Joint NAPM-NTUI Call

Observe a National Day of Solidarity for the People of Singur on 28 December 2006

Since May 2006 the Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee (SKJRC), a joint platform of local farmers, sharecroppers and agricultural workers, has been leading the movement in Singur against the coercive, undemocratic and non-transparent acquisition of land by force by the West Bengal Government for the Tata Motors Small Car Project.997 acres of multi-cropped, fertile land is to be handed over to the Tatas for this project.

The entire process of acquisition of land by the State has involved the use of force and the absence of consent or dialogue with the affected people. A large police force was mobilised to effect this acquisition.

Other incidents of violation of human rights are creating an atmosphere conducive to coercion. We strongly oppose the use of brutal force by the state machinery to silence the voices of dissent. Use of Section 144 to cordon off the site of the plant is an expression of complete disregard for the sentiments of the local population

There is also an unabashed reiteration by the Government of West Bengal that farmers have given their land willingly despite the fact that the farmers first put in their petitions on 17 July refusing to give up their land. The SKJRC, representing the people of the area, till today insists that at least 45-50% of the farmers have not given their land. It has repeatedly presented documents including affidavits and land papers to the press to validate this fact. Further those who have given consent (according to the State ‘voluntarily’) have either done so under duress or constitute the absentee landlords.

With introduction of irrigation, this area is one of the most fertile lands in West Bengal. The Government in its effort to justify their action is today classifying the land use pattern in this area based on land records of the 1970s. The project also totally ignores the rights of the bargadars, estimated in the range from 600-1200 (since there is no comprehensive recording of sharecropper who are unregistered or in some other form of arrangement for sharecropping) and large number of agricultural workers, most of whom come here to work from neighbouring districts. From past experience of other states, the people of Singur are extremely sceptical about the alternative employment opportunities and the rehabilitation package being offered.

There is also complete exclusion of the people affected from the decision-making process. The whole project is being executed in total secrecy. There is no public knowledge of the terms on which Tata Motors is being given the land, the way in which land will be used. Further, there is no transparency with respect to cost – benefit analysis, project impact assessment, environmental impact assessment from a social viewpoint, tax and other concessions provided for the project and the commitment and accountability of the Tatas.

The policy of land acquisition being pursued by the Government of West Bengal is taking its toll on the people of Singur today. But this is only the beginning. The government, in the next few months, intends to acquire nearly 60,000 acres of land for various "development" projects. But the government has failed to announce a democratic policy framework, where people democratically participate in the process of development, for acquisition of this land and for providing comprehensive rights and program for the affected people.

In Singur, we thus have the echo of all that is happening in other parts of the country- land acquisition in secrecy for an ostensibly public purpose, but with only large corporate houses benefiting; the collusion between the Government and the corporate sector; and the use of the police force to quash any kind of resistance. The happenings in Maharashtra, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and other states in the name of SEZs, industrialisation and "development" is sharply focused and symbolised in Singur.

We are not opposed to industrialisation nor are we opposed to creation of industrial zones for increasing the manufacturing capacity of the economy. We believe just and equitable industrialisation leads to economic development. We also believe that a clearly defined and transparent legal framework and procedure should be institutionalised before large-scale industrialisation projects are undertaken. Such a policy should focus on means of livelihood rather than on assets and assume a participatory relationship between those to be affected and the state.

Further, the state should find alternatives to acquisition of prime agricultural land for industrialisation. Wastelands and old industrial sites with closed units can be restructured and given for creation of new industrial areas. The opening up of the territories of the state to corporates to decide the location and siting of a plant without the participation and consent of the people of the area and community initiatives is undemocratic and not acceptable. The state machinery needs to take responsibility for any such action and demarcate areas where the land-use will change only on the basis of clearly defined and transparent policies.

We call upon the Government of West Bengal to:

And we call upon the Government of India to:

It is time to stand in solidarity and for all such struggles to support one another.

In furtherance of this objective 28 December 2006 will be observed as a national day of solidarity with the people of Singur. Please organise rallies, marches, dharnas, protest demonstrations and other forms of action on that day to raise questions about the fairness of this project with the Government of India, the Government of Bengal, all political parties and members of parliament and the management of Tata Motors Limited.

Medha Patkar
for National Alliance for Peoples’ Movements

Ashim Roy
for New Trade Union Initiative

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