“Tears of joy” – that was the reaction of Bengal’s Chief Minister on 31 August after the Supreme Court of India termed the land acquisition in Singur illegal and ordered for the land acquired to be returned to farmers. A fight that had started on 18 May, 2006 finally attained fruition. Life came a full cycle for not just Mamata Banerjee, our Didi, but for many of us who had been associated with the Singur andolan.
Back in 2006, the ‘Nano plant’ at Singur was sold to us as a panacea that would magically end all the woes facing the State; it was marketed as the one big investment that would propel Bengal to a position among States that would put other ‘vibrant’ States to shame. True, after three decades of Left rule, Bengal was desperate for a ‘magic pill’.
So, when Tatas decided pull out of Singur, the mainstream media branded Didi as ‘anti-industry’. The West prefixed before Bengal was laughingly referred to as ‘Waste’ meaning there was no hope left for the State. We always maintained we are not against industry. Investors are most welcome to Bengal. However, the manner in which multi-crop fertile land was acquired using cadre-power, the scant regard shown for due process, the sheer arrogance of the CPI(M) propelled the hapless people to rise up against the establishment. The Supreme Court verdict has only vindicated our stand.
Mamata Banerjee in Munich
The Singur verdict will embolden Mamata Banerjee. That she is not against private investment has been demonstrated in the two successful seasons of Bengal Global Business Summit and her trips to UK and Singapore. Despite the huge legacy of debt inherited from the Left Front Government, Bengal has been growing by leaps and bounds. The State’s GVA growth is 12% compared to 7% of India. The industrial growth of the State (8.3%) is also much higher than the national average (5.6%).
In this light, the CM’s trip to Germany was extremely significant. From 5-9 September, Team Bengal (the Chief Minister was accompanied by the State Finance, Commerce and Industries Minister Dr Amit Mitra, Mayor of Kolkata, several departmental secretaries, 29 industrialists and other members of the press) held several meetings at Munich, Stuttgart and Dusseldorf.
Team Bengal at BMW HQ in Munich
At a business conclave at Munich, Bengal CM made an impassioned appeal to investors to come to Bengal. She talked about easy availability of land, power, labour. She made a strategic appeal to move over an incident in the past. The response in Germany has been impressive.Top-level officials of BMW made presentations to Team Bengal during a three-hour meeting. Dusseldorf has expressed interest in making Kolkata their ‘Sister City’.
The opinion about Bengal is changing in the global market. A State which was once known as the Bandh Capital of India was running like any normal day on September 2, when 17 trade unions had called for Bharat Bandh. In fact, the man-days lost in Bengal due bandhs has come down to zero in the last five years. Business conclaves like the one in Munich help bolstering the message ‘Bengal Means Business’.
Standing ovation for Didi after Business Conclave in Munich
The seeds have been sown. The efforts of the State government to woo investors is clearly visible. All eyes on Bengal Global Business Summit, 2017. One thing is for certain: Bengal is back on the business map.
Photos courtesy: Ashok Majumder
As the world was bidding adieu to 2014, the NDA Government headed by the 56-inch chest Prime Minister passed an Ordinance that sought to make amendments to the Land Acquisition Act. Originally promulgated by the British in 1894, the Land Acquisition Act came under heavy criticism during the famous Singur agitation by Mamata Banerjee. Using this regressive law, the comrades in Bengal rained atrocities on innocent farmers; NDA’s schemes look no different.
The Land Ordinance has been designed to rob farmers of their land, forcibly take away from poor peasants their only means of livelihood so that the government of Adani and Ambani can rain sops on the corporate world. The debate on the urgency for promulgating an Ordinance aside, the amendments made by Modi Government have rung the death knell for Indian farmers (notwithstanding the fact that only last month, 13 farmers committed suicide in Vidarbha).
Land grabbing without democratic consent is now openly promoted by the Union Government, following a legacy worse than the British. The shameless government has also done away with the provision for social survey. Like a carrot before the donkey, the Finance Minister added a postscript about compensation, more as an afterthought. When it comes to fulfilling promises, we have all seen the track record of U-turn Sarkar in the last seven months.
The biggest worry with this Ordinance is that the Finance Ministry has completely bypassed the Rural Development Ministry in its urge to appease the corporate honchos who sponsored BJP’s multi-billion campaign blitzkrieg. It is not surprising that the President himself questioned the urgency of the Ordinance, before he was forced to sign it.
The Modi Sarkar talks of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas but its actions show otherwise. They seem to be guided by the motto “Corporate ka saath, Khaas logon ka Vikas”.
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