At Singur, chorus of ‘talk to Tatas’ grows loud

Land mess Govt awaits apex court's verdict on the constitutionality of its law, but farmers' patience running thin.

Farmers in Singur who "unwillingly" gave up their land for the Tata Motors car factory now feel that the only way to come out of the present land stalemate is to reach for an out-of-court settlement with the Tatas. The uncertainty over the fate of the 400 acres of land belonging to the "unwilling" farmers, that has got caught in a legal battle, has only added to their growing impatience.

Even Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who led them during the Singur movement that led to the exit of Tata Motors from the area, during her recent visit failed to convince the farmers that her signature Singur land reclamation law will be validated by the Supreme Court. "We are not against industry and we will not oppose if an out-of-court settlement takes place. The Tatas may be allowed to set up their factory on the land of the farmers who gave up the plots voluntarily, but the unwilling farmers must be given their land back," said Mahadeb Das, a frontline leader of the Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee, that led the land agitation under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee. His 11 bigha land falls in the abandoned project site.

Somnath Manna's five bigha plot was "acquired against his will" for the car factory project. Today, he wants the state government to open talks with the Tatas and to arrive at an amicable solution. "Our condition is pathetic. We have neither money nor land. If we had given the land to the Tatas, our condition would have been much better. I do not agree with those who say there is no profit in agriculture. I want my land back, but the way things are taking place, it seems that there is little hope of getting back land," Manna, a resident of Beraberi, said.

The chorus of "go for a out-of-court settlement with Tatas and return the land to us" is growing louder and clearer among the farmers. This was evident on Tuesday when a host of Trinamool Congress ministers reached Singur to observe the sixth death anniversary of Tapasi Mallik, an activist of land agitation whose charred body was found from the disputed project site.

However, Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee, considered close to Mamata, seemed not at all ready for talks with the Tatas, at least not ready to make the first move. "Why should we approach Tatas for an out of court settlement? It is the Tatas who have gone to court against the Singur land reclamation law. But if they want to approach us for a out-of-court settlement, our government would definitely think of it," Mukherjee said.

Knowing it prefectly well that the resentment among the Singur farmers has been growing, the chief minster has been frequently dispatching some of her senior leaders to the area to convince them that their land will be finally returned to them. Not only that, Labour Minister Purnendu Bose on Tuesday told farmers that in the event of Supreme Court scrapping the Singur law, the government will enact a new law to return the land.

Amid this, Trinamool MLA from Singur, Rabindranath Bhattacharjee, who was once Mamata's Man Friday during the peak of the land agitation and has now fallen out of her for openly raising voice against some party leaders, too has been talking of a out-of-court settlement. "The only way to settle the dispute is a out-of-court settlement with the Tatas. The condition of unwilling farmers is very bad and if the process of out-of-court settlement is not commenced, the condition of the farmers will deteriorate further," he said.

The platform of farmers belonging to various political outfits including the Trinamool and SUCI (Communist) appears to have split on this issue with followers belonging to the organisation's joint convener Shankar Jana wants to reoccupy the plots. "We want to reoccupy the plots which were snatched away from the farmers," said Jana, joint convenor of Singur Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee said.

There are some farmers who want to collect their compensation cheques as they realise that "nothing favorable will emerge from the legal battle". Shital Ghosh, a farmer from Bajemelia, refused to collect the compensation cheque for his one bigha land "on the instruction of Trinamool leaders". Now he is frustrated. "I don't see any hope. If there is any scope, I will collect compensation cheque. I now want Tata to return," he said.

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