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Mighty fencing machine rolls

Singur, Dec. 5: The machine — by pure coincidence — had the Tata label. The man — by intention — had the Party written all over him.

“I don’t know all that…. We have to finish it by today. I need two Shaktiman trucks in an hour,” Suhrid Dutta barked into his cellphone, standing on a vast expanse of land in Singur.

The regulation white hat flopped on his head, the long kurta sleeves flapping and the right length of stubble outlining his chin, Dutta, the CPM zonal committee secretary, is the enforcer of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s promise.

“I have told the Tatas to come any day after tomorrow,” the chief minister had said on Monday. “We are prepared.”

Twenty-four hours and a largely-ignored SUCI bandh later, the state is almost prepared. The crucial stretch of fencing the land acquired for the Tata small-car project is hours away from being completed.

The famed might of the CPM — so far in evidence during elections and while enforcing bandhs — was deployed today to reach one goal: meet Bhattacharjee’s deadline.

Like a platoon martinet, Dutta marshalled movement of men and materials from his post, off Durgapur Expressway. As his diktat over the phone moved down the line, two trucks arrived, loaded with logs and welded steel net.

A few kilometres away, M.V. Rao, director of industries, was keeping track of the progress. “We have put in place poles earmarking the entire area. There is very little fencing work left and work is still on,” Rao said late this evening.

Rao, along with Hooghly district magistrate Binod Kumar and officials from the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation and Mackintosh Burn, oversaw 1,300 workers, who drilled in the poles and fastened the mesh around a 2.5-km stretch.

The fencing drive was kicked off on Friday, covering around 8 km in the first four days. That leaves only a tiny stretch on the non-demarcated side free of fencing.

“There has not been any major disruption. There were some protests, but minor in nature. We are happy to complete the process on time,” said Kumar as a large contingent of police and rapid action force roamed the field and the villages in the vicinity.

On the last day, Dutta and other party bosses managed the supply chain to ensure smooth logistics as the officers kept themselves busy on the field, where Tata Hitachi excavators were shoving in the poles. Another coincidence: nets made of Tata steel were used for the fencing.

Tata-ra to esei gelo… Oder jomi, oder machine, (The Tatas are here… Their land, their machine),” said Bhagirath Samanta, a sharecropper in Beraberi village.

The young man in the white cap — which is distributed among the workers to differentiate them from troublemakers in case of a clash — has joined the fencing force expecting a better future.

“I am working here for four days not only for the daily wage of Rs 68. I think the Tata factory will increase employment opportunities for all of us,” said Samanta. Over the past six months, Dutta and his comrades have been tutoring villagers on the benefits of industrialisation.

But no amount of dispassionate military precision — or the logic of greater good — could mask the human cost.

Clinging to the fence that has come up between her and what was once her land, Pori Agon said: “I lost my husband 13 years ago and brought up my two sons all alone only because of the land… Today’s loss is a bigger tragedy for me.”

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