In 2008, when Kalyani Das (45), a homemaker from Singur, went to local shops to buy goods on credit, she was often shown the door.
The reason: She was from a family whose land, the sole source of income for many, was acquired by the state government for the Nano plant in Singur. Boards were put up by various shops urging buyers not to expect credit.
But, after the recent Supreme Court verdict which ended the stalemate over nearly 1,000 acres, there are perceptible changes in the area. For one, grocers and shopkeepers are once again extending credit to the families of farmers.
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“On August 31, after the country’s apex court gave a verdict in our favour, the entire situation has changed. Now, there is no problem if we buy items from our Beraberi Bazar on credit,” Das told HT. The impression is, land will shortly be back in possession of the families, never mind if it is in a readily cultivable state or not.
In the rural and semi-urban areas of the state, almost every family has a monthly arrangement with the local retailers from groceries to medicine shops. The seller maintains a list of the monthly purchases, and at the end of the month, the buyer pays to square up the account. Credit, in short, is the lifeline of the local economy.
Das has 10 cottahs of land and her husband is physically challenged. Now the family plans to resume farming after the land is restored to them. For the past 10 years, it was a hand-to-mouth existence for the family which dependent on meagre government compensation.
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Das was not alone. Many like her had to endure hardships.
“Can you believe that even the local medicine shop owners refused to give us any life-saving drug? Then the CPI(M) and the administration spread a reign of terror in the area on people like us who opposed the acquisition,” said Mahadeb Das, a leader of Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee and a resident of Beraberi village.
“Though there was a change in the situation from 2011 after Trinamool Congress came to power, many of us did not even have the money to buy daily necessities. It is only after the Supreme Court verdict that shopkeepers are giving us credit,” said Mahadeb Das, a leader of Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee and a resident of Beraberi area.
A visit to the Beraberi Bazar, the only market in the area, is revealing. At least 4,000 to 5,000 people are dependent on it. “Please don’t ask for credit” signs have mostly vanished.
The state government acquired 997.11 acres for the Tata Motors project and in protest against this decision the entire Singur people launched a movement.
“I was a student at that time and with others I, too, took part in that movement. My residence is adjacent to Beraberi Bazar and I still can remember how the people were refused by shopkeepers. But the situation has changed,” said Avishek Ghosh, an activist of Trinamool’s student wing and a resident of Beraberi.
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While most shop owners decided to keep mum, Bholanath Ghosh, who sells towels in Beraberi Bazar for about 14 years, admitted that giving credit had stopped after the land went under the control of the state government and then leased out to Tata Motors.
“The only source of income of these people was their land and when it was snatched away, shop owners started thinking that these people will not be able to repay them. Accordingly, they decided to stop giving credit,” Ghosh said.
Trinamool district leaders agreed.
“Certainly there was such a situation in the area but those days are gone. It is Mamata Banerjee who was with them from the very beginning. She is trying her best to ensure the welfare of the people of Singur. People want to see her leading from Delhi,” said Tapan Dasgupta, the state agriculture-marketing minister and Hooghly Trinamool president.