The Singur controversy is set to take a new spin-off with the Centre, all set to come up with a National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy and the state government is yet to seal the final agreement with Tata Motors, leaving scope and space for addition and alterations on the rehabilitation package. The CPI(M), which had so far been crying for a uniform rehabilitation policy from the Centre, would have little option but to accept.
State Commerce and Industry minister Nirupam Sen said that state government has formulated its own rehabilitation policy in case of Singur. "As of now, we would go by it and after the NRR policy comes into force, we would examine it and if there is possibility to accommodate, it would be done," Sen added.
As of now, the Tatas have floated that they would go all out on a comprehensive rehabilitation and community development project for Singur and its land losers. The Tatas have also showcased Pune and Jamshedpur as successful models of community development, which would be replicated yet again in Singur.
The state government has also accepted such claims from Tatas as a blank cheque: the obvious reason being the good name and credibility of the company towards social commitments. Moreover, the Tatas have also started some spade-work. It has recruited about 13 ITI-qualified people by way of interview, who would get training at Jamshedpur for direct employment. As per talks, the Tata Motors project would create employment opportunities (direct and indirect) for 10,000 to 12,000 people. About 700 to 1,000 people are being targetted for direct employment.
As per the NRR policy, there should be employment for one person in each nuclear family of land-losers and in case it is an impossible proposition, the farmer should be provided agricultural wages for 750 days.
In Singur, there are 12,000 families of land-losers and if the Tatas go by their claim that would suffice the NRR policy. As for the provision of providing agricultural wages for 750 days, Sen said that the amount of mandays created in Singur over the last three months had crossed 50,000 mark.
The state government had already slapped a notification, inviting people (land-losers) willing to work. About 1,800 people have enlisted their names and they have been engaged in different training institutes.
Those who are educated have been put into vocational training at Ram Krishna Shilpa Mandir in Belur. About Rs 7,500 is being spent on each trainee, and another Rs 500 is being given as stipend. This apart, about 40 women have joined catering classes at the catering institute in Behala. The kitchen at Singur would start functioning from February 6. In fact, women are being clubbed under self-help groups and cooperatives, either for supplying meal to the factory workers or to supply their uniforms.
This apart, there would be a range of employment opportunities for the uneducated farmers, the share-croppers and agricultural labourers. It could be the jobs of security guards, masonry, gardener. In fact, those who cannot be accommodated into gainful employment, would be rehabilitated later in various commercial activities, that would spring up with the car factory and ancillary units, Sen added.
When Sen was asked about the NRR's clause about farmers getting shares of the company, equivalent to 20% of wages earned in 750 days, he said that it would be impossible in case of the Tata. "The Tata is an enlisted company with its own stake holders. In Singur there are 17,000 land-owners and imagine another 15,000 stake-holders. How can such a thing be tenable? In fact, legally such a proposition would be impossible," he said adding that in case of new companies, it might be worked out.
Told about Maharashtra, where such a system is working, Sen said that conditions applied to Maharashtra need not be applicable to West Bengal. In Maharashtra, for 1,000 acres of land there could be five landowners, whereas here we might be having 17,000. Allowing stakes in company may be possible there but not here.
Sen also maintained that such a uniform rehabilitation and resettlement policy might not be viable, as different states have different, geographicial, socio-economic conditions. What has to be watched is whether the rehabilitation policy is boosting the economy or not.