Sh Zahir Haq lost his farmland to the Nano factory, but still applied for a car, when bookings for the Tata Motors Rs 1 lakh car opened at Singur on April 9.
And he is not alone: an appreciable number of Singur residents booked the Nano through the bank branches in the area, with the State Bank of India (SBI) branch as the nodal point.
In other words, land losers in the Singur area, comprising the small bustling town 40 km west of Kolkata on National Highway 2, and the farming hamlets like Bejemelia lying between the town area and the highway, have nothing against the Nano.
The plant was to be built on 1,000 acres of land acquired by the state government in 2006-end.
SBI declined to discuss the volume or break-up of bookings through its branches, but sources in the branch at Singur said around 50 people had applied for the Nano in the area.
The response at the Singur branch was better than the response at the larger neighbouring town of Srirampur. Small traders like Raghav Dutta said he decided to book the Nano because it was cheap and looked good.
Singur residents may have been associated with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress-led agitation demanding return of 300 acres to “unwilling land losers” that made Tata Motors abandon its nearly completed plant there in September 2008, but they feel the plant could have still come up there if the government had not been so obstinate about returning land and raising compensation, according to Sujan Naskar, a salaried person who also came to deposit his booking form.
Singur has a flourishing local market in consumer durables like motorbikes, electrical goods and is the heart of a booming agricultural market, thanks to the multi-crop land all around it, along with a suburban railway station used by thousands to commute to work to Kolkata daily.
Though some bookings are expected from such hamlets, the Nano number is interesting because Singur bookings topped the surrounding areas at first glance.
“I am not surprised because many landowners received more than Rs 3 lakh to Rs 4 lakh as compensation and usually have jobs in Kolkata, in addition to owning land,” said the SBI source.
Thanks to land reforms in Left Front-ruled West Bengal, land also supported two other tiers — the registered sharecropper (called bargadar) and registered farm labourer.
These appear to have lost more following the government’s land acquisition process based on administered rather than market price.
Perhaps this fuelled the agitation for the return of land.
In small towns like Singur, the usual favourite is the Maruti Omni van because it promises space at a reasonable price, besides good mileage, ground clearance and reliability.