Locals block Singur road, want protests to stop

September 3rd, 2008 - 4:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Singur (West Bengal), Sep 3 (IANS) A day after Tata Motors threatened to pull out of this rural belt, some locals - backed by the state’s ruling Communists - put up a road block Wednesday demanding an end to the protests against the factory that is to produce the world’s cheapest car Nano.A farmer who had given land for the project is also alleged to have committed suicide Tuesday night after the Tatas signalled their readiness to withdraw from Singur.

The Nano factory’s workers, contract labourers and also material suppliers to the plant held up traffic at the busy Ratanpur More Wednesday, exhorting other locals to stand up for the project.

“We want Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee to withdraw the protests against the factory within 24 hours. Otherwise, we will start an intense agitation to stop the ongoing siege before the factory gates by the Trinamool and some other outfits,” said a protestor.

“We are in favour of industrialisation. We are in favour of the Tata plant. We need the factory for Singur’s development,” he said.

Trinamool and several other opposition parties in the state, along with a section of local farmers, have been holding an indefinite siege near the factory gate since Aug 24, demanding the government return 400 acres allegedly taken forcibly from unwilling peasants for the car plant.

A total of 997.11 acres was acquired for the Tata Motors small car project in Singur.

There were more voices in favour of the factory Wednesday.

Town Hall, a Kolkata-based organisation of IT professionals, engineers and teachers, tried to meet Banerjee, but were apparently turned away by Trinamool leaders.

“I, along with two other members of our organisation, tried to meet Banerjee to impress upon her the need to make the situation congenial so that the project becomes operational once again,” said Town Hall convenor Jhuma Mukherjee, herself a software engineer working in the IT hub at Kolkata’s satellite township of Salt Lake.

“But we were stopped from going to the dais by people over there. Ultimately, when we managed to get close to a makeshift podium and requested Banerjee to heed our pleas, we were asked to leave the spot by Trinamool leaders,” she said.

“A Trinamool leader even threatened us with physical assault. We are common people. We don’t have any political banner. So we got frightened and left the place,” Mukherjee told reporters.

While there has been no police confirmation about the cause of the farmer’s death, family members say it is a suicide linked to the Singur protests.

Sukhen Santra allegedly killed himself Tuesday after the Tatas threatened to withdraw from Singur. Santra had given land for the project and his two sons had got jobs in the factory.

“I have heard that one person has died, but can’t say anything more,” said state Inspector General of police (law and order) Raj Kanojia.

After suspending work at the factory for four consecutive days following the protests, Tata Motors Tuesday signalled its readiness to pull out of the state, saying it was evaluating alternate options for manufacturing the world’s cheapest car at other company facilities.

“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,” the company said in a statement.

The company also pointed out that it had “been constrained to suspend the construction and commissioning work in view of continued confrontation and agitation at the site,” and said the decision to stop work was taken in order to ensure the safety of its employees and contract labourers.

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