CPI-M activists get life term for Singur girl's murder (Indo-Asian News Service)
"A West Bengal court awarded life imprisonment to two Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) activists Wednesday for the 2006 murder of Singur girl Tapasi Malik.
"The court had convicted the two Tuesday for the murder of 18-year-old Tapasi, who was among those protesting land acquisition for the Tata Motor's Nano car project in Singur."
Tapasi Malik, the daughter of a landless laborer, had been active in the protests against the forced eviction of 6000 families from her locality by the CPI(M)-led state government of West Bengal to create a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for use by Tata Motors, India's largest automaker. The Telegraph (Calcutta) reported on December 20, 2006 that "[e]ighteen-year-old Tapasi had become a hero of sorts for the small section of Singur still resisting Tata Motors’ small-car project. She was throttled, dragged to the Tata plot, dumped into a pit and set on fire."
From Singur to Nandigram & Beyond: Development as dispossession by Praful Bidwai (January 27, 2007)
"If and when ordinary mortals like you and me buy land, we have to search high and low for an affordable piece, hire brokers, make several trips to different sites, and borrow bank loans, which we must repay through our nose over 10 or 15 years. Besides these high transaction costs in time and money, we must pay stamp duty to the government, which is usually a good eight percent of the land’s value.
"None of this applies to India’s biggest business house (and one of its oldest industrial families), namely, the Tatas—at least as far as the Singur car project is concerned. The Tatas are no ordinary mortals. In fact so special are they that West Bengal’s Left Front government woos them with the choice of six different sites, besides the Uttarakhand and Orissa governments. They choose one at Singur, next to an expressway, in one of Bengal’s most fertile tracts, just 45 km from Kolkata. But they do so after stipulating a series of conditions.
"The government must procure the land for them. This will cost Rs 140 crores. But the Tatas will pay only Rs 20 crores for it.
"They will pay no stamp duty.
"They must have a contiguous plot of 997 acres (almost 400 hectares, or 40 lakh square metres), although no Indian car factory has anything approaching this area. (Even Tata Motors’s giant Pune factory has only 188 acres.)
"The factory proper, say the Tatas, will have a built-up area of only 1.5 lakh sq m, or 4 percent of the land acquired.
"The land must be fenced off and Sec 144 must be imposed to suppress protests by the 12,000 affected people.
"That’s not all. The Tatas say the government must 'compensate' them for 'sacrificing' the 16 percent excise duty exemption offered by Uttarakhand if they locate the car factory there. This means 'upfront infrastructural assistance' worth Rs 160 crore.
"The Tatas claim the Rs 10,000 crore investment will directly generate 2,000 jobs. But noted economist Amit Bhadhuri estimates it will produce just about 300, besides indirect employment for 900. In the process, Singur’s flourishing economy, where two-thirds of land is multi-cropped with vegetables and paddy, will be devastated, along with the livelihoods not just of landowners and sharecroppers (bargadars), but of landless workers and rural artisans.
"Singur will witness counter-reform, a reversal of the most successful land reform ever undertaken in West Bengal. Even the bargadars’ share in the land (75 percent to the absentee landlord’s 25 percent) will be upturned in the land compensation formula. No wonder, the West Bengal government has used repressive methods, including mass arrests, Sec 144 and physical attacks to enforce the sweetheart deal."