Singur, WB, and the Opposition…

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?

‘Under Development’ revisited

Remember this post, about the project called ‘Under Development’?

Well, I did manage to be at the exhibition after all… and I loved it! The story it wanted to tell was told brilliantly, the photos were meaningful, were for the most part good photos in their own right, and said a lot of things (all through the photos) that do not manage to see the light of printing presses.

Well done, Citizens’ Initiative!

I also learnt about some other initiatives that they are undertaking, but perhaps they will be better placed to discuss them at length. I will congratulate them, though, for their effort at making a difference.

‘Under Development’

If you are in Kolkata, or you plan to be there over the next week, may I bring to your attention a photography exhibition organised by a group that calls itself the ‘Citizens Initiative’. I am, of course, not involved with this venture in any way, but I have a friend who is, and this post is to honor a request to let more people know about the exhibition.

Here’s part of an email that I received about this:

“As some of you may be aware of, we, a bunch of students, researchers and teachers (mostly from JU) have been working with the people in Singur for the last 5 months. We call ourselves the Citizens’ Initiative. We have extensively documented through photographs the lives of the people in Singur and how it has been affected by the Tata Motors factory. To this end, we are organising a photo exhibition at Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre from 27th June to 2nd July.

Neither is the Citizens’ Initiative a commercial organisation nor are we doing anything for personal aesthetics/ pleasure (and all that, you know). The entire point of the photo exhibition is to make people aware of Singur and how development for some affects the rest. We want as many people to watch the photos and be aware of the situation as possible.

The photographers are Amrita Dhar, Insiya Poonawala and Joyraj Bhattacharya.”

Tell me how you liked the exhibition (I myself won’t be in Kolkata in time)!

Update: Please see the comments section for more details.