On Thursday, in a plea to a Division Bench, the ED had drawn the attention of the Calcutta High Court to the possibility of crucial evidence being tampered with while Shahjahan was in CID custody. Now, top ED officials are working on technical possibilities to get the accused out of the state police’s custody.
Bhangar in Bengal’s South 24-Parganas district has once again set its face against the development model of the State… a decade after the government of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had proposed a two-wheeler factory there with Indonesia’s Selim group as the investor. In terms of the scale of violence and people’s disapproval, it might be a mite far-fetched to draw a parallel between this week’s mayhem and the upsurge in Nandigram (March and November 2007), which drove the narrative faster towards the eclipse of the Left Front government than to a Special Economic Zone. Ergo, the violent protests against the acquisition of agricultural land are both the same and different. Locals of Bhangar are up in arms over the acquisition of eleven acres for the Rs.300-crore sub-station of the Power Grid Corporation of India, a project that would have increased availability of electricity. The fact that it has come a cropper at the threshold conveys a lesson to planners ~ even a small tract can ignite the people’s fury if acquisition affects livelihood. In the net, Bhangar has emitted an ominous signal on the eve of the Bengal Global Business Summit in Kolkata though it is quite another story that the projects trumpeted last January are yet to take off. The praxis of the agitprop is not dissimilar ~ police vehicles set on fire, roads dug up to snap connectivity, and security forces barred from entering the volatile area. The allegation of Maoist penetration is thus far unsubstantiated.
It redounds to the credit of the Chief Minister that she has almost immediately proposed the relocation of the power grid. This has been couched in the assurance that “no land will be acquired if people don’t want to give away land.” The stance is starkly different from the previous administration’s bullheadedness in pursuit of a Panglossian agenda in Singur and Nandigram. Yet the Bhangar peasantry is far from mollified, insisting that Mamata Banerjee must visit the area. It is somewhat puzzling that the violence has occurred after the project was placed in abeyance last week when the government was confronted with the demands of the peasantry for higher compensation.
Whatever the advantages of market economy ~ as Amartya Sen once had occasion to remind the CPI-M leaders ~ the flare-up in Bhangar marks the failure of this seemingly rational concept of economic development. This is the bitter irony of the proposed land acquisition in the fertile tract of South 24-Parganas. Not least because the eleven acres were sought to be acquired through direct purchase by the public sector company. Bhangar demonstrates that direct purchase cannot ipso facto address the attendant problems of land acquisition. Public acceptance or the lack of it remains the bottom-line of West Bengal’s land-industry paradigm, irrespective of whether state intervention or market forces determine the terms of engagement.