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Singur farmers want land back as legal battle on
June, 30th 2011

Farmers at Singur are gearing up for hard labour this summer. Preparations are in full swing for transplanting paddy saplings into the fields, as a timely monsoon indicates a good crop. Howeve, along with the seedbeds, they are laying ground for another battle, defying all legal statutes.

The area in which they plan to sow the seeds is currently a no-mans land, with 600-odd policemen keeping everyone out.

On the day the Supreme Court, in an interim arrangement, directed the West Bengal government not to return Singur land taken away for the Tata Nano factory to the farmers who never wanted to let it go, the latter say they arent willing to wait. We broke the law once, when we stalled Tata Motors from putting up a factory in Singur. We can do it again. The law is for the greater masses, said an agitated Tapan Adok, who owned a small plot at the disputed factory site.

The earlier government had acquired 1,000 acres for Tata Motors. Owners of around 400 acres, the unwilling farmers, did not take the compensation, protesting the forcible acquisition. Confident of getting land back after the new government speedily enacted a law in this regard, now disputed in court, most farmers say they have already purchased seeds and laid seedbeds for paddy cultivation. This is after a gap of after three years that they are planting their own paddy.

Adok's view represents the widespread sentiment among most of the unwilling sellers at Singur. It does not matter what courts say. We are ready to go back to our fields with tractors. We know the government is on our side, but if they fail to give us our land, we will take on the bigger battle, said Maukhram Munir, another unwilling one.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who fought and won the recent state elections with Singur as a prime poll plank, recently got passed the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011, enabling the government to re-possess the land to give it back to the farmers. The Hooghly district administration had completed the formalities for handing over possession to the first batch of 12 farmers today.

Srikanta Koley, one of the 12, has been hovering at the block development office in Singur the whole day. In spite of a barricaded facade at the factory site, he has been fortunate to visit the land he was allotted.

Obviously, we are dejected by this sudden verdict. But we know we will get our land. I visited the site, and found 80 per cent of it can be easily cultivable, said Koley. In spite of the court verdict, he is hopeful of getting his deed today, as he waits outside the BDO office.

Pulak Sarkar, the BDO, is as clueless as Koley on the subject. I have no intimation from the office of the district magistrate so far, he said.

Pradip Koley, another of the 12, is also certain hed get his land back.

We only have three conditions water, road and good land quality. In fact, at the factory site, the land is still so fertile, that if we sow seeds today, we will get a crop tomorrow, he said.

Koley's confidence stems from the ruling Trinamool Congress-backed panchayat having assured all the unwilling sellers that they were already the owners of the Singur factory land.

So what if we don't give deeds to the the farmers today? We have given them the land. Legal issues do not come in between. Our farmers will go with tractors on the factory site and start farming soon, said Babu Ghosh, a member of the Singur panchayat.

As a long-drawn legal battle is on in full swing between the state government and Tata Motors, there are farmers like Ranjit Ghosh in Singur, who never had been greeted by a government official.

In the last 34 years, never ever in a government office was I given this good treatment. I was offered a seat by the officer. I hope I get back my land soon, said Ghosh, one of the unwilling ones, who had come to give his form for reclaiming his land at the BDO.

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