Nandigram, Comprador Intellectuals and an Exchange

May 13, 2007

Abhijit Guha replies to intellectuals who praise Buddha

Pro-left intellectuals bat for Buddha

The Statesman, 22.04.2007.

KOLKATA, April 21. — They showered him with adulation. They offered to back his industrial policy all the way. And, never for a second, did they add to his discomfiture, by mentioning that 14 villagers had fallen to bullets, mostly fired by the police and some
by goons dressed in khaki, at Nandigram on 14 March.

Today, a sizeable section of pro-Left intellectuals of Kolkata – headed by actor Mr Dilip Roy, litterateurs Mr Nirendranath Chakraborty, Mr Buddhadeb Guha, Mr Debesh Roy and Mr Amitava Chaudhury, architect Mr Shailapati Gupta, historian Mr Aniruddha Roy and former football star Mr PK Banerjee – shared the dais at the Science City auditorium with the state’s beleaguered chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to salvage the situation for the chief minister and help him send out a message that the government was willing to discuss every new industrial project with the Opposition to avoid confrontation.

Only time will tell whether this exercise – the third since 14 March – will silence Miss Mamata Banerjee and anti-Left intellectuals or make land acquisition any easier for the government. But, Mr Bhattacharjee’ s admirers waxed eloquent on how agricultural land would have to be acquired to pave the way for a new Bengal.

Although Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood after the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre, the intellectuals thought it prudent to quote the poet in support of their cause. Mr Nirendranath Chakraborty offered a bouquet to the chief minister, Mr Dilip Roy announced: “Imagine how much pain we have caused to a man who loves flowers so much.” Mr Debesh Roy confidently declared that “no private investment was made in West Bengal between 1947 and 2005” and the first successful effort has been made by Mr Bhattacharjee. He even went on to declare that it was wrong to describe former chief minister Bidhan Chandra Roy as the architect of modern Bengal. “Whatever Bidhan Roy did was because of Central funds”. Going a step ahead, Mr Roy said: “No country in this world has offered so much compensation to farmers as the Left Front government. I will make a public apology if I am proved wrong.”

Mr Buddhadeb Guha was the only speaker who referred to the Nandigram killings and said those at fault should be punished. However, he was quick to add that people should not point fingers at the chief minister. It’s a pity that the Opposition does not have a single leader as educated and cultured as Mr Bhattacharjee. That’s why they don’t win elections. They have a leader (read Miss Mamata Banerjee) who only knows how to block the road at Esplanade and make gestures. We will not tolerate this. And there are some intellectuals who rush to Nandigram just to hog the limelight so that they may get the Magsaysay Award”.

Mr Guha even dropped the name of Magsaysay awardee Mahasveta Devi who has penned a series of critical essays on Singur and Nandigram. A number of speakers also took potshots at singer Kabir Suman, without however naming him. Besides reiterating that the Nandigram incident was “unfortunate” , Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had little new to offer. However, he did offer to talk to the Opposition on every new project. “Please don’t set up Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee at every village. We are ready to discuss all projects across the table”.

Abhijit Guha’s Letter to the Editor – The real Picture

The Statesman, 10 May 2007

Sir, ~ The comments made by Debesh Roy in “Pro-left intellectuals bat for Buddha” (22 April) have surprised me. Mr Roy says: “No private investment was made in West Bengal between 1947 and 2005”. Does Mr Roy know what he is talking about? Let me refer to a publication entitled “Paschim Bangeye Shilpa” (1997) published by the Government of West Bengal. From 1991 up to March 1997 the state had received 1,516 private industrial approvals involving Rs 40,069.96 crore. Let us look at pages 51-60 of the West Bengal Industry News Update published by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation. These pages list projects implemented from 1991-98 by private companies in West Bengal. The list contains the names of 338 private companies which have made investments ranging between Rs 0.25 crore and Rs 4,492.48 crore. These companies include Tata Metaliks which started production of pig iron in 1993. It invested Rs 50 crore and it was established by acquiring 233.05 acres of fertile agricultural land in six mouzas of Kharagpur I block in erstwhile Midnapore district. No landholder got a permanent job in the company and the rates of compensation were Rs 22, 015.50 and Rs 26,891 per acre, respectively (West Bengal Assembly Proceedings, vol 99, 1 June 1992).

Mr Roy also says: “No country in this world has offered so much compensation to farmers as the Left Front government. I will make a public apology if I am proved wrong”. Without citing examples from China or economically richer states of India, I would disprove Mr Roy’s statement. This example is from Orissa and the place is Kalinga Nagar, which was earmarked in 1992 as a steel complex. It houses Neelachal Ispat Nigam, Jindal Stainless, Visa Steel and Maharashtra Seamless. Displacement in Kalinga Nagar started in 1997-98. The state government initially paid a compensation of Rs 35,000 per acre and then Rs 70,000 per acre in 1997 but there was public resentment and violence when these lands were sold at Rs 3.5 lakh per acre to the companies. Do the compensation figures for Orissa in 1997 seem to be less than the West Bengal figures of Rs 22,000-26,000 per acre in 1993? In fact, Mr Roy should know that rates of compensation in land acquisition cases do not depend on anybody’s benevolence or charity. It is calculated on the basis of the average of the market price of land in a particular area. The market price of the land is again procured from the sale data of land for the last three years available in the land registration office of the district. Now 30 per cent of the land value is added as a solatium and then another 12 per cent on the land value plus solatium is added. The combined total makes the compensation, which is paid to the affected person. So, 42 per cent of the land value has to be paid by the government according to the existing law. The West Bengal government also follows the colonial Land Acquisition Act 1894 like other states. Mr Roy has unnecessarily politicised the issue by saying that West Bengal pays the highest compensation.

~ Yours, etc., Abhijit Guha, Reader, Department of Anthropology, Vidyasagar University, Midnapore, 24 April.