The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
MUMBAI: The car billed as the cheapest in the world has a new, $416.6 million home.
Tata Motors said Tuesday that it would manufacture the ultra-cheap Nano on what is now a government-owned cow pasture in the western state of Gujarat after two years of increasingly violent protests from farmers forced the company to pull its factory from West Bengal.
"We now have a new home," Ratan Tata said, speaking in Ahmedabad, the commercial capital of Gujarat.
Tata said the new factory would initially produce about 250,000 Nanos and that the company would do its best to launch the 100,000 rupee, or $2,100, car by year's end, as planned - possibly by initiating production at existing factories in Pune and Pantnagar.
He said he did not anticipate that the delay and relocation would cause any "appreciable loss" on the company's books.
The new factory and ancillary vendor park, which Tata says will generate 10,000 jobs, will be housed on 450 hectares, or 1,100 acres, that Anand Agricultural University had been using to graze cattle. The deal will halve the campus's size.
The Gujarat government acquired an additional 20 hectares of land from farmers adjacent to the campus in Sanand, outside Ahmedabad city, for an access road - the deal was completed in just six hours on Monday, said three locals who sold their land.
"I have no problem whatsoever if the government wants land," said Nazirkhan Pathan, who said he sold two acres to the government for 1,100 rupees a square meter, far more than the market price. "After all, it will bring prosperity to the entire state."
Suresh Rangarajan, a Tata spokesman, said the company picked the Gujarat site because the land has been in government hands for a century and work could get started quickly.
He said that seven farmers sold their land to make way for the access road. "They are very forward-looking," he said. "They want investment and development."
Tata's venture in Singur, West Bengal, collapsed Friday after intensifying protests by farmers and opposition party leaders who said the state's governing Communist Party hadn't fairly compensated locals for their property.
The mood in West Bengal was mixed Tuesday evening.
Manik Das, 36, an opposition party activist, vowed to continue protesting until she gets her two acres back. "It does not matter to me whether Tata set up their plant at Gujarat or anywhere else," she said. "I want my land back - not the money."
Bonani Ghosh, 35, had started a canteen for Nano plant workers. "My lifestyle as well as my family's got more comfortable after running this canteen," she said. "With Gujarat being selected for the production of the car, we have no more hope."
It's not yet clear what will happen to the abandoned plant site, but the West Bengal minister of industry, Nirupam Sen, has said that by law the land, which he insists was acquired legally, cannot be returned to farmers.
The Tata dispute was not the first time that West Bengal leaders have faced allegations of using strong-arm tactics to wrench land from poor farmers.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say that at least 30 people were killed, hundreds injured and thousands displaced in Nandigram, West Bengal, after villagers protested last year, eventually forcing the authorities to scrap plans for a shipyard and a petrochemical plant spread over more than 8,900 hectares of farmland.
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