Blood is now spilling all over Singur villages as the Left Front government in Bengal has let loose its armed policemen to grab agricultural land of those farmers who have not voluntarily surrendered their land to the local administration for the Tata'sproposed small car manufacturing project. Singur, about 30 km away from Kolkata, had witnessed worst police brutalities on December 2 when more than 5000 armed men in uniform stormed in three Singur villages?Berabari, Bajemelia, Khaserbheri and unleashed an unprecedented terror there. Policemen entered each and every house of these three villages, dragged out the villagers and beat them mercilessly. As if that was not enough, the police also burst teargas shells and fired rubber bullets at protesting Singur villagers who were trying to prevent the police from fencing off their precious multi-crop land for the proposed small car project.
No doubt, the high-profile Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government drew the first blood by unleashing state brutality on hapless villagers in Singur. Now the Opposition parties have no other alternatives but to unite their rank and files against the ruling CPI(M). The situation is so volatile that more blood is likely to spill in Singur during the coming days. After the police brutalities on December 2, 2006, the 20-party alliance, Krishi Jamin Raksha Committee (Save Agricultural Land Committee), has announced a number of agitational programme including a 24-hour bandh in Singur and other areas in Hooghly district and a rally of farmers to protest against grabbing of their farm land. A public interest litigation (PIL) has also been filed in Kolkata high court by the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) challenging that the some provisions of the Land Reforms Act have been violated by the Bengal government regarding acquisition of farm land in Singur. The PIL will be heard by the high court next week.
Public anger on Singur atrocities
If the vandalism by some Trinamool MLAs inside the West Bengal Legislative Assembly premises witnessed on November 30 had given a political advantage to the CPI(M) in its Singur campaign and showed the Trinamool in a poor light by betraying the party'slack of political wisdom, the unprovoked police atrocities on Singur farmers definitely turned the public opinion against the ruling.
Uneasy question now being asked even by the Left supporters why the West Bengal government has let loose its police to grab land from farmers by force when the Chief Minister himself repeatedly claimed that over 900 acres of land out of 1000 acres required for the Tata'sautomobile project have already given by Singur farmers to the government voluntarily. The RSP and the Forward Bloc, two important constituents of the Left Front government, have already issued statements in Kolkata following police brutality in Singur asking the Chief Minister to explain why his government has claimed that farmers have willingly gave up their land for the Tata project. ?If the government'sclaim is correct then why did the police step in? This raises serious doubts about the government'sclaim?, the statements said.
The 20-party alliance, led by Mamata Banerjee, received unexpected support from Left social activist Medha Patkar and Magsaysay award winner Padma Bibhushan literateur Mahasweta Devi following the police atrocities on Singur farmers. They together pledged to put their might against Buddhadeb Bhattacharya-led government by taking up the issue to national and international forum. In fact, Medha Patkar was present during the police brutalities unleashed on hapless farmers in the three Singur villages on December 2. However, she was quickly picked up by the police and sent to Kolkata forcibly by a police vehicle. The Bhattacharya government had offered her state hospitality and even invited her to join the anti-terror rally organised by the CPI(M). But after returning from Singur, she refused to accept state hospitality and the invitation. ?How could I accept the government hospitality when 18 Singur women are confined in tiny cell in police lock-up where they do not have space enough to sit? I am in no mood to join the anti-terror rally on December 3 as I have witnessed state terror today?, she said in disgust.
No doubt, the Singur accident carried out by the state government will soon snowballed into a major political battle on the eve of panchayat elections. It is yet to be seen how the Opposition utilises the cracks now being opened in the CPI(M)'straditional base in rural Bengal farm land during the panchayat elections scheduled early next year.
After Singur, East Midnapore?
The Buddhadeb Bhattacharya government in Bengal has decided to acquire at least 10,000 acres of farming land at Nandigram in East Midnapore for setting up a chemical hub by the Indian Oil Corporation after handing over 1000 acres of multi-crop farming land to the Tatas in Singur in Hooghly district by end December. The high-yielding land will be transferred to the IOC after the harvesting is over by March. The UPA government in the Centre has already given the go-ahead signal to the state government for its chemical hub. However, farmers in Nandigrm villages have refused to give up their fertile land for setting up chemical industries and the local CPI(M) M.P., Lakshman Seth was denied entry to Nandigram when he went there on December 4 to address a farmers rally. The IOC has signed a memorandum of understanding with the state government on September 27 and has agreed to be the anchor investor for the proposed chemical hub in Nandigram near Haldia.
In fact, the dimension of transferring crop land for industrialisation in East Midnapore is much larger than Singur. Apart from acquiring 10,000 acres of fertile farm land in Nandigram, the Bhattacharya government has also planned to set up its first ever nuclear power project in Haripur in East Midnapore. The Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, has signed an agreement with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) on November 8 to set up a 2000 MW nuclear power plant at an estimated cost of Rs 10,000 crore in densely populated Haripur in East Midnapore'sContai subdivision.
The Bhattacharya-led government'sdecision to build nuclear power plant in Harpur has been opposed by all political parties, including the CPI(M), in East Midnapore district. However, among all the parties active in the district, the state fisheries minister, Kironmoy Nanda'sSocialist Party is likely to affect most as the party'svery existence depends on the people'ssupport in East Midnapore district. The Socialist Party'sthree MLAs, including the fisheries Minister Kironmoy Nanda, are all elected from East Midnapore district. In order to save his own party'svery existence, Nanda met the Chief Minister at Writers? Buildings to request for a change of the site of the proposed nuclear plant from densely populated Haripur to sparsely populated Khejuri area. But the Chief Minister has refused to budge from his earlier decision saying, ? The site for the plant is selected by the NPCIL and any change of the site should be done by it?. Interestingly, the Chief Minister did not consult with his Cabinet colleagues and even the Left Front MLAs elected from East Midnapore district before signing agreement with the NPCIL.
Blood kit scam?CPM ministers at loggerheads
Two senior CPI(M) ministers are at loggerheads on the issue of spurious blood kits supplied to government blood banks in the state by a private company. While the state transport minister, Subhas Chakraborty claimed in public that the said blood kits are imported from China by the private supplier and he himself had examined the kit and found it was perfectly alright, the health minister, Suryakanta Mishra took exception to the remark by his party and ministerial colleague saying, ?Subhasbabu is trying to protect his friend and the main accused in the kit scam, jute baron Govind Sarada?.
The transport minister, Chakraborty is known for his controversial statements in the past. While addressing a seminar on thalassemia and other blood related diseases in Kolkata Press Club on November 27, Chakraborty had lashed at the state health department officials claiming that the charges against the Monozyme Pvt Ltd, owned by the Sarada Group, was baseless and motivated. ?I have personally examined the blood kit and found that they are well within the expiry date?, Chakraborty said. Earlier, the state health secretary, Kalyan Bagchi, had filed a case against Govind Sarad'scompany Monozyme Pvt Ltd. for supplying non-useable blood kits to examine purity of blood samples collected by the government blood banks in the state. As a result, blood supplied by the government blood banks to patients during the past 18 months may have contaminated with HIV and other blood related viruses in the absence of proper test of blood samples collected from blood donation camps organised mainly in association with voluntary organisations (NGOs). Reacting sharply on the comments of Subhas Chakraborty, the health minister said, ?If anybody is of the view that the Sarada Group is not involved in the blood kits supply case, it can be assessed that he must be protecting the culprits?. (VSK)