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Thứ Bảy, tháng 10 07, 2006

No. 1171

International groups turn heat on Buddha, Ratan Tata
17 Hours,21 minutes Ago

Kolkata, International groups, including scientists from different countries, are sending online petitions to West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadbeb Bhattacharya and Tata Group head Ratan Tata, urging them to stop acquisition of fertile farmlands in Singur near here for a proposed automobile project.

In online petitions, which have crossed 1,300, individuals, academics, universities, youths and funding institutions have urged the reformist West Bengal chief minister as well as Tata Motors chairman Ravi Kant and Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata to shift the project elsewhere.

In a span of only 17 days (till Oct 6), already 1,335 petitioners have signed the online petition letter on www.foodsov.org, the website of People's Coalition for Food Sovereignty, a Malaysia-headquartered network of various grassroots groups of small food producers, particularly peasant-farmer organisations and their support NGOs.

The emails were also sent to Jean Ziegler, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.

Despite strong protests by the opposition and individual groups, the West Bengal government has vowed to hand over about 1,000 acres of land at Singur in Hooghly district, about 45 km from here, to Tata Motors for the small car project.

"There are about 70 scientists among the petitioners. The petitions have come from the US, Canada, Latin America, Africa and Europe," Biplab Halim of FIAN (FoodFirst Information and Action Network) told IANS.

"We want the government to set up the project elsewhere. There is ample infertile land in West Bengal to set up the project," Halim said. FIAN had sent an international team to Singur earlier.

In letters to the chief minister, the petitioners said: "I am aware that this multi-crop land, which is home to the people of Singur for many generations, yields 8,000 to 9,000 tonnes of rice, wheat, jute and other crops annually. This provides the people food, income and a life of dignity."

"This scenario, of the government taking over the fertile and productive land of the people, is appalling. Land is their life and to take it away is tantamount to denying them the right to live with dignity. It denies them their right to food and livelihood," the petitioners said in their letter to the communist chief minister who is desperate to woo manufacturing industry to the state.

"There is no transparency and genuine community participation in the process of decision-making. The compensation package being offered to the land owner is way too measly compared to the real value of the land," the petitioners said.

Justice Shyamal Kumar Sen, chairperson of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, has also been petitioned along with the chief minister, said Halim.

"I think Tata Motors will get the land and will be able to start their activity within this year. We asked the opposition to come to terms and they should realise and understand the importance of a Tata Motors factory in West Bengal," State Industry Minister Nirupam Sen said Wednesday after an all party meeting called by the chief minister to pacify political opponents.

The Trinamool Congress boycotted the meeting and reiterated its decision to go ahead with its Oct 9 statewide shutdown, while the Congress attended the meeting and placed some proposals before it.

The all-party meeting endorsed the decision to go ahead with acquisition on the controversial site but spare some multi-crop land (approximately 163 acres) and follow a transparent policy.

The situation aggravated in Singur on Sep 25 night after police baton-charged protesting farmers mercilessly, including several women and Trinamool Congress members. Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee was also whisked away from the site and she later alleged assault on her.