobody they mindlessly beat up everybody including the leaders Mamta Banerjee and Prof Chittranjan Mondal, later they released them however. One Raj Kumar Bhool died the next morning, succumbing to the injuries he sustained. “

“The false cases were put on almost 80 of us including Manik Chand Das, Madhava Das, Dood Kumar Dhara and Hemadri Patra, the cases were of the nature of attempt to murder (Sec 307- IPC). More than 400 people got injured of which 200 were women.” Police arrested 78 persons of which 27 were women and kept them in Chandannagar jail for 6 days.

“False cases were registered. People went into hiding. Next day in retaliation more than 200 women took out a rally. When they reached the road there was a lot of police. There was a mild lathi charge and women dispersed.


“We never organised Durga Pooja this year. We also observed a black Diwali in protest. Since we will be dispossessed very soon we have nothing to celebrate. We cannot come to terms with our eviction.”

Some narratives of the attack on women

1. We met Krishna Bagh, W/o Arun Bagh who told us that my daughter (aged 2 ½ years) was in my arms when I went for the sit in demonstration at the BDO office on 25th September when the police started hitting us. The girl was sleeping when she was dragged from my arms and the police started kicking, pulling me by my hair and tearing at our clothes. 28 of us women were arrested. We were dragged by our hair and pushed into the van and the police kept on abusing us throughout. Some of them smelled of alcohol and there were no women officers. In the lockup when my girl started crying out of hunger, I asked for some milk and biscuits, but none was given. Instead I was taunted that ‘I was out at the streets at night and now I want milk and biscuits.” My child felt sick. She got fever and diarrhoea but no medicine was provided and all through no food was given either. They have put an attempt to murder case on me. I have 3 bighas of land and our whole livelihood depends on it.

When my husband came the next day to take my daughter, the police refused to let me give away the child. They said that they had also put a case on her. It was a typical attitude of the police in torturing us and trying to teach us a lesson. My daughter could only come out after being in Jail for 6 days, after we got bail from the High Court. I do not know even today whether they actually wrote a case against my daughter.

2. Subhdara Das w/o of Hari Pad Das told us that her family was an unrecorded bargadar, they work on 3 bighas of land and have 15 kathas of their own. She was firm that no way would they allow the Government to dispossess them. She told us that ” On the 25th September we were all at the BDO office and the police suddenly beat us from the back and I fell down and my arms were swollen badly. Medical Service centre gave us relief. They organised camps and it took me a month and a half to recover. I do not need money and will not give my land. Otherwise I will have to beg which I refuse. More than five hundred protesters including a number of women were severely injured. Afterward, nearly 40 people including women and children were admitted to the nearest hospital at Chuchura.”

3. Austorani Kole: w/o Tara Pada Kole. 45 years. “I was also beaten on the 25th. September. I was physically tortured and assaulted sexually. They tore my blouse and abused me “

4. Suchitra Das: w/o Shambhu Nath Das. Age 34 years. “On the 25 th September I was at the BDO’s office and I was standing with my sister-in-law. And suddenly the lights went out. My sister-in-law said they were beating the women and suddenly she was beaten and she fell. Before I realized I was also beaten and I fell on her. This newspaper report with our picture bears testimony to what I am saying. The police tried to arrest me but I escaped running into somebody’s house.”

6. Sandhya Das (w/o Dhiren Das) “I was arrested on the 25th of September and was kept in the Jail for more than 4 days. The police hurled dirty abuses at me on the 2nd. They kept saying do you wish to have intercourse with us. You want to keep the land and you want to protest then come to us. They also called us prostitutes. They kept repeating this.”

The government filed a number of false cases against the protesters. APDR came forward to defend the imprisoned activists. Later on, they were able to get bail from the Kolkata High Court.


According to the APDR report cum complaint sent to the NHRC on the 12 of October, 2007 “…………..the violence started after a minor altercation over paying a cheque to the former owner of a land-plot, while the purchaser and present owner and possessor of the plot declined to part off with the piece land took place at around 1 AM in the morning. The power supply in the area was suddenly cut off and at about 1.40 AM, several hundred police and commando personnel (many in muftis and drunk) pounced on the tired people.”

All the procedural steps laid down in police manuals and international standards like giving warning, giving time to disperse, using means like water-cannon etc. to minimize physical injury before initiating a lathi charge were thrown into air. APDR is convinced that the purpose of the massive lathi charge was not to establish order but to teach a lesson to those who dared to oppose government policies. The assault was led by three well-known and ‘accredited’ violators of Human Rights police officials. Among them were Harmanpreet Singh, the main accused of disappearance and the murder of Bhikhari Paswan, and was facing trial for 13 years, IG Banibrata Basu, censured by WBHRC for not obeying HR Protection Act in Debu Pramanick custodial murder case and SI Debashish Ghosh, accused in an armed daylight dacoity.

Almost every one including the few children who were with their mother’s arms were bleeding. About two hundred were severely injured and more than a hundred, including 28 women were arrested. Victimized women alleged large scale molestation and ripping of their blouses by the drunken police force. Smt Mayarani Kolay, Barnali and several other women were specially targeted and beaten up mercilessly. Smt. Kolay alleged that though some women police officials tried to shield them and the children by forming a ring around them, some male police and the commando (RAF) personnel targeted them. Smt. Mamata Banerjee was also physically abused and forcibly dumped into a police van with least decency and the minimum dignity due to a woman and a MP. Two media personnel, including the cameraman of a TV Channel trying to record the goings on were also badly roughed up.


Some of the injured could manage to escape from the site and some were sheltered by the people of adjoining areas including known CPI (M) activists. The persons arrested from the spot were taken to unknown destinations. Smt Mamata Banerjee, Prof Chittaranjan Mandal and several others were let off at different points. Becharam Manna, Convenor of the ‘Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee’ which is spearheading the movement, and several other injured persons whom the APDR team met at Chinsura PS lock up alleged that after arrest, about 15 of them were taken in a room which was bolted and 8-10 police personnels led by Debashish Ghosh, OC, DIB lathi charged them mercilessly. Mayarani Kolay, Barnali alleged that Rajkumar Bhul (24) a police assault victim died next day. Those who had been to his funeral said that there were blood marks on his face. His father Dwarika Nath Bhool, who was also at the lathi charge in the night said that he saw Raj Kumar being beaten up.

Though the police seized only several broomsticks, all the arrested persons were charged with sec 307 IPC and Explosives Act to further harass and deny the accused bail.


It was very clear that the women had been subjected to violence that could have been avoided and were unnecessarily charged with serious non-bailable offences. This was very much a part of effort to demoralise them and put pressure on them to withdraw from the movement.

Violence of 2nd December, 2006

According to eye-witnesses in the various villages of Khaserbheri, Bera Beri, Do Bandi, including the fact finding reports on the violence of the 2nd brought out by Manavadhikar Surakhsa Manch (MASUM)and that of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samiti, the state government had deployed more than 5000 police contingent and Rapid Action Force (RAF). The government had already promulgated the prohibitory order u/s 144 of Cr.P.C on the 30th November itself in Singur. When the government officials started putting the fence on 2nd November 2006 at about 10 AM, the local villagers resisted. The people were already there since 6 AM and when the officials who under police protection were fencing the area came face to face with them they resisted the take over as it was their last effort to save the land. It was in this exchange that violence broke out and police force and RAF resorted to widespread lathi-charge and firing tear-gas shells and rubber bullets. The villagers told us that the police entered the adjoining villages and mercilessly beat and physically assaulted the villagers indiscriminately showing no respect to the women, old people and children. A number of people got severe injuries due to police brutality. The police entered the houses and ventured into the roof top and beat up unarmed peaceful people with batons causing bloodsheds. The police also tore clothes of women and verbally hurled sexual abuses at them.

According to the fact finding report of the MASUM report dated 2.12.2006 the police arrested more than 60 people comprising of 18 women and children. Among them, Jhuma Patra, daughter of Mr. Ashok Patra of village Khaserbheri, 12 years old and a student of class V in Naraharipara Primary School and Soma Dhara daughter of Sanyasi Dhara of same village, a minor were also arrested.

The Chandan Nagar Police Station filed case nos 150 & 151 dated 2.12.2006. In both the cases the complainant was Officer-in-Charge of Singur Police Station, Mr. Priya Brata Baxi. In case no. 150, according to police version, 38 persons were arrested and among them 4 were admitted to government hospital. The police initiated the case under sections 147/148/149/186/188/447/332/333/353/325/307 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) & 9(b) (2) of Indian Explosive Act (I.E. Act) with 9 W.B.M.P.O. Act. In the Case No. 151, ten people were injured and one police personnel also received injury. This case was registered under sections 147/148/149/188/323/353/307 of IPC and 9(b) (2) of I.E. Act

The testimonies of the people speak themselves of the violence that the women were subjected to.

1. Ashto Rani Kole of Bera Beri told us that at 6 AM on the 2nd about 2000 of us went and sat on our fields as we knew that the authorities would come to fence our land. We had taken a decision that we would not allow it. We knew that they would come on that day as the previous day they had gone to Jai Mollah, where the people had not physically resisted the officials from fencing but were very angry that their land was being grabbed by the Government.


Earlier on the 29th November more than 20,000 people were mobilized by the Left Front from adjoining districts as a show of strength against those who were resisting the take over of land. We never protested against them as we did not wish to change our issue and allow the situation to become a people to people altercation.


At about 10.30 am on 2nd, at least a thousand policemen came and beat us up. They chased us into the village and beat us there. Every time they beat us they said. ” so you will not give up the land”. Large number of us women got beaten up.

She also complained that she only had 18 kathas of land which had to be shared between 8 siblings. She said that if they were compensated for that, each one would get money for a little over 2 kathas as 8 divisions would be made. Since hers was a household of five people including 3 children, the land if taken away would result in complete sale of the livelihood basis. “….How can I sell my land, why should I sell land and I won’t sell my land. Just by fencing over land doesn’t mean that they have acquired it”, she spoke angrily. She also had got beaten up on the day of the fencing. “They shot rubber bullets at us. They beat us up so badly, broke our bangles…I had to take medicines, go to the doctor. I can’t show the places where I got beaten up, you will have to come inside and see it”


She then also stated that as she was fighting tooth and nail the acquisition she roamed around with her voter ID so that they nobody could allege that she was an outsider who tried to resist the land acquisition.


2. Chaitali Bhattacharya; told us that she belonged to a neighbouring anchal and was an SUCI member. She too was there on the 2nd morning and was beaten up very badly. “My clothes were also torn, I was also arrested on the 25th September and on the 2nd. The police kept saying fuck them and shaming us and asking us ‘…..do you want to have intercourse with us……. ‘ They also kept calling me an outsider. How am I an outsider”?


3. Mangala Das and Rampadma Das both senior citizens were standing outside their house to show how their belongings had been damaged by the police. Mangala who is very old said that the police called me a “prostitute”. We were CPI (M) voters once but now we are TMC voters.


4. Anchal Manna w/o of Robin Manna. ( 26 years)”… We were hard core CPI (M) workers and but see how the tiles of our roof was broken. Tear gas shells came over our roof so our roof was damaged. We were in the fields and the police chased us. We came and hid in our house. My sister-in-law Kakoli had just come to look on us from another village and they beat her very badly. They also hurled abuses with sexual intonation against her. The police beat us very badly. I hid in the toilet. They threw tear gas in our house.


They caught my sister-in-law in the courtyard. The police taunted her asking her what she was doing in the fields, and when she replied that she was protecting her in-laws land, they beat her up more. They used such abusive language which I cannot repeat. They were also very mean towards my sister-in-law, when the tear gas shell burst she requested for some water as she could not see, they started hitting her more

I can tell the names of the three CPI (M) leaders, Padu Das, Jyoti Prakash Rule, and Chinta Das who were wearing a police uniform and pointing towards us and telling the police the houses of those who never gave their land”.

5. Vandana Bag ( 70) years. Walked up to us and told us “…I voted the CPI (M) the last time but this time we will vote TMC. We have lost all love for the party. They are bent upon dislocating us”.


6. Maya Das, D/o Sarat Chandra Das, Beraberi; Maya had an extremely heart rending story to tell “…On 2nd December they threw tear gar shell at my feet and it’s in a very bad condition and I still can’t walk properly. How could we attack the police and anyway there was no opportunity to do so? I had gone for my bath at the pond side when the lathi charge happened. Police threw stones at us. We did not throw anything at all, People are alleging that of those arrested most were outsiders, but that’s not true. All people were local. The only outsiders were students from Jadavpur University who got arrested. There were no naxalites present, only local people. If there were naxalites and outsiders then we would have been numerically strong and maybe could have resisted the police. I wasn’t at the fields, I was at the ponds when the shell hit me”


She also added that “….the police entered the house and tore the women’s clothes. The kind of verbal abuse they used cannot be repeated. If they belonged to Rapid Action Force then how did they know so much Bengali? I saw in 24 Ghanta or Kolkata TV, I can’t remember which, a party cadre that I recognized dressed as police. They all hid their faces with helmets so that they can’t be recognized. They alleged that bombs were thrown from my brother’s house and he was involved but he was not even present at that time. He doesn’t even attend rallies/meetings. Our relatives have got arrested- Shakuntala- Her crime was that she resisted the acquisition of the land. She was running away from the police when they arrested her. Women like her – who are married and domesticated can’t even be a match for police. All male police dragged women out of their houses. Some members of our family have fled the house in fear of police”.

7. Rupa Koley D/o Balai Koley, Beraberi; She too had a similar story to tell ”…I was beaten up very badly. The police used such abusive language that can’t be repeated. I was inside the house. I ran away from the field and hid in my house. Why did the police come inside our house? Whatever was to happen should have happened in the field, they have no right to enter our house. They are alleging that we brought people from outside but there were no outsider’s present. Certain local people are identifying our house and showing them to the police. Our faces were burning because of the tear gas, haystacks and jute stacks were burnt. We haven’t committed any crime. We have land i.e. why we went to the fields, if we didn’t have land, we wouldn’t have gone. The police have beaten me up, they have beaten up my aunt. We all have bruises because of the violence on us”


8. Mangala Bagh, W/o Haradan Bagh; She complained how they were not being able to process the rice grain because they are busy resisting the land acquisition. She also complained that they were prevented from harvesting rice as labourers were prevented from coming to the fields. “………Because I haven’t given land I was beaten up at the BDO office on 25th September and here again in the village on the 2nd December. If I try to go to the fields they ask me why are you coming here. The peace in the village is completely gone. I cannot eat, sleep, can’t feed my children. 2 nights my husband and son (Nishikant Bagh) didn’t come home because of fear. They just came back. I told them that even if you get beaten or killed at least stay at home”.


She also said that she was suspicious of those who were patrolling at night. She strongly felt that they were not the police but people from the village dressed up as police and around midnight they regularly bang at the doors of the dissenting people..


9. Shampa Koley, Bera beri, spoke with great fear of the land going away for ever and the lack of an alternative in sight, “..I have 5 bighas and my mother has 2 bigha. If our land goes away, then what shall we eat. How will we live, our everything depend on land. If it goes, we won’t be able to live”.


10. Kalyani Das, W/o Rabin Das, had fear still written large, her condition was even more pathetic as she was a landless labourers. “……We went to the field where we worked that morning. The owner’s name is Laxman Chandra Das which has got acquired now. We were working in the field that day when they chased us to our house, threw tear gas shell, and pulled us out of our houses. If the government takes away land, what can we do, we’ll have to beg and nobody gives alms. I have two small children if the land goes we have no hope. We won’t get any work we have to die here”.


11. Mita Das; “ That day on 2nd December I was at home feeding my 2 ½ year old daughter when I saw everybody running. I wasn’t throwing any stones I was just feeding my daughter. I saw police start entering our house. They first caught my sister-in-laws and started beating them. I hid my daughter with my aged father and ran to save myself. That’s when they spotted me and hit me with the lathi on my legs. I ran into a room and locked myself; they broke the tiles in my houses. After everything got over and we came out of the house and I came out of my hiding, I saw that my daughter was wounded. Her tongue, forehead, ears were cut and bleeding. Only after Medha Patkar came here and the police was removed that we have been able to come out of our house. But the fear has not left us.


.

12. According to Dudh Kumar Dhara, (Panchayat member) the police had actually attacked 25 houses that day and of all those who had not parted with the land.


13. Sanju Das, W/o Prabir Das; She stated that the police had forcibly got into her house, broke the drinking water glasses, the TV set. . She said that they also beat up her parents in law, son and daughter. She also added that “ they were all male police and they used the lathi. In fact one of their lathis broke too. They kept beating us and taunting us- whether we wanted the lathi thrust inside our bodies. They said that if we would oppose the acquisition then they would come again. I don’t know where my husband is. Police come at night and bang the door, they came last night also. None of the male members are coming back home because of fear, they broke furniture in the house”.


14. Two sisters Mamta Patra ( 16 years old) who looked after the house and worked on the fields and Mitali Patra who was studying in a corner came upto to us and wanted to know what suggestions we had about their problem. According to Mamata they were also on the fields that morning. The front of the police contingent according to them had men without lathis. They were seniors but those behind them were armed with lathis. They said that people on the fields including themselves were only shouting slogans against the Government and TATA and that they would not give their land to the TATA’s when the police force attacked them and chased them from the fields into the village. The police did not stop even in the village they got into homes, broke window panes and arrested more than eight women. They said that they had never seen such a “tandav” (Lord Shiva’s dance of death) by the police ever.


While we were listening to the people suddenly we were swamped by old women. We were shocked to learn that they had all sought anticipatory bail from the District / High Court as they had feared arrest as the police had charged them with attempt to murder (sec 307 of the IPC among other section pertaining to illegal assembly, riot etc.)


15. Bharati Das 65 years w/o Nityanand Das, Said that they were owners of just 1 ½ bighas of land. The police had broken the door and entered the house. They had beaten her inside the house and also hurled abuses at her. She also stated that they had doubts whether those people were actually the police or were they the CPI (M) cadres from the neighbourhood dressed as police. Her main skepticism arose from the fact that they knew her name and that of her son.


She also stated that the police had charged her of breaking the house of one Kartik Das’s who was a local CPI (M) leader. And now there was a case on her. She had to hire a lawyer and get anticipatory bail.

16. Lolita Das also came with the same complaint. She was also granted anticipatory bail and charged similarly. They kept saying that some others may have been involved in breaking the window panes of his house. However, they wanted to know why were they being victimized, and only twenty people named? Her family only had half a bigha of land, yet they would fight tooth and nail against the acquisition.


In all on the 2nd December the police named 53 accused and arrested 49 people against the IPC sections 147, 148, 149, 186, 447, 382, 333, 353, 1688, 3757 and 307. Other sections included 9 (63) of the Arms Act and 9 / WBH HPO. From just Khaserbheri the police arrested 25 people.

17. Jhuma Patra, D/o Ashoke Patra, Khasar Beri.

We went to meet the 12 year old who was also arrested by the police. “ I study in class V. When I saw the police coming, I ran away in fear and hid at home. When they started throwing tear gas, our noses started burning. I could hear them break a lot of glasses. They kicked at our door and said we were hiding there. They used very abusive language, they broke the door and took my uncle and beat him up. Women police took me to Chandannagar, and the next day i.e. Sunday they let me come back to my village.”


18. Shefali Bagh, was vehement about not parting with the land. “Even if we are beaten we will not give away our land. Our livelihood depends on it. I personally don’t work on the land, we get laborers to do it, migrant workers-both women and men come. We work at home, all the men in our house depend on the land for livelihood. They don’t go anywhere for work. But there are women who work on the land themselves- harvesting, sowing almost everything they do themselves.”


19. Aparna Das also had a similar testimony, “We went to protect our land and then we started being chased away. So we ran and they chased us home. They have filed cases against us for breaking the house of a certain Kartik Das- claimed that we threw stones and broke it. My husband who was at home and had fever, even he has been made an accused of vandalizing his home.”

20. Swapna Bannerjee (Nari Nirjatan Pratirodh Manch) was arrested on the 2nd December with others .” We had gone as observers to Singur and out of concern for the farmers. We did not expect the incidents. We witnessed the violence ourselves and though we were not involved at all, the police arrested us and used very foul language. They kept insisting that we were outsiders. I don’t know what they meant when they kept calling me an “outsider”. This is my state and I am a citizen of the country.”


As we entered the village of Khasher Beri the first house was of Pradeep Das whose old paralysed 75 year old father Sachin Das was beaten very badly. On the terrace of their house the famous clip of the 2nd December of the police brutally thrashing three boys was shot there.

Pradeep Das told us that at about 1 pm the police broke into their house, smashed the TV. “The rice that was being cooked was eaten up by them. They also smashed the latrine pan and broke it, they did not even spare the old man. They got onto the terrace and beat up people who were on the terrace wildly. A few young girls like Dipali Moitra who after being chased from the fields ran and hid in that underneath the bed were pulled our badly beaten before being arrested by the police. There were some people who were pointing fingers at the houses of those who had not given the land


The Suspicious Death of Tapasi Mulik:

At about 6 a.m. on the 18th December, the body of a young activist of the Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Samity, Tapasi Malik was found burning in the fenced area. Some hair and other articles were found near her body. It seemed a clear case of murder. Tapasi had on the previous day worked hard to mobilize the children and had gone home, had dinner and then slept. According to the family she had probably gone to the fields in the morning for toilet purposes when she may have been attacked. An FIR no 156/ 18 December, 2006 was lodged under sections 302 and 201 of the IPC. According to a fact finding team of the Kolkata women’s groups that went immediately to the area the murder with a possibility of rape could have been the act of the 195 security guards deployed by the WBIDC and police deployed to guard the acquired area. It was after a lot of protest by the Krishi Jami Rakhsha Samiti and others in Kolkata that the investigation has been handed over to the CBI.



PART III

What does Tata Singur have in store for a cross section of the affected people ? Examining the policy and the processes


A. The dispossession of the landless agriculture worker and the Bargadar of Do Bandi and Khaserbheri


The landless labourers and the unregistered bargadars are at the bottom of the heap in this entire process of dispossession that the new model of development through the Tata Singur project is bringing to the area.


The plight of agricultural workers


Agricultural workers: There has been no proper survey of the number of agricultural workers dependant on the land for their livelihood, and there are no provisions for their rehabilitation.


We were told by the agricultural workers that generally at least 7-8 people worked on a bigha (1/3 acre) of land all year round along with the large number of people involved in storage and transport of agricultural produce, who have not been recognized as project- affected persons. As stated earlier that potato storage is, especially, an extremely important source of livelihood, and cold storage facilities at Ratanpur are reported to employ about 5000 people. Repeatedly, we were told, “This is such fertile land, why must they take away such land…what “progress”? they are pushing us back to the life we had 30 years ago….”.


That the Tata Singur model in its planning undermined the presence of the agricultural worker and has provided them with no option shows the bias of the Left front Government in its planning for new era socio-economic development through the Tata’s small car project.


Village Do Bandi : A case study of the agricultural workers of the region


Village Do Baandi is a part of the Bera Beri Gram Panchayat. A village almost completely dependent on their wage labour had mostly landless labourers except for a couple of people who own land. We met a large number of villagers who told us that they had traditional labour rights over the land of the people as they had been living there for more than seven generations (about a hunderd and fifty years). There were more than undivided families, with each family on an average having two to five households. All the families belonged to the Scheduled Castes. Interestingly this village had all the children going to the Government school in the village and the primary work in that area was agricultural work. According to most of the villagers, the Singur farm lands would absorb all the labourers of that village including old women. It was the stability of agriculture work which encouraged them to send all their children to school. They were supporters of the CPI (M) and the Trinamool too.


They have not been given any information about the project and no official has visited the village. Their dependence is on the land holders who are absentee landlords (like Shankar De who stays in Madhusudanpur and has another business) and have accepted compensation and left them in the lurch. They are actively supportive of the movement against the project and of landowners who are refusing to give up their land. When asked if they can get work elsewhere, they said “people come here from as far as Ranchi, where can we go from here?” They said that there were several non-monetary benefits, like fuel, vegetables etc, that they got along with wages here, which also they would lose if the project came up. All the workers we spoke to were deeply anxious about the uncertainty of their future, the loss of their homes and livelihood.


We met Madan Das (son of Ganesh Chandra) his wife Purnima Das, his sister-in-law Roma Das and his mother Alo Bala Das and the children of both Purnima and Roma. Belonging to a family of seven brothers they were very anxious of their future. Their fear was that TATA would not provide them with work and thus they would have to migrate elsewhere for work. Singur was a place which saw a lot of migrant workers coming from as far as Bardhman, Murshidabad, Assam and Orissa. Though wages are not very high it was approximately 50-60 Rs a day, there is stable and assured employment. The alternative that is now before them is of pauperization and uncertainity with the snatching away of the only secure employment they now enjoy without being provided any alternatives.


It was interesting to observe that Madan Das was cooking the food as his wife Purnima had been busy with some chores. They said it was normal that whoever came home first started the cooking as the children had to be fed. This camaraderie they felt would also disappear if they would have to migrate as then only one would migrate and the other would stay behind.


They told very strongly that they supported the struggle of the farmers against TATA and had also been beaten up by the police at the Singur BDO office on the night of the 25th September. According to them many of them from their village were also on the agriculture fields on 2nd December morning when the police had chased them. However the police did not chase them to the village and instead had gone to Khaserbheri and Bera Beri. Instead, the police came to their villages on the night of the 3rd and told them not to go the meetings of the land owners otherwise they would be arrested and put in Jail.


They were very disturbed by the fact that their regular life and activities were disrupted. Instead of sowing potatoes at this point they were only sitting and hoping that the farm lands would be restored to the people. Asked about Government packages they insisted that they had not heard of any such thing but the only thing they wanted was farm lands be restored to the owners.


Interview with Anima Das w/o Shankar Das and Arati Moitri w/o Tara Pada Moitri.


Both of them told us that earlier the land was not very fertile, however with Government intervention the land was irrigated and the last ten years had seen optimum reaping of benefits from the farms and for the first time in generations there was assured income all the year round from the farms. And now the Government itself were taking away their livelihoods.


They said three fourths of the land was a gold mine. They were proud that although they were old they got work at the farms. They also managed to earn upto Rs. 40 to 50 a day. They also felt that the shift of the use of land from agriculture to industry would not just take away their wages but also affect their nutritional status, since they were now able to bring vegetables home from the field that they could not otherwise afford to buy.


This would be one of the major casualties of being dispossessed from that land. They could not understand why the Government had selected Singur farms when there were many other areas in West Bengal where the Tata factory could have been located.


They also spoke of atrocities carried out by the police. After the acquisition of land those guarding it did not even allow them to use the fields for toilet purpose. The children who slipped through the barbed wires and went in were threatened by the guards.


We went to the six households all of whom had been provided with houses under the Indira Awaas Yojana. Seventy year old Padma Hazari, grandmother of Anando was distressed as to why the Left front Government was betraying its own voters. She had only voted the CPI (M) all her life and was foxed at the insistence of the Government to dispossess them. She felt that there was only death and destruction that would follow once they would lose all farming rights in Singur. One of them also was very sympathetic towards Mamata Banerjee’s health condition due to the long never ending fast.


The Landless of Khasar Beri


Dilip Patra : “ We are a total of 165 families in Khsaer Beri of which 50 families are landless and 115 have land. A total of 194 acres of land of our village is being acquired. 80-85 acres is owned by people living here out of which 37 acres has not been acquired. We are the landless labourers but the Government has not announced anything for us. Once agriculture activity finishes here then where will we go. We have lived here for generations. We have already been deprived of work ever since the land was barricaded as it has disrupted all agricultural activities.. Women do not go and work in other people’s fields unless we take it on lease or grow vegetable on our own homestead land.


Hara Dhir Malik, Dilip Patra, Dukhi Ram Dhara all landless labourers were extremely worried about their futures.


The plight of the unrecorded Bargadar


Sharecroppers: Only 237 persons are recorded bargadars, but we were repeatedly told that the majority of bargadars are unrecorded and that there are no provisions for their rehabilitation. According to the Sanhati Udyog report there would be a minimum of 1200 Bargadars. These bargadars said that they had not themselves registered as such either because of several difficulties in the registration process, or because they had “trusted” the landowners, many of whom had now taken compensation and abandoned them to their fate. Sri Kant Patra an unrecorded Bargadar at Khaserbheri stated that in their village only 10 of the Bargadars were recorded and 35 unrecorded. Landlords normally do not get the Bargadar registered as then they have to give a portion of the land. The Bargadars themselves also do not get themselves recorded as they do not want a dispute with the landlord as the patronage of the landlord gives them with access to vegetables and other products from the field. . A bargadar has to register at the revenue office and he/she gets registered after inspections.

Hara Dhir Malik- “I was the bargadr of Dr. Tara Pada Koley and Dr. Komal Kant Koley.

They kept us well so we never got ourselves registered. They got the compensation for their land and we got nothing.

Recorded Bargadars 25% of the value given to the land owners as compensation. What will this lot do with the compensation?/ when the land owners cannot find land.


Just and equitable compensation ? the issue of the character of land and calculation of rates


We were told by the Krishi Jami Raksha Samiti that owners of 417 acres had refused compensation and were protesting the acquisition. This was also announced in the Press reported in Dainik Statesman. Subsequently, we have been informed that owners of 455 acres have filed affidavits in the Calcutta High Court to this effect.

For most of the protesting farmers we spoke to the issue was not the amount of compensation, but the loss of their land and that the compensation in cash would not last, and that no land that they could purchase elsewhere could compare with what they would be losing.

However, when clearly asked if they could buy land elsewhere with the compensation amount, they said it would be very difficult to get comparable land, and in any case, since their homes would continue to be here, how would they cultivate land elsewhere. Several landholders said “everything cannot be measured in money, the village community will be broken up”.

Several interviews that we did of the people and some administrative officers showed that the market value of the productive sona land goes upto 25 lakhs , while only Rs 12.76 lakh is the compensation for sona land,( and this sum is inclusive of the incremental 30% as solatium for forced acquisition, 3% interest and 10% as “consent” award,. (Estimated land value is thus 43% less). The administration also conceded that estimated “flat rates” were fixed, and land was neither surveyed and nor was land valued on a case-by-case basis . They blamed the agitation for this and said that surveys “could not be done due to constant obstruction by the detractors…entry to the land to explore the terrain and to ascertain the ground condition could not ensured till early December 2006”. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that compensation has been arbitrarily fixed, and no proper surveys were carried out even u/s 8 of the Land Acquisition Act.

Even more important is the case of multi-crop ‘sona’ land which is recorded as inferior, single crop ‘sali’ land, due to the records not being updated for the last three decades. Villagers complained that most ‘sona’ land is being compensated at the rate for sali land, which is a mere Rs 8.6 lakhs.

Government records describe 90.28% of the land as Sali and only 3.67% as sona. However, villagers said that this was because records had not been updated for the last 30 years and during this period , due to a tremendous increase in irrigation (due to the digging of 5 deep tube wells, 27 mini wells, several diesel motors and DVC canal irrigation,)one-time sali land had now become multi-crop sona land. At least 60% of the land is cropped 3-4 times in a year, about 25% carries at least two crops, while only about 500 bighas (around 160 acres) or 15% is single crop land. Villagers were bitter that now that they had finally begun reaping the benefits of increased irrigation capacity, the land was being snatched away from them.

According to Prasanjit Das, one of the leaders of the Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Samiti, a resident of Bera Beri the compensation offered is nowhere near the real value of the land. He said that the govt was giving Rs 10,000 per kattha, whereas he himself had just a year ago bought land at Rs 45,000 per kattha. The crop is only a bonus, it is the land that is the source of wealth. Land prices are continuously escalating, he had been offered Rs One lakh for land that he had bought a year ago for Rs 45,000. Why should we give up an asset of continuously rising value? he asked. ,.

The acquisition of land by the Government had already affected the economy. On an average, the various butcher shops in the villages would sell 4 to 5 goats a day. But today they are selling meat of only one goat a week. He said that the Government wanted the people to become dependent on it so that then they ( the Government) would have the power over them. Here the livelihood base built over thirty years had made them independent citizens in manners that they were trying to provide all the opportunities of education and other means for the children. This displacement would be a setback for all that.

Prasenjit, Dudhi Kumar Dhara of Kasher beri and others all said “ where is the good land that we can buy that is close enough to our villages for us to farm. However it is not the money that concerns us, we will not sell it any how. This is the permanent livelihood source for us”, he added.

Kaushik Das (of Bera Beri) was clear that it would be more expensive to buy new agriculture land. He also said that since they had always lived there and the new agriculture land would be at some distance it would very difficult to over see farming and take of the household. He said that “………why should we be displaced. This is our community for generations. Who will compensate us for the break up of this community? ”

The ADM Shri Liaqat Ali disagreed with the issue of inaccurate assessment of rates. He claimed that more than 2/3rd of the compensation awarded had been disbursed on the same rates. In some cases the payments had been delayed because of disputed ownership. He officially gave us the disbursement figures until the 12th of December, which was 83 crores. However, he was unable to give us a list of farmers who had given their consent ( the state official figure is 95 % consent) or had accepted the compensation along with the details of their land

He also stated that the character of the land whether Sona or Sali is regularly updated and that the onus of updating is on the farmer.

According to him , even reports were received that landowners are being prevented from attending the hearing by the agitators and with lot of difficulty, a sense of security could be prevailed in the minds of the landowners to enable them to participate in the process.


Mutation : There were several complaints that proper mutation of records had not taken place, and that when new owners demanded this be done, the administration was “blackmailing ” them to give their consent to land acquisition as a condition for mutation. Some, like Ananda Prasad Kole of Gopalnagar, (plot no.486, JLno.13) complained that while they had been paying taxes on their land, they were now being told that their land was “vested” Government land.

The ADM insisted that this must have been a stray case.


Giving consent for acquiring the land and the aftermath : The dilemma of a few in Gopal Nagar, Ghoshpara


In Ghosh Para we met three families who had given consent to the Government for the land acquisition. Of them two had only given it after the 1st December as that was the last day declared by the Government for giving consent. One had collected his money. All the three had given land away in duress as they felt that the Government’s position had hardened and that there would be no restoration of agriculture in that area. They did not resist talking to us. Instead they were very happy that we had met them as they had all been alienated from the movement after having signed the consent letter, at the same time they did not want to be misunderstood.


We met Govind Mandal and Ashima Mandal, whose courtyard had huge paddy stocks. That they were reaping the gains of the fertile Singur land was obvious. They had 11 bighas of land and they had given consent to the Government for acquisition purpose of their land only on the 1st of December. Govind said that he was part of the struggle with all the other farmers six months. He resisted giving away his piece of land to the Government and then realised it was a hopeless situation. He had not received his payments as he was contesting the Government’s claim that his was a single crop production land. He was trying to get rate for Sona land as he had given papers showing that they took 2 to 3 crops a year including paddy.


Govind Mandal said that they had met the collector with the rest of the Singur struggling people several times but nothing had happened to their applications. They also felt that both he and his brother’s family felt isolated and many a times also feel insulted. He said that he was 58 years old and was very anxious, that just in case he was not given the money then he would be left neither with the land nor the money with which he would be able to do something with it.


He kept saying that “I only gave it under pressure and when most of the rich people had handed their land then I felt that the Government had in any case gained a moral victory and that it would not turn back now.”

According to him in Ghoshpara more than fifty percent people had not given their land. But he feared for their future. When asked whether he would buy new land, He promptly asked us tell him where the land is and he would buy it. He said that he lived in Ghoshpara and he was not willing to give up his house and would therefore find it very difficult to go and farm in a place far from his house as they worked with their own hands on their farm and hired labour for limited purpose. He said that he had written his obituary as a farmer as he saw no possibility of farming any further.


He had two sons whom he could send for other kinds of trainings as they had enough income from agriculture. His elder son was 22 years old and the younger one was 18. Both were learning the art of jewellery making in Maharashtra. He regretted that he was not able to keep their ancestral land for his sons.


Amit Bagui said that he had 8 bighas of which 7 bighas was on record and one bigha somebody had already given consent and taken away the compensation. Out of the total of seven bighas of land three of the bighas had come in the acquired area. There were five people who had a share in the 3 bighas including his sister. He was regretting having had to sign the paper of consent as the value for the land provided by the Government was lower than the market price. He had consented to the acquisition and had accepted the compensation because he was afraid that if he would not then his relatives would take the compensation and he would be left out completely. He was being compensated at the rate fixed for “sali” land, though his entire land was Sona as they brought home three crops a year.


He said that he would be happier still keeping the land as he was also a part of the struggle to save the land and had given memorandum to the President, PM, CM and three Ministers of the W.B Government. Except from the President’s office there was no reply from any office. One of the ministers of West Bengal had told them that they would get the land assessed but that was never done. He said that for him the potato crop was Rs. 60,000 a year which they had lost this time by not being allowed to sow on their land. He said that though he had given consent for the acquisition of the land he still felt very strongly associated with the piece of the land.


He said that the plight of most farmers was sad, both for those who had given the land and for those who were not willing to give as literacy levels were not too high there seemed to be not other option in life but agriculture which they were being denied of.


Sanat Ghosh too seemed very tense regarding the giving away of the piece of land. He did talk to us but very grudgingly. He said that he owned only 3 bighas of land but three fourths of it gave him 3 crops while a fourth was single crop. In October he handed over the letter of consent and some time ago he was given the money. He also said that his two sons were both graduates but used to work on the farms??/. It would be a big loss for their livelihood. When we asked him whether the change of land use would improve the economy of the region, he said that we are just trusting the Government. The Government asked us to give the land and so we gave it. Whether it would spell doom for them or brighten their horizons time would tell. Soon after his sons asked him not to talk to us and he went away


Interrogating the Project itself


The land is being acquired(according to the section 4 notification under the Land Acquisition Act) “at the public expense for a public purpose, viz., employment generation and socio-economic development of the area by setting up of ‘Tata Small Car Project’”.


There are however, several serious questions regarding this assertion.


It is not clear how “public purpose” is served by the project. The land being acquired by the project is extremely productive agricultural land which not only supports a fairly high standard of living for landowners, but also provides employment to thousands of families of sharecroppers and agricultural workers as well as, indirectly, to those in the ancillary occupations of storage and transport of agricultural produce. There is no reason to believe that a highly mechanized motor car industry will provide more employment. What employment will this industry be able to provide to agriculturalists in order to compensate them for the loss of their current livelihood? What is envisaged as “socio- economic development” and how will a private motor-car industry contribute to it? The socio- economic indicators of the area are already quite high, compared to other rural areas, and it is not clear how the project will enhance this.

If “employment generation and socio-economic development of the area is the purpose of the project”, why has fertile agricultural land in a comparatively prosperous region been chosen as the site for the project, rather than a ‘backward’ area with infertile land ? How does it serve the purpose of “development” to disrupt a thriving rural economy, and what “development” will the project offer in its place? According to press interviews given by the Industry Minister Nirupam Sen, the Tata project will directly create 2000 jobs and indirectly create 10,000 others. However, the number of livelihoods directly and indirectly lost exceed these figure by several times.


Given the conditions of land scarcity and agrarian crisis in the country, should we not aim at optimal land use, and not divert scarce productive land to an industrial project that could easily come up elsewhere? Such projects have serious implications for the rapidly worsening state of food security in the country. What were the alternative sites considered for the project and why were they rejected?


We were informed that despite repeated public demand , the government of West Bengal has refused to make the MOU with Tatas public. What is the Company’s commitment to employment generation or socio- economic development of the area? So far, we see only some half-hearted training programs in tailoring, welding, etc, without any assurance of employment. In any case, in what capacity will agricultural workers and the rural poor of the area be absorbed, what are the jobs that are compatible with their skills? The almost uniform experience of industrial projects in the country shows that local people are promised jobs as compensation for displacement, but hardly ever get them.


Why is the project being funded at “public expense”, since it is a venture for private profit? How much, and for what is TATA paying? How much is TATA paying per acre of land ? Does the government get any share of the profits since it is bearing the expense? What are the tax and other benefits being given to the company, and what is the justification for them?


Why is the Government through the WBIDC, playing the role of broker and forcibly acquiring land for TATAs “at public expense” instead of letting the company directly negotiate with the farmers, with the government playing the role of ensuring that farmers are not coerced or cheated?


Why 1000 acres to Tata?

The Tata small car project has acquired land far in excess of what it actually requires to set up a factory of that capacity. Maruti Udyog is situated in a total land area of 300 acres and has an installed capacity of 3.5 lac (350,000) cars a year. The Singur land being handed over to the Tata’s is three times more than what Maruti Udyog has — and for producing only one lac (100,000) cars. The question that West Bengal Government needs to answer is why Tatas need 997 acres of land and whether there are other facilities that are being planned in that same area. without such explanation, questions on the justification of allocating the Singur land to the Tatas will continue to be raised.


According to the AID network the 997 acres of agricultural land being acquired for Tata’s car factory at Singur, does not compare favorably with world standards for land usage. For example, in May 2005, Toyota-Peugeot inaugurated a car factory near Prague that produces 300,000 cars/year and spans an area of 124 ha (306 Acres). The Toyota press release boasted: “It’s built-up area of a mere 21 ha is viewed by the automobile industry as a record-breaking low. Modern and compact, this work of architecture requires very low levels of energy consumption to operate technology and run the plant.”


If anything a car factory in India should have more efficient land-use than in a European country owing to our population. The Tatas have said they will make 250,000 cars by 2008. Even if the Tata’s were planning for 500,000 cars/year, the area needed would be only about 500 acres, using the Toyota’s European standards.


Part IV


Conclusions and Recommendations


I Conclusions and Demands on the question of Human Rights of Violation and the suppression of democratic protest


It is obvious that there were gross Human Rights violations on the people particularly the women. It can also be said that the violence of the police was targeted towards those who were resisting the acquisition of the land. Definitely the identity of who was resisting the acquisition and who was willing to go by the Government ‘s was given to the police by local leaders, close to CPI (M) party.


The “Insider” Vs “Outsider” bogey being used by senior Ministers and CPI (M) leaders is part of the same strategy of discrediting dissent. We are of the opinion that this attitude is extremely undemocratic and makes the CPI (M) leadership no different from other parties on this issue.

We have also observed to date that no independent agency including the State or the National Women or the Human Rights Commissions has given time to the issue of State repression like the way the people’s groups have.. No action has been taken against the police and the administration which violated the law. A few interventions that need to be urgently taken by State Government would consist of :


· Action against the officials who detained the two young girls, Jhuma Patra and Soma Dhara at the police station on the night of the 2nd and the 3rd. Under the new JJ Act children in conflict with law cannot be kept in the police station. Even in the worst circumstances of being in conflict the children have to be sent to the Care and Protection Home.


· The arrests of a large number of men and women under serious IPC sections like attempt to murder clearly shows that the W.B police is out to harass the public. And that old women were also not spared shows that the Government wishes to cow them down so that they will part with the land under pressure. These cases should be withdrawn at the earliest.


· The allegations of sexual violence against the women by the police were corroborated by a number of interviewees. This fact shows that whatever be the hue of the Government the highhandedness does not change. Action should be taken against these policemen for having misbehaved with the women.


· An independent enquiry should also examine whether there is truth in the allegations made that non-police people in the garb of the police actually came and intimidated the people and resorted to violence.

· We urge that action should also be taken against the errant policemen particularly those involved in the murder of Raj Kumar Bhool. The death of Raj Kumar Bhool should be independently investigated by a retired judge and adequate compensation be given to the family.


· Investigation into the death of Tapasi Muilk, particularly looking into the role of the WBDIC security men guarding the fenced area


· The APDR in its report of the violence on the people by the police on the 25th September night have named three police officers as perpetrators of atrocities on the people. These three are already under cloud for Human Rights violation in earlier cases. The least the Government can do is enquire into their role in Singur.


· Finally, the Government must listen to democratic protest rather than treat it as a law and order problem and repress the movement of this nature.


II Conclusions and Recommendations on the question of land acquisition, the Tata Project and the development of the area.

· The stated “public purpose” for the land acquisition, namely “employment generation and socio-economic development of the area” cannot be justified. Clearly the project land in Singur is part of a vibrant rural economy and a major employment hub. This will be destroyed but not offset by alternative benefit. The official estimate (as reported in the press) is that about 2,000 jobs will be directly, and about 10,000 jobs will be indirectly created by the proposed Tata Project. However, the number of livelihoods– of landholding farmers, agricultural workers, sharecroppers, and those engaged in storage and transport– to be lost exceed this figure by several times. What socio-economic development is proposed has not been spelt out and it is not clear what this could be, since the area already has well-developed infrastructure (in fact it was chosen for this reason).

· There is no justification for prime agricultural land being handed over to industry. Site selection has not been on the basis of any optimal land use parameters. The official explanation that Singur was chosen as the project site simply because that is the site that suits Tatas points to a serious malaise of democratic polity.

· There is a situation of deteriorating food security in the country with daily per capita calorie intake currently reaching pre-Independence levels. Around 70% of the population is reported to be food-insecure. Per capita food grain availability is showing a declining trend. Singur is an increasingly rare example of agrarian prosperity, and in the context of growing food insecurity it is unjustifiable that fertile agricultural land be diverted to industrial use.

· The State government has abdicated its responsibility to protect the interests of its citizens in favour of promoting the interests of corporate profit. The use of coercive state machinery, through forcible land acquisition and police violence against peaceful protestors including women and children, wrongful arrest and false criminal cases, is illegitimate and unjustifiable by any democratic yardstick.

· No information has been made available to the affected families or the general public regarding the project despite repeated requests. Despite several requests (including a written request to the Shri Nirupam Sen Minister for Industry and Commerce by a panel of eminent citizens comprising Justice (retd) Malay Sengupta, Mahasweta Devi, Shri Dipankar Chakraborti and Medha Patkar on 6th November 2006) seeking official information on landholdings, sharecroppers and workers, no information has been made available( and nor, in fact, has any official survey been conducted) on the livelihoods to be affected. No information has been made available to substantiate the claim that most farmers have consented to the land acquisition.

Denial of information sought under the Right to Information Act, regarding the MoU signed or being negotiated with the company, the payments to be made by Tata Motors, the incentives offered/claimed under the pretext that this is a trade secret is completely unjustified. Since, according to the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, Rs 138 crores of public money has already been spent on the project, the public has a right to know whether, why and in what ways Tata Motors costs are being subsidized.


· While the govt and its agencies are refusing to officially divulge details, it is clear that public funds are being unjustifiably used to subsidise corporate profits. Recently, the Chief Minister has been quoted in the press as saying that Tatas will only pay Rs 100 crores as well as a monthly rent of Rs 10 lakhs(i.e 118.8 crores on a 99year lease) ,and are being offered several other lucrative incentives. This is a pittance , and there is no justification for this subsidy. The public expense of Rs 138crores (so far) is also unjustified, since there is no reason why the State should bear the land acquisition costs of a private corporate enterprise. For the State and public funds to thus subsidise corporate profits, is completely unjustified.

· Acquisition has been forced and coercive rather than consensual. Owners of 455 acres (around half the acquired agricultural land) have given sworn affidavits stating their opposition to the land acquisition and that they have not accepted compensation. Several others have accepted compensation not on the basis of free consent, but because of various fears and pressures.

Though the low rate of compensation is a major reason for landholders’ objection to the project, their major objection is that even if the compensation amount was adequate, (i) they would not be able to get comparable land (ii) how would they farm land elsewhere, since their home would continue to be here . They also said that their community would be broken up and “everything cannot be compensated with money”.

· The land acquisition process has been deeply flawed with Information not made available to affected families, and their objections were not heard.

The compensation amount offered to landholders is much below the market value, irrigated multiple-crop land has been assessed as single crop land therefore further severely undervalued, due to land transfers not being properly recorded and mutation of records not having been properly done, there are several cases of disputed ownership which have not been resolved at the time of payment of compensation.

Most sharecroppers are unrecorded and have therefore not been offered compensation. Recorded bargadars are being offered only 25% of the already underestimated land value, and this is hardly enough for them to be adequately rehabilitated.

Thousands of agricultural workers will be displaced without any compensation or rehabilitation. Besides permanent and seasonal migrant workers, there are stable communities of local agricultural workers who have been living in the area for at least 150 years and who will be further pauperized if they are displaced from their only meager but secure livelihood, without any alternative.

Workers involved in the storage and transport of agricultural produce have also not been recognized as project-affected persons.

.

· What is happening in Singur(or other parts of West Bengal) is not an isolated case. Similar coercive and violent use of state power to wrest farming, forest and commons land from village communities and hand them over to corporate interests at subsidized rates is now becoming a norm in other states as well, especially in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh We have examples in Kalinganagar,(Orissa), Dadri in Ghaziabad, UP, Dhurli and Bhansi (Chhattisgarh) . It is a matter of serious and urgent concern that State power, in complete and naked abrogation of its mandate for public welfare, is being used for creating , guaranteeing and subsidizing private corporate profit.

· The acquisition for industry of agricultural land on this scale indicates that any ideas of self sufficiency in food have been given up and our policy makers are content to leave food security and procurement to the vagaries of the international market. The abrogation of all pretence to food sovereignty is serious concern, for the international market may behave in any way in the future, and our people may face stark hunger and death on the scale of the Bengal fam..ine of the forties once again.

The team asks the W Bengal Government to :

Immediately order a comprehensive Review of the land acquisition for the Singur Tata Small Car Project, and suspend all land acquisition till such comprehensive review

Remove fencing of the project area and allow all local people access to their land for livelihood, till the Review is completed.

To formulate a Land Use Policy that will protect fertile agricultural land from diversion to other uses and formulate transparent guidelines for optimal land use.

Stop coercive acquisition of land for private profit ventures.

Stop subsidising Private corporate ventures through public funds

Provide all information about the Tata Motors Project and be transparent about decision making processes .

The Government needs to make available the list of all the people it claims has accepted compensation and local organisations should through a public hearing or small village meetings cross check after all who is it who has received the payment. Are they absentee landlords or somebody else.

Begin dialogue and negotiation with project affected people’s organisation


Stop use of police against peoples movement and enable democratic dissent

Take action against all officials who led the police atrocities on the people on the 25th Sept night and 2nd December 2006, register a case of murder against those involved in the assault on Rajkumar Bhul which led to his death.


Arrest those involved in the murder of Tapasi Mullick.


Close all false criminal cases against the protesting people

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singur:4 months that reduced CPM to a ‘minority’

Posted by Indian Vanguard on February 12, 2007

Feb. 11: Four months — that is all it took a CPM stronghold to turn against the party and force its leaders into hiding. “In November, Trinamul leaders formed the Baastu Krishi Jomi Banchao Committee cashing in on rumours of land acquisition. They capitalised on the farmer’s love for land. Most of our voters and many of our leaders have moved over to Trinamul since,” said Narayan Patra, a CPM supporter and husband of panchayat member Chandana.

The Patras returned to the village, 130 km from Calcutta, on Friday after several days in hiding because of the raging anti-acquisition movement. They admit that the situation worsened because of the large-scale defection by the CPM’s grassroots members.

A villager said only 30-odd families out of the 1,500 at Ishwardaha supported Trinamul before the agitation began.Bablu Laiya, once a CPM whole-timer, is among the many to have bolstered the Trinamul ranks since.

Shankar Kar, then the DYFI local committee secretary, is a leader of the committee now.
“After these leaders were brainwashed, they also took our supporters with them. Very soon, we panchayat members and our families became a minority,” said Anil Gayunia, who had won 70 per cent votes in the 2003 panchayat polls.

Observers said small farmers such as bargadars and pattadars, who do not have land of their own but till that of others, have been the driving force of the movement here.
Land records show that marginal farmers and a large number of bargadars, both recorded and unrecorded, primarily inhabit the 791-acre Ishwardaha mouza.

There are some 3,500 registered bargadars in Ishwardaha, a mouza with only 2,035 plots.
Over half the village — around 400 acres — is on the acquisition list for a multi-product special economic zone.

“The average size of holdings here is 40 decimels (about 26.6 cottahs). There are many who till others’ land but do not figure on government records. There are also those who till government land (pattadars) along the banks of the Haldi,” said an officer.

Over 75 per cent of Ishwardaha is single-crop, but the land is dear to its residents. “My husband and I till a four-bigha plot that belongs to another family. We grow khesari (a kind of pulses) in the season and do menial jobs the rest of the year. But the crop is important to us. We get 50 to 60 kg of dal,” said Basanti Gendi, wife of an unregistered bargadar.

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