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Roadblocks for Tata car in Bengal's uneasy greens (SPECIAL)

Khaserveri (West Bengal), Sep 1 (IANS) 'Are you a Tata official? Then go back,' decrees a villager, his suspicious eyes speaking a language of disgust and a sense of betrayal.

Friday, September 1, 2006 | 9:28:39 AM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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Khaserveri (West Bengal), Sep 1 (IANS) 'Are you a Tata official? Then go back,' decrees a villager, his suspicious eyes speaking a language of disgust and a sense of betrayal.

The press sticker on the car and even the identity card issued by the state government they now love to hate are not good enough to allow journalists easy access to the otherwise hospitable Khaserveri village in Singur, about 45 km from Kolkata, in Hooghly district.

Encircled by luxuriant croplands, which expose the government's lie about their low fertility, Khaserveri villagers are all set to rebuff the powerful industrial house of Tata.

For it is in 1,000 acres of these expansive green fields that Tata Motors wants to set up its Rs.100,000 people's car project - it promises to initially employ 2,000 people and is expected to create more than 10,000 jobs among vendors and service providers in the vicinity of the plant.

It will also displace nearly 5,000 marginal and landless farmers from prime agricultural land.

Tata Motors chief Ratan Tata has said that though the number employed would be 10,000, the Tata Motors project would also have a far-reaching impact on future investments in West Bengal.

Despite the vociferous protests, the state land department has resolved to hand over to the West Bengal Industrial Development Corp (WBIDC) all the 1,013 acres Tata Motors needs at Singur for the plant by Sep 27. It can transfer the land to the Tatas any day after that.

The government, while still working out details, has also promised handsome compensation for the land.

But the villagers are unimpressed and determined not to give up their land.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya's appeal to graduate from agriculture to industry has fallen on deaf ears.

'We will not give an inch without a fight. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya met his first defeat in the hands of Jagmohan Dalmiya. The second defeat would be Singur,' says farmer Pradip Das sarcastically, referring to the chief minister's failed bid to rout Dalmiya in the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) elections with his own candidate.

'They want us to perish for the sake of industry. No amount of money can compensate for land that will be tilled by our future generations. Unskilled people like us have nothing to do in a Tata Motors project,' says Das.

With words like Tata and Buddhadeb hurled like epithets, the mood is defiant in this idyllic village of streams, lush greenery and people who are better off than many other Indian villages because of the high yield of the land.

The government claims that most of the land up for grab for the Tata Motors project is one-crop. But a ride through the criss-crossing dirt track gives the game away -- the green acres are in use round the year for multiple crops, from paddy to potatoes to paddy again and jute as well as vegetables of all kinds.

In this village, even grassroots supporters of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) voice their protests in unison with the Trinamool Congress that is spearheading the movement against the plant.

A supposedly apolitical Singur Krishijami Raksha Committee (Forum to Protect Farmlands in Singur) has been formed with sub-committees in every village holding regular meetings.

Copyright : Indo-Asian News Service
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