TATA Group chairman Ratan Tata, on Friday, for the first time indicated that the much-awaited rollout of the Rs 1-lakh small car from the Singur factory could miss the June 2008 deadline due to “vested interests”.
“The Tata Motors small car project in Singur is getting delayed due to vested interests. There’s an effort to delay the project. But we remain optimistic about meeting the rollout deadline of June 2008. We will use our own capability to overcome the delay and find out our own way,” asserted Mr Tata, without mincing any words. He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Tata Tea AGM in Kolkata.
Mr Tata, however, declined to elaborate on the “vested interests” bit. He had famously hinted along these lines several months ago in a widely publicised media interview.
On completion, the Rs 1,000-crore Singur small car factory will be geared to churn out 2.5 lakh cars annually. In the past one year, the politically-sensitive Singur project has been in the eye of a storm, facing intense opposition from political parties of varying shades. The most strident opponent has clearly been the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, which has launched a crusade against farmland acquisition for the Tata Motors venture in Singur. Ms Banerjee went on a month-long hunger strike in a bid to force the Buddhadeb governement to halt the project. Worse, there have been numerous attempts by different political parties to disrupt construction activity at the Singur project site and even tear down the boundary wall.
Mr Tata firmly believes that the continuing land acquisition controversy is politically motivated. “Those who are expressing concern for farmers should do something for them. This controversy is politically motivated. Why are farmers in Maharashtra committing suicide? Why are farmers living below the poverty line,” said Mr Tata, even as he was literally being hemmd in by the media at the venue of the Tata Tea AGM.
Significantly, Mr Tata’s comments come at a stage when the Buddhadeb government has convened an all-party meeting to get consensus on the proposed site of the Salim Group’s chemical hub, a project which has already been delayed by over a year. The West Bengal chief minster has seldom missed an opportunity in emphasising that it took intense persuasion from his side to convince the Tata Group chairman to decide on investing in the Singur auto project. In this light, Mr Tata said: “Today, West Bengal is the most investor-friendly state in the country. The state has a pragmatic chief minister and an enlighetened state government. Even though the state has great potential, the people here did not have the opportunity to prosper. “
Stating that West Bengal had been ignored by the industry for historical reasons, he said “Tata Motors had decided to locate the plant in Singur because the Tatas believed that somebody would have to make a start”.
“The Rs 1 lakh car project is a showcase project for Tata Motors, which is why the company chose to locate it on the national highway due to the visibility factor,” asserted Mr Tata.
Meanwhile, the super-speciality cancer hospital being set up by the Tatas in Rajarhat will become operational by the third quarter of 2008. “It will be a premier institute with state-of -the-art facilities,” claimed Mr Tata.