Nano will move out of Singur if violence persists: Tata (Lead)

August 22nd, 2008 - 4:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Aug 22 (IANS) The Tata group Friday warned that it will move the factory to build the world’s cheapest car “Nano” out of Communist-ruled West Bengal if strife over acquisition of farm land for the project persisted. “It is for Calcutta (Kolkata) to decide if we want to be an unwanted resident or a good corporate citizen of West Bengal,” Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata told reporters here after a series of meetings with top officials and ministers in the state government.

“We cannot operate in this environment,” the soft-spoken chairman of one of India’s largest industrial houses said, referring to the violence over the acquisition of land for the project in Singur, some 40 km from here.

” I don’t have a plan to move out of West Bengal because that will have a great cost to Tata Motors’ share holders and West Bengal. The project of producing small cars at West Bengal’s Singur cannot be altered.”

“If West Bengal wants us, we will be very, very happy to stay and be part of the state’s development,” he said in a rather stern but uncharacteristic remark.

“I have a very soft corner for West Bengal. But now I have the feeling that Tatas are unwanted in West Bengal for whatsoever reason,” he said after the annual general meeting of Tata Tea.

“Industrialisation cannot ignore the rural community and I don’t think that rural community can prosper without the industrialisation.”

Tata also said that land at Singur was not being used for cultivation for the past two years and that farming was not possible because of waterlogging.

Asked if the developments would affect the group’s future plans for West Bengal, he said: “Of course, it will.”

“If anybody is under the impression that since we have made the investment, we will not move - then we will move to protect our people,” he said, referring to the investment of Rs.15 billion ($375 million) made in the project.

“I cannot bring our people and family to West Bengal if they are going to be beaten, if there is going to be violence.”

The Tata group chairman’s comments came against the backdrop of continuing violence in the state over the small car project — christened ‘Nano” — at Singur, where 997.11 acres were acquired.

The project has been mired in controversy as farmers’ groups and the Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee have alleged that the state government “forcibly acquired” their farmlands.

Protesters have often entered into scuffle with the factory workers in the past. Last month, an engineer of the construction firm Shapoorji Pallonji was roughed up by women protesters.

Early this month, peasants clashed with the police after a handful of locals tried to break the factory wall with shovels. Two security men were also beaten up.

“We are not against industrialisation in the state, but we want the state government to give back 400 acres of land to the unwilling farmers,” Banerjee told industry representatives Thursday referring to a part of the land acquired for the Tata project.

She claimed that Tata Motors, the company executing the venture, would require only 650 acres to build the factory but had acquired 997.11 acres.

Nano, a 623-cc car with a 33 horsepower multipoint fuel injection petrol engine, was unveiled at Auto Expo 2008 in New Delhi Jan 10, with the aim of selling it at no more than Rs.100,000 ($2,500), not including the taxes.

The company said it intended to produce about 250,000 Nanos and expects an eventual annual demand of one million cars a year.

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