Monday, January 29, 2007

Fresh clashes in Singur: 40 injured; 1000 held

Kolkata, January 28
Violence erupted again at Singur and several other adjoining places today when the police and Trinamool Congress workers and supporters were involved in pitched battles at least at four entry points over the construction of the Tata Motors plant on the farm land forcibly acquired by the state government.

The police fired several rounds of bullets in the air, burst tear gas shells and used water cannons to disperse the angry mob attacking the police pickets.

At least 1,000 persons, including the farmers affected and members of their family, were arrested.

In the clashes, at least 40 persons, including workers and supporters of the Trinamool Congress, were injured.

The angry party workers burnt the pillars at several points of the boundary walls of Tata Motors site at Singur.

The Tata Motors showroom on the National Highway 2, near Jaypur, was attacked, smashed and set on fire.

CPI(M) secretary Biman Bose yesterday led a procession towards Nandigram, but the procession could not enter the farmers’ protected zone.

Mr Bose tried to arouse public opinion in support of the decision to acquire farm land for Tata Motors, Indonesia’s Salim group of industries and others.

Ms Mamata Banerjee declared that the agitation would continue till the farmers evicted were not returned their farm land at Singur.

Terming chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee a liar and an arrogant fascist, Mr Banerjee called upon partners of the Left Front like the CPI, the RSP and the Forward Bloc, which had been opposing the chief minister’s land acquisition policy for industries, to come out of the front and join the poor farmers in their rightful struggle.

She asked her party workers and members and supporters of the Krishi Bachao Committee to observe a black day tomorrow in protest against police excesses on their peaceful processions and demonstrations today.

According to reports reaching the Writers Building, a large number of Trinamool Congress workers and supporters, who were marching towards Singur today from several directions, were forcibly obstructed by paramilitary forces and the state police, posted at the entry points.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Zone of conflict

Previously we discussed how government promotes Special Economic Zone to maximize the profit of MNCs and comprador capitalists. Mumbai SEZ is part of that ongoing programme. The following article published in Frontline discussed this particular SEZ in detail.

Zone of conflict

in Mumbai

The Maha Mumbai Special Economic Zone project of Reliance faces resistance from residents of villages which may be acquired for it.

CHIRNER village has a history of resistance. On September 25, 1930, local people staged a "jungle satyagraha" here against the British when they were denied their right to collect firewood. Nine people were killed in police firing, including a mamlatdar (district official) who refused to give orders to fire. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar fought the case for the satyagrahis.

Once again, Chirner is witnessing a fight. But this time, the residents are not confronting the British empire. They are fighting against an Indian company - Mukesh Dhirubhai Ambani's Reliance Industries Limited.

What the company wants to set up is not very different from the East India Company's trading zones. Reliance wants to develop a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Chirner. An SEZ is an enclave where no taxes are collected, there are no labour laws and there is no local government - on land taken for a pittance. That is the Maha Mumbai SEZ project.

It will be Mumbai's satellite city spread over 35,000 acres (1 acre is 0.4 hectare) - one-third the size of the metropolis. Since the government has cleared Reliance's request for it to be the special planning authority, the company will have complete control over the development of the entire area. With land prices shooting up, undeveloped areas outside the city are the next big booty for real estate developers. Before anyone could lay their hands on it, Reliance has gobbled up the entire stretch from Navi Mumbai to Dharamtar creek. And the government is acting as its real estate agent. It will acquire 45 villages for the Reliance project.

"Money comes and goes. Land never leaves a person's hand. That's why we won't let them take our land. We are self-sufficient," says Praful Kharpatil, a local leader. "It won't create employment for us. The SEZ will employ only highly educated people. They will make us security guards or peons, and won't let us enter the gates. After all the development that has already taken place here, graduates are working as loaders in the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) container warehouses. So isn't it better to have your own land?"

The government has issued notifications for land acquisition. But people have no clue how much they will get for their land. Reliance has been trying to buy up land at Rs.3 lakhs to Rs.4 lakhs an acre (0.40 hectares), without much luck. So local hearsay is that they will not pay a penny more while getting the government to acquire the land. The market rate is anywhere between Rs.20 lakhs and Rs.40 lakhs an acre, depending on the location and quality of the land. Reliance just bought 450 hectares of undeveloped land at Rs.26 lakhs to Rs.40 lakhs an acre in Navi Mumbai from the City Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO). Some parts of the failed satellite township that CIDCO planned in Navi Mumbai will also be part of the SEZ.

"Why should we sell for less? Let them pay the market rate. The land value will soon be much higher than even Rs.40 lakh when the new airport is built here and the Nhava Sheva-Sewri bridge will make it only a 30-minute drive into central Mumbai," said D.K. Patil, executive president of the Maha Mumbai Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti, a coalition of several groups that has been formed to challenge unfair land acquisitions. The value of land here is high also because of its proximity to the JNPT port.

District officials say that local market rates are only Rs.1.28 lakhs an acre for agricultural land and Rs.10.32 lakhs for non-agricultural land - a gross underestimation. The government will decide the rate later. It will take a year before it announces the guidelines and the rate at which property will be acquired, said D.S. Jhagade, the District Collector of Raigad. The land acquisition law also says that while fixing compensation the state must take into consideration the value of the land after it is developed, but this is not being considered. This time, Reliance has chosen to operate outside the market. Companies that swear by `market forces' run back to the state for subsidies and concessions.

The process of acquiring land as laid out in the outdated Land Acquisition Act, 1894, is illogical. Once the notification is issued, public objections are invited and after they are heard, the government decides on the compensation package. But how can people accept or reject land acquisition until they know what deal they are going to get? On what basis can they file objections without knowing what price is offered to them? "We are not against development. But what kind? We haven't been told anything. If they are truly interested in giving us a fair deal, whey don't they sit across the table and talk to us?" D.K. Patil said.

"It's up to the government to acquire the land, so they will negotiate," explained Dilip Chaware, spokesperson for the Maha Mumbai SEZ project. "Village homes in the gaothan (residential) areas will not be acquired, only the farm lands. People will get all the benefits of better infrastructure. We will train the youth for job skills. They can grow with the SEZ. Anyway, the land is not productive and people were not employed," he said.

SEZs are being hyped as our pathway to prosperity. Maha Mumbai is supposed to be the largest private SEZ in the world. "The company would not have been able to buy such a large chunk of land in the open market, so the government had to acquire the land for them. This is what happens when planners are more excited about a project than people," said a government official.

Most of those whose land will be acquired are Agris and Kolis, traditional farmers and fisherfolk. "We were ousted from Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. Where are we to go? Can you see us anywhere in this picture?" asked D.K. Patil, pointing to the glossy SEZ brochure cover with skyscrapers, an airplane and a golfer. "We won't get jobs here. There's an Agri saying: Mumbai tumchi, Bhaandi ghasa aamchi [Mumbai is yours, but you will wash our dishes]. That's all they will make us do."

After learning the hard way through the CIDCO acquisitions, the local people are demanding more than just a job assurance. "We should get a share in the business. We don't want to be serving but owning businesses. They can train us to manage businesses like warehousing on our properties," said Jeevan Gavan, a Zilla Parishad member from Uran. Others are asking for a share of Reliance's lease rent or shares in the company so that they have a source of regular income.

In the 1980s, CIDCO acquired land from 95 villages displacing about 30,000 families to develop Navi Mumbai. Then too, villagers fought for a better deal. After an agitation in which two persons were killed in police firing, the government agreed to increase the rate from Rs.15,000 an acre to Rs.30,000, and agreed to return 12.5 per cent of the developed land back to the owner. It also promised jobs to every family.

"The state didn't deliver on any of its assurances. We got only Rs.15,000. Very few got jobs. They didn't give back 12.5 per cent of the land. They had also promised salt-pan workers 40 square metres. We are still fighting for that land. They have left us as beggars," said Dharma Patil (69), a salt worker from Agroli village in Navi Mumbai.

There were not as many takers for the Navi Mumbai project as was expected. Several plots of land were lying unused. That is why CIDCO has sold a lot of it to Reliance and has become a 26 per cent partner in the Navi Mumbai part of the SEZ. "We want industry but not without labour laws or job security. We don't want bonded labour," says Sanjay Thakur, a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

An SEZ is a duty-free enclave considered foreign territory for trade and financial purposes. If you buy goods from an SEZ, you have to pay import duties. Under the newly formed SEZ Act, companies in the zone are granted huge concessions in customs duties, sales tax and even income tax. Mukesh Ambani has even got the permission to be the special planning authority for the SEZ. His company will plan the development and create infrastructure for the area, including water and power supply. There will be no local government. A development commissioner will govern it.

"It will be a new city, not just an SEZ, and will generate 25 lakh jobs," Chaware claimed. "There will be one million residents and exports are estimated at $15 billion in 10 years. We are investing $5 million in infrastructure, including a dam and a power plant." The government has cleared 26 SEZs across the country, hoping to emulate those in China. At present there are eight SEZs functioning in India.

But neither Reliance nor the government was willing to give any cost-benefit analysis of the project. What are the costs and losses - economic, social and environmental? Are the gains worth it?

An internal assessment of the Finance Ministry has estimated that the country will forgo about Rs.90,000 crores in direct and indirect taxes over the next four years because of the SEZs across the country.

A large part of this loss is because export units that are now paying tax will shift to these areas ("Why the SEZ policy needs a rethink", The Hindu Business Line, May 26). Many wonder whether the pipedreams will actually translate into large-scale investment or is it just a real estate grab? The SEZ model is now being questioned even in China because it creates huge economic disparities rather than broad-based development.

That is the brand of `progress' that the people of Chirner are also challenging. "Our vegetables and fruits get the best price in the market. Why should we sell our land?" asks Kharpatil. "We fought the British. Now we will fight our own government." Chirner village is preparing for round two.


Indian villagers protest site of Arcelor Mittal plant

Hundreds of villagers, who fear losing their land, have filed petitions protesting the site of a 8.7-billion dollar Arcelor Mittal steel project in eastern India, officials said.

The world's largest steelmaker, Arcelor Mittal, on Thursday signed an agreement with the Orissa government to build its first Indian steel plant in the eastern state.

The plant will be located on a 8,000 hectare (19,768 acre) site in mineral-rich Keonjhar district, 300 kilometres (238 kilometres) northwest of capital Bhubaneshwar.

But residents of 27 farming villages who fear displacement have petitioned district authorities against the project, a local official confirmed.

"The villagers are scared of an impending land takeover with meager compensation. They fear that as has been happening elsewhere, their lands will be snatched away from them cheaply," said a district official, asking not to be named.

Some 500 villagers demonstrated against the Arcelor Mittal project on Friday, one day after the agreement was signed.

"Why is the state government always keen to establish factories in agricultural lands? There's no dearth of barren patches in Orissa," said Bijoy Mohapatra, leader of the Orissa Peoples' Forum, a provincial political party backing the protests.

"The people are not against industries. But they oppose it due to an irrational and unjust rehabilitation initiative followed by the Orissa government."

Orissa, which has a quarter of India's iron ore reserves, has witnessed a rush by both Indian and international companies to invest in large steel plants there. India currently produces about 35 million tonnes of steel annually.

But the road for some has been bumpy with South Korean steel giant POSCO, which signed an agreement in June last year to build a 12-million-tonne steel plant in the state, yet to be allotted land because of farmer protests.

An Arcelor Mittal executive said after the signing that his group will try to address local concerns as it sets up the project, which the company says will create 5,500 direct and 15,000 indirect jobs.

"We are aware of protests against mega-industries in Orissa but our approach is different and we will certainly satisfy the society and take all possible measures to involve the local population," said Malay Mukherjee, who signed the memorandum of understanding with the state government.

The plant, which is expected to take almost five years to be fully operational, is slated to eventually produce 12 million tonnes of steel a year.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

No Displacement; No Rehabilitation; Only People's Development

The following is a press Note released in a Press Conference on 21st Jan 2007 soon after the Anti- Displacement Conclave in Ranchi, Jharkhand attended by scores of organisations from several states.

No Displacement; No Rehabilitation; Only People's Development

Today the vast sections of the people have been subjected to the worst kind of socio-economic crisis in the name of development. Today more and more tribals, dalits, minorities and the poorest of the poor are brutally removed from their forests, fields, lands, homes and cultures. They are being evicted in thousands from their lives and livelihoods. The powerful imperialist forces and their lackeys in the sub-continent are on their bid to capture the natural resources and perpetrate ruthless exploitation of labour. The people are rendered defenceless in the process of the dreaded Ds--Displacement, Disorganisation, Destitution and Decimation.

It is at a time that the need to unite and bring together all the fighting forces at the ground level against all forms of displacement under a single platform was mooted. And hence this preparatory meeting being held in Ranchi on the 20, 2tst of January, 2007. In this meeting, representatives of organizations and individuals from various states such as Jharkhand, Bengal, Haryana, Orissa, Delhi, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh deliberated on the strategies to carry forward the movement against displacement at the sub-continent level. �No to Displacement in any form�, was the firm resolve of the Meet.

The loot of the Indian people started after the advent of British rule with the super-imposition of the principle of Eminent Domain that virtually extinguished the natural right of the communities over their habitat and livelihood. This imperialist paradigm continued even post-1947 and despite the adoption of a new constitution. The special provisions for recognition and honouring the tribal people's right under the constitution has been blatantly ignored that has sharpened the resentment of the people against the exploitative state.

After the creation of the new states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Uttarakhand at the instance of the imperialists this loot of the resources of the people has been facilitated under the new regime of globalization and liberalization. The surfeit of MOUs running over millions and millions of dollars has been executed without taking the people into confidence. The Anti-displacement meet rejected this development with disdain it deserves in the spirit of Tana Bhagat's Resolve against the British authority "Land is created by God, We are God's children, Pray, from where has the state appeared". The Anti- Displacement Meet in Ranchi called on the people to defend their habitat and their livelihood resources against the imperialists and the servile state.

While farmers who are committing suicide with agriculture being rendered increasingly non-viable, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are being set up throughout the country as 'deemed foreign territories.' These are devices to divert people's attention as the logic of a more brutalized expropriation of the rural economy is ruthlessly unfolding. The Anti-Displacement Meet called for the rejection of the National Agricultural Policy 2000 that has once again ignored the land reforms agenda and unabashedly embraced the corporatisation of agriculture.

The Anti-Displacement Meet rejected the entire scheme of Displacement-Rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is an illusion that is used to co-opt the top-ten by the imperialists. Even the affected people of Bhakhra, the 'first temple of modern India' still awaits for their much-promised rehabilitation.

Extensive lands in Hatia and Rourkela had already been acquired that are without use. Let the State first place before the people the status of the already affected whose number runs into crores. Hisab Do (Give Account) is the call to the state before it decides to take even an inch of land that is the inheritance of the people. Let the state prepare 'Rehabilitation Plans' for these people and come clean with concrete results. For the people of India, the story Post-1947 can be summed up as 'an unbroken history of broken promises, dysfunctional programmes and blatant violation of laws, constitution and human rights.'

Dr. BD Sharma (Bharat Jan Andolan, KN Pandit (Trade union leader), B P Kesari (Jharkhand Vistapan Virodhi Samanwyaya Samiti Co-ordinator), Shashi Bhushan Pathak (Civil Rights Activist), D Barla (Journalist & Anti-displacement Activist), Rashmi Kathyayan (Advocate), Tridib Ghosh, and several others from various orgnisations participated in the discussion of the draft note on displacement. Earlier GN Saibaba (Revolutionary Democratic Front) presented the concept note on displacement that was to set the debate regarding the strategies to be undertaken in fighting the complex and challenging question of displacement that is affecting various sections and peoples of the sub-continent.

Around 100 organisations from different parts of the country and various intellectuals have expressed their consent to actively be part of the Movement against Displacement. These include organizations from Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, the North East, Haryana, Kerala and Delhi.

The Anti-Displacement Meet while stressing the need to bring all the struggling organizations and the people under a single platform have given a RANCHI CHALO call towards convening the First Conference and Massive Rally on the 22, 23 March 2007. Towards this, a preparatory committee of all the participating organizations and a working committee to convene the conference and rally was also formed in the Anti-Displacement Meet.

Singed by (B.D. SHARMA) & (G.N. SAIBABA)

And attended by representatives of anti-displacement organisations from several part of India.

Intellectuals in a unique protest against Singur, Nandigram

Kolkata, January 24: City-based intellectuals, litterateur, doctors, advocates and artists staged a demonstration today at Metro channel near Esplanade, protesting against the “forcible land acquisition” in Singur and the killings of peasants and destruction of property at Nandigram.

Noted cultural groups and renowned artists joined in the protests by singing songs, drawing pictures, reciting poems and voicing their opinions on the incidents at Singur and Nandigram. Among those present were actors Aparna Sen and Bibhas Chakraborty, singers Kabir Suman and Shaonli Mitra and other intellectuals like Sunanda Sanyal, Sujoy Basu, Jaya Mitra, Gourishankar Ghatak, Ramaprasad Dey and Prabir Gupta. The sit-in demonstrations started at 12 noon and continued till 7 pm. After the protest rally of intellectuals on January 12, this was the second step taken by them. Following this will be a convention whereby the artists and intellectuals want to create a strong public opinion against the state government’s actions in the two places.

“We will not sit quiet. The state government, under the garb of industrialisation is just snatching away land of the poor farmers and giving them to capitalists. The poor farmers are getting robbed,” said Tapan Roychoudhuri, the person who organised the demonstration.

“Painters painted on canvases, singers sang songs of protest, elocutionists recited verses to protest against the state government’s stand. They just drew daggers at the way the police is harassing the locals. Now hooligans belonging to certain political parties are creating ruckus in those areas,” said Roychoudhuri.

“No one can sit mumb if there is something unjust going on in the state. The state government, through all these actions, is trying to create a state withing a state, that is, they are trying to alienate people. This is wrong and hence we are raising voice so that it stops,” Roychoudhuri said.


Construction at Singur site raises waterlogging fears

Construction at Singur site raises waterlogging fears

SINGUR/KOLKATA: Land filling work at the Singur site of the Tata Motors small car project has sparked fears of flooding in villages of the area.

The villagers gave a representation to the district administration saying that the land filling and construction of the boundary wall will tell upon the natural sewer system and flood the surroundings in case of a downpour.

Hooghly CPM leader Balai Sabui also called on state commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen to apprise him about the possibility.

Sabui said it would be difficult to flush out water from the surrounding villages during the rains unless the government takes up excavation of the adjoining Ghiya-Kunti river basin from Mogra to Singur.

The district irrigation officials, however, did a preliminary survey of the Julkia riverbed before overhauling the drainage network. The WBIDC has recruited a private-security agency to supervise nightguards on duty.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tata project should be stopped and debate held, says Aruna Roy

Tata project should be stopped and debate held, says Aruna Roy

By Sujoy Dhar, Kolkata, Jan 22: Right to Information campaigner and Magsaysay award winner Aruna Roy has asked the Left Front government in West Bengal to stop construction work for a Tata Motors car project at Singur and have a public debate on the issue.

"I think the construction work should be stopped immediately and a debate begin on the issue. The dissent and objections should be heard in complete fairness and in a forum that is open," the noted community leader told IANS here in an exclusive interview. Tata Motors Sunday began construction work at Singur to build a plant that would produce about 100,000 cars a year.

"Carrying on construction work there under Section 144 (order prohibiting assembly of five or more people) in itself is rather odd. How can you erect a wall (by Tatas) between the industry and the people. This wall will become a source of potential conflict between the locals and the industry," said Roy, a bureaucrat-turned-community activist.

"I think the project is not transparent. If they place all documents in public domain then alone can it be transparent. If they say that the terms or conditions cannot be made public then the information about the location of the project or the land need make no sense. The terms and conditions are neither a national security nor are they a trade security," said Roy, who won the Ramon Magsaysay award in 2000 for Community Leadership and International Understanding.

On Sunday, Tata Motors initiated preliminary steps to construct its small car plant with the consent of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corp. (WBIDC), a day after the state government extended prohibitory orders banning the assembly of four or more people in Singur till Jan 28 midnight fearing renewed resistance over the takeover of farmland for the project.

"Since it is an industrial project located in West Bengal, which is led by the Left Front, and the industrial group concerned is Tata, both known in their respective fields as progressive, one would have expected a completely new development paradigm to emerge.

"One would have expected the pro-people Left government and the Tatas, who have invested money in great philanthropy, to come out with a new model of development," she said.

"Even now if the West Bengal government is transparent and places all the documents in public domain there is still room for a discourse on a new kind of development," said Roy. She also spearheads the Rajasthan-based Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and National Campaign for the Peoples Right to Information (NCPRI).

"The Left front in India is part of the World Social Forum, they have been part of the entire debate on alternative development paradigms. I would appeal actually to the government of West Bengal and the chief minister to reopen the debate and bring it into the public forum available in the state and invite people to participate," she said.

"Even if there is dissent, listen to the dissent and maybe forge a way ahead in which you do not have to stay perpetually in Section 144. You cannot have a continuous state of potential violence - whether it is from the industry or from the people, whichever way you look at it," she said.

"The state government has turned down the application for transparency by saying that the terms and conditions of land given to Tatas is exempted under Section 8 of the Right To Information Act 2005 as a trade secret. But it is not a trade secret. The land belongs to the people of West Bengal. So as owners of their land, not only in individual terms, under the constitution we have a right to know on what terms and conditions the land has been disposed of," she said.

"From a government with socialist principles I should hope that even now things would happen. I really do think that there is space still," she said.

"A leader of the communist party of South Africa has said that 'democracy is speaking truth to power, making the powerful truthful and the truthful powerful. If that is the intent of all democracy then I think there is no dead end. There is a possibility of reopening and rethinking the whole issue," she said.

"People have elected to power a party with full faith. If a government and party is elected to power the discourse cannot stop only with the vote. They should continue to have dialogue with people, even if a particular group has not voted them to power," Roy said.


Singur turns Nandigram?

Blaze and bombs at small-car plot

Singur/Calcutta, Jan. 23: Miscreants hurled bombs and set fire to fence posts around the plot earmarked for the Tata Motors plant in Singur early this morning.

On Sunday, when work on the small-car project kicked off with the construction of a boundary wall at Joymolla, some villagers had set fire to posts there.

Around 2 am, around 50 men assembled at Bajemelia’s Paschimpara, about 45 km from Calcutta, and set the posts on fire, burst bombs and fled.

Police sprayed water to douse the flames.

A large police contingent was deployed in Bajemelia today. Asked about the incident, western range inspector-general Arun Gupta said: “A probe is on.”

Krishna Santra, who was among pro-factory villagers on patrol along the fence last night, said 11 guards and 10 policemen were camping about a kilometre from the spot.

“Around 2 am, we saw the poles being set on fire. When we rushed to the spot, about 50 people ran away. They left a kerosene can behind. On their way back, they threw bombs.”

The guards were inside the fence and the miscreants could not be given a chase.

The Trinamul Congress refused to own responsibility for the incident but justified the act.

Trinamul Youth Congress president Madan Mitra, who has been camping in Singur, said: “The Trinamul-backed Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee was not involved. However, villagers can’t sit back and watch the Tatas build a factory on their land.’’

Chandernagore subdivisional police officer Kalyan Mukherjee said efforts were on to trace the culprits. “They threw bombs and tried to set fire to the posts. The situation is normal now,’’ he added.

Leader of Opposition Partha Chatterjee asserted in Calcutta that Singur will turn into a Nandigram, where seven people were killed in a gun battle between two groups of villagers — if the government allows the Tatas to set up the car plant.

“This (last night’s incident) is just the beginning,’’ he added.

About 300 Singur residents today joined construction work for the Tata factory at Joymolla. Soil from Khasherbheri was used to raise the level of low-lying Joymolla. Roads are being built in Gopalnagar, within the fenced-off area.

“From today, we will work round the clock in three shifts,’’ said the director of industries, M.V. Rao.


Monday, January 22, 2007

TATA will recruit workers through contactors and sub-contractors in Singur Plant

TATA motor plant is being claimed as something, which is going to change the face of Singur. It is supposed to create huge number of jobs. In a press release, on Jan 21, 2007, TATA motor expected to create 10,000 employment directly and indirectly in this plant.

We know this announcement will be highlighted in the mainstream media and boost up the advocates of TATA project in Singur. Unfortunately these people will never mention some other part of the press release. In the same press release, TATA motors has confirmed that it would deploy unskilled and even skilled workers through contractors and sub-contractors.

In our previous posts we have discussed a bit how severely the contract workers have been exploited in West Bengal and all over India. There is no limit of working day, no work no pay, the wage is very poor, Rs ~60 per day in sponge iron industries of West Bengal and they have to work in an accident prone envoronment.

Nothing would be different in Singur plant.

This is what is called 'Development'.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Bharti, Wal-Mart JV within existing policy framework: Mittal

Walmart, the biggest retail chain of US is going to start business in India with Bharati Enterprise. We believe it is the time to prepare ourselves to fight against Walmart in India. Today we are posting the news, soon we will publish more on Walmart.

Bharti, Wal-Mart JV within existing policy framework: Mittal

KOLKATA (PTI): The tie-up between U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart and Bharti Enterprises was within the existing policy framework, Bharti group chairman Sunil Mittal said on Saturday.

Responding to queries, Mr. Mittal told reporters that as per the MoU, Wal-Mart would provide the back-end support in terms of setting up cold chains, while Bharti would do the retailing under the cash-and-carry format.

Mr. Mittal said that it was a partnership of equals, adding that both the companies would make substantial investments.

``The investments are being worked out,'' he said.

While India has not allowed FDI in multi-brand retail format, foreign investment is permitted in wholesale trade as well as logistics and back-end support.

Policy hurdles had earlier forced Wal-Mart to put its India plans on hold, but it has now settled for a collaborative venture.

Commerce minister Kamal Nath had said that the government would examine whether the agreement was within the rules and regulations.

Mr. Mittal said the nationwide roll-out of their retail stores would begin from August 15, 2007.

The Left parties had earlier expressed reservation about Wal-Mart, saying this was a backdoor entry by the U.S. firm. When asked whether Bharti-Wal-Mart would be allowed to set up shop in the state, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee said: ``Let them firm up their plans first.''

Mr. Mittal said Bharti had already acquired 5,000 acres in Punjab to carry out contract farming for exports to European markets.

He said the group was also keen to enter horticulture. West Bengal was the best possible state in this regard and it would be the new platform for the Bharti group, he said.

Referring to investments in West Bengal, he said Bharti had already invested Rs 1,200 crore in the state and was in the process of creating a huge R&D infrastructure facility.


Rs 160-crore bonanza for Tatas

This is just an example how government subsidizes big companies with our hard earn money. All Acts and Laws --government's every action is only to maximize big companies' profit. This is what they call 'Industrialisation', the 'Development'.

Rs 160-crore bonanza for Tatas

Manash Ghosh

KOLKATA, Jan. 19: Neither Bengal chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee nor the chairman of the Tata group Mr Ratan Tata has agreed to divulge the terms and conditions under which Tata Motors Limited (TML) has decided to set up a factory at Singur for manufacturing small cars to be sold for Rs 1 lakh. The chief minister and his industries minister Mr Nirupam Sen have both said on record that “these are trade secrets”. Indeed and undoubtedly they are. The chief minister is scared that making the terms public would amount to opening a Pandora’s box.

Because both Mr Bhattacharjee and Mr Sen are “committed to provide” for the Singur small-car project “upfront infrastructural assistance” possibly worth over Rs 160 crore. The amount is equivalent to the 16 per cent excise exemption that TML would have got if it had set up its small-car plant in Uttaranchal ~ a state that enjoys zero excise duty benefit ~ instead of in West Bengal. This commitment for “significant support in the form of upfront infrastructural assistance” was made by Mr Bhattacharjee “to make the TML investment in West Bengal attractive”.

A virtual gift of 650 acres of prime land to Tata Housing Development Company (THDC) in Rajarhat New Town and in the adjoining Bhangar Rajarhat Area Development Authority for building an IT and residential township along with WBIDC as a partner is also part of Mr Bhattacharjee’s “commitment” to provide “upfront infrastructural assistance” for the TML-Singur project. The “gift” has been made with the idea that the profit that THDC and WBIDC would make here will be used for subsidising the manufacturing cost of the first series of the Rs one lakh cars to be made by TML at Singur. The Tatas had sought this “gift” so as to enable themselves to provide a cross-subsidy for keeping the cost of their first series of 100,000 cars within the Rs 1 lakh price target. This “gift”, incidentally, is over and above the Rs 140 crore that Mr Bhattacharjee has already committed from the state exchequer to pay compensation to about 12,000 farmers whose 1000 acres of highly fertile multi-crop land have been acquired for the car project.

The chief minister’s “commitment to provide upfront infrastructural assistance” is part of the deal he made with Mr Tata to bag the small-car project for West Bengal ~ the official document saying so is in possession of The Statesman. The letter dated 10 October last year written by Dr Sabyasachi Sen, principal secretary of West Bengal’s commerce and industries department, to the Housing and Infrastructure Development Corporation (Hidco), spills the beans. It reveals how the chief minister’s “commitment to provide support in the form of upfront infrastructural assistance” for TML’s Singur project will be honoured.

Right at the outset, Dr Sen states that the “overall financial situation” of the Left Front government would not allow it to draw huge funds from the exchequer for providing “infrastructural assistance” to the TML project. Seeking budgetary support for the purpose will be out of the question as this would attract legislative scrutiny and censure by the CAG because providing exclusive infrastructure assistance to any private company’s project is not part of the Left Front government’s stated industrial policy. Making a complete departure from this policy to benefit a particular private player would not only be construed as unethical but would also be cited as discriminatory by other companies that would demand similar “infrastuctural assistance” for their projects in the state. Dr Sen’s letter states: “In order to bring TML investment in(to) West Bengal we had to face competition from other states, in particular, Uttaranchal which enjoys zero excise duty benefit. For a car proposed to be priced at Rs1 lakh, the exemption of 16 per cent excise duty makes a major difference. Therefore, in order to make the investment in West Bengal attractive to TML, the state government has to offer significant support in the form of upfront infrastructural assistance.”

Dr Sen then goes on to state how money is to be found for providing this “support”. “We have received a proposal from Tata Housing Development Company, another Tata group company, for development of an IT township in West Bengal in partnership with WBIDC. The agreement proposed to be executed between THDC and WBIDC envisages that the revenue earned by WBIDC from this project will enable it to fulfil its commitment for the TML project. The IT township project, spread over 600 acres, is proposed to be located within Rajarhat PS outside the boundary of Rajarhat New Town. However, for this project to provide adequate revenue to THDC, they (Tatas) have requested for allotment of 50 acres of land within Rajarhat New Town.

“Thus the composite IT-cum-residential project to be implemented by THDC comprising 50 acres in Rajarhat New Town and 600 acres in the Bhangar Rajarhat Area Development Authority will enable this project to offer sufficient returns to WBIDC. This in turn will enable WBIDC to meet its commitment of infrastructural assistance to the TML project without having to resort to government budgetary support.”
In other words, both THDC and WBIDC are being given prime land in Rajarhat and BRADA areas with the specific purpose of helping them make enough money there, aka providing the promised “upfront infrastructural assistance” for the Singur small-car project. This would go a long way in subsidising TML’s manufacturing costs at Singur. All of this was discussed and approved by the standing committee of the Cabinet on industry of which the chief minister, the industries minister and finance minister Mr Asim Dasgupta are members.

The committee had directed Hidco, which is executing the Rajarhat New Town project, to allot THDC 20 acres of prime commercial land for building an IT hub and an adjacent 30 acres for residential purposes. The price of commercial land was fixed at Rs 3 crore per acre and the Cabinet fixed a special concessional price of Rs 2.50 crore per acre for the residential land. The standing committee overruled objections that a self-financing government company like Hidco, which runs without budgetary support and is still in its infancy, could hardly afford this loss. The committee pointed out that this “little sacrifice” on Hidco’s part was necessary to get the TML project going at Singur. It didn’t matter if THDC and WBIDC made gains at Hidco’s expense. No amount of argument could convince committee members that providing concessions to a giant real estate and building company like THDC (which has built huge estates and developed properties for L&T, Lupin Laboratories and Phillips in Mumbai) was an unsound proposition.

Also, the standing committee refused to divulge the price fixed for 600 acres to be allotted to THDC in BRADA area for building another IT-cum-residential complex. Objections regarding WBIDC utilising profit earned in Rajarhat and BRADA areas for providing “upfront infrastructural assistance” in Singur were also raised. This was because TML’s proposed Singur car project is not a joint venture and WBIDC is not a partner in it. TML is an independent private company responsible only to its shareholders and WBIDC is not among its shareholders. In fact, WBIDC’s involvement in the Singur project was restricted only to make available land to TML to avoid the costlier route of land acquisition for a private company as provided under chapter 7 of Land Acquisition Act of 1894. And there was no government policy allowing WBIDC to utilise its profits to help TML’s Singur project get off the ground.

“Of the over 1600 acres land to be given to the Tatas in Singur, Rajarhat and in BRADA areas, only 300 to 350 acres at Singur will be needed for the car factory,” said a senior state government official. “The rest will be utilised for real estate purposes and earning a high profit by the Tatas. This is not acceptable to many of us. This is not industrialisation. So many open-ended commitments have been made by the chief minister that the whole deal smacks of sleaze and skullduggery.”


Friday, January 19, 2007

Report recommends withdrawal of Salwa Judum

``DISTURBING DOCUMENT": Writer and social activist Arundhati Roy releases a report, `Salwa Judum and Violence on Women in Dantewara, Chhattisgarh,' in New Delhi on Thursday.

NEW DELHI: Attributing the significant increase in incidence of violence against women in Chhattisgarh's Dantewara district to Salwa Judum, the Committee Against Violence On Women (CAVOW) has called for a review of the Government's counter-insurgency strategy. Salwa Judum was initiated by the Government in June 2005 as a people's movement against terrorism and naxalism.

In a report `Salwa Judum and Violence on Women in Dantewara', the group has documented cases of violence and abuse against women in the State. The report, submitted to the National Commission for Women, highlights the atrocities perpetrated by the Salwa Judum activists.

Released here on Thursday by writer-activist Arundhati Roy, the report points out the absence of health and education facilities in the district.

Speaking at the release function, Ms. Roy said, "This is a disturbing document and the business of setting up vigilante groups is infusing the country with violence." She criticised the Government's policies and said, "We are entering an era where we have to become a police or an army state and they will become the implementers of the great Indian growth rate dream."

Ms. Roy was also critical of the Special Economic Zones being set up and agricultural land being given to corporates at subsidised rates.

Referring to the report, convenor of CAVOW Shoma Sen said, "At the initiation of CAVOW, a team visited the area between September 30 and November 18, 2006, to investigate the conditions of safety, security, life and livelihood of tribal women."

Claiming that Salwa Judum, which was built for restoring peace in the area has instead proved to be a violent institution, CAVOW member and researcher Ilina Sen said, "Women have been raped and molested, dole being given out to people is insufficient, ration does not last for the whole week, international organisations working out of the area have documented that there is malnutrition and hunger, minors are being recruited as Special Police Officers and under-trial women in jails are victims of sexual abuse."

Echoing the view that Salwa Judum has failed to deliver, NCW Chairperson Prof. Malini Bhattacharya said: "Strange things are happening there in the wake of Salwa Judum. Villages are deserted and whatever little civic amenities are available are in the relief camps, SPOs are underage and have been alienated from normal life. Though we have no direct evidence of violence against women, our team met women lodged in prisons who have been abused. These village women claim they have been accused of having links with naxals."

Lamenting that the human rights of these women under-trials have been encroached upon, the NCW Chairperson said, "The situation of violence has accelerated instead of being contained after the Salwa Judum movement."

Citing the problems being faced by the tribals in the State, the CAVOW has urged the Government to ensure that those who have been forced to live in relief camps should be settled back in their villages, all cases of atrocities against women must be investigated by independent agencies and the practice of recruiting underage SPOs should be stopped.


‘I am not stupid’

‘I am not stupid’
Kay Benedict

NEW DELHI: Stung by West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s comment that intellectuals, who criticised the CPI(M)-led government’s land acquisition policy in Singur and Nandigram are “victims” of false propaganda and misinformation, Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy said she is not that stupid to get easily misled by anything.

“I don’t think I am so stupid. I am not a puppet. I don’t think people like Sumit Sarkar (eminent Left-leaning historian) are victims of any propaganda,” Roy said on Thursday. She said this when she was asked if she had fallen “prey to the misinformation campaign” as alleged by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Apparently dissatisfied by the CPI(M)’s belated attempt to quell fears on the forcible land acquisition process, Roy said: “I don’t make a huge distinction between the political parties any more. They are all taking us for a ride. When the CPI(M) was on the pavement with Medha Patkar on Narmada and other projects, why should it resent our help to people in Singur and Nandigram who need our support?”

Both Buddha and the CPI(M) politburo had recently said that “several distinguished individuals have fallen prey to the misinformation campaign launched by the opponents in West Bengal.” The CM said this after intellectuals such as Sumit Sarkar, Arundhati Roy, Rajinder Sachar, Romila Tapar, Jean Dreze, Yogendra Yadav and activists like Medha Patkar and Aruna

Roy backed villagers in Singur and Nandigram, who were opposed to forcible takeover of land by the West Bengal government for industrial projects. Fearing the loss of the party’s intellectual base, Buddha wrote to some of the literati saying that his government will not forcibly acquire land and promised to consult all parties to evolve a consensus.

Roy said she is yet to receive the CM’s letter, while Sumit Sarkar has already confirmed that he received it.


Thursday, January 18, 2007


In response to a post dated Jan 8, 2007, in, readers posted comments until Jan 14, which eventually took a shape of debate. This debate brought some important points, which in our view are quite relevant to the whole issue of ‘development’ and ‘industrialization’ in present Indian context. Therefore, after little editing, we are publishing 2 most relevant comments. We would like to request you to go through the original post and the article in Frontline, which is referred in one of the comments.

Comment 3

Please read this article published in Frontline magazine about the Tata SEZ in Singur and tell me how a common man supposed to believe that there is something wrong happening in Singur?

Comment 4
I have just read the article. Let me discuss major points. Before, I would like to point out that, TATA’s project in Singur would not be a SEZ.

  • "State government has declared the expansion of employment opportunities to be its prime objective for reform and industrialisation."
We have been listening for last couple of decades.

  • "The proposed plant is expected to generate employment for 2,000 people directly and 10,000 people indirectly."

Who confirmed the figure? Did anybody from TATA? These are all imaginary number. If anybody likes to guess the number of employment this proposed plat could generate, he has to look over the employment status of industries developed in last couple of years. You can consider TATA Metalics as an example. It acquired 200 acres of land. And now tell me how many people are working there? As far as I know, 18 permanent and approximately 190 contractual labours. The wages of contractual workers are used to be very low in West Bengal and all over the India. All sponge iron factory developed (in WB) in last couple of years are mostly running with contractual labours. The wages are approximately Rs 60 per day. And they have to work more than 8 hours a day.

Under the circumstance, it is difficult to believe that TATA will give 2000 people employment. It cannot be magic. It has to sale car at Rs 1 lakh and has to secure maximum profit. It is very easy to understand what would be the condition of workers there to ensure TATA’s maximum profit. They must be under tremendous exploitation. I simply don’t understand, how the supporters of TATA’s project in Singur can simply ignore this possibility and believe that it will result development.
What does ‘development’ mean? A car at 1 lakh?
  • "910.61 acres is mono-cropped and only 39.08 acres is under more than one crop. The rest of the land is non-agricultural."
These records were based on surveys dating back to 1990. During the last 15 years, in the proposed Tata Motors site, the peasants have got installed 35 shallow pumps, 28 of which with their own money. In addition, there are three deep-tube wells. The two rivulets, the Zulkia and the Kunti – flowing along the either sides provide a substantial irrigational facility. In the dry season these rivulets and the DVC (Damodar Valley Corporation’s dams) release irrigate the fields. How can such land be called single-cropped, barren or non-irrigated? (

  • "The compensation package for farmers is another bone of contention. The State government says that keeping in view similar compensation awarded under the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, it is generous……..
"In an article in the Bengali daily Ganashakti (December 6), he (Binoy Konar) furnished facts and figures to show that the compensation amount, if kept in fixed deposits in commercial banks, would earn for land-losers 10-15 times the earnings from their cultivation. Furthermore, he calculated that even if the entire project area was taken to be double-cropped, it could generate about 1.50 lakh of man-days of employment, that is, whole-time employment for 300 days in a year for 500 persons only. By contrast, the Tata Motors' unit, when completed, will provide jobs, directly or indirectly, to more than 10,000 people."

Fallacy of Biony Konar’s argument lies in his calculation. He simply ignored the rate of inflation. Where the annual rate of inflation is more than 5%, the annual interest (from bank) of 8% in reality means (8-5)% = 3% annual rate of interest. So Binoy Konar joked.

Consider the situation of aged people who run their livelihood with bank interest. It becomes more and more difficult for them. So they have to squeeze their need. The same will happen to those, who believed Binoy Konar.

Another important point is income from agriculture. Government implemented the instructions of WTO and opened the market to foreign producers. So the worst condition of agriculture is due to them. (We would like to include semi-feudal exploitation as well.--singur) When they signed GATT, they argued that it would make our life better. It didn’t happen. So now, they have started to sale the idea that agriculture is not profitable.

  • "Community development work in the region has also started in earnest. Programmes undertaken include increasing drinking water facilities, repairing school buildings, improving roads, re-excavating the Jhulka canal to improve irrigation potential in the adjoining areas and digging tubewells to improve the cropping intensity in the surrounding region. All this work is being executed with local labour comprising land-losers and landless workers. More than 2,000 man-days have been generated as of the first week of December. The task of fencing the area was also given to the local people, which generated more than 5,500 man-days."

It is ridiculous. Whatever ‘development’ is going on in Singur, is run by the government till now. What is the connection of TATA’s plant with this ‘developmen’t? Government can run this sort of ‘development’ anywhere in West Bengal or India. But, they don’t usually. Interestingly they do where TATA or other big companies will invest. It simply means that with the hard earn money of common Indian people, government will build infrastructure for TATA’s profit. At the end of the day, using this infrastructure, TATA will unleash tremendous exploitation over the workers, as happens in TATA Metalics or sponge iron factories.

  • "Another argument that is often heard is the so-called availability of land of closed mills and factories. Nirupam Sen clarified (see interview) why it was near-impossibile to use these lands - on account of the legal tangles arising from the Sick Industrial Companies (Special Provisions) Act, 1985, the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002, the West Bengal Estates Acquisition Act, 1953, and so on. Not only are these vacant lands scattered as relatively small plots, but quite often they are subject to proceedings of the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR), which may take up to 15 years for completion. Even otherwise, commercial banks have a lien on these lands."

Why government doesn’t bother to change these Acts? Government is going to change the land-selling act for Salim Group and big companies. Then what prohibits them to change these acts?

We should forget about changing the Acts. Within the existing Acts there is provision to arrest so called ‘industrialists’ who are defaulters in employees’ provident fund. In West Bengal Rs 400 crore is pending in employees’ provident fund. Did anybody hear that government took any serious step against the defaulters?

Now tell me whose interest government serves?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A question marked in red

Professor Sumit Sarkar, eminent historian expressed his concern on forcible land acquisition in the following article published in the Indian Express on January 9, 2007.

A question marked in red
Sumit Sakar

As a lifelong Leftist, I am deeply shocked by recent events in the countryside of West Bengal. On December 31, a group of us went to Singur, spent the whole day there, visited 4 out of the 5 most affected villages which border the land that has been taken over. We had conversations with at least 50-60 villagers. Almost all rushed to us and told us their complaints.

From this brief but not necessarily unrepresentative sample, three things became very clear, because of which the West Bengal government’s version cannot be accepted. One, the land, far from being infertile or mono-cropped, as has been stated repeatedly, is sextremely fertile and multi-cropped. We saw potatoes and vegetables already growing after the aman rice has been harvested, some of them actually planted behind the now fenced-in area which the peasants had lost. Two, there is no doubt that the vast bulk of the villagers we met are opposed to the take-over of land and most are refusing compensation. It should also be kept in mind that at best the consent of the registered landholders as well as sharecroppers is being taken. But agricultural production also involves sharecroppers who are not covered by Operation Barga since they have come in later, as well as agricultural labour. Under the government-announced scheme for compensation, such people are not being remembered.

Three, we found much evidence of force being employed, particularly on the nights of September 25 and December 2. We met many people — men and also a large number of women — who had been beaten up, their injuries still visible, including an 80 year old woman.

What the villagers repeatedly alleged was that along with the police, and it seems more than the police, party activists, whom the villagers call ‘cadres’ — which has sadly become a term of abuse — did the major part of the beating up. Clearly, the whole thing had been done without consultation, with very little transparency, and in a very undemocratic manner.

As for the official claims of land being mono-cropped, the Economic and Political Weekly in an editorial of December 23 has pointed out that the last land survey of the area was done in the 1970s which means that the records with the government are backdated. Surely there must be much more investigation on the ground and consultation with panchayats and other local bodies. No one, not even the government, has actually claimed that such consultation has taken place. It was done entirely from the top.

These mistakes, to put it mildly, are being repeated on a much bigger scale in the Nandigram region. This has become far more serious because a much greater area of land is being taken — with the same lack of transparency, absence of consent and massive brutality. Once again, one is hearing reports of CPM cadres engaged in an offensive against peasants. What is happening at Nandigram is a near civil war situation.

The West Bengal government seems determined to follow a particular path of development involving major concessions both to big capitalists like the Tatas and multinationals operating in SEZs. Yet the strange thing is that these, particularly the latter, are things which Left parties and groups as well as many others have been repeatedly and vehemently opposing. No less a person than the CPM General Secretary in the course of last week made 2-3 statements attacking SEZs. The CPM has been at the forefront of the struggles against such developments in other parts of the country.

Surely there must be a search, at least, for paths of development that could balance necessary industrial development with social concerns and transparency and democratic values. Is this SEZ model that implies massive displacement and distress really the only way? If the West Bengal government thinks so, then it also has to accept that the inevitable consequences are going to be a repetition of Nandigram across the state.

This is the price that will be paid by government, ordinary people as well as investors for this model of development.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tata, WBIDC officials heckled near Singur, cars smashed


KOLKATA, JAN 15 : Officials of Tata Motors and West Bengal Industrial Development Corp were manhandled and their cars damaged near Singur, allegedly by members of the Trinamool Congress-backed Krishi Jami Banchao Committee, on Monday.

The incident took place at Shanapara crossing on the Durgapur Expressway near Singur, at around 11.30 am, when the officials were returning from Gopalnagar village panchayat office. Supratim Sarkar, Hooghly district police superintendent, said, “The officers had gone to Gopalnagar to distribute train tickets for a tour of Jamshedpur for the village panchayat members of Singur. The officers were able to lock themselves inside the cars, which were surrounded by villagers armed with lathis. Our preliminary information suggests that the Singur Krishi Jami Banchao Committee is behind this.” When contacted, Tata Motors officials remained tightlipped. Debasish Roy, chief of communications, refused to comment.

“There was a commotion in Shanapara area on Durgapur Expressway and officials of Tata company and WBIDC were manhandled, and their cars partially damaged. There was a police escort with the cars and reinforcements were also poured in as fast as possible to control the mob. I talked with the victims, but no written complaint has been filed with us,” said said Priyabrata Bakshi, officer-in-charge of Singur police station, who visited the spot.

“We were protesting the land acquisition by the state government for Tata Motors. We will not allow them to work here. We will stop anyone from the company visiting the site. There have been numerous complaints against me in the police station. This incident will add another one,” said Becharam Manna, convenor of the Krishi Jami Banchao Committee.

According to the police, two cars carrying SB Suryavanshi, a community development official of Tata Motors, along with Apurba Bannerjee of WBIDC and other officers, were travelling escorted by a police jeep.

The incident took place as the cars approached Shanapara. A group of 100 villagers stopped the cars and gheraoed the officials, chanting anti-government and anti-Tata slogans.

The policemen escorting the cars tried to control the mob, but failed. The mob, armed with lathis, lobbed stones and damaged portions of the car and assaulted the Tata


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Singur: Did government get consent from land owners?

For the last couple of weeks mainstream media have been echoing what Buddha said: owners of 958.84 acres out of 997.11 acres have already given their consent. Now WB government has published a status report on Singur and this is available at

From the status report, it is clear that WB government failed to receive the consent from the people. It says “So far, i.e. upto 31st December 2006, a total of 9839 cheques, for a total amount of about Rs. 83 crores, covering 658 acres have been disbursed.”
According to the report,

Land Acquisition compensation:
Total compensation payable: Rs. 119 crores
Disbursement till 31st December 2006: Rs. 83 Crore
Number of persons to whom cheques have been issued: 9839
Area of land in respect of which payment has been made: 658 acres
Total Disbursement yet to be made: Rs. 36 Crores
Persons yet to receive payment: 2400 (approx)

Obviously this doesn’t support the claim that they got the ‘consent’ for 958.84 acres. If it was true, then they should have distributed the payment for 958.84 acres, not for 658 acres of land.

But, interestingly this report elsewhere says, “Total consents to award of compensation received till 31st December 2006 covers an area of 958.84 acres. This process is still continuing.” But, what does consent mean to government? It clarifies, “The Act does not have any provision for the Collector to obtain individual consent of landowners to the acquisition nor is there any prescribed form for consent to acquisition. Landowners or persons interested in the lands notified under Section 4 have the opportunity to file objections under Section 5A within 30 days of the publication of notification under Section 4. These objections have to be heard and decided by the Government and the decision of the Government on these objections shall be final” and “Not accepting the compensation after declaration of award for any part of land does not mean that the land for that part will not be vested in the government”. It simply means there is actually no right of the land-owner. The government can acquire land whenever they like under this act (Land Acquisition Act 1894). This Act is obviously undemocratic and reactionary as it was made to serve the interest of British imperialist. It is a tragedy (or comedy) that so called anti-imperialist CPM and a ‘pro-people’ government run by them uses an imperialist Act to acquire land from the people. However, it is not the issue. The issue is why CPM raised the point of consent? Obviously they tried to make us fool and cover the reactionary and undemocratic character of the imperialist Act and pretended to be democratic and a government of difference.

But, don’t consider this as the peak of CPM –brand fallacy. There is more.

The report confirms “On 4th October 2006, the Collector took over possession of the land and handed over the same to WBIDC on the same day” And “Conversion of the usage of the land from agriculture to factory was done on 21st November 2006 in accordance with the Section 4(C) of the West Bengal Land Reforms Act, 1955.”

Isn’t it ridiculous that even after taking the possesion of land on Oct 4th 2006, they are still collecting consents from the land-owners and don’t feel ashamed to claim that they got the ‘consent’?

What else we expect from social fascists and their propaganda machinery?

Update on May 2, 2007

The status report is no longer available at We like to keep this report available to the people as an example how the government run their propaganda machinery to make us fool. Download the report here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

SEZ: Policy for Plunder

SEZ: Policy for Plunder

Buddha and other state governments become crazy with special economic zone (SEZ). Mainstream media have been portraying SEZ as panacea for Indian economy. They claim that SEZ will bring up enormous job opportunities and in turn eradicate poverty.

We know in all over India for SEZs different state governments has been planning to acquire lakhs of acres of land, most of which is farmland. Naturally people do protest and place like Nandigram the people’s resistance becomes too difficult to crackdown even after bloodshed.

A section of intellectuals and middleclass believe that this resistance is due to the unawareness of people and SEZ can change the face of India. They oppose people’s resistance and for them whoever oppose SEZ and land acquisition is anti-development and their actual aim is to keep people poor.

Let’s consider the whole issue.

A policy was introduced on 1.4.2000 for setting up of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in the country with a view to provide an internationally competitive and hassle free environment for exports (1). But, why it is ‘special’? It is special, because industries in SEZ will have some definite advantages. They will be under huge tax exemptions. And apart from production, within SEZ township could be built up. There will be full authority to provide services like water, electricity, security, restaurants, recreation centers etc. on commercial lines (1). That means government will do everything to secure their maximum profit. But, this will cost really high price. For a period of four years, 2006-07 to 2009-10, the total revenue loss due to tax exemption to SEZ will be more than 1 lakh crore (3). It simply means that we, the Indian people have to subsidize this much amount directly to these big companies who will develop SEZs and set up industries over there. It simply shows that government (state or central) encourages SEZs to protect the interest of big companies and corporations. Since, in the existing laws, they are bound to pay taxes (it is different issue, how much they actually pay) and there could have been nation wide protest if government changes these laws, they have just made a new policy on April 1, 2000 to keep big companies out of taxation. And this is what they call as SEZ.

Mainstream media and the advocates of SEZs argue that the boom of job opportunities in SEZs will actually compensate this revenue loss. Crores of job then eradicate poverty from India and at the end poor Indian people will be benefited.

Nowadays the advocates of globalization are talking too much about job opportunities. Cleverly what they hide is the fact that in industries there is an increasing trend of recruiting contractual labour workers. They are the main work force now. They don’t have any professional security and most of the cases extremely underpaid. They have to work more than eight hours a day. If it continues then how increasing job opportunities will help? It simply cannot be. If somebody has a job, but he earns the salary not enough to provide minimum calorie to his family then it doesn’t help.

In this context it is important to understand that companies make profit out of the labour. It is the essence of capitalist mode of production, in other word capitalist exploitation. In the initial stage of capitalism the wage of a labour was enough to sustain his family. The average profit was enough to satisfy the capitalists. But, capitalists cannot make profit unless they sell the commodities. That means capitalism needs market. As capitalism grows, due to its exploitation it excludes more and more people from its market, which in turn makes more and difficult to ensure the profit.

With time capitalism has been entered its moribund stage, the imperialism, where monopoly dominates; centralization of capital becomes the main trend. After Second World War it has been reached such a phase when it requires maximum profit.

Maximum profit means maximum exploitation. Thanks to imperialist exploitation (actually plunder) that most of the people of the world become so poor that they are actually excluded from imperialist market. So imperialism simply doesn’t care for them. Different mainstream parties, government and mainstream media as the faithful agent of imperialism, are only concerned how their “bosses” can ensure the maximum profit.

This is the reason they dare to advocate SEZs and acquisition of farmland fully knowing that it is nothing to do any good for common poor Indian people, who are marginalized in the imperialist market. They are so faithful to serve the interest of imperialism and their comprador big Indian capitalists that they even don’t feel ashamed to falsify the fact: SEZs and acquisition of land will eradicate poverty from India. . Actually it is absurd to protect the interest of both imperialism (and big comprador capitalists) and common people at the same time.

There are intellectuals who also support the stand of government. They have been trying their level best to make us believe that it is the way of development as exactly same thing had happened during the industrial revolution in Europe. Industrialization requires land, but finally who will be evicted can end up with better opportunity in industry.

These advocates of imperialist plunder use to forget that the stage of capitalism right now is absolutely different from the days of industrial revolution in Europe. In those days the law of capitalism was the “law of surplus value”; which means that although capitalists used to make profit, although it used to exploit, it used to give workers the wages sufficient to sustain his livelihood. In contrast, at the phase of total collapse of imperialism, when it is driven by the securing maximum profit, means maximum exploitation, it cannot assure the minimum calorie to the majority of population. Two contexts are qualitatively different. Today, even in western world, workers have been loosing their jobs, as for achieving maximum profit, big corporations outsource. Nothing could be more precious than maximum profit. But, those days were different during industrialization in Europe; monopoly had never been hard of, market was gradually increasing, capitalism was proliferating.

We cannot blindly extrapolate the experience of industrialization in Europe in today’s India. In Europe what happened was the development of capitalism, whereas in India in the name of industrialization government has been allowing big companies and corporation to secure maximum profit, in other words maximum exploitation. The difference will be clear if we consider the role of feudalism in two cases. In Europe the feudal system was destroyed and it supplied the workforce in industries. In India, totally opposite happens. As more and more imperialist capital comes, semi-feudal relations strengthen. For instances, this companies hire workers from labour supply agencies. What is the role of these agencies? Their role is not better than as feudal lord. There are so many private big banks operating in India. They use to give loans and at the same time keep bunch of goons to get the monthly interest back at right time.

What does it indicate? So called industrialization, foreign investment doesn’t change the semi-feudal relations nowadays. The capitalism played a progressive role in history against feudalism. But, those days were gone century before when capitalism entered the stage of imperialism. Imperialism for its own existence now depends upon feudal relations in colonies and neo-colonies. In SEZs, there will be also full freedom for subcontracting including subcontracting abroad (2).

The model, which is being proposed with the name of SEZ, is therefore absolutely different from industrialization. What is going on is imperialist plunder at its highest level.

SEZ is to secure maximum profit to the big companies, not the minimum calorie to every Indian.

1.Facilities For Developers (

Developer of SEZ may import/procure goods without payment of duty for the development, operation and maintenance of SEZ.

Income tax exemption for a block of 10 year in 15 years at the option of developer as per section 80-IA of the Income Tax Act read with Appendix 14-II-N of Handbook of Procedure.

Full freedom in allocation of developed plots to approved SEZ units on purely commercial basis.

Full authority to provide services like water, electricity, security, restaurants, recreation centers etc. on commercial lines.

Foreign investment permitted to develop township within the SEZ with residential areas, markets, play grounds, clubs, recreation centers etc.

Develop Standard Design Factory (SDF) building in exiting Special Economic Zones. Guildlines at Appendix 14-II-N

Income Tax exemption to Investor's in SEZ's under section 10 (23) G of Income Tax Act.

Exemption from Service Tax

Investment made by individuals etc. in SEZ company also eligible for exemption u/s 88 of IT Act.

Development promoted to transfer infrastructure facility for operations and maintenance u/s 80-I-A of IT Act

Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Power in SEZs allowed.

2. Indian SEZ - Salient Features and Facilities (
A designated duty free enclave and to be treated as foreign territory for trade operations and duties and tariffs.

No licence required for import.

Exemption from customs duty on import of capital goods, raw materials,consumables, spares etc.

Exemption from Central Excise duty on procurement of capital goods, raw materials, consumable spares etc. from the domestic market.

Supplies from DTA to SEZ units treated as deemed exports.

Reimbursement of Central Sales Tax paid on domestic purchases.

100% income tax exemption for a block of five years,50% tax exemptions for two years and upto 50% of the Profits ploughed back for next 3 years under section 10-A of Income tax Act.

Supplies from DTA to SEZ to be treated as exports under 80HHC of the IT Act.

Carry forward of losses

100% Income-tax exemption for 3 years & 50% for 2 years under section 80-LA of the Income-tax Act for off-shore banking units.

Reimbursement of duty paid on furnace oil, procured from domestic oil companies to SEZ units as per the rate of Drawback notified by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade.

SEZ units may be for manufacturing, trading or service activity.

SEZ unit to be positive net foreign exchange earner within three years.

Performance of the units to be monitored by a Committee headed by Development Commissioner and consisting of Customs.

100% Foreign Direct Investment in manufacturing, sector allowed through automatic route barring a few sectors.

Facility to retain 100% foreign exchange receipts in EEFC Account.

Facility to realize and repatriate export proceeds within 12 months.

Re-export imported goods found defective, goods imported from foreign suppliers on loan basis etc. without G.R. Waiver under intimation to the Development Commissioner.

"Write-off" of unrealised export bills upto 5%.

Commodity hedging by SEZ units permitted

Capitilization of import payables

No cap on foreign investment for SSI reserved items.

Exemption from industrial licensing requirement for items reserved for SSI sector.

Profits allowed to be repatriated freely without any dividend balancing requirement.

Domestic Sales on full duty subject to import policy in force.

No fixed wastage norms.

Full freedom for subcontracting including subcontracting abroad.

Subcontracting facility available to jewellery units

Duty free goods to be utilized in 5 years.

Job work on behalf of domestic exporters for direct export allowed.

No routine examination by Customs of export and import cargo.

No separate documentation required for customs and Exim Policy.

In house customs Clearance.

Support services like banking, post office clearing agents etc. provided in Zone Complex.

Developed plots and ready to use built up space

Exemption from Custom/Excise Duty on goods for setting up units in the zone.

3. "The estimated revenue loss from tax concessions to Special Economic Zones (SEZ) to over Rs 1 lakh crore for the period 2006-07 to 2009-10." Mr. S. S. Palanimanickam, Minister of State of Finance through a written reply in parliament on Nov 24, 06.