Tata Motors ‘assessing situation’ after hold-up of workers (Roundup)

August 29th, 2008 - 11:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Aug 29 (IANS) A week after Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata’s warning that he may move out of West Bengal, the situation at his Tata Motors’ small car factory at Singur looked grimmer Friday with employees refusing to report for work after they were held up at the factory Thursday evening by protesting anti-land acquisition activists.”Our workers are not attending work today. We are assessing the situation as of now,” the global auto major Tata Motors said in a statement.

On Thursday, a Tata Motors source said: “The attendance of contractual labourers has fallen further. The constant decline in the attendance of contractual labourers, due to increasing threats to workers by the agitators, is having an effect on the deadlines of the project.”

Nano, the world’s cheapest car priced at Rs.100,000, is set to roll out from the Tata Motors’ stable in October. However, in view of the constant unrest the project has been facing over land acquisition, Ratan Tata last week warned that he may consider pulling out of the state.

The Krishijami Jiban Jibika Raksha Committee (KJJRC), backed by the Trinamool Congress, has been continuing an indefinite agitation at the Nano factory site since Sunday, demanding the return of 400 acres of land taken from “unwilling farmers” to set up ancillary industries.

A total of 997.11 acres was acquired for the project, of which 691.66 acres belonged to farmers who gave their land willingly.

“This agitation is affecting work in the ancillary units too,” Sandipan Chakravorty, managing director of Tata Ryerson Ltd and deputy chairman of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), said on the sidelines of a seminar Friday.

Security at the Tata Motors’ plant was tightened Friday in the wake of protest by pro-farmer organisation Paschimbanga Kshet Mazur Samiti (PKMS), whose activists Thursday prevented hundreds of workers from leaving the plant at Singur, 40 km from here.

More then 600 engineers and executives remained trapped for three hours inside the Tata Motors factory Thursday evening as PKMS activists, led by farmer leader Anuradha Talwar, held a cultural programme and squatted on the Durgapur Expressway near the factory gate.

The PKMS has no formal links with the Trinamool Congress, but is a part of the movement in Singur.

The Trinamool Congress-led KJJRC, which opposed the takeover of farmland for the Tata project, had called for an indefinite protest at the Nano factory site from Aug 24.

The central government Friday made it clear that it will not intervene in the issue and underlined the need for “balancing investment and justice”.

“We should not damage the investors’ confidence in the country. We should not be unjust to people,” Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters in New Delhi when asked whether the government was planning to play the facilitator in the Singur case.

“There is no role for the central government in this. This is for the state government to decide. The state government should act,” he stressed.

In a related development, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was “censured” by the politburo of his own CPI-M for his anti-strike remarks.

Central committee member Shyamal Chakraborty, known for his proximity to Bhattacharjee, said categorically that the chief minister had been “punished” by the politburo that publicly censured him for his opinion against strikes.

“The politburo has publicly censured Bhattacharjee Thursday for his comments against strikes. As per our party constitution, publicly censuring someone is a punishment and the party has given the punishment to him,” Chakraborty told reporters.

“Bhattacharjee has accepted the punishment,” he added.

Bhattacharjee, himself a party politburo member, had said at a business gathering in Kolkata Tuesday: “Personally, I don’t support strikes. Bandhs (shutdowns) do not help the country.” He added that he found sieges and shutdowns “immoral”.

“Unfortunately, I belong to a political party. They call strikes and I keep mum,” he said.

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