Yet another day lost at Nano plant (Lead)

September 1st, 2008 - 3:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Sep 1 (IANS) Operations at Tata Motors’ Nano plant at Singur in West Bengal remained suspended for the third consecutive working day Monday, with the company stating that the situation was not conducive to resuming work. It now seems unlikely that the auto major will be able to roll out the world’s cheapest car by next month, as scheduled.

“The conditions in Singur are still not conducive for resuming work today (Monday). We are assessing the situation closely,” a Tata Motors spokesperson said in a statement.

There was no work in the factory Friday and Saturday due to the ongoing indefinite siege led by the Trinamool Congress, which is demanding the return of 400 acres taken for the project from farmers unwilling to part with their holdings.

Sunday was a holiday at the factory.

Meanwhile, after a week-long traffic gridlock on the Durgapur Expressway - part of the National Highway 2 that connects Kolkata and Delhi, the state government Monday began a drive to clear the snarl-up caused by the agitation at the Nano site.

The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Hooghly district police superintendent Rajiv Mishra.

“We’ve started clearing the traffic congestion on Durgapur Expressway from today morning (Monday). Initially, we will try and clear the flank opposite the stretch on the expressway where (Trinamool chief) Mamata Banerjee is staging her agitation,” Mishra told IANS.

“So far, neither the Trinamool Congress nor the villagers have offered any resistance. We hope normalcy, as far as the vehicular movement on Durgapur Expressway is concerned, would be restored by Monday night,” he said.

The blockade on the 76-km-long Durgapur Expressway has hit supplies of essential commodities, including medicines, to Kolkata with hundreds of trucks stranded for days since Aug 24, when the protests began.

The issue has also reached legal corridors.

Hearing a petition moved by transporters, the Calcutta High Court last week asked the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to ensure smooth passage of vehicles through the expressway.

NHAI officials Saturday met Trinamool Congress leaders to clear the bottleneck.

“We’ll put our work on hold for some hours as a Trinamool rally is scheduled to take place Monday afternoon. But in the evening, the police will again resume the drive to clear the expressway,” Mishra said.

Meanwhile, the Trinamool supremo has stuck to her stand that land must be returned to unwilling farmers.

“If the Tatas want to negotiate on 10 or 20 acres, we can certainly talk as practical considerations need to be taken into account,” Banerjee told a rally, hinting that the figure of 400 acres was non-negotiable.

She also promised the panchayats in the Singur area, which her party now runs, would help identify alternative land for the ancillary units just opposite the Tata Motors factory site.

“Our panchayats have already found out the alternative 400 acres. We also want the ancillary units to come up at the same place,” she said.

A delegation of the umbrella organisation floated by the protesters Sunday met West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi.

The governor, who had earlier urged Banerjee to come to the discussion table, appealed to the Trinamool supremo to seek the help of a mediator who has “no political or industrial affiliations” to resolve the stalemate.

But the suggestion was turned down by both the ruling Left Front and the opposition.

More than 997 acres of land was acquired for the project, of which 691.66 acres belonged to farmers who gave their land willingly.

Nano, which has made headlines the world over, is priced at Rs.1,00,000 (about $2,500).

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