‘NANO’ Marxists

An Open Letter to Prabodh Panda

Sankar Ray

Despite being somewhat incapacited due to femur bone fracture that made me confined to bed, I am compelled to write this letter to you, not because you are the West Bengal State Council Secretary of the Communist Party of India, but as the President of All India Kisan Sabha, whose heritage was built by legendary peasant leaders like Swami Sahajanand, Dr Bhupendra Nath Dutt, Muzzafar Ahmed, Bankim Mukherjee and Dr Z A Ahmed, Rabin Deb, CPI (M)-nominated Left Front candidate from Singur assembly constituency in the ensuing West Bengal state assembly elections beginning from April this year, began his poll campaign by reaching there in a NANO motor car which the TATA MOTORS wanted to set up during the LF regime.

You must be aware that the agro-climatic region that situates Singur and surroundings is among the six most fertile tracts the world over. Your party submitted to the CPl(M)'s surrender to the Tata's plan to set up the so-called 'people's car' project that aimed at economic ruination of about 20,000 people who could keep from an wolf at the door. Even agricultural workers there could keep poverty at bay. Every child was school going. So that's what you call a 'people's car' project!!

Your silence here is an endorsement to the predatory conspiracy against peasant community in a rarely fertile tract by destruction of the land for an automobile project which could be set up in one of the several vacant industrial lands (closed factory sites) of south Bengal (close to Kolkata such as Mohini Mill at Belgharia and Smith Stanistreet (near Singur). Left Front leaders like your colleagues in the CPI would say that there are legal hassslcs. Naba Dutta of Nagarik Mancha, devoted to the study of working people hit by industrial sickness and occupational hazards and Pranab De, ex-general secretary, WB Land Reform Officers' Association refute this point citing that several factory sites of closed units like Dum Dum Aluminium were converted into real estates. Mind you, this silent endorsement comes from a top AIKS leader like you.

Vidyadhar Date, a Marxist writer, wrote an essay, captioned, 'Cars, Capitalism and India' in the March 2016 issue of Aspects of India's Economy (of Mumbai-based Research Unit for Political Economy). "Friedrich Engels and later evolutionary biologists such as Daniel Lieberman, pointed out that labour, walking and running over long distances fuelled the evolution of our brain and made it bigger. Present-day capitalist society, by contrast, is epitomised by the act of sitting in a car.

"I focus on the motor car because it is at the very heart of capitalism. It is one of the largest industries and an important source of capitalist accumulation. At the same time, it has completely distorted our lives and environment. The car has facilitated colonization of land and gentrification; it has hit working class culture; and it has rendered more complicated the task of urban democratic struggle.

"The common human being is constantly humiliated, honked at, blasted with fumes, marginalized, dominated and even killed by the car. The street has become a most undemocratic space."

Will you still jockey for the Tata project like you aping a political demagogue like Rabin Deb, a state secretariat member of'CPI(M) and hence bucked up by the LF Chairman and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who were enthusiastic supporters of the predatory Nano project during the last years of LF regime under the chief ministership of bumptious Bhattacharjee?

I would draw your attention to an article, Singur : Sowing problems? (The Hindu Business Line, June, 2007) by the late Subrata Sinha, Eminent earth scientist, formerly deputy Director General of Geological Survey of India, first director of Thiruvananihapuram-based Centre for Earth Science Studies. He wrote, "A key aspect of the Ganga-Brahmaputra basin is the fertile Hooghly river valley, where year-round multi-cropping is possible. This is because of the copious ground water and the network of channels. Singur received special attention and it yields a rich harvest of food grains and vegetables. Industrialisation in the area would destroy this infrastructure.... Cultivated food is the most vital human survival necessity. The global situation on this is bleak. Food production has failed to keep pace with the burgeoning population. As the Rio Summit stated, Despite the use of pesticides and fertilisers, the world's per capita grain production has fallen every year since 1985." It is indeed a losing battle for survival. Significantly, copious rainfall, extensive water resources and an immensely fertile soil have made the Ganga-Brahmapulra alluvial basin of the Indian subcontinent a prime food producer. Thus any attempt to commandeer even a fraction of such an invaluable cropping zone would be a venal sin. More so with hundreds of millions of Indians needing all the food the country can produce. Unplanned urbanisation and industrial development have already taken their toll. By a quirk of nature, there is indeed a start-ling correlation between the distribution of water and soil fertility causing some regions to be ideally suited for agricultural development. A key aspect of the Ganga-Brahmaputra alluvial basin is the Hooghly river valley, capable of diversified multi-cropping the year round. This is because of the rich alluviation during the monsoons, the prolific groundwater and the network of channels. Cultivated with care, virtually every bit of this land is a veritable gold mine. In fact, massive investments of more than a thousand crore rupees for irrigation, canals (DVC network) and large and small borewells have been made. Singur received special attention and it yields a rich harvest of food grains and vegetables. A major industrial unit would destroy this infrastructure not only in Singur but all around, by the innumerable smaller units that are bound to be spawned".

Sinha warned of unbridled pollution if the Nano project is implemented. He went on to note, "This would pollute the life-support system of water and air. Already the situation is threatening human survival. Fumes and emissions aggravate global warming, while toxic industrial wastes vitiate the land and the water resources. The Singur area is especially vulnerable because of its geo-hydrological situation. The subsurface formations are almost totally sandy. The rich topsoil is built by the prolonged interaction of biotic elements through cultivation, but not scaled off. This facilitates its transmission into the aquifers along the Hooghly basin. Further west, beyond the Rupnarayan river, the sediments from the Chotanagpur plateau are more consolidated with the surface formations not permitting direct infiltration. This makes the belt near Kharagpur (with adequate access and infrastructure) more suitable, from the pollution point of view. In fact, ventures may be considered west of the Hooghly alluvial basin".

I am afraid you hadn't read this invaluable paper, not to speak of other CPI leaders like Bandgopal Bhattacharjee, Manju Kumar Majumdar and any AIKS biggies. Sinha concluded with the words, "The forte of a resurgent West Bengal is its post-land reforms agriculture with small-scale and cottage-based industrialisation; it also has the rare distinction of food grain self-sufficiency. The more sensible alternatives that would benefit the overwhelming majority, instead of launching a project for the affluent few at the risk of such environmental and agricultural damage, must be considered for example, numerous food-processing units with the help of the thriving self-help groups. Ironically, many countries, such as Australia and the US with hardly any population density, have made food production a major export, while countries such as India and Bangladesh, with some prime farmlands, are bogged down by population density and food shortage. They are waiting to pounce on pliant governments of food producing countries for exports on their humiliating terms and conditions".

Sorry, for long quotations which helped me drive my point home? Let me come back to the discussion about Rabin Deb. He does not seem to know or wilfully oblivious that Ratan Tata himself admitted at Singapore on November 29, 2013 that the very concept of Nano project was a mistake. Times of India, Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Decan Herald and other prominent dailies carried Tata's statement. He admitted that it was a mistake.

Let me end this open letter with a quote from Vidyadhar Date, "A car-oriented form of development is native to the political right wing, as is clear from the policies of the Republicans in the US and the conservatives in the UK. Margaret Thatcher declared that a young man who did not own a car by the age of 25 should be declared a failure. Indeed, there is a strong historic association of cars with speed and fascism. Ford and Hitler were mutual admirers. Max Mosley, the head of Formula 1 racing for many years, was a known admirer of fascism, and his father was a prominent British fascist.

Note : To know about the pathetic condition of TATA's Nano Project in Gujarat please click at: http.//

Vol. 48, No. 40, Apr 10 - 16, 2016