| Candidates at the Tata Motors exam venue in Singur. Picture by Amit Datta
Singur, Dec. 25: A pat on the back followed by a warm handshake and finally a promise to meet soon — Arup Ghosh sees these almost as a Christmas gift.
The gesture and the words from the Tata Motors men felt good after the 27-year-old had gone to great lengths to appear for the first examination held by the company here.
“You can’t imagine how I managed to turn up. When I reached, I was late by 35 minutes. Thankfully, they allowed me to sit for the exam and it went off fine.”
Arup had started from his Singur home for the Cossipore Gun and Shell Factory where he is an apprentice, and had reached Howrah station when at 8 am uncle Rajkumar called and asked him to rush back for the test starting at 10.30. The letter that he was to write the test this morning hadn’t reached him on time.
After the test, a beaming Arup said: “The best part was that the men from Tata assured me that I should make it to their training session in Jamshedpur soon.”
If this was the first sign that — though there’s no official promise to give jobs — employment at the car factory is a possibility, the Opposition dismissed it as “just an eyewash”.
Shankar Jana, co-convener of the Krishi Jomi Banchao Committee that is spearheading the protest against land acquisition, said: “We’re doubtful if they’ll at all be selected.”
Outside the makeshift exam centre — in the office of a ceramics factory — Arup’s uncle is also cautious, for another reason. “A lot depends on Arup. His father retired from the FCI (Food Corporation) voluntarily a few years back. A job here would make a world of difference to the family,” Rajkumar said before walking away with his nephew.
Almost all the 20 other candidates — ITI certificate holders whose families have given up land for the factory — who turned up for the exam had come with hope in an atmosphere made bitter by the controversy over the land acquisition.
“The (Tata) officials told us that the selected would be trained — in Jamshedpur or Pune — against a stipend of Rs 950 and free food and lodging. After six months, another test would be held for the final selection,” said Joydeb Pal, a candidate from Beraberi and a surveyor by profession, which has been a centre of protest against the acquisition.
Pal has given up his land for the factory. And though land doesn’t tie them down to the place any more, there are those like Nilkantha Ghosh who see in the factory a chance to continue to stay in Singur.
After the one-and-a half-hour exam, he said: “If selected, I would be able to earn a living without moving out of my district. That is the best part for me.”
The test, supervised by a senior HRD manager, consisted of 25 short questions on Math and Physics, a 3-D projection drawing and a brief write-up on “industrialisation and your role in it”.
According to government officials, 1,932 candidates with different academic qualifications had registered for jobs.
Tata Motors said: “This is one of the many community initiatives… that are in the offing and will be announced periodically.”
The exercise has given local CPM leaders something to talk about. Surit Baran Dutta, CPM’s zonal committee secretary, said: “We have been trying to tell people that agriculture must make way for industry and that giving up one’s land needn’t mean the end of life.
“The next generation would move on with jobs in these industries and today’s exam was the first step towards it.”
Saugata Roy, senior Trinamul leader, however, described the exam for 21 people as a minor event as “land has been acquired from over 14,000 farmers”. “This will not solve the problem. We are sorry that the Tatas are taking a stand for the government when Mamata is fasting,” he said.
The CPM intends to take the example to the villagers and tell them that the promises about Singur reaping benefits from the project are not hollow.