Nano factory remains closed for second day (Round-up)

August 30th, 2008 - 6:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Aug 30 (IANS) The Tata Motors factory at Singur in West Bengal remained shut for the second day Saturday, raising doubts over the company being able to meet its October deadline to roll out the world’s cheapest car, the Rs.100,000/$2,500 Nano.”Our workers are not attending work today,” Tata Motors said in a statement here, as Trinamool Congress members continued their protests for the seventh day, wanting 400 acres of land at the site, some 40 km from here, to be returned to farmers.

“There has been no improvement in the ground situation so far. Hence, the conditions are still not conducive for resuming work,” a spokesperson for Tata Motors said in the statement. “We continue to assess the situation closely.”

Tata group officials in Mumbai said a decision on whether or not to re-locate the project could be taken as early as next week, after chairman Ratan Tata returns from Singapore.

Several other states in India as well as the government in neighbouring Sri Lanka have offered to host the car factory because of its international prestige and the reputation that the country’s largest private sector group enjoys.

Saturday also saw the state government ordering a heavy deployment of police at the site after some 600 engineers and executives, including from South Korea, Japan and Singapore, of Tata Motors were not allowed to come out of the factory for more than three hours Thursday evening.

The plant is presently employing about 800 people.

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said the agitation would continue till farmers get back their land, allegedly taken for the project and related works forcibly. The party says 400 acres out of 997.11 acres fell under that category.

“We have a one point agenda - that the 400 acres will have to be returned to unwilling farmers. Unless the government accepts our demand, we will continue our agitation,” she said.

The Communists-ruled West Bengal government, which had invited the Tata group to set up the small-car project, has ruled out any state intervention in removing the protestors and has requested them to resolve matters through dialogue.

Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata had last week warned that constant unrest at the project may force him to pull out of the state despite having made an investment of Rs.15 billion ($375 million).

The developments also led to India’s top industrialists rallying behind the Tata group, and issuing a warning that the pullout of the car project would hit the country’s image as an attractive investment destination.

“If the House of Tatas, known for its values and care for the society, can face such resistance, the much needed fresh wave of industrialisation in the country could suffer,” said Sunil Mittal, chairman of Bharti Enterprises.

Trouble at Singur began some months ago when the government acquired nearly 1,000 acres of farmland for the Tata project and ancillary units, but some farmers, collectively owning 400 acres, found the compensation inadequate.

The agitation that started on behalf of the dissatisfied farmers also resulted in clashes with the police and some deaths, forcing Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to call for peaceful negotiations to end the standoff.

The central government ruled out any intervention in the matter. “There is no role for the central government. This is for the state government to decide,” Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal said Friday.

“We should not damage the investors’ confidence in the country. We should not be unjust to people,” Sibal said soon after a meeting of the Union cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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