Singur mourns as Nano rolls out from Mumbai

March 22nd, 2009 - 12:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Singur (West Bengal), March 22 (IANS) The abandoned factory stands as a silent reminder of the frenzied activity and the air of expectancy one saw here less than a year ago. The prevailing feeling now is of loss and sadness as the Nano prepares to roll out far away in Mumbai Monday.
The cluster of buildings that was once designed to roll out the revolutionary little Nano is now enveloped in darkness - symbolic of the state of mind of those in this rural hamlet who bemoan the loss of the prized project to Sanand in Gujarat.

From the rickshaw puller at the local Mankundu railway station to the tea stall owner in the vicinity of the factory, the general feeling is of dejection. But the sharp political polarisation in the area ensures that there are quite a few with a different viewpoint too.

On Oct 3 last year, global auto major Tata Motors announced that it had scrapped its plans to bring out the world’s cheapest car from the facility at Singur, 40 km from state capital Kolkata. The plant was shifted to Sanand.

“I used to earn Rs.200 daily ferrying the Tata Motors employees from the railway station to the factory gate after construction of the plant started… But now, with the project scrapped here, my earnings have become less than half,” said Rasik Dey, a rickshaw puller.

Dibakar Das, a farmer who gave five acres for the Nano project in Hooghly district, told IANS: “It is really sad that the project didn’t come up over here.”

“The project could have changed the financial condition of Singur, but the destructive protests by the opposition did not allow the project to take place.”

The Hooghly district area had turned into a battleground for about two and a half years since May 2006 after the state government announced the Tata Nano project.

A section of farmers, led by main opposition force Trinamool Congress, carried out a sustained agitation demanding return of 400 acres of the acquired 997.11 acres to farmers who had been unwilling to give land by relocating the ancillary units.

But the Tatas, who spent Rs.15 billion in Singur for the project, were against relocating the auto-component units in the integrated project, saying it would increase the production cost of the car priced at only Rs.100,000.

“It’s very unfortunate that the project is not happening over here. They (opposition parties) assaulted them (Tata Motors engineers) and forced them to leave the state,” Balai Sabui, a Communist Party of India-Marxist leader in Singur, told IANS.

“The factory was almost complete. But the opposition made them abandon the project. It would have helped in the economic development of the state,” Sabui said.

He rued that the hopes of the local youth were crushed, as the project had the potential to generate huge employment.

Apart from the mother plant, the project was scheduled to house 56 auto-components companies.

But the Trinamool Congress does not seem to be missing the little Nano. “This is just like any other commercial product launch for us,” Sougata Roy, Trinamool Congress leader told IANS.

Asked whether the party feels bad that the project, which could have been a showpiece for the state, had to be shifted elsewhere, he said: “We would not have been happy had the project come up in the state at the cost of the tears of so many people.”

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