MAC: Mines and Communities

Cpm Twin Stands On Tatas

Published by MAC on 2006-06-04
Source: The Telegraph ()

CPM twin stands on Tatas

The Telegraph (Calcutta)
R. KRISHNA DAS, Raipur

4th June 2006

As the Left Front government in Bengal tries to win over farmers in its bid to acquire land for Tata Motors’ small-car unit in Hooghly district, CPM workers in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region have joined hands with villagers in their opposition to Tata Steel’s proposed mega plant.

The villagers have been protesting against the 5-million-tonne greenfield Project — proposed to come up at Lohaniguda near Jagdalpur — around 300 km from the state capital, as it would lead to loss of land.

Although some regional leaders of the BJP are believed to have extended support to the villagers in their movement, they did not do so openly as it would have led to embarrassment for the government. As a result, the villagers continued their protest with little external help.

With the Marxists deciding to join the battle, the issue looks set to take a new turn.

Exactly a year after the company inked a memorandum of understanding with the Raman Singh government to set up the Rs 10,000-crore plant, the land for the mega project is yet to be finalised.

A senior administrative official involved in the land allotment process conceded that the journey ahead is unlikely to be smooth for the company and the government as a major political party like the CPM has thrown its weight behind the people’s movement.

The CPM’s stand seems to have taken the steel major by “surprise”.

A senior official who was recently in town said while the communists in Bengal were extending all support to the Tata small-car project, their counterparts in Chhattisgarh were following a “different” line. This is something hard to understand, he added.

The CPM, on the other hand, sees no contradiction in its stand on industrialisation in the two states.

Party state secretariat member Dharamraj Mahapatra told The Telegraph: “The situation in Bengal is totally different from the one in Chhattisgarh. In Bengal, Tata’s project will be implemented with the consent of the people. But in Chhattisgarh, the villagers will not be taken into confidence.”

Mahapatra tried to allay fears, saying the party was not opposed to industrialisation. “All that we demand is proper rehabilitation for Bastar’s tribals, who stand to lose their land,” he added.

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