Sustain Humanity

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Toba Tek Singh, Netaji and Singur Nandigram

Subject: Toba Tek Singh, Netaji and Singur Nandigram
Newsgroups: gmane.culture.region.indonesia.ppi-india
Date: Saturday 17th February 2007 18:30:40 UTC (over 9 years ago)
Toba Tek Singh, Netaji and Singur - Nandigram

Palash Biswas

(Contact: Palash Biswas, C/O Mrs Arati Roy, Gosto Kanan,Sodepur, 
Kolkata- 700110, India. Phone: 91-33-25659551)

Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-55) was the leading Urdu short-story writer 
of the twentieth century. He was born in Samrala in the Ludhiana 
district of Punjab. He worked for All India Radio during World War 
II and was a successful screenwriter in Bombay before moving to 
Pakistan at Partition. During his controversial two-decade career, 
Manto published twenty-two collections of stories, seven collections 
of radio plays, three collections of essays, and a novel. 

Toba Tek Singh 

Translated from the Urdu by Richard McGill Murphy 

(click here for a downloadable PDF formatted version of the original 
Urdu text)

 Two or three years after Partition, the governments of Pakistan and 
India decided to exchange lunatics in the same way that they had 
exchanged civilian prisoners. In other words, Muslim lunatics in 
Indian madhouses would be sent to Pakistan, while Hindu and Sikh 
lunatics in Pakistani madhouses would be handed over to India.

I can't say whether this decision made sense or not. In any event, a 
date for the lunatic exchange was fixed after high level conferences 
on both sides of the border. All the details were carefully worked 
out. On the Indian side, Muslim lunatics with relatives in India 
would be allowed to stay. The remainder would be sent to the 
frontier. Here in Pakistan nearly all the Hindus and Sikhs were 
gone, so the question of retaining non-Muslim lunatics did not 
arise. All the Hindu and Sikh lunatics would be sent to the frontier 
in police custody.

I don't know what happened over there. When news of the lunatic 
exchange reached the madhouse here in Lahore, however, it became an 
absorbing topic of discussion among the inmates. There was one 
Muslim lunatic who had read the newspaper Zamindar1 every day for 
twelve years. One of his friends asked him: "Maulvi Sahib! What is 
Pakistan?" After careful thought he replied: "It's a place in India 
where they make razors." 

Hearing this, his friend was content.

One Sikh lunatic asked another Sikh: "Sardar ji, why are they 
sending us to India? We don't even speak the language."

"I understand the Indian language," the other replied, 
smiling. "Indians are devilish people who strut around haughtily," 
he added.

While bathing, a Muslim lunatic shouted "Long live Pakistan!" with 
such vigor that he slipped on the floor and knocked himself out. 

One lunatic got so involved in this India/Pakistan question that he 
became even crazier. One day he climbed a tree and sat on one of its 
branches for two hours, lecturing without pause on the complex 
issues of Partition. When the guards told him to come down, he 
climbed higher. When they tried to frighten him with threats, he 
replied: "I will live neither in India nor in Pakistan. I'll live in 
this tree right here!" With much difficulty, they eventually coaxed 
him down. When he reached the ground he wept and embraced his Hindu 
and Sikh friends, distraught at the idea that they would leave him 
and go to India. 

One man held an M.S. degree and had been a radio engineer. He kept 
apart from the other inmates, and spent all his time walking 
silently up and down a particular footpath in the garden. After 
hearing about the exchange, however, he turned in his clothes and 
ran naked all over the grounds. 

There was one fat Muslim lunatic from Chiniot who had been an 
enthusiastic Muslim League activist. He used to wash fifteen or 
sixteen times a day, but abandoned the habit overnight. His name was 
Mohammed Ali. One day he announced that he was the Qaid-e-Azem, 
Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Seeing this, a Sikh lunatic declared himself to 
be Master Tara Singh. Blood would have flowed, except that both were 
reclassified as dangerous lunatics and confined to separate 

There was also a young Hindu lawyer from Lahore who had gone mad 
over an unhappy love affair. He was distressed to hear that Amritsar 
was now in India, because his beloved was a Hindu girl from that 
city. Although she had rejected him, he had not forgotten her after 
losing his mind. For this reason he cursed the Muslim leaders who 
had split India into two parts, so that his beloved remained Indian 
while he became Pakistani. 

When news of the exchange reached the madhouse, several lunatics 
tried to comfort the lawyer by telling him that he would be sent to 
India, where his beloved lived. But he didn't want to leave Lahore, 
fearing that his practice would not thrive in Amritsar. 

In the European Ward there were two Anglo-Indian lunatics. They were 
very worried to hear that the English had left after granting 
independence to India. In hushed tones, they spent hours discussing 
how this would affect their situation in the madhouse. Would the 
European Ward remain, or would it disappear? Would they be served 
English breakfasts? What, would they be forced to eat poisonous 
bloody Indian chapattis instead of bread?

One Sikh had been an inmate for fifteen years. He spoke a strange 
language of his own, constantly repeating this nonsensical 
phrase: "Upri gur gur di annexe di be-dhiyan o mung di daal of di 
lalteen."2 He never slept. According to the guards, he hadn't slept 
a wink in fifteen years. Occasionally, however, he would rest by 
propping himself against a wall.

His feet and ankles had become swollen from standing all the time, 
but in spite of these physical problems he refused to lie down and 
rest. He would listen with great concentration whenever there was 
discussion of India, Pakistan and the forthcoming lunatic exchange. 
Asked for his opinion, he would reply with great seriousness: "Upri 
gur gur di annexe di be-dhiyana di mung di daal of di Pakistan 

There were also some lunatics who weren't really crazy. Most of 
these inmates were murderers whose families had bribed the madhouse 
officials to have them committed in order to save them from the 
hangman's noose. These inmates understood something of why India had 
been divided, and they had heard of Pakistan. But they weren't all 
that well informed. The newspapers didn't tell them a great deal, 
and the illiterate guards who looked after them weren't much help 
either. All they knew was that there was a man named Mohammed Ali 
Jinnah, whom people called the Qaid-e-Azem. He had made a separate 
country for the Muslims, called Pakistan. They had no idea where it 
was, or what its boundaries might be. This is why all the lunatics 
who hadn't entirely lost their senses were perplexed as to whether 
they were in Pakistan or India. If they were in India, then where 
was Pakistan? If they were in Pakistan, then how was it that the 
place where they lived had until recently been known as India?

Later he replaced "of di Pakistan gornament" with "of di Toba Tek 
Singh gornament." He also started asking the other inmates where 
Toba Tek Singh was, and to which country it belonged. But nobody 
knew whether it was in Pakistan or India. When they argued the 
question they only became more confused. After all, Sialkot had once 
been in India, but was apparently now in Pakistan. Who knew whether 
Lahore, which was now in Pakistan, might not go over to India 
tomorrow? Or whether all of India might become Pakistan? And was 
there any guarantee that both Pakistan and India would not one day 
vanish altogether?

This Sikh lunatic's hair was unkempt and thin. Because he washed so 
rarely, his hair and beard had matted together, giving him a 
frightening appearance. But he was a harmless fellow. In fifteen 
years, he had never fought with anyone. 

The attendants knew only that he owned land in Toba Tek Singh 
district. Having been a prosperous landlord, he suddenly lost his 
mind. So his relatives bound him with heavy chains and sent him off 
to the madhouse. 

His family used to visit him once a month. After making sure that he 
was in good health, they would go away again. These family visits 
continued for many years, but they stopped when the India/Pakistan 
troubles began. 

This lunatic's name was Bashan Singh, but everyone called him Toba 
Tek Singh. Although he had very little sense of time, he seemed to 
know when his relatives were coming to visit. He would tell the 
officer in charge that his visit was impending. On the day itself he 
would wash his body thoroughly and comb and oil his hair. Then he 
would put on his best clothes and go to meet his relatives. 

If they asked him any question he would either remain silent or 
say: "Upri gur gur di annexe di be-dhiyana di mung di daal of di 

Bashan Singh had a fifteen-year-old daughter who grew by a finger's 
height every month. He didn't recognize her when she came to visit 
him. As a small child, she used to cry whenever she saw her father. 
She continued to cry now that she was older.

When the Partition problems began, Bashan Singh started asking the 
other lunatics about Toba Tek Singh. Since he never got a 
satisfactory answer, his concern deepened day by day. 

Then his relatives stopped visiting him. Formerly he could predict 
their arrival, but now it was as though the voice inside him had 
been silenced. He very much wanted to see those people, who spoke to 
him sympathetically and brought gifts of flowers, sweets and 
clothing. Surely they could tell him whether Toba Tek Singh was in 
Pakistan or India. After all, he was under the impression that they 
came from Toba Tek Singh, where his land was. ...

A few days before the day of the exchange, one of Bashan Singh's 
Muslim friends came to visit from Toba Tek Singh. This man had never 
visited the madhouse before. Seeing him, Bashan Singh turned 
abruptly and started walking away. But the guard stopped him.

"He's come to visit you. It's your friend Fazluddin," the guard said.

Glancing at Fazluddin, Bashan Singh muttered a bit. Fazluddin 
advanced and took him by the elbow. "I've been planning to visit you 
for ages, but I haven't had the time until now," he said. "All your 
relatives have gone safely to India. I helped them as much as I 
could. Your daughter Rup Kur . . ."

Bashan Singh seemed to remember something. "Daughter Rup Kur," he 

Fazluddin hesitated, and then replied: "Yes, she's . . . she's also 
fine. She left with them."

Bashan Singh said nothing. Fazluddin continued: "They asked me to 
make sure you were all right. Now I hear that you're going to India. 
Give my salaams to brother Balbir Singh and brother Wadhada Singh. 
And to sister Imrat Kur also . . . Tell brother Balbir Singh that 
I'm doing fine. One of the two brown cows that he left has calved. 
The other one calved also, but it died after six days. And . . . and 
say that if there's anything else I can do for them, I'm always 
ready. And I've brought you some sweets." 

Bashan Singh handed the package over to the guard. "Where is Toba 
Tek Singh?" he asked.

Fazluddin was taken aback. "Toba Tek Singh? Where is it? It's where 
it's always been," he replied.

"In Pakistan or in India?" Bashan Singh persisted.

Fazluddin became flustered. "It's in India. No no, Pakistan."

Bashan Singh walked away, muttering: "Upar di gur gur di annexe di 
dhiyana di mung di daal of di Pakistan and Hindustan of di dar fatay 

Finally all the preparations for the exchange were complete. The 
lists of all the lunatics to be transferred were finalized, and the 
date for the exchange itself was fixed..... 

Most of the lunatics were opposed to the exchange. They didn't 
understand why they should be uprooted and sent to some unknown 
place. Some, only half-mad, started shouting "Long live Pakistan!" 
Two or three brawls erupted between Sikh and Muslim lunatics who 
became enraged when they heard the slogans. 

When Bashan Singh's turn came to be entered in the register, he 
spoke to the official in charge. "Where is Toba Tek Singh?" he 
asked. "Is it in Pakistan or India?" 

The official laughed. "It's in Pakistan," he replied. 

Hearing this, Bashan Singh leapt back and ran to where his remaining 
companions stood waiting. The Pakistani guards caught him and tried 
to bring him back to the crossing point, but he refused to go. 

"Toba Tek Singh is here!" he cried. Then he started raving at top 
volume: "Upar di gur gur di annexe di be-dhiyana mang di daal of di 
Toba Tek Singh and Pakistan!" 

The officials tried to convince him that Toba Tek Singh was now in 
India. If by some chance it wasn't they would send it there 
directly, they said. But he wouldn't listen.

Because he was harmless, the guards let him stand right where he was 
while they got on with their work. He was quiet all night, but just 
before sunrise he screamed. Officials came running from all sides. 
After fifteen years on his feet, he was lying face down on the 
ground. India was on one side, behind a barbed wire fence. Pakistan 
was on the other side, behind another fence. Toba Tek Singh lay in 
the middle, on a piece of land that had no name.

Fresh Violence

Fresh violence today erupted at the trouble-torn Nandigram block-I 
in West Bengal's East Midnapore district today as many houses were 
set ablaze by mobs."There were reports of clashes at Nandigram since 
last night and this morning. Some houses were set on fire there," 
IGP (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia told reporters in Kolkata.Though 
there was no information about the arsonists, he said.Nandigram has 
been witnessing sporadic clashes between supporters of the CPI-M and 
the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee, which is spearheading the 
agitation against land acquisition for a SEZ there.Meanwhile,with 
the CPI(M) struggling to convince farmers in West Bengal to accept 
acquisition of agricultural land for industry, its peasant wing, the 
Krishak Sabha, has suggested to the Left Front government to offer a 
better compensation package to share-croppers to contain the raging 
controversy.The registered share-croppers should be given a better 
compensation including crop compensation for a year besides the 
compensation they have been paid, Dibakar Das, a Krishak Sabha 
leader at Singur said.The state government has already acquired a 
total of 997 acres at Singur for the Tata Motors' small car project 
evoking violent protests from farmers, mainly share-croppers and 
landless labourers.The share-croppers, affected by the land 
acquisition at Singur, have been given 25 per cent of the market 
value of the land, besides 10 per cent solatium and 12.5 per cent 
interest, by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation.

Ilyas Muhammad, CPI MLA from Nandigram, a partner in the ruling Left 
Front, said that 90 per cent of the people were against land 
acquisition there. (Agencies) 

Panic gripped Talpatti, Bhangabera localities of Nandigram last 
night, as bombs were hurled at random, even as several village roads 
remained dug up during the night, in a bid to prevent entry 
of "outsiders". BUPC senior member Abu Taher said bamboo planks were 
put on dug up roads at Hazrakata, Chowringheebazar and several other 
spots towards Sonachura during daytime to enable students to attend 
schools, but the planks were being removed during night hours as 
they were still wary about entry of outsiders "to foment trouble". 
Sonachura witnessed the most violent clash in Nandigram on the night 
of January seven which claimed six lives.Police sources said they 
were looking into the charges made by villagers, including members 
of Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh committee that some miscreants hurled the 
bombs from the side of neighbouring Khejuri.

Two days back, an all-party meeting had resolved to restore peace in 
the area.

A senior member of the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC), 
agitating against farm land acquisition for the proposed SEZ, 
alleged that the bombs were hurled from the side of Khejuri towards 
Nandigram and CPI(M)-sheltered miscreants were behind it.District 
Congress Working President Manik Bhowmik also alleged that bombs 
were being hurled at some localities in Nandigram and CPI(M) was 
harbouring those behind the attack.However, East Midnapore CPI(M) 
leadership rubbished the charge and alleged that the Trinamool 
Congress and others were trying to create unrest in the area.

 Singur issue: Mamata makes another appeal to Buddhadeb 
Kamarkundu (WB), Feb. 17 (PTI): Making a "last appeal" to Chief 
Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata 
Banerjee today told the West Bengal government to halt work on the 
boundary wall for the Tata small car project in Singur and sit for 

"I have made repeated appeals for the return of the forcibly 
acquired farmland. This is my last appeal to the government. They 
should stop work on the boundary wall and sit for discussion," 
Banerjee said referring to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's 
offer of talks. 

"In a democracy there is no harm in admitting mistakes and the Chief 
Minister should announce that forcibly acquired land will be 
returned to pave the way for talks. As Railway minister I had also 
made some mistakes," she said. 

Addressing a meeting for the first time here at Singur proper in 
Hooghly district after prohibitory orders were quashed by the 
Calcutta High Court, she said "If the government does not respond to 
our appeal, they will be responsible for the consequences. We don't 
want violence, but it cannot be a one way affair." She warned that 
the government might guard the boundary wall of the Tata project, 
but would not be able to save it. "It will crumble in a day." 
Calling upon farmers who had opposed the acquisition of their land, 
not to give consent and accept compensation cheques, she said "You 
should sit inside the boundary wall and cook there." Warning the 
administration against re-imposition of prohibitory orders, the TC 
chief warned that the government would be responsbile for the 

The prohibitory order at Singur was struck down as an abuse of power 
by the administration on February 14 by the High Court. 

Without naming the Tatas, she said it was a shame that in the 
interest of a "multi-billionaire", people at Singur did not have the 
freedom to assemble due to promulgation of Section 144 CrPC for 75 
days. Challenging the Chief Minister's statement that 96 per cent of 
the people there had given consent for land acquisition, Banerjee 
claimed farmers had not given consent for acquisition of 400 acre of 
the 997 acre acquired. "If 96 per cent had given consent, why was 
prohibitory orders clamped and why were the police deployed to guard 
the project site ?" she asked and asserted that the Tatas would not 
be able to build their car plant at Singur. 

"As long I am alive, I will not back out and ensure that you get 
back land forcibly acquired," she said while assuring the people of 
Singur that she would be with them in their fight. 

In an indirect appeal to the Congress, the TC chief said "Let us put 
up a united fight. It is not a political movement, but a fight to 
safeguard the interest of farmers." 

No information on Netaji: RAW

Officially it is confirmed that Netaji died on 18th August 1945 in a 
plane crash over Taiwan while flying to Tokyo. But his body was 
never recovered. This led to many theories regarding his possible 
survival. One theory says that Netaji actually died in Siberia, 
while in Soviet captivity. Many committees have been set up from 
time to time by the Government of India to probe into his death. 

In May 1956, Shah Nawaz Committee was set up. A four member team of 
this committee visited Japan to probe into the circumstances of 
Netaji's alleged death. 

Justice Mukherjee Commission was set up from 1999-2005. This 
committee approached Taiwan government for information regarding 
Netaji's death. It submitted its report on 8th November, 2005. The 
report was tabled in Parliament on 17th May, 2006. The report says 
that Netaji did not die in the plane crash and the ashes at Renkoji 
temple in Tokyo are not his. However the Indian government rejected 
the findings of the commission. 

In 1992 Netaji was awarded the The Bharat Ratna, the highest 
civilian award posthumously. It was later withdrawn after a Supreme 
Court directive. A Public Interest Litigation was filed in the 
Supreme Court against the posthumous nature of the award. Since 
there was no conclusive evidence regarding Netaji's death, this 
invalidated the posthumous award. 

In its first-ever response to an unofficial body, the country's 
premier external intelligence agency Research and Analysis wing has 
informed 'Mission Netaji' that it was not holding any information on 
Subhas Chandra Bose.Mission Netaji is conducting its own 
investigation into the mysterious disappearance of the hero and 
moving various government agencies for information on the matter. It 
had requested the RAW under the Right To Information Act for 
disclosure of any information that it might hold on the issue."I am 
directed to inform you... that the RAW does not have any information 
pertaining to Netaji. As such no list as requested by you .. can be 
provided," Under Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat P N Ranjit 
Kumar told Mission Netaji's Anuj Dhar in a letter dated January 
19.Kumar also reminded Dhar that the RAW was not obliged to provide 
any information under the RTI Act.Dhar, however, is skeptical about 
RAW's response. "In 2001, the then Home Secretary Kamal Pande filed 
an affidavit before the Mukherjee Commission (which was probing 
Netaji's mysterious disappearance). This affidavit listed out 
several Top Secret/Secret records whose disclosure was likely to 
evoke widespread reactions and harm India's relations with friendly 
countries," Dhar said.Dhar said among these records some are with 

It was an 'Under Office' note under the identification number 
11/1/94-IC-2829 dated March 25, 1994, concerning certain articles 
based on classified KGB records published in a Russian journal.
Dhar claimed that the RAW had initially informed Mission Netaji that 
it had no record or files relating to the alleged disappearance of 
Netaji as the organisation was formed on September 21, 1968."And 
now, P N Ranjit Kumar has made a sweeping statement that RAW does 
not have any information pertaining to Netaji and that RAW is under 
no obligation to spill the beans. But it has no licence to mislead 
either," Dhar said.
The main reason behind Netaji going to Europe was to join hands with 
the Indian soldiers in the British Indian Army who were made 
prisoners of war. He was of the opinion that loyalty of the Indian 
soldiers to the Raj should be tilted towards their motherland than 
the British. He believed this would be a crucial part in the last 
phase of the freedom movement. 

 Netaji joined hands with the Axis powers. They assured him of 
military and other help to fight the British. He struck alliance 
with both Japan and Germany. Reports say that he was last seen near 
Keil canal in Germany in 1943. He undertook the most hazardous 
journey covering thousands of miles. He went to the Atlantic Ocean, 
the Middle East, Madagascar and the Indian Ocean. 

He formed the Indian National Army and the Azad Hind Government was 
declared on the 21st of October 1943. The Andaman and Nicobar 
Islands were freed from the British by the INA. It was named as the 
Swaraj and Shaheed islands. 

On the historic day, March 18, 1944, INA crossed the Burmese border 
to reach Manipur. Free India's banner was raised amidst slogans 
of `Jai Hind.' But rain played a spoilsport and the units had to 
fall back. On August 17, 1945 he ordered INA that Delhi was still 
their goal. 

Netaji then wanted to go to Russia to get Soviet help to fight the 
British. But fate had other things in store for him. It is said that 
the plane in which he was flying crashed in Taipei on August 18, 
1945. With it came the end of a hero who truly lived for his 

When Netaji was 15 he wrote to his mother "India is God's beloved 
land." Thirty three years later, towards the end of his known life 
he told the countrymen "never for a moment falter in your faith in 
India's destiny. There is no power on earth that can keep India 
enslaved. India shall be free and before long."

State Pulse: West Bengal: SEZ plan on hold  
West Bengal Chief Minister has gone on record to say that he would 
not set up any SEZ "if that is what the Left parties want"- Insaf
All is not well with the industrialization model of the Left Front 
Government in West Bengal, headed by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee of the 
CPM. It is not only the Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Bannerjee, 
who has been breathing fire against the acquisition of farmlands for 
industries, but also the Left allies CPI, RSP and Forward Block. 
They are dead against the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) projects. 
After a resolute fight to bring the Tata Motors at Singur, 
Bhattacharjee is showing signs of cracking and has gone on record to 
say that he would not set up any SEZ "if that is what the Left 
parties want". After a CPM Politburo meeting at Kolkata over the 
week-end, General Secretary Prakash Karat announced that all SEZs, 
including the one at Nandigram have been put on hold. However, the 
Singur project of Tatas is on, notwithstanding Mamata's threat to 
continue the stir against it. 

Farmer's suicides: 6 in 3 days

Even though the suicide spree of the cash-starved farmers in 
Maharashtra's Vidarbha region continues; with six of them ending 
their lives in three days last week, not more than 10 per cent of 
the promised relief is reaching the sufferers. According to 
Maharashtra's Finance Minister Jayant Patil, a paltry sum of Rs.248 
crore has been released by the Centre out of the relief package of 
Rs.3,750 crore, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced in 
July last. Patil has now disclosed that most of the Centre's share 
has been earmarked to complete the pending irrigation projects in 
the area, with the stated objective of increasing agriculture 
productivity in the suicide belt. This has been communicated to the 
Planning Commission by the State Government last week. The 
Commission was told that only 17.8 per cent of the net sown area in 
the State has access to irrigation, as against the national average 
of 38 per cent. 

Nandigram makes Bengal look at unlocking land from sick industry
Jayanth JacobPosted online: Saturday, February 17, 2007 at 0000 hrs 
Print  Email
NEW DELHI, FEBRUARY 16: After Singur and Nandigram, the CPI(M) is 
looking at a different route to industrialisation. With the 
acquisition of agricultural land becoming increasingly tough, the 
government in West Bengal is exploring the option of making use of 
the land of closed and sick industries. 
Tech training to sewing: 3,000 from Singur families who gave land 
join govt, Tata schemes 
Since such plots are not large, the government plans to use them for 
small and medium enterprises (SME). According to sources, the 
government has plans to start hundred such SMEs across the state. 

Though some of the plots are privately owned or caught in legal 
wrangles, the CPI(M) hopes to reach a consensus— and get the go-
ahead from allies and workers of these units. 

Party leaders say even the new investors would benefit from the 
existing infrastructure since the land is available in the already 
industrialised areas like Kolkata, North and South 24 Parganas, 
Howrah, Hooghly and parts of Bardhaman district. 

A survey undertaken by Webcon, a consultant of the West Bengal 
government, which surveyed 500 large and medium closed, sick or loss-
makking units had found that "substantial land amounting to 41, 
078.58" acres was locked in such industries. 

The Board for Industrial & Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) can also 
throw up more hurdles. If an industry can't be revived, a cell is 
created to oversee the sale of land and company assets through 
auction. "Land of closed units for industrialization, as things 
stand now, can't be the only solution. But we have to look at all 
the options since investors can go elsewhere," a senior CPM leader 

An urgent need: CPI (M) 

Special Correspondent 

Industrialisation not at the cost of land reform programme  

NEW DELHI: Ahead of its Polit Bureau meeting this weekend, the 
Communist Party of India (Marxist) has pointed out that 
industrialisation was given foremost priority in the electoral 
agenda of the Left Front in the West Bengal Assembly elections last 
year. Arguing that industrialisation of the State has become 
an "urgent necessity", the party has - in an article posted on its 
website - stated that "this drive towards industrialisation will not 
be at the cost of the land reform programme and further efforts 
towards improving agriculture". 

The article has been written as a rebuttal of the interim report of 
the Citizens Committee on Singur and Nandigram, which was released 
on January 29. After putting up a point-by-point defence of its 
position on land acquisition in Singur for the Tata car project and 
Nandigram for setting up a Special Economic Zone, the CPI (M) 
described the fact-finding team as "politically-driven" and its 
report made a "travesty of truth". 

On the two projects which will come up for discussion at the Polit 
Bureau meeting, the CPI (M) position is that the rehabilitation of 
the people whose livelihood will be affected as a result of such 
conversion is a critical issue. "The State Government has made it 
abundantly clear that no land will be acquired without adequate 
consultation and without ensuring an improved alternative livelihood 
security for the affected people.'' Advocating a "more vigorous push 
towards industrialisation of the State" since agriculture in West 
Bengal cannot escape the adverse effects of the "overall anti-people 
policy orientation of the Central Government", the CPI(M) counter 
dwells on the fact that the Left Front articulated its plans on 
industrialisation clearly during the elections. 

Scrap SEZ Act: civil society groups 

It violates right to life : plea to Pranab  

NEW DELHI: Even as local protests against "forcible acquisition" of 
agricultural land for creation of SEZs in Punjab, West Bengal and 
Maharashtra continue, civil society groups are demanding the repeal 
of the "anti-democratic and unconstitutional" Special Economic Zones 
Act, 2005. 

The Act violates the right to life and livelihood of people, who are 
being forcibly displaced for implementation of projects, says a 
petition addressed by over 100 civil society groups and individuals 
to Pranab Mukherjee, chairman of the Empowered Group of Ministers on 

They have sought cancellation of the approved and notified SEZs and 
return of land. Talks should be held with people's groups, 
communities and panchayat representatives to seek their opinion on 
strengthening local economies. 

A critique enclosed with the petition raises issues of land-based 
livelihood displaced by the SEZs, environmental concerns and labour 

Land grabbing 

On the question of land grabbing, the petition says the principle of 
``eminent domain,'' which is the basis of the Land Acquisition Act 
(1894), is being misused and even given priority over the principles 
in the 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Constitution that give 
primacy to gram sabhas as autonomous decision-making entities. The 
status of ``deemed foreign territory'' being granted to the SEZs 
will further undermine the sovereignty of local governance systems. 
However, what is really going to challenge the governance system is 
the concentration of power in the hands of the Development 
Commissioner at the State level and in the Board of Approvals at the 
Centre, says the petition. 

Ironically, the SEZs are being granted approvals, with no single 
mention of studies being carried out on social environment impact 
and damage. India is already going through a crisis in terms of 
water scarcity as well as loss of forests and biodiversity. The 
point is that in the current framework of economic development the 
costs of loss of forest and other common lands, large scale 
exploitation of water resources, coastal land, and environmental 
pollution are not even being computed.'' It has been repeatedly 
highlighted that the very legislative framework of SEZs is 
problematic, making it a draconian Act that promotes large scale 
privatisation and monopoly of resources in the hands of a few 
private developers at huge costs to the State exchequer as well as 
the economy and environment. 

The Board of Approvals, under the Commerce Ministry, has already 
granted formal approval for 237 projects, of which 63 have been 
notified, while hundreds are still awaiting approval, says the 

The memorandum has been endorsed by eminent individuals, farmers, 
Dalits, Adivasis, fisherworker and women's rights groups, non-
governmental organisations, researchers and intellectuals.