Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday told the Assembly that farming was on the decline on the Singur land that had been reclaimed from the aborted Tata Nano project and returned to farmers, and those who did not want to continue cultivating it could not be forced to do so.
Responding to questions from the Left, Mamata said her commitment was to return the land, and its subsequent use was the prerogative of the owners.
“Amar machh, ami matha khabo na lyaja, tar odhikar amar (It’s my fish, whether I will have its head or tail, that’s my prerogative),” the Trinamul Congress chief said in the House, responding to questions from Left legislature party leader Sujan Chakraborty.
“We returned the land to them, that was my commitment. We made all arrangements for agriculture there. Compared to the past, in 2018-19, farming reduced there. Whether they will farm or not is their business. I cannot intervene there. But we have been extending all assistance to farming,” Mamata said.
She informed the House that of the 955.9 acres handed over to farmers in Singur since the August 2016 Supreme Court verdict to return the land, 640 acres were under cultivation in 2017-18 and 260 acres — by 792 farmers — in 2018-19.
Chakraborty had asked agriculture minister Ashis Banerjee what crops had been cultivated on the Singur land in 2017-18 and the total price of the produce. The agriculture minister, without replying to the part of the question on the price, said a total of 1,920 bighas (around 640 acres) had been under cultivation in 2017-18 and crops such as paddy, jute, corn, sesame, potato and pulses were being produced.
Taking over from Ashis Banerjee, Mamata said the agricultural produce from the Singur land had fetched Rs 2 crore in 2018-19.
“Both are happening in Singur, industry and agriculture,” Mamata said, without elaborating, adding there were 13,330 unwilling land-losers, with claim over 293.6 acres, and 9,373 willing land-losers, with claim over 702.51 acres. The unwilling farmers were those from whom the then Left government had acquired land forcibly for the Tata Nano project.
Since the question was asked in the House, the government had to furnish facts and figures.
The anti-land acquisition movements in Singur and Nandigram had propelled Mamata to power in 2011.
“After the return of the land, we got the soil tested and gave fertilisers and seeds worth Rs 10,000 to each (farmer). Some have been farming there, some have not. Those farming, the government is helping them,” Mamata told the Assembly.
“The return of the land began in 2016. It had been left unused for 10 years. A lot of people who were initially farming, some of them are not showing interest. Some are getting good price for the land and are selling it. What can I do if they sell it? My commitment, I have fulfilled,” the chief minister added.
Chakraborty later said Mamata’s statements had vindicated the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government’s stand on the Singur issue and allegedly exposed the Trinamul dispensation’s lies on the resumption of agriculture on the land.
Summing up the Left’s inference of Mamata’s statement in the House, Chakraborty said it was “an admission of the Singur blunder” by the chief minister.
“She admitted the worst fears of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government regarding Singur. Neither did industry take off in Singur, nor could agriculture resume there,” said the CPM central committee member.
“Her movement not only ruined the hopes of industrial regeneration of the rest of the state, but also ended up ruining Singur,” Chakraborty added.
Locket Chatterjee, the BJP MP from Hooghly in whose constituency Singur falls, said the chief minister’s comments had proved that she had belatedly woken up to the reality.
“She has realised late, but so many people suffered because of that for over a decade. The fact is, the people of Singur want industry and that’s why I have given this call for industry in Singur,” Chatterjee said.