The decision of Tata Motors to suspend work in Singur and the possible relocation of its Nano plant has not affected Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who has been agitating for the return of 400 acres of land allocated to ancillary units. She told Arindam Sarkar that the Left Front government was playing with fire by appeasing industries at the cost of farmers. Excerpts from an interview:
Will the Tata threat to suspend work and relocate the Nano plant affect your agitation?
Why? I have nothing against the Tatas. I also want the Nano to come out from Bengal. My agitation is against the forcible acquisition of land by the state for the Tata Motors plant against the will of the farmers.
As for the Tata decision, it is their internal matter. We have not obstructed work at the plant or prevented workers from going inside. Do not misconstrue the movement. Our movement is for getting back the land and not for driving out the Tatas.
Won’t a Tata pullout affect your political image and fortunes?
True, I am a politician but I have a social and moral responsibility towards the people who support us. It is imperative that in this hour of crisis when the state government has turned into a land shark, I must look after the interests of the farmers and protect their agricultural lands.
If I have responsibility, I expect that a respected industrial house like the Tatas should also live up to their reputation and show corporate social responsibility.
You are not taking this threat seriously?
No. It is pressure tactics. It will not work.
You have agreed to talks and have also hinted that any third party could take the initiative to resolve the Singur crisis...
I am always an optimist. My doors are open. I have agreed to talks with the Tatas when they wrote a letter to me. I feel the state government is misleading them. But any talks have to have the return of 400 acres as the agenda or else there is no point discussing Singur.
But the state government says it is not possible to return 400 acres of the 997 acres for Tata Motors, as it is earmarked for ancillary units...
Ridiculous. I have suggested that 500 acres of low lands are available on the other side of the road where the vendors can be shifted. You mean to say that entire Detroit and Bavaria have been acquired because automobile companies have set up factories there.
If Tata shifts its operation elsewhere, will your agitation at Singur end?
(Laughs) What have I got to do with the Tatas. They had to leave Dhaka and Kalinganagar. Is it because of me? Now, if they leave Singur, it is not because of me but because of the people’s wrath. My agitation at Singur will continue till the farmers get back 400 acres of land.