Singur brutalizer gets medal, cadres get Nandigram land, cash incentives for officials: Laissez-faire in action

March 5, 2008

Friedmanite neo-liberalism advocates minimization of the involvement of the state. In reality, neo-liberal policies are imposed and facilitated by the state – from nepotism and incentives to disappearances and massacres.

1. Singur: IPS officer accused of torture awarded Seva medal by Chief Minister – March 3, 2008
2. Bengal govt to distribute vested Nandigram land to party supporters – February 27, 2008
3. Cash Incentives for Officials Who Take Initiative for Land Acquisition – February 2, 2008

Singur: IPS officer accused of torture awarded Seva medal

Criticising the chief minister for awarding the Seva medal to an IPS officer, accused of torturing women and farmers in Singur, a section of intellectuals and human right activists have decided to meet Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi to complain about Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Mr. Bhattacharjee recently awarded the Seva medal to IPS officer, Mr Asit Paul, former additional superintendent of (Headquarters), Hooghly, West Bengal, who has been accused of assaulting women farmers and Ms Anuradha Talwar, a human rights activist near the Singur small car project site last year for protesting against the land acquisition.

Speaking to The Statesman, eminent writer and Magsaysay award winner, Mahasweta Devi said: “I came to know from the media that he (the chief minister) gave the medal to a police officer against whom complaints of assaulting women were lodged by human rights organisations. Buddha (Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee) has not done anything wrong. I will not be surprised if he awards a rapist in the future.” She said the officer is the “obvious and natural choice of the chief minister” because the officer had “blindly” followed the instruction of the state government. “He (Mr Paul) has tortured farmers, assaulted women mercilessly and received the award for his job. He deserved the medal and the chief minister selected the right person to confer the award,” the writer sarcastically said. Mr Paul was promoted last year as the deputy commissioner of the city police recently.

Mr Amitdyuti Kumar, a senior member of the Association for Protection of Democratic Right said: “We will meet the Governor to lodge a complaint against the chief minister shortly. The state government gives medals to men-in-uniform on behalf of the Governor to recognise their contribution to the society. Before selecting policemen for the award, the state government should scrutinise their service records.”

This report was published in The Statesman, March 4, 2008

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Bengal govt to distribute vested Nandigram land to party supporters

February 27, 2008: After the West Bengal government’s aborted effort to acquire land Nandigram, it now plans to distribute the vested land to landless CPM farmers, with an eye to panchayat polls.

Fresh violence was sparked in the area over the weekend over a survey being done to identify vested land. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is scheduled to distribute title deeds or pattas to landless farmers on Tuesday at a ceremony in Nandigram College. And the list of lucky farmers has been drawn up by the local CPM leadership, with the District Magistrate merely rubber-stamping it.

The party leaders of the district claim it is but natural to help the administration in identify beneficiaries, since the CPM rules the Panchayat Samiti in Nandigram.

The situation once again prompted violent clashes from Sunday. Sporadic clashes continued on Monday between supporters of Bhumi Uchched Protirodh Committee and the CPM, injuring over a dozen people. Four critically-injured ones were brought to the SSKM hospital.

Security is tight in view of the Chief Minister’s visit, said Inspector General (Western Range) Rakesh Gupta. Nearly 700 policemen will man Bhattacharjee’s route as well as the Nandigram College ground, which is the venue for patta distribution, he added.

The Trinamool Congress-led BUPC took out rallies in various areas marking their day-long bandh in protest of alleged attacks from CPM.

Anup Agarwal, District Magistrate of East Midnapore said the administration had initially earmarked 450 acres of vested land to be distributed by the CM. “But the survey could be completed for only 224.97 acres. Regarding the list of recipients, we received some recommendations from Panchayat leadership, some of which were duly considered. We are working on the list of recipients, which will come up to be around 2,000.” Agarwal held meetings with district officials over the issue today.

The land survey undertaken by both block development officer and block land revenue officer in February encompassed all areas under Nandigram Block I, Block 2 and Khejuri.

Initially, 250 acres were earmarked for distribution to landless peasants. But during the survey, public opposition disrupted survey and only 224.97 acres were chosen as “clean” vested land. The problem rose since some of the land had occupants and even houses built on it.

The CPM leadership dismissed all allegations and blamed the Trinamool Congress for creating trouble.

“We are the elected representatives and are responsible for forwarding names. Everything was done on a neutral point of view. The government cannot ask for names from each and every villager,” said Ashok Bera, Panchayat Samiti Sabhadhipati of Nandigram Block I and a local CPM leader.

“The Trinamool is losing its base here because of development work and therefore attacking our cadres in a fit of frustration,” he said.

The BUPC raised questions both on the recent survey as well as the process of selecting recipients.

On March 1, BUPC submitted a deputation to the District Magistrate and block development officer protesting against the recipient list. Sisir Adhikary, district Trinamool Congress leader, said no one knows what kind of survey was undertaken and why. “We want the state government to review the list of landless needy farmers. The list was prepared by CPM leaders in the party office. It has the names of only their supporters. Since the Panchayat elections are coming, they are trying to consolidate their base here,” said Adhikary.

He said some of the recipients are CPM supporters who had stayed in camps and are now being given the land. “Some are CPM cadres who are being rewarded for their loyalty, others are well-to-do villagers who are being lured for their vote,” he said.

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Cash Incentives for Officials Who Take Initiative for Land Acquisition

February 2, 2008: West Bengal state government officers are going to receive cash “incentives” if they are able to “locate” land for industrialization. This scheme was first started experimentally in Singur, but has now become a routine affair, informed a senior bureaucrat of the land and land reforms department, who wanted to remain anonymous. He informed that Rs 2 million had been distributed among department officials for finding out land for the Tata Motors project in Singur. Now around Rs 650,000 has been distributed amongst officers for locating and acquiring 250 acres of land in Kharagpur for the proposed heavy vehicle manufacturing plant of the Tata-Hitachi joint venture Telcom. Among this, cash incentive of Rs 30, 000 has been received by the land and land reforms department principal secretary Mr. P. K. Agarwal.

According to this unnamed official, this scheme has apparently worked well for the government which is in quite a fix trying to locate land for the proposed industries in the state. Previously, land and land reforms department officials showed scant interest in developing land use maps for the different districts or for finding out the presence of unused land. However, after the cash incentive scheme was started, there is a now a lot of interest in submitting land use maps from the districts and ascertaining the availability of unused lands.

The search for a mechanism to find land for industries was continuing for quite some time. The state trade and industries minister Nirupam Sen and the land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Molla had met a number of times with the chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and District Magistrates on this issue. Now the cash incentive scheme has been worked out as a successful measure to induce government officials to take the initiative in finding land for industrialization.

Seikh Sadar Nayim, Dainik Statesman, 2nd Feb, 2008. Translated by Partho Sarathi Ray, Sanhati