We have no value – sharecroppers and labourers in the ongoing Singur crisis

August 19, 2008

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Reporting from Singur – Shamik Sarkar, Sanhati. 19th August, 2008. Comments enabled.

The impending movement of 24th August and perspectives of locals

It has been over a year and a half that 997 acres have been sealed off by Tata’s fences here. But many landowning farmers have not accepted compensation.

In the last week of July, 2008, the Krishi Jomi Jibon Jibika Raksha Committee (Committee for saving farmland, life, and livelihood) gave the call to “outsiders working in Tata’s plant” to leave Singur, “to protect the rights of unwilling farmers, Bargadars, and agricultural workers”.

After that, Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee declared that there would be a continuous blockade of the project from August 24th. The pressure of the movement forced workers who had been coming to the site from outside to stop.

The police set up patrol at the rail stations of Singur, Madhusudanpur, and Kamarkundu, and drove workers to the site under protection.

On 10th August, as I inspected the region around BeraBeri Bazar, Purbopara, Ruidaspara, and Dobadi, I got the feeling that the whole area “had become Trinamul”. Those who had not accepted compensation, those who had – they all told me “We are Trinamul”.

The farmers of Purbopara want their land back and believe that the movement would win it for them. Those in Beraberi Bazaar, however, declared “They won’t give back the land”. They all spoke of the plight of the sharecroppers and agricultural workers, almost unanimously saying that it is those people who have lost the most.

The Government’s stance can be understood clearly from the words of Arun Bag from Purbopara. “WBIDC Chairman M.V.Rao called me and my brother. Present were A.K.Pattanayak, the Additional S.P., D.M., and the A.D.M. We were asked – “How much money do you want for the land?”

Problems abound in the implementation of the compensation procedure. Arun’s brother Joydeb Bag was told that half of the compensation he was entitled to had been withdrawn by one Chandrakanta Ghosh. Probing further, he found that a false mutation had been used. Many such cases are happening within the acquired land.

The people who accepted compensation and got the money – what did they do with it?

Some opened “Syndicates”, supplying sand and cements to Tata’s plant. Some other landowners like the Barui’s, on whose land many worked over generations, are trying to get their sharecroppers and labourers registered under the Barga system. The motive – if Bargadars finally get their Rs. 1 Lakh compensation from the government, the landowner would take three quarters and give them a quarter!

The road to Dobadi

That old road, the one that used to run from Ruidaspara to Dobadi, the village of the labourers, has disappeared behind Tata’s fences. On both sides, there are small gaps in the fence. Cows and goats have entered, and are feeding on the grass inside the fence. These temporary feeding grounds too are diminishing, as sand and cement pile up for various ancillary industries.

A few women from Dobadi went to get the animals toward the evening – local youth from the Mansamata Club told them that they might be attacked if they entered.

“If they attack us, we will die, that’s all – we will burn in the crematorium!” Pat came the reply – “There aren’t any crematoriums left, there are only factories!”

A man from the Club told me that only the previous evening, he had gone behind the fences to fetch his cow.

“Had a light and an umbrella with me. The police caught me, and said I would need a passport. I told them that I worked here, had been coming to work for a couple of weeks. Didn’t know where to get a passport. They told me to speak to my employer, to get a hold of the Police chief Bakshi…my cow mooed. I said – sir, that’s my cow right there. Stuck in the sand!”

“We have no value”

It has been fifteen days now that men from Dobadi have been working in the construction zone, unloading sand from the trucks and the dumpers. Around sixty men. Agricultural workers from other villagers had begun before – Dobadi’s men simply joined them. They had been told – “Why don’t you come to work with us! We will all work together.”

Work has been assigned village-wise. People from Joymalla used to work on this side of Julkia canal – now they have gone to the other side, leaving it for Dobadi. In a faint echo of other times, this was how work was divided when all this was farmland.

They are paid by the people manning the sand trucks. 6 or 7 workers are required for each truck, together they get Rs. 250 – Rs. 300. Somedays there are 10 trucks, somedays there are only 2 or 3.

Till just before the Panchayat elections, these people were given rice by the Committee. “But it isn’t possible to feed the poor indefinitely…” Before, at least it was possible to go to fields far away and work. With the monsoons here, there really isn’t any work. And it isn’t possible to go too far in the mud.

Last year, the NREGA stopped in the area after operating only for two days. “They tried to cheat us by telling us that we hadn’t worked hard enough, that we only deserved Rs. 25. We didn’t accept the money. The stomach doesn’t listen…we have to unload sand…”

Agricultural work was done by both men and women. However, construction work is done only by men. “We are working, and when the movement calls us, we go there too, stopping work”.

They will go on 24th August, as part of the movement to stop the plant. What do Dobadi’s labourers want?

“If the factory closes, then we want land. If it goes on, we want work there. But we will never get work there, because we do not have the education, the skills, or the experience needed.”

Then?

“Don’t know…there must be a channel of work, somehow…”

Those who had been working as guards, from Joymolla, Ruidaspara, and other villages, have been laid off. No papers have been given.

“We have no value”.

What will they demand from the movement of 24th August? A one-time monetary compensation?

“Money won’t help – not ten thousand, not twenty thousand…”

“Let the government give us land and Patta elsewhere!”

“First let the government ask us what we want – then we can think”.

Translated by Kuver Sinha, Sanhati.

1 Comment »

One Response to “We have no value – sharecroppers and labourers in the ongoing Singur crisis”

  1. Arunesh Majumder Says:
    September 18th, 2008 at 07:23

    West Bengal

    In West Bengal, the three decade communist party ruled state of Eastern India, we are witnessing and experiencing some tremendously surprising and as well as astonishing circumstances, which are not only unparalleled, but to the grand old cohorts of communism and communist party-led humanism it is intimidating from various point of view.

    But even the staunchest critics of communist canon, not only in west Bengal but through out the world, unequivocally admits that the west Bengal government which in power for the last 31 years, admits that west Bengal Government has been unbeaten to put into practice a critical approach of people’s participation and welfare intercession that are indispensable to initiate a people’s participation in the process of development and alternative welfare drives that are required to encircle the bourgeois ideologue who were vehemently critical about the ascending of a communist party in the power.

    Of course the mainstream left gathered tremendous support of the common people and veteran left intellectuals when they initiated PRI system in the most regularized manner where people to some extent have been empowered to take the centre stage.

    But the initiation of the Market-led reforms heralded by the Indian Government changed the socio political breathing space and the types and modus operandi of the Government to a large extent Markets and Market ideologues with their own Market fundamentalism started to dictate the governance and political institutions and most of the parties of the ruling class started to en cash reform and agenda for the market oriented development. Simultaneously we have seen the government of west Bengal started to go through the labyrinths of Market Reform and they have reformed their political voice also and during several oppositional moves they did not forget to mention that their path of development is diverse to the central government or their ruled state government. But in instance they were failed to show any difference. The New Industrial Policy taken by the government in 1994 was an official benchmark to changed policies taken by the Marxist government. Since then West Bengal Government gradually started to minimize their darling propaganda regarding operation Barga through which they were able to strengthen a social base in the villages and it was possible for them to build hegemony at the rural space.
    The new rich section of the rural Bengal who were tremendously benefited by the operation Barga and other measurements in rural Bengal which were taken by the West Bengal. But reaping vote Bank and a sustainable social foundation for sustainability in political establishment was not given up by the West Bengal Government. In the rural area as the non-farm employment started to increase with tremendous impoverishment and pauperization of rural downtrodden people. In the meanwhile some pro-government organization and Non government organizations started to evaluate and advocate that the path of Development taken by the Government is not only marginalizing a large section of the people but it is also contemptuous to the claimed Developmental ideology of the Government.

    The international donor agencies or the IFIs were not far behind and it was quite accustomed and obvious that they started to recommend several course to for lean and mean governance, with a more corporate friendly behavior.

    We have experienced how the political institutions were also started to be habituated deliver a market welfarist paradigm of development initiatives and we have come across the World Bank friendly Jargon even in the C.P. led government literatures such as package or rehabilitation. As the government intervention in the development started to shrink and the systems that were earlier committed to the people’s welfare started to be more service oriented and we have seen that even the bourgeois Right based approach to people’s welfare started to retreat and every where the market approach became a monopolized vision for development action.

    Even the state H.D.R. tried to explore the internal maladies of rural specificities.

    After the spectacular victory in the 2001 election the party was able to eradicate the earlier scepticism of the Corporate Houses regarding the West Bengal government. In post 2001 period as the investment started to come in our condition with tremendous control and plunder of common resource of the people such as forest, land and water. The rapid industrialisation drives taken by the government, to appear the corporate, were not only tremendously non ecological in nature and the entire schema was nothing but a repressive form of corporate plunder, but we have been astonished to see another thing that how the partisan caders were acting as a development goon and even the most notorious intellectuals were seen to marching simultaneously with the intellectuals. On the other hand the opposition invented the term civil society and the large section of the society was branded as civil society person and even the radical and revolutionary left intellectuals were branded as pro – rightist opposition by the government led propaganda. Of courses we have seen same of the intellectuals, opposing the new phase of neoliberal plunder, who were during the congress led regime vehemently opposed the left movement.
    In the meanwhile the CPIM started to suppress the voice of the dissent Street drama ~ mocking the police action on farmers at Nandigram, Singur and Khammam ~ staged in Bankura on the Independence Day caused sensation and the performers were charged with insulting the national flag. Eleven office-bearers and performers of the play were arrested by the police and were produced in the district court today. The artistes, poets and composers criticised the police action and termed it as interference with creative works.
    The ‘Silpi Sanskritik Karmi, Buddhijibi Mancha’ was performing a play titled Swadhinata Divas Anandadayak Na Lajjajanak during the Independence Day celebrations yesterday. The group staged street shows at 19 locations in the town. They staged the play in front of the offices of the DM and SP and near the district office of the CPI-M at Schooldanga. The police and the the Intelligence bureau personnel were keeping an eye on the each show. The attack on Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin was also featured in the plays.
    At Machantala, the police finally stopped the show and arrested the performers and the organisers when the drama was at peak and a nude boy was seen carrying the Tricolour. The SP, Mr Rajesh Singh, said the national flag code prevented carrying the flag in nude. They were booked under sections 2 of the IPC.

    We can recollect that during Kanoria or anti urban street vendor eviction people’s movement we never seen such mobilization of the celebrity intellectuals. But the tremendous coverages at the print and electronic media with both the ideological positional way empowered people speak against the neoliberal plunder and even in the remove corners of the districts of West Bengal. We have small groups of left intellectuals started to assemble, organize mobilize and protest against the neoliberal autocracy and even some of the ruling party dictated mass organizations started to question the models and approaches of the development. Though they are now coming with a view and voice of dissent it is somehow to let. For the last several years they never spoke anything against the tremendous forms of state repression but supported them in the name of left sustainability.

    While Singur was sieged by the police goon and corporate caders the celebrity intellectuals never said anything and some of them who are closed to C.M. got assurance that industrialization will go in a peaceful way but offer 3 months situation changed tremendously when 14th March 2007 we have witnessed the most brutal corporate genocide in Nandigram with a prelude in January.

    For the last two years we have seen numerous political drama and debate, where the entire intelligentia have been involved in the deliberations over development

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