The Nano has been driven out of Singur. Announcing this in Kolkata on Friday, Ratan Tata blamed Mamata Banerjee directly and his business rivals obliquely for the pullout, adding that there has been no decision on the plant’s new address.
The first casualty: Nano may not make it to Indian roads in 2008. "There is an interim plan to produce the car at existing locations and launch it but even that looks difficult between October-December this year," said an official close to the issue on condition of anonymity.
<b1>Earlier, a visibly upset Tata said, “We have to take this regretful decision to move Nano out of West Bengal with great sadness. We faced great agitation from the opposition and that is the sole reason for moving out. We cannot run a plant with police protection, with bombs being thrown, walls broken or people intimidated.”
“It is a corporate decision,” said Mamata Banerjee, adding that Ratan Tata’s decision smells of a “joint game plan of the state government and the Tatas. The Tatas are trying to blame us, which seems politically motivated.”
Nano, meanwhile, has moved on. Its new address could now either be Karnataka, Maharashtra or Gujarat.
“We have not decided where to shift but there are offers from three or four states,” Tata said. “We have a timeline and we have made promises to the public.”
“For the mother plant, it is a toss up between Karnataka and Gujarat and it has to be a coastal state for the sake of exports,” the unidentified official added.
Vendors have been supplying material to Pune and Pantnagar, locations where batches of the car are reportedly being assembled.
The fate of more than 50 vendors associated with the project too hangs in balance and the Buddhadeb Bhattacharya led government may face some heat from them in the coming days.
“We will march with Tata wherever they go, but West Bengal is clearly not ready for industrialisation,” said Surinder Kapur, chairman and managing director, Sona Koyo Group, which is supplying steering systems to the project. “We will talk to West Bengal government for compensation as an industry or individually and I am even ready to seek legal recourse for the same.”
Reference to a possible corporate rivalry at the back of the agitation too resurfaced. “It makes me wonder where the money for the agitation came from,” Tata said. “Such an agitation that has been on for months has logistic and other needs.”
Tata had, in late 2006, said that competitors have been fuelling the agitation in Singur which had prompted a strong reaction from market leader Maruti Suzuki.