Calcutta, Jan. 21: About 100 Singur villagers drove the Tata Motors plant’s first three pillars into the ground as the “people’s car” project turned on the ignition today.
Shortly after company and government officials watched the bhoomi puja performed and the ceremonial coconut broken, hired workers from the neighbourhood began drilling into the land on which many of them grew their crops till a season ago. Into the holes went down three concrete pillars.
“I feel very happy, we never earned enough from farming,” said Sanat Das of Khasherbheri, one of the labourers.
He and his neighbours would soon be laying bricks for a wall around the 997-acre plot, weeks after the government’s attempts to fence it had triggered a clash with police and a storm of protest by Opposition parties.
The bhoomi puja took Mamata Banerjee by surprise. “I withdrew my hunger strike after the government promised to discuss with me before starting work at Singur. It has gone back on its word,” the Trinamul Congress chief fumed.
As news of the puja broke, some 25 members of the Trinamul-led Krishi Jomi Raksha Committee sneaked into Beraberi and set fire to 16 poles of the fence. The police doused the flames with water.
State industries director M.V. Rao said: “Currently, land-filling and work on the boundary wall will take place.”
When the factory units are built later, the contractors are expected to hire the villagers as labourers, masons, fitters and the like. Local women will be paid to supply food to the workers.
The company has picked a batch of youths for training at its Pune and Jamshedpur plants. The indirect jobs would go mainly to local vendors and service providers.