Let us, for a moment, consider that Mamata Banerjee does manage to drive the Tata Motors project out of Singur. The old dreams of an anti-Left mahajot gain currency, with shape-shifting oppositional forces in the state like the Congress and the BJP gathering around a resurgent Ms Banerjee. But what happens to Singur when the hurlyburly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won? Will the bucolic paradise that Ms Banerjee has in mind finally descend on the state? Or will the people of Singur be sacrificed at the altar of agitprop politics that has self-interest emblazoned all over it?
As Ms Banerjee continues on her hunger-strike and is joined by weekend Luddites of all hues and colours, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has refused to give up on the Tata Motors project. Despite the Trinamool leader’s not-too-subtle attempts to paint Tata Motors as a new Enron, companies do not get better — in professional and ethical terms — than the Tatas. Ms Banerjee and her supporters have rustled up evidence of farmers who have not parted with their land in order to paint a picture of zamindari-style oppression unleashed by a new breed of running dogs of capitalism. In the same breath, they maintain that the government has ‘grabbed’ land from the rest of the farmers.
Be that as it may, a large majority of people in Singur see a different picture. If the government has received consent letters for acquiring 950 acres of the total 997 acres of land required for the project, Singur is surely not a latter-day Guernica as Ms Banerjee claims it to be. The average market price of agricultural land in Singur is Rs 1.5-Rs 2 lakh an acre. The government is paying Rs 4-11 lakh per acre to farmers, depending on whether it is single- or double-crop land. And it is really much more than a land deal. With the Tata Motors project up and running, some 2,000 of the 11,500 people of Singur will be directly employed in the plant. Ancillary units will provide further jobs, not to mention the opportunities that come in a place where benefits from an agrarian economy have long been stagnant. All this, quite understandably, does not enthuse the histrionic Ms Banerjee. But it should enthuse not only the people of West Bengal but also the rest of the country.