After Nano, agricultural hopes dry up in Singur, a fish pond project
UNABLE to resume farming even seven years after land restitution, farmers in Singur are now enrolling in a government program to create water bodies on their plots, to switch from farming to fishing.
Four of these proposed water bodies have already been created in the former Nano Project area, on one to three acres of land. On other plots, off the Durgapur highway (National Highway No. 2), works are in progress, with earthmoving machinery removing mounds of earth and concrete, overgrown with bushes and grass.
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The ponds are being developed under the accelerated development of the State Department of Water Resources Research and Development (WRIDD) Minor Irrigation Program.
The Trinamool congress had come to power in 2011 thanks to its anti-land acquisition movement in Singur, thus blocking the Tata Nano project, and in Nandigram. In a vindication of the position of TMC leader Mamata Banerjee, the Supreme Court on August 31, 2016 ordered the return to farmers of 997.5 acres acquired for the Nano project.
Singur has now entered the school curriculum in Bengal. However, at point zero, time stands still, with farming only starting in plots, as large tracts of land remain unused or unusable. The state government continues to donate Rs 2,000 and 16 kg of rice each to 3,611 people in Singur identified as land related, including landlords, sharecroppers and farm labourers.
Singur block development manager Parthasarathi Banerjee said they had very little role to play in the matter. “The project is directly carried out by the WRIDD. Eighteen were sanctioned for the district (Hooghly) and I believe four or five for Singur,” he said.
A senior official involved in the WRIDD project said, “After three years of helping to prepare the ponds, the government will hand them over to village companies, who will continue to maintain them.”
Three of the ponds appeared in Khaserbheri, Singherbheri and Gopalnagar regions.
Dilip Samanta said that he and five other people including his brothers formed a company for a pond on 4 bighas of his 9 bighas. The 63-year-old had been part of the anti-land acquisition agitation.
“After the land was returned to us following the Supreme Court order, we were unable to return to farming,” he said. “There was concrete, iron and stones in the ground. Three months ago, my brothers and I received a proposal from the local TMC and panchayat leaders for the project… It’s okay to try something new.
Dudhkumar Dhara, local leader of TMC, a member of the Samiti panchayat, said more farmers were eager to enroll in the scheme, adding that on his own land of 5 bighas, only 3 bighas were cultivable now.
Overall, whether they can use their land for cultivation or not, farmers say they have never been opposed to industry, but to “forced land acquisition” for the Nano project in 2006.
Shailen Malik, 60, resting on abandoned concrete pipes inside what was a project area, is one of them. “The government should have spoken to us first. I have two sons, one is a carpenter and the other a day laborer. They would have had jobs. They are not interested in agriculture,” he said.