Tata small-car project and the lies of the CPI(M) government: The CPI(M)-led Bengal government had flatly denied from the very beginning that it had forcibly acquired land from the peasants by means of coercion. People have given their ‘consent’, they claimed. Later the CPM was forced to accept in the court that it had no consent for atleast 411.11 acres of the land out of the 997.11 lands acquired. The process of forcible land acquisition and fencing off of the acquired land by the police was marked by the brutal lathi charge on the people of Singur that included old men, women and children, the implementation of section 144 in Singur for a long time, the death of Rajkumar Bhul and the rape and murder of Taposhi Malik. It also dispossessd 12000 families from their livelihood and displaced twelve families of Dobnadi village, from their homes as well. The agreement between the Tatas and the Government of West Bengal was also conveniently kept out of public knowledge with the argument that it was a trade secret! But it is not a liaison between two private corporate parties to be a ‘secret’. Surely, the CPI(M) had things to hide. The agreement actually promised huge subsidy to Tata group of industries, whose overseas acquisitions amount roughly to $14,062 (Rs 56,248 crores)! The subsidy obviously is paid out of the money of the impoverished taxpayers of the country.
The (hidden) costs of the project: Being forced by the Supreme Court, the Government of West Bengal had to make parts of the agreement public. It revealed that the Tata Motors Limited (TML) had been given around Rs. 3000 crore of government subsidy. According to the terms of this agreement, if one calculates in terms of net present value(NPV) ,the subsidy that TML gets for the land in Singur is anywhere between Rs.100 to Rs.150 crores; the subsidy due to the rental payment structure is Rs.78 crores; the implicit subsidy due to the tax holiday and the soft loan would be about Rs.1835 crores; the real estate “gift”, also known in WBIDC terminology as “infrastructural assistance”, is worth Rs.160 crores; and the subsidized electricity will cost another Rs.706 crores. So the giant Corporate Tata was gifted generously Rs.2928 crores of public money by a government that still prefers to call itself ‘communist’! And all this ‘subsidy’ or ‘assistance’ is for a factory that would produce cars for the use of the social fascist party to drive ahead with its of neo-liberal agenda of industrialization.
The ‘benefits’ of the project The CPI(M) claimed that Tata project was important on two crucial counts. It would ‘generate employment’ and it would create an investment climate for further industrialization. Both these claims however are extremely dubious. The employment claims of the project ranges from a high of 12000 (only 2000 in the plant and 10000 in the ancillary plants) to a low of 750! It was apparent that there was no certainty of large scale employment generation. Moreover, 62% of the projected employment in the automotive sector is going to be skilled labour, 28% is going to be management jobs, leaving only 10% jobs for unskilled labour. So, most of the people in Singur who have lost land, if at all they were absorbed in the plant would have been absorbed only as unskilled labourers. The people of Sanand in Gujarat will also face a similar fate where the plant is coming up now. The second prospect is also bleak if one looks at the nature and growth of Tata plants in Jamshedpur of Jharkhand. The Tatas, far from stimulating industrial growth has merely established enclave economies, as any other multinational company which loots and plunders the mineral resources for super-profits. Further, every time a capital intensive project like that of the Tatas is established, the state is expected to subsidise out of the money of the people of the country.
Looking back at the history of the Tatas: The history of the Tatas is full of labour law violations and of making windfall profits through unrestrained exploitation of common natural resources. This they did under the patronage of British imperialism during colonial period and of the Indian State after 1947. Under the garb of a liberal, ‘national’ and philanthropic company, it has been working as an undisputed leader in crushing trade union struggles and killing union leaders. For instance, in 1989, Tata crushed workers movement for wage hike in Telco’s plant in Pune by bribing union leaders and attacking those who refused to comply with it. Similarly, when about 3000 workers went on an indefinite hunger strike, Tata cracked down on the movement with help of the state government. Abdul Bari and V.G. Gopal- two senior union leaders – were gunned down while they were setting off for negotiations with the management. The massacre in Kalinga nagar in 2006 when the tribal resisted the illegal construction of a compound wall by Tata Steel on lands historically occupied by them is only one recent instance of the collusion between big capital and the Indian state. And the Tata’s big talk about ‘nation building’ and ‘industrialization’ got exposed once more when they blatantly supported Union Carbide Chairman Warren Anderson for his role in causing the Bhopal gas disaster.
Moreover, the Tatas have a glorious past of converting the so called Indian democracy in to a corporatocracy, at times even turning it in to a militocracy when people resist its killer projects. And so much is their love for Indian ‘democracy’ that since 1904, Jamshedpur (also called Tatanagar) has a corporate-owned municipality, consisting of members handpicked by the Tatas. Perhaps this is what they planned for Singur, but the heroic anti-displacement struggle of the peasants ultimately emerged victorious, with the Tatas being forced to evacuate.
Tata, Harrison Malayalam, Ambani, Birla are all the same, and so are Modi-Buddha or Manmohan: These ‘Indian’ companies are no different or better than the ‘foreign’ when it comes to looting and exploiting resources and labour, and the struggle against both these corporates is connected to the peoples’ anti-imperialist struggle. The Tata turned to Modi from Buddhadeb the moment it felt that the situations in Bengal has not yet become ‘conducive’ for it to yield super-profits. This is a clear indication that all the parliamentary parties and the big corporates are hand-in-gloves in exploiting the people to the fullest, and with the most ‘nationalist’ and ‘patriotic’ mask. Political parties when not in power often indulge in shadow-boxing with these corporates, the way Mamata Banerjee of Trinamool did in Singur. But with the first opportunity they are ready to compromise, and start to ‘please and plead’ the same corporates. With such opportunism which characterizes all the parliamentary parties including the so-called left, it does not surprise us that the CPI(M) which laid the carpets red with the blood of Singur for the Tatas in Bengal are at the same time opposing a similar project by the same corporate house in Kalinganagar. So be it the Tata in Singur or Kalinganagar, the Ambanis in Maharashtra, the Harrison Malayalam in Chengara and other big corporates in various parts of the country, the pattern and the process of ‘industrialization’ they follow are the same. It necessarily entails the dispossession of millions of people of their land and livelihoods to generate miniscule employment for some urban educated people and can only be effected through the use of extreme forms of coercion and brutal state terror. Nowhere is the consent of the actual owners of the land taken into consideration. What is promised in return of the land is the farce of ‘cash compensation’ that fails to match the actual loss to the displaced families. And all the ruling parties of various hues are competing with each other to invite more of such exploitative big capitalist projects in the form of SEZs, big dams, infrastructural projects and so on. The question is not about coaxing enough ‘compensation’ from the Tatas as AISA / CPIML (Liberation) will like us to believe. The point is to say NO to all forms of displacement, and intensify the movements rejecting the likes of Tatas, Harrison Malayalam and all other representative of the comprador bureaucratic bourgeoisie.
dsuA step back for the Tatas is a step ahead for the people’s movement against it: The Tata destroying the multi-crop high yielding land of Singur and leaving the state without completing the project is no surprise. Expecting that they would compensate for all the destructions is nothing but the inflated dream of NGOs and a complete misinterpretation of the real character of Tata and all other such big corporates. It also shows that for the Tatas, the Bengal government was not fascist enough which could not suppress the peoples’ resistance successfully enough, so that it is now going to the land of Modi. The answer to the extreme violence inflicted by corporate industrialization lies not in forcing them to compensate. The real way out of the tightening clutches of these corporates has been shown by the fighting people of Nandigram, Chengara, PosCo, Kalinganagar, Bastar, and now Singur. in Nandigram people did not allow the state machinery which was acting simply as the emissary of the Salem group (trying to materialize the project at any cost, by killing, raping, looting people) to enter till the point the project was withdrawn. In Chengara, dalits and adivasis have forced into a land illegally occupied by Harrisson Malayalam to claim it for themselves. In Bastar too, adivasis have resisted the entry of any big corporate trying to loot their land, forests and mineral resources. In Koel Karo in Jharkhand the people have physically stopped the proposed construction of a big dam aiming to generate electricity for the adjoining MNCs at the cost of displacing thousands. In Singur too, the people have finally ensured that Tata moves out. These movements are deemed anti-development and illegal by the state machinery and are being brutally suppressed. Yet they are most legitimate resistance in the eyes of the people who are fighting for their land and livelihood against the corporates, which in reality are the encroachers and looters. The Tatas stepping out of Bengal is therefore no great ‘loss’ for anybody except the CPI(M) and its lackeys, but a huge step forward for the peoples’ movements against state-sponsored corporate land-grab everywhere in the country. It is only by completely rejecting and standing outrightly against these cannibal-corporates that one can fight the neo-liberal agenda and strengthen the fight against imperialism