Singur farmers remain unsure about resuming cultivation

Singur (West Bengal): Euphoria swept this rural hamlet of Hooghly district as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata banerjee handed over land records to peasants on Wednesday, but they still remain uncertain about economic returns of cultivation and favour industry.

Recounting their struggles and hardship over the past ten years, Syamalendu Das - whose family had lost 2 acres of land acquired in Ghaserberi and Beraberi areas for the Tata Motors Nano project - said: "We are so happy that cannot be explained in words. I have received land records for about 0.5 acres. The rest will be given later from block development office.

"But the individual compensation amount that I have received is paltry as there are eight shareholders for the 2 acre land parcel. Going forward, if we get enough compensation, we will give the land for industry."

Many like Das had joined the Banerjee-led anti-land acquisition agitation in 2006-2008, alleging that land had been taken by the ersthile Left Front government from them against their will. But they were now not confident enough on what to do with it.

"Small holdings and compensation of about Rs 5,016 would not be adequate to run our family. We were receiving government dole but that too was not enough.

"We are happy as have got back our land, but we do not know how much we could earn from such small holdings even though administration promised to make lands cultivable," Dwijen Kharar, a peasant of Gopalnagar area, told IANS.

"The land has been our passion. Had industry been set up here, our new generation would have got the benefit. That is why we had given land. Since Tatas left Singur and no one has come so far, there is no point keeping it idle. In that sense, we are glad to get back the land. 

"The problems are with the declining yield and distress pricing of produce. If such problems continue, cultivations will no longer be profitable," said Ashok Ghosh, whose family took compensation in 2007 for a land parcel of 3.4 acres.

Indicating a replica of an agricultural field installed at the venue of Singur Diwas, which came two weeks after the Supreme Court struck down the land acquisition made by the erstwhile Left Front government and ordered the land be returned to the cultivators, Anita Bagh, a peasant said: "We are overwhelmed. But we need marketing support from the government to sell our agricultural produce."

As the anti-acquisition protests intensified, Tata Motors had shut the Singur plant and later brought out the Nano from Sanand in Gujarat.