Tatas start shifting equipment out of Nano factory (Round up)

September 24th, 2008 - 9:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Sep 24 (IANS) With no solution to the Singur deadlock in sight, Tata Motors has started moving key equipment from its small-car factory at Singur in what appears to signal the group’s decision not to roll out the world’s cheapest car Nano from West Bengal - at least for the moment.Truckloads of dies and other key equipment are being shifted out of the factory, some 40 km from here, following the failure of talks between the state government and the opposition parties over a part of the land acquired for the project and ancillary units.

The beating up of a security guard within the project site Monday night also seemed to have hardened the stand of the company, which had suspended work at the factory from Sep 2 after protesting farmers assaulted and threatened plant workers.

But officials at Tata Motors chose to remain silent Wednesday on the shifting of equipment, 22 days into the suspension of work at the facility.

To a pointed query from IANS if the company was denying that equipment was being moved out of Singur, a Tata Motors spokesman only said: “We have no comments to make on the issue.”

Asked whether the company had reached the end of its tether with the state government and the opposition continuing to squabble on the issue, he said: “We can reiterate what we said earlier. We can’t start work until the situation becomes supportive and congenial.”

Officials connected with the project, however, corroborated on condition of anonymity that the company has communicated its decision to move out equipment.

Meanwhile, a key state minister conceded the project could be on its way out.

“It’s a reality that the prospect of the project coming up in Singur is getting remoter by the day,” state’s Industry Minister Nirupam Sen said in Delhi Tuesday. “We are trying to solve the problem. We have announced a package, Tata Motors have to take the final call. Let’s hope for the best.”

Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist while on a visit to the city here to attend a programme, said any further delay could jeopardize the project.

“If there is any further delay, the project will go out of the state,” he said, as it seemed the ruling combination was preparing the people for a pull-out by the Tata Motors.

The front got support from former Indian Prime Minister H.D. Devegowda, who said the compensation package announced by the state government was the best in the country.

“If the Tatas leave the state, it will be bad for Bengal,” Devegowda said here.

A belligerent Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who met governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi Wednesday, demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into how the government could distribute cheques among the ‘unwilling farmers’ when the money meant for their land had been deposited in the court as per the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

Meanwhile, farmer activists held hostage a state government official directly connected with the distribution of cheques to farmers who had lately decided to accept the value for their land after having refused to take the money all these months.

“Many of the land losers have found that the cheques for their land have been taken by someone else. This is gross irregularity. This is being done at the behest of the state’s ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist,” said Trinamool leader Dilip Yadav, as his party workers kept Hooghly district Land Acquisition Officer Suman Kumar Ghosh confined to his seat.

They later met the District Magistrate Neelam Meena, who promised tough action if any such incident was proved.

Ghosh admitted a couple of such instances had occurred. “But in such cases, we have called both the parties, recovered the money, and handed over the cheque to the bonafide land losers”.

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