Tatas car project a prestigious issue for the West Bengal government

Mamata Banerjee is variously called, the stormy petral, Didi and the various names, both complementary and also negative. Somehow, the Trinamul Congress leader is known for her unpredictability and her party is also known for its changing political alliances. Sonia Gandhi tried and failed and yet the wooing of the only leader of some mass appeal is not yet called off. Mamata is being courted by the Congress and also by the BJP which paid a high price in trying to pacify her. Her defiance of bigwigs, both in the national and state politics is well-known.

Mamata Banerjee, the Trinamul Congress chief had created an ugly situation in late November by proceeding to the Singur village in Hooghly district when she was prevented by the police. Then, she proceeded to the State Assembly where too she was unwelcome. Knowing her penchant for unpredictable moods, the government rightly feared some untoward incidents which in the event turned out to be the most ugly scene, the TV shots showed all over the country showed that brutal behaviour of the elected representatives, they were so capable of destruction and wanton debris created out of the so many wonderful woodwork, the chairs and tables and sofas that were turned overboard and broken down so mercilessly and the result was a site of vast destruction. The Assembly Speaker did the right thing by inviting the public to come and take a look at the sort of destruction caused by Mamata’s fury.

Is this a justified action? Certainly not. Everyone knows in Bengal, that the state badly needs the Tata car project. It is a prestigious issue, it was though to set a trend for further industrialisation in a state which prided itself in the past about its Marxist strategies for economic development but in reality the state has become a symbol for all that is unwanted. Very bad education and health sectors, the state is now routinely ranked with the UP, Bihar in terms of HRD and the state people flock to Chennai in distant South for Medicare and even in Kolkatta, the city hospitals do such a bad job, there are heart-rending news of babies dying of routine negligence!

Of course, the for the sorry state of affairs, the Marxists themselves have to take the blame.
The current CM had promised a radical shift in economic development and that radical shift even shook the very CPM brass and there was no way to reverse what was universally seen as the only way. Go for massive private sector investment in all the fields, just to follow the Congress model of liberalisation. The other states, AP and Karnataka have demonstrated the efficient ways to pull the states into the globalising economy.

Even the Chinese leaders, the Prime ministers and Presidents in the past and even now, they all come to India to learn and adopt the Indian IT policies and it is the Chinese companies and Chinese people who are providing all the incentives to draw the firms like TCS, Infosys and Wipro to invest in China. So, the Sitaram Yechurys and Prakash Karats have no way but to keep mum to save themselves from further exposure. Such is the momentum of the Indian economy’s surge forward!

So, came the Tata car project and other projects. The industrialists were just waiting and once the news of Budhadeb Bhattacharjee sworning in as the Chief Minister came in, the industrialists made a march past to meet the CM and extend a handshake with their own invest plans! It was a remarkable turnaround for a state and for a government that till then was seen as hostile to the very same industrialists. Such is the power of economic development and the very sort of economic policies. FDI first started to flow in into West Bengal, large patches of land, some 40,000 and odd acres of agricultural land was to be acquired and distributed. Why then pick up the Tatas project?

It was reported that she also interacted with the industry honchos on September 2, and where she wanted to know the plans of the industrialists for the state and also why they wanted agriculture prime land and whether they would use the land for the projects they promised or whether the lands would be used for high rise buildings etc.Considering how the other states are wooing the very same industrialists, the Tatas were also offered the same extent of land by Uttaranchal and so the other states where giving agricultural and tribal lands for big projects is now routine. Even the very same Tatas wanted to put up a steel plants in Orissa and where the police firing claimed precious lives of the tribals who blocked the lands acquisition and so too the Koreans where they too opposition. Tatas in this case lend high profile prestige to the government and in particular to the Chief Minister. So, it is first of all political jealousy that has drawn the crowd to Mamata’s rally and vandalism.

Soil mapping is made and so also other considerations like high compensation etc.Rs.8.40 lakh per acre of multicrop land was compensated and 3,000 odd sharecroppers have been paid for a total of 997 acres of land. The present flare-up only shows how immature politics is in West Bengal. They have to draw some lessons from their neighbours, Orissa and also from such high profile land acquisitions in Haryana where the Reliance just had all the land they wanted for their so many SEZs! Some amount of pragmatism is what is needed if a state wants to draw big investments. This the already successful states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and TN, Haryana and others have been doing these days.

What is needed is the realisation on the part of W.Bengal politicians to know that they were all partners in this backwardisation, as it was, of their state by talking too much revolutionary rhetoric. Jyoti basu, in his Nineties, can’t also pretend to be innocent. It was under his long rule, the state declined into darkness. All this is now history. Today, let us keep all these ugly realities behind and start looking forward, look around and see how best West Bengal can catch up in this competitive environment. FDI won’t come on its own. The states have to woo a lot and offer attractive concession. In the present case the state is not doing any favour to the Tatas. Rather it is the reverse. Tatas are taking a calculated risk and they do it in the larger interest of the state and the country. That is a harsh truth and a bitter truth for the otherwise fire-mouthing leaders and the cadres.

Second, the argument that fertile agricultural lands that can raise two and three crops were acquired. It is simply nonsense to talk of such lame excuses. Any land acquired for such large industrial project would cover some sort of fertile agricultural land only. Tatas was no exception. So, it is a futile case to plead in the name of agriculture and food self sufficiency. After all these have been argued many times in the past and any government has to consider the many factors that would favour a large investor. Tatas have done so much for the state and there are plans to absorb the hands rendered jobless besides paying heavy compensation.

So, what Madame Banerjee has been doing since then, indefinite fast and so on, in all probability would fail ultimately, as such protests failed in similar large projects such as Narmada dam. So, the times have changed to force the politicians and other professional agitators to continue with their jobs while the state has to do its part in seeing that in the long run the people must get a prosperous future in the industrial development, jobs created and the resultant large scale impact on the very socio-economic environment of a backward state like Bengal.

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