Singur blunder: How CPI(M)’s short sightedness led to the party’s downfall
But how the Tatas got the land in Singur and the role of some CPI(M) ministers and their stooges and some bureaucrats to help the company get the multi crop land to set up a factory need to be examined after the Supreme Court on Wednesday declared the acquisition process as “ wrong” and ordered the state government to return the land to the farmers within 12 weeks.
The Tatas were looking for a land with 1 km frontage to set up a factory for small cars. They saw a plot of land off Kharagpur and decided to set up the factory there. It was not a farm land and had more than a kilometer frontage.
It was at this moment the brother in law of a former CPI(M) minister and the journalist of a Bengali daily, posted in Delhi, entered the scene. Some land speculators who were close to the duo advised them that if land with 1 km frontage was given to the Tatas then the price of the land situated opposite of the factory site would go up. The Tatas would need land to set up flats for their officials and staff and this land could then be sold to them at a premium. The land situated opposite the factory site has 1 km frontage and as it is barren there would have been no protest from any corner.
But the duo told the minister that if this land was allotted, then the Tatas could not set up facilities for its staff on the land situated on the other side of the road as it was a multi crop land. The duo was soon joined by a senior bureaucrat. The three musketeers along with the minister went ahead with the project and held discussion with the senior officials of Tata Motors. When a team of Tata Motors officials went to the spot in 2006, local people lodged a protest as by then they got the news that the Tatas were going to set up a car factory on farm land. But the three musketeers told them that everything would be settled and the senior officials believed what they had said. This was the biggest mistake made by them.
By then, the land speculators and the three musketeers had made senior CPI(M) leaders realise how much money they could make by selling the barren land situated opposite the factory site. The party engaged it to resist the agitation led by local farmers and those opposing the land acquisition were threatened with dire consequences. The supply of water to the plots from the irrigation canals was stopped. When the farmers met the BDO and SDO and subsequently, the District Magistrate and all of them pleaded their helplessness.
Nirupam Sen, the then industry minister told the Assembly that he could not disclose the terms and conditions of the agreement between the state government and the Tatas as the latter did not want it. The state government decided to buy all sorts of vehicles from the Tatas, from trucks and mini trucks to Sumo and Indica.
The CPI(M) decided to resist the movement launched by the farmers headed by Mamata Banerjee and the intellectuals that senior party leader Benoy Konar had made his infamous statement that the protesting intellectuals would be greeted by women supporters of the party by showing their behinds.
On 3 October 2008, Ratan Tata announced that he was pulling out blaming Mamata Banerjee.