Tata Motors’ Nano factory continues to remain shut (Round-up)

September 1st, 2008 - 6:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Sep 1 (IANS) The Tata Motors plant at Singur in West Bengal, which was to roll out the world’s cheapest car Nano, remained shut for the third day Monday, even as protesters said they were willing to hold talks while continuing with the nine-day agitation.”The conditions in Singur are still not conducive for resuming work today. We continue to assess the situation closely,” a spokesperson for Tata Motors said in a statement here, as members of West Bengal’s ruling Commun ist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) held a massive rally here against the “imperialistic” policies of the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The protesters, led by firebrand regional leader Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress party, want the government to return some 400 acres of land, which they allege was forcibly taken away from farmers. The government had acquired 997.11 acres of land for the project, including ancillary industries around it.

Monday saw the state government launch a drive after a week of protests to clear the arterial Durgapur Expressway, in the vicinity of which the Singur plant of Tata Motors is located.

“We’ve started clearing the traffic congestion on the Durgapur Expressway from today morning,” Hooghly District Police Superintendent Rajiv Mishra told IANS. The protesters had erected a makeshift podium near that for their leaders.

The action led to the protesters making way for trucks and other vehicles to pass for some three hours, following which the highway was blocked once again - this time to protest the entry of foreign retail trade companies.

The 76-km long expressway is a part of National Highway-2 and connects Kolkata with Delhi. The blockage has cut off supplies to Kolkata and other areas, as hundreds of trucks remained stranded for days since Aug 24.

West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi also wrote a letter Sunday to Banerjee and suggested that a mediator resolves the standoff with the state government, after which a Trinamool Congress delegation met him at his official residence.

But the feisty Mamata Banerjee, who is the leader of the Communists-ruled West Bengal’s largest opposition party, was unwilling to relent - at least that has been her public posture - saying talks and agitation can go on together.

“I thank him for his (governor’s) concern. But the increasing mass support we are getting proves we don’t need mediators,” she said. “Let the factory use 60 percent of the land and let the ancillary units be located on the plot opposite - 40 percent land could be returned then.”

She also promised that the panchayat, the village administration that her party now runs, will help in identifying alternative land for the ancillary units, just opposite the Tata Motors factory site.

“Our panchayats have already found the alternative 400 acres. We want ancillary units to come up at the same place,” she said. “If the Tatas want to negotiate on 10-20 acres, we can talk, as practical issues needed consideration.”

Tata Motors executives said the continuing agitation was posing a question mark on the company being able to meet the October deadline to roll out the Nano that is slated to cost all of Rs.100,000 ($2,500) excluding taxes and has taken global auto industry by storm.

The agitation has seen the Indian industry rally in unison behind the 140-year-old Tata group - India’s largest with 96 firms, a collective turnover of $62.5 billion and 350,000 employees within and outside the country.

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