04 June 2011

Letter To West Bengal Industry Minister on Singur Land Return



[The Farmers Will Get Their Land Back, But What About The Agricultural Workers In Singur?

While welcoming the new Government’s initiative to return land to the unwilling farmers, Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity(PBKMS), an active member of the Singur movement, claimed that return of land to unwilling farmers would not relieve the misery of the sharecroppers and landless labour of Singur who had lost their livelihood.

Anuradha Talwar and Swapan Ganguly, State Committee members of PBKMS,  have written to Shri Partha Chatterjee, Minister of Industry and Commerce,  asking him to also take additional measures to cover the needs of landless agricultural workers and sharecroppers.  They claimed that there were many sharecroppers on the 650 acres which would now be within the plant. Return of 400 acres means that agricultural workers who were getting 300 days of work per year on 997 acres will lose 60% of the work they got on the entire plot. 

PBKMS demanded that 50% of the land’s value should be given as compensation to sharecroppers; for agricultural workers (especially women who have lost the most employment as per their study) compensation in terms of minimum wages should be given for the number of days of employment that they have lost work in the past five years. 

For future loss of employment, PBKMS demanded complete and proper implementation of 100 days of work. In addition, it demanded a special scheme guaranteeing another 100 days of work to be given by the State Government for the next 10 years. The agricultural workers’ union also demanded titles to homestead land for the agricultural workers in Dobandi and in other hamlets in Singur who do not even have land rights to their homes at present.

PBKMS claimed that it would be very difficult for agriculture and industry to co-exist unless proper environmental safe guards were put in place by the Government. It asked the Government to take steps to restore the agricultural land to its previous quality and has asked framers to be compensated for loss incurred so far.

In addition, the letter asked that the innumerable false cases be withdrawn. A number of PBKMS activists are also  accused in four such cases. The letter follows.]

To Shri Partha Chatterjee,
Minister of Industry and Commerce,
Government of West Bengal,
Writers’ Building,
Kolkata- 700001
Date:-03 June 2011
Dear Partha da,

We have been trying to call you unsuccessfully on your cell phone for the past two weeks. As we have not been able to make contact with you, we are resorting to this fax.

Firstly, we would like to congratulate your Government on the high priority it is giving on return of the land under the Tata factory to the unwilling farmers in Singur. However there are certain issues that we would like to bring to your attention, which we had also raised as active members of the movement within the Krishi Jami Raksha Committee (KJRC) during the Singur movement in August 2008, when talks began with the previous Government. One of the relevant documents that we had submitted then to the KJRC is attached. We would like to reiterate these demands below: -

Return of land to unwilling farmers will not relieve the misery of the sharecroppers and landless labour of Singur who have lost their livelihood. Many were sharecroppers on the 650 acres of land which will now be within the plant. Return of 400 acres means that agricultural workers who were getting 300 days of work per year on 997 acres will lose 60% of the work they got on the entire plot. For this we demand that the following be added:-

In addition to whatever has been or will be given to willing land owners. 50% of the land’s value should be given as compensation to sharecroppers.

For agricultural workers (especially women who have lost the most employment as per our study) compensation in terms of minimum wages should be given for the number of days of employment that they have lost work in the past two years. This amounts to 600 days or Rs.45000 per agricultural worker.

For future loss of employment, we demand complete and proper implementation of 100 days of work. In addition, we demand a special scheme guaranteeing another 100 days of work to be given by the State Government for the next 10 years.

Titles to homestead land must be given to the agricultural workers in Dobandi and in other hamlets in Singur who do not even have land rights to their homes at present.

For the 10-12 families who have been displaced by the project and have been resettled in Dobandi, we demand titles to their house sites, drinking water facilities, drainage and other facilities that will make their present house site inhabitable along with compensation for the problems caused by dislocation.

It will be very difficult for agriculture to co-exist with an automobile manufacturing unit or any other industry due to the polluting environment created by industry in Singur. During construction of the Tata plant itself, just the use of high powered floodlights during the night had impacted the crops in the surrounding Singur villages, as the lights caused a huge increase in pests.   Auto assembly plants can also be a significant source of hazardous pollutants discharged to air, water and land, depending on the nature of operations on site. Besides the actual assembly plant, much of the hazardous pollution would tend to occur in the ancillary units supplying the assembly plant with components that are finally assembled to make a car. Besides returning land to the unwilling farmers, we therefore demand that adequate environmental safeguards depending on the kind of industry that comes up there, be put in place so that farming can actually be done around the plant.

The land inside the plant has also been adversely affected in the past 5 years and needs investment to become fit for agriculture once again. The people of these villages have also suffered huge loss of income due to the previous Government’s intransigence. We therefore demand that the Government compensate the farmers for the loss they have incurred as wqell as pay for the restoration of the land to its previous quality.

Innumerable false cases have been imposed on the people of Singur, leading to harassment and expenses. We demand that these cases should be withdrawn.

We hope that our concerns will be suitably addressed by you while addressing the issue of return of land to the Singur farmers.  We would also appreciate it if you could give us a suitable date and time to meet you.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely

(Anuradha Talwar)                                                                            (Swapan Ganguly)

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