The potato plants are about a foot tall, swaying gently in the breeze. Under the ground, the tubers are ready to be harvested as farmer Mahadeb Das uproots a couple to demonstrate.
While the potato plants cover about 15 acre right beside where the paint shop stood, about 400 metres away, farmers have just sown seeds of boro paddy near the plot once occupied by the Trim Chassis Final (TCF) plant.
Welcome to the former rusty Nano plant in West Bengal’s Singur that has become one of India’s most famous plots after the Supreme Court ordered the land to be returned to the original owners, setting aside the acquisition by the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government in 2006. Nowhere else in the country is the flip flop between farming, factory and back to farming so dramatically evident than in this land.
“The yield from the first crops sown in October 2016 — mustard, lentil, khesari pulse and potato — makes us confident of good prospects in farming. The land has retained its fertility,” said Ganesh Ghosh, 55, a resident of Gopalnagar Purbapara.
A walk inside the plot packs in a lot of surprises. Patches near the spots where factory sheds of the Nano plant stood till October last year are now lush green.
Some plots ‘liberated’ from the concrete structures — about a hundred acres — are yet to be turned cultivable. While most of the remains from the concrete structures have been removed, the plots are being filled with soil from a nearby riverbed.
“Nearly 800 acres of land are ready for cultivation and will be covered for irrigation by 56 mini-deep tubewells that are already installed and a check-dam that is being built on a canal. We will grow the boro paddy on 200 acres this season, besides sesame on 40 acres and split green gram, black lentil and maize on 20 acres each,” said Jayanta Kumar Panrui, the nodal agriculture officer for the Singur project.
In order to build confidence among the landowners about the prospect of farming on the plot, nearly half of which had been ‘damaged’ by industrial construction, the government has taken the entire charge of farming for the first year — from tilling land and supplying seeds and fertilisers to sowing and harvest.
Farming resumed in October last year with CM Mamata Banerjee sowing mustard seeds herself. Over October and November, mustard was grown on 68 acres, potato on 15 acres and red lentil and khesari on 20 acres each. From the first week of February, mustard, lentil and khesari were harvested and the same land is now being used for paddy.
Not everyone is equally pleased though. The land belonging to Suprakash Santra, who spent 21 days behind bars for trying to resist the police from taking possession of his land, is still filled with concrete. “Tatas dug a huge pond here. The government-employed contractors, however, filled it with concrete slabs. Hundreds of quintals of concrete slabs need to be removed now. When will the land turn cultivable?” asked Santra.
There are the likes of Dwarik Ghosh, who will not resume farming. “I never wanted to farm and had willingly parted with my land. I got both of my daughters enrolled in an engineering college, hoping the plant will create jobs. Now that I have got the land back, I’m waiting for a good buyer to sell it off again,” Ghosh said.