Didi gets taste of own medicine at Sankrail

Written by Political Bureau | Kolkata | Updated: Jan 14 2011, 06:59am hrs
Its a replay of Singur. A Rs 85-crore diesel multiple unit (DMU) coach factory project of the Railways, the site for which is located at Sankrail in Howrah district, seems grounded in the face of fierce opposition from the CPM. Union railway minister Mamata Banerjee cancelled the commencement of work at the project site on Thursday. The project stands cancelled as of now. We will come back when theres no opposition, said an official of South Eastern Railway.

With the Railways trying to start work at the site on December 6, the CPM mounted its opposition to the factory. Over the past one month, theres been a tug of war between the two parties.

On January 8, 2011, at a rally in Dhulagarh near Sankrail, Mamata had announced that she was giving three days to the villagers to decide whether they want the factory or not. You may give your opinion to the local MLA, Sheetal Sardar. If you agree, I will come on January 13 to formally flag off the project, she had said.

But opposition in the form of hunger strikes continued, and ash and cinder was dumped at the project site to disrupt work. The villagers, backed by the CPM, demanded written assurances that each family that lost its land to the project would be given a job before work started.

On Thursday, Mamata decided to cancel the project and start it at another site instead, on land that is at her disposal, sources indicated.

At the Dhulagarh rally, Mamata had declared that locals would be given preference while allotting jobs in the factory. Regarding differential amount to those whose land was acquired, she had said that the matter was sub-judice and she would abide by the courts decision.

In December 2008, Tata Motors announced withdrawal of the Nano project from Singur, following fierce opposition from the Trinamool Congress-backed Save Land Committee. A similar committee, backed by the CPM, was formed at Sankrail which demanded that the Railways provide jobs to at least one person of the affected families. The committee also demanded enhanced price of land, as it was acquired by the state government for the Railways in 1982. Out of the 630 acres of land acquired for setting up a freight corridor terminal, Mamata chose 30 acres for setting up the DMU coach factory. In the first phase, Rs 85 crore was sanctioned for the project.

The CPM said that unless the Railways provided jobs to 100-odd families whose land was acquired, they would not allow the factory to come up. It was Mamata who declared that for Railway projects, any person who loses his land will get a job with the Railways, Biplab Majumder, the secretary of CPM Howrah district committee, said.