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The Nano conundrum

business Updated: Sep 11, 2008 22:22 IST
Neha Chawla
Neha Chawla
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

When Ratan Tata announced the launch of Nano, the world's cheapest car in January this year, the Indian middle class was in for a pleasant surprise. A new revolution was unveiled which vouched to overhaul the way India moves.

Auto giants were balled over by the launch of Tata Motors' $2500 car. The launch was a window for the rest of the world into Indian engineering and manufacturing skills.

Braving initial hiccups, Tata was all set to rollout the dream car in October from West Bengal's Singur plant but hit a roadblock when farmers led by Trinamool Congress chief Mamta Banerjee mounted their protests for better compensation.

On one hand a beaming West Bengal was expecting a revivification of industrialisation in the state whereas on the other disquieted local farmers were crusading for their cause - demanding 400 acres out of the total 1,000 acres of land given to Tatas.

Tatas halted the work at the Singur plant amidst growing violent agitation and threatened to move out of West Bengal. Sensing a terrible blow, the efforts to end the impasse were kicked off by the Marxist-led government. Last Sunday, an accord was achieved over the long-impending issue, which re-ignited the hopes of normalcy.

The Nano controversy still hangs in thread after Tata's decision to continue the suspension of work at the Singur plant due to limited clarity on the outcome of accord between the West Bengal Govt and the agitators.

The standoff can be better seen as a conflict between agricultural and industrial sector. When unskilled farmers were coerced to sell their lands to pave way for the industrial growth, the result was a strong wave of anger and resentment.

The Nano episode majorly brings to the fore the battle between the farmers and the industrialists and sheds light on how politics can take the undeserving centre stage. We saw farmers fighting for their rights, hassled Tatas concerned about the future of Nano amidst the raging row and politicians engaged in vote-bank politics.

The whole upheaval has made the people skeptical about the timely launch of their dream car, meanwhile bringing land-acquisition episodes of Nandigram and Orissa back to our minds.

Nandigram last year witnessed bloodshed as 14 people were killed during the hullabalo against the state's decision to allow an Indonesian firm to build chemical plants there.

The situation in Orissa is quite similar to Singur where thousands of people are demonstrating against South Korean firm POSCO's plan to build steel plants there.

A question that haunts our minds is - how many Singur, Nandigram and Orissa are in queue to bear the brunt of government's poor land-acquisition policies? It's high time a consensus is reached on the issue, which would save the industrially backward states from losing crucial projects and assure farmers of a fair deal.

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