Finally, Mr Ratan Tata has announced that the Nano car plant of Tata Motors will not come up in Singur. The reason he has cited for his decision is the agitation led by Ms Mamata Bannerjee, on behalf of the farmers whose land was forcibly acquired for Tata by the West Bengal state govt.
But all thinking people can only welcome this decision. Sure, when someone loses something, they are not going to give it up gladly. They are going to scream and shout and rant and rave and protest and sulk and pout... The shrill cacophony of demolished delight over West Bengal's imagined industrial resurgence is just that.
The truth is that the Tata pullout is good news, for a number of reasons.
First, a resounding slap has been administered on the face of the CPI(M). In May 2006, riding high on a wave of media hype and puff, the party had declared that Tata's Nano unit was going to be located in West Bengal. In less than two and a half years, they have been brought to their knees, and entirely by their own idiocy and arrogance. The CPI(M) thought (and still thinks) that they own the state, that they can do as they please, that they can snarl and kick people into submitting to its dictates. Well, they have learnt a lesson, but yes, given what CPI(M) is, it never learns the right kind of lessons. But learn or don't learn, they have had to face facts. And that is indeed something positive.
Second, in recent weeks the discourse on the Nano project has brought to the fore the fact that the West Bengal govt is in effect subsidising Tata Motors, to enable the car to be priced at Rs 1 lakh (one hundred thousand rupees, or about $ 2,500). Now why should the state subsidise Tata Motors? Why should it subsidise a car project? Why should it subsidise purchasers of a car? Why should it subsidise personal transport? In economists' jargon, the opportunity cost of state expenditure on the Nano project, i.e. what is lost by such support, or the alternatives upon which this could instead have been spent, was simply too high.
Third, from about 2005, the CPI(M) had been hoodlumming through its land acquisition drive, to please its capitalist masters. The Nandigram agitation had punctured that. And now, the Tata withdrawal from Singur has just emphasised once more to the CPI(M), in brutal terms, that it cannot grab farmers' land. It was protest in Singur, from 2006, that had catalysed people's agitations across West Bengal, and begun the process of demise of the mafia mobster party, something most people could never have anticipated.
All that remains now, the icing on the cake for the people of Bengal, is the verdict of the court on Suhrid Dutta, the CPI(M)'s Singur zonal committee secretary. He is in custody and facing trial on the accusation of organising the rape and murder of Tapasi Malik, a teenage girl who was a member of the farmers' anti-land acquisition movement in Singur. I wonder what ideological obfuscations the CPI(M) would proffer when he is sentenced to death.
If the people of West Bengal want something positive for themselves, then they should not depend upon the CPI(M) or on external vultures like Tata Motors to give it to them on a platter. That will only bring deceit and destruction. There is much that can and should be done. There is public transport. There is public healthcare. There is public education. There are closed industries that need reviving. There are many, many products that can be produced, which would be wholesome in every way. But for that, vision, enterprise and effort are needed. Thanks to the CPI(M)'s noxious nurturing these are hard to find in Bengal today. But unless the people of Bengal come forward to build Bengal's future, the only prospect is submission to CPI(M) and Tatas, the road to slavery.
The slaves and the slave contractors are wailing at the exit of Tata. But if there was ever a bright day for Bengal, then it was 3 October, the date of the Tata pull-out. For this date tells the people of Bengal that freedom won through hardship is more precious than the comfits of slavery.
Apparently the state industries minister, Nirupam Sen, has said that he does not feel like living in Bengal. Well, I hope he goes away very soon. It seems he has begun to get a taste of what the common people of the land have been feeling for over 2 decades. Thanks to the presence of his wonderful party, there has been a mass migration of people from the state, by choice and by compulsion. Any person in his or her senses, who knew what was best for one's future, left the state. Only vultures flocked to the land, and the party was their lapdog. But with the Tata pull-out, people should start reconsidering. Maybe its time for all those who had forsaken Bengal, all those who had been driven out, to think of returning. There's a future to be built. The rats will be leaving their sinking ship. And for those who held on to hope and humanity and stayed behind, perhaps vindication is finally arriving.