People of Singur, Tata Motors and West Bengal Rulers<

I have been writing in support of the Ratan Tata’s Rs 1-lakh-car project. It will be a revolutionary achievement for the Indian manufacturing sector. However, for few months now, every now and then, I read about protests from the farmers of Singur that Tata Motors has selected as the plant site. The issues related to the project location and politicalisation troubles me, and even after a lot of analysis I can’t find the logics to locate the plant at Singur.

First of all why has Tata Motors selected West Bengal, the state famous for militant and old-generation trade unionism, and the state that provides the leaderships of trade unions all over the country? Is it for a political reason, attraction of Buddha’s initiatives, some bigger gains from the government or purely on technically and commercially superior location advantages? Is a whimsical decision of an influential person from West Bengal in the corporate office of Tata just to favour his state of origin? Singur and all the adjoining areas of Hooghly have performed well on agricultural front with multi-cropping.

Why couldn’t Tata Motors select some place near Kharagpur on the Kolkata-Chennai wing of GQ, where as I remember from IIT days, a large tract of land around the institute, Salwa and Kalaikunda, the air force base, are barren or lying scarcely utilized for agriculture? Tatas do have some manufacturing plants also in the vicinity.

In one of my articles, I did also suggest Tata Motors to buy the huge land around Hindustan Motors factory for its plant. Hindustan Motors may even sell its total facilities there, as it is hardly doing any significant manufacturing there. The government of west Bengal could have facilitated.

But the most disturbing question that I fail to answer myself with all my knowledge of the auto industry of India and abroad is regarding the amount of land required by Tata Motors. Why should the requirement be of 1000-1200 acres for an assembly plant in a multi-crop fertile land? Can’t Tatas appreciate the importance of the farming land that is shrinking every day? If at all, Singur is the best location, why can’t a car assembly plant be constructed in smaller area? I have seen many auto plants both in Europe and Japan producing many times more production that Tatas are planning being produced in smaller areas using multistoried plant building. I understand and even suggest Tatas to set up a number of assembly plants in different states of the country to cater to the regional requirements.

However, I can’t but appreciate the manner in which Buddha government is trying to acquire land for its development projects. All senior members of the government and intellectuals of the party are trying to sell the need of sparing the land for industrial projects to the people and farmers of West Bengal. Though politicians like Mamata Banerji will be trying to cash on this sentimental issue. But the well-oiled and well-entrenched party machinery of the CPM in rural Bengal will make the acquisition of land a lesser trouble for Buddha government unlike some in other states. CPM is working overtime for it. And in the process, as middlemen the unscrupulous ones will take some pretty good commissions from the farmers for getting better compensation paid.

The CMs of the other states must learn some lessons from West Bengal on the issue of land acquisition for major national projects.


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