Thursday, February 21, 2008

No blunder in Nandigram, Singur: Yechuri

Saturday, January 13 2007 16:00(IST)

New Delhi, Jan 13: CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechuri does not feel Nandigram and Singur incidents have dented the image of the West Bengal government and the party, and insists newspapers were wrong in reporting that Chief Minister Budhadeb Bhattacharjee has admitted to a ''big blunder'' in Nandigram.

In an interview to Mr Karan Thapar for the CNN-IBN programme, Devil's Advocate, the CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP also refuted Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee's claim that land had been forcibly acquired in Singur.

''Not at all. No. We have brought this entire question of compensation to the national agenda. The compensation we are giving in Singur is the best and the most exemplary. And now everybody will have to follow suit,'' he said in reply to a question whether the two incidents had damaged the reputation of the state government.

Mr Yechuri went further when he fervently, repeatedly and, sometimes, angrily denied that Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had admitted that ''a big blunder'' had occurred in Nandigram: ''There's no blunder. I'm sorry. Don't quote to me what appears in the press. I know what he said.'' When Devil's Advocate quoted entire sentences reported on January 10 by newspapers such as The Indian Express, The Hindustan Times and The Telegraph where the Chief Minister was quoted to have said ''it happened because of our mistake. It was a big blunder and the principal cause of the mayhem that followed'' (Hindustan Times) and ''the government has committed a blunder by issuing a notice on land acquisition in Nandigram'' (The Telegraph), Mr Yechuri said: ''It was not said to journalists. They all picked it up from God knows where.''

Instead, Mr Yechuri insisted that the authentic version of the Chief Minister was available on the West Bengal Government's website where, according to Mr Yechuri, the Chief Minister said: ''The Haldia Development Authority issued some instruction which was not its mandate. That instruction is the cause for a lot of confusion. Please go by his (Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's) written statement which is available on the web and where he says it was (done by) the Development Authority which has no authority on this issue.'' Insisting that neither Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee nor the West Bengal Government had made a blunder or admitted to a blunder, Mr Yechuri made the following points.

First, he said that the West Bengal Government had not issued any notice for land acquisition in Nandigram.

Second, he said that the Haldia Development Authority had only issued ''some instruction'' but not an actual notification for land acquisition.

Third, he added that the Haldia Development Authority did not have the mandate to issue a notice for land acquisition.

As he explained: ''The question of land acquisition is a right which the State Government has. Any other authority that may issue any other orders is absolutely out of its mandate.''

Further, Mr Yechuri insisted that as soon as the action by the Haldia Development Authority had come to light the West Bengal Government immediately acted to revoke the order. Referring to the statement issued by the Politburo of the CPM in Delhi on the January 9, where it said: ''As far as the specific violent incidents related to Nandigram is concerned, there has been no notice issued for land acquisition,'' Mr Yechuri insisted that this was not contradicted by the Chief Minister's admission a few hours later that the Haldia Development Authority had issued notices: ''What we were saying is actually representing the situation whereby the State Government has not issued any notification for land acquisition. The Haldia Development Authority cannot issue a land acquisition notice. The Haldia Development Authority has no authority to issue any land acquisition notice.''

In the Devil's Advocate interview Mr Yechuri was also questioned closely about Ms Mamata Banerjee's claim regarding the acquisition of land at Singur.

Asked how the government's position that 954 acres out of the required 997 had been voluntarily surrendered can stand up against Ms Mamata Banerjee's assertion that the owners of 464 acres - 46 per cent of the total - had filed affidavits at the Chander Nagar court asserting that they had refused to sell their land and refused to accept compensation, Mr. Yechuri replied: ''What she has given is being inquired into by the state government and till now 350 acres of what she claims as part of the acquired land is outside of this land. The affidavits that have been filed do not fall under the purview of the acquired land. 350 acres is entirely from outside.''

Asked why the promise made on the December 28 by Mr Nirupam Sen, Industries Minister in the West Bengal Government, to publish ''very soon'' the full list of names of people who have voluntarily surrendered 954 acres of land, has still not been fulfilled, Mr Yechuri first claimed that this had been done by the refutation of Ms Banerjee's claim and then, under further questioning, insisted that the list has been published on the West Bengal Government's website.

Finally, when Devil's Advocate asked Mr Yechuri why Section 144 was necessary in Singur if 954 acres - 95 per cent of the total - had been surrendered voluntarily, he replied: ''Because of the politics that has been there in Bengal for a long time. There have been incidents in Keshpur and Garbeta some years ago when outsiders go there with arms, create violence and mayhem, and on that basis politics is sought to be played out. Now Section 144 was imposed when outsiders with arms went there (to Singur) and attacked. Like in Nandigram as well. In the first instance of violence 19 people were injured and 16 are policemen.

So who's attacking whom? They are going there with arms in order to create violence and mayhem.'' Questioned about claims made by the Trinamool Congress, as well as by prominent individuals such as Sumit Sarkar and Arundhati Roy that brutal physical violence had been used to force people in Singur to surrender their land, Mr Yechuri maintained: ''I contest very very strongly that all of this happened through brute force. When Mamata Banerjee and Medha Patkar were there on dharna you had people queuing up to collect compensation cheques.

Why? Why are they accepting this package?'' On the subject of sharecroppers, Mr Yechuri denied claims that they have been left out of the West Bengal Government's compensation package. However, he accepted that there are a large number of unregistered sharecroppers but insisted that as soon as their claim has been verified and established they will be compensated along with registered sharecroppers.