Whatever happened to Singur? Disaster, that'swhat. The Tatas have opted out of the place and are looking for a site elsewhere in the country to set up the Nano project. ?The Singur episode is a classical example of how irresponsible politics can leave everyone as a loser?, The Indian Express (October 6) noted. Every one indeed has been a loser. The Express dismissed Mamata Bannerjee'scharge that Singur constitutes a new chapter of peasant warfare against corporate greed. ?It is a perception which is shared by neither a majority of the people of West Bengal, nor the rest of the country, nor perhaps, many of her own party men,? the paper said. As the paper noted, the CPM is as big a loser as its mercurial opponent, the Tatas, too, haven'tcome out with flying colours, the Congress too has been of little help ?as it has indulged in its familiar tactics of trying to play both sides?.
The Express blamed the Tatas, saying that ?their eagerness to invest in West Bengal was not so much for the state'sdevelopment as for the sweetheart deal which they secured from the government? but added that ?perhaps the worst losers are the people of the state for whom there is little hope for the foreseeable future of West Bengal emerging from its prolonged industrial stagnation?. The Times of India (October 6) pointed out that ?the departure of the Tatas from Singur will send all the wrong signals to future investors?. The paper blamed Mamata Bannerjee. It said: ?Her agitational methods were wrong-headed. For what she perceived as political gains, Bannerjee chose to sacrifice the larger interests of her state. Such methods can only spell disaster. Politicians like Bannerjee have failed to realise that the Opposition is not meant to play spoiler: they have a constructive role too.?
The Hindu (October 6) like practically all other newspapers noted that the decision by Tata Motors to move the Nano project out of West Bengal is a setback for the development of the state but added that not just the Trinamool Congress but all ?political parties, organisations, individuals and people in high places who colluded with Mamata Bannerjee are entirely responsible?. Discussing the larger issue of availability of agricultural land for industrial development, the paper quoted Amartya Sen as saying that to prohibit entirely the conversion of agricultural land to industrial purposes is ?ultimately self-defeating?. The paper especially drew attention to the fact that not only land-losers were offered commercial premises in the plant complex, but the Tatas had even offered new technical training to 800 youth from the locality. Given all the facts, said the paper, ?political history will judge Mamata Bannerjee'sTrinamool Congress to be the most irresponsible and negativist legislative opposition in any state.
Deccan Herald (October 6) said that Mamata Bannerjee was not just practising brinkmanship, but, ?in the process she has taken down the brink the Rs 1,500 crore industrial project and the hope of West Bengal to redeem itself from an unsavoury anti-industry reputation?. The paper said that the claim that Mamata'sagitation was in the interests of farmers ?would not convince anyone?. It said: ?Nobody has gained from the turn of events in Singur: Not the farmer, nor the principle of the legitimate right of farmers to get compensated for their loss of land and livelihood, nor Ms. Mamata Bannerjee who will now be seen as the person who set the state back by years. All of them have lost in different ways and the people of the state have lost collectively.?
A strange event occurred the other day but the manner in which it was presented by some of the Bangalore-based newspapers makes one wonder what it is they are trying to convey. Briefly, the story is this: A former Gujarat Congress minister, Mohammad Surti and five others were sentenced to twenty years in jail for involvement in the 1993 twin Surat bombings in which a girl was killed and 40 people were wounded. The TADA Court also fined each of the guilty, Rs 2 lakh each. Surti is said to have procured hand grenades and other weapons from the late Ahmedabad don Abdul Latif. Police sources have been quoted as saying that a part of the arms consignment of the notorious D company too had reached Surat to cause communal tension in Gujarat'sfinancial capital.
Think this over: Mohammad Surti is a Muslim. He was a Congress minister. He has been sentenced to 20 years in jail. Twenty years is not exactly a short term. The fact that a former Congress minister was given a 20-year jail sentence precisely because he was engaged in terrorist activities must not only have made front page news, but the background to the guilty must have been provided. The trouble seems to be that (and may it however be stated that only two Bangalore-based editions of big papers are involved here) ?secularism? of a pathetic nature is behind it all. The Times of India dismissed the story in one short paragraph on page one, as if the story is of no consequence. So did the New Indian Express. The story was similarly dismissed in one short para on the last column of page one. The Deccan Herald to its credit gave the sorry a double-column prominence along with a picture but on page 13. The Hindu (October 5) to its credit gave the story a 5-column coverage with pictures of five of those found guilty. It said that the TADA Court ?examined more than 300 witnesses and based its judgment on the Forensic Science Laboratory report on the bomb blast.? The claim of the guilty was that the bombs were exploded in a reprisal for the communal riots that broke out in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya in December 1992. What is significant is that a Muslim leader of the Congress was guilty of terrorism. Is that not news? Or is it news to be played down so that Muslim feelings are not hurt? One wonders how all the newspapers in the country dealt with the news in their pages. That merits attention.
The media seems to live in fear all the time. It is in this connection that one wants to draw attention to an article in The New Indian Express (October 6) on the media'scoverage of the Christian-Hindu ?problem? by Francois Gautier, a French correspondent of repute. It deserves wide publicity for pointing out how evangelists are trying to convert the poor Hindus into Christianity. But which of our media has courage to face the truth? In the media secularism means hiding the truth about the minorities, and constantly damning the majority.