This is what noted social activist, Arundhati Roy said about Singur:
I think the Left parties are following double standards. The CPM has been prominent in the World Social Forum process, including the India Social Forum held just three weeks ago in Delhi, which sharply attack neo-liberal policies. One consensual premise of the Forum is that there must be no forced acquisition of land and displacement of people for corporate projects. But the CPM is doing just that at Singur. This is simply unacceptable.
Okay, so we have the issue of ‘no forced taking’ of farmer’s land here. But considering that for most members of India Social Forum the place where their homes stand, the malls and plazas they visit to fetch their essentials, the factories that make the cars (or buses, I’m adding this for good measure) they travel in, the institutes they visit all over the world to collect their frequent acclaims, to name a few, have all stood on land that likely were once used for farming, certain questions crop up in my non-intellectual mind that need satisfactory answers:
- Since Bengal’s land is overwhelmingly fertile with vast tracts producing multi-crop, and since man to land ratio is also heavily tilted in favor of former from where to earn living, if one is to go by Arundhati’s statement, no industry can ever come up in Bengal. Isn’t it a blatant discrimination against the people of Bengal?
- Going by eminent economist Abhiroop Sarkar’s analysis of Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank model (see this story), and considering the fact that successful implementation of Muhammad Yunus’ loan scheme at the grassroots level could make no dent in the poverty level in 30 years in Bangladesh, isn’t it amply clear that only big investments in favor of large employment are necessary to improve people’s living standard over long term?
For that matter, driven by their anti-industry dogma for close to 3 decades, hasn’t the Left Front been unable to lift the state out of morass of abject non-development, in spite of successful land reforms in 70s and 80s?
- Since India is a democratic country where the voice of electorate is the final say, isn’t it a complete disregard of all democratic norms for a vastly minority opposition to force stoppage of development by inciting people, especially when the ruling party is elected on the plank of development? Distant opinion-makers like Arundhati Roy and armchair critics will say it is the question of forced acquisition of land, but since the opposition did not care to talk to government despite repeated calling, isn’t it fair to conclude that all it wants is nothing but disruption of industrial progress in Bengal?
- Aren’t the facts that Medha Patkar’s coming here could not whip up popular sentiment and the CPM recorded handsome win at Islampur by-election at the height of Singur trouble indicative enough that people of Bengal want industries to come up in the state after a long hiatus?
- When the state suffered all these decades because of several faulty policies of the erstwhile Left Front governments that gave rise to unprecedented nepotism and corruption all around, why hasn’t the opposition and other liberals tried to raise issues and wage struggle to mitigate the sufferings of people in the state? By not doing that earlier and now doing everything to thwart development, will it be wrong to say that the opposition and the so-called liberals are in fact trying to stop the development of the state?
Having said that, there is no denying that he who looses land is the actual sufferer, certainly not me, not even those, who rush in from outside to meddle in the affairs. I know my limitation, after this piece I’ll switchover to another blog-topic, having perhaps no further need to know as to how the land-losers are coping up with the new reality.
To that extent, Medha Patkar, Arundhati Roy and others are much more involved in fighting for the deprived, and surely they know their issues very well. But, if you ask me, I’d rather suggest that at least in Bengal they’d do a great service if they take more interest in issues like compensation to land-losers, instead of harping on issues that are completely against the interests of the state and its people.
The reason is simple. The Left Front has vice-like grip on rural Bengal, and now urban areas as well. They won the last assembly elections with landslide majority, which proves they know what the popular feeling is. Which is to build a resurgent Bengal, come what may.