Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nano car factory row 'to resume'
Protests outside the Nano plant
Work at the plant has been suspended indefinitely

An oposition group in India's West Bengal state says it will resume protests that led to the suspension of work at a Tata Motors plant.

This follows the collapse of an agreement between the group and the state government over the plant.

Under the accord, the state government promised to return some land at the plant site to local farmers.

Tata Motors stopped work this month on the plant where it plans to build the Nano, the world's cheapest car.

Separately, the government in the southern Indian state of Karnataka has offered 1,000 acres of land to Tata Motors to relocate the Nano car factory there.

Tata Motors managing director Ravi Kant told reporters that the firm had taken no decision yet on the offer.

Under a recent agreement, the West Bengal government had agreed to return as much land as possible within the plant site outside Calcutta to "unwilling farmers" who were against the acquisition of their farms.

'Agitation'

The opposition groups, led by the Trinamul Congress party, agreed to the government's proposal to provide the rest from around the plant site.

Under the agreement, Tata Motors, India's biggest vehicle makers, would retain 650 acres of land for the plant. The ancillary factories for the plant will get the 290 acres allotted to them.

The agreement broke down on Thursday after the Trinamul Congress party said the government should return at least 300 acres of land to farmers from within the plant area.


Nano car

Exclusive look at the Tata Nano

But the state government said it could return only 70 acres from within the plant site. The rest, it says, has to be provided from outside it.

"We will resume our agitation for getting back land for the farmers who lost it to the plant and want it back," said Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.

Tata Motors have not yet commented on the latest development.

The West Bengal chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharyya said the protesters were "failing to understand the integrated nature" of the car plant.

Economic zones

The state government has also announced a package to compensate farmers who have lost their land.

Tata had faced violent protests and political opposition over the acquisition of farmland for the factory in Singur in the state of West Bengal.

Tata's owner, Ratan Tata, has said he will consider moving production of the Nano out of West Bengal if unrest around the plant continues.

Tata plans to launch the Nano later this year, priced at about $2,500 (£1,370) from the plant in West Bengal.

India's rapid industrialisation in recent years has been the backbone of the country's strong economic growth.

But this process has provoked a backlash since the majority of Indians still earn their living off the land.

The policy of creating special economic zones to attract new investment has provided a focal point for the anger of poorer, rural families who rely on their land for food and income.

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