Singur reels under tension once again

July 31st, 2008 - 8:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata/Mumbai, July 31(IANS) As the day for the rollout of Tata Motors’ dream small car Nano from Singur nears, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the project is still not on home stretch. Tata Motors managing director Ravi Kant Wednesday told reporters in Mumbai there were “elements” trying to create tension, and conceded the situation had turned bad in Singur, about 40 km from here.

“We are continuing (in Singur) as long as our patience lasts,” he added.

Kant’s strong words followed a series of developments at Singur in West Bengal’s Hooghly district over the last four days, with a section of farmers led by the Trinamool Congress, stepping up an agitation demanding the government and the Tata group return 400 acres taken from unwilling farmers.

On Sunday, Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee (Singur Save Farmland Committee) ordered outsiders working at the factory not to report for duty. A day later, some employees at work in the factory were threatened.

Things took a turn for the worse when an engineer of the construction firm Shapoorji Pallonji was roughed up by women protestors Tuesday night.

Less number of workers reported for duty at the factory Thursday, even as Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee convenor Becharam Manna denied that his organisation had tried to terrorise workers.

“We requested the workers not to come for work at the Tata Motors factory. We have got positive response from around 80 percent of the workforce,” Manna said.

A Tata Motors’ spokesman refused to respond to the claim. “Tata Motors is doing everything to ensure the project work progresses as per its calendar,” he said.

In Mumbai, Kant said Wednesday “some elements” were trying to create tension.

“I think the government will take necessary action,” he said, adding: “We are moving ahead, in spite of all these challenges, the bar only becomes higher, but we have not lost sight of the fact that we do want to introduce this vehicle in the market in October-December quarter as already stated.”

“We are trying our best, bending over backwards, working overtime and all that is required to make it possible‚Ķ unfortunately the situation is becoming bad and I think ultimately the people of West Bengal have to decide whether they want to have industrialization in that state or not,” Kant said.

However, there is no let-up in the confrontationist posture taken by the villagers.

“We plan to take out a big rally in Singur August 3 against this project,” Manna said.

Earlier, Manna said the Tata Motors would get no administrative cooperation from the panchayats, and would not be permitted to erect electric posts or dump effluents.

The Trinamool-led committee, along with civil society and local farmers, has spearheaded a violent agitation since the middle of 2006 against setting up of the plant by cashing in on the resentment of a substantial section of peasants from whom the state government has acquired land for the project.

The government acquired 997.11 acres, triggering protests across the three panchayats - Gopalnagar, KGD (Kamarkundu, Gopalnagar, Doluigachcha) and Beraberi - that comprise the project area.

Nano - that has been universally hailed as a feat in automobile engineering - is scheduled to come out in October. It is expected to be the world’s cheapest car at less than $2,500 (Rs.100,000).

Security arrangements have been beefed up in stations three stations - Kamarkundu, Singur and Madhusudanpur.

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