Monday, September 29, 2008

Nano faces ‘Chipko’ movement

Nano faces ‘Chipko’ movement

Lucknow, Sept. 28: A group representing farmers is planning a Chipko-like movement against the Uttarakhand government’s invitation to Tata Motors to set up a Nano plant in the state.

The company already runs a plant in Pantnagar, and chief minister B.C. Khanduri has offered it more land should it decide to shift the small-car project from Singur.

The Kisan Kisani Abhiyaan, the group that is opposing the offer, said its protest would be modelled on the Chipko movement of the seventies and eighties when women embraced trees in the hill regions to prevent them from being felled for the construction of a dam. This time, the farmers will live on the land and embrace it.

Hanif Gandhi, a spokesperson, said hundreds of women would join the movement if the government allotted any more farmland to the company.

The Kisan Kisani Abhiyaan, which works among farmers in the Rudrapur-Pantnagar belt, is rallying wives of farmers for the protest.

However, sources say the group does not have the mass following to create another Singur. “It is a kind of NGO,” a Congress leader said.

The sources say some local leaders of the ruling BJP have been instigating farmers against fresh land allotment to big industry. This faction, which is opposed to Khanduri, wants the focus to be on small industries. It wants 25 per cent of available land in any area to be reserved for small industries.

The agriculture ministry also has reservations about handing over farmland for industry. Agriculture minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said: “The state government has given another 50 acres to Tata Motors for housing but I was not consulted on this.”

Suresh Raut, an associate of the minister, said: “The land belonged to Pantnagar Agriculture University. The university, which specialises in agriculture research, would not be able to function if more land is given away.”

The Kisan Kisani Abhiyaan’s Gandhi echoed the same sentiment, arguing that loss of fertile land would spell doom for farmers. “If the situation is not dealt with seriously, the country will have to face a shortage of food material in the near future,” he said.

But N.C. Pant of SIDCUL, an organisation that promotes industry in the state, said: “There is not much to expect from the state’s agriculture sector, which has witnessed a growth rate of about 3 per cent. The state is surrounded by hills. Industry is the only hope.”

Pant is regional manager of SIDCUL.