Saturday, January 19, 2008

Singur: More Than A Nano Problem

Financial Express on the Singur issue after the unveiling of Nano

While the Rs 1-lakh marvel stands sparkling and bright in Delhi’s Pragati Maidan, in Singur the future of the Tata factory and the fate of Bengal remain as bleak as ever
Ninad Dhirubhai Sheth
Posted online: Saturday , January 12, 2008 at 2254 hrs IST

The word is about, there's something evolving, whatever may come, the world keeps revolving They say the next big thing is here, that the revolution's near, but to me it seems quite clear that it's all just a little bit of history repeating


Walking down Shakespeare Sarani the irony is unmistakable. On the one hand is the obvious bustle of the city of joy. A new excitement is palpable — there is more traffic on the road then ever, pubs are busy, at the addas the bard’s old question is the topic of discussion — its all about the stark ‘to be or not to be’. West Bengal, unlike the $1-trillion Economy that is India, is still grappling with this one.

In his simple office off Park Road former SBI and Peerless chairman DN Ghosh who is a veteran watcher of the West Bengal Economy has this to say: “Look it’s quite simple — industrialisation is needed but how do the communists commutate it to the cadre? How do you change track? These things are difficult. Everywhere in West Bengal it is a Herculean U-turn.”

Cut for a minute to the trade fair in Delhi where the Tata Nano car is being showcased. A total of 3,50,000 of these little beauties will roll out of the plant that the Tatas have controversially acquired in Singur. There are a bunch of English-speaking protestors crying for blood. The reason is an old one. An agrarian Economy is industrialising and pain is likely. According to government estimates, 70% of the state’s population depends on agriculture while the all- India average is 56%. They have never seen any other way of life. Agriculture is now, industrialisation is in the future. But will a successful industrial hub change all that? Says auto analyst Murad Ali Baig, “A thriving plant will likely change the mindset. It is not rocket science. When Escorts came with their plant in the late 80’s in Faridbabd there was opposition. Soon ancillaries came in and so did property development. The same thing happened with Maruti in Gurgaon. When Maruti came, Gurgaon was drab and underdeveloped. Maruti’s success was the forebearer of the MNC boom that followed. I am totally convinced that many of the fence sitters will come around with progress. West Bengal needs the plant to show what industrialisation can do.”

In Bengal however, the difference is Politics. The Left Front’s coalition

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