Land issues still influence Singur voters

Land issues still influence Singur voters
Nearly a decade after Singur rose up against forced land acquisition, the sleepy hamlet in Hooghly district still remains divided over the idea of Tata’s factory.

What happened after Mamata Banerjee’s arrival at the scene and Tata’s subsequent departure to Gujarat is history, but a section of farmers who refused to give up land are still awaiting its return.

The issue will influence voting in Singur, with one side in favour of having the factory and its promises of employment and the other side choosing to get back their 400 acres. Be it a “willing” farmer, who gave up his land and received compensation, or an unwilling land loser, both sides have a lot to complain about Mamata.

Haradhan Barui of Beriberi village in Singur and his wife, Krishna, complain that even though Singur was Mamata’s stepping stone to power, she forgot its people once she became chief minister.

People dejected

“Didi visited Singur 38 times between 2006 and 2011 but did not visit us even once after becoming the chief minister,” she said. They also feel dejected with Mamata’s recent statement that even though she is fighting to return the 400 acres to rightful owners, she would not have anything to do if the court took 50 years to pass a judgment.

“It came as a rude shock to us,” said Gopal Dhara of Bajemelia. “When we were fighting to have our land from being acquired, she never told us there could be legal complications,” he added.

Despite their complaints, for the unwilling ones, Mamata seems to be the best bet. Most of them agree that since the Opposition parties did not stand by their movement to get back their land, they did not qualify to get votes.

“While it is true that Mamata failed in her promise, her government is helping us survive,” said Mahadeb Das, who willingly parted with his land initially but later refused to accept compensation. “Every unwilling land-loser gets monthly allowance of Rs 2,000 and monthly quota of 16 kg of rice at Rs 2 per kg,” he added.

CPM state secretariat member Rabin Deb and the coalition candidate from Singur, said, “In the last five years, there has been no new industry in Bengal, only flight of industry. We had brought Tata here to build the factory and if that happened, Singur and Bengal would have been much different.

People realise Mamata Banerjee has fooled them and they want us to finish what we started.”
His confidence is in contrast to the street corner meetings across Singur where coalition leaders are promoting him as the liberator and not an outsider.

Deb’s job is tougher since Trinamool Congress candidate Rabindranath Bhattacharya, the sitting MLA, is widely respected, making it difficult for Opposition campaigners to sully the retired school teacher’s clean image.

The ruling party has also changed its tack and is now pushing an agenda of co-existence, where the factory will function after 400 acres have been returned to unwilling land-losers.

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