Here’s the latest that I read about the now-infamous Singur issue. The opposition, led by the equally infamous Mamata Banerjee, is demanding that almost 400 acres of land, that was taken over against the will of the land-owners, be returned to the farmers; the government is countering that it is too late to give the land back, that the project is too important for the state economy, that giving 400 acres back would essentially close the Nano project at Singur. The protest against the government is, of course, being done in the form of indefinite protests at the site of the Tata Motors factory.
The Singur issue has of course been made a mess of by the government, who first did not bother to take permission from the owners, then gave them a paltry compensation for their land, and lastly has made little or no effort to provide them with alternate and viable places to live and have means of livelihood (and I won’t even talk about all the nonsense about the government claims of having done its bit – after having read so much about it in the media, I was quite appalled to see details of the reality in a photo exhibition that I visited when I was at Kolkata. In fact, refer to this and this about that event).
But now, once all that commotion has already ended, does it really make sense to keep harping about the same issue? The Opposition has made its point, a valid one at that, but now it just seems a bit like overkill, and there’s just a feeling that more harm than good is going to come out of still staging protests (in fact, indefinite protests, including blocking the highway nearby).
What does the Opposition really seek to gain at this point? Their demand is that the land be returned. Well, there are two points here. First, if 400 of ~1000 acres of land is returned, the project can no longer be feasible for Tata Motors. If so, then what happens to the rest of the ~600 acres of land that has been taken legally by the government? Will that land be returned to their owners as well? The second point to ponder over is whether the land is still in a state of fertility. During the past few months immense construction projects have been under way; does all that work not reduce the fertility of the soil, if not destroy it completely? If it does, does it really help anyone at all if the land is indeed returned to their owners at this point? They get their land back, give whatever compensation they got back to the government, and are stuck with infertile land. Plus, a major industrial project goes away. How exactly is that beneficial?
Will the interest of the local farmers not be better served if the focus at this point is taken away from returning the land, to providing alternate living means to the people affected? Doing that successfully can mean that the local farmers have another way of living a life, while at the same time an industry starts in the state too. Surely, with the apparent strength that the Opposition has, they can organize workshops, train the farmers, and allow them to set up shop in new fields of work?
But no, all they will do is stage indefinite protests. Can people never re-evaluate situations, options, and courses of action over time? Or must they stick to whatever they had decided a few eons ago?
The government is blamed for the situation in Singur and West Bengal in general, and it is a valid accusation. But the Opposition is no less responsible either. With this Opposition, what more semblance of balance can one expect?