Outgoing Bengal minister says people have lost hope in Singur

Rabindra Nath

Four days after he opted out of a Cabinet reshuffle, the outgoing West Bengal minister for agriculture Rabindra Nath Bhattacharjee says the Trinamool Congress is in a crisis in Singur and that his allegations of corruption have gone unheard. Bhattacharjee is the party's face in Singur, which was the epicentre of Mamata Banerjee's land agitation in the state and went a long away towards propelling her to power.

Claiming that he had been "cautioned" by Mamata not to speak to the media, a disappointed Bhattacharjee told The Sunday Express that in Singur, "people have lost hope".

For the first time, the three-time Singur MLA admitted that land required to be given back to farmers whose plots had been acquired for the Tata plant was about 135 acres and not 400 acres, as the TMC had claimed earlier.

Though the Chief Minister had also announced Rs 2,000 monthly for each family that lost land and did not take compensation, official records show they got Rs 1,000 for May and June and payment is at a stop now due to non-availability of funds. Nityanada Dhara, who claimed he owned three bighas of land, said: "We never received the payments. We now work as labourers at construction sites and in the land of other farmers."

Bhattacharjee also wondered why, for reasons "not known" to him, action had been pending on serious corruption cases in the Agriculture Department of which he held charge for the past one and a half years. According to him, private companies had duped hundreds of agricultural farmers by supplying spurious wheat seeds. "Action was recommended to blacklist those companies. But unfortunately, the same companies are doing business not only with the Agricultural Department but a host of other government departments," he said.

In the latest Cabinet reshuffle, Bhattacharjee was replaced with a junior TMC leader from Singur, Becharam Manna. He said that Mamata did call him just after the reshuffle, but didn't mention the change in his portfolio.

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