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Is the Singur euphoria too premature?

india Updated: Sep 09, 2008 01:06 IST
Anirban Choudhury
Anirban Choudhury
Hindustan Times
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In the clear light of Monday morning, the resolution to the Singur crisis reached on Sunday night appears to have been no resolution at all. The euphoria was completely misplaced.

Consider: the agreement hammered out between the state government and Mamata Banerjee says that “maximum land within the project area” would be handed back to the farmers. Just how much land was not made clear, but Trinamool Congress MLA from Singur, who is part of the four member committee set up to work out the details told Hindustan Times: “We have identified 200 acres within that area which will be returned.”

That’s more than a fifth of the entire area of 997 acres earmarked for the Nano car factory! How does that square with state industries minister Nirupam Sen’s assertion that, even after implementing the accord reached, there will be no violation of the agreement with Tata Motors? The Tatas had repeatedly claimed that the economic viability of producing a car that would cost only Rs 1 lakh depended critically upon utilizing the entire area, keeping their ancillary industries next door and drastically cutting transportation costs.

If 200 acres within the project area could indeed have been spared without affecting the project, why did the standoff continue for a fortnight? And if they cannot, if giving away the land will require the Tatas to make substantial adjustments, why was such a commitment made without consulting them? It is not at all surprising that the Tatas have refused to go along with an agreement that may throw the economics of the Nano project into a tailspin.

It has been a case of colossal bungling by the Left Front government that completely failed to gauge Mamata’s popularity and tenacity. Mamata had made her position clear in December 2006 when she embarked on a hunger strike at Singur: why did the government make no attempt to address the problem for over a year and a half? Despite that hungerstrike, why did an astute businessman like Ratan Tata walk into a minefield like Singur when he could well have — as he is said to be considering now rolled out the Nano from Pimpri or Pantnagar? Mysteries galore remain.