Tata Progress   (05 Sep 2008)

There can be no better example of self-centered political opportunism than Mamta Bannerjee’s vicious campaign against Tata’s car project at Singur. Mamta’s demand that land acquired for the project be returned to the farmer owners smacks less of a genuine concern for the farmers and more of an ill-conceived vendetta against the current government. Ironically, farmers and industry are the only casualties in this fight for political capital. While Tatas are now ready to sink their investments and pull out of Singur, nobody can claim that the farmers will actually be better off if their land were to be returned.

Experts point out that since the land’s fertile uppermost layer is already removed because of construction on the project, it was no longer suitable for farming. Many of the land owners in fact do not even depend on agriculture for their livelihood. They are settled in bigger cities and earn their living from industrial jobs, using their land for cultivation only to supplement their income. The actual cultivators are hired employees, who would have actually earned more by working in the beleaguered car plant. By denying these people their right to a dignified livelihood and preventing Tatas from setting up the car plant, Mamta is playing a dangerous game where nobody wins in the end.

Meanwhile, other states are ready to make hay out of West Bengal’s blunder. Vilasrao Deshmukh, the pragmatic chief minister of Maharashtra has already invited Tata to relocate its car plant in the state. However, Tatas are now keen to move the Nano production to Uttarakhand, thanks to progressive policies of the then ND Tiwari’s government.

Rajeev Shukla