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Singur : A point of departure

The Singur agitation can be seen as an effort by Mamta Banejree to replenish her political clout, writes Kamal Kailash.

india Updated: Dec 12, 2006 20:23 IST

The last time Mamta Banerjee was conspicuously in news was in September 2003 when she was inducted in the Vajpayee Cabinet as a minister without portfolio. She was offered the coal ministry but she wasn't interested in it. Evidently she wasn't offered the portfolio of her choice. But do you require a particular ministry to serve the nation? Ms Banerjee should know better.

Fast forward to December 2006 and Ms Banerjee is in news again and not for salutary reasons. At the moment she is on a hunger strike demanding that the land acquisition process in Singur for the Tata plant be stopped immediately.

West Bengal is an inscrutable political terrain. Decades of Left conservatism has rendered the state quite backward. Industrialists were reluctant to put money into the state. In fact they were scared off. Now, when things have finally begun to look up, the hysterical Mamta Banerjee has emerged as a roadblock. She apparently has donned the discarded attire of the Left, the cloak of stagnancy.

The Singur plant promises to be the first major investment in West Bengal in more than four decades. It's going to engender a salubrious industrial climate in the state, attracting many more investors. Moreover, thousands of new jobs would be created.

The issue in Singur is that of acquisition of farmers' land and it has been alleged that just compensation has not been paid. We have no way of knowing if that's true or not because politicians rake up issues to serve their own interests. There could or could not be truths in the allegations but that doesn't entitle Ms Banerjee to the behaviour she has adopted.

Singur can be seen as a point of departure. It's not always possible to keep everyone happy. Some farmer discontent there could be genuine, but this is going to be inevitable whenever there is a move from the agrarian to the industrial way of life.

India cannot always support more than sixty per cent of population on agriculture for all times. There are bound to be changes. Civil society, government and politicians alike would have to act as buffers during such painful transformations.

West Bengal has been in turbulence for a whole of a fortnight now. The turmoil has resulted in nothing precious or productive. On the contrary it has put forward some poignant questions. But, first an appraisal of the proceedings and the associated residue.

The West Bengal Assembly has been reduced to shambles after the fury unleashed by Trinamool Congress legislators. Some amount of heritage has been eclipsed as furniture and furnishings of British era have been damaged. We hear that it would require lakhs of rupees to restore the house to order.

Monetary aspect apart, irreparable damage has been caused to what can be termed as the 'Indian Psyche'.

Brawls in assemblies are not entirely unknown in India. On the contrary they
are UP's claim to fame. The recent one in WB Assembly just reminds us of the deepening nadir which our politicians keep on perpetuating.

Instead of debating on important issues, our honourable MLAs and MPs portray a menagerie, unknown anywhere else in the world. Abuses, howling, character assassination et al has become synonymous with Indian way of parliamentary conduct.

The West Bengal government had opened the legislative assembly for three days for public view. The intention was to showcase the antics of Trinamool Congress legislator. But isn't that all politicians belong to the same stock?

Trinamool protestors held Kolkata to ransom on the issue of alleged manhandling of Mamta Banerjee in Singur. A bandh was called on December 1st, transportation held up, buses pelted and what not.

It's always difficult to put a monetary tag to the inconvenience caused to people, not to mention certain incidents during these bandhs, which change life of some forever.

One person was killed, when a bus was pelted upon. Come to think of it, this particular person, probably, had nothing to do with the proposed Tata plant at Singur, the ensuing protests, Kolkata bandh etc. And yet he had to pay with his life. Can Mamta Banerjee 'the Durga' restore the life of this person?

It was just another day in the life of Kolkata and the people moved on. But the question is - will our politicians mend their ways? I am afraid there's little hope.

Only two things have been achieved in the controversy sponsored by the Trinamool Congress. The resolve of the Tatas and the WB Govt to make the plant a reality has only been strengthened. And the second, as political analysts tell us: the Indian National Congress has come closer to the Trinamool, spawning speculations about the future power equations in West Bengal.

The Singur agitation can be seen as an effort by Mamta Banejree to replenish her political clout. But she is on the wrong side of the wind. The process of globalisation and the associated industrialisation is irreversible.

Singur is just a manifestation of this truism.

Email Kamal K Agrawal:

First Published: Dec 12, 2006 20:23 IST