The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Problem of choice comes to Singur

Singur, Sept. 26: Much before the first Rs 100,000 car chugs out of the Tata factory, the Maruti could roll into Singur.

So it seems, listening to the bankers who have descended on this part of Bengal unheard of till yesterday.

Ananta Pakhira gave up his farmland for the Tata plant as he didn’t have a choice.

But when he stepped out of the Singur block office — after spending over three hours in the queue — today, he had an array of banking choices before him to deposit the Rs 202,069 cheque he had received as compensation for his one-bigha plot.

“I didn’t have a bank account. I’m opening one today,” the farmer said as a team of Allahabad Bank officials served him with a smile.

The bank already has a branch in Singur, but the others that have opened counters outside the block office to make it easy for the farmers to deposit their cheques don’t.

Biplab Basu, senior manager of the Allahabad Bank branch, said: “Till now, we were into farm loans.”

He has news that car companies intend to open shop in Singur, as do consumer durables sellers. “We will tie up with them and offer financing,” Basu added.

The block office was humming with activity on the second day of cheque distribution among farmers.

After day-long protests on Monday, leading to the arrest of Mamata Banerjee deep into the night, that disrupted distribution of cheques, Singur was calm.

Police personnel were checking acknowledgement receipts before allowing entry into the block office. Declining to accept cheques, the protesters stayed away and the banks signed up new clients and opened accounts undisturbed.

Biphal Chandra Bangal strolled over to the Hooghly District Central Co-operative Bank counter with his two cheques totalling a little over Rs 5 lakh. He could well have walked up to the State Bank or United Bank counters, standing cheek by jowl.

“We opened 40 new accounts yesterday despite the commotion. The number will be much higher today. We will shortly open a branch in Singur,” said an SBI official.

Allahabad Bank is 30 years old in Singur and plans to open another branch to serve “valued” customers — most of whom would open a bank account for the first time.

Manager Basu believes Singur has a great future. But some of his valued customers don’t have a clue.

Pakhira wants to set up a small store and his friends —Tarun and Sukumar Sau — plan to start a business but aren’t sure what.

“Will do something. Let us first get the money,” they chorus, waiting in the queue.

Money can buy most anything, a Maruti even, or it can help start a new life. Development has come to Singur with its dilemmas.

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