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Mela adds to the melee

india Updated: Aug 27, 2008 00:01 IST
Amitava Sanyal
Amitava Sanyal
Hindustan Times
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Some 70 cooks and helpers are working round the clock to feed 7,000-10,000 people. A hundred mikes put up alongside 21 stages are blaring live music. Villagers are doing brisk business selling lemon tea, salted cucumber and cane juice. Tea stalls along the highway are also selling liquor.

It’s as if Durga Puja has come early to Singur.

When Tata Motors decided to build the Nano plant in this sleepy agricultural area, it was hoped the project would spawn an ecology of downstream units.

But as Mamata Banerjee’s blockade of the plant entered its third day, it seemed to have spawned a politically-charged mela next to the 39th milestone from Kolkata on National Highway No 2.

Never mind that the blocked traffic is sending up the local prices of eatables.

Everyone here has a sharp point to offer on the contentious project. The memory of lives lost, too, is fresh.

But that’s the front; the effort behind this ‘people’s protest’ is another matter altogether.

Banerjee or some other party functionary collars the mike every hour or so to announce the next act. “You’ve heard some taped modern songs; now let’s have some live folk music,” she says, introducing a lyricist-composer-singer.

Getting the lunch prepared is Bidyut Raut, senior member of the party’s Hooghly district committee. “After two days of dal-sabzi-rice, we are serving soya granules today,” says Raut.

“The parties are sharing the cost equally, except TMC, which is bearing a larger share,” said Dola Sen, CPI(ML) state committee member, also coordinator of the 21 parties on the highway.

“We may look like madcaps, but believe me it’s all under control.”