On a day when the Singur impasse appeared moving closer to a resolution, Tata Motors officially suspended work at the upcoming Nano plant and said it was looking at alternative sites.
The announcement came even as Mamata Banerjee, who is leading the protests in Singur, agreed to talks with the state government and West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi offered to mediate.
But a Tata Group official, who spoke to Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity, said the company wants a closure not only as regards Mamata but all such issues that could potentially trigger protests in future.
The Tata statement on suspension of work at the Singur unit highlighted growing impatience on the company’s part. Tata had plans to hit the market with the Nano before Dussehra.
A delay also makes it more tough to stick to the Rs 1-lakh price tag for what has been billed as the “people’s car”.
Tata Motors said it has been “constrained to suspend the construction and commissioning work at the Nano plant in Singur in view of the continued confrontation and agitation at the site”.
“The company is evaluating alternate options for manufacturing the Nano car at other company facilities.”
Following the statement, things could go either way. It could mount more pressure on Mamata and expedite a solution to the vexed issue around acquisition of land.
Mamata has already showed signs of reconciliation by agreeing to talks with the state government, but Tatas appear to be pushing for a faster outcome.
“It is their internal and technical matter,” she said responding to Tata’s statement.
Earlier, speaking to protesters outside the Nano factory at Singur, she made a major climb down, saying she accepted the “land for land” theory. This is the first time, the Trinamool Congress leader has budged from her stand that some 400 acres of land acquired for the project was not negotiable.
“We are still hopeful that the situation would be resolved and short term political gains would be set aside in favour of overall development of the nation,” said Chandrajeet Banerjee, director general of Confederation of Indian Industry.
If Mamata doesn’t relent and soon, Tata Motors would eventually pull out.
“A detailed plan to relocate the plant and machinery to an alternate site is under preparation,” the Tata statement said. If that happens the company plans to relocate people who have been hired and trained at the Singur site, the statement said.
(With Snigdhendu Bhattachary)