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Small car, big trouble and ambition

autos Updated: Jan 12, 2008 15:16 IST

When Ratan Tata added a touch of sarcasm while unveiling 'Nano' on Thursday saying it could have been named "Buddha" after West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya or "Despite Mamta" after Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, he may have missed out a point unwittingly.

If he knew what was happening at the Tata Motors plant at Singur where Nano is to be produced, he could have thought of another not-to-be-used title - "Despite CITU" - after the Marxists-led Centre for Indian Trade Union.

The trade union, an arm of Bhattacharya's Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) was spearheading the anger against the 935-acre Tata Motors plant at Singur, some 40 km from Kolkata, where the world's cheapest car will be mass-produced.

Agitating temporary guards, many of whom lost their land to the project, stalled operations at the plant, after halting work at the vendor park when Nano was unveiled before the world in a blaze of glory.

And Bhattacharya's party was caught on the wrong foot over the agitation, since its own people disrupted work and reportedly threatened workers at the plant.

"Everything would be settled. These things happen. We have to talk. We have to explain things to the workers," said the CITU state president and CPI-M central committee member Shyamal Chakraborty.

"We will try to find out some alternative for these people," he told IANS, even as those willing to work at the factory felt intimidated.

"I was shoved out. They didn't allow me to unload the material. I have never come across such a situation," contractor Mohammed Yakub told reporters.

In fact, the ruling party had to appeal to its own government to rehabilitate the temporary workers who were hired to protect the boundary wall while it was being built and now being shown the door.

As Chakraborty tried to simplify the situation and said: "it happens", the local population, holding the same red flag as the CITU leader were clearly not amused and sought an explanation from the government.

"Outsiders cannot work here when we are being sacked," said Golok Santra, even as leaders of the local governing body admitted some of their supporters had threatened others at the project site.

While Singur remained on the boil over retrenchments, Ratan Tata was more vocal about West Bengal's industrialisation and warned that the state would remain farm-based if development was halted.

"Lack of industrialisation has hurt the people of West Bengal. If people do not want industrialisation, then it is easiest for anyone not to go to the state." The soft-spoken chairman of the Tata group said Friday.

"People of West Bengal should choose what they want. Will they like to see more prosperity of the state and more job opportunities? Industry is required and will play a role but not at the cost of the farmers. They should be adequately compensated."

Tata Motors managing director Ravi Kant said people of West Bengal should feel proud of the car since it will come from their state, alluding to the global headlines the Nano has grabbed as being the world's cheapest car.

His team of over 3,500 people is racing against time to meet two deadlines: one to get the plant in shape by June and then to prime it up for production by the year-end.

They hope to finally deliver the car within the deadlines so that Tata well say: "Despite Mamata, Medha, Maruti and Marxists"