So Tata Motors have decided to pull out of Singur. The newspapers and news sites are full of lamentation about how bad this is for West Bengal's image, how Mamta Banerjee stubbornly thwarted progress, how nobody will ever invest in West Bengal again. Ratan Tata himself has squarely blamed Mamta Banerjee for it all. Reactions from dispossessed farmers are relegated to the bottom of an inner page in today's Times of India (but I suppose I should be happy these reactions were reported at all. (I can't find that report online, but no doubt it's buried somewhere.)
I have several questions about this business:
- Why didn't the Tatas (and others who extol the virtues of the free market) acquire their land on the open market? Why did they require the West Bengal government to acquire it for them (thereby outsourcing the strong-arming of the farmers who were forced to vacate)?
- Why did they require "lush green farmland" for a factory? Wouldn't barren, infertile land have done equally well?
- Why did they require 1000 acres? That's about as big as the Ford River Rouge plant, among the largest in the world, which supplies the largest market in the world (in fact the manufacturing facilities at Ford's plant occupy hardly 600 acres, and they don't have a shortage of land in the American midwest). It is far larger than any plant in Japan, again hardly a small-scale manufacturing nation for cars.
- Once they realised that there was a serious matter of concern over compensating the displaced farmers, why did they not take it up seriously?
- And, finally, why aren't our craven mainstream media asking these questions?
The end result: Tatas gone, 1000 acres of fertile land ruined and probably unusable (in any case the West Bengal government has ruled out returning it to its original owners).
UPDATE (Oct 7): An excellent article by Prem Shankar Jha (via Shivam).