In Retrospect

Singur: Green once again

Post industrial revolution, razing farmlands to make way for factories and industries has been a common scene worldwide. It began in Great Britain but the winds of change did not take much time to reach other parts of the globe.

And India, though late in starting due to the struggle for Independence, was quick enough to walk on the path showed by the ones who ruled the land for more than 200 years. Jobs were created to much of Indians' relief, joblessness was addressed to some extent but gradually, the nation started losing its glory of being an agrarian society. And there has been no stopping till date, as several cultivable lands are still removed to pave way for industries.

But as the saying goes, Bengal is the land that has always taken the first stride towards a better tomorrow. Be it in terms of playing the bugle of revolution to living upto the saying that "What Bengal thinks today, the world thinks tomorrow" or the historic relief that the state government has given to the farmers of Singur by returning their land only to grow crops once again to ensure that nobody in Bengal sleeps with an empty stomach. And with much conviction one can say, after the Supreme Court order, Singur along with the state government has scripted history by making possible what seemed far from reality.

In the past six months, Singur has turned into "a model before the world" for restoration of the multi-crop agricultural lands to its original form that was once "forcefully" acquired for setting up the Tata Nano factory.

Everyday, a new challenge cropped up with structures emerging either behind bushes or below the ground on the 997.11 acre land when the work to return the land to a cultivable condition had started following the August 31, 2016 order of the Supreme Court that declared: "the acquisition of land for Tata's Nano project as illegal and void".

The task to return the land to its previous condition within 12 weeks, as per the Apex Court's order, was not easy. But Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had set a target of completing the task before the deadline set by the court and prepared a plan that has been executed by all the concerned departments under strict monitoring.

Without losing even a day after the Apex Court gave its verdict, 24 survey teams were engaged by the collector of Hooghly for demarcation of the land. Subsequently, the work to demolish the concrete structures had started. Simultaneously, both paper and ground work to handover parchas to land owners or farmers had been carried out in all the five mouzas of Gopalnagar, Khaserberi, Bajemelia, Beraberi and Singherbheri in the three gram panchayats of Singur.

October 14, 2016, which is celebrated as Singur Diwas, was another historic day when mustard seeds were sown after 10 long years on the soil of Singur. The same day, the Chief Minister handed over the possession of land to farmers in Gopalnagar mouza.

Banerjee visited the site again on November 9 and appreciated the work carried out by departments and agencies including that of the Public Works Department, Irrigation and Waterways, Kolkata Municipal Corporation, Agriculture, Land and Land Reforms, the Hooghly district administration, Hooghly River Bridge Corporation and the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authorities.

The Agriculture department had carried out soil testing and engaged experts to assist farmers to cultivate crops in the soil after 10 long years. The support of the department continued and it resulted in a high yield from the land that was "once became barren in the name of industrialisation".

Relentless and tireless efforts by officials and workers engaged by all the departments in the past six months turned the land off the National Highway-II "green" once again with robust crop stands.

Millennium Post, in an attempt to salute the hard work went through the entire process of how it was done and here are the steps:
Demolition of concrete structure and sheds

Eleven sheds of heights varying from 11 metre to 25 metre with a total floor area of 1,42,823 square metre and 2,08,159 square metre surface area with insulation of glasses were brought down. Fifty-five concrete structures including sewerage treatment plants, microwave towers, two power stations and an administrative block were demolished. The demolition was done in such a manner that the debris generated was removed simultaneously. A boundary wall of around 16-km was also demolished and a road of around 27 km of 7 to 18 metre width was removed.

Demarcation and possession of land
As many as twenty-four survey teams comprising officials from District and Land and Land Reforms department were engaged for demarcation. Digital Global Positioning System was used for pinpoint demarcation with zero percent error.

Machineries Used
More than 300 tractors, 100 bush cutters and rotavators were deployed by the Agriculture department. At a time, more than 56 rock breakers, seven diamond cutters, 435 gas cutters, 15 big cranes, 60 hydras, 32 earth-movers, 210 dumper trucks and 80 trailers were used on a single day at 132 locations of the plot. Pumps were set to drain out water and around 16 CCTVs were installed to monitor the activities.

Duration of work
Everyone worked on a war footing with a mission that had to be accomplished before the set deadline. Work continued till 3 am and was started again by another team at 6 am. At times when work was not completed on a particular day, it was done during extra time working the next day. The work was undertaken under strict monitoring and they even worked during festivals including Durga Puja, Kali Puja and Jagadhatri Puja.

Infrastructure created
Deep tube wells and water pumps were set up to ensure sufficient supply of water for agriculture. Around 26 acres of artificial water bodies were filled, 23 km embankment, two check dams and a 6 km-long underground sewerage was also dug up. One of the major tasks was levelling of the land that included filling up of 82 acre of lowland. More than 180 acre of land that was filled with flyash, morrum or sand was dug up and the materials transported replacing it with fresh soil to make the area fit for cultivation.

Precautions taken
Demolition was done in a scientific manner to ensure that all safety measures are followed and it resulted in zero major accident in the project area. Fire fighters were kept stationed. Three medical teams and volunteers used to remain posted round-the-clock. Carbolic acid was sprayed and anti-venom kits were kept handy at the site as Chandraboda and Gokhro snakes are in abundance in the bushes.

THE result
More than 600 acres of land has been brought under cultivation. The work to bring the rest of the part is on. Seed beds for boro paddy were laid from December 2016. Paddy seeds have been transplanted over 350 acre both manually and with machines. Linseed has been sown on 50 acre of land. Following the demand of farmers, the state government had extended all support for potato cultivation too and the effort has been immensely successful with 15 per cent increase in potato cultivation this season compared to that of 10 years ago. Pulses and other crops have also been grown.

Future plans
The state Agriculture department would undertake another soil test after the rabi crop is harvested and would provide necessary support to farmers as per the advice of scientists and experts.

Partha Chatterjee, the state's Education minister and Parliamentary Affairs minister, was the Leader of Opposition when the movement for the right of farmers in Singur had begun 10 years ago.

Recollecting their fight under the leadership of Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee to overcome each and every hurdle that finally bore result with the Supreme Court's verdict on August 31, 2016, in favour of farmers, Chatterjee said: "Mamata Banerjee went to Singur and launched the movement protesting against forceful acquisition of land. She demanded to stop distribution of cheques. She and other leaders were then beaten up brutally. Subsequently, Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee was formed and we decided to march up to Singur followed by her 26 day-hunger strike."

He further added: "Our stand was quite clear. We wanted both the auto industry and agriculture side-by-side. There wouldn't have been any problem at all if they would have accepted the proposal of setting up the factory on the other side of the national highway leaving the multi-crop land." He also added that the matter was finally moved to Supreme Court and the judgment was in favour of the farmers making the Singur movement a historic one.

Narrating how Singur was brought back to its original form, Chatterjee, who heads the committee formed to monitor the task of returning lands to the farmers as per the verdict, said: "The Chief Minister used to take stock on the progress of work every day. I used to inform her about it daily. People, mainly the women folk, were happy after getting back their lands and they worked together with the administration to turn Singur green again."

The Hooghly district administration headed by District Magistrate Sanjay Bansal and Superintendent of Police Praveen Tripathi along with officials of different departments of the state government worked day and night to complete the task on time, Chatterjee said.

Purnendu Basu, the state Agriculture Minister, said: "Singur has shown a new way in the agriculture sector in the country. It was an outcome of the fight of unwilling farmers for ten long years with our Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee giving momentum to the movement. Singur has once again turned to a krishi bhandar."
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