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After the Factory: Livelihoods and Political Organisation in Post-Dispossession Singur


· Kenneth Bo Nielsen University of Oslo (Oslo, Norway)
· Ritanjan Das University of Portsmouth (Portsmouth, United Kingdom)


07/28 | 11:40-12:00 UTC+2/CEST


In 2006, news broke that the Indian car manufacturer Tata Motors would establish a new car factory in West Bengal. To make way for the factory, several thousand mostly small and marginal farmers were dispossessed of altogether 997 acres of farmland in the Singur area, located 45 km outside the state capital of Kolkata. The controversy that ensued as local landowners mobilised in defence of their farmland propelled the land acquisition in Singur to a matter of national and even global concern, as it evolved into one of India’s most talked-about new land wars. The movement of these so-called “unwilling farmers” eventually succeeded in shutting down the factory in 2008. While the movement thus achieved its one-point agenda, local life “after the factory” has been characterised mostly by half-hearted efforts at land restitution; the accelerating diversification of livelihoods away from agriculture; and the continued intervention of political forces trying to politicise the recent history of land dispossession and resistance in Singur in competing ways. In this paper, we survey the ways in which local livelihoods and forms of political organisation have evolved in Singur in the wake of dispossession. Both authors have done long-term fieldwork in the Singur area during 2007-2009, with repeated follow-up visits since. We base our analysis on ethnographic material collected during this period, as well as two surveys (covering around 225 households) conducted a decade apart (by Nielsen), in order to offer both qualitative and quantitative insights into post-dispossession transformations. This paper thus represents our first attempt at a longitudinal analysis of these processes.