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.


No comments: