Singur, West Bengal/New Delhi: Commercial and passenger vehicle maker Tata Motors Ltd has evacuated its executives and workers from its factory in Singur, West Bengal, people close to the development said.
Protesters won a victory on Friday when, for the first time, Tata officials told its roughly 5,500 employees and contractors not to come to work.
“The workers and the executives were afraid and worried, and our foremost priority was to ensure their safety. Hence, the management decided to evacuate its manpower from the plant late last evening,” a company official said on condition of anonymity.
Doubtful: Trinamool Congress supporters on dharna in Singur on Thursday. The party has vowed to press on with the blockade. Photograph: PTI
“Since the employees and contract labourers had left the plant late last night, so it was a conscious decision of the company that there would be no attendance at the project site at any of the three shifts today,” a Tata Motors spokesperson said from Kolkata.
The move cast further doubt on the production of the $2,500 (Rs1.09 lakh at present) Nano, set to go on sale by the end of 2008.
The company acquired 403ha in Singur to build its plant on, but the project has drawn opposition from local farmers, who say they haven’t received proper compensation for their land, and opposition politicians who accuse the company of taking advantage of the rural poor.
The protests, which began in December 2006, have intensified recently. Opposition politicians have for nearly a week been organizing a blockade of the highway that runs past the factory, setting up tents and stages and holding daily rallies.
Last week, Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Group, threatened to move the factory out of West Bengal if the protests continued. Tata has the support of the Left Front government in West Bengal, but opposition parties have fought the project because it opposes using fertile land for industry.
Mamta Banjeree, chief of the opposition Trinamool Congress party, has demanded Tata return 161ha (400 acres) to the farmers, and on Friday vowed to press on with the blockade.
(PTI contributed to this story)