We at Development Dialogues are constantly trying to expose what lies beneath the glitzy exterior of 'development' the world over. The blog was started as an archive for the articles and reports pertaining to the land acquisitions in West Bengal and India. The scope of the blog has since been expanded to include resistance movements against state and corporate repressions from around the world.
Tatas to Mamata: Help us make Bengal proud and prosperous
On August 19, Mamata Banerjee had read out parts of a letter sent to her by Tata Motors managing director Ravi Kant. The Trinamul Congress leader focused on the paragraph where Ravi Kant mentioned that Tata Motors would require 600-650 acres. Mamata did not make public the rest of the contents of the letter dated August 13.
The full letter is given below. The sub-headings are The Telegraph’s.
August 13, 2008
Dear Ms. Banerjee,
We are very encouraged by the recent reports in the media that you are open to talk to us regarding the upcoming Nano Plant of Tata Motors at Singur. We are pleased to reciprocate this gesture and look forward to our meeting. We believe that such a meeting could serve to eliminate misunderstandings and misapprehensions regarding the Plant at Singur.
With a view to make our meeting more meaningful, we thought we could use this occasion to clarify our position on certain aspects of our project. We hope that this will serve as a worthwhile precursor to our meeting.
Leap of faith
When Tata Motors was looking at setting up its small car project, many States came forward with attractive proposals for location in their respective States. In each case making land available by respective State Government was an integral part of the offer.
We decided to locate the project in the State of West Bengal because our Chairman, Mr Ratan Tata, felt that other things remaining almost equal, we should give encouragement for reindustrialization in West Bengal which for decades had been starved of industrial activity. It was a leap of faith. Amongst several sites offered by the State Government, we chose the one in Singur for its locational advantage — link to Kolkata, airport, port, railway and highway.
Firms on board
We decided that the project should have a capacity of 250,000 vehicles per year with flexibility to raise it to 350,000 per year. As West Bengal did not have adequate high quality suppliers, we thought it appropriate to invite them to come alongside with us (each one of course would have independent existence and would lease land directly from the government).
This would help establish an important auto cluster. These tier I suppliers would have several small tier II and also tier III suppliers spread across the State. This would not only help create an efficient project but also help spread the roots of industrialization quickly across the State including creating additional job and entrepreneurial opportunities.
This would require about 600-650 acres for Tata Motors and 300-350 acres for about 60-70 suppliers or up to 1,000 acres for the entire auto cluster. These suppliers would be free to supply to other auto manufacturers in the State as well as outside the State.
It was encouraging for us that several ancillaries and suppliers shared the vision of bringing in industrialization and growth to the state/region and took up this offer. These include well known and reputed multinational and Indian companies like Bosch, Behr, Gabriel, Exide, Caparo, Kinetic, Sona, Subros, Rico, Rasandik, Lumax, Tata Ryerson and Tata Auto Component who would manufacture sophisticated auto components for not only Nano but for other automobile manufacturers.
As illustrations of the immense potential that auto clusters like the one proposed in Singur possess, I would like to mention the regions in the states of Maharashtra, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Tamil Nadu which have witnessed tremendous social and economic upliftment as a result of being part of auto manufacturing hubs.
There is a misplaced view that “351 acres of the suppliers area are in fact vacant and that this area is planned to be used for commercial and retail purposes”. This has never been our intention. The area is already occupied by credible domestic and international suppliers who have made substantial investments in West Bengal for the first time and who will add to the manufacturing and skills capabilities of Singur town and the State.
In line with the century old Tata ethos, we have begun several projects/activities to improve the quality of life in and around Singur. These efforts are still developing and we are focused at addressing developmental issues for the region in areas of Primary health, education, water and sanitation.
Tata Motors has initiated a programme of training and skills development based on educational criteria and merit. These persons have been trained at the Company’s existing facilities in the country and are on a stipend till they are absorbed in the Singur plants when the operations commence.
Women and other residents in and around the site are being given training in various areas like stitching, catering among others in an effort to help them earn a livelihood through the supply of workers’ uniforms as also canteen and box lunch supplies to the plant.
Further, Tata Motors would support small shops, transport services and similar potential enterprises formed by the residents of Singur. We expect that through the establishment of this proposed auto cluster at full capacity, it would generate employment directly and indirectly of several thousand people. In fact, during the ongoing construction activities over a few thousand people have been engaged for work for several months.
We would very much welcome your association with the activities and look forward to your guidance for improving the wellbeing of residents in Singur and nearby area.
Proud of Nano
The Small car which was unveiled as Nano in Auto Expo in January 2008 has had unprecedented enthusiastic response. We are very proud to inform you that the Nano is a truly indigenous effort — unlike several other products available in the Indian market. It is a product many, including some of our respected industry peers, thought was impossible. It is a product which is likely to change the paradigm of the auto industry across the world.
It is a product which will fulfil the aspiration of lakhs of Indians. And it is a product we all Indians can be highly proud of. It is therefore a matter of great pride that it will first be manufactured out of Bengal and the Singur plant will become a showpiece not only for Bengal and for us at Tata Motors but will also become known across the world. It would be our sincere desire that all of us participate in realizing this dream.
New wave in sight
We are as keen as you are to raise the quality of life of people of Singur area and would be pleased to work with you on finite and pragmatic plans to achieve this goal. We believe that West Bengal has suffered from lack of economic growth ever since industries vacated this State some decades ago, and that the people of West Bengal have been deprived of the prosperity enjoyed elsewhere in the country.
We believe our project will usher in a new wave of investment and bring prosperity to the people in the region and West Bengal. It is very necessary that this be achieved in a climate of mutual understanding and peace rather than misunderstanding and misapprehensions. I am sure that you share the same objective as we do of seeing the state and the people of West Bengal prosper.
We would be pleased to call on you at your convenience and believe that such a meeting can result in a better understanding and convergence of common objectives in the interest of all concerned.
With kind regards,