|(Top) Construction workers building a concrete pillar for the Tata Motors plant. Policemen line up behind a portion of the fence that was set ablaze on Sunday. Pictures by Amit Datta
Singur, Jan. 21: Sanat Das stood shivering on Durgapur Expressway at 8 am today, trying to wrap a woollen shawl tightly around him.
Last evening, 35-year-old Sanat, along with 200 other villagers, had enlisted with the Beraberi panchayat to be engaged as labourers at the Tata Motors project site.
A resident of Khasherbheri, about 45 km from Calcutta, Sanat and his five brothers had consented to the acquisition of five bighas they jointly owned. With about Rs 2.5 lakh in the bank, Sanat had been nursing hopes of securing a job at the construction site.
Today, when preliminary steps to build the car plant got off the ground at Joymolla village, Sanat was at hand.
“I feel very happy to be listed as one of the labourers at the construction site. We hope that, like me, many others will get an opportunity to work on the construction of the small-car factory. We never earned enough from farming,” he said.
Sanat helped about 100 other labourers from Khasherbheri, Beraberi, Joymolla and neighbouring Haripal lay the foundation for three concrete pillars.
Like Sanat, Palash Patra, 32, a sharecropper from Joymolla, also arrived early, braving the chill.
Palash pointed to a factory — Himadri Chemicals — on the other side of the expressway and said that many villagers had got jobs at the plant two years ago.
“We initially thought that none from the area would get jobs. But the factory owner hired a lot of people from the locality. So we are also hopeful of getting a job at the Tata Motors plant,” Palash said.
He appeared unfazed by today’s sneak-attack in which some poles were set on fire.
Most villagers in Joymolla — it is a CPM stronghold — have given up their land willingly, Palash said.
M.V. Rao, the director of industries, said more villagers are expected to join the work from tomorrow. “We engaged about 100 villagers in the construction today. As today was Sunday, all 200 villagers who enlisted with the panchayat yesterday did not turn up.”
By 3 pm, Rao, district magistrate Binod Kumar and other senior officials called it a day. The district magistrate and inspector-general of police (western range) Arun Gupta were camping at Gopalnagar, near Joymolla, till late this evening to keep a watch on the situation.
“Tomorrow, work will resume at 10 am,” said Abhijit Mukherjee, the block development officer in Singur.
In the afternoon, another band of 10 villagers — land- losers and CPM supporters — descended on the plot, armed with sticks.
Golok Santra, their leader, said they were chosen by the panchayat to guard the site at night.
“We’ve been assigned the task of guarding the plot. It is our land and we gave it for the Tata project willingly. We have been asked to stand guard till 4 am tomorrow,” said Golok, who had sold half a bigha.