Kolkata: Two-wheeler maker TVS Motor Co. Ltd, which intends to produce motorcycles in West Bengal at a factory being set up by a venture of Indonesia’s Salim Group, has complained about local interference disrupting construction of the facility.
Mahabharat Motors Manufacturing Co. Pvt. Ltd, a joint venture of the Salim Group and its Indian partner, Prasoon Mukherjee’s Universal Success Enterprises Ltd, is building the factory on a 65-acre plot at Uluberia in Howrah district, some 50km from Kolkata. It planned to start manufacturing motorcycles for TVS from June.
Factory construction had slowed because of protests by supporters of the state’s main opposition Trinamool Congress party and the Forward Bloc, an ally of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), TVS has alleged in a letter written to the West Bengal government, a copy of which was reviewed by Mint.
“They are pressuring us to recruit workers chosen by them (Trinamool Congress and Forward Bloc) to construct the factory,” said T.V. Sreedharan, chief operating officer of Mahabharat Motors.
Trinamool Congress supporters have also been demanding better compensation for people who were forced to sell land to the state government for the factory, TVS wrote in its letter. The government had paid Rs3.5 lakh an acre on an average when it acquired land for the project more than three years ago.
“We have demanded that the company must train and employ at least 20 young people from that area (where the factory is located),” said Ramen Ghosh, vice-president of Forward Bloc’s Howrah district unit.
Asked if the protests were going out of hand, Sreedharan said: “It shouldn’t be difficult for the state government to handle the situation.” Though he admitted that his company was unable to cope with the resistance and interference from the local people, he said he was still hopeful that trial production at the factory could start in July.
Sabyasachi Sen, principal secretary of West Bengal’s commerce and industries department, declined to comment on the matter.
Flashback: A file photo of a demonstration in Singur,West Bengal. Such protests forced Tata Motors to shelve its Nano car project in the state. Indranil Bhoumik / Mint
Several industrial projects in West Bengal such as Tata Motors Ltd’s small car factory in Singur in Hooghly district and Tata Metaliks Ltd’s proposed steel plant in Kharagpur in West Midnapore district have been shelved because of resistance to farmland acquisition.
West Bengal’s chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had laid the foundation stone of Mahabharat Motors’ factory more than three years ago.
At that time, Mahabharat Motors had said it would create capacity to manufacture 500,000 motorcycles a year.
It had initially planned to manufacture motorcycles with Chinese technology, but because Mahabharat Motors’ talks with potential partners failed, the project was delayed by at least two years.
In June last year, when it finally signed an agreement with TVS Motor—India’s third largest motorcycle maker—Mahabharat Motors said it would manufacture 100,000 two-wheelers a year that would be sold under the TVS brand.The arrangement also solved Mahabharat Motors’ problem of finding a technology partner.