: Singur, India
A matter of rights of the dispossessed
As many as 60 villagers, including
women and minor girls, were arrested by the police on 2 December 2006 from
I. Violations of rights at Singur
On 30 November 2006, prohibitory
orders under section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code were clamped to prevent the
farmers from resisting forcible and illegal acquisition of their
agricultural lands. The Singur area turned into a battlefield since 7 November
2006, when the
At about 10 am on 2 December 2006, about 500 local farmers from Beraberi, Bajemalia, Purba Gopal Nagar, Khasher Bheri, Dobandhi, Gopal Nagar villages tried to resist the barbed wire fencing of the 997 acres of fertile and prime agricultural land acquired for the TATA Motors. The police resorted to indiscriminate lathicharge, used rubber bullets and shelled tear gas on the villagers, majority of whom comprised of women and children. A large number of villagers were injured, some of them critically and are undergoing treatment.
A fact finding team of the Banglar Manabadhikar
Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) after investigation reported that Mr. Dilip Das (44
years), Mr. Mrityunjoy Patra (52 years), Mr. Tapan Batabyal (53 years) and Mr.
Bilas Sarkar (26 years) had to be admitted to
All the arrestees were booked in two cases being Singur Police Case nos 150 & 151 dated 2.12.2006. Thirty eight of them were booked in one case under sections 147/148/149/186/188/447/332/333/353/325/307 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) & 9(b) (2) of Indian Explosive Act (I.E. Act) with section 9 of West Bengal Maintenance of Public Order (W.B.M.P.O.) Act and the rest in another case under section 147/148/149/188/323/353/307 of IPC and 9(b) (2) of I.E. Act.
While 16 women namely - Rangta Munshi, Gargi Sengupta, Swapna Banerjee, Chaitali Bhattacharjee, Dipali Moitra, Sankari Koley, Champa Poila, Padma Dey, Tapasi Das, Sakuntala Das, Sabitri Patra, Sabitri Das, Lakshmi patra, Sandhya Patra, Pratima Dey, Shyamali Das and two minor girls namely- 12-years-old Jhuma Patra, daughter of (d/o) Ashok Patra and Soma Dhara, d/o Sanyasi Dhara of village Ghaser Veri, Singur were detained at Chandannagar police station, 10 men namely - Mr. Shyamal Ghosh son of (s/o) Sibram Ghosh, Mr. Uday Ghosh s/o Madan Mohan Ghosh, Mr. Birat Mlik s/o Late Gokul Malik, Mr. Tushar Kanti Karmakar s/o Late Jugal Kishore Karmakar, Mr. Prabir Ghosh s/o Manik Ch Ghosh, Mr. Swapan Santra s/o Balai Chandra Santra, Mr. Amal Das s/o Narendra Nath Das, Mr. Sanat Sheet s/o Bhadreswar Sheet, Mr. Swarup Patra s/o Baidyanath Patra and Naba Kumar Bag s/o Gokul Chandra Bag were being detained at Chinsura police station and the four seriously injured detainees namely- Mr. Dilip Das (44 years), Mr. Mrityunjoy Patra (52 years), Mr. Tapan Batabyal (53 years) and Mr. Bilas Sarkar (26 years) were lodged at the prison ward of Chinsura District Hospital.
On 3 December 2006, police produced all 18 female detainees before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Chandannagar and the court sent 16 adult females to judicial custody till 8 December 2006 while the two minor girls – Soma Dhara and Jhuma Patra – were released on bail.
Police atrocities at Singur were also raised in the Indian parliament.
II. Special Eviction Zones?
Enthused by the Special
Economic Zones (SEZ) operating in
As on 2 December 2006, as many as 237 SEZs have
been approved by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
The SEZs have been turned into "Special Eviction Zones". The state governments have been primarily allotting prime agricultural lands. The land owners are being forced and induced to manufacture consent for approval of the SEZs.
Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance, expressed reservations about the SEZs. At the 7th Congress Chief Minister' conclave held in Nainital in September 2006, Mrs. Gandhi stated "Agricultural land should not normally be diverted to non-agricultural uses. Industry requires land no doubt. But this must be done without jeopardising our agricultural prospects. Farmers must get proper compensation when their land is purchased. Could farmers also not become stake holders in the projects that come up on the land acquired from them? Our resettlement and rehabilitation policies must be strengthened and implemented in an effective and credible manner which will inspire confidence in the people who are displaced”. While the Finance Ministry has also expressed reservations that it would cause a revenue loss of Rs.90,000 crores, the Reserve Bank of India has questioned the tax concessions being granted to SEZ projects.
III. Development and displacement: Indigenous peoples also as targets
The Jharkhand government reportedly signed over 42
MoUs with investors including Mittal Steel, Tata Steel, Jindal Steel and Power
Company Limited worth about Rs 1,69,198.26 crores since Jharkhand became a
state in 2000. Approximately 47,445 acres of land would be required for the
projects in mineral-rich Kolhan Region, which was likely to affect about 10,000
families and cause deforestation of 57,15 kms land. A study by People’s
During 2002-2005 alone, the Orissa government
signed 42 MoUs with companies for proposed steel and other plants in the state.
The MoU with Korean steel major Pohang Steel Company (Posco) signed on 22 June
2005 for setting up a steel plant at Paradeep in Jagatsinghpur district in
Orissa with a total investment of $12 billion was the biggest foreign direct
investment so far in
IV. Conclusion: Obsession must not replace rights of the people
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), which has been projecting itself as the champion of the poor, stands exposed with the Singur incident.
Though the constitutional validity of both the SEZ Act
and Haryana SEZ Act have been challenged on 4 December 2006 in the Supreme
Court, the previous judgements of the courts on the rehabilitation of the
displaced persons have been far from satisfactory. In any event, how many
indigenous and tribal communities, the majority of the displaced persons, had
access to the Courts in
The obsession of making
Unless, the rights based approaches are emboldened in
the policies and programmes,