Glimmer of hope to end stir against Tata’s small car project (Intro Round-up)

September 3rd, 2008 - 9:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Sep 3 (IANS) A glimmer of hope emerged Wednesday to end agitation over the small car project of Tata Motors at Singur in West Bengal with the Trinamool Congress, which is spearheading the farmers’ protests, agreeing for talks with the state government.β€œIt seems that within today or tomorrow, a constructive blueprint will be formulated for a solution,” Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee told a gathering in Sigur, some 40 km from here, as protests continued for the 11th successive day outside the project site that has promised the world’s cheapest car, the Rs.100,000/$2,500 Nano.

“The governor has spoken to us and also spoken to the state government,” the feisty leader said, referring to the role played by West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi - the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi - to bring all the stakeholders to the negotiating table.

“The date for talks has been finalised. It’ll be held on Friday,” senior Trinamool Congress leader Partha Chattopadhyay told IANS later, a day after Tata Motors issued a strong statement that it was preparing to relocate the factory elsewhere in the country.

The talks, official sources here said, were being planned at 10 a.m. at Raj Bhavan, the governor’s official residence, in Kolkata.

Till Wednesday evening, the Trinamool Congress, which has been asking the government to return to farmers 400 acres out of some 997 acres acquired for the Tata Motors project and ancillary industries, kept up its pressure.

“Whether they’ll shift their product to other facilities or not is an internal matter of the Tatas. We don’t want to comment on that,” said Madan Mitra, senior leader of the party. “We strongly want the 400 acres to be given back to those who have lost lands.”

But party insiders said its top leadership agreed to the governor’s proposal after looking at the growing support for the project from the Indian industry and the company’s own threat to relocate the plant to some other state.

Even the Western media had begun to say that the hurdles faced by the Tata’s, India’s largest industrial house that has a turnover of $62.5 billion and as many as 96 companies in its fold, may impact the country’s investor-friendly image.

“Which foreign company will want to come in when India’s most respected group cannot set up industry in a state?” queried The Wall Street Journal.

“The escalating conflict is the starkest sign yet of how rapid industrialisation is clashing with scepticism towards modernisation and the reach of big business into rural India.”

The otherwise reticent Tata group had issued a strong statement Tuesday evening, saying it was “constrained to suspend the construction and commissioning work at the Nano plant in Singur in view of continued confrontation and agitation.

“In view of the current situation, the company is evaluating alternate options for manufacturing the Nano car at other company facilities and a detailed plan to relocate the plant and machinery to an alternate site is under preparation.”

In the national capital, the central government maintained its stand that it will not intervene in the internal matter of a state in a federal polity.

“It is none of our business to intervene,” Heavy Industries Minister Sontosh Mohan Dev told reporters here on the margins of the annual convention of the Automotive Component Manufacturers’ Association (ACMA) here.

“If they come to us, we will. But that the state government has to decide,” said the minister, adding the parties concerned must come to the negotiating table and resolve the matters amicably.

The Trinamool Congress also kept up its pressure and asked the state government to come out with a specific proposal about the dispute in Singur over land acquisition for the Nano plant.

The business fraternity in India also reacted strongly to the latest turn of events in Singur, urging political parties to set aside short-term political gains in favour of the nation’s development.

A statement issued by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), an apex industry lobby that has the Tata group has a member, said suspension of work at the Singur factory would be a major setback to India’s industrialisation initiatives.

“The suspension of work at the Tata’s Nano plant is an unfortunate situation. It’s a blot on the country’s global image,” CII director general Chandrajeet Banerjee said.

“We are still hopeful that the situation would be resolved and short term political gains would be set aside in favour of overall development of the nation, he said adding the Tatas had been extremely patient given the hostile conditions at Singur.

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