Friday, August 1, 2008

Singur and Tata Nano

The Telegraph

Hint of Singur compensation hike

Calcutta, July 31: The Bengal government today spoke of a possible compensation hike for Singur landlosers after Tata Motors hinted yesterday that the continuing violence against its small-car project could be testing its patience.

Company managing director Ravi Kant had said the project would go on “as long as our patience lasts”, adding: “Ultimately, the people of Bengal have to decide whether they want industrialisation.”

State industries minister Nirupam Sen today reaffirmed that the government was ready to discuss everything with the landlosers and the Opposition except returning any part of the land. He said the government would consider raising the compensation if such a demand was made.

“If land is returned to those who have not taken compensation yet, the project has to be scrapped. But we are ready to discuss everything else,” Sen told reporters.

Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, however, ruled out any talks with the government unless it returned the 400 acres she claims were forcibly acquired from farmers.

Asked if she would accept the higher compensation offer, Mamata flared up, saying: “I have already made it clear that the land has to be returned first.”

Sen conceded that the former owners of about 350-odd acres out of the site’s 997 acres were yet to accept compensation, but said these numbers proved that Singur had more supporters than opponents of the Nano project.

The attacks on those working at the factory site have allegedly been carried out by the Trinamul-backed Save farmland Committee. Many believe that the sudden escalation in violence, including a mob attack on an engineer on Tuesday, reflects a build-up to the indefinite dharna Mamata has announced at the factory site.

“We had planned the dharna from August 20 but have deferred it by a day or two since Left trade unions have called an all-India strike on the day,” she said.

Singur has seen Bengal’s first experiment with large-scale land acquisition during its latest drive towards industry. Last year, Amartya Sen had mentioned to The Telegraph that the compensation had not factored in the possible rise in land value after the factory came up.

That set the ball rolling in the state government to review the compensation, and a new rehabilitation bill that is ready for tabling at the Assembly does take into account the “future value of land”.

Mamata argued that 600 acres was enough for a car factory and “the additional 400 acres acquired for building shopping malls and other things” must be returned.

Times of India

Cornered CPM plans sops for Singur land-losers
2 Aug 2008, 0308 hrs IST,TNN

KOLKATA: With the CPM on the backfoot over the impasse in Singur, the state government has started exploring options to appease a section of the land-losers who are left with no other source of income. The government is planning to purchase land in Singur and make some arrangements to provide the landless with a steady source of income.

But the proposal has to come from below, chances of which seem remote when Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has ruled out any talks unless the government returns the 400 acres of land taken from “unwilling farmers”.

“An assured alternative income is what the landless want. We have reports that quite a few in Dobandhi village of Singur have dissociated themselves from the Krishi Jami Raksha Committee (KJRC) after they started working on a daily basis at the upcoming vendors’ park. They are now earning Rs 1,900 to Rs 2,000 a month,” said a senior official of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC).

Party mandarins in Alimuddin Street, however, are yet to make up their minds. With most of the panchayats in Singur going with the Trinamool Congress, CPM isn’t sure how far the district activists will be able to mobilise the landless villagers, defying Didi’s whip. CPM, instead, will try to build public opinion for industrialisation that took a beating after the Nandigram carnage.

Senior CPM leader Benoy Konar on Friday ruled out distribution of the vested land in Hooghly to those who have become landless after the acquisition. “The government has already given pattas to the landless. There is an insignificant portion of land left, and that too scattered here and there. Returning those plots to the farmers is thus out of the question,” he said.

Also, Alimuddin Street is in no mood to renew the proposal that CPM patriarch Jyoti Basu had floated to the party after his talks with Mamata, a year ago. “There is no such land in the vicinity,” a state commerce and industries official said.

The state, however, has not given up on such an option altogether. “If the Opposition wants, the government can purchase land and put up stalls for the landless. But we can’t make this alternative for those who can sustain for months without taking the cheques,” an official said.

Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Partha Chatterjee, however, sounded adamant. “We will continue our struggle until the government returns the 400 acres of land it has acquired from the unwilling farmers,” he said.

The Economic Times

Singur situation bad but Nano plans are in place: Tata Motors

MUMBAI: Tata Motors on Wednesday reiterated that it would roll out its wonder car Nano during October-December quarter even though the company said the situation is Singur, where the company manufactures the Rs one lakh car, is bad.

Tata Motors Managing Director Ravi Kant also added that the situation not so bad that the company shift out.
Speaking to reporters while releasing the first quarter results on Wednesday Tata Motors Managing Director Ravi Kant said the company would roll out Nano from the Singur plant in West Bengal during October-December quarter.
Referring to the recent disturbances at the plant, he said, "Some elements are causing problems there. The situation is bad. But we are moving ahead."

When asked for how long the company will bear this kind of opposition, he said, "We will continue as long as our patience lasts." But he indicated the situation is not so bad that the company should shift out.

When asked whether the company has plans to manufacture Nano from its new plant in Uttarachal as well, Ravi Kant said the company will not stop at Singur given that the estimated demand for the car is very high.

Referring to the recent flare up in oil prices, he said Nano is the right product at the right time. He said the company has taken a bold decision to locate the plant at Singur despite an advice to the contrary.

"We could have set up the plant anywhere else. But we decided on West Bengal as we want this part of the country to see development, he said."