Monday, August 11, 2008

open letter

11 August 2008



People of Singur have Right to Land, Livelihood and Life
Nirupam Sen has missed Legal as well as Constitutional Reference

It is more than obvious by now that the Left Front Government of West Bengal has taken a position to support the TATA -FIAT Project to come up at Singur at the cost of the affected farmers, Bargardars (share croppers) and the agricultural labourers, all of whom are indeed deprived of nothing less than life and livelihood due to the forcible snatching away of land. While the automobile factory, people argued, irrespective of their vision of Transport Policy, could come up on any vacant plot of land, when there is lakhs of acres of waste land in the State of West Bengal, the same was not heard and the State didn't even consider the plea to take minimum and bad (for cultivation) land. Tata's not replying or responding to any plea and expressing arrogance to go ahead with the factory, was not a surprise seeing their performance on this count in Kalinganagar and elsewhere during the recent years, against even their own philanthropist traditions.

What is shocking, however, is the persistently false statements made by the Ministers of the Left Front, especially the Chief Minister Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and State Industries and Commerce Minister, Mr. Nirupam Sen. Mr Sen has, once again, claimed that the land once acquired for a public purpose cannot be transferred to another purpose. This is untrue. The land can be given back canceling the acquisition under Article 48 of the Land Acquisition Act,
1894. Acquiring land upto a magnitude beyond what is required for the given purpose is actually a malafide act and could be objected to as per the Land Acquisition Act. People, if were well-informed in time, would have certainly raised objections to the Section 4 Notification and would have been heard under Section 5-A. It didn't happen, since, as in many other Projects, here too
acquisition procedure was not followed with fairness, ensuring compliance. It is also to be noted that the return of acquired extra land to adivasis is approved and encouraged by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and we could get back at least a few thousand acres of land to the adivasi farmers affected by the Bargi dams. That surely, was not against constitutionality. The case law, on the other hand, is that, land once acquired for a public purpose project can be transferred to another public purpose project, although not to a private purpose one. Land, to go back to farmers, for farming, (may even call it rehabilitation of the displaced) is certainly an avowed public purpose.

The demand now made as a compromise, that at least 400 acres of land, unused for the core purpose of the factory should have been seen by the Tatas as unreasonable and the Minister as illegal. The 'old' and 'discredited' allegation that all those questioning land acquisition are against
industrialization, is no more tenable, when its known that the corporates are grabbing land, not only for industry, but for developing estates and luxuries and their industry is killing agriculture, which too is "manufacturing" as per the definition in the SEZ Act.

Now the Krishi Jamin Raksha Committee, with full support of Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress has declared a renewed spree of agitation to begin soon. However, if they don't even approve the compromise solution, Krishi Zameen Raksha Committee and the people as well as parties such as TMC, SUCI and other have every right to go ahead and intensify the agitation and they will surely receive all support from people's movements across the country. Whether the decision of the West Bengal Government reeks of their ignorance of people's position and also an indication of the power that the corporates hold even in the representative democracy needs to be answered only through a public debate, which the corporates rarely engage in, over what is development and industrialization with various options. If the Govt. of West Bengal wants to
try out and taste another Nandigram, who can stop them?

Medha Patkar, D. Gabriele, P. Chennaiah, Anand Mazgaonkar, Debjit Dutt